In 2021, Marvel entered a new phase.
Not just Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which would catch up with new and old heroes in the aftermath of “Avengers: Endgame,” but a phase of multi-pronged storytelling synergy unlike anything before it. In Phase 4, the MCU embraced television with multiple Disney+ streaming series, driving subscribers to the platform with more Marvel content than ever before.
Major franchises like have previous explored the coexistence of live-action films and TV shows — as well as cartoons, comics, and graphic novels — but with clear narrative priorities. There hasn’t been a new tentpole Star Wars movie since Disney+, so those series haven’t had to share the spotlight yet; meanwhile, the MCU churns out both theatrical releases and streaming series with regularity, all of it set in roughly the same timeline and universe with interconnected characters, plot lines, and settings.
Whether you fell off after “WandaVision” or tune in weekly to “Loki” (Season 2 now streaming), it’s hard for even the Marvel-averse to avoid the expanding MCU, especially on Disney+. Even as the stories weave together, some work better as standalone viewing, while others can’t be separated from cinematic counterparts. Some introduce dazzling new characters and formats, while others tread old territory (“Werewolf By Night,” “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” and “I Am Groot” did not qualify for this list). And whether or not you believe in Marvel fatigue, you’re definitely living in an age of Marvel saturation.
Here are all of Disney’s Marvel streaming series, ranked from worst to best.
9. “Secret Invasion”
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) deserved more. The man who had an idea that turned into the superhero movement of a generation was long overdue to star in his own project — but by the time “Secret Invasion” came around, the moment had passed. Fury’s headliner was teased as early as “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” then built up by crumbs scattered across the MCU’s film and TV multiverse over the years of Phase 4. The limited series has its moments, but arrived in the midst of the notorious “Marvel fatigue” which has viewers dropping off, losing threads, and generally struggling to capture the joy and excitement that these stories inspired just a few years ago.
8. “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law”
Expanding Marvel to the small screen should have been an opportunity to explore all that TV has to offer, a chance for Marvel Studios to have its own prestige dramas, offbeat comedies, and everything in between. But even the big swings don’t go big enough, landing instead on “superhero show” instead of something more confident and specific. Jessica Gao’s “She-Hulk” falls victim to this at least for the first half of the season, but goes full meta by the time the finale rolls around. Given the demands of a major studio, powerful executives, and broad range of fans, that’s still an achievement — even if the entire product wasn’t as winsome and memorable as we’d have liked.
“They’re really giving everyone a show now, huh?” Despite being an O.G. Avenger and key part of “Endgame,” Jeremy Renner’s skiller archer Clint Barton returns once again, this time to answer for the killing spree he went on during the Blip, and also to chase around a teen and her dog. Tune out and Jonathan Igla’s “Hawkeye” becomes a serviceable Christmas romp, fueled mainly by Hailee Steinfeld’s charm and gleeful tidbits like “Rogers: The Musical” on Broadway. But tune and you’ll start to feel dragged down by sprawling characters and missions — even the return of Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio).
6. “Moon Knight”
Okay. Maybe most of Marvel’s TV fare doesn’t get weird enough — but Jeremy Slater’s “Moon Knight” may have gone a little too far in the other direction. Points for multiple personalities of Oscar Isaac, a villainous Ethan Hawke, and an entire episode spent with an Egyptian god in the form of a hippo — demerits for the admittedly daunting task of tying all that successfully together, and for shamefully underutilizing May Calamawy.
5. “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”
The adventures of Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) lands squarely in the middle of this list for a squarely middling television show. The bickering duo who first flexed their chemistry in “Captain America: Civil War” now struggle in a world without Steve Rogers, weaving Phase 4’s fixation on grief and loss into the the usual themes of origin stories and additional layers like Bucky’s weaponized assassin past and Sam navigating his role as a Black superhero — brought to the forefront by showrunner Malcolm Spellman. The storytelling wavers in nuance throughout, with another predictable finale battle, but it’ll make you nostalgic for pre-“Endgame” Marvel and bring back just a hint of that feeling.
Michael Waldron’s “Loki” embraces the weird better than most MCU series — especially in Season 2 — but still shows the clear limitations of that creativity; in his brush with the Time Variance authority, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) learns that he’s a troublemaker across timelines and universes, an egomaniac, and sometimes an alligator (but his “fluid” human gender just means they found one female version?). At the very least, it gives Hiddleston the starring vehicle that his presence demanded ever since 2011’s “Thor,” an inspired pairing with Owen Wilson, and Natalie Holt’s magnificent score work.
3. “Ms. Marvel”
Some of the best MCU projects are superhero series second, and something else first. “Ms. Marvel” is its eponymous heroine’s origin story, but Bisha K. Ali’s series is first and foremost a platform for showcasing South Asian excellence in every creative facet. From the visual style to the directing team to the music choice and guest appearances from Fawad Khan and Farhan Akhtar, the show never compromises on culture and authenticity while introducing the effervescent Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani). Because of the character’s position within the MCU, “Ms. Marvel” also functions as a high school show and love letter to Marvel fans themselves,
Though it wasn’t originally intended to be Marvel’s first foray into streaming series— and first new instalment more than 18 months after 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” — “WandaVision” premiered with guns blazing, setting a standard for experimental storytelling and character work that every Disney+ superhero series since then has chased. Created by Jac Schaeffer and directed by Matt Shakman, the series finds peripheral Avengers Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living a TV-perfect life in the town of Westville, New Jersey — a reality that comes apart bit-by-bit with each episode. “WandaVision” showed how spectacularly television could spotlight characters that Marvel movies can’t devote too much time to, and that big swings (like emulating a classic sitcom with each episode) keep the superhero genre fresh. The finale may have resorted to MCU formula, but at least we have “Agatha” to look forward to.
1. “What If…”
It should come as no surprise after the rest of this ranking that Marvel’s best Disney+ series in our eyes is the one that pushes the most narrative and creative boundaries. It helps that A.C. Bradley’s “What If…?” is animated, unencumbered by the same CGI and VFX restraints governing live-action and able to pull any cast of MCU characters together after remote recording sessions. Without the specter of logistics, “What If…?” takes the MCU apart and pieces it shockingly back together; turning Captain America into Captain Carter, Star Lord into T’Challa, and bringing on at least one zombie apocalypse. It also gave fans a heartwarming posthumous performance by Chadwick Boseman, whose character reminds the audience that death is not the end. It’s the MCU’s best brush with the multiverse so far, and hopefully a guide for the future.