Which movie in the Thor trilogy is the best? With Avengers: Endgame about to conclude the 22-film cycle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor is one of the three core MCU superheroes who received a trilogy of films in the three Phases of the MCU now referred to as The Infinity Saga. Thor has been charismatically portrayed by Chris Hemsworth in the God of Thunder’s every appearance in the MCU.
After the blockbuster success of Iron Man in 2008 opened the door to more MCU movies that built to 2012’s The Avengers, Thor was one of the anchors of the franchise, along with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Iron Man’s real world-based technology was the center of the MCU while Captain America was both a throwback to its past and its moral compass. Thor, however, was considered a dicey proposition as he introduced magic, the Norse gods, space travel, and other fanciful elements to the MCU. Since the 1990s, many top filmmakers like Sam Raimi, Matthew Vaughn, and Guillermo Del Toro attempted to bring the God of Thunder to the big screen, but finally, Marvel Studios tapped Kenneth Branagh to direct Thor for a May 2011 release date.
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Unlike Iron Man and Captain America, who each had two films directed by Jon Favreau and the Russo Brothers, respectively, the Thor movies have lacked overall consistency. Every Thor film has had a different director who has altered the tone of the saga, especially Taika Waititi, who upended Thor’s universe completely while delivering the most popular and financially successful installment, Thor: Ragnarok. And yet, Thor is the MCU character with his own trilogy, but without a film that has grossed $1-billion at the box office, though many fans consider Captain America: Civil War to really be an Avengers film, which gave it a significant boost.
While it could be argued that Thor boasts the weakest overall trilogy in the MCU, as Thor’s character evolved over the years, his popularity has also increased; whereas he was once the butt of Tony Stark’s jokes for his blonde-haired good looks and faux-Shakespearean style of speech (Stark nicknamed him “Point Break”), Thor has gained substantial character depth and he has arguably become the most tragic hero of the Avengers – yet, the 1500-year old God of Thunder still nobly fights for what’s right because “that’s what heroes do”. Here, then, are Thor’s films ranked worst to best, though all are, in their own way, mighty.
3. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Released in November 2013, Thor: The Dark World is the second Thor film and is generally regarded as one of the least popular MCU films by fans. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins was originally confirmed to direct Thor 2 before she exited due to “creative differences” and Marvel Studios selected Game of Thrones director Alan Parker to replace her. Hemsworth, Natalie Portman as Thor’s love interest Jane Foster, Kat Dennings as Darcy, Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki all returned for the sequel, which also introduced the Aether, which turned out to be the Reality Infinity Stone as the MCU began to lay the groundwork for the Infinity Stones.
The Dark World reversed the original Thor‘s fish-out-of-water premise; this time, Foster, who was infected by the power of the Aether, is brought to Asgard by Thor, where she meets his parents Odin and Frigga (Rene Russo), who is killed off. Meanwhile, the Dark Elf Lord Malekith (Christopher Eccleston – who later admitted to hating the film), sought the power of the Aether to use during a cosmic event called the Convergence, which would put the Nine Realms under his dominion. The continuation of Thor’s love affair with Jane doesn’t quite gel with the intergalactic action as the God of Thunder fights Dark Elves across dimensions to stop Malekith, a cosmic plot that ends up being rather forgettable. Meanwhile, Loki ‘dies’ in the film, which was quickly revealed to be a ruse when the God of Mischief masquerades as Odin and installs himself as King of Asgard. Also, The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) is introduced in the post-credits scene; the Reality Stone is given to him for safekeeping, setting the stage for Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War.
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Uninspired as the film turned out to be, Thor: The Dark World has a few bright spots. In his third appearance as Thor, Hemsworth had eased into the role and was finding the Odinson’s comedic edge, which he would fully tap into in the third film. Also, Chris Evans has a hilarious cameo when Loki takes the form of Captain America to mock Thor’s superhero friend. And it’s revealed a coat hook is worthy to lift Thor’s hammer when he hangs Mjolnir as he enters Jane’s London flat. Ultimately, however, Thor: The Dark World ranks not just at the bottom of Thor’s trilogy but in the lower tier of MCU movies overall. (Even Chris Hemsworth doesn’t like Thor 2).
