2023 has been a bumpy year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the real threat of superhero fatigue setting in faster than anyone would have expected, Marvel movies don’t make the same splash at the box office they once did. They’re still bombs, just not in the way Kevin Feige intended.
With The Marvelsbeing the final film in the MCU’s 2023 slate and no Avengers on the horizon to salvage this franchise, only time will tell what will happen to the MCU come 2024. Still, fans remain hopeful the series will regain its charm with future entries, as some exciting news might reinvigorate the franchise to a state closer to its glory days with Captain America and his mighty companions.
As Marvel Studios keeps working on the overarching themes of the Kang Dynasty and Secret Warsstorylines, all fans want to know is when the more niche heroes will take the spotlight. There’s a reason why Deadpool 3 is at the top of the list when discussing the most awaited movie sequel in the MCU.
Disney has also taken an interesting approach to how it distributes Marvel content on Disney+. Marvel shows became even more significant this year for the overarching canvas of the MCU. Still, considering the ongoing controversy surrounding Kang’s actor Jonathan Majors, the Kang Dynasty subplot seems to be going at a slow pace over at the MCU.
With projects like Armor Warsand the new Fantastic Fourmovie in the pipeline, it’s safe to say that the new Marvel Cinematic Universe will focus more on varied stories rather than devoting to one single overarching plot like the Infinity Sagadid. Without Spider-Man or Loki to spice up new releases, this new chapter in the MCU saga seems rather grim from a marketing standpoint.
Now that we’ve discussed the current state of the MCU, let’s get straight to the facts as we examine this year’s Marvel movie releases – all four of them – and come up with a definitive list of the best of the best and the worst of the worst 2023 had to offer in superhero drama.
WORST – Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Release Date: February 17, 2023)
Sadly, Quantumania was doomed from the start. One of the most divisive movies in all of the MCU, Ant-Man has earned its fair share of naysayers in the fandom. With a more quirky tone compared to other Avengers, this pint-sized hero never fails to deliver some of the most passable films in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’re never terrible but never do anything particularly interesting. However, Quantumania broke the mould by being genuinely lousy.
With a stellar cast that includes legends like Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and even a surprise cameo by Bill Murray, there was no reason for Quantumania to be this bad. However, its paper-thin plot and weak allusions to better Marvel shows like WandaVision and Lokionly served to remind us that there were much better Marvel properties out there.
Even Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror felt underbaked in Quantumania. Instead of introducing him as a new and threatening villain to inherit the MCU after the Endgame era, Quantumania played him as a joke. With Iron Man out of the picture, the MCU is in dire need of a leading personality. If Quantumania made something abundantly clear, it is that neither Ant-Man nor the Wasp are fit for the role.
BEST – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Release Date: May 5, 2023)
The final chapter in the Guardians of the Galaxy saga, Vol. 3 delivered everything fans wanted – and more. James Gunn’s Guardians always were mostly content existing outside the MCU’s larger narrative (for the most part,) and the same applies to this movie.
This movie represented a closure for Peter Quill and his crew, and it was never intended as some sort of major bridge into the Kang Dynasty or anything like that. For what it was, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 remains the best MCU film released in 2023. You can clearly see Gunn’s creative vision behind every scene – a sight that has now earned him the role of the main visionary behind the DCU and the resurrected Suicide Squad.
As we enter the “Multiverse” era of the MCU, seeing this sort of movies – which are complete strangers to Doctor Strange and his shenanigans – feels like a breath of fresh air coming from the MCU. There’s a reason why the first Guardians of the Galaxy changed the course of the MCU, and it’s easy to see how Vol. 3 puts a lid on the stylish personality of this ragtag team of space mercs.
For better or for worse, the tale of the Guardians is over. It seemed improbable that one of the quirkiest superhero teams to ever emerge from the pages of Marvel comics could have the best superhero flick of 2023 – but they absolutely did.
WORST – The Marvels (Release Date: November 10, 2023)
While not among one of the worst MCU films according to critics, The Marvels is quickly shaping up to become the franchise’s most disastrous box office flop. The second Captain Marvel outing sees Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers meeting Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel and Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau.
Also returning after Secret Invasion– another MCU flop, this time at Disney+ – is Samuel L. Jackson’s iconic Nick Fury. Sadly, none of that was enough to put audiences in theatres, as The Marvels recorded some of the lowest attendance numbers of any superhero movie ever made – and that includes Morbius and The Flash.
Not even Vallani’s Kamala Khan could liven up The Marvels. Without the advantage of a new Avengers movie to promote, fans simply didn’t display the same enthusiasm for Captain Marvel as they did in 2019.
