To date, there have been 16 different TV series that take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s more than even we remembered — likely because they stayed mostly separate from the movies until the Disney+ shows started up this year. But while these new shows, including “WandaVision” and “Loki,” might have bigger budgets and more star power, they don’t necessarily dominate these rankings — because those Netflix shows may just have held up better than you think. Let’s take a look.
Nobody was able to get over the bad wigs and CGI in “Inhumans” when it first started, and the show didn’t improve much from there. Thin plots and boring characters make this the least interesting of all the modern Marvel shows.
15. “The Defenders”
All the Netflix Marvel shows tried to do an “Avengers”-style teamup series, including “The Defenders,” and it felt like they forgot to upload several episodes in the middle of it. Just a total disaster.
14. “What If…?”
The first few episodes of this new Disney+ series, which premiered Aug. 11, have basically been meme-fueled fan-fiction disguised as alternate realities. What if Peggy took the super soldier serum instead of Steve, but then Steve became Iron Man and they had to team up to fight Red Skull’s extradimensional tentacle monster during World War II? Come on, man.
13. “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”
On paper, this show sounds really cool. But something was definitely off with the execution because seemingly half the plot was missing. We’re still trying to figure out what was going on with the Flag Smashers.
The only horror-ish entry in the MCU, this Hulu series is interesting but not interesting enough.
11. “Agents of SHIELD”
The first attempt at an MCU show is perfectly adequate in every regard. But it was always way too much of a network show in terms of style and vibe to be all that interesting as a piece of the MCU.
10. “Luke Cage”
While it had plenty of great moments, “Luke Cage” simply never coalesced into anything that really made sense. It’s the textbook definition of a show that’s less than the sum of its parts.
The first MCU show on Disney+ was really interesting and inventive with its whole sitcom format — but then it fell apart in the end with a cartoonish villain who had no known motivation beyond “MOAR POWAR.”
It looked cool and teased our brains with all that multiverse and time travel stuff. But it was just window dressing; a show where stuff happened, and none of it really added up. But at least it’s an easy watch.
Hulu’s first Marvel offering took a different track than the previous MCU shows. Focusing on a diverse group of teenagers, it was more about a mystery than a bunch of people punching each other — which still feels kinda refreshing.
6. “Cloak & Dagger”
Like “Runaways,” this Freeform series was sort of a low-key thriller more than the obligatory beat-’em-ups that make up almost the entire rest of the MCU — a good thing. And despite the total lack of connections to the rest of the MCU, this New Orleans-set teen drama gets better with time because of how it set itself apart.
5. “Jessica Jones”
This series about an alcoholic detective who has superstrength is a really interesting pivot from the MCU norm, a la “Runaways” and “Cloak & Dagger,” but with a real budget and a fun, hard edge. It gets very messy in the details, particularly in Season 2, but the premise was so good that it worked anyway.
Season 1 was rough, but the second and third were great thriller stories with stellar fight scenes. It still has some of the best fights we’ve ever seen in a TV show.
3. “Iron Fist”
Yes, Season 1 was beyond awful. But no MCU show has been as comfortable in its own skin as “Iron Fist” was in Season 2, when it stopped being so serious and turned into the self-aware kung fu show that stole our hearts. Also, it made fun of Danny Rand just as much as we did.
2. “Agent Carter”
After “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the fans wanted more Peggy — and the MCU gave us more Peggy. The show is a bit more broadcast TV than we would like, but otherwise it’s a really fun and very effective bit of fan service because it manages to stay out of its own way most of the time.
1. “The Punisher”
This Netflix series was likely the most real the MCU will ever get. And I mean “real” in the sense of dealing with real, authentic human stuff. Season 2 is like a very angry group therapy session. And we loved every second of it.