Everyone knows Marvel for tearing it up on the big screen. With huge box office successes such as “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” it can be easy to forget that Marvel also has a different ensemble of heroes on Netflix. These heroes are less flashy than their movie counterparts and don’t fight threats on a galactic scale, but they offer viewers a compelling ride nonetheless.
With the second season of “Luke Cage” being out for just over a week now, it’s a good time to see how the heroes of Marvel’s Netflix series stack up against one another. This list does contain spoilers, so read at your own risk.
Here are the nine best Marvel series on Netflix, ranked from worst to best.
9. “Iron Fist” (Season 1)
Danny Rand might have been the fourth Marvel hero to get their own Netflix show, but the quality of this season would lead you to believe it was their first attempt. The Iron Fist of the comics calmly protects the mythical city of K’un-Lun with exceptional fighting skill, but the first season of this show somehow makes watching that almost impossible.
Danny Rand doesn’t seem intelligent, given that he storms into his childhood friends’ office without considering the fact they have no real reason to believe he’s returned — only in the second episode does he realize he’ll need substantial proof to convince them he didn’t die in a plane crash years ago. That would be forgivable, because Iron Fist isn’t known for his intellect, but even his fighting skills seem subpar throughout the season.
Danny handles security guards with no problem in the first episode, but a single and unremarkable henchman gives the Immortal Iron Fist a fair fight in the third episode because the plot calls for it (and Danny kind of sucks at fighting). In fact, he sucks at almost every part of being Iron Fist for the entire season.
Even his adversaries constantly taunt him about being unable to defeat his mortal enemies, The Hand, and abandoning K’un-Lun (seriously, he shouldn’t even be in New York). They also mock the Iron Fist for getting easily upset, something you’ll see about every ten minutes per episode. The supporting characters slightly beat out Danny when it comes to likability, but not by much.
It’s one thing to watch a hero struggle to be a hero, but it’s an entirely different thing to watch the hero struggle to function as a person. The Protector of K’un-Lun’s television career started horribly, and don’t recommend it to a friend who wants to become familiar with the Marvel-Netflix Universe.
8. “The Defenders” (Season 1)
You would think that heroes teaming up with each other could never be boring to watch, but “The Defenders” will prove you wrong. For starters, it seems like only Iron Fist actually wants to defend the city, and the constant reluctance of the other three reminds the audience this truly isn’t the “Avengers: Netflix Edition.”
The antagonists really drag down this crossover series, however — The Hand has operated in the shadows for centuries and brought down entire cities, so on paper they pose an exciting threat to New York’s protectors. In reality, the earthquakes and Daredevil’s revived ex-girlfriend, Elektra, are quite bland.
Sure, The Hand has some lethal individuals that put up a good fight against one of the Defenders for a couple minutes, but they do little else worth fearing. The city technically faces the most danger since the first “Avengers” movie, but it doesn’t feel that way, making “The Defenders” a rather lackluster ride.
7. “Luke Cage” (Season 1)
The first half of this season starts out strong. It understands how important a heroic, bulletproof black man would be to the black community in today’s world. It understands that when your hero is invulnerable, the best villain for him to face is an intangible one, such as stopping organized crime.
The show sports a likeable supporting cast and the crime boss Cottonmouth, who steals every scene he can — until he dies midway through the season, that is. Then the true big bad turns out to be Cage’s estranged half-brother wearing an exo-skeleton to match Luke’s strength, and evil loses its intangibility.
6. “Jessica Jones” (Season 2)
Family plays a crucial role in all our lives, and the second season of “Jessica Jones” really focuses on exploring that. With no true villain this time around, Jessica instead tries to learn about her past and finds the mother she thought she had lost. Oh, and mom also has powers and anger issues and kills people.
The situation is more complicated than that, to be fair, and the same goes for almost all the situations with the supporting characters this season. Trish battles with feeling useless and falls back into the claws of addiction, while Malcom finally owns his past and adjusts to being sober.
