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Every Marvel Movie Not In The MCU, Ranked Worst To Best

Since 2008 when Marvel launched their own cinematic universe of films with the release of "Iron Man" starring Robert Downey Jr., the MCU has been bar none Hollywood's biggest movie series. Since that time, it's grown from a handful of loosely connected films, to a deeply rooted complex web of films, television series' and streaming miniseries that form the perhaps the greatest cinematic franchise of all time. 

But what about the many Marvel movies that aren't part of the MCU? There are dozens of movies based on a variety of heroes that predate the founding of Marvel Studios. There are still more produced under deals signed with competing studios before the release of "Iron Man" as well. This includes Fox's "X-Men" universe of movies — which will now be rebooted since Fox's purchase by Disney in 2019 — and Sony's many earlier "Spider-Man" films. From the '80s through to today, from the best gritty action thrillers to the worst direct-to-DVD flops, here's every Marvel movie that's not in the MCU, ranked from worst to best.

40. Man-Thing

Overlooked at a time when other bigger comic book movies were hitting the big screen, "Man-Thing" was produced as part of an expansive deal Marvel made with Artisan Entertainment (before they were bought by Lionsgate) to produce a number of films based on their comics. This included "Black Panther," "Captain America," "Morbius," "Deadpool," and "Iron Fist," but while none of those made it past the drawing board under the deal, it seems that "Man-Thing" did.

Based on the 1970s supernatural monster comic that actually pre-dated the similarly themed "Swamp Thing" by two months — though both owe their existence to a golden age creature called "The Heap" – it was originally to have been a major theatrical release, but was eventually relegated to a direct-to-DVD/TV movie here in the United States. Telling the story of Ted Sallis, a man who becomes one with a mystical swamp, the effects were poor, the cast was unimpressive, and it failed to thrill or chill. 

In the end, it's just a low budget indie movie, and a bad one even by those standards, and it's not cheesy enough to fall into the "so bad it's good" category, either. Made in Australia, even notorious Marvel producer Avi Arad was said to have lamented the foreign production which apparently lacked any oversight from the comic book company (via Bloody Disgusting).

39. Captain America (1990)

Spurned on by the success of "Batman" in 1989 it seemed everyone wanted to adapt a major comic book property, leading to a rash of films. A big screen adaptation of Marvel's iconic hero Captain America was originally intended as a big ticket summer blockbuster, announced with a thrilling theatrical poster. Instead, it was a goofy, cheap-looking movie that lacked all the excitement and action it aspired to, though it's not entirely without its own charms.

On the positive side, the Captain America costume was a pretty faithful adaptation of Cap's glorious red, white, and blue uniform — little temple wings and all — though an ill-fitting mask didn't do him any favors. It's also the first time that the character of The Red Skull was the result of the same experiment that created Captain America, a concept re-used in the MCU version decades later. Starring Matt Salinger — who is completely unconvincing as a strong heroic lead — Ned Beatty ("Superman"), and Ronny Cox ("Robocop"), its failure probably set Marvel movies back by almost a decade. Unlike "Man-Thing," though, this is one that may be worth watching if you enjoy clumsy B-movies.

38. Howard The Duck

Produced by Lucasfilm and starring Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins, the 1986 film "Howard The Duck" was the first time Marvel had a heavily-marketed adaptation on the big screen. Not Spider-Man, the Hulk, or Captain America... but Howard the Duck, who had starred in a lesser-known adult-oriented humor book in the 1970s. 

The film had a decent cast and the right people behind it, but there was little that could save this disaster of a movie. Instead of a bombastic superhero, Howard is an awkward anthropomorphic duck from outer space who finds himself transported to planet Earth. Once in Cleveland, Howard befriends — and falls in love with — a young punk rocker named Beverly Switzer.

While trapped on Earth, Howard becomes the manager of Beverly's band Cherry Bomb, before scientists reveal that their new invention is what accidentally brought him to Earth. But in an attempt to send Howard back, they bring the villainous Dark Overlord to Earth too. If that premise makes little sense to you, you're not alone, as it was a flop with critics, audiences, and at the box office. Despite a cast of veterans of '80s classics like "Back To The Future" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and some top notch puppet work, there's not much to love about "Howard The Duck." Especially not that and the awkward love scene between Lea Thompson and a man in a duck suit.

37. Elektra

A spin-off of "Daredevil" starring Ben Affleck, "Elektra" was a starring vehicle for Jennifer Garner that was somehow greenlit despite the previous film's poor reception. Also starring Goran Visnjic, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Terrance Stamp as the sagely mentor Stick (who somehow didn't appear in Daredevil's own movie), "Elektra" brought back the deadly assassin for her own adventure. Back from the dead in a revealing red corset, she now acts as an assassin-for-hire, with new superpowers that included precognition and the ability to resurrect the dead. No, we're not joking.

Hired by an enigmatic client to kill a mystery target, she soon meets and falls in love with Mark Miller (Visnjic) — who, along with his daughter Abby (Kristin Prout) — turn out to be her targets. Now Elektra must protect them from the deadly ninja cult The Hand, who are locked in an ancient war with a rival faction called The Chaste. Despite a strong cast and a big budget, Hollywood just hadn't figured out how to write a female superhero at this point. Instead of an exciting action movie, we got a watered down copy of another bad superhero movie. While "Elektra" is slickly produced, it's borderline unwatchable, with no charms at all.

36. Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance

Despite terrible reviews, the 2007 film "Ghost Rider" nevertheless was a modest hit, grossing more than $200 million. To the producers' credit, they clearly saw that there were problems with the film. So instead of forging ahead with a sequel straight away, they took their time to craft something with a new, darker, grittier, more in-your-face approach. But that's about where the positives end for this one. 

