Guardians of the Galaxy movies ranked – including Vol 3

Cameron Frew
The poster for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

Showtime, A-holes: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is in cinemas now, so here’s our ranking of the three movies in the franchise from worst to best.

Once upon a time, critics widely predicted Guardians of the Galaxy to be the larger franchise’s first flop, coming shortly. Unfair maybe, but understandable: this was a Z-list, niche property with no cultural presence, Marvel gave them the summer blockbuster treatment – and the risk paid off.

Critical acclaim and handsome box office returns catapulted them to household name status, leading to another revered sequel and their participation in the biggest superhero event in history: Infinity War and Endgame, in which they played a significant role (for better or worse – sorry, Star-Lord).

Vol 3 is the third and final chapter of James Gunn’s space opera trilogy, bringing his near-10-year odyssey through the wackiest spots of the MCU cosmos to an end. With the movie releasing worldwide this weekend, we’ve ranked each movie – and you may be surprised by what’s on top.

Guardians of the Galaxy movies ranked

For this ranking, we’ve only included the main Guardians of the Galaxy movies: the first entry, Vol 2, and Vol 3. So, don’t expect to see Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame, or Thor: Love and Thunder on the list. Nor the GOTG Holiday Special, which we previously reviewed here.

Without further ado, let’s wham, bang, and shang-a-lang from the beginning.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Lower your Quad Blasters – all of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are amazing, and the first entry established the trilogy’s offbeat, loveable heroes with undeniable style and heart.

Vol 1, as you’d expect, revolves around the formation of the titular team: Star-Lord is a ravager, Gamora is essentially a mercenary doled out by Thanos, Drax is a “destroyer” devoted to avenging his family’s deaths, and Rocket and Groot travel across the galaxy stealing whatever they like.

While incredibly re-watchable – it’s still hilarious and moving after all this time – it has one huge weakness above the rest: the villain, Ronan the Accuser, a big-headed, boring pawn of Thanos. He’s nothing more than a reason for the Guardians to come together, so we’re grateful for that, at least.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 cast

Some people have Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 in the lower tiers of their MCU ranking. I’d implore them to give it another go, as it’s aged beautifully since its release; a poignant, contained spectacle with emotional priorities that have been lost elsewhere in the franchise.

The main thrust of the second entry is Ego, Peter’s long-lost father “in the stars”, played with effortless charm by Kurt Russell. This reveals Star-Lord’s true origins: he’s a Celestial-human hybrid, gifted with immortality as long as his dad’s ruthless planet-dusting mission continues.

The visuals are spectacular, the soundtrack – dare we say it – may be the best out of the three, and while it overdoes certain elements from the first (the humor doesn’t connect quite as consistently), the ending is an absolute whopper. “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 (2023)

The cast of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

Vol 3 is the best of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It has everything: heart, soul, laughs, tears, a banging soundtrack, thrills, stunning visuals, and actual stakes; in a time when MCU movies are feeling increasingly hollow, there’s nothing empty here.

The threequel centers on Rocket after he’s nearly killed by Adam Warlock, a cosmic super-being created as an act of revenge by the Sovereign. While the Guardians travel across the universe to save his life, we’re thrown into his traumatic past, which is every bit as horrific and overwhelming as you may have imagined.

It’s not so much a faith restorer as a glorious, soulful ember burning above the cinders of a cinematic universe – we’re still hooked on the feeling, and this is as good as it gets. You can read our full review of the movie here.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is in cinemas now. You can read our review here, while for more on the movie, head to our dedicated GOTG page, or check out the below articles…

Best Easter Eggs | Pete Davidson cameo | Who dies? | Counter-Earth explained | Number of post-credits scenes | Avengers: Infinity War reference | Phyla-Vell explained | Is Yondu in GOTG 3? | Chris Pratt wants to return | Lylla, Teef and Floor explained | Does Rocket die? | Doctor Moreau influence | Adam Warlock, hero or villain? | High Evolutionary explained | Soundtrack details | Description of post-credit scenes | All actors and characters | Runtime explained | Why Rocket is the MVP | Is it streaming? | What is Blurp? | Ending explained | GOTG movies ranked | Will there be a Vol 4?