The Marvel Cinematic Universe just took a fun and zany turn with the premiere of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Tatiana Maslany debuts in the titular role and is joined by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. The response to Ruffalo’s tenure as the Hulk starting in The Avengers has been predominately positive – so much so that fans are eager for him to finally get his long-awaited solo project.
Hulk has maintained a steady prominence like contemporaries Spider-Man and Wolverine, leading several films and TV shows. Whether animated or in live-action, these are defined by IMDb reviewers as Hulk’s best movies and TV shows.
10 The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988) – 5.6
While Mark Ruffalo’s name has become intrinsically synonymous with Bruce Banner and the Hulk, he still hasn’t beaten Lou Ferrigno’s iconic tenure as the unjolly green giant. Ferrigno portrayed the Hulk whether in live-action or animation for twenty years, including in The Incredible Hulk Returns. The film is the direct continuation of the 1977 tv series, The Incredible Hulk.
In the film, Ferrigno is joined by Eric Kramer as Thor – the first time another Marvel hero had appeared in The Incredible Hulk universe. Interestingly, that achievement and the relative success of this film helped set the stage for the rise of Marvel movies and crossovers in live-action.
9 Hulk (2003) – 5.6
Before Iron Man and the rise of the MCU, Marvel films were all independent. There were the popular X-Men and Spider-Man films, but there was also Hulk. The 2003 film featured Eric Bana in the titular role, although interestingly, director Ang Lee provided much of the motion capture and voice of the Hulk. It could’ve launched a trilogy of its own but that quickly lost steam, and it’s been, unfortunately, overshadowed by what followed it.
Despite the low ranking and rating, Hulk was moderately well received by critics and viewers alike. It’s unlike many of the subsequent and formulaic Marvel films with a distinct tone and style, focusing more on the transformation and effects of being the Hulk than seeing the Hulk smash.
8 The Death of The Incredible Hulk (1990) – 5.7
Ferrigno concluded his tenure as the Hulk in live-action in 1990s The Death of the Incredible Hulk. There were intentions to continue the series of films, but they were halted by the unfortunate death of Bill Bixby, who played the Hulk’s human counterpart, David Banner. The poor response to The Death of the Incredible Hulk also put a nail in the coffin of a sequel.
The death of Hulk didn’t sit well with many viewers, and still doesn’t to this day, hence the low ratings. However, many did still regard it as a worthy and heartfelt end to the beloved tv series that started twelve years earlier.
7 The Trial of The Incredible Hulk (1989) – 5.8
The second of the TV film trilogy following The Incredible Hulk series is The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. Like its predecessor, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk features a fellow prominent and popular Marvel hero – this time Daredevil as they team up to take down Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin.
While it continued the series, it was also a backdoor pilot for a potential Daredevil series, but that never progressed further. Importantly, this film also marks the first time Stan Lee ever cameoed in a live-action Marvel project. That trend would continue until his passing in 2018, with his last appearance in Avengers: Endgame, making him the iconic king of cameos.
6 Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. (2013-2015) – 6.0
The Incredible Hulk series and its sequels established the Hulk as Marvel’s most successful live-action character until Spider-Man in the 2000s. Nevertheless, he also has a prominent history in animation. Of course, he’s featured as a core member of the Avengers in several series, but he also helmed his own with Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. on Disney XD.
The show focuses on a calm and smart version of Hulk and his allies, She-Hulk, A-Bomb, Red-Hulk, and Skaar as they primarily oppose the Samuel Sterns aka the Leader – who many are hoping and theorizing could be returning to the MCU, possibly in Thunderbolts. Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. did well enough over its two seasons and is a good fit for its target audience.
5 The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 6.6
Many people forget that The Incredible Hulk is even considered part of the MCU because of the recasting of Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers. It has a strange reputation relative to its ilk, being the least-MCU film in the MCU – though that’s a positive or negative depending on one’s perspective. It doesn’t help that it had to follow Iron Man, but in retrospect, The Incredible Hulk is still quite an exciting movie.
There is intense renewed interest in a sequel to The Incredible Hulk now, fourteen years later, especially after Hulk’s latest appearance in She-Hulk: Attorney a Law. In that episode, Tim Roth also finally returned to the MCU as Emil Blonsky aka Abomination, She-Hulk’s newest client.
4 The Incredible Hulk (1996-1998) – 6.7
After he played Hulk in live-action for over a decade, Lou Ferrigno switched to voicing the hero in animation with the classically-titled, The Incredible Hulk. Unlike the live-action series, this one had a larger draw from Marvel Comics, featuring characters like She-Hulk, Doctor Doom, War Machine, and Ghost Rider.
The Incredible Hulk is part of an incredible moment in animated tv with the likes of the best from Marvel such as X-Men: The Animated Series and Spider-Man: The Animated Series, along with their competitors from DC Comics. At 21 episodes, it is definitely something fans of all ages would still enjoy today.
3 Planet Hulk (2010) – 6.7
Also on the animated front is Planet Hulk, a 2010 film devotedly adapting the 2006 storyline of the same name. The arc also served as inspiration for Thor: Ragnarok, and led to World War Hulk, which many are hoping will also happen in the MCU. Regardless, Planet Hulk is Hulk at his best, completely on his own, even without Bruce Banner.
Hulk is joined significantly by Beta Ray Bill, the mysterious alien worthy of lifting Thor’s hammer. While Planet Hulk is not rated particularly high on IMDb, it has a strong foundation and is a fun addition to the vast plethora of animated Marvel films.
2 Hulk Versus (2009) – 6.9
Another animated Hulk film is Hulk Versus. Importantly, it is not only one of Marvel’s best-animated movies, but it still stands as Hulk’s highest-rated film – although it is technically a collection of two separate short films. Both feature Hulk as he is forced to fight against two of his longest-standing allies, Wolverine and Thor.
Individually, each showcases unique tonal perspectives on the Hulk, with Hulk vs. Wolverine being quite dark and violent, while Hulk vs. Thor is more stylistic and grandiose. Of course, MCU fans have a litany of Hulk and Thor, but hopefully, they will soon be able to see the dynamics of Hulk and Wolverine as shown here too.
1 The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982) – 7.0
For Marvel, there really isn’t a program that catalyzed the future of their presence in film and tv better than The Incredible Hulk. It wasn’t the first live-action superhero show, but it has some of the longest-lasting impacts on the stories that follow it. Running from 1977 to 1982 and followed by three films, The Incredible Hulk is still a testament to superhero tv and especially practical effects in live-action.
It is a beloved piece of television history and is adequately rated on IMDb. Although the general ratings for Hulk projects trend low relative to other Marvel heroes like Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk takes the crown and will likely hold on to it for the foreseeable future.