Bringing back original star Nicholas Cage in a movie that's not quite a true sequel, the film reimagined the demonic bike-riding hero as a more sinister vigilante. With a new look and a new supporting cast (that included Ciarán Hinds and Idris Elba), "Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance" saw the hero Johnny Blaze doing battle with the devil over the soul of a young boy. With the promise that he will have his own soul restored, Johnny Blaze is asked to protect the child by a French monk, but soon finds himself locking horns with the devil's newest minion Blackheart — a gun-running mercenary turned demon.

It's an interesting starting point for a "Ghost Rider" tale, and the supporting cast does decent work. Unfortunately, the tone of the film went from gritty to goofy faster than Ghost Rider's hell-cycle, with Cage blaming its failure on the studio's unwillingness to embrace an R-rating. Roasted by critics even more than the first movie, and it killed the series for good, though the character would find later life on the ABC series "Agents Of SHIELD."

35. Morbius: The Living Vampire

The latest entry in Sony's "Spider-Man" universe, it's the first that goes beyond the webslinger's immediate family of characters after the studio found some success with "Venom." Unfortunately, "Morbius" couldn't match the former's big box office dollars, nor even its mediocre critical reception. A true flop, the film seems to prove once again that without Marvel Studios' help, Sony continues to have no idea what to do with their corner of the Marvel universe.

Starring much-maligned thespian Jared Leto (who had similarly disappointed as The Joker in the DCEU), "Morbius" tells the story of a scientist working on a cure for a debilitating genetic disorder who inadvertently turns him into a blood-sucking vampire. Not quite a villain, not quite a hero, he now possesses an array of tremendous super powers including enhanced strength, stamina, healing, and a bat's uncanny echo-location. Pursued by the FBI, Morbius discovers he's not the only one who has gained vampiric powers, setting him up for what was surely intended to be an epic final showdown.

Sadly, the movie was lambasted for its lameness, and for being more reminiscent of early 2000s superhero movies than anything from the MCU. It has surprisingly bad effects, hammy acting, and a nonsensical plot, including a bizarre post-credits scene that haphazardly attempts to tie it into the MCU "Spider-Man" films. Perhaps in the years to come we'll look back on this as an oddity, but for now it seems like a bad omen for Sony's "Spider-Man" universe.

34. Ghost Rider

Long a fascination of Hollywood producers, who'd been eying the comic book hero for more than a decade, a big budget "Ghost Rider" movie finally landed in 2007. Nicholas Cage, who'd been circling superhero roles for nearly as long, finally found his franchise, taking on the role of Johnny Blaze — a daredevil motorcycle rider who strikes a deal with the literal devil to save his father's life. Now, Blaze is cursed to walk the Earth as a flaming skulled demon. Co-starring Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, and Sam Elliott, it's yet another disappointing Marvel project that featured a strong cast. 

In the film, the devil comes back to Blaze with a new deal: he'll give him back his soul, and free him from the curse of the Ghost Rider, if he can defeat his son Blackheart (Bentley). Intent on letting the demons of hell run loose on Earth, Blackheart has recruited three fallen angels to his side. Blaze — now armed with his powerful penance stare, and aided by his predecessor (Elliott) — must use his newfound fiery power to defeat them all and regain his lost soul. With a PG-13 rating, the film failed to capture the visceral horror and grim tone of the flame-wielding bounty hunter. Still, it did serviceable numbers at the box office, enough that it enticed the studio to try again four years later.

33. Punisher: War Zone

The third attempt to get "The Punisher" right on the big screen, "Punisher: War Zone" is somehow the worst of the three films that feature Marvel's gun-toting vigilante, despite both previous films getting at least some of it right. While the first wasn't enough "Punisher" and the second was a bit too tame, this one strikes all the wrong notes, with borderline campy action and a paper thin plot that doesn't stack up to even the worst of generic action movies. Star Ray Stevenson does perhaps the most faithful interpretation of Frank Castle to date, but is unfortunately given little to work with, and the result is a movie that bombed from every angle.

In the film, Frank Castle sets out to wage his never-ending one-man war on crime in New York City, facing down street thugs and mafia bosses alike. He's looking for revenge for the death of his family, and  faces off with his classic comic book nemesis, Jigsaw (Dominic West). Despite being made in 2011, after Marvel Studios had shown them how to do comic books movies right, there's little to like about this one. Of course, if all you're looking for in a "Punisher" movie is copious amounts of graphic blood and gore, this one should satisfy you. Thankfully, the character would finally be done justice thanks to Marvel's deal with Netflix just a few years later.

32. Fantastic Four (1994)

One of the most famous unseen movies in Hollywood history, the 1994 adaptation of Marvel's "The Fantastic Four" was produced by schlock auteur Roger Corman. Made on a shoestring budget only so the studio could fulfill a contract and keep the rights, it was never intended to be shown in theaters, though nobody on the production knew that at the time. Like its comic book counterpart, it tells the origin story of four friends who venture into outer space and are granted incredible super powers. Suiting up as a superhero team, they clash with the metal-suited tyrant, Dr. Doom. 

Despite its lofty goals, it never made it to theaters, and was never officially released. For decades, bootlegs of the film circulated, turning it into a genuine cult classic B-movie. But a hackneyed script and downright awful effects made it a chore to sit through, even for the most determined fans.

Still, it's clear that it was made with earnestness by the filmmakers and especially the cast, who you can tell are putting their heart and soul into the movie. That, combined with the fascinating history of the film and its place in Marvel's ascent to Hollywood dominance, make it worth watching as a curious historical relic. Though if you're not up for sitting through the film itself, consider the documentary centered on its production, "Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman's the Fantastic Four."

