Even though the Hulk first starred in a TV series, he’s been featured in multiple classic and MCU movies since the 80s. We’ll cover the famously jacked Lou Ferrigno in his classic Hulk films and the more recent MCU Hulk movies in order.
Hulk, with his unparalleled might, which intriguingly amplifies with his escalating anger, has become one of the most celebrated and complex characters in the Marvel realm. His resilience, boundless strength, and the intriguing dichotomy of his existence as both the genius Dr. Bruce Banner and the colossal Hulk have rendered him a character of both empathic depth and exhilarating action.
As a dedicated Hulk fan (who was once painted all green to be Hulk for Halloween), I can relate to his “always angry” persona.
Embark with us on a riveting journey through time, exploring every Hulk movie chronologically.
How many Hulk movies are there?
Delve into the multifaceted world of the Hulk, a character renowned for his immense strength and poignant storyline, through the lens of various cinematic explorations. Initially introduced to audiences in two standalone films, Hulk’s cinematic presence has only burgeoned over the years, traversing different universes and narratives.
Two pivotal films shine a spotlight explicitly on our green hero: the 2003 release titled “Hulk,” with Eric Bana embodying both the scientist and the monster, and its sequel, “The Incredible Hulk” (2008), featuring Edward Norton in the titular role. It’s crucial to note that these films, while instrumental in bringing Hulk to the big screen, stand apart from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), offering a distinct narrative that doesn’t weave into the latter’s expansive tapestry.
Beyond his standalone ventures, Hulk has further been integrated into the dynamic world of the MCU, contributing to its intricate narratives and spectacular showdowns. His appearances span various films and series.
Most recently, he’s also been featured in the series “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” (2022) and made a brief cameo in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (2021).
The Hulk’s influence permeates beyond his cinematic appearances into animated adventures and television narratives. Notably, he’s conquered the animated world in movies like “Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell,” and fans of classic television will recall the impactful series “The Incredible Hulk” (1978-1982). The late 80s also witnessed the emergence of live-action TV movies.
For those embarking on a chronological viewing journey of Hulk movies, here’s a handy guide:
All the Classic Hulk Movies in Order
- The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988)
- The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989)
- The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990)
All the MCU Hulk Movies in Order
- Hulk (2003)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008)
- The Avengers (2012)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
- Avengers: Endgame (2019)
1 ‘The Incredible Hulk Returns’ (1988)
IMDb: 5.7/10 3.5K
Director: Bill Bixby, Nicholas Corea
Cast: Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, Jack Colvin
Embarking on a nostalgic journey to 1988, “The Incredible Hulk Returns” persists as a monumental chapter in Hulk’s cinematic history, as a direct sequel to the cherished 1977 TV series, “The Incredible Hulk.” While contemporary audiences might associate Mark Ruffalo with the robust and tumultuous Hulk, Lou Ferrigno’s era-defining, two-decade portrayal has been indelibly etched into the legacy of this gargantuan green hero.
Oh, Lou Ferrigno, how brilliantly he stepped beyond mere frames of animation and live-action, embracing the Hulk in a manner so spiritedly tangible and soul-stirring all at once! His portrayal has an inherent duality – a beastly exterior encapsulating a poignant, fiery core. And when we talk about “The Incredible Hulk Returns,” there’s a special nod to directors Bill Bixby and Nicholas Corea for crafting a film that’s not just an eyeball grabber but also a heartfelt journey into narrative depths, wrapping us into its 100 minutes of dynamic storytelling.
Zooming back to 1988, the film stands out as a splendid continuation of its TV series precursor, weaving fresh, captivating storylines while holding onto the genuine, classic Hulk vibes that fans, old and new, have cherished deeply.
2 ‘The Trial of the Incredible Hulk’ (1989)
IMDb: 5.8/10 3K
Director: Bill Bixby
Cast: Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, Marta DuBois
Ah, 1989, a year that graced us with the second entrée in the TV film trilogy emerging in the aftermath of “The Incredible Hulk” series – “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.” A thrilling ride of action, drama, and adventure, this flick continues the compelling narrative arches from its predecessor and introduces us to another beloved Marvel crusader – Daredevil.
