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The Best Marvel TV Shows Ranked According To Rotten Tomatoes

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has distinguished itself by making each film part of a larger storyline, there's really no such thing as a unified Marvel TV Universe. Instead, there have been fiefdoms, merely informed by the events of the movies. Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D debuted in 2013 on ABC and is set to end in 2020. The street-level Netflix shows — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and all the rest – wrapped up in 2019. Soon there will be a new wave of shows directly connected to the MCU on the Disney+ streaming service.

Of course, there have been Marvel-related TV shows for over five decades, dating back to the Fantastic Four and The Marvel Super Heroes animated series of the 1960s. There were live-action shows featuring Spider-Man and The Hulk in the 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s saw a number of Marvel cartoons debut. How did all of these series stack up with critics?

Looking at the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, we have assembled a list of the 12 highest-rated Marvel television shows of all time. Some are animated. Some are live action. Some take place in the modern day. Some are set in the 1940s. They are all, however, Marvel stories, and they're the best the studio has to offer for fans of the small screen.

#12: Wolverine And The X-Men

2009's Wolverine and the X-Men lasted just a single season, producing 26 episodes. Perhaps X-Men Origins: Wolverine, released the same year, had something to do with that – the film earned back its budget but was far from a big hit. Moreover, it would be a few years before the X-Men penetrated public consciousness again with X-Men: First Class. Wolverine and the X-Men had a mountain to climb from the very first episode.

Despite these challenges, however, the cartoon manages to be sleekly animated and deftly told. Cleverly, it begins the story in media res: Viewers are dropped into the middle of an attack on the Xavier school that destroys the facility entirely. Wolverine puts together a new team, vowing to find out what happened. The show dips into its mythology with deep-cut characters like Marrow and twisty time travel plots.

Despite being limited to a single season, Wolverine And The X-Men got positive press. Rob Vaux of Collider said that the series "succeeds in bringing the sheer variety of characters to life without making the show feel crowded" — the highest aspiration for any X-Men property.

#11: Marvel's Jessica Jones

Airing on Netflix for three seasons from 2015 to 2019, Marvel's Jessica Jones delves deeply into the dark side of being a superhero. Based on the comic series Alias, it stars Jessica Jones, an alcoholic private detective who gains super strength and endurance in a teenage car accident. Other key players include Trish, Jessica's adopted sister, Malcolm Ducasse, a neighbor and later professional partner of Jessica, and high-powered lawyer Jeri Hogarth.

The series' relatively low rating stems from its critical reception getting frostier with each successive season. The first season landed well, with Amanda Greever of the Daily Times saying the show "walks a fine line in engaging me on dramatic, emotional, and thematic levels while not making me feel overwhelmed by the constant assault on my senses." It helps that the first season has David Tennant as Kilgrave, a villain whose voice can command anyone to obey him. Jessica dealing with the trauma of learning he is still alive and then reaching a catharsis gives the season a powerful conclusion. 

The second and third seasons did not manage to impress the critics to the same degree. The show gets murkier, and as Ben Travers of IndieWire noted, it "gets off on the wrong foot in season three and stays there until the lackluster end."   

#10: X-Men: The Animated Series

1992's X-Men: The Animated Series is a summation of all that makes Marvel's mutants so beloved. The first episode features Jubilee pursued by both the Sentinels and the X-Men, for very different reasons. Wolverine is at his sneering best, alongside straight-arrow Cyclops and erudite Beast. They're a motley crew, but they have each other, and by hook or by crook, that ends up being enough.

It's not all about action, however — the show is just as highly regarded for its romance. There is the familiar love triangle between Cyclops, Wolverine, and Jean Grey, of course, but the tension between the untouchable Rogue and loose cannon Gambit is just as enticing. The show also faithfully explores a number of familiar X-Men storylines, like Jean Grey's time as Dark Phoenix and the battle with Apocalypse. The show ended in 1997 after 76 stellar episodes.

Of the show, Matt Patches of New York Magazine said: "We didn't know it at the time, but X-Men was subtly preparing us for the dense, episodic storytelling of modern television." What Culture's Kyle McManus noted that "The Phoenix Saga is one of the most well-known and popular X-Men arcs, and the animated adaptation is equally epic." High praise indeed for a cartoon that only gets better with age.

#9: Marvel's Agent Carter

Starring Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Agent Carter picks up shortly after the apparent death of Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger. Stuck as a secretary in the Strategic Scientific Reserve, Peggy gets the chance to do more when Howard Stark recruits her to clear his name when he's accused of treason. Peggy, along with Stark's loyal butler Jarvis, embarks upon a double life as a secretary and spy. With a strong lead and a fun supporting cast, this show plays both as a stylish period piece and a lighthearted spy romp.