The Marvels lacks a sense of purpose within the narrative of the MCU. The saddest part about the movie being as lacklustre as it is is that it soiled what should have been one of the greatest reveals for MCU fans: the introduction of the X-Men into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With Deadpool 3 introducing Wolverine and Ryan Reynolds’s Merc with a Mouth to the MCU, fans can look forward to mutants finally making their long-awaited debut in the franchise. Is it too little too late for the MCU? Only time will tell.
BEST – Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Release Date: June 2, 2023)
One of the most awaited movies of 2023, Across the Spider-Verse (released and produced by Sony – not Disney), continues Miles Morales’ epic Multiverse saga. The film introduced even more Spidey variants to the fold, with Oscar Isaac’s Spider-Man 2099 quickly becoming a fan-favorite. There might be no Venom here, but a selection of iconic villains does appear in this Spider-Verse movie.
Though it lacked the first movie’s iconic portrayal of Wilson Fisk’s Kingpin, Across the Spider-Verse managed to introduce a more personal story that still feels deeply rooted in what Spider-Man means as a character. Fans can look forward to the inevitable conclusion to the Spider-Verse saga, which is coming sometime in the future. For now, the movie is doing just fine on Netflix – and also giving Disney+ and its MCU a run for its money.
The other Spider-Man-related project slated for 2023, Kraven the Hunter, was mysteriously pushed back to August 2024. We’ll have to wait a bit more before we see Aaron Taylor-Johnson as yet another comic book character, with Kraven being the third “hero” the actor has played in his career.
Also coming in 2024 is Spider-Man: Freshman Year. A new animated series following Spidey in his earliest outings as a vigilante, the show will feature Hudson Thames as Spider-Man along with Charlie Cox’s Daredevil.
It would be unfair to say 2023 was a difficult year for the MCU alone. The SAG-AFTRA strike nearly left the entertainment industry in shambles. Many projects slated for release in 2023 had to be pushed back, and that seems to have affected Marvel the most. Let’s take a look at some of the projects slated for release in 2024 and beyond:
This curious project, helmed by Jake Schreier, was originally set for a Winter 2024 release. However, Thunderbolts will now see the light of day in July of 2025. The team-up movie reunites characters like David Harbour’s Red Guardian, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost, Wyatt Russell’s US Agent, Olga Kurylenko’s Taskmaster, Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier, and Florence Pugh’s Black Widow, aka Yelena Belova.
The long-rumoured revival of the legendary vampire slayer was slated for a 2023 release, but it fell victim to the strike. Wesley Snipes took the iconic role in the original trilogy, but now, it’s Mahershala Ali’s time to shine. The film will now be released in 2025.
Originally titled New World Order, this will be the first movie where Anthony Mackie’s new Falcon/Captain America will be the leading man. Sam Wilson took the mantle of the Avengers’ leader, and this movie will prove his place in the new MCU. Harrison Ford will also co-star as “Thunderbolt” Ross, one of the Hulk’s iconic villains. Brave New World will be released on February 14, 2025.
Starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, Deadpool 3 is one of the most awaited movies in the MCU. Directed by Shawn Levy, the threequel will come to theaters on May 3, 2024.
First appearing in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Riri Williams is back as Ironheart in the titular miniseries. Dominique Thorne returns to play the role of the genius inventor, who might eventually cross paths with Don Cheadle’s War Machine if Armor Wars ever happens.
Reuniting Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock with Vincent D’Onofrio’s brilliant Kingpin, Daredevil: Born Again aims to reignite the love fans had for the Netflix original series. The series aims to be as mature as its predecessor, which might prove challenging for a Disney+ series. We’ll have to wait until 2025 to know how this one will turn out.
Agatha: Darkhold Diaries
Following Kathryn Hahn’s electrifying Agatha Harkness, this Disney+ series will try to keep things weird in the MCU. Originally titled Coven of Chaos, now that the Scarlet Witch is gone, it will be up to Agatha to claim the title of the strongest witch in the MCU. The series will be released in late 2024.
Coming early in January of 2024, Echo will reintroduce audiences to Maya Lopez, whom we first saw in Hawkeye. Starring Alaqua Cox, the show promises more of Hawkeye‘s unique brand of action/comedy.
Born in Venezuela – and still living there – Tito Pernalete loves all things geeky and sci-fi. He studied Social Communications in college: an odd career choice for a confessed introvert. Though he has experience as a director of photography for some short films, Tito has been a writer for most of his adult life, with a particular interest in movies/TV and tech in general. When he's not playing Elden Ring or binge-watching a horror movie marathon, you can find him planning his dream trip to Japan. His favourite film is RoboCop, but he also has a soft spot for cheesy 80s horror flicks and anything made by Wes Anderson.