Unlike the red outfit synonymous with Daredevil in the comics and other adaptations, he dons a black costume in this film. Together, they craft a formidable duo, rallying against the notorious Wilson Fisk, or as most know him, the Kingpin.
This was one of the earlier live-action interpretations of the villain Kingpin before the character was popularized by Vincent D’Onofrio in Netflix’s “Daredevil” series and Michael Clarke Duncan in the 2003 “Daredevil” movie.
While not a huge critical success, the film has its place in fan discussions and nostalgia. It didn’t just stand as a sequel; it sneakily served as a backdoor pilot for a Daredevil series that, regrettably, never saw the light of day. But hey, it wasn’t all for naught!
“The Trial of the Incredible Hulk” carved its niche in Marvel history for a reason very close to our fan hearts – the debut of Stan Lee’s playful cameos in Marvel’s live-action universe. From this moment until his sad departure in 2018, Stan “The Man” Lee would pop up in our Marvel adventures, crowned forever as our beloved king of cameos, with his final bow in “Avengers: Endgame.”
3 ‘The Death of the Incredible Hulk’ (1990)
IMDb: 5.7/10 2.6K
Director: Bill Bixby
Cast: Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, Elizabeth Gracen
Let’s take a moment to travel back to 1990 when screens were graced and hearts subsequently shattered by “The Death of the Incredible Hulk.” Lou Ferrigno took his final bow as the titular green giant, concluding his striking portrayal, which had become deeply intertwined with the character. But the farewell was bittersweet, not merely for its on-screen melancholy but due to the shattering reality that followed.
Intentions to further extend the film series were tragically extinguished by the untimely death of the brilliant Bill Bixby, our beloved David Banner. This unexpected goodbye and a less-than-stellar reception to the film unequivocally sealed the fate of potential sequels like “The Revenge of the Incredible Hulk” and “The Rebirth of the Incredible Hulk.”
For many Hulk aficionados, the death of our emerald hero was a tough pill to swallow, a sentiment reflected in those somber ratings. Nonetheless, a portion of the audience deems it a poignant and fitting adieu to a series that had captivated viewers for a wholesome twelve years.
4 ‘Hulk’ (2003)
IMDb: 5.6/10 275K | Popularity: 2408 | Metascore:
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott
“Whoa, Hulk, slow down!” That’s probably what we thought when we first saw Bruce Banner transforming into the iconic green giant in 2003. Ang Lee gave us an intense Hulk in strength and emotion. The struggle was real, guys – Eric Bana didn’t just portray a superhero; he portrayed a man in turmoil, facing an inner beast.
Marvel’s playground was pretty spread out back then. Whether it was the X-Men or Spider-Man, each hero did their own thing. Hulk was no exception. And Lee, that genius, he didn’t just direct. He became the Hulk, doing the motion capture for our big green friend.
Lee added a small but significant detail by naming the lead character Bruce Krenzler (using his mother’s maiden name) for a portion of the film to maintain continuity with the TV series, where the character was David Banner.
In 2003, “Hulk” ventured into extensive use of CGI, which was still somewhat in a developmental stage for such characters. The visual interpretation was ambitious for its time, attempting to portray the Hulk in a way that balanced human and monstrous elements.
Remember those gigantic, terrifying dogs? The scene where Hulk fights gamma-radiated dogs, including a poodle, is often remembered in the film.
The potential for more was there, but no Hulk movie trilogy blossomed from the “Hulk” of 2003. It wasn’t the MCU; perhaps it was left in the shadows as the new universe took the stage. But hey, ratings aside, “Hulk” did something remarkable. It provided a dark, psychological exploration, a deviation from the classic superhero journey we’ve seen unravel in subsequent Marvel films.
5 ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (2008)
IMDb: 6.6/10 513K | Popularity: 1716 | Metascore:
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth
The 2008 flick, “The Incredible Hulk,” sure took us on a wild ride. Let’s dive into it: Edward Norton steps into the oversized shoes (well, maybe not shoes, considering Hulk’s preference for going barefoot) of Dr. Bruce Banner. On the run and trying desperately to find a cure for his rather “explosive” anger issues, he’s also got the military hot on his tail. And if that wasn’t enough, enter Emil Blonsky, portrayed by Tim Roth, who transforms into the horrifying Abomination, giving Hulk a run for his money after a heavy dose of gamma radiation.