Running just two seasons from 2015 to 2016, Agent Carter was a critical favorite but ended up canceled by ABC for low ratings. Critics like Britt Hayes enjoyed the relaxed pacing of the show, as she wrote in ScreenCrush: "Agent Carter has never leaned too heavily on action; that's just not what makes it exciting. The show follows its own rhythm, one that's a little more laid back than the Marvel films." Andy Greenwald of Grantland compared it favorably to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., saying "It actually feels like a TV show, with a clear sense of purpose and a savvy sense of style. Rather than biding time between blockbusters, like the dot-connecting drudgery of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter travels back in it." It is that genre-breaking attitude that made fans love Agent Carter in the first place, and what makes it so highly regarded to this day.

#8: Marvel's Runaways

The Runaways comic series was created by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona back in 2003, as part of the manga-inflected Tsunami line. Its killer premise helped it survive the demise of the line, as it asks a crucial question: What if your parents were secretly super-villains? The TV series, which aired on Hulu from 2017 to 2019, takes the same basic premise and gives its characters further depth, including their villainous parents. 

The cast of kids includes tech genius Alex Wilder, sorceress Nico Minoru, inventor Chase Stein, super-strong pre-teen Molly Hernandez, alien Karolina Dean, and cranky dinosaur whisperer Gert Yorkes. Their interpersonal drama is as important to the show as the actual plot, and fans ate it up.

The show deviates from the comic in one major way. In the comic, the kids run away immediately upon discovering that their parents, a group of scientists, criminals, and wizards called the Pride, are engaging in human sacrifice. In the show, the kids hide this fact for the entirety of the first season, only running away in the season finale. This slow burn results in the action ratcheting up as the series progresses. It is tense, stylish, and fun — exactly what one wants from a teen super-team.

#7: Marvel's Cloak And Dagger

Created by Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan in the pages of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger split the difference between Marvel's street-level do-gooders and more traditional costumed heroes. In the comic, Tyrone Johnson is a smart but poor teen with a stutter. He runs away from home when he fears he's going to be accused of a crime he didn't commit. Tandy Bowen comes from a rich background, but her emotionally frigid home sees her run away as well. The two wind up being tricked into being experimented upon with drugs, giving them fantastic powers. They decide to get revenge on drug-runners as Cloak and Dagger, a super-powered duo. Cloak's Darkforce energy allows him to engulf others, while Dagger Lightforce energy can be formed into weapons. Her light can also help Cloak with the constant urge he feels to absorb others.

Cloak and Dagger aired from 2018 to 2019 on the Freeform network. The show makes a few changes from the original comic, as here Tyrone is a prep student and Tandy is a street thief. The story of the show is the story of their romance, which shifts and warps when they both gain powers. Of the show's mixed tone, Glen Weldon of NPR said: "Importantly, crucially, we get believable and well-earned reasons — rooted in information revealed in those early, talkier episodes — for them to adopt the superheroic lifestyle, and devote themselves to justice, instead of revenge." 

#6: Marvel's Luke Cage

Spinning off from Jessica Jones, Luke Cage sees the titular hero return to his Harlem roots. When he encounters corruption, he uses the super-strength and steel-hard skin he acquired in a prison experiment to even the odds against stylish villains like Cottonmouth. The show is slow-paced, but purposefully — Luke Cage is most interested in the simmering tensions of its world. And its world is a complex one indeed: Even the villains of the show love Harlem in their own way, despite their profiting off its woes.

The show ran for two seasons on Netflix, from 2016 to 2018. Gadget360's Akhil Arora said of the character and the series: "It can be a tough act to balance, and seeing him navigate those treacherous waters is what makes Marvel's Luke Cage a great fixture to follow, even more so for its progressive and inclusive nature."  Jack Hamilton of Slate agreed, saying that "One of Luke Cage's greatest triumphs is its use of music, which resonates more prominently and energetically than in any previous Marvel screen property. All agreed: Luke Cage is something special.

#5: Legion

Legion aired for three seasons on the FX network, from 2017 to 2019. It's by far the weirdest and most psychedelic of Marvel's shows, with its fractured narrative being closer to a David Lynch project than a traditional superhero story. Legion doubles down on the weirdness of the original comics, centering much of the first season around a single question: Are the things that David Haller experiences the result of mental illness or the fact that he is the most powerful mutant on Earth?

