Marvel’s film quality has fluctuated over the years. For the most part, the films that they’ve produced (or that have been produced in association with them) have been brilliant and met every expectation set for them. But, unfortunately, a few don’t quite meet the bar, and others have dropped so far below the bar that it’s actually unbelievable. Let’s look at some of the worst Marvel movies of all time.
Marvel’s first solo female film had so much potential, but the movie fell flat upon release. This happened for a couple of reasons. The first is that the film was entirely overshadowed by Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War which it fell right in the middle of. It’s not easy for a film about a new character to stand out when the latest ensemble movie fans watched just killed off half its cast.
The second reason the film did poorly is that Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) doesn’t have much of a personality to fall back into. Throughout most of the film, she’s told to keep her emotions in check, but for most of her screen time, the character shows very little emotion (even when nightmares supposedly haunt her), and her inner conflict feels incredibly forced.
The adventure she goes on is explosive and fun, and trying to figure out when Nick Fury loses his eye when you see the movie for the first time is quite enjoyable, but because Carol has no flaws, she’s difficult to relate to. Captain Marvel could have been a great movie, but it is one of the worst Marvel movies because of poor writing and bad character development (she never really changes or grows during the story).
One of the biggest problems with Black Widow is that it arrived too late. Fans had been asking for a solo Black Widow film for years, but when it finally came, we’d already seen Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) die in Avengers: Endgame, so the stakes weren’t as high as they might have been. Fans were expecting to see a Black Widow origin story that focused on Natasha’s defection to SHIELD, the development of her friendship with Barton and the beginnings of her learning to trust others.
Instead, we got a film that showed us what Natasha was doing between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War and told us nothing new about the character except she has a sister. It served more as a way to introduce Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova. Pugh stands out in the film and delivers a strong performance that sets her up to be a great character in future MCU projects (as we saw in Hawkeye). The film is not helped by other odd choices, including the Red Room being a flying base that anyone could have spotted on a cloudless day. It feels out of place in the Infinity Saga.
While it was fun to see Natasha bring down the Red Room, there were so many other routes that Marvel could have taken with her, including doing more of a Jason Bourne-esque film and not including a CGI-heavy third act that makes zero sense in the grand scheme of things. The film was an unfortunate send-off to an otherwise beloved character and one of the worst Marvel movies.
The most glaringly obvious thing that makes Eternals one of the worst Marvel movies is that it’s trying to do too much in a very short amount of time and miserably fails to do so. This made it so bad that it was the first Marvel film to be certified rotten on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film starts by introducing a group of new characters that have never even been hinted at previously and tries to make audiences care for each individual’s problems while also trying to tell us why their story matters. But, ultimately, it didn’t work, and audiences had to deal with shallow character arcs, a villain with no substance and a random Harry Styles cameo.
The film’s premise had a lot of potential: ancient beings oppose the will of their god because they’ve come to love the planet they have called home for the last few millennia. It’s interesting but suffers because it’s forced to keep to the superhero genre. Not even Angelina Jolie could save her character’s story. If Marvel had allowed Chloe Zhao to dedicate more time to introducing these characters and taking us through their lives like we were with the other Marvel heroes, it would have been a much better film.
The Deviants also make very little sense. They added nothing to the plot except to bring in action when the movie needed to move the story forward. It felt like Eternals was trying to tell two stories at once and then forgot about one halfway through before remembering it again at the end of the film. If they had been used right, the philosophical questions brought up by their existence would have had more of an impact, and Marvel could have used them to paint a compelling parallel when compared to the Eternals.
5. Doctor Strang in the Multiverse of Madness
The second Doctor Strange had the potential to be good, but it was ruined by a plot that almost seemed to ignore its main character completely. It has some fascinating and spooky moments that are made better by a great soundtrack and the brilliant performance by Elisabeth Olsen. Unfortunately, none of that can save the film from being ranked as one of the worst Marvel movies.
The film didn’t feel focused. There was so much happening in Multiverse of Madness that it seemed to be relying more on an excitement factor of the future of the MCU than telling a good story, which is unfortunate as many characters’ arcs were rushed. The big cameos in the film were used terribly. Audiences are shown familiar faces that they recognise from other films/shows or have been anticipating for a while, and it sparks a brief moment of excitement and applause. Then Wanda comes in and brutally murders every single one of them.