31. Blade Trinity

The first "Blade" film burst onto the scene with a combination action and horror, something fresh and new for audiences. The first movie based on a Marvel comic in nearly a decade, the 1998 film was followed by a sequel from visionary director Guillermo del Toro, which built off the first film's success. But a third film in the trilogy couldn't quite match the uniqueness of the first two, and "Blade Trinity" slipped into farce. Full of action movie tropes, and with a cast who seem like they are just going through the motions — save for Ryan Reynolds, who seems to enjoy hamming it up — it all adds up to one of the most disappointing movies on this list. 

More than an embarrassment for Marvel, even Wesley Snipes himself had problems with the final product, resulting in a legal feud between he and the studio. Of course, that wouldn't be the worst of it, as reports soon began circulating of the actor's despicable behavior during production, with allegations that have dogged him for years.

Though the first two films were no award-winners, they were fun action pictures that more than satisfied the target audience. Unfortunately, the lackluster third entry marked a sad low end to the promising "Blade" trilogy, and sent Snipes out of his fan-favorite role on an extremely sour note.

30. The Punisher (2004)

It had been 15 years since Hollywood had attempted a movie version of "The Punisher" by 2004. With revenge action movies as popular as ever, and comic book heroes doing big bucks on the big screen in the early 2000s, it probably seemed like the perfect time to try again. This new version, starring Thomas Jane, would be largely inspired by the recent comic book run written by celebrated scribe Garth Ennis (creator of "Preacher"). With Jonathan Hensleigh at the helm — whose resume included "Die Hard With A Vengeance" and "Armageddon" — it seemed like this time Hollywood might finally get the character right.

The film tells the origin story of undercover FBI agent Frank Castle. His family is killed in a mafia hit after criminal kingpin Howard Saint discovers his identity. Thought dead along with them, Castle instead returns as a vengeance-seeking vigilante, armed to the teeth and looking for blood. While "The Punisher" is a compelling version of the character, it largely lacks the grim, dark tone that Frank Castle's story requires. It seems the studio, despite the R-Rating, wasn't ready to head down such a bleak path. Even though Jane himself became a fan-favorite in the role for his intense performance, the movie disappointed and led to two reboots over the course of the next decade.

29. X-Men: Dark Phoenix

The final film in Fox's nearly 20 year long "X-Men" saga, "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" sent the franchise out on a low note. Wasting a perfectly good cast, with Jessica Chastain joining the film as the villain, the film tells the story of the Dark Phoenix ... which had been told already in the 2006 film "X-Men 3: The Last Stand." But this version is a wild departure, though not really much more faithful to the comics than the first time around. It did include an outer space alien component, but it doesn't provide the kinds of strong character drama and relatable emotional beats that the best of the X-films had done so well.

In this version, the X-Men head into space where telepath Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is possessed by the cosmic Phoenix force. Turned a diabolical weapon by a race of alien planet-conquerors, the X-Men must come back together to save the world and their friend. Rumors swirled that the film was altered late in development after the MCU's "Captain Marvel" was announced to avoid comparisons, and that Disney's purchase of Fox led the studio to make even more changes to the project. Whatever the reason, "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" wasn't just the last proper "X-Men" film from Fox ... it was also the worst.

28. New Mutants

We toyed with putting this one below "Dark Phoenix," especially as we described that film as the worst "X-Men" film from Fox. But ultimately "New Mutants" is just slightly ahead of the final "X" affair, and in truth, is not really an "X-Men" film at all. Produced by Fox before their merger with Disney, and delayed multiple times for a variety of different reasons, "The New Mutants" was a unique film that had more in common with the supernatural horror hit "Stranger Things" than superhero comic book adventure films — even including one of that show's many stars.

The movie was loosely adapted from the acclaimed comic book run by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod. It introduced five young mutants — Mirage, Wolfsbane, Cannonball, Sunspot and Magik — as they told their stories to Dr. Cecelia Reyes. Held in a secret facility ostensibly for the purpose of curing them of their dangerous mutant powers, their visions soon come to life and threaten to kill them all. Its fresh concept as a supernatural thriller gets it some credit, but the much-hyped film was a big disappointment, considering how long it had waited to be seen.

27. Fantastic Four (2005)

More than 10 years after the low budget adaptation from Roger Corman, "The Fantastic Four" got the big budget, big screen treatment they deserved in the wake of the success of Sony's "Spider-Man" films. Starring Ioan Groffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, and Chris Evans, the film had a strong cast and top-notch special effects. The film told the story right from the beginning, with the four friends venturing into space and receiving incredible powers: Ben Grimm became the super-strong Thing, Sue Storm could turn invisible, Reed Richards could stretch his body to ungodly proportions, and the hotheaded Johnny Storm could "flame on" and shoot fire from his fingertips. Together they battled the villainous Doctor Doom, a former rival of Richards', now with his own powers and bent on destruction.

The film was colorful, upbeat, and adventurous, striking the perfect tone for the comic book adaptation of Marvel's first super-team. Unfortunately, the story left a lot to be desired, and the performances were a bit too hokey in places. While it was easy to enjoy as a light-hearted romp, it still didn't deliver the high octane comic book action that fans had come to expect from recent "X-Men" and "Spider-Man" films.

26. Venom

The first foray back into the live-action "Spider-Verse" after their team-up with Marvel Studios, the 2016 action horror movie "Venom" looked like a return to form for Sony. Starring Tom Hardy in the title role, and heading down darker, more mature territory than ever before, the film looked to be a real treat for comic book fans looking for a better take on the character than Topher Grace's incarnation from "Spider-Man 3."

The solo movie told the story of downtrodden reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy), whose encounter with an alien symbiote turns him into the flesh-eating monster Venom. Together they form a contentious relationship and become a force to be reckoned with, vowing to chomp on evil-doers. But soon, Brock and his alien partner find themselves going up against the Life Foundation — the group had discovered the alien creature — and battling its newest and deadliest creation.

