The summer season has kicked off and we all know what that means…Walter White levels of cash being dumped at Marvel Studios doorstep! Marvel has been killing it at the box office since Iron Man came out in 2008. Yeah, 2008! What a time! I was just a little ol’ high schooler that got ditched by my date literally 5 minutes before Iron Man started. Jokes on her…that movie was awesome! And I didn’t have to worry about explaining any comic book lore during the movie. Ever since 2008 we’ve been getting great Marvel blockbusters that we’d be fine ditching our significant others to see so lets take a look at how the MCU films stack up to each other by ranking them from “worst” to best!
15. Iron Man 2
This wasn’t your best outing Marvel, but if this is the worst thing you’ve done since 2008 I’d say you’re doing pretty well. This movie was definitely enjoyable but it was just kinda meh. The villain wasn’t very strong and scenes like Tony’s birthday party really dragged the film down. However, there were some great action scenes and it took the next step to start building the MCU. Nick Fury and Black Widow were introduced (the post-credits scene in Iron Man doesn’t count) which began, dare I say, assembling the Avengers. Other than that, there really isn’t much to say about this film.
14. Captain America: The First Avenger
This film enjoyable but it did not resonate with me at all. I’ve always seen Captain America as a simple minded, outdated hero. I thought he was a product of a forgotten time. This film didn’t convince me otherwise. He was a clear hero fighting against a clear evil. The film didn’t address any gray areas, which are more compelling than black-and-white conflicts. However, the clear conflict between Red Skull and Capt America was really well done for what it was. I liked how he was an ideal soldier, always willing to sacrifice for his men. He embodied the heroic nature of our soldiers during World War II which was great to see. No amount of thanks will ever be enough for what that generation did for the world.
13. Thor: The Dark World
This was another good entry into the MCU but it still didn’t stand out as a great film. There was a lot of humor in the film, which I think was to its detriment. The humor overshadowed the story and drastically undercut the emotional elements of the film. The action scenes were very well executed, especially that inter-dimensional action scene at the end. How awesome was that! Overall it was a good film, but not very memorable.
12. Iron Man 3
Shane Black reuniting with Robert Downey Jr. to direct an Iron Man movie?! Umm…Yes Please! I love Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It has his unique, quick wit style and I couldn’t wait to see that injected into an Iron Man film. Surprisingly, that quick wit didn’t mesh well with the MCU tone. It seemed like it didn’t belong in the franchise. For example, the Mandarin punch line is classic Shane Black, but that ruined it as an MCU superhero movie. Even though Iron Man 3 is a good film, it didn’t work in the context of the MCU.
This might be my wife’s favorite MCU film because it propelled Chris Hemsworth’s biceps into pop culture. What can you say? Chris Hemsworth is the perfect Thor. He effectively delivered comedic moments about an alien being thrust into a different world’s culture, literally. These comedic moments are almost the hardest to pull off without slipping over into the realm (pun intended) of slapstick comedy. His character had a good arc and overall the film was very interesting. The action is probably the weakest of all the MCU but the story is what carried the film.
10. The Incredible Hulk
What happens when Ang Lee steps up to the tee and slices it onto a green two holes away? You bring in Edward Norton and set up for a mulligan. Granted the mulligan didn’t land directly on the green, but it set up an easy chip shot. Edward Norton did a great job portraying Bruce Banner as a guy battling his demons and trying to do the right thing. The action scenes were also executed at top notch. But c’mon Marvel, bring back the Abomination for a future MCU film! Just let him know that Bruce Banner suffered in a horrible contractual accident that left him looking like Mark Ruffalo.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
James Gunn can almost do no wrong with his quirky space opera. Volume 2 went full out and its official, the 80s are back! The only way that Vol. 3 can be more 80s is if Black Sabbath and AC/DC unite to form their own guardians team…but I feel like Tony Stark would feel left out. The humor was ramped up to 11 for this one which may have bogged the film down a little bit. There were a lot of laughs to be had in this outing, and even more colors. Plus…Baby Groot! ‘Nough said.
8. Dr. Strange
Well, the title says it all. This film fully embraced the strange mythos behind the magical world in the MCU. I mean, this has to be the go to movie for an LSD party. The trippy visuals made this film a must-see at the cinema. Not to mention, it brought a lot of humor (sometimes too much) to really make this a fun movie-going experience. Not only was it fun, but it also managed to pack some emotional scenes into the mix, like Strange’s final conversation with the Ancient One. There seemed to be a lot of philosophy behind the film and I can’t wait to see that explored more in a sequel.
