Posted Wed Mar 6, 2019 at 05:42 AM PST by Bryan Kluger
With Captain Marvel battling her way into cinemas this week, it's time to return to the time-honored tradition of figure out where this new flick ranks among our personal favorites in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I've already talked about each character in the MCU, which you can see HERE.
Before we get into talking about the films, I'd like to say that I have enjoyed every single film in the MCU thus far, but when asked to rank them, this is how they'd be listed. There are a ton of great moments in each film, with brilliant lines of dialogue, engaging story arcs that provide great continuity, as well as some very funny moments throughout.
We originally published this list almost a year ago. Since then, a couple of MCU films have come out in theaters and on Blu-ray/4K UHD. Over the past several days, I re-watched every MCU film, in order, from Iron Man all the way up to Captain Marvel. I must say, revisiting some of these again, some hold up more for me, and some less.
Coming at this again without the MCU goggles on in ultra fan-guy mode, I've re-ranked a few of the films. It's nice to revisit movies ever-so-often because I do believe our taste changes and we see things we necessarily didn't see before. Without any further delay, here is our list of Marvel Cinematic Univesre movies ranked from bottom to top. I hope you all enjoy. Please do chime in with your rankings in the comments below!
(November 8, 2013 - Dir. Alan Taylor)
Several years ago, Hollywood was obsessed with adding a darker tone to every film. We had Star Trek Into Darkness and The Dark Knight Rises to mention a couple, but Marvel decided to get in on the action with Thor: The Dark World. This is by far the worst Marvel film because not even Tom Hiddleston as Loki or Chris Hemsworth as Thor could save this film. Sure, there are some fun moments with Loki as the comedic element, but a movie that replicates bad aspects of Lord of the Rings with dark elves, the fate of the universe left in a bored looking Thor, a lot of walking, and a possessed Natalie Portman made this MCU film too silly to be taken seriously with an all too dark tone. In fact, I'm willing to bet very few have seen this film since it was released on Blu-ray years ago. This was a paint-by-the-numbers movie that failed to entertain, despite the background of the nine realms and Infinity Stones.
(June 13, 2008 - Dir. Louis Leterrier)
Hulk is such a great character, but with this Incredible Hulk film along with Ang Lee's version of Hulk a few years earlier, it's difficult to see Hulk working as a solo spinoff film. The film itself here is often bland and downright upsetting. When we have Bruce Banner on-screen, he is such a depressing character that isn't fully fleshed out. It's only when he turns into the big green machine that the film starts to feel like an actual, entertaining Marvel movie. Mark Ruffalo finally made the character relatable, funny, and intense, where poor Edward Norton did better work in Death To Smoochy. Since this was so early on in the MCU franchise of films, I don't think Marvel knew exactly what kind of character they had in Banner/Hulk until Avengers, and we paid the price for it.
(May 6, 2011 - Dir. Kenneth Branagh)
The only God of the Avengers team had a rough start early on in the MCU. I'm a fan of Kenneth Branagh's work, but his story wasn't all that great in Thor. At least he had the ability to see just how amazing Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth were in casting them as Loki and Thor, because I firmly believe that these actors bring so much to the table in regards to the MCU, that this Marvel film franchise wouldn't be as good as it is without them. That being said, in Thor, Branagh showed the powers of Thor for the first couple of minutes, then sent him to Earth without any powers for the rest of the movie. Sure, it was fun to see Thor eat in a diner and try to buy a horse at a pet store, but that's as far as this movie goes. It wasn't until much later on where we get some great Thor moments and his more entertaining identity.
(March 8, 2019 - Dir. Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck)
Captain Marvel blasts onto the big screen in a very flawed way. The first 35-45 minutes are a complete mess that is loathsome to get through. With terrible editing, the same set of sequences and storylines we've seen 20 times before it, and an actress trying to navigate the internal struggles of one of the most powerful characters, but not succeeding until the final act, it was tough to get through. Fortunately though, in the final 30 or so minutes of the film, Captain Marvel and Brie Larson find their footing and the movie shows us a glimpse of what it could aspire to, even though poor musical choices and sub-par CGI make the film laughable (and not in a good way). Luckily, we get a subplot within Captain Marvel featuring Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury character, which is a delight to see in 1995. He's happy, smiling, and even singing soul music. It was a delight, for sure. Additionally, I do believe Larson can pull this off in future films, but this Captain Marvel origin story was real rough around the edges.
(May 7, 2010 - Dir. Jon Favreau)
Remember how excited we all were when Samuel L Jackson appeared in Tony Stark's house and said he's putting a team together? Then we got Iron Man 2 and that excitement fell off a cliff and died. Despite some very cool action sequences and that one scene where Tony Stark turned into Iron Man from his work briefcase, this movie just loses all control of story and character from the get-go. In fact, they took the best character in the film (Sam Rockwell) and made him a side-note. Instead, we got Mickey Rourke as a Russian with no real motive, a bad accent, and a poor performance, which was upsetting, because he was so good in The Wrestler prior to this. With a terrible villain and Iron Man finding the one thing that can save him in an old desk drawer, this sequel seemed rushed and bloated.