A big budget barn-burner, it lit up the box office, taking in a whopping $856 million during its run. Full of just the right amount of over-the-top action, violence, and gore that fans had been craving, it was a genuine crowd-pleaser. But looking past the visual delight, "Venom" simply doesn't have much to offer in the way of a powerful or satisfying story. It also suffered from its lack of connections to the wider "Spider-Man" universe, turning out to be little more than a loud, mindless romp. But if that's what you're looking for, you'll love it.

25. Fantastic Four (2015)

With Marvel Studios' MCU off and running, Fox wanted to revive their "Fantastic Four" franchise and capitalize on the public's hunger for superheroes. But their previous Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) was now playing Captain America, and it had been almost ten years since the previous film had underperformed. A new reboot was on the drawing board, with an all-new cast that included Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell, with Toby Kebbell taking on the role of Doctor Doom. Young indie director Josh Trank had in mind a horror-inspired new take on Marvel's Fist Family. He wanted to make a more grounded, realistic, and grittier vision that saw the four young adults discover an alternate dimension that inadvertently gives them super powers — including their friend Victor Von Doom, who uses them for evil.

In perhaps one of the worst cases of a studio completely bungling a movie, Fox butchered Trank's concept and reshot much of the film with a different director (executive producer Simon Kinberg). While Trank's darker, grittier version of the "Fantastic Four" may have been misguided, we'll never know what could have been had he actually been able to see it through. As it stands, there's some intriguing ideas and some compelling drama, but the potentially interesting film completely falls apart in the second half. The reshoots are infamously obvious, thanks to some bad green screen effects and an oddly chosen blonde wig for Mara's Sue Storm.

24. Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer

A step up from its predecessor, the 2007 sequel "Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer" added a major Marvel character to the mix. Voiced by Laurence Fishburne and played by Doug Jones, the Silver Surfer gave the film an exciting new quasi-villain to pair with the returning Doctor Doom, who seeks to control the cosmic power wielded by the newly arrived alien. But the Silver Surfer is more than a mere foe. He arrives as a harbinger of the world's end as the herald of his master: the being known as Galactus, who is on his way to devour the planet. The Fantastic Four suit up once again to stop the Surfer's path of destruction, and square off with Doom to prevent the alien's power from falling into his hands.

A marked improvement over the first movie, the deepening of the "FF" lore served the film well, and the cast did even better work the second time around. But once more, the story and effects don't come across as particularly exciting. Likewise, the changes made to Galactus fall completely flat, even for audiences unfamiliar with the source material. It's not quite a bad film, and there's plenty to love, but "The Rise Of The Silver Surfer" once again feels like a big wasted opportunity for some of Marvel's best characters.

23. Daredevil

After the overwhelming success of Sony's "Spider-Man" and their own "X-Men" films, Fox went back to the Marvel well and gave audiences the long-awaited big screen debut for one of its biggest heroes: Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. Fresh off his turn as Jack Ryan in "The Sum Of All Fears," rising action star Ben Affleck donned the red cowl as the title hero, whose alter ego Matt Murdock was a passionate lawyer. Joining him were Jennifer Garner and Colin Farrell as antagonists Elektra and Bullseye respectively, as well as Jon Favreau as Matt's law partner Foggy Nelson.

Adapting both Daredevil's origin story, as well as elements from some of the character's best runs, the film seemed to run through Daredevil's greatest hits, rather than tell a single, compelling story. Despite some good performances and some decent stuntwork, the film simply isn't as dark as it clearly wants to be, never fully embracing the seriousness of the gritty source material it's adapting. Thankfully, an extended director's cut helped smooth out its rough edges, but it still didn't do justice to the character's rich comic book adventures. Like "The Punisher," it would be rebooted a decade later with a much more faithful Netflix series.

22. The Punisher (1989)

The first feature-style movie to be based on a Marvel hero after "Howard The Duck," 1989's "The Punisher" was the first adaptation of the character for the screen. Starring "Rocky IV" villain Dolph Lundgren, it tells the story of Frank Castle, a former police detective who was thought dead in the mafia hit that killed his family. Bitter, resentful, and full of blood-thirsty rage, Castle makes it his personal mission to strike back against the city's biggest criminals. Known to the underworld as the Punisher, he has done serious damage to a number of crime families, and now has his sights set on the Yakuza — the Japanese criminal enterprise that's infiltrated New York.

Though the film is not the most faithful adaptation of the character — he lives and broods in a dank sewer and lacks the signature skull graphic on his chest — it operates more as an average action film for its day. Of course, fans may have wanted something dark and violent, but the movie is bleak and grim to the point of being depressing. Lundgren is a satisfying Punisher in places, but the film is mostly let down by a clichéd story and lame action scenes. Little of it lives up to what audiences had come to expect from other, better revenge films in the '80s. As a relic of an older time, though, it's become a cult favorite.

21. Dr. Strange

It may be a surprise for some, but the 2016 MCU entry "Doctor Strange" wasn't the first time Marvel took a stab at a film based on the Sorcerer Supreme. Way back in 1978, "Dr. Strange" aired on American TV screens as an event film in prime time. Though it was initially produced as something of a TV series pilot, that concept was seemingly dropped by the time it aired as its own feature-length film.

Starring Peter Hooten and Jessica Walter (later known for her role as Lucille Bluth in "Arrested Development"), as well as "Star Trek" veteran Michael Ansara as the voice of the Ancient One, the film follows Doctor Stephen Strange from his humble beginnings to his training as Master Of The Mystic Arts. The film takes quite a few liberties from the character's comic book origins, though. In this version, Strange (Hooten) is a leading psychiatrist. He tries to help a troubled young woman named Clea Lake, who is under the influence of the medieval spellcaster Morgan Le Fay (Walter). A mysterious man comes to help him treat Clea, revealing he is a powerful wizard who has been battling LeFay for years — and, after training Strange in the ways of magic, passes him the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme.