The struggles of Jessica’s teenage years, the struggle to get Kilgrave out of her head, the struggle to reconnect with her mom — all present and all thoroughly entertaining. Such a personal story doesn’t really move along the grand scheme of Marvel’s Netflix series, though, bringing a solid season of television down to number six.
5. “The Punisher” (Season 2)
Frank Castle has no superpowers or special abilities, just military training, a vendetta and a bunch of guns. Perhaps the bloodiest entry in Marvel’s Netflix series, “The Punisher” gets both intense and satisfying to watch over its 13 episodes.
The show definitely has some slow moments, but most of these build relationships between Frank and his allies, such as Micro and Karen. They also explore Frank’s psyche and really highlight how broken Castle’s experiences have left him.
Unfortunately, these slow moments also give screen time to Homeland Security agents Sam and Madani, the blandest characters ever, who seem to exist solely to add a layer to Frank’s past. Overall, Frank’s rampage is a sight to behold and will keep you engaged for the entire season.
4. “Daredevil” (Season 2)
The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen gets right back into the action by introducing The Punisher (his first appearance in the universe) to complicate matters for Matt Murdock in season two. They have a thrilling rivalry for the first couple episodes before the Punisher gets arrested, and the fun doesn’t stop there.
Immediately after Frank Castle is off the streets, Murdock’s former lover, Elektra, returns to town and ropes him into fighting the Yakuza. That leads to The Hand getting involved, and eventually Matt and Elektra fight ninjas near a giant hole in the ground while Foggy and Karen defend Castle in court.
The last few episodes crank up the craziness to 11 and the show kind of goes off the deep end. The Hand’s oft-referenced secret weapon turns out to be Elektra — she doesn’t get powers or anything, she’s just a really good fighter basically. Daredevil fights a storm of ninjas attacking a hospital, and somehow another storm of ninjas chases Elektra and Daredevil up to a roof in the finale, and then half of the ninjas just disappear.
Daredevil’s second season, while still great entry to Marvel’s Netflix series, gets a bit too wacky and goes overboard with the ninjas. So. Many. Ninjas.
3. “Luke Cage” (Season 2)
Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to always learn from them. The showrunners behind “Luke Cage” took what they learned and created an incredible second season. The latter half doesn’t fall off like last season and you can honestly feel the chaos and danger Harlem faces in those final episodes.
The first half isn’t at all bad either, establishing the newcomer Bushmaster as a formidable threat to not just Luke, but Mariah as well. Mariah also becomes even more vile this season, and you’ll end up hating her as much as everyone else in the show does. This season of “Luke Cage” is truly bulletproof.
2. “Jessica Jones” (Season 1)
The titular character is a powered private investigator who doesn’t want to be a hero, as well as an alcoholic who could work on her people skills. With a premise like that, “Jessica Jones” could’ve been very light-hearted or even comedic, but it goes in the complete opposite direction and comes out brilliant.
The New York City of “Jessica Jones” is gritty and ugly. She faces hate for just doing her job and for having powers. Her arch-nemesis can control minds, but he’s no cartoon villain — Kilgrave made a young woman murder her parents after “dating” her the same way he dated Jessica.
Kilgrave has traumatized Jessica, so she must overcome him in more ways than one. From the start, the show reels you in and you desperately want her to succeed, because her fight exists for people in the real world, just on a different scale.
1. “Daredevil” (Season 1)
The one that started it all, and the one that remains on top. The first season of “Daredevil” became the blueprint for Marvel’s Netflix series for good reason. This first season shows the impact Matt Murdock the struggling lawyer has on the world, which feels real and grounded.
This enhances the danger Daredevil faces, because his life as Matt Murdock matters, too. Throughout a season full of mystery he ends up making intriguing allies, battles the incredibly well-crafted villain Wilson Fisk — and let’s not forget that hallway scene. Daredevil may stick to the shadows, but his first season serves as a shining example of how to bring a live-action superhero to the small screen.