There was a pandemic-led drought of MCU offerings in 2020. However, as the world opened up and the House of Mouse flexed its muscle in the now dominant frontier of streaming, we were treated with more than our fair share of MCU offerings across theaters and streaming platforms like Disney+. Some were absolutely fantastic and game changing in the superhero genre; some were serviceable hits and some were downright excesses.
That being said, MCU is a juggernaut that keeps on rolling and delivering. So, here's the Film Companion ranking of the all the MCU shows and movies that came out this year.
There's a lot going on in Eternals, and there should be a lot going on for Eternals. A solid and diverse cast, an emotional story woven into a cosmic narrative, and some great action. However, Eternals never rises to be anything beyond what we've come to expect from standard MCU fare. And yes, we've seen enough of standard MCU cosmic fare by now to classify this one as, well, boring.
What If is the MCU's first animated offering on Disney+. As someone who adores the highly entertaining comics it's based on, I think this half-baked and pointless offering should have been called Why Though?
Black Widow is an earnest story – one that captures Natasha Romanoff's journey rather deftly. However, it remains a case of too little, too late. Even Scarlett Johansson's earnest goodbye performance and Florence Pugh's fan-favourite turn as assassin Yelena Belova couldn't stop me from wondering what a Black Widow solo movie released five years earlier could look like.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier starts big and ends just about all right. For fans of the Captain America trilogy, the show is a must watch. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) bromance their way through hand-to-hand combat, unworthy Captain America successors, super soldier terrorists, race issues, therapy and unhelpful bank managers. There's a lot going on in this show, and that's not always a good thing. But Stan and Daniel Bruhl (as Baron Zemo) are always entertaining, and the show adds new chapter to Captain America's post-Endgame legacy.
WandaVision comfortably breaks formats, templates and genres as it dives into a mad, Matrix-esque world in which Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and the recently deceased Vision (Paul Bettany) are reunited and happy together. While the show amply delivers on the action, examinations of grief, Easter eggs and CGI slug-fests, it remains only a serviceable sum of its parts. And that's why it ranks this low on the list.
Everyone, including the editors at FC, will hate me for placing Hawkeye above WandaVision, but the show is simply the MCU's the most self-assured offering this year. Compared to the larger Marvel universe, in which planets are destroyed every two seconds and reality is broken every other year, Hawkeye is just lighthearted Christmas superhero fare. It takes the best parts of Matt Fraction and David Aja's legendary comic book run and mixes them with the standard MCU beats well, all while letting Hailee Steinfeld make the role of archer Kate Bishop her own. Hawkeye nails most things, including Lucky the Pizza Dog.
Shang-Chi was the surprise blockbuster I did not see coming. Still, it worked hard to earn its millions, establishing Simu Liu's Shang-Chi as a bona-fide power player in the MCU and re-contextualizing the legend of the Ten Rings organisation after that Iron Man 3 (2013) fiasco. Shang Chi is a whole lot of fun, right up till its CGI slug-fest ending. Of course, Tony Leung in a Marvel superhero movie is worth the price of admission alone.
Loki is fast-paced, and weird as hell. Tom Hiddleston's long-perfected portrayal of our favourite Asgardian, and the fact that the show fulfils its glorious purpose by introducing Kang and the multiverse, makes Loki a solid number 2 on the list. If you look at the larger MCU Phase 4 narrative, no other entry moves the story and overall stakes forward as much as Loki does. It's a wild, fun, action-packed ride, and if you have to watch just one MCU show this year, let it be this.
Like I said in my review, SpiderMan: No Way Home is a theatrical experience for the ages, decades in the making. Not since Avengers: Endgame has a superhero movie delivered on fans' expectations, and great superhero storytelling the way No Way Home does. From solid performances by its A-List cast, a strong emotional core and a multitude of "Hell-yeah!" picture-perfect moments and cameos, Spider-Man: No Way Home ranks not only as a definitive No #1 MCU offering of the year, but also among one of the best MCU offerings of all time.
Disagree with our ranking? Think you can do better? Then let's Assemble! and show-down in the comments below.