Also, what was Black Bolt’s death? This is a character that has trained himself not to make a sound, even when under the most intense torture, but he loses a mouth and panics so severely that he screams and kills himself. It’s disappointing. Multiverse of Madness also completely bulldozed over all the progress Wanda made in WandaVision and just decided to speed-run the last half of her villain arc so they could introduce more multiversal elements. It’s poor writing and completely flattens what is otherwise an incredible character.
Fans didn’t even get to see the whole corruption process. Instead, we saw Wanda accept the death of her family, working with the Darkhold (so the beginnings of corruption), and then Bam! Full-fledged Scarlet Witch. The writers missed the opportunity to devastate audiences by making them watch as one of their favourite characters slowly descends into madness. She doesn’t even get a proper redemption. Instead, she dies and takes the rest of the Darkholds in the multiverse with her.
After Doctor Strange, most fans of the character were expecting his second film to follow on from where the first left off and give us a confrontation with Mordo. Instead, Marvel shoved Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) story to the side so Marvel could show off more multiverse content (which was already starting to feel overused with how much they were pushing the multiverse)
His snark and sarcasm don’t make him much of a favourite during the film, and other characters, like Wong (Benedict Wong) and America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), are left to pick up the slack and inspire the heroism that Strange doesn’t. Visually, a great film. Otherwise, it is incredibly lacking and one of the worst movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Phase 4 was Marvel’s least successful Phase, movie-wise, and Thor: Love and Thunder is further proof of that. From humour that fell flat to unnecessary fake-out deaths to a lack of story structure to the missing dynamic of Loki, this film felt doomed from the moment they decided on the design of Zeus’ lightning bolt (who at Marvel Studios approved that?).
The first issue is Christian Bale’s Gorr, the god Butcher. Bale is an incredible actor who puts a lot of love into his characters, and he was tasked with playing one of the most formidable villains in Marvel history, but the film didn’t allow him to do that. He’s supposed to be the biggest threat in the universe, and he barely appears on the screen. When he does, we never actually see him kill a god (except at the beginning, which is the best part of the film). The most we see him do is terrify a bunch of children.
Even the Guardians’ brief cameo does them an injustice. Their jokes fall flat, and we see none of the banter-filled dynamics that made us fall in love with them in the first place. They’re criminally underused. Endgame made it seem like Thor (Chris Hemsworth) would be part of their adventures in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but the Guardians are gone in the first few minutes and never return.
Taika Waititi completely misses what made Ragnarok such a success. While the comedy added to it and made it somewhat more enjoyable, what made it work was the commentary beneath all the laughs. Unfortunately, Love and Thunder feels like it’s trying to be a shallow recreation of Ragnarok.
The character that suffers from this the most is Jane (Natalie Portman). Her re-introduction seems like an afterthought, even though she’s supposed to be one of the primary protagonists of Love and Thunder.
She’s a highly respect scientist, something we’re reminded of from the beginning, and someone who has a deep faith in the power of science, yet one of her very first lines is her being impatient and joking about her treatment. Unfortunately, she comes off as impatient and distracted, and the line completely undermines the severe illness she’s living with and her intelligence.
Jane is a shallow imitation of the character she’s supposed to be, especially since everything that makes her worthy of wielding Mjolnir in the first place is seemingly pushed aside. She also comes off as rather childlike in the film and seems to forget that she’s already been through two world-ending battles, with which she has helped alongside Thor, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and even Frigga.
Sure, she can actually fight now, but it seems like Marvel was too concerned about the “strong” portion of “strong female character” and forgot that Jane was already one without the powers of Thor. She’s a genius and slapped Loki without hesitation upon first seeing him in Thor: The Dark World, yet Love and Thunder reduces her into a joke that exists simply to fuel Thor’s emotional discovery.
In the comics, Mjolnir chooses Jane after Thor can no longer wield it, believing her worthy despite what she is struggling with. However, Love and Thunder completely undermine this by showing that Thor made Mjolnir promise to protect Jane. Jane’s death isn’t even about her or the completion of her journey. Instead, it simply serves as motivation for the rest of Thor’s journey.
