The Marvel TV shows of today are, in terms of production values, almost indistinguishable from the movies. But, which are the best? Never fear, Space.com is here, laying out the Marvel TV shows ranked, worst to best, for you to plan your viewing by.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has taken us all on a wild ride over the last few years, and things show no signs of slowing down. Natasha Romanoff’s sister Yelena Belova has been introduced as a major character, the existence of the immortal Eternals has now been revealed, and even the events of the old Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies have been made canon. Well, sort of. If you need help getting your head around all 27 MCU movies, check out our Marvel movies in chronological order, or maybe you’d like a peek at which 11 movies made it into our best Marvel movies, ranked list.
As tumultuous as the Marvel cinematic journey is, the importance of the TV shows must not be underestimated. We’ve considered both Disney Plus and Netflix shows for this list, and the official canon ones carry plenty of explosive revelations, new characters, and events that feed directly into future movies.
The latest show is Hawkeye, but where did it end up in our list? Has it managed to slip past WandaVision? Was it crushed by the immortal Iron Fist? Did it receive a beating from The Punisher? Read on, and if you don’t know where to stream all this Marvel goodness, don’t worry as we’ve got you covered with our Marvel streaming guide.
Honorable mentions: If you’re curious, it’s also worth checking out Helstrom, Cloak & Dagger, Inhumans, and Runaways. They didn’t make the list as some only had very brief runs, and none are connected to the MCU in any meaningful way. Similarly, the chaotic Legion is worth your time, but is very much not MCU-related. Right, now let’s get cracking with our list of the Marvel TV shows ranked, worst to best.
Please be aware that this article contains spoilers.
13. Iron Fist
- Release date: March 17, 2017
- Cast: Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Jessica Stroup
Iron Fist proves, if nothing else, that you can’t win ‘em all. Giving a Marvel character largely unknown to mainstream audiences his own TV show had potential, in that it could either draw on the wealth of source material, or reinvent him for modern times. Sadly, that potential was largely squandered.
The fight scenes are bad, there’s a baffling amount of time spent on protagonist Danny Rand’s determination to get back control of his multi-billion-dollar company, and it’s flat-out boring at times. Season 2 started to turn things around, but it was too late; there was no third season.
12. Agent Carter
- Release date: January 6, 2015
- Cast: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Enver Gjokaj
Although she’d already appeared in the Captain America movies, a Peggy Carter series was a surprising gamble for Marvel to make. With no superpowers, and distanced from major characters and events by several decades, Agent Carter was necessarily a very grounded tale.
The end result was a series of spy adventures that was happy to throw in humor along with the drama, and did a great job of conjuring up a 1940s atmosphere. Hayley Atwell proved that she could carry Peggy Carter through a series of her own, but it only gathered enough of an audience to support two seasons.
11. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Release date: September 24, 2013
- Cast: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton
This one has legions of incredibly enthusiastic fans, and it’s easy to see why. The writers really went for broke during its impressive seven-season run, including direct MCU references and even characters. That didn’t stop them bringing in both new characters, and existing ones not yet part of MCU canon. Ghost Rider, anyone?
Although the quality wobbled now and again, there was always something interesting coming around the corner, be that a big Marvel name or an ordinary person finding themselves in an extraordinary situation. And we were all happy to see Phil Coulson brought back from the dead, right?
10. The Defenders
- Release date: August 18, 2017
- Cast: Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter
Who says superhero teams are only for the cinema? Netflix had Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist pop into one another’s shows in preparation for this, a series which – while slow to get started – gave each hero chances to shine. Yes, even Iron Fist.
Once things get going, they don’t stop, with Luke Cage and Iron Fist bouncing off one another particularly well, and the threat of The Hand (led by Sigourney Weaver’s Alexandra) explored in more depth. It’s a shame this never went beyond one season, as we would’ve liked to see what the team did next.
9. The Punisher
- Release date: November 17, 2017
- Cast: Jon Bernthal, Amber Rose Revah, Ben Barnes
Imagine Jon Bernthal’s relief at being cast as Marvel’s most brutal, relentless anti-hero. Finally, mainstream audiences wouldn’t know him only as ‘that guy who was in The Walking Dead for a few seasons.’ Luckily for him, the series was pretty good, too.
Netflix’s Frank Castle isn’t quite the one from the comics, but his nuanced and action-packed story is much more successful than most of the movie adaptations. The moral swamp that most of his actions occupy is explored rather than celebrated, and Bernthal puts in an excellent performance. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of this dark, unforgiving vigilante.
