The days of the Infinity Saga are well in the rearview mirror. The MCU is firmly in the Multiverse Saga as the recent releases of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special have brought Phase Four to a close. In February 2023, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is effectively launching Phase Five, which will, in turn, be a jam-packed two years of superhero content, pushing forward to the grand culmination of Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars.
Phase Four has had a tumultuous time with some highs and lows, though even with global disruptions that affected the box office and movie-going experience, it was still a veritable success. Importantly, it saw the true incorporation of Disney+ for tv shows – as opposed to the still beloved endeavors from Marvel Television such as Agents of SHIELD and Daredevil – and the debut of Marvel Special Presentations. From the seven movies, eight Disney+ series, and two specials, fans have a lot to celebrate in Phase Four and each viewer has their own rankings or favorites. However, these projects specifically take the cake as the very best of Phase Four according to collective fan opinions on Reddit.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Phase Four has been riddled with critiques for not reaching the relative heights of Avengers: Endgame and an aimless nature – at least before the announcements made at San Diego Comic-Con this summer. However, fans and critics agree, it went out on top with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the final film of the Phase. It is currently the second-highest-grossing film of the year after Top Gun: Maverick, with the best opening weekend in November of any movie ever.
Not only did it effectively and respectfully honor Chadwick Boseman’s legacy, but it also introduced some big hitters like Ironheart and Namor, paving the way for many upcoming films and tv shows. Redditor u/inverseflorida wrote, “Fundamentally, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has the best character writing in the MCU,” crediting the film’s impact and success to the special care given to each of the main characters’ arcs and motivations.
WandaVision started Phase Four in early 2021, and it still stands as one of the best projects in the Phase. From the creative structure and storytelling mechanics, framing several of the episodes off classic sitcoms, the dark twist behind the scenes lands all the better. u/halijaymac11 thinks that it “makes you feel like you are watching multiple shows that intertwine. It’s just so amazingly don and that Agatha song will go down in history as the best surprise and song in tv history.”
WandaVision was the first step in solidifying Wanda’s villainous turn into the Scarlet Witch for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – which despite its mixed reception was a powerful showing for the character. Elizabeth Olson’s performance in WandaVision stole the show and earned her the devotion of fans around the world, most of whom are eagerly waiting for her return. Importantly, the show is also getting its own spin-off in Phase Five, Agatha: Coven of Chaos, which could see those hopes come to fruition.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Spider-Man: No Way Home quickly became one of the most highly anticipated films of 2021following the release of the first trailer. Fans instantly theorized and discussed that it would bring back Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men, yet that didn’t lessen in any way the moment they each walked through the magical portals. Spider-Man: No Way Home is a nostalgia bomb in the best way possible, and it is currently seated as the sixth highest-grossing film of all time.
u/dude52760 thinks Spider-Man: No Way Home “is a fantastically written and directed movie that holds a ton of rewatch value.” Of the films in Phase Four, it is probably the most classic “superhero film,” so it’s no surprise to see it ranked so highly. Fans are eager to learn what new adventures Tom Holland’s Spider-Man will get into in Spider-Man 4 or elsewhere since he’s all alone now.
When it comes to the most iconic moments in Phase Four, the reveal of Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains and his subsequent speech in the finale of Loki is going to be near the top of that list. It broke the classic MCU formula of the big battle at the end, instead opting for a nuanced conversation between people sitting at a table. u/FunkHZR said Loki is the best and their favorite, writing, “It laid the groundwork of the Multiverse stuff very well.”
Loki was the catalyst for the Multiverse Saga, introducing the TVA and variants, including the incredible Sylvie, and setting up many future projects. On top of that, it is expertly crafted, succinct, creative, and superbly performed. Thankfully, there’s more coming as season two is currently slated to premiere in Summer 2023 as part of Phase Five.
Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings
2021 was an interesting year for the MCU. While the tv shows continued the established canon of popular characters, the films – except for Spider-Man: No Way Home – were origin stories. Beating out both Black Widow and Eternals, which rank unfavorably for many, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings takes its place among the best of Phase Four, an effective return to the origin story.
u/TheSilv said, “it honestly felt the most like a good Marvel movie of any of the MCU movies this year.” Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings deserves to be praised extraordinarily for its combat choreography, embracing many different Kung-Fu and martial arts styles, mixing them with mysticism, striking visuals, and a stellar score to best showcase the talents of some of the MCU’s best fighters. Intriguingly, with the mystery surrounding the rings’ origins and purpose, fans are hoping that Shang-Chi 2 news will be coming soon.
