Every Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Projects of 2021 Ranked : Marvel Studios Movies and TV Shows
Updated: Apr 16
Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the biggest franchises in the movie industry, was started way back in 2008, but 2019 proved to be its best year. Marvel Studios pulled off something unimaginable and delivered a fitting conclusion to its 11 years of cinematic universe with a movie which exceeded every fan expectation and provided immense fan service, Avengers: Endgame.
After watching such a spectacular event, people were obviously excited about MCU’s future (Phase 4) and with the upcoming movies and shows announced, that excitement knew no bounds. But as Thanos once said, “Reality is often disappointing”, 2020 came and ruined every plan. The year 2020 was really dry for any Marvel fan or even a superhero fan in general.
Movies like Birds of Prey, The New Mutants and WW84, were indeed released in 2020 but alas! They weren’t good enough to satisfy that itch of superhero fans. Except for Birds of Prey, none of the superhero movies really connected with me. I wouldn’t even think about re-watching them as I would like to keep my mental health in sanity.
But after such a lackluster year, Marvel Studios was ready to pour out its content in the form of movies and web shows. I know it’s an unpopular opinion from me but I’m really loving these MCU’s Phase 4 projects. Marvel Studios is way too big, but it is still trying to experiment and do something out of the box. And for this reason, I admire this studio so much. We don’t want formulaic superhero stuffs anymore and it’s about time Hollywood start to give the audience something new and different. Obviously, there will be hurdles just like Eternals, which will get divisive opinions, but it’s still a stepping stone to this new world of Superhero genre.
In 2021, Marvel Studios released 4 movies and 5 web series. The studio which used to release 2-3 movies per year, has now given us NINE of its properties. Oh, my heart is full, it’s such an exciting year to be a Marvel Fan. I don’t know about you, but if they manage to maintain or even top this quality in terms of content, I could never get “Marvel Fatigue”. But this has also been a bit of a bumpy ride. Not all properties of Phase 4 have been satisfactory. So, I thought it would be best to rank and review all movies and shows of MCU, released in 2021.
Of course, this can be highly subjective. So, before warming up your hand, writing comments and declaring me as not a true fan of MCU, remember everyone is entitled to their own opinions. So, I hope you are not enraged after taking some serum, because I need you to have a cool mind for this list.
1. Spider-Man: No Way Home
Undoubtedly, the best MCU property of 2021 is Spider-Man: No Way Home. It would have been easy for this movie to be disappointing, as people had some huge expectations from it but kudos to the makers for surpassing every bar people had set for this movie.
From its immense fan service to the character growth of Peter Parker, Spider-Man: No Way Home had it all. Every complaint which people had for this Spider-Man franchise was resolved in this movie. Peter Parker finally became Spider-MAN and has had faced personal tragedies much more harsh than any other iterations.
This is obviously the best work of the writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. The way they integrated the multiverse concept to develop and characterize Peter Parker is just immaculate. Not only this, but they also laid out some small but important things to give closer to all of their characters.
Spider-Man: No Way Home also elevated other people’s career. Those who were wary of Jon Watts’ direction skills are now helming the director for this movie. Tom Holland, too gave his career’s best performance as Peter Parker. So, Spider-Man: No Way Home brought the best out of everyone and it will always be a very special film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
2. Loki (Season 1)
Honestly, before its release, I was least excited for Loki, but it is the one which blew me away the most. This show introduced the multiverse and its rules with such an ease. It even made the audience familiar with the concept of variants before the big reveal on Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Besides its complex plot, multiverse concept, and setting up the villain, this show was still about Loki. After finishing the series, I felt like I know Loki. We’ve seen him in many other movies but this show, in particular, was responsible for creating that connection between the character and the audience. Mind you, this was the same Loki who was responsible for the 2012 New York Battle and from this villainous side of Loki to a Loki who actually cares about his friends (Mobius and Sylvie), the characterization was done so beautifully by Michael Waldron and his team of writers that you can actually sympathize with the character.
I know WandaVision has got many divisive opinions, particularly due to the Bohner reveal and Mephisto not showing up. But despite these things, I genuinely loved the show, and it was one of my best experiences speculating & waiting for the episodes every week. It was the first Marvel property after an entire year of hiatus so, obviously fans were bound to be excited. This show was way different from your usual MCU formula and paid homage to the fabulous eras of Sitcoms.
What I appreciate about these MCU shows in Disney+ is that they are very character oriented. WandaVision, in this case, delved deeper into Wanda and her psychology. In her childhood she lost her parents, then in the Age of Ultron she lost her brother Pietro and finally in the Infinity War she lost the love of her life Vision. All she ever wanted was a happy family like the ones shown in Sitcoms and to fulfil this desire, she captured a whole town with her Chaos Magic and the show does a tremendous job of presenting both these sides of the story.
