Marvel in 2023 report card: The best and worst MCU movies and shows

(L-R): Karen Gillan as Nebula, Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, and Dave Bautista as Drax in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
(Image credit: Jessica Miglio / Marvel Studios)

Marvel fatigue is real — and recovery is in doubt. Our Marvel 2022 report card called it a "somewhat bruising year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe." In 2023, the MCU may well have suffered a TKO. The question is, can they get back up? 

A few years ago, Marvel seemingly decided to opt for quantity over quality. Perhaps the endless possibilities of streaming on Disney Plus went to Kevin Feige's head. But dude, clearly more is less

The critics are scathing: no MCU movie or show received more than 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. Fans are discontented: Only Guardians of the Galaxy notched above an 83% audience score. 

The future isn't exactly much brighter either, considering the Kangtastrophe of Jonathan Majors' assault conviction. Feige and Marvel have some real brainstorming to do about the rest of Phase 5 and moving forward into Phase 6. 

As 2023 wraps up, it's time to review Marvel's year and grade the best and worst movies and shows — all in my very humble opinion, of course. As for my bona fides, I watched all but one MCU title released in 2023, including the entirety of Secret Invasion. Enough said.  

The best and worst of Marvel in 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (worst)

(L-R): Kathryn Newton as Cassandra "Cassie" Lang and Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

(Image credit: Jay Maidment)

My feelings about the third Ant-Man movie can be summed up by what I told a friend who wondered if they should watch it before we saw The Marvels in theater: "Just read the Wikipedia." 

Which is a bummer, because Ant-Man has been among my favorite of the MCU franchises for its wit, irreverence and heart. Quantumania buried those qualities underneath a ton of often terrible CGI. It was a race through one incomprehensible action scene after another. What should've been a tender bonding adventure for father Scott (Paul Rudd) and Cassie (Kathryn Newton) ended up feeling like putting chess pieces into place for other movies. It's also highly unfortunate that the best performance was from Majors. I also didn't realize how much I'd miss the reliably funny Michael Peña, since Luis was left out of Quantumania.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (best)

(L to R) Sean Gunn as Kraglin Obfonteri, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Dave Bautista as Drax and Karen Gillan as Nebula standing side by side in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 art

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Along with Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy has topped my list of MCU properties. The third outing was ... fine. Pretty good. Adequate. Starlord (Chris Pratt) and company are as snarky and quippy as ever, and the storyline focusing on Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is interesting. I wasn't as into the depictions of graphic animal cruelty, though I get that director James Gunn was trying to make a point. 

All in all, I walked away from Vol. 3 satisfied but not thrilled. It's hard to put my finger on exactly why. It's just a bit "less than" the previous two films in every way: writing, performances, action sequences, CGI. Not the soundtrack, though — it was as banging as ever. 

Secret Invasion (worst)

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

When we were discussing this article before I started writing it, my colleague Rory Mellon said, "I ditched Secret Invasion after 2 episodes, but who finished that?" Me. I did. As I mentioned before, I watched all six episodes. Do I get a Marvel medal? 

This was an outright bad show, which is a shame, because Samuel L. Jackson deserved time in the spotlight as Nick Fury. He was surrounded by other excellent actors, too: Ben Mendelssohn! Olivia Colman! Emilia Clarke! This should've been one of the best MCU shows yet. Instead, we got a dreary, exposition-heavy, often incoherent mess. Oh, also, I really couldn't care less about the Skrulls vs. the Kree (which also comes into play with The Marvels). If you want to see a spy drama done well, go to Apple TV Plus and watch Slow Horses. 

Loki season 2 (best)

Caption (L-R): Ke Huy Quan as O.B., Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and Owen Wilson as Mobius in Loki season 2

(Image credit: Disney)

The first season of Loki was a true delight. Tom Hiddleston's trickster has always been one of the more charismatic characters in the MCU. Season 2 had a lot to live up to — and it mostly succeeded. 

The biggest positive is the addition of the always-effervescent Ke Huy Quan to the cast. All of the performances were superb. As much as this was a story about the multiverse, it's also about relationships. The chemistry between Hiddleston and Owen Wilson, Sophia Di Martino and Quan was palpable and made me more interested in the stakes. The biggest negative was the slow pace of the first half of the season. There was still a lot of exposition that dragged things down. Still, by the end of the finale, Loki left me wanting more of these characters — and that's the highest compliment you can pay any show.

The Marvels (best)

Iman Vellani, Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris in The Marvels

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

I thoroughly enjoyed The Marvels — which, going by the online discourse, is a "hot take." It was a fun, action-packed, sometimes silly, big, dumb superhero movie — exactly the MCU's bread and butter for the past 15 years. Despite its lukewarm reviews and poor box office performance, I think it ties Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 as the best Marvel movie of 2023. 

Brie Larson exuded such warmth and sincerity as Captain Marvel. Seeing Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau again after WandaVision was very welcome. But the real star was Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, the enthusiastic and irrepressible teenager who headlined the show Ms. Marvel (if you didn't see it, rectify that soon). Together, they make a trio that's easy to root for. 

What If ...? season 2 (N/A)

Strange-Supreme in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…?, Season 2

(Image credit: Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

This is the only 2023 Marvel project I didn't see, so I can't weigh in on its quality. However, it does have a Rotten Tomatoes critics score of 94%, and an audience score of 92%. Maybe I should have watched this instead of Secret Invasion.

Marvel’s 2023 report card 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 RT critics scoreRT audience scoreMy grade
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania46%82%D-
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 382%94%B+
Secret Invasion53%47%D
Loki season 282%81%A-
The Marvels61%83%B+
What If ...? season 294%92%N/A

Alongside the TV shows and movies listed above, Marvel also released season 2 of the animated shorts series I Am Groot. I didn't see it and, even if I had, it's inconsequential enough not to grade.

So, what's ahead for Marvel in 2024? On the film side, at least, they've only got Deadpool 3 on the slate. The television side is only a little busier, with Echo out in January and Agatha: Darkhold Diaries and the revival animated X-Men '97 due later in the year. It seems like 2024 will be Marvel's year of less is more

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Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.