Werewolf By Night
The MCU struck gold with its first Special Presentation, Werewolf by Night. With an Old Hollywood aesthetic and tone, a simple yet well-developed narrative, a haunting score, and personable new characters, the Halloween Special was reinvigorating for the franchise. The format is perfect for rapid yet nuanced expansion into the various sects of Marvel Comics lore in showcasing characters who might otherwise face insurmountable hurdles to feature elsewhere in the MCU.
u/CaptainPositive1234 wrote, “from beginning to end it was just so enjoyable and engrossing and fun and super cool.” They highlighted Elsa Bloodstone, while others celebrated Man-Thing – or as he’s better known now, Ted – for being unexpectedly lovable. Overall, fans want more of these. Fortunately, there are many characters worthy of their own Special Presentation, whether holiday-related or simply one-shots that further explore other genres.
Projects that have deviated from the MCU standard in Phase Four received the most love and praise online, as in the case of Moon Knight. While it did go with the climactic fight in the end – whether that’s a positive or a negative is up to the viewers’ personal tastes – the show did still feature a deeply compelling story and introduced audiences to some great new characters with Moon Knight, Scarlet Scarab, and Khonshu. Oscar Isaac gave one of the best performances of the Phase as the lovable Stephan Grant, the cool Marc Spector, and the menacing Jake Lockley.
u/FirstMartianEmperor ranks Moon Knight at the top as “the series had everything: well-written character arcs for both Stephen and Marc, and Marc and Layla’s relationship; an amazing mid-series twist… well-executed camera shots and sequence; and a series finale worth the build-up.” Currently, however, Moon Knight does stand as the least connected of the Disney+ shows, which was great at the moment, but it’s led to questions on whether Isaac will actually return or if this was just a one-and-done character showcase.
She-Hulk: Attorney At Law
Another project that helped the MCU return from the relative trenches was She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. It was the MCU’s first true-to-form comedy series and perhaps one of the best projects for the overall health of the franchise. It was met with a lot of undue and heated hatred, of which it volleyed with. While it’s a sad indictment of reality, the creators and writers of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law predicted the response to the show from certain “fans” and hilariously ingrained it into the show.
From the fourth-wall breaks and its self-awareness to the introduction of fantastic newcomers and the return of beloved veterans, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is the best example of a show built for multiple seasons. u/DurMan667 wants more, writing, “I just hope we get news of more She-Hulk coming for sure. As much as we hope she’ll be in Daredevil, she really shines the brightest in the spotlight.” That’s certainly true, and fans could expect to see Tatiana Maslany’s She-Hulk pop-up in several upcoming projects.
Hawkeye is the best and truest encapsulation of Phase Four’s role in the MCU as a whole. Not only did it delve into the ramifications of Avengers: Endgame and the aftermath of the Blip, but it was still driving forward the whole time, introducing one of the Phase’s stand-outs, Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. It also brought back Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin from Daredevil. All this was wrapped in the festivity of Christmas, making Hawkeye one of the most rewatchable series in the MCU.
u/Puzzld_End8664 wrote, “I think the relatively low stakes and it being kind of a Christmas show makes any cheesiness of it completely ok. It really was just a fun, easy watch compared to most of the other stuff.” The stakes in Hawkeye were pitched and authentic, but it didn’t entail a world-ending threat. At its core, it’s just about a man trying to get home to his family for the holidays.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special
Hawkeye might have some longevity for holiday rewatches within the fanbase, but nowhere near as much as The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, the epilogue of Phase Four. As it followed Mantis and Drax hunting down for the best present to help Star-Lord out of his funk, the special was incredibly joyful and heartwarming, and yet still set the stage for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in Phase Five.
u/Trysson believed it to be among the best and most entertaining entries in Phase Four in a detailed review. Aptly, they wrote, “It seems incredible to me the amount of material that James Gunn managed t squeeze into just over half an hour of the special, including nonsense events, crazy songs, exchanges between Drax and Mantis that will sure become iconic.” All in all, while it’s relatively inconsequential, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special was a perfect way to close out MCU’s releases in 2022 and the Phase as a whole.