The MCU is gearing up to the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming next month and I thought it was a good time to rank the various films in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. This franchise is one of my favorites and I can’t believe it’s already nine years old. Check back here after every Marvel movie to see my updated list!
19. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Iron Man 2 isn’t a bad film and definitely has rewatch ability. The plot just feels very filler and the film was kind of unnecessary to the overall MCU. It doesn’t do much but tease the next year’s films. It felt kind of like a cash grab, but it was the most enjoyable cash grab ever. It is nowhere near as good as the original, but it is definitely good for white noise on FX every month.
18. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
This was very boring the first time, but, upon revisiting, it is more enjoyable and contributes significantly to the MCU overall. It features the worst villain ever and the biggest waist of a great actor in Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki carries the film through dull moments and is the emotional drive of the film. This was very much about Loki post-Avengers. And if they had made it Loki rather than jam it with meaningless Thor junk then maybe this would’ve been much higher on the list.
17. Ant-Man (2015)
Ant-Man is funny at times, but this character really only works within an ensemble. It’s a necessary installment to set-up Civil War and Paul Rudd is great, but it has no rewatch value and was very dull for an MCU film. It also introduces Marvel’s de-aging scene in the beginning, which is now a staple of MCU films.
16. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The film had the big task of living up to the original while also introducing new characters and elements to drive the story forward. In most regards, it does. It gives us the first permanent death in the franchise, while also driving the direction of the MCU forward. It also features a great villain in the form of James Spader’s Ultron and turns Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye into a lovable character. Overall, AoU succeeds, but it does have some parts that feel weird and unnecessary, like the Thor in a cave pool stuff. Weird.
15. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Hulk’s introduction to the MCU is good. It’s very interesting, but it does not feature nearly enough Hulk. In the long run, Marvel has sort of swept this one under the rug, mainly due to Edward Norton’s departure from the role in post-production and we’ve heard only small references to it. That was, until Civil War, but besides that, the film is still enjoyable, but is overly full of character and low on HULK SMASHING!
14. Thor (2011)
Thor’s introduction is fun and the most diverse introduction to an MCU character yet. The film has second act that is focuses on character and heart and boy does it succeed, but it’s just a hair long. The third act is short and effective, but ultimately dissatisfying. Overall, Thor is effective and a thrill, but ultimately fails to completely deliver.
13. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Widely considered as awful at the time, the film’s twist works and the story works as a self-contained ending for the Iron Man trilogy. It concludes his story perfectly, while being avoided by the wider MCU because of the poor fan reception and the fact that Robert Downey Jr’s contract was almost up at the time. Shane Black delivers a great story set in a superhero world.
12. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Superheroes in World War II…what more do I have to say. This story is perfect and works as a great period piece while introducing arguably the best character in the MCU in Chris Evans’ Captain America. The film also features one of the best villains of the series in Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull. And that post-credits teaser for Avengers…what more must I say.
11. Doctor Strange (2016)
Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent. With a fantastic story and self-contained discover for the MCU, the film introduces its most interesting character since Captain America. The film features a great ensemble and the best VFX of the franchise. Strange is a masterpiece and I can’t wait to see his return.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
The fifteenth installment of the franchise works on so many levels. The growing ensemble has so much chemistry and work together so well. The great character development and the moments delivered pay off in unexpected ways and work so well. With breakout returning performances from Michael Rooker, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, and Dave Bautista, Guardians 2 succeeds immensely. The film also features one of the best villains introduced in the MCU since 2011 with Kurt Russell’s Ego The Living Planet. The film ends beautifully and features a great soundtrack. However, it does have too many post-credits scenes.
9. Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014)
The second film in Cap’s trilogy is so different from anything else in the MCU. The Winter Soldier is an amazing political thriller that is relevant and features a great villain in Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce. The film pulls back the covers on the biggest, most detrimental twist in the MCU: SHIELD is HYDRA. The death of SHIELD affects the MCU in big way and helps shape the landscape in away that propels us towards Infinity War.
8. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Taika Waititi delivers the best of the trilogy. It’s fun and full of life and energy. This film had the impossible task of tying up all of the loose ends of Thor: The Dark World, tying into the upcoming Infinity War, delivering a fun standalone Thor film, catching us up on the Hulk, and adapt Ragnarok, and incredibly sticks the landing as best as possible. While some aspects feel forced (Doctor Strange’s strange cameo), others felt completely organic (Planet Hulk). The film is gorgeous to look at and also delivers an wonderfully fun story.
7. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The culmination of ten years worth of storytelling did not disappoint. With breakneck pacing and scenes filled with glorious action and wonderful characters, the war for the fate of the universe feels utterly epic. It’s spectacular, thrilling, and the best season finale to a TV show I’ve ever seen.
6. Black Panther (2018)
The Civil War spinoff transcends the superhero genre. It’s a political thriller, wrapped in a coming of age story, deep fried in a James Bond-like action film, and topped off with relevant social commentary. It just may be the best film Marvel Studios has ever made, but I find the other films on this list for enjoyable for me.
5. Iron Man (2008)
The film that started it all works so well. It’s a brilliant comedy and a self-contained story that gives the best character arc of any single film in the franchise. Iron Man is brilliant and kickstarted a franchise that has grown to an amazing powerhouse.
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
This is the most accurate depiction of modern day high school on film. Tom Holland is fantastic and his ensemble cast is stellar. The film also features some of the best costumes in the franchise, as well as one of the best villains in the MCU in Michael Keaton’s Vulture. The film personalizes the MCU again, while still connecting to larger events. It was a fantastic high school film and stands as the best Spider-Man film.
3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America’s series is one of the rare and beautiful examples of perfect trilogy. The series feels like they always mainly serve as Avengers stories without the whole team involved and this film definitely embraced that by bring virtually ever Avenger in for what can only be described as a better Avengers 2 or Avengers 2.5. The film is great, building fantastic character arcs and delivering amazing action sequences. Spider-Man and Black Panther are standouts and the rest of the cast is developed forward in their respective stories. It feels like a comic book crossover come to life and is an absolute delight.
2. The Avengers (2012)
The culmination of the first phase of the MCU, The Avengers is a non-stop thrill ride that delivers excellent moments and a great story that finals births the MCU as we know it. It is eminently re-watchable and works on so many levels. It is the definition of a blockbuster and is the epitome of the Marvel Universe. It is the product of Kevin Feige’s vision and is a near perfect film.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
This film is an instant classic that creates a whole new side of the MCU that is fun, thrilling, daring, and dangerous. The Marvel Cosmic Universe is the brainchild of James Gunn, who masterly directs this project through two installments that couple together to make a perfect, seamless story. This film, however, stands perfectly alone and features the most incredible cast with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dame Bautista, and Vin Diesel and their chemistry is so explosive that is trumps the untouchable chemistry of The Avengers. And to top it all off, the film features the best soundtrack in cinema history.