Can we take a moment to acknowledge the somewhat odd placement this movie holds in the MCU? It’s often the forgotten child of the franchise, partly because of the recasting drama that saw Mark Ruffalo replace Edward Norton in subsequent films. Juxtaposed with “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk” has a distinctly different flavor, and whether that’s a point for or against it… well, that’s up for debate!
Fast forward to today, and lo and behold, the chatter around a sequel to “The Incredible Hulk” is buzzing louder than ever, especially after our green giant’s cameo in “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.”
6 ‘The Avengers’ (2012)
IMDb: 8.0/10 1.4M | Popularity: 708 | Metascore:
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson
2012 was a banner year for Marvel fans – pun intended! “The Avengers” hit the screens, and boy, did it make waves.
Bruce Banner – the genius scientist with anger issues who’s larger than life. Portrayed by Mark Ruffalo, Banner’s hiding out, trying to keep those green outbursts under wraps. But when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), that eye-patch-sporting director of S.H.I.E.L.D., knocks on his metaphorical door, he’s drawn into a world-saving squad known as the Avengers. Their mission? To thwart Loki, the mischievous villain bent on an otherworldly invasion.
In a pivotal scene, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff scours India to find and recruit Banner into the Avengers Initiative. But man, that heli-carrier scene where he loses control and brings out the big green guy? Intense! Yet, Hulk wasn’t just there for the smash – he played a crucial role in taking down Loki and his alien Chitauri army during the nail-biting Battle of New York. And who could forget the cathartic moment when Hulk uses Loki as his ragdoll in Stark Tower? Pure gold.
Fast forward to 2022, and here’s Ruffalo, amidst the fanfare, celebrating a decade since the movie’s release and his star-studded cast. It’s a joyful recollection of a film that smashed box office records and solidified the MCU as a cinematic juggernaut. That line – “That’s my secret, Cap… I’m always angry” – still reverberates as one of the most iconic moments in superhero film history.
7 ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (2015)
IMDb: 7.3/10 900K | Popularity: 1329 | Metascore:
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Jazz hands, everyone, because in 2015, we all met Ultron, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” to be precise. Under the directorial helm of Joss Whedon, we saw our favorite misfit heroes, including the mighty Hulk, face off against some mind-boggling technology gone awry.
Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), our lovably enraged scientist, and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the billionaire with too much time and tech, create Ultron – a program meant to shield the world.
Spoiler (not really): it didn’t go as planned. Our metallic brainchild flips the script, and what was meant to be a planetary safeguard becomes an Avenger’s nightmare.
South Africa’s stunning vistas become a playground for chaos when Hulk, under a Scarlet Witch spell, goes on a mindless rampage. Remember that nerve-wracking face-off between the Hulk and Tony Stark’s Hulkbuster armor? Yeah, we’re still recovering too. But the Hulk wasn’t all smash; he and the team pulled out all the stops to safeguard Sokovia’s citizens from utter catastrophe.
The movie ends with Hulk’s mysterious departure, later addressed in “Thor: Ragnarok,” connecting the movies within the extensive MCU web.
Our big green friend needed a breather after intense battles and emotional turmoil. So, off he zoomed in the Avengers’ Quinjet, jet-setting to… well, we had to wait to find out.
And in a sneaky little nod that took seven years to fully understand, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” subtly hinted at what would come in “She-Hulk.” But that, dear reader, is a story for another time.
8 ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)
IMDb: 7.9/10 793K | Popularity: 792 | Metascore:
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett
The incredible, the invincible, the green warrior – Hulk finds his cosmic cage in “Thor: Ragnarok.” Landing with a bang into the vibrant world of Sakaar, our hero isn’t just smashing things this time. He’s practically ruling the roost in his own burly, belligerent way.
Under the directorial magic of Taika Waititi, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) isn’t just a force; he’s a character – furnished with a surprising amount of comedic timing. The gladiatorial bouts on Sakaar don’t just showcase his physical prowess but unveil a Hulk who’s reveling in a place where his destructive nature isn’t just accepted but revered. The crowd chants his name, and for once, Hulk isn’t just a weapon but a champion to be cheered.