The tone of the show was very mysterious and sinister, which made people speculate the presence of Mephisto. People were overhyped and it led to a huge disappointment during the final episode. WandaVision starts out many plot threads but then finds a very simple way to solve them and that’s what I didn’t like about the show. But still, it’s an incredible show which will forever be in my heart.
I have to agree with the audience that as far as an origin story goes, Shang-Chi is an absolutely phenomenal movie. It not only introduces a new superhero in the MCU but also sets up this mystical world filled with martial arts, ancient creatures and obviously, the ten rings. Earlier, people were skeptical of this movie but after the release, it’s one of their favorites from MCU.
I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Simu Liu to play Shang-Chi. He portrayed this character with such a charm and passion that audience were enchanted by him. The action sequences and representation of Chinese culture are yet another thing worth applauding. Shang-Chi was director Destin Daniel Cretton’s first extravaganza movie, who was earlier known for his independent drama films. But despite this being his first big budget film, he has that confidence in his direction, which just elevated the quality of the movie.
One of the few problems I had with this movie was its plot. The plot and the story overall could have been a little better. It is good enough to hold your attention to the screen but there wasn’t something which we haven’t seen already. Also, the world of Ta Lo could have been explored more, but I guess, it’s for the sequel to dive deeper into. Still, Shang-Chi is a solid introduction to a superhero who has a bright future in this universe.
Finally, the movie which is the worst rated MCU movie on Rotten Tomatoes. Besides Spider-Man: No Way Home, a movie for which I was most hyped and excited about was Eternals. I love when big studios like Marvel try to do something different from their formula and, with Chloé Zhao, an Academy Award winning director, attached to the project, my excitement was going through the roof.
I actually enjoyed Eternals, but I can understand why many people weren’t fond of this movie. For starters, it was slower than that one brain cell of mine during exams. Chloé Zhao seemed to crack everything but the pace of the movie. I understand her vision to create something different than your regular superhero movies, and she somewhat succeeded too, but that shouldn’t have come at the expense of a slow pace. At some point, I felt like Chloé Zhao forgot to focus on the basic elements of a superhero movie. I mean, there are some scenes in the movie which did not feel as impactful as they should have felt. Maybe we’re just used to such action pieces which would make the audience scream and cheer, but sadly my theatre was mostly silent during such scenes in the movie.
But despite these problems, I really had a great time with Eternals. I just adore the lore of the movie. The way they set up the plot and tried to explain every aspect of it, is worth applauding. Also, the plot was interwoven very well and the character’s dilemma really struck me even after the movie. I strongly feel like Eternals would have worked wonders if it had been released on some streaming platform rather than in theatres. The audience would have enjoyed the movie more in the comfort of their own house.
To rank this show at such a lower position was risky for me as I know many people who love this show. I enjoyed Hawkeye too, but not as much as the other properties listed above.
Hawkeye, from Marvel Studios, is a pretty good show. It shined that much needed light on Hawkeye, gave him a good character development and showed fans why he was such an important part of Avengers even though he didn’t have any superpowers. It did even a better job at introducing and setting up Kate Bishop. Hailee Steinfeld is the perfect choice for this role and she steals every single scene. Her partnership and banters with Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton were really a highlight of this show. What The Falcon and the Winter Soldier couldn’t do with the Flag Smashers, Hawkeye did that with the Tracksuit Mafia. The Mafias didn’t have a strong backstory but still had enough motive and were very entertaining to watch, unlike the Flag Smashers.
The show could have worked wonders if it had developed the character of Echo a bit more. Also, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk seemed a bit different from his original Daredevil counterpart. But I guess, they were just setting up both these characters for Echo’s solo show and I think we will get to see Kingpin in his true brutal mastermind form in that show because come on, obviously he isn’t dead.
I wanted to see more of the whole Yelena storyline too. Obviously, it seemed adequate enough to satisfy her fans from the Black Widow movie, and her interaction with Kate was just stellar. But I wanted to see more of her loss, her mental state, her coping mechanism, and her dilemma. Still, Hawkeye was a fun show and I wouldn’t mind watching another new season of it.
7. What If...?
What If...?, Marvel Studios’ first animated Disney+ show, was a bit of a mixed bag. Some episodes were spectacular with featuring some of the best writings in the MCU, while some were just disappointing. After the events of Loki, What If...? had the job to explore the multiverse and it left no stones unturned to do so. Episode 4 (Doctor Strange), 8 (Ultron) and 9 (Guardians of the Multiverse) used this multiverse concept to its best and delivered such phenomenal episodes. The animation style though felt a bit weird at first but then started to grow on me.
