Since 2008, Marvel has dominated popular culture with its vast cinematic universe of comic book movies, with heroes like Iron-Man, Captain America, and Thor becoming household names through the various MCU movies. But the Marvel machine hasn’t stopped there.
In 2021, Marvel moved to the small screen, with streaming service Disney Plus becoming the home of various MCU TV series. It all started with WandaVision, and Marvel added four more series to the MCU timeline within that first year. Now, we have Moon Knight to enjoy, before Ms Marvel, She-Hulk, and Secret Invasion arrive later this year.
But, which MCU TV series is the best? We took on the task of ranking them all for you, so you know what shows are worth your time!
What is the best MCU TV series?
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
- What If?
- Moon Knight
6. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
When Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson first crossed paths in Captain America: Civil War, fans raved over the fun chemistry of a relationship built largely on mistrust and bickering. Earlier this year, we were given a much closer look at the pairing as we watched Sam’s transition from Falcon into the new Captain America as he and Bucky team up to defeat a returning Baron Zemo, Karli Morgenthau, and her terrorist group, the Flag Smashers. While the series had its moments with impressive fight choreography (naturally closely associated with the MCU-best fight sequences in The Winter Soldier) and the startling image of Cap’s iconic shield being used to cave in someone’s skull, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier left much to be desired as it struggled with pacing and plot issues. Across its 6 episodes, the series regularly plodded through sections of dead air, failing to summon anywhere near the attention its preceding series, WandaVision, had so successfully earned over its run.
5. What If?
The most-high concept series from the MCU’s transition to television is What If? , an anthology series that explores the multiverse in greater detail. With the entire multiverse in play, the series could have gone anywhere with its stories, but it regularly found itself playing far too safe in hindsight. Series highlights like Doctor Strange Loses His Mind and Ultron Fucks the Multiverse (not actual titles) were worth the experiment as the two episodes explored possibilities to great lengths and unleashed hellish images into the MCU. Stephen Strange physically absorbing the most powerful creatures across the multiverse as he slowly descends to (a multiverse of) madness was a treat to behold, and a necessary watch before his return to the big screen on May 5.
The penultimate episode, which explores Ultron obtaining the Infinity Stones, slicing Thanos directly in half, and quite literally chomping down onto a galaxy was a visual feast to behold. That said, much of the series felt like missed opportunities. On paper, an episode dedicated to fan-favorite comic run Marvel Zombies should have been a home run, but it was limited by the kid-friendly target audience, while other episodes (T’Challa becomes Star-Lord, Thor without Loki, and whatever the hell the Killmonger episode was about) were far too run-of-the-mill to have any lasting impact.
Christmas has rarely been explored in the MCU, with only Iron Man 3 and a couple of short sequences in the series to show for it, so Hawkeye was a lovely, wholesome, family-orientated breath of fresh wintry air at the end of 2021. Unfairly maligned at times, Jeremy Renner has been a stalwart of the MCU since Phase One and was a much-deserved focus of this series. That said, trust a character like Hawkeye to be upstaged by someone else in the shape of everyone’s new favourite character, Kate Bishop, played by the utterly delightful Hailee Steinfeld.
Hawkeye was a terrific introduction to Kate; an enjoyable exploration of their mentor-mentee relationship (with elements of father-daughter thrown in for good measure), and some thoroughly entertaining action sequences that reveal far more of the near-magical arrows at the pair’s disposal. Furthermore, it was very tidily tied into the wider MCU with the inclusion of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Baklova, and it was the first leap back to Netflix with the re-introduction of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk. Slightly less deadly and more Marvel-ified than some would like, but the inclusion of the Netflix-best Daredevil series into the MCU has been long-awaited and creates some exciting opportunities moving forward.
3. Moon Knight
Not since WandaVision has one of Marvel’s TV series been so hotly discussed, one of the many positives to come out of Oscar Isaac’s debut in the MCU. There’s a genuine level of star power to the series thanks to its star and his antagonist, Arthur Harrow, played by screen icon Ethan Hawke. As such, despite some ropey CGI throughout and an at times uncertain Egyptian adventure, the series always had its stars to fall back on.
Oscar Isaac’s performance is quite terrific throughout in his dual role of Steven Grant and Marc Spector. While his London accent received a fair whack of attention for being, well, quite terrible, it’s quite impressive how his accent is part of the plot. Marc Spector, meanwhile, is the quiet intensity fans expected when a man like Isaac took the role, but the interaction between the two is what sets the series apart from Marvel’s previous shows.
Better still is the show’s direction from Mohamed Diab, the Egyptian director who revelled in exploring the expansive Moon Knight lore and his ties to the Gods of Egypt. The series comes to a head in a genuinely spectacular kaiju fight in the season finale, between a skeletal bird demon and a giant crocodilian foe. Despite some story issues, Moon Knight captured its audience throughout its run, delivered some excellent action sequences, a compelling mystery, and an impressive study of how we deal with trauma.
The series that boldly went where the series had dared for so long, Loki ended the MCU and created the MCM, sending catastrophic reverberations across the multiverse and shifted the goalposts for the Avengers of the near future. Loki has always been a much-loved character thanks to Tom Hiddleston’s committed, brilliantly entertaining performance, and Loki gave the character a much-needed platform to propel himself from a memorable villain to a true leading role. The series rarely had a misstep en route to its dramatic finale, which was a delightful shift from the typical big sky laser of the MCU’s past as the finale was largely three characters in a room talking, and it was terrific. The impact of Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror has yet to truly be felt (and likely won’t be until Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), but fans around the world knew they were watching a real shift in power within the MCU.
A spectacular penultimate episode saw Richard E Grant’s Classic Loki come to the fore and deliver arguably the defining moment of both Loki and every MCU TV show thus far as he conjured an illusion of Asgard to help defeat the cloud-like behemoth Alioth, but the whole series is excellent, anchored by Hiddleston, a brilliant Sophia Di Martino as Loki variant Sylvie, and a delightfully mustachioed Owen Wilson as Detective Mobius. Brilliantly cast and brilliantly told, Loki was so close to taking the top spot.
To date, the MCU TV shows have yet to exceed – or even meet – the lofty standards set by its debut run on Disney+, the incomparable WandaVision. The long-awaited series exploring the relationship between Wanda Maximoff and Vision was even pushed for by Elizabeth Olsen herself not long after her Age of Ultron introduction, and the series managed to shatter most expectations upon its release. With Olsen and the ever-brilliant Paul Bettany to guide us through decades of iconic television, WandaVision still feels like the only MCU TV show to justify its existence as a TV show. The other series (What If? notwithstanding) feel more like films that have been cut down into 6-episode limited series runs. Meanwhile, not only does WandaVision explore TV history in a fun and inventive way by crafting different episodes to fit into different eras of television, from black and white studio sitcoms to the single-camera efforts of the 90s, it baked its central conceit into its plot as a method for Wanda to confront grief.
Elizabeth Olsen delivers a spectacular performance at its heart, perfectly encapsulating the acting styles of each era while sliding seamlessly back into MCU-mode when she becomes Scarlet Witch, and delivers a powerhouse final episode as she waves a tearful goodbye to the love of her life (“what if grief if not love persevering?” has rightfully transcended the series into a gorgeous sentiment of summoning the strength to keep going). Yet to be beaten, WandaVision stands tall as the best TV show to date.
So, there you have it, that’s all the MCU TV series ranked! For more superhero content, check out our ranking of the Batman movies.