There was a time none of this stuff ever existed. That’s what I have to keep telling myself every time I sit down to watch a new Marvel Cinematic Universe film. There was a time Thor was just that goofy-looking guy Sara was obsessed with in Adventures in Babysitting. The dude with the hammer, right? That trading card you used to pair up with Iron Man in order to get Wolverine.
All these years later and we have four Thor movies, not including his appearances in the various Avengers films. We live in a time when such things are possible. So, whenever I start to letting my negative critical brain intrude upon my cinematic viewing experience, I remind myself that there was a time none of this stuff ever existed for better or worse.
Since these films do exist, though, and since Love and Thunder just released this past weekend, we felt it was time to take a look at all the Thor movies and determine how we’d rank them overall.
Ranking the Best Thor Films
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Many label The Dark World as the worst MCU film, and it might very well have been if not for a third act that finally eschews melodrama in favor of crowd-pleasing entertainment. Finally, here, Thor 2 delivers the goods as our bodacious God chases Christopher Eccleston’s dark elf Malekith through a series of portals that zip our characters all over the universe. The sequence is exciting, playful, funny, and still fairly intense.
Problem is, you gotta slog through the previous hour and a half to get there. Honestly, you’d be better off skipping Alan Taylor’s forgettable Thor sequel altogether. Really, you’re not missing much. There are ties to the larger MCU universe (mostly due to the Infinity Stone that serves as the film’s MacGuffin), but otherwise, this feels like a pointless, even derivative exercise in forcing a sequel no one really asked for. (Though Tom Hiddleston again delivers as Loki, and Natalie Portman is cute as Jane, even if her chemistry with Chris Hemsworth hasn’t improved.)
This one does reek of studio interference, so maybe there’s a better version of this underwhelming sequel waiting to be discovered.
It’s easy to forget how underwhelming the early MCU adventures were. Aside from Iron Man, the other Phase 1 films were mostly meh, and that sentiment extends to Kenneth Branagh’s well-intentioned, though clumsily executed, Thor.
Part Shakespearean tragedy, part fish-out-water rom-com, Thor moves at a brisk pace, while featuring a handful of good-looking stars and a few exciting set pieces. The problem is that the parts never unite to form a satisfying whole. There’s not enough pathos, humor, action, or romance to quench anyone’s appetite. Plus, the whole thing looks like it was made on a cheap set behind a McDonald’s somewhere in California.
Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman (while good in their respective roles) lack any notable sense of on-screen chemistry, and their love story fails to deliver the kind of sparks or sexual energy needed to really kick start the franchise. The pair aren’t helped by a flimsy script that feels more like a “to-do list” rather than an actual storyline, one that bounces from Point A to Point B to Point C so fast that it makes the Rise of Skywalker look like The Conversation by comparison.
Really, the best thing about Thor is Tom Hiddleston, whose Loki proves more engaging and interesting than our titular God of Thunder. Plus, we have to mention Patrick Doyle’s luscious score, perhaps the only notable soundtrack the MCU has provided thus far.
Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
I love the premise to Love and Thunder — an angry father seeks vengeance against the Gods for the death of his daughter. I love Christian Bale as Gorr, I love the Jane Foster-as-Thor concept. I love the romantic comedy angle. I love the screaming goats. I love the bro-triangle between Thor, Mjølnir, and Stormbreaker.
Yet, I didn’t love Love and Thunder. I didn’t hate it, either. I enjoyed it but wanted a little more meat to chew on with the assortment of foods offered.
Taika Waititi doubles down on the goofiness of Ragnarok, but fails to bring a sense of urgency, heroism or pathos to the proceedings. There’s a lack of energy hovering over the entire adventure, which is frustrating because there are a lot of really great ideas Waititi could have explored. The idea that gods such as Zeus no longer care about humanity makes for interesting drama and might have led to something along the lines of the popular video game series God of War, where a madman likewise seeks to destroy the Greek gods for their treachery. Except, Waititi doesn’t seem to care about any of the material (outside of the Thor/Jane romance), and Chris Hemsworth has decided that Thor is no longer a noble warrior, but rather a God-like version of his brain-dead character from Ghostbusters (2016) — you know, the one who covered his eyes when he hears loud noises? At one point he wears a pink apron and bakes cookies.
Still, Waititi has style. Love and Thunder is colorful, often quite spirited, and really entertaining in spots. The Jane Foster storyline works really well and gives Portman some really great material to work with, and the film moves at such a breakneck speed you won’t have time to process its flaws until after you’ve left the theater. Basically, this is chewing gum — pop it in your mouth, enjoy the quick burst of flavor and then spit it out before it loses its luster. Just don’t mind that the taste never lives up to the label.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Ragnarok did for Thor what Winter Soldier did for Captain America: it made the God of Thunder a complete bad ass and an actual character to boot. You love Thor for the headstrong oaf that he is, but also respect the hell out of his God-like abilities. This is a man you can crack open a beer with, and also a man who could crack open your head with a beer, if you catch my drift. Hemsworth lays on the charm a little more, and even displays more of Thor’s fragility — he’s a super-powerful, egotistical being, albeit one with feelings (he does have a very tragic backstory) and doubts. It’s those details that make the character far more interesting than previous films have rendered him.
Along for the ride is Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce/Hulk (who also has more to do this time around), Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie (wielding a tragic backstory of her own), Cate Blanchett’s Hela (perhaps the best out-and-out Marvel villain thus far), and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, infusing his character with even more nuance than before. Jeff Goldblum practically steals the show as Grandmaster, a mischievous god-like entity who lives only for pleasure, while Karl Urban gets a few choice scenes as Skurge, one of Helen’s goons.
Director Taika Waititi infuses Ragnarok with so much free-spirited energy, clever humor, rambunctious action, and infectious charm that all but the most cynical will be left grinning from ear to ear once the credits role.