Though certainly a flawed film, if you can look past the dated production — including Hooten's glorious 1970s perm — and the notable differences from the comics, "Dr. Strange" is a lightweight fantasy adventure that should delight diehard fans of Marvel's resident wizard.

20. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Following three hit "X-Men" films, where Hugh Jackman proved a standout as the hero Wolverine, Fox finally gave him his own film. 2010's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" took a trip back in time to show how Logan became the famed mutant with unbreakable claws. An opening montage showed a young boy named James Howlett and his half-brother Victor Creed in the 19th century. They grew up to serve in the American Civil War, both World Wars, and Vietnam. 

Eventually the two brothers are recruited by a mysterious military man named Stryker. James takes the codename Logan as they join an elite team of mutant commandos called Team X. But when Victor goes rogue and kills Logan's only love, he must help the team hunt down his own brother. To do it, he undergoes the experimental procedure that bonds the unbreakable alloy adamantium to his bones. 

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" has plenty of thrilling action set pieces and some intriguing new characters, but disappoints with lackluster CGI, a clumsy story, and confusing connections to the larger "X-Men" universe. Though notable for featuring Ryan Reynolds' first appearance as Wade Wilson — later known as Deadpool — the character was butchered for the film and bears absolutely no resemblance to the character he'd bring to life almost a decade later.

19. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Even if the first "Venom" film in 2016 wasn't loved by critics, its massive haul at the box office was more than enough to earn it a sequel. Woody Harrelson had already teased the villain Carnage, and with Tom Hardy back on board and Andy Serkis coming onboard to direct, it all the ingredients for another smash success. And a hit it was, though thanks partly due to the changing landscape of theatrical releases in 2021, it couldn't come close to the first film's take. Still, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" gave audiences exactly what they wanted out of a sequel: a bigger and crazier villain, bigger stakes, and bigger and bloodier action. 

In the film, reporter Eddie Brock gets an interview with convicted serial killer Cletus Kasady, and unwittingly gives him a portion of the Venom symbiote. Merged with the deranged madman, they become the homicidal supervillain Carnage, and it's up to Brock and his Venom personality to work together to stop his reign of terror. "Let There Be Carnage" is mostly mindless chaos and violence, and in that it succeeds. But its thin characters and a thinner, unimaginative story make it a chore to sit through if you're looking for anything more. A clever don't-miss post-credits stinger sets the series up for a clash with the MCU's "Spider-Man."

18. X-Men: Apocalypse

Coming out just two years after the success of "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," director Bryan Singer once again returned to the helm, expanding the world of mutants once more. "X-Men: Apocalypse" went further down the rabbit hole of X-Men lore, introducing the ancient being known as Apocalypse, who is said to have been mankind's first mutant. Worshiped and revered, he returns in the present day and recruits four powerful mutants to his side to bring about the end of the world — including the X-Men's fiercest foe, Magneto. 

Facing a diabolical threat unlike anything they've seen before, the X-Men regroup — with the help of a new team of young mutants — to stop Apocalypse and his four horseman. Though it gets credit for its ambitious premise, "Apocalypse" was a big let down, especially considering how beloved the previous film in the series had been just a couple of years before. Instead of the gripping, dramatic story and engaging characters we got in "Days Of Future Past", its sequel devolves into straight action schlock. Stars Oscar Isaac, Olivia Munn, and young stars Kodi-Smit McPhee and Alexandra Shipp are mostly wasted as Apocalypse, Psylocke, Nightcrawler, and Storm. Ultimately, it's a film that looks great on paper but doesn't translate to the screen. But another memorable slow motion Quicksilver set piece helps bump this one up a little higher on this list.

If all you're looking for is slick, big budget mutant action, on a bigger scale than we've ever seen, this one is for you. 

17. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The sequel to the reboot "The Amazing Spider-Man" years before, Andrew Garfield's return as the webslinger was in some ways in improvement over the first installment. Spidey is back in action, saving New York City from evildoers — including an emerging threat known as Electro, a down-on-his luck technician who's granted superpowers when he falls into a tank of electric eels. And when his best friend Harry Osborn becomes a twisted goblin baddie himself, Parker uncovers a vast conspiracy out of the Oscorp labs. All the while, Peter Parker continues to struggle balancing his superhero life with his ordinary one, where he is trying to salvage his relationship with Gwen Stacy. This is made more complicated when she gets caught in the middle of his battle with various villains.

While it certainly looked better — the movie was more colorful, Spider-Man wore a much more comic-accurate costume, and it boasted more fluid and dynamic visuals — the sloppy, mish-mashed plot brought the whole endeavor crashing down. There's quite a few bright spots in the movie, but not enough to keep it afloat, and despite pulling in some serious box office numbers, it was a disappointment for the studio. One silver lining though: its lack of success partially led to Sony's deal with Marvel, and the introduction of Tom Holland in the MCU as a newly rebooted wallcrawler.

16. The Hulk

For the Hulk's 2003 big screen debut, Universal and Marvel went outside the box and tapped Hong Kong director Ang Lee ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") to bring Bruce Banner and his big green alter ego to life. Eric Bana starred as Banner, with Jennifer Connelly ("The Rocketeer") playing Betty Ross, and Sam Elliott (in the first of two Marvel roles) starring as her father (and one of several antagonists in the film) General "Thunderbolt" Ross. Following the accident that turns him into the Hulk, Banner finds himself hunted by Ross and the US military, all while contending with his father — a scientist once allied with Ross — who now possesses powerful abilities of his own.

