The Marvel Cinematic Universe's fourth phase has officially begun as of this year, releasing the first MCU TV series, "WandaVision", "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier", "Loki", and most recently, the animated series "What If...?" plus two new films, "Black Widow" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings". I have taken the liberty of ranking these six installments, partially based on personal opinion, on what films or shows are the best of the best, and what are simply... meh. And be warned, spoilers ahead.
6. What If...?Giphy
Marvel's latest series takes its audience through the vast, new universes that have been created as a result of the events that took place in the "Loki" finale. This is also the MCU's first animated series, which is one of the reasons it falls lower on this list. It can be difficult to watch this show and look at it the same way you would any other Marvel property. While the show itself is entertaining and has a very interesting concept, it is hard to feel like there are any stakes when all of the storylines take place in a single episode and, as far as we know, may not be expanded upon in the future. The series is not terrible in any way, but it is greatly outshined by Marvel's other properties that have been released this year.
5. The Falcon and the Winter SoldierGiphy
This series, focusing on fan favorites Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, offered something that felt, for the most part. like it was centered in reality, amongst other shows focusing on the more mystical aspect of Marvel. The show touched on some very important topics, especially regarding racism, and also showed the aftermath of the return of half of the population at the end of "Avengers: Endgame", particularly the negative effects that that decision had. The main issue I had with this show is that it felt almost out of place. After exiting the world of magic and witches in "WandaVision" and getting ready to enter the world of time travel and sorcery in "Loki", it just did not feel right to be back to the street-level crime fighting just yet. Just like with "What If...?", this show is not bad, it just felt very out of place and uneventful compared to the shows that dealt very heavily with the multiverse that Marvel has been focusing on thus far.
4. Black WidowGiphy
After the first three phases, Marvel was long overdue for a stand-alone film focusing on Natasha Romanoff, and this film delivered in nearly every way. The opening sequence gave us all chills and had Malia J's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" stuck in everyone's head for weeks. This movie gave fans a satisfying end to Romanoff's story that we did not quite get in "Avengers: Endgame". It also introduced us all to now fan-favorite, Yelena Belova and the rest of the family that Romanoff had in the Red Room, which made the film feel like there were actual stakes despite fans knowing the fate of Black Widow. The main reason this movie did not make it higher on the list was just that it had a similar problem to "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" where it just felt slightly out of place, and the movie had been delayed so many times that there was no real way for it to live up to the amount of hype that built up after over a year of delays.
The "Loki" series, arguably the most anticipated series of phase four, delivered a fun, twisted, and very unexpected adventure that was enticing from beginning to end. This series not only gave fans the Loki content they had been asking for since his untimely death in "Avengers: Infinity War", but also introduced new characters Mobius and Sylvie, who fans quickly fell in love with, and the possible new "big bad" of Marvel, Kang the Conqueror. Fans got to enjoy watching Loki's character development all over again, except not just with one Loki, but with two different variants of him, among some others that made an appearance. My one issue that I had with this series was the unusual and, in my opinion, somewhat problematic romance between Loki and Sylvie, who are virtually the same person. This is an issue that fans are divided over, but in my eyes, it was enough to put this series in third place.
2. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsGiphy
Marvel's latest installment and first Asian-led film follows Shang-Chi and company through real and fictional worlds in this thrilling new adventure (which is still in theaters now). Having known nothing about this movie when I went to see it, I was pleasantly surprised when I left the theater. The fight choreography in this film is by far some of the best that I have seen in the entirety of the MCU, and it also delivered an amazing origin story for Shang-Chi and several new and lovable characters. This movie was also very deep set in culture, much like "Black Panther" was, which was another great thing to see as an audience member. Overall, this movie was entertaining from the opening sequence to the end credits scenes, so there is not much I could think of to complain about.
This thrilling and wacky series is by far my favorite installment that Marvel has come out with in phase four, and also the perfect start to phase four as well. This series was enticing from beginning to end, and intentionally deceived the audience in such a genius way. It also added much more depth to Wanda's character than we have ever seen before, plus the addition of Jimmy Woo, Darcy Lewis, and Monica Rambeau, aka the trio we never knew we needed, added so much more to the table, since they are all characters we have seen before interacting in a way we have never seen before. The influence of sitcoms throughout the decades also added something completely original that has never been seen in the MCU before, not to mention the level of authenticity they had when using those elements of old sitcoms, like the live studio audience, for example. Overall, this show delivered something unlike anything Marvel has done before, was enjoyable from start to finish, and makes the audience interested to see the rest of Wanda's journey as the Scarlet Witch.
All of these Marvel properties, except for "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" which is still in theaters, can be found exclusively on Disney+, some with premier access.