Haller is busted out of his institution by other mutants, notably his future love interest Syd Barrett, all under the supervision of Dr. Melanie Bird. The breakout character of that sequence is Lenny, Haller's best friend, who gives him increasingly suspicious advice until things take a truly bizarre turn. It's a bizarre carousel of a story that revels in the weirdest corners of the Marvel universe's long history, and fans loved every second.

Ben Travers of IndieWire said this of the show: "Marvel's moviemakers should be jealous: Just when they thought they were making something TV couldn't top, Legion comes along and sets the bar even higher." Kaitlyn Booth of Bleeding Cool said, "Legion is the kind of miracle television we don't see often." High praise, entirely deserved.

#4: Marvel's Daredevil;

The first of the Marvel shows that debuted on Netflix, Daredevil ran from 2015 through 2018. It follows blind lawyer Matt Murdock, who decides to become a vigilante when he realizes that his beloved Hell's Kitchen neighborhood is being threatened by organized crime. Alongside his affable law partner Foggy Nelson and secretary Karen Page, Daredevil fights against the villainous Kingpin, Wilson Fisk. In later seasons, Murdock teams up with and clashes against his old girlfriend Elektra and an intense vigilante nicknamed the Punisher, fights numerous ninjas, and meets the man who will become Bullseye. 

Critics were dazzled. Tirdad Derakhshani of Newsday said the show "is a well-scripted, beautifully acted superhero saga that is surprisingly impressive." Michal Schick of Hypable noted that its third season was "a canny and intelligent return to this un-comic tale of crime, justice, and faith." Daredevil is a different kind of show that ushered in a different kind of era for Marvel Studios, and fans won't forget it anytime soon.

#3: Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D

Debuting on ABC in 2013 and finishing its seventh and final season in 2020, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the first spinoff show from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The titular team features butt-kicking pilot Melinda "The Cavalry" May, energetic scientists Leo Fitz and Gemma Simmons, mysterious hacker Skye, and assassin Grant Ward. The show moves very slowly at first until the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when it's revealed that HYDRA has been corrupting S.H.I.E.L.D. for years. After that, the show moves at a breathless pace, as the team faces one menace after another. Whether their foe is HYDRA, the Inhumans, or being thrust into the future to fight against the Kree, the team always finds a way to win. The cast expands and contracts over the years, but every character has a memorable moment.

Of the third season, Merrill Barr of Forbes wrote: "In addition to being a thrilling experience that's truly laying every last card on the table, the new season of S.H.I.E.L.D. also has the largest amount of heart seen from the show to date."

#2 The Spectacular Spider-Man

Airing from 2008 to 2009 on Disney XD, The Spectacular Spider-Man makes a number of smart decisions — chief among them, hewing closely to the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spider-Man run while still skipping the origin story everyone already knows. Instead, this cartoon throws him right into his chaotic life, as he tries to balance work, school, dating, his Aunt May, and fighting super-villains. 

All of the familiar supporting characters are here, including Gwen Stacy, bully Flash Thompson, and Mary Jane Watson. Familiar villains like the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus are key figures, along with lesser-known foes like Tombstone. It's a delightful look back at all the things that make Spider-Man great, and, simultaneously, a totally fresh approach to the classic character's canon. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after two seasons in favor of Ultimate Spider-Man 

The show received a great deal of praise. Matthew Wells of What Culture said, "Looking past the simplistic design of the show, Spectacular Spider-Man proved in its short two seasons that it was the best Spider-Man cartoon ever made, if not one of the greatest comic book cartoons of all time." Eric Goldman of IGN Movies remarked, "Spider-Man finally has a TV series that's worthy of him." Jesse Schedeen of IGN Movies argued, "Spectacular Spider-Man is the clear high point in Peter Parker's television career, and one of the best interpretations of the hero in any medium, comics, television, or otherwise."

#1: The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes debuted on Disney XD in 2010, two years prior to 2012's The Avengers, herald of the MCU age. The show is beloved for its stories that delve deep into comics history, bringing all sorts of classic Avengers storylines to the screen. The Kang Dynasty, the Mansion Siege of the Masters of Evil, the creation of Ultron, the Korvac saga, Secret Invasion — all those and many more epics are part of the show's rich, superheroic tapestry. It's a triumph of a cartoon, derived from the comics as much as it is from the MCU, capable of entertaining the youngest newbie and the most hardened diehard alike. 

Unfortunately, the show was canceled after two years in favor of the new Avengers Assemble! show. Matthew Turner of SFX Magazine called Earth's Mightiest Heroes "a must-see for any self-respecting Marvel fan ... the series captures the Avengers so perfectly it could even teach the MCU a thing or two."