Ang Lee brought a certain gravitas to the project, attempting to turn the story of Bruce Banner into something of a Shakespearean tragedy. When it works, it really works, and the film's stellar cast do some excellent work. But Lee's insistence on turning the visuals into a comic book farce lets the film's ambitions down, with odd CGI that turned the towering Hulk into an oafish cartoon character in parts. Meanwhile, a clunky final act and a murky battle with a nebulous villain leaves much to be desired. 

15. Blade

Thanks to a deal between the publisher and indie studio Lionsgate, audiences would get an adaptation of the supernatural horror-action series "Blade: The Vampire Hunter." The film — titled simply "Blade" — featured action star Wesley Snipes not long after his massive '90s hits "Demolition Man" and "U.S. Marshalls." Before movies like "The Matrix," it was "Blade" that set the standard for fast-paced kung-fu action in America, complete with black leather jackets and a rapid-fire techno-driven soundtrack.

The story begins with half human, half vampire Eric Books — AKA Blade — serving as a vampire hunting mercenary. Along with his sidekick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), the hero tracks and hunts the newly emerged vampire leader Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), who seeks to eliminate the human race by summoning forth an ancient evil. Terribly dated today, it was an impressive roller coaster ride at the time. The influence of the film cannot be overstated either, as it was more than just a trendsetter in tone and style for late '90s action movies that would follow. "Blade" also proved to Hollywood that a relatively obscure superhero, with a charismatic star and some clever, fast-paced action, could become a big hit with audiences. 

14. Blade II

When a superhero action movie ends up a surprise hit, you can bet you'll get a sequel, and that's exactly what happened with "Blade." With a new director in the form of future "Hellboy" helmer Guillermo Del Toro, "Blade II" came out from the shadows and bit the necks of audiences everywhere in 2002. Like any good sequel, the good got better, including even more impressive action and a number of names added to the cast including Ron Perlman ("Hellboy"), Norman Reedus ("The Walking Dead") and Donnie Yen ("Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"). It also introduced a new enemy — neither human nor vampire, but mutant "Reapers" who threaten both. In the film, Blade makes an uneasy alliance with vampire lord Eli Damaskinos in an effort to overcome the deadly new threat.

"Blade II" one-upped its predecessor in almost every area, but once again falls victim to some of the same flaws as the original. A thin story and weak characters make it another action-first movie, meant merely to overwhelm the senses with impressive fight scenes, kung fu choreography, and blazing shoot-outs. The best of the trilogy, it further elevated the career of Del Toro, and once again showed off Snipes' macho, charismatic bravado in what had become his career-defining role.

13. X-Men 3: The Last Stand

The third in the first "X-Men" movie trilogy, "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" swapped out its directors, replacing original helmer Bryan Singer with Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour"). The result was not up to the standards of the first two films, but still manages to impress in a few places. The film opens with a clever flashback that utilizes one of the earliest instances of digital de-aging, with stars Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan youth-ified in a scene set some 20 years before. It's here we discover that they've been manipulating telepath Jean Grey all her life, in the hopes of keeping her overwhelming telepathic powers — and a sinister hidden personality — from destroying herself and everyone around her.

Flash forward years later, and the government — whose mutant liaison is Hank McCoy AKA the Beast — has developed a "cure" for the mutant gene. In defiance, Magneto recruits an army of mutants to fight back, and unleashes the power of Jean Grey's "Phoenix" personality. Despite some strong new casting choices, including Kelsey Grammar as Beast and Elliot Page as Kitty Pryde, and some compelling new ideas thrown into the mix, the threequel was a haphazardly assembled over-the-top action film. Its trite, overstuffed script lacked much of the heart and soul of the previous movies, though Hugh Jackman's Wolverine remains as impressive as ever.

12. Spider-Man 3

Despite acclaimed director Sam Raimi reuniting with the cast of the first two films, the movie turned out to be a low point for the original "Spider-Man" trilogy. Here, Peter Parker continues dealing his double life as the crime fighting wall-crawler, while his best friend Harry Osborn — still blaming Spider-Man for the death of his father — suits up as a new Goblin and sets out for revenge. Meanwhile, Peter discovers an alien ooze that grafts itself to his costume, making him more powerful than ever — but also twists him into a darker, angrier man, jeopardizing his relationship with Mary Jane.

While all this is going on, escaped convict Flint Marko falls into an experimental reaction chamber and turned into the shape-shifting Sandman. When Peter learns that Marko may have been the man who killed his uncle Ben, he gets extra motivation to take him down. But when he jettisons his black suit, it bonds with rival reporter Eddie Brock to become Venom, and suddenly Spidey is facing down three new supervillains. 

If this all sounds like a lot, you'd be right, and while the movie was the biggest yet in terms of box office dollars, its jumbled mess of a plot and two too many villains holds it back from greatness. Thomas Haden Church, however, is an inspired as Sandman. While the movie disappoints, both he and Maguire would return 15 years later for some redemption in "Spider-Man: No Way Home."

11. The Amazing Spider-Man

Once the plug was pulled on a Sam Raimi-directed "Spider-Man 4," Sony forged ahead with a full reboot of the franchise with a new cast: "The Amazing Spider-Man." British actor Andrew Garfield took up the mantle as the ol' webhead, and rising star Emma Stone played Parker's high school sweetheart Gwen Stacy. In this new darker, grittier origin story that had shades of "Batman Begins," we learn that the spider bite that gave Parker his powers was no accident, and that his parents — thought dead years before — may have been leading a secret double life. After he becomes the Amazing Spider-Man, he clashes with his former professor Curt Connors — now the monstrous Lizard, who seeks to turn the entire city into his own kind.

