Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Given the relative success of our X-Men Film List the other day, I thought it only natural to put words to the Marvel Cinematic Universe list I already put together on Letterboxd a while back. So without further ado, from worst to first, I give you my MCU rankings. Do you worst, Internet.
14. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Edward Norton doesn't get a bad rap as Bruce Banner so much as he doesn't get a rap at all. Most at least remember Eric Bana and Ang Lee's failed attempt to get the Green Guy off the ground, but Norton's likable spin as the purple-shorted hero goes unremembered. That's too bad, even if it is a little on the forgettable side. Sorry, Eddy.
13. Ant-Man (2015)
Listen, there's nothing wrong with Paul Rudd when he's part of a great cast, like in "Civil War." But as a leading actor, Rudd just... doesn't work. This film more than any other in the MCU illustrates how bad Marvel's villain problem is: do you even remember the guy's name? Or anything about him other than he's bald? I don't.
12. Thor (2011)
Marvel's first foray into the "so hey, can we make this weird shit work" category was the Norse God of Thunder and it mostly worked! It would work better if the studio had gone with a better director. Chris Hemsworth is phenomenal, as is Tom Hiddleston, who remains the only good villain in the franchise thus far, but the directing is a goddamn mess. The sequel is better! A little.
11. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Perhaps under the weight of expectations, the follow-up to the hugely successful film that started it all didn't quite cut the mustard. A pair of unconvincing villains and a story that only occasionally worked was saved by Tony Stark's compelling battle with his inner demons. Turns out Robert Downey Jr. is a pretty good actor; plus we got Black Widow out of the deal, so it's not all bad.
10. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
This is a pretty weird movie, even by Thor standards. It mostly works as soon as Thor and Loki get off of Earth where the duo build upon the great chemistry established in the first film and in "The Avengers." Stylistically things stay a little bit funky, but that's to be expected; this is a movie without a high ceiling, but it improves on its predecessor.
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Nope, it isn't as good as "The Avengers," but it's a solid entry in the series. Ultron is a compelling villain, at least by Marvel standards, and Tony Stark and Captain America's clash helps set up "Civil War." A lot of great stuff happens in this film that gets ignored because of the mountainous expectations this franchise built for itself. Don't let those get in the way of appreciating this solid sequel.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Hang on, didn't Chris Evans already get his chance as a superhero? It didn't go that well, right? Well this second chance wasn't just well-deserved, it paid off. Evans is a perfect fit as Steve Rogers, so much so I can't anticipate him ever being recast in the same way Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. This film ran the risk of feeling dated and managed to avoid it; fitting its time period and the overall ethos of the time period.
7. Dr. Strange (2016)
Does this crib a little bit from "Iron Man?" Yes. Does it still work because of a great lead and a wonderful sense of art and cinematography? Also yes. Picture this as a combination of "Thor," "Iron Man" and "Batman" — it works as its own thing while also fitting into the MCU. It's a great film, even with some ... not so great choices (hi, Tilda Swinton!)
6. The Avengers (2012)
Joss Whedon pulled off the near impossible in part because Marvel bid its time before putting Earth's Mightiest Heroes on the screen together. "The Avengers" works so well because it gives each of its characters a piece of screen time and a common goal. It also doesn't take itself too seriously, something the competition could learn a thing or two about.
5. Iron Man (2008)
Back nine years ago when only X-Men and Spider-Man films had found any recent success (and even then, only two each), Marvel took a chance by putting the cantankerous Downey Jr. into the red and gold armor of a superhero nobody had ever heard of before. It paid off. The smack-talking playboy went on to spawn an empire because the film is so much fun. That's something Marvel hasn't lost in any film since.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
This is the arm of the MCU where things get the most serious. Discussions of right and wrong and trust of the government come to a head as Captain America is forced to make difficult decisions in a time period decidedly not his own. It's a compelling drama in addition to being a great superhero movie. The stakes feel higher here than they do in any Marvel film before, and Cap's emotional turmoil is palpable thanks to Evans' fine performance.
3. Iron Man 3 (2013)
I know what you're thinking: BUT HE'S HARDLY IN THE SUIT. I know, that's the point. What makes Iron Man a cool superhero is that while he has some decent villains his greatest enemy is himself. That becomes more true than ever in the third installment of the franchise where Stark battles his inner demons yet again while also taking on the Mandarin. The series gets back on track as Stark tries to reconcile his relationships with his life as Iron Man and I feel bad for people who don't recognize what a fine movie this is.
2. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Let's call this what it is: The Avengers 3. Are we cool with that? Between introducing incredible characters like Black Panther, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch and the absolutely phenomenal story, it's no wonder this film finds itself so high on so many fans lists. It's a nearly perfect superhero film that manages to balance a ginormous cast all while, you know, not really having a villain. Yeah, that.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2016)
I dare you to find a more enjoyable superhero film than "Guardians of the Galaxy." You can't do it. It packs all the fun, emotion and heart you could want into a tidy package without becoming bloated. Sure the villain sucks, but that's true for all but two films on this list; and I'm hard pressed to find another movie on this list where I so quickly fell in love with every character. That's a rare feat. I've watched this movie more than any other MCU film and it's not close; rewatchability isn't the only factor, but it doesn't hurt. I can't wait for Volume II.