Thor’s characterisation is no better. All the progress he’s made through the other movies seems to have diminished entirely, and it feels like he’s reverted to the prince he was in Thor or become an untasteful parody of himself.
The ending almost makes zero sense because none of it has been earned. Jane sacrifices herself for seemingly no reason (besides giving Thor motivation), Gorr has a change of heart, and Thor adopts a kid. Hopefully, the writers will do him justice the next time Thor shows up on the big screen. Love and Thunder is definitely the worst Marvel movie.
3. The Fantastic Four
So far, every movie about the Fantastic Four has been terrible. After 2005’s The Fantastic Four and 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, fans didn’t think anything worse could be done to Marvel’s first superheroes. 2015 proved otherwise.
The majority of the film shows how the characters got their powers in the first place. You don’t see Dr Doom until the last 15 or so minutes of the movie. As far as superhero movies go, introducing a fully superpowered villain at the end of the film is not the wisest plan. All we’ve seen of the character is that he thinks humanity is destroying the earth and that they should be destroyed for it.
It also doesn’t help that he’s shown to be the ultimate undefeatable villain, who the Fantastic Four have no conceivable chance of winning against, only to be defeated through the power of friendship. As fun as a trope as “the power of friendship is”, it just adds to The Fantastic Four being one of the worst Marvel films.
Dark Phoenix is undoubtedly the worst film in the X-Men franchise, making it one of the worst Marvel movies, by extension. It’s unfortunate because Jean Grey’s story is one of the most tragic in Marvel comics and could have been made into a good movie, but Fox ruined their chance to do it justice. The film suffers from a case of bad… everything. The dialogue is clunky, the story lacks any nuance and the makeup… I do want to know who approved Mystique’s look.
The film mainly focuses on Jean’s evolution into the Phoenix and the rampage that follows her difficulty dealing with her powers. The film’s one saving grace would be that it follows the source material, but it can’t even do that right. Jean and the Phoenix’s character development is unfortunate. The film show’s the beginning of Phoenix’s takeover and the potential of the power it wields, but she never gets particularly dark. Instead, we’re shown how powerful she can be (she’s not exactly wrapping reality or anything, but she’s still pretty formidable), and then the film sprints to an end it didn’t earn.
What’s even worse is that the film’s villains seem to be there just for the sake of having bad guys. We’re told they want to tame what we know as the Phoenix Force to help rebuild their homeland, but they’re mostly seen just manipulating Jean to create chaos. Sophie Turner is a brilliant actress, and she tried her best with what she was given, but even she couldn’t save this lacklustre goodbye to the latest generation of X-Men.
Morbius has been one of Sony’s worst films since Venom was released and has definitely earned its spot on the worst Marvel movies list, though not as much as some of the other films. The film suffers from several poor decisions, including choosing not to use prosthetics for Morbius’ vampire look and how quickly the film moved with its story.
The film starts by showing audiences a struggling and weak Michael Morbius arriving at a cave to allow himself to be bitten by a bat. It then jumps to the past, as if they’re going to tell audiences what happens leading to this moment, and rushes along to show his transformation into a vampire. We then watch as he struggles not to drink blood and retain his humanity, though this proves ultimately impossible.
The special effects in Morbius are disappointing, and the villain makes no sense. It seems like the writers just wanted to have Morbius fight against a character that shared his abilities because Milo’s (Matt Smith) sudden change into a homicidal maniac makes zero sense. First, all he wanted was to live a healthy life, but then he saw his best friend suffering on the floor and decided that that was what he wanted.
The film was promoted as a dark, gritty iteration of a beloved comic book vampire. Instead, we got an extremely predictable film with barely any blood despite it being about a vampire. The end-credit scene also felt like a poorly thought-out attempt to link Morbius’ universe with the MCU. The only good thing we got out of the film is the memes.
Hannah Lieberum is, first and foremost, a geek with a passion for writing. Her love for reading, from the classics through to sci-fi, often needs her to focus and overanalyse the narrative of films and games, while her love for art allows her to see the beauty in unexpected shots. An excellent backstory will always win her over, and she will never pass up the opportunity to sit back, relax and watch Star Trek while petting her permanently grumpy cat.