And then enters Thor (Chris Hemsworth), not just a familiar face but a friendly rivalry. Their dynamic, punctuated by wit, banter, and unspoken camaraderie, navigates through treacherous terrains, especially as the nefarious Hela (Cate Blanchett) unveils a Ragnarok that could obliterate Asgard.
But it’s not all fun, games, and smashing for our verdant warrior. Bruce Banner, the genius behind the muscle, surfaces, grappling with the repercussions of a two-year Hulk stint. The narrative teeters brilliantly between Banner’s cerebral acumen and Hulk’s primal intensity. It crafted a layered exploration of a man-monster dichotomy uncharted in prior Hulk films.
In “Thor: Ragnarok,” battles are fought, and heroes rise amidst thunderous applause and catastrophic destruction. Hulk isn’t just seen; he’s understood, respected, and even celebrated in a bizarre cosmic soiree. Yet, his Earthly connections and the chaos of his internal struggle ensure that Hulk’s journey is far from over.
9 ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ (2018)
IMDb: 8.4/10 1.2M | Popularity: 507 | Top 250: #63 | Metascore:
Director: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo
“Hulk SMASH!” – a phrase we eagerly anticipated yet barely witnessed in the monumental “Avengers: Infinity War.” Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) found himself toe-to-toe with the cosmic tyrant Thanos, a battle that physically pummeled the Hulk and profoundly battered his spirit.
Beginning starkly with a dire situation aboard the Asgardian spaceship, the Hulk spirals into an abyss of defeat and vulnerability. Thanos (Josh Brolin), with his cold, deliberate brutality, does more than overpower the Hulk. He shatters his invincible facade, leaving a trail of introspection and fear permeating Bruce Banner’s ensuing journey.
The Hulk, a symbol of raw, unbridled power, subsequently recoils into the recesses of Banner’s psyche. It’s a fascinating turn of events. The invincible is rendered vanquished, and Banner is left to navigate a war of cosmic proportions and internal demons simultaneously.
Banner isn’t bereft of combat in the lush, technologically avant-garde terrains of Wakanda. Encasing himself in a suit of Wakandan design, he plunges into the throes of battle, striving to shield the universe from the snapping tyranny of Thanos.
“Avengers: Infinity War” isn’t just a battle against the outer, tangible threats that loom large across the realms. For Banner and Hulk, it’s an internal conflict, exploring themes of power, fear, and identity amidst a cosmic cataclysm. The verdant might of Hulk may have retracted, but Banner, with his intellect, courage, and unexpected reliance on technology, keeps the fight alive, marking an intricate chapter in the journey of Marvel’s green Goliath.
10 ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (2019)
IMDb: 8.4/10 1.2M | Popularity: 208 | Top 250: #79 | Metascore:
Director: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
In “Avengers: Endgame”, Bruce Banner and the Hulk make peace. They meld into a new entity – Professor Hulk, a fusion of Banner’s intellect and Hulk’s brawn. This newfound harmony proves pivotal in the Avengers’ quest to obliterate the harrowing impact of Thanos’ snap.
Bruce Banner is no longer just a scientist, nor is the Hulk a mere juggernaut of chaos. Professor Hulk aids in deciphering the intricacies of time travel, an endeavor crucial for retrieving the scattered Infinity Stones. The emotional tide hits when Natasha Romanoff sacrifices herself for the Soul Stone, an act that leaves the team, especially Hulk, shrouded in grief.
This amalgamation of brain and brawn shines during the final battle. Hulk not only withstands the gauntlet’s overwhelming power but also snaps, reviving the vanished half of the universe. Yet, it’s not just a battle of cosmic stakes but an internal one. Hulk and Banner find a synergy amidst the chaos, paving a new path in their complex, dual existence.
“Avengers: Endgame” doesn’t merely bring a resolution to the Avengers saga. It intertwines strength and intelligence, culminating in a poignant narrative about unity, sacrifice, and the multifaceted nature of heroism.
Senior Editor, BuddyTV