(July 5th, 2018 - Dir. Peyton Reed)
The sequel to Ant-Man, simply titled Ant-Man and the Wasp was released at a bad time, which was right after Avengers: Infinity War, although this sequel takes place prior to that movie, it just felt unnecessary, which is a good way to describe this film despite it's charm. Ant-Man and the Wasp is the easy-going Marvel movie with almost nothing at stake, which is good and bad. It doesn't really further anything in the MCU, however we get more time with Paul Rudd as Scott Land, which is just a slice of heaven. The technology used in the movie is great, but its main villain is the worst villain in any comic book movie, including the DCU. That being said, it's nice to have a breather from the rest of the Marvel films that put millions of lives at risk in addition to the entire galaxy. This movie is non-sense, but it's fun non-sense.
(July 17, 2015 - Dir. Peyton Reed)
While Ant-Man was good, it definitely shouldn't have been this good by any means, given its crazy production story. Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead) had worked on this film for Marvel for years, only to leave, because they didn't trust Wright's vision. Instead, they hired the Bring It On director Peyton Reed, which lead to a wonky execution that didn't seem to fit together in one movie. Not only that, this became not a superhero or Avengers film really, but more of a different genre of movie altogether, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The one saving grace of this film is Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, who might be the most relatable character in all of the Avengers. This movie lives solely on Rudd's performance because the story was lackluster and the villain was one of the worst in the entire MCU. Despite a good backstory with Rudd, the action sequences and furthering the MCU Universe still wasn't on par with any of the other films.
(November 4, 2016 - Dir. Scott Derrickson)
The cast is incredible, but it's largely wasted in this movie on drab interactions and a slow-moving pace. There are a few good aspects to the film though, being Strange's transformation from a terrible person into a good person, sacrificing himself literally to save the universe, and a great climactic battle scene in reverse. Other than that and, of course, Wong, the film isn't as good as it should've been. The whole Inception visuals and arc wasn't executed well and the fine line they walked with the magic and sorcery angle could have been handled better. At the end of the day, this is one Marvel film that didn't need a sequel to it, although Strange's small cameo in Thor: Ragnarok was excellent.
(July 7, 2017 - Dir. Jon Watts)
As a superhero, Tom Holland and this version of Spider-Man is the best we've seen yet. He's funny, great in action sequences, and has a lot of charm that the previous two incarnations didn't bring to the table. Also, Homecoming kept it light-hearted and friendly, like some versions of Spider-Man are in the comic series. There's a lot to like here, however, nothing ever felt suspenseful or with great conflict. It played out like a Gilmore Girls episode, but with some action sequences. That's fine and all, but there really isn't anything involving to do with the Avengers storyline as a whole here, other than introducing Spider-Man. In fact, there aren't any risky moves here at all. Uncle Ben isn't even mentioned, which is a shame.
(May 5, 2017 - Dir. James Gunn)
Don't get me wrong. I really love this film a lot. There's so much good here, however, it lacks plot and feels quite bloated. In addition, the cast is split up on different worlds for most of the film. What this movie lacks in plot, it makes up for in developing each character, which is just fantastic. There are some amazing moments, but the story/plot has no real place in the film other than to showcase character backgrounds and bring the message of family and loyalty once again, which is great. I just don't see why this film fits in the whole MCU other than to quickly show a few items that will come to fruition a bit later.
(May 3, 2013 - Dir. Shane Black)
While I love that Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) got the chance to make Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr., there are a couple of major flaws at work in this film. Before that, let me say that I dearly love this movie because we get to see Tony Stark be a superhero without any of the technology. In fact, he starts from ground zero all over again in a run-down garage, which was great to see how well his mind works when he's put to the test. On the other hand, there were about 115 villains in this movie that Iron Man had to fight, which just became over-populated and downright silly at times. This has happened many times before in superhero films, and it always brings down the movie. Despite some great sequences, here, Iron Man 3 wasn't at the top of its game.
(May 1, 2015 - Dir. Joss Whedon)
This was a great film, but it has a couple of problems with it. One of the bigger problems with the film was Ultron himself, but that wasn't the main point of the movie. I think the main point of the movie was to show the start of Civil War with the Avengers coming head-to-head early on. Ultron was a robot both literally and personality wise, who didn't have any real backstory or sympathy. He was a weak character for the most part, even though James Spader did a great job with his voice. Still, we get a ton of great moments, both quiet and action-packed with each character.