Jeffrey Wright’s voice was just sublime for Watcher. He has that much needed depth in his voice and I now cannot picture anyone else in the role of this character. The voice acting for this show was also ambivalent for me. Some actors reprised their roles from live action and, except for a few of them, others seemed to struggle a bit to give a satisfactory voice work. There was a huge difference between their live action acting and voice acting. But then other actors like Lake Bell (as Black Widow), Hudson Thames (as Peter Parker), Mick Wingert (Tony Stark), etc. who were cast to voice pre-existing characters, did an excellent work.
The fragile point of this show is its writing in episodes like E1 (Captain Carter), E3 (Avengers Death) and E6 (Killmonger). The Captain Carter episode per se was a total rip-off of the first Captain America movie with few changes. I guess they just wanted to introduce the character for its rumored appearance in future movies and shows. This show also could have benefited from a longer runtime. Some episodes felt very rushed considering the fact that the makers had to resolve all plot points just under a 30-minute episode. Still, even at its weakest points, What If...? didn’t fail to entertain. The excitement for the upcoming episodes did go a bit low, but I wasn’t bored from it.
8. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
After watching WandaVision, I couldn’t wait for this show. The two weeks between the finale of WandaVision and the premier of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier couldn’t have felt much longer. But after finishing this series, I was left with mixed feelings.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was primarily about Sam Wilson becoming Captain America, and honestly, he earned the title. This show showed us the reason as to why Steve passed his mantle to Sam and the journey of him finally embracing it. It also focused on what it takes to be Captain America by introducing John Walker. A person doesn’t need to have countless achievements or high strength to become Captain America, he has to have the heart and philosophy which Steve Rogers had and TFATWS tackles these things very effectively.
TFATWS developed and explored the dynamic duo of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, after the base was laid in Captain America: Civil War. It was so fun to watch the partnership and banters between this duo. Also, Wyatt Russell was the perfect casting for John Walker. He embodies the character with such a perfection. He seemed absolutely terrifying in that scene where his character killed that guy from Flag Smashers using the shield.
The problem with this show was its villain, Flag Smashers and soon to be villain, Sharon Carter a.k.a the Power Broker. Honestly, this whole “Sharon must be the Power Broker” thing was the easiest prediction of my life as one could easily see this coming from a long ago. I wish I could predict the answers to my examination questions with such an ease but alas! Reality is often disappointing. Anyway, Flag Smashers as a group were a mess and Erin Kellyman’s Karli Morgenthau had a lot of potential, but she wasn’t properly developed. According to reports, the Flag Smashers aspect of this show was changed heavily in reshoots as in early drafts the group was supposed to release a virus in the world but upon looking at the current world condition, the makers decided to change it in the last minute. Still, despite few misses, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a good show which could have been better with a strong antagonist.
9. Black Widow
Finally, the last point of this list. I know you must be thanking god for what seemed impossible at first, to reach the end of this article. Jokes apart, Black Widow for me is one of the weakest movies in the entire MCU. It opened on a high note with some incredible shots focusing on Natasha’s childhood, but then the movie started to fall flatter than the graph of stocks I invested my money in.
Natasha Romanoff, one of the founding members of Avengers, who sacrificed herself at Vormir for the greater good of the universe, deserved this huge payoff after her death in Avengers: Endgame, but unfortunately this movie was not it. You must have already heard this many-a-times that if Black Widow had released somewhere between 2016 and 2017, it would have been perceived better and I couldn’t agree with this more. If a character is finally getting her solo movie even after her death in the previous one, then the movie should be emotional. It should be the job of that movie to make the audience miss the character afterwards. How can you make a Black Widow movie and not give her a proper farewell? I know this is supposed to be a prequel but some acknowledgement and tribute to this character & her legacy would have been great.
But despite its huge flaws in plot, villains, generic style and uninspired acts in the movie, Black Widow still managed to impress me in some aspects. One of the reasons this movie was made was to introduce and develop Yelena Belova as a potential character in the future MCU properties and this worked very well. Florence Pugh was absolutely phenomenal as Yelena and she was easily the standout thing from the movie. The hand to hand action sequences were also incredible which didn’t let me get much bored during the movie. So, Black Widow movie was indeed disappointing for me but I’m really excited to see Yelena Belova’s future in the MCU especially after her appearance in Hawkeye.
So, 2021 was an exciting year for Marvel fans and whoever came up with the idea of creating character-oriented shows for Disney+ platform deserves a raise. With movies like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder and shows like Moon Knight, She-Hulk and Secret Invasion, the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe indeed looks bright and exciting. Thanks a lot for reading and I hope 2022 to be even better than 2021 for us superhero fans. Ba-Bye.