Almost a decade of films, from Iron Man in 2008 to Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 the Marvel Cinematic Universe has 15 total movies and every single one is connected to the other in some significant way. Marvel Studios has changed the game by producing this many acclaimed films. I’ve decided to rank each one…
In honour of the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming (the 16th film from Marvel Studios – opening Friday July 7th) , which is definitely a MCU film but also definitely a Sony flick (with plans for Sony to make a hundred spin-off films that Marvel Studios wants nothing to do with), here are my top 15 Marvel Cinematic Universe films from least impressive to most impressive. Also – just because they go from weak to stronger — none of these are bad movies at all. I haven’t disliked ANY of them — except for maybe #15….
Here’s our review of Spider-Man Homecoming – CLICK HERE
#15. Captain America: The First Avenger
Joe Johnston’s cookie cutter Captain America origin story is easily the most boring release in Marvel Studios’ history. I don’t know if it’s the 1940’s setting or that cheeseball battle montage that shows Cap and his Howling Commandos kicking Nazi ass like it was an episode of American Gladiators — I just know that I don’t like it. Hugo Weaving could have been the best villain yet for Marvel as Red Skull, but they even botched that opportunity and although this movie has its moments (a great ending), it just doesn’t stack up with the rest of the MCU.
#14. Iron Man 2
If I were a huge fan of the Demon in a Bottle comic storyline than I’d probably be even more disappointed how Jon Favreau decided to breeze over Tony Stark’s battle with alcohol addiction and turn it into a fleeting subplot that disappears into Mickey Rourke’s greasy hair and backsweat. Aside from that breathtaking race-track battle where we see the portable Iron Man suit for the first time, Iron Man 2 just wasn’t as strong a sequel as we hoped it would be.
#13. Iron Man 3
Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 was Marvel’s leap of faith, in that they really tried to cater to MOSTLY an adult audience. Iron Man 3 was dark and for a heavy chunk of runtime, we see Tony Stark fighting without his signature armour. Once again there’s no solid villain and I didn’t like the switcheroo with Mandarin, but Iron Man 3 was a good time overall and probably Robert Downey Jr.’s strongest performance as Tony Stark yet (aside from Captain America: Civil War).
After a disastrous directorial shuffle, which even saw Baby Driver film-making genius Edgar Wright bow out due to creative differences, Ant Man actually turned out to be a fun little heist movie. I think Paul Rudd is an amazing performer and I really did love what he did as the lead in a Marvel film that seemed doomed to fail before anyone even saw a trailer.
Chris Hemsworth’s hair may have looked fake as shit back then, but Thor was still a damn fine fantasy action flick. Director Kenneth Branagh took the source material seriously and as ridiculous as the concept of a rainbow bridge and space Vikings sounds — we actually wound up with a moving film about sibling rivalry. Tom Hiddleston was and will always be the only Marvel Cinematic Universe villain worth talking about. He’s so good it’s hard to even call him a badguy anymore – he’s become an anti-hero of sorts thanks to fan support.
#10. The Incredible Hulk
I’m still sad that Edward Norton only played Bruce Banner once. There’s nothing wrong with Mark Ruffalo, but I’m an Ed Norton fan and I think he did an incredible job in this film which took both inspiration from the classic TV series while still bringing the movie into the MCU. The final brawl between Hulk and Abomination was a blast to watch too – especially when we hear the big green monster yell “Hulk smash!” for the first time in a live action setting.
#9. Avengers 2: Age of Ultron
Joss Whedon left Marvel after working on the Avengers sequel and I don’t blame him. You can just feel that Avengers 2: Age of Ultron was so much damn work… I love pieces of this film SO MUCH, including James Spader’s Ultron and Paul Bettany’s Vision, but it’s kind of a disjointed mess of CGI and Michael Bay-esque action sequences. But as haphazard as the script may have been, Avengers 2 was still a helluva good time at the theater despite it’s many flaws. This is the film that benefits the most on this entire list when told to “just shut off your brain and have fun”.
#8. Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World was better than you remember it being. Visually gorgeous, grim as hell (MAIN CHARACTERS DIE?!?!!) and because it just embraces what made the first film so much fun but amps up the action even further – these elements all make the second Thor movie a hidden gem of sorts in the MCU. Tom Hiddleston is amazing in this too – I love the scene when he makes the allusion of his cell being perfectly unscathed upon getting disastrous news, but as he’s left alone we see what sadness and rage it has really caused him. Even the villains have emotions too you guys.