(July 22, 2011 - Dir. Joe Johnston)
Marvel's best origin story to date. The way Johnston told Steve Rogers' story and how he became Captain America was fantastic, despite some slower moments. The fact that we get to see Steve Rogers as this little runt with so much heart that is bigger than his body is brilliant, with the added Bucky Barnes friendship. Once the serum is added to Rogers, we see him keep his morals and values even though he's a superhero now and quite possibly the best definition of a hero if there ever was one. I love that most of the film is set during WWII, which gives the good Captain a ton of background.
(April 4, 2014 - Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo)
This film is just as good if not better than its previous installment. Here, we see Captain America truly shine in the best ways, while never failing to go down a wrong path and always keeping loyal to his friends and country. In The Winter Soldier, Rogers just wants the world to be at peace and to save his friend, Bucky Barnes. The action sequences are top notch, specifically the scene in the elevator, as is every character-developing scene with Rogers, which highlights his best qualities throughout.
(February 16, 2018 - Dir. Ryan Coogler)
As the years have passed, watching a Marvel movie can be something tedious, even though most of the films are fun and enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has done a great job with each and every film they’ve put out, but it was starting to seem like we’d seen almost everything, where every action scene is something recycled from the previous, whether it be superheroes jumping from car to car during car chases or aliens coming out of the sky and destroying the planet.
Luckily for all of us, Black Panther breathes new and creative life into a somewhat stale film series in the best ways possible. The character development is amazing and the villain is among the best in the MCU. In fact, everything about this film was amazing, with both smart dialogue and fantastic action sequences. (Even though it still has superheroes jumping from car to car.)
(May 2, 2008 - Dir. Jon Favreau)
The whole MCU depended on this first film -- how well it was received and how much money it made. Of course, it did amazingly well, both critically and financially, and we are now 18 movies into the MCU some ten years later. Favreau did a fantastic job with casting Robert Downey Jr. to play Tony Stark/Iron Man who just embodies the role and concept of the character and even the MCU. Even though the villain here was sub-par, we got everything we wanted in a superhero film made by a comic book company and it worked and continues to work. Iron Man not only shows some excellent action sequences, but also tells an emotional and important story with these characters that we can relate to still today.
(May 4, 2012 - Dir. Joss Whedon)
Our first look at the entire Avengers team was simply phenomenal. It was the biggest threat we had ever seen in the MCU, with beings from another world that seemed hell-bent on destroying Earth, and we had our team of superheroes come together to save the day. The perfect balance between character, drama, and action sequences was top notch on all levels. Seeing this team side by side for the first time was nothing short of spectacular and it continues to be that way some 10 years later.
(August 1, 2014 - Dir. James Gunn)
Nobody thought that the Guardians would be a part of the MCU, given that the comic book series was nowhere near as popular or mainstream as the main Avengers storylines. Little did we all know that they would be instantly loved by everyone in movie form due to the different take on the MCU with these oddball characters. Guardians of the Galaxy was so different in style, tone, and character than what we've seen before, it gave the MCU a much-needed breath of invigorating life that was charming, action-packed, and completely funny. Not only that, but it touched on an excellent message -- sticking by your family.
(November 3, 2017 - Dir. Taika Waititi)
Finally, someone made a super fun and entertaining Thor film that showcased the genuine sibling rivalry between Loki and Thor as well as Thor and Hulk's funnier sides. Not only that, the visual style is pitch perfect, which I hope future MCU films adopt. There's a lot to love here, but most of it just feels silly for the only point of being silly and different. Add in one of the worst villains with Thor and Loki's long-lost sister and you have yourself a terrible conflict at hand due to her nature and one-note performance. Things seemed good early on in the film, but by the end, the story and characters had to play catch up in a matter of seconds to end the film. Despite it being a ton of fun to watch, there are real problems at bay with Ragnarok.
(May 6, 2016 - Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo)
The Civil War storyline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the better storylines in recent memory in all of Marvel. It pitted your favorite superheroes against each other and caused some real havoc, before taking on a much bigger enemy. It introduced Black Panther and Spider-Man to the MCU as well, but the storytelling -- how the government wanted to interfere with the Avengers and why or why not these superheroes wanted to remain anonymous -- brought us one of the best and most fun battles between all of the superheroes at an airport. It's simply amazing on both a grand and small scale. If you're looking at big, blockbuster movies, Captain America: Civil War is how you do it right.
(April 27, 2018 - Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo)
It was all leading up to this since 2008. Ten years later, we have all of our heroes we've met in the MCU thus far fight the big bad Thanos. This is easily one of the best Marvel films to date because just about everything is perfect about it. We get a ton of time spent with each of our favorite characters and there is a solid story arc that never allows itself to follow any side tangents. You just don't want the movie to end. The film is equally emotional as it is funny with some excellent team-ups and witty dialogue. The action sequences are top notch with a ton of surprises in what might be the darkest Marvel movie of them all, but also the best so far.
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