Whether we’re going to the theater or simply flipping through our TVs looking for just the right movie to fill the time, we tend to be looking for a lot of different things. Sometimes we’re just looking to laugh; other times, we might just be looking for some thrills, whether they come by way of action, horror, or even a good mystery. We might be looking for special effects, or glorious visuals, or a witty script, depending on the vibe. But at the end of the day, what we’re really looking for is a story arc that works; a story arc that pulls us in, and pays off at the end. And if you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s no better story arc than that of Thor Odinson, the God of Thunder, played by Mr. Chris Hemsworth.
Thor is the only character in the MCU to have four solo outings in his sub-franchise; yes, 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder put him one ahead of his original Avenger counterparts Iron Man and Captain America. Is this because each movie is the best? No, probably not. The real reason for this, most likely, is that Thor didn’t really hit his stride as a character until writer/director Taika Waititi took the reigns for 2015’s Thor: Ragnarok, allowing Hemsworth to not only be the beautiful, buff, God he is—but letting him be whimsical and funny as well.
Which is not to say the first few appearances for Mr. Odinson were without merit; they have their moments, but if it wasn’t for the reworking that came before Ragnarok, we likely wouldn’t have the character in as good a place as we have for the last half decade. The Russo Brothers picked up where Ragnarok left off for the two-parter Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and Waititi took back over for 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder. Thor has been reworked into something quite different from where he started—and whether you like the change or not, it seems like this version of Thor is here to stay.
There are lots of ways to get into different characters of the MCU, but for the purposes of this story, we’re going to make a Thor fan out of you. (And, we should clarify: we always advocate for watching these movies in the order in which they were released. Within the Thor subfranchise, there aren’t any chronology games being played, but still—watch movies in the order they came out! Nothing else makes any sense. Stop getting cute.) That includes all four Thor solo films, plus a few added team-ups and surprises—it’s a lot, but it’s all related, we promise. And if you’re into a badass Norse god (who might also make you crack up laughing), it’s totally worth your time.
To technically get your first taste of the MCU’s Thor story, you can watch Iron Man 2 just to check out the credits scene, which features Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) coming across Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, in New Mexico. But you can get the gist of that by just hitting play on the very first Thor movie, which was directed by Kenneth Branagh and released all the way back in 2011. Thor introduces Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Idris Elba as Heimdall, and all the rest of the essential characters of Thor’s Marvel lore. Some of the Shakespearean stuff is a little dry, but ultimately it’s a fun movie that sets up much of what’s to come. Hemsworth and Hiddleston: charming as ever.
The Avengers (2012)
Ever heard of this one? Thor is one of the “Original Six” Avengers, and you can see in this 2012 megahit how that team—led by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury—first came to be. Thor doesn’t enter the film until 40 or so minutes in, but it’s a hell of an entrance, and it turns out the team really needed him; his brother, Loki, is the movie’s villain after all.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Thor: The Dark World is considered one of, if not the, worst movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, honestly…it’s not great. But you’re getting into Thor, and if you’re doing that, this movie really does have its moments. Loki in captivity? That’s good stuff. Thor gets some great emotional moments. And while the movie does leave you a little cold—and has one of the MCU’s worst villains to boot—it does have a knockout ending, and a moderately funny appearance from the great Chris O’Dowd. Not great MCU movie, but a decent watch nonetheless.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The second Avengers outing is kind of the forgotten Avengers outing, but it gives us one of the greatest (and, retroactively, most important) Thor moments early in the film—when his fellow Avengers attempt to lift his unliftable hammer. Watch this scene very closely, and for more reason than the fact that it’s one of the most fun moments in the entire MCU.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The reinvention! With Thor: Ragnarok, Hemsworth, together with writer/director Taika Waititi (who joins the gang as a sentient pile of rocks named Korg), gives the Thor subfranchise (and character) a much-needed shot in the arm. While Hemsworth was always funny when given his requisite MCU comic relief moments, Ragnarok allows him to lean into those comedic and whimsical leanings in a way that totally works. Combine that with a cast that includes Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, and our old friends Idris Elba and Tom Hiddleston, and this is the best movie of this bunch.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
If Ragnarok is the best Thor movie, Infinity War might be the best version of the Thor character. Keeping the same humor that he was infused with in Ragnarok—you’ve got to see how this guy bounces off the Guardians of the Galaxy—but with an introspective manner that takes very seriously just how much loss he’s felt to this point in the story, Hemsworth takes center stage in this key team-up chapter of the MCU’s story. And he crushes it.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The conclusion to Marvel’s Infinity Saga features Hemsworth as Thor that you’ve never quite seen before: a defeated, mentally beaten-down, depressed Thor. A Thor who’s still worthy, don’t get us wrong, but one who doesn’t quite know his place anymore. Luckily for us, he figures as much as ever into the plot to save the world—and take down Thanos.
Loki (2021 – )
OK, so this isn’t Thor, but if you’ve been on the journey this long, you’re going to be invested in his mischievous villain-turned-anti-hero brother too (and there may or may not be some easter eggs along the way). We don’t want to give too much away, but if you thought Loki’s story ended in Infinity War and Endgame, well, Loki proves you were sorely mistaken. Tom Hiddleston is as great as ever in the series; it’s one of Disney+’s best Marvel shows.
What If…? (2021 – )
Disney+’s What If…? is without question a fun and creative MCU project. It’s also without question inessential to the story of the larger MCU. That being said, if you’ve made it this far and you want some more Thor fun, you could check out Chris Hemsworth’s appearance in a pair of What If…? season one episodes; one of which involves Thor starting the largest party in the universe, and another that involves him teaming up with some unfamiliar friends from work to stop a common foe.
Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
Thor: Love and Thunder reunites Hemsworth and company with Taika Waititi for a movie that once again makes the God of Thunder into a largely comedic figure, but doesn’t forget that he’s also still, you know, a badass. Natalie Portman returns to the cast as The Mighty Thor version of Jane Foster, and Christian Bale portrays a terrifying villain named Gorr the God Butcher. The movie is largely based on writer Jason Aaron’s Thor comics, which are some of the best ever for the character. It’s a lot—but it’s fun too.
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