#7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
After leaving all that 1940’s bullshit in the dust, we get Captain America in the current day and it’s like we are watching James Bond, Jason Bourne, XXX, John Wick, Jason Statham and everyone else combined into one over-powered American super spy. When Cap kicks those dudes off the boat at the start of the film, for the first time you truly get the sense that Chris Evans can embody a true superhero. The Winter Solder villain was a wise choice and the way that the Russo Brothers managed to create a spy thriller using Marvel characters was genius as both genres blended seamlessly together.
#6. Captain America: Civil War
Although this film suffers from the same problems that Avengers 2: Age of Ultron did with global jump fatigue and an endless array of new characters, I’m still blown away by how clever the twist ending was. I didn’t predict it, I didn’t expect it and I still think that the final battle between Iron Man, Captain America and The Winter Soldier is the best climactic brawl of the MCU. I was team Iron Man too by the way – now and always. Cap and Bucky – I’m happy for you two and I’m sure you’ll start a wonderful family someday – but you’re still both super-powered sociopaths who think you’re above the law.
#5. Iron Man
The first and still considered the best by a large group of Marvel fans, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man changed the game forever. Superhero films had been considered fluff until Robert Downey Jr. stepped into the role of Tony Stark and delivered one of the best performances of his career. Funny, moving, state of the art special effects and a cast that managed to create something groundbreaking without a real script – the MCU was forged with Iron Man. None of us will ever forget the first ever use of an after-credits scene where Samuel L. Jackson walks into Tony Stark’s office and talks to him about The Avengers initiative. Comic fans will always hold a special place in their nerdy hearts when it comes to that moment.
#4. Doctor Strange
I was never a Doctor Strange comics fan and I’m not a huge Benedict Cumberbatch guy either. His casting felt a little too perfect and the story never really intrigued me. Until I saw the movie that is and was absolutely floored by the hypnotic visual effects and ninja wizard battles that defied gravity better than The Matrix or Inception ever could. Introducing magic into the MCU was always going to be a tough story element, but director Scott Derrickson pulled it off with one of my favourite films of 2016 and easily one of the strongest MCU offerings to date.
#3. Marvel’s The Avengers
I lost count of how many times I’ve watched the last half of Avengers. I will skip right to the part when the Avengers have finally assembled together on the streets of New York and Bruce Banner shows up on that little scooter before he transforms into the Hulk and death-punches that giant alien dragon. Joss Whedon directed one of the greatest superhero films of all time when he made The Avengers. May we never forget what Hulk did to Loki in that apartment building… Wow that sounded creepy – but honestly – you remember right? Brutal.
#2. Guardians of The Galaxy
James Gunn was one of my favourite filmmakers before joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His work on the Dawn of The Dead remake script was flawless and his direction on SUPER was masterful (that is one of the best hero films I’ve ever seen too. I still get chills watching Rainn Wilson’s speech to Kevin Bacon… Oscar worthy shit guys – seriously). Guardians of The Galaxy was Marvel’s boldest move since starting their own film studio… Take an entire team of characters that hardly anyone in the mainstream knew about beforehand and create an epic space adventure film that still ties in with movies like Iron Man and Captain America… Plus there’s a big tree alien that only says three words, but we’ll have Vin Diesel do that in the studio for some reason.
I never doubted Gunn – because he’s made some of the most entertaining and original films ever, so imagine how big the smile was on my face when I went to see a midnight advanced showing of Guardians of The Galaxy and the theater was sold out… Not to mention everyone stood and applauded both DURING and after the credits rolled.
#1. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2
Following up the best Marvel Studios film with something even more special is so rare and so difficult to do…. But once again, James Gunn and his incredible cast of performers delivered what is now my favourite MCU flick. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is even weirder than the first (hell, Kurt Russel plays an actual living planet), adds new characters to the mix like the lovable Mantis and kills off one of my favourite MCU characters ever… It’s OK to cry friends – my eyes welled up with tears too and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Baby Groot became the new mascot for superhero films as a genre and I almost died hearing the little thing cry near the climax of the movie… What really shook me though was how funny GOTG Vol. 2 was… There hasn’t been a funnier film in 2017. Whether it’s Dave Bautista stealing the damn movie again with his brutally honest comments towards Mantis, or when people call Rocket Raccoon a “trash panda” — Gunn’s script is firing on all comedic cylinders.
What makes me love GOTG Vol. 2 the most however – is how it turned Michael Rooker’s Yondu into someone that could be considered the heart of the MCU. Yes – Michael Rooker. The Michael Rooker who has spent a large portion of his career playing sadistic villains and badguys, suddenly transformed into a goddamn hero. Yondu stole the damn film during the final battle and I’ll never forget that moment when he proclaims himself to be “Mary Poppins”… GOTG Vol. 2 is a truly special film and one of those rare sequels that betters itself in every single aspect over the original.