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Yes, the film that broke Joss Whedon for a few years. For what the studio was asking him to do, Age of Ultron turned out as good as it possibly could have. This film felt more like a set up for phase 3 of the MCU rather than the climax of phase 2. But somehow, it still turned out pretty well. The action scenes were great and the villain was one of the best in the series. I’d say that they missed an opportunity when they killed off Utlron, but who are we kidding?! This is a comic book movie universe. Ultron could come back with a vengence. Lets hope that he does.
6. Ant Man
In the MCU’s yearbook, this film would be voted most likely to get laughed out of the storyboard room. And that’s saying a lot considering they have a series about a talking raccoon and a sentient tree. This film played up the humor but never overshadowed the story or entered into the slapstick arena. Paul Rudd’s comedic timing was spot on, as per usual. His character was incredibly likable and without his performance the film would have fallen flat. Somehow, Marvel found a way to make a guy who can speak to ants cool. Well done Sir. Well done.
6. Spiderman: Homecoming
Gone are the days when the most impressive thing about Spiderman was that he still managed to be in high school as a 30 year-old grown man. Yep! We finally got a version of Spiderman that feels like an actual high schooler. This brought an awesome breath of fresh air to the MCU because this film got explore something that no other MCU film has…a hero with genuine innocence. The comedy set up by comparing great moments of heroic valor to an innocent high school worldview was absolute gold! My favorite aspect of Homecoming was how they chose a villain that directly contrasted with Parker’s innocence. Michael Keaton’s Vulture was a redeemable villain that operated in shades of gray. I mean I love my mustache-twirling villains but thank god they didn’t go that route here!
5. Iron Man
Yes, the film that started the whole MCU craze. I remember hearing that there was going to be an Iron Man movie and thinking there is no way that film is going to be good. Nope! I was wrong. I was blown away by the MCU’s first outing. There’s no other way to say it…Iron Man is cool. Who wouldn’t want to have the Iron Man armor, be super rich, and have that much charisma. There couldn’t have been a better way to kick off what is now the biggest blockbuster franchise in history.
Avengers at number four? Really? Yes the film that somehow managed bring six superheroes to the big screen without coming across as cheesy or over-the-top is at number four. I have absolutely no complaints about this film. I remember walking out of the theater with a new found appreciation for the Hulk. Wow did he steal the show! The film was so much fun while never losing the seriousness that it needed. Joss Whedon truly delivered the superhero team-up that nobody thought was possible.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
How did a film with a talking raccoon and sentient tree make $773 million at the global box office? Even the marketing for the film literally said “This might not be the best idea.” Guardians of the Galaxy did it by delivering a fun space opera that had not been seen in decades. The chemistry between the team was stellar and the jokes all landed. The darker humor played perfectly with a team of lovable misfits that lets be honest, you wouldn’t hang out with because they’d steal your stuff. Despite the James Gunn managed to deliver one of the MCU’s biggest home runs.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Remember how I said that I thought Captain America was a boring superhero because he wasn’t a compelling character? Yeah, the Russo brothers turned that upside down in true Fresh Prince fashion. The Winter Soldier took a boyscout superhero and dropped him into a world with gray areas. For the first time, Captain America saw a world where right and wrong weren’t as clear as they were in World War II. It would have been easy to lose Cap’s strong moral beliefs in the murky waters but the Russo brothers brilliantly maintained his ethics throughout the film. They drove him to stand up for what was right. The personal stakes also upped the ante with the reveal that his best friend from home was the Winter Soldier. The film delivered some great action while still having something to say about freedom in society.
1. Captain America: Civil War
This is, in my opinion, the greatest MCU film to date because it is a character driven story with great action and even higher stakes. The humor existed but in no way took a front seat to the seriousness of a civil war between the Avengers. The friction between the team didn’t seem forced, but rather it flowed naturally within the story. Not to mention, the film never seemed to take a side as to which side was right. Both sides of the coin were logical and realistically were correct. Capt America’s stakes were raised even further with the dilemma of choosing between his friends Tony Stark and Bucky Barnes. The conflict in Civil War was the most compelling in the MCU and had the most stakes on a personal level. That is why this is the best film in the series.