Page 2 of 2: The Top Two Thor Movies
2. Thor (2011)
In May 2011, Thor introduced Chris Hemsworth’s swaggering, egotistical God of Thunder, who was stripped of his powers and forced to learn humility by Odin before he could claim the throne as King of Asgard. As such, Thor was banished to Midgard (Earth), where the powerless immortal meets his love interest Jane Foster and grows as a person before he is once more worthy to wield his enchanted hammer Mjolnir and reclaim his godly powers. Meanwhile, Loki discovers that he’s not Asgardian as he always believed but that he is the son of the king of the Frost Giants; the God of Mischief then seeks revenge on Odin by trying to take over Asgard.
Director Kenneth Branagh succeeds in bringing sweeping Shakespearean-style drama and an epic scale to the film. The design of Odin’s golden castle and the general aesthetics of Asgard held for all three Thor films (until it was all destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok). Branagh also brings a light touch to the fish-out-of-water romantic comedy between Thor and Jane, though some fans consider Portman’s portrayal of Jane Foster too flighty considering her job as an astrophysicist. The film shifts between the mythological grandeur of Asgard and the rather mundane New Mexico town Thor is banished to, which is later attacked by the Destroyer in the climactic fight scene. For MCU cameos, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) of S.H.I.E.L.D. appears as a thorn in Jane’s side while cameo appearances by Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sets up The Avengers.
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In hindsight, Thor is certainly a product of the Phase 1 MCU with some baffling early choices like dyeing Hemsworth’s eyebrows blond. Thor and his universe, which include Sif (Jaimie Alexader) and the Warriors Three, already feel bigger and ready to burst out of the confines of the film’s relatively limited scale. Thor himself was a work in progress; a moment in a diner when Thor smashed a coffee cup was an early glimpse of what a humorous and endearing character Hemsworth would eventually turn the God of Thunder into. However, Thor concludes with a bittersweet ending where Jane and Thor are separated, which is enhanced by Patrick Doyle’s underrated musical score. Overall, Thor triumphantly brought the splendor and magic of the Asgardians into the MCU.
1. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
From the colorfully electric, Jack Kirby-inspired visuals teasing Thor vs. the Hulk, the hilarious one-liners, to the rocking strains of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, it was clear from the first trailer that Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok was a going to be a completely different kind of Thor film. Outside of appearing in Doctor Strange‘s mid-credits scene (which is shown in its entirety in Ragnarok with a guest appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch), the God of Thunder hadn’t been seen in the MCU since 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and he sat out the Avengers’ Civil War. Off-screen, Thor’s relationship with Jane Foster is ended as well.
Instead, Thor is faced with his greatest challenge: trying to prevent his sister Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) from conquering Asgard and saving his world from the mythical Ragnarok at the hands of Surtur (Clancy Brown). This time, Thor gets a lot of help from a superteam he dubs “The Revengers”, which includes Loki, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Merging Thor’s Ragnarok epic with Marvel Comics’ popular Planet Hulk story, Waititi brings his offbeat wit and visual flair to the task of demolishing Thor’s world completely; not only is Asgard destroyed, but Thor loses an eye, his hair, and his beloved magic hammer Mjolnir. Stripped of his time-tested accouterments, Hemsworth finds new depth and complexity to Thor and, in turns, the God of Thunder levels up in sheer power – though it still isn’t enough to beat Hela and prevent Ragnarok. For MCU ties, Thor: Ragnarok introduced the zany Gamesmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and concludes with the ominous appearance of Thanos’ space ship, which immediately leads into Avengers: Infinity War.
Released in November 2017, the wildly entertaining Thor: Ragnarok is the highest-earning Thor film with $854-million, far outgrossing DC’s Justice League, which was released later that month. Although Waititi’s relentless, absurdist humor, the film’s irreverent tone, and composer Mark Mothersbaugh’s 1980s-inspired synth-pop score didn’t win over every MCU fan, Thor: Ragnarok was an undeniable jolt of energy to Thor, leaving behind nearly everything the prior films established and blazing new possibilities as the best film in the trilogy. Where Thor goes next remains to be seen but many fans consider Thor: Ragnarok the start of a new Thor trilogy that continued with Infinity War and concludes in Avengers: Endgame.
NEXT: Everything We Know About Thor’s Role In Avengers: Endgame