Though only a marginal step up from "Spider-Man 3," what really inspired audiences was the promise it held for the future of the franchise. Garfield proved himself as a different kind of Peter Parker, and a funnier Spider-Man. With the backstory of the Parkers, Oscorp, and several other factors, this exciting new world was filled with potential. Sadly, the sequel would be a huge step down, and the potential would go unfulfilled.

10. The Wolverine

With star Hugh Jackman back as Logan, "The Wolverine" was the self-titled follow-up to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." While original writer/director Darren Aronofsky abandoned the project shortly before filming, James Mangold ably stepped in to fill the void, delivering a satisfying globe-hopping action thriller for the fan favorite mutant. Starting out with a flashback to World War II, we see Logan saving the life of a Japanese man named Ichiro in Nagasaki during the fall of the atomic bomb. In the present, Logan is visited by a mysterious mutant woman named Yukio, who wants him to come to Japan — where Ichiro lays dying. After all these years, Ichiro believes he has found a way to transfer Logan's healing powers to himself. But while in Japan, Logan is drawn into Ichiro's conflict with the Yakuza after they attempt to kidnap his granddaughter. 

A complex thriller that finally gives Wolverine a worthy story all his own, nods to the character's comic book adventures in Japan were well-served. The movie's biggest flaw is a disjointed and sloppy ending that leans heavily on comic book tropes. The hokey final battle towards the end is the only thing stopping this from being one of the better entries in the "X-Men" series, as it injects some well-executed action and much-needed pathos into the character's solo series.

9. X-Men

For decades, fans had been dreaming of a big budget "X-Men" movie. Well, hot off his success on critical darlings "The Usual Suspects" and "Apt Pupil" director Bryan Singer shocked Hollywood by following it up with an adaptation of the comic book super-team in 2000. The movie starred Patrick Stewart ("Star Trek: The Next Generation") as Professor X, Halle Berry as Storm, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, James Marsden as Cyclops, and relative newcomers Hugh Jackman and Anna Paquin as Wolverine and Rogue. "Apt Pupil" star Ian McKellen played the villainous Magneto, whose diabolical plan to turn all of humanity into mutants gets Professor X to press his team into action.

Unlike anything fans had seen before, full of the best comic book action ever seen — mixed with heartfelt drama — "X-Men" proved to be a groundbreaking comic book movie. More than just a pioneering superhero film, it kickstarted the boom in superhero movies that would follow. Though it took quite a bit of leeway with the source material, it got the core of the X-Men right, as an allegory for bigotry and racism. It also turned Hugh Jackman into a star, and put him into the signature role that he'd play for nearly 20 years. It spawned a billion dollar global franchise, and its not an understatement to say that the MCU might not have ever existed without it, as it was on "X-Men" that Kevin Feige got his start as a fledgling producer.

8. Deadpool 2

Ryan Reynolds returned to star in "Deadpool 2" and this time he had a bigger budget and a whole team of mutants by his side. The action starts when a mysterious cybernetic mutant warrior called Cable (played by Thanos actor Josh Brolin) arrives from the future in search of young boy who will one day become a terrible villain. Deadpool takes it upon himself to save the child, and assembles to team to help him do it. Dubbing themselves "X-Force," the rude, crude, wisecracking merc with a mouth is joined by Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), and Vanisher (played by an A-List megastar in a surprise cameo). 

Every bit as raucous, wild, and hilarious as the first film, "Deadpool 2" expands on the adventure with more characters and even better villains, including a new take on Juggernaut. New characters Domino and Cable shined, and star Ryan Reynolds once more proved why he and he alone was born to play Deadpool — delivering his trademark vulgar wit, acerbic sarcasm, and fourth wall-breaking gags. A bigger budget and more varied action were improvements, but no matter how good, the sequel couldn't match the freshness of the unexpected first film. Still, it proved an even bigger box office smash, easily securing a third movie in the series.

7. X2: X-Men United

If fans wondered how an "X-Men" sequel could top the first film, they'd learn in short order. An impressive opening action sequence saw new mutant Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) using his fantastic teleporting powers to infiltrate the White House in an attempt to assassinate the US President. Thankfully, the X-Men intervene, and take in the blue-skinned outcast mutant who had been brainwashed. But now that mutants are being blamed for a an attack on the President, Professor X and his team of superheroes have bigger problems as the government comes gunning for them. Military commandos invade the X-Men's home, led by William Stryker, the same man who turned Logan into Wolverine.

A showdown with Stryker's and his own super-powered soldier named Lady Deathstrike leads the X-Men to uncover a sinister plot to destroy every mutant on Earth. To stop it, Professor X and his team will have to put aside their differences and work alongside their greatest foe Magneto. With even bigger action and more spectacular special effects, plus new team members Iceman, Nightcrawler, and Pyro — and a renewed focus on the origins of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine — "X2: X-Men United" impressed. With a bigger box office haul, and even better reviews, the film was a clear favorite among critics and audiences alike.

6. X-Men: First Class

Part reboot, part prequel to the "X-Men" franchise, director Matthew Vaughn ("Kick-Ass") brought the series back with an all-new cast with the 2011 film "X-Men: First Class." Starring James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, the film chronicled their early friendship-turned-rivalry. Kevin Bacon starred as the villainous Sebastian Shaw, leader of the Hellfire Club, an elite social club for mutants ... and target of the CIA for his war crimes during WWII.

But when CIA Agent Moira McTaggart (Rose Byrne) learns that Shaw is a mutant, she seeks out Professor Charles Xavier as a consultant. Together, they recruit a small team of mutant agents to take down Shaw, including Beast, Havoc, Mystique, and Banshee. A smaller, more modest film than the earlier "X" movies, "First Class" eschewed the over-the-top action for a strong character-driven story led by its exceptional cast. The result was a critically well-received hit that led to four sequels, and reinvigorated the franchise for a whole new generation. It also introduced many audiences to Jennifer Lawrence who, like Jackman before her, leveraged the "X-Men" movies into super stardom.

