Hey everyone. 2021 was a breath of fresh air for us Marvel fans as we got nine new releases in the form of movies and Disney+ Originals after a long layoff post-Spider-Man: Far From Home. Disney+ gives us a new way to consume Marvel content and I think it's one of the best streaming services available. As I mentioned above 2021 saw nine new releases into the MCU timeline and in this article, I'm going to rank them from worst to best. Please keep in my mind that these rankings are my personal opinion and if you have a different opinion please don't hesitate to post your rankings in the comments.
#9) Black Widow
The first MCU film following 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home was seen as a final sendoff to Natasha Romanoff in the form of a prequel during her time as a fugitive between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. There were some positives in the film, including Natasha and Yelena's sister relationship and David Harbour as the Red Guardian. An underwhelming villain in the form of Taskmaster and General Dreykov, left much to be desired. This film left me wanting to see more of Yelena Belova and I'm looking forward to her taking over the Black Widow name. While overall, I still consider this a good Marvel film, the stakes were too low and the fact that it was a prequel held it back.
#8) What If?
Marvel's first animated series in the MCU explored vast new realities in the form of the Multiverse. This show is essentially different variations of the stories that have already been told in animated form. The fact that none of these stories had any real impact on the overall MCU (at least for now), made watching a bit of a grind, which is something I don't want to feel while watching MCU content. The one bright spot for me was the introduction of The Watcher voiced by Jeffrey Wright. It'll interesting to see if he gets brought into the live action storylines somewhere in Phase 4. This was a good first shot at an animated series and I'm looking forward to what they come up with for What If? Season 2 and future animated projects.
Hawkeye finally gives Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton his own project after years of being in the background of the Avengers movies. This show follows Barton around New York City during the holidays while dealing with his past actions as The Ronin and training his new archer protégé Kate Bishop, played by Hailee Steinfeld. An important inclusion to Hawkeye's character is his hard-of-hearing introduction from his explosive history in the MCU while keeping true to the comics as well. A HUGE return of the Kingpin, from the Netflix Daredevil series, this time in the MCU, was a fantastic surprise and even though they made it look like the end of the character, we all know this is just the beginning. Hawkeye was a great addition to the MCU and I can't wait to see Kate Bishop in future MCU instalments.
#6) The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier follows the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame and the retirement of Steve Rogers as Captain America and his decision to pass the shield onto Sam Wilson. The show focuses on Sam's moral struggle on whether or not to accept the role Steve wanted him to have. The relationship between Sam and Bucky is up there with the best buddy cop films and was the high point of this show for me. Wyatt Russel as US Agent was very underwhelming, but I did find myself hating that character, which I guess is a sign of good acting. The show touched on racial discrimination and combined it with great action sequences which makes for a great addition to the MCU.
#5) The Eternals
The Eternals introduced 10 all-new characters into one film, that in itself, is a very difficult task and I feel like they succeeded in fleshing out the characters as well as they could have given the circumstances. The film split time between the past and the present and I found myself really enjoying the scenes set in the past and how The Eternals helped shape humanity up to that point. One very important aspect of this film is the Celestials, they are going to be very important going forward and it'll be super interesting to see just where they can take them in the future. The post-credit scenes are classic MCU, in one we see Kit Harrington's Dane Whitman close to Wielding The Ebony Blade and becoming the Black Knight, before being stopped by Mahershala Ali's Blade. There was a lot to like about this film, but the overall lack of a villain and cluttered screen time stops this from ranking higher.
WandaVision kicked off Phase 4 with a huge WTF? I was beyond stoked for this show considering it was the first MCU release since 2019 and it did not disappoint. The show follows Wanda Maximoff and her journey dealing with grief following the death of Vison in Infinity War. Her grief led to her imprisoning an entire town in a "perfect" universe which is represented by all of the sitcoms Wanda had watched as a child with her family. This show gave us so much: Agatha All Along, The Scarlet Witch, and perhaps the greatest quote in the MCU "What is grief? If not love persevering". We get to see Wanda return in Doctor Strange: The Multiverse of Madness, and everyone should be every excited to see what happens with this character.
Everyone's favourite villain returns in his own show. This show follows a Loki variant after his escape in Endgame's time heist and his adventures chasing another Loki variant at the Time Variance Authority. There are some important setups in this series for future MCU releases: the multiverse, variants, and Kang the Conqueror make watching this show very important in understanding future MCU releases. The character growth of Loki throughout the series is awesome, he goes from the evil villain from The Avengers to someone you actually feel bad for in the end after Sylvie betrays him and kills He Who Remains. The stakes were high, character growth was fantastic, and Owen Wilson, Wow. I'm very excited for Season 2 and can't wait to see more of Jonathan Majors as Kang.
#2) Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings
I didn't know anything about this superhero going into the film and I came out absolutely loving this character. As far as origin stories go in the MCU, Shang-Chi is by far my favourite. It feels connected enough to the MCU with the Ten Rings organization from the Iron Man franchise being the primary focus, but brings enough new energy to truly feel like an origin movie. The action scenes in the first half of the movie are incredible and some of the best in the MCU, the action scenes in the latter half of the film, however, are very CGI heavy and fall a little flat. I think Shang-Chi is a perfect blend of the MCU formula and it's definitely worthy of the number 2 spot for 2021.
#1) Spider-Man: No Way Home
Could it be anything else? This might feel like a cheap way out for some people, but this film was the climax of all live action Spider-Man movies dating back to the early 2000's. This film followed Spider-Man fighting villains from the history of the franchise and attempting to get them back to their own universe. Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin steals the show as the best villain in the film, by far. This film is full of fan-service moments and every line of dialogue can be hilarious if you've followed the franchise since the Tobey Maguire films. There has never been a greater cheer in the theatre than the one where Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire walk through those portals into the MCU, the crowd ERUPTED. It's already the 6th highest grossing film of all-time, and it was released in the middle of a pandemic. The ending was a pleasant surprise as it sees Tom Holland's Spider-Man go from an Avenger back to the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, serving as a soft reset for the character in the MCU and I think a lot of people are very excited to see where they go from here. Spider-Man: No Way Home was the best experience I've had in a movie theatre since Endgame and if this is what the start of Phase 4 is going to be like, I can't wait to see what the future holds.
2021 is in the books and Phase 4 is well underway in the MCU. We've seen a very diverse set of films and Disney+ releases thus far, and I think as time goes the MCU is only going to become more inclusive. 2021 was the best year of MCU content we've ever had and 2022 doesn't appear to be slowing down with three movies set to release and a number of Disney+ shows releasing as well, it's looking to be another great year for Marvel fans and I know they're going to deliver.