- Release date: November 24, 2021
- Cast: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Florence Pugh
An important, if somewhat disappointing, entry in the MCU. On paper, it’s pretty exciting. The introduction of Kate Bishop! The continuation of Yelena’s story after the events of Black Widow! Two new MCU villains, including one that makes the jump from Netflix…
It’s dumb fun if you can switch your brain off and ignore the various inconsistencies and plot holes. The next goofy joke or action set-piece is never far behind, and it functions well as a Kate Bishop origin story for when she makes her inevitable first movie appearance. Not what it could’ve been, but worth a watch.
7. Jessica Jones
- Release date: November 20, 2015
- Cast: Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville
The Netflix Marvel shows are all unflinchingly aimed at an adult audience, and nowhere is this clearer than with Jessica Jones. Not because of profanity or violence (although the show does not shy away from either), but because it leaps feet-first into some very dark material – and treats it with the care it deserves.
Jones is a superhero, but a reluctant one, wrestling with PTSD largely through the use of alcohol. This flavors everything she does, not least her interactions with David Tennant’s sinister Kilgrave in the first season. Definitely one of the most complex, thoughtful shows in the list.
- Release date: January 15, 2021
- Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn
With a show that takes so many artistic risks, it’s almost difficult to believe that it’s Marvel canon. WandaVision is furiously inventive and very difficult to forget. Olsen and Bettany both provide their best MCU performances to date, while the irrepressible Hahn ruthlessly steals each and every scene that she’s in.
While the final episode felt rushed and a little underwhelming – failing to match the quality of the numerous fan theories that preceded it – by the time the credits roll for the final time, we’ve been taken on an undeniably fascinating journey with enormous implications for the future of the MCU.
5. What If…?
- Release date: August 11, 2021
- Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Matthew Wood, Terri Douglas
Although the MCU never sticks rigidly to the events of the Marvel comics, the fact that its movies and TV shows all take place in one shared universe means that there’s only so far any one of them can push the boundaries. This is the exception.
Loosely based on the comic series of the same name, each episode of What If…? explores a fascinating alternate reality. A superpowered Peggy Carter instead of Steve Rogers! T’Challa as Star-Lord! Zombies! With tight writing and many actors reprising their roles from the big screen, it’s a fresh and exciting take on the characters.
4. Luke Cage
- Release date: September 30, 2016
- Cast: Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi
A bulletproof man that can punch really hard is an interesting concept, but one that needs a lot of work to stretch into varied, interesting storylines. It’s a challenge that the comics often met easily, and one that Netflix’s series batted aside as easily as Luke Cage tearing a door off its hinges.
It’s a show that constantly reminds us that people don’t need superpowers to be dangerous, and some people have life’s cards stacked against them more than others. What makes Colter’s superbly-played Cage truly heroic is his determination to improve things for others, not just for himself.
- Release date: June 9, 2021
- Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Pinballing between hero and villain seemingly at random, it was perhaps inevitable that the MCU version of the God of Mischief would end up with his own show. Disney+ gave this fan-favorite character space to grow into a more aware, more sharply defined version of himself.
With the help of Sophia Di Martino’s Sylvie, Loki comes to see his life in a new light. In amongst the journeys through time, space, and fan service, he’s forced to confront who he is and what he’s done, eventually ending up a better person for it. Well, that’s how it seems…
- Release date: April 10, 2015
- Cast: Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll
Some of the comic storylines really give Daredevil a beating, and that’s certainly the approach Netflix took for their series. We’re not saying that giving Matt Murdock serious wounds to tend to was an excuse to have Charlie Cox regularly take his shirt off, but.. y’know.
Well written, with a range of great performances to support the script – not least D’Onofrio’s phenomenal turn as Wilson Fisk – Daredevil’s violence is a means, not an end. As good as the fight scenes are, the show’s quieter moments keep things running along smoothly thanks to strong characters. This is adult Marvel done right.
1. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
- Release date: March 19, 2021
- Cast: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell
When Steve Rogers passed the shield on to Sam Wilson in Avengers: Endgame, it was a decision both unexpected and, arguably, difficult to understand. This series blows any remaining doubts out of the water, proving that Sam was definitely the right choice.
Mackie and Stan maintain wonderful performances throughout, helping their characters use all that screen time to blossom. Top-quality action sequences, a frosty relationship between Sam and Bucky that slowly but surely defrosts, new MCU characters, returning favorites, timely and important social commentary… this has it all. It’s so good, we even forgave the silly name of ‘Flag Smashers.’