5. Deadpool

Famously, the 2016 film "Deadpool" had been stuck in development hell after the disappointing first appearance for the character in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" years earlier. Leaked test footage that was met with thundering applause from fans and forced the studio into production.  And a good thing too, because it turned out to be a surprise smash hit and the highest grossing R-Rated movie ever. Starring alongside Reynolds was a cast of mostly unknowns, but thanks to a sharp script and Reynold's fourth wall-breaking performance, it gave audiences something unique and new, pushing the boundaries of the superhero movie genre.

The movie tells the story of devil-may-care mercenary Wade Wilson, who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Volunteering for an experiment run by a shadowy government agency, Wilson becomes Deadpool, an unstoppable mutant assassin who's impossible to kill. But when Deadpool breaks free of their control. they take his girlfriend hostage. With the help of two straight-laced X-Men, Deadpool is determined to get his revenge. Fast, funny, and imaginative, it was a groundbreaking superhero movie that got everyone in the industry rethinking the possibilities for R-rated comic book movie.

4. Spider-Man

"Spider-Man" delivered audiences the first big budget live action adaptation of the world's famous webslinger, and did it with aplomb. Directed by horror icon Sam Raimi, and starring relative newcomers Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco as Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, and Harry Osborn respectively, it delivered just the kind of colorful superhero adventure that audiences hadn't seen in decades. With the sinister smile of Willem Defoe behind the mask of the villainous Green Goblin, it was also one of the most perfectly cast films in the genre, too. 

The origin story showed high school student Peter Parker bitten by a genetically engineered spider and receiving incredible wall-crawling, web-slinging powers. But when he fails to stop a criminal who winds up killing his uncle Ben, he vows to use his powers for good, becoming the hero Spider-Man. His best friend's father, meanwhile, uses an experimental serum on himself and becomes a super-powered criminal out for revenge against those who've wronged him. Now it's up to the wallcrawler to stop him before he wreaks havoc across half the city.

A true blockbuster, it broke records, becoming the first movie to ever break $100 million on its opening weekend. It led to two sequels and made Maguire the definitive Spider-Man for more than a generation, with his trilogy looming like a shadow over everything that would follow.

3. X-Men: Days Of Future Past

For more than a decade, "X2: X-Men United" was seen as the gold standard in series, but all that changed with "X-Men: Days of Future Past." It reunited original director Bryan Singer with Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen, who all came back to co-star alongside the newer cast. Beginning in a dystopian future where the government has cracked down on mutants, Wolverine is sent back in time where he must bring together the younger X-Men (including a disillusioned Professor X) with their enemies — Magneto, Mystique, and others — to stop a plot that will ultimately lead to the near extermination of all mutants.

Combining both casts, with Wolverine leading the story, proved a triumph for Singer, who slipped easily back into the director's chair and delivered the best ever "X-Men" film. A popcorn flick with surprising charm and heart, Singer's familiarity with the universe and its characters helped make it a breezy, effortless action adventure. His stylish direction, combined with several stunning action sequences — including the introduction of the super-speedy mutant Quicksilver played by Evan Peters — made "Days Of Future Past" the most unforgettable movie in the series. 

2. Spider-Man 2

The perfect example of a sequel that outdoes an already great original, "Spider-Man 2" brought back the cast and crew of the previous film, with Toby Maguire back as Spider-Man and Sam Raimi in the director's chair. This time, they pit the hero against perhaps the most well known of the wallcrawler's famous rogues gallery: the robotic armed Doctor Octopus. Played by veteran actor Alfred Molina, Doc Ock came alive as a charismatic scientist on an obsessive quest to prove his revolutionary theories ... and willing to kill to do it. 

After an experiment grafts four artificially intelligent metal arms to his body, and his mind is corrupted by their programming, he becomes a dastardly villain. Only Spider-Man can stop him from menacing New York City. Things are complicated when Peter Parker's friend Harry Osborn hires Doc Ock to kill Spider-Man as revenge for the death of his father Norman in the previous film.

More than the original, "Spider-Man 2" set the standard by which all future superhero comic book films would be judged. Molina's sly, devilish Doctor Octopus became a blueprint for later villains — the baddie with a misguided quest. Raimi's direction, amped up from the prior film, proved comic book films could embrace a little scariness. Even noted critic Roger Ebert, notoriously hard on comic book films of the day, gave the film four stars, saying simply, "this is what a superhero movie should be."

1. Logan

While most superhero films are bombastic adventures, "Logan" by contrast is a dark, sobering drama about an aging, hopeless man looking for meaning. In a not-too-distant bleak future, mutants have become outlaws, and Logan — who is beginning to lose his super-healing ability — is tired of running. Out near the Mexican border, Logan cares for a sick and elderly Professor X (Patrick Stewart), whose seizures threaten anyone near him. But when he comes across a lost little girl named Laura (Dafne Keene), who seems eerily similar to himself down to the claws, he's forced to embrace his inner hero once again and vows to keep her safe. During the journey, the three begin to bond, and each teach each other what it means to be a family.

In what would be his final performance in the role, Hugh Jackman delivers a tour de force as the eponymous hero. A lot of films have used terms like "grounded" and "gritty" but none fit that bill better than "Logan," which has a realness and intensity thanks to its soulful characters and powerful performances from Jackman, Stewart, and Keene. Emotionally resonant and moving in a way that helps it transcends the superhero comic book movie genre, it's not just the best non-MCU movie from Marvel, it may very well be the best Marvel movie ever made.