I remember walking out of the first X-Men movie so happy to finally have a good super-hero film to enjoy and I vowed to watch every future super-hero film in theaters. Little did I know that eventually that would mean seeing almost a half-dozen films a year, a far cry from the dark days of fandom.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the pinnacle of super-hero movies, a connected shared world that was just like the classic comic books where heroes would often “cross-over” into each others stories. Gone were the days of DC films like Batman and Superman where they were the only costumed heroes in their world, this was new and fresh and amazing.
Despite a great track record at the box office, not every Marvel movie is a home run but more often than not they do at least put the ball into play (can you tell it’s almost baseball season?). With Captain Marvel racing towards the one billion box-office mark it’s time to update our MCU ultimate ranking of films so let’s get to it!
This low level is the bottom of the food chain, the movies that remind you that Marvel is indeed fallible.
Thor 2 – Thor 2 was a dishearteningly bad movie, can you even remember what happened in the film? That is coming from someone who used TheHammerGod as a user name on local BBS systems back in the 80’s, it was tough to watch.
Iron Man 2 – Iron Man 2 and 3 were meh movies, as follow-ups to one of the best super-hero origin story movies ever they felt forced and unfocused.
Incredible Hulk – This was a movie so uninspiring that when my 13 year-old son watched every MCU film in order he would up not even finishing it, the only time he didn’t watch through to the post-credit scene.
Iron Man 3
Joe Fixit Level
Do you remember the Hulk when he was a Las Vegas bouncer called Joe Fixit? No? You should check that run out sometime, it’s nuts. This level are all solid films that had something that I felt held each of them back from being awesome. These are the films that when you exited the theater with a group of friends you turn to each other and nod and say, “That was good” without a ton of enthusiasm.
Thor – The original Thor suffered from desert fatigue, the same issue that struck Green Lantern, Captain Marvel and more. Thor is a god who can travel the cosmos and we get a movie that keeps him almost exclusivly contained to a bland desert environment.
Ant-Man and Wasp – A decent enough follow-up that lacked a great villian, lots of great Humor though. Could have skipped the “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” race to the house ending though.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – A big letdown from the first film as the team is split-up and the villain revel was simply meh.
Ant-Man – I am still a little unsure about physics in this one and would really love to see Edgar Wrights original ideas for this one. Still better than an Ant-Man film has any right to be.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Yeah, talking about a villain that leaves a little to be desired, most everyone will agree that this entry is the weakest of the Avengers films with characters who do some very stupid things in order to advance the plot. The Vision and Scarlet Witch were cool though, killing Quicksilver cut his redemption story short. I think many fans don’t even remember that he was in this film.
Captain Marvel – The newest entry into the list and it could move up or down after some time to reflect but here it is, a middle of the packer. The basic set-up of the character is done, the cast is awesome and I expect the next film in the series to be great but this debut was a bit flat. Imagine the first Guardians of the Galaxy if they spent half the movie on Starlords backstory on earth, that is what I am saying! Get that girl into space!
Doctor Strange – If you did not see this one in IMAX then you made a huge mistake but it is too late to do anything about it now. You done goofed kid. The big thing that Marvel accomplished with this one was fitting the character into the established universe without making him so overpowered as to be not interesting.
Black Panther – Looks great, cast is amazing, villain is a classic but the storyline leaves a lot to be desired even before it dissolved into a standard slugfest at the end. Killmonger actually makes the Black Panther look weak most of the movie and is the better character. He makes great points about Wakanda’s lack of assistance through the years to the struggle of African-Americans, he handily beats Black Panther fair and square during the ritual combat to find a leader and dies an epic death. Bring on the Killmonger movie!
Captain America: The First Avenger – Featuring some of the best special effects I have see to make Chris Evens a scrawny wimp for the first part of the film, it is a great origin story that failed with the Red Skull as its evil protagonist.
Captain America: Winter Solder – This was a tough one as it is a great Bourne movie but just good as a super-hero film. Awesome elevator scene though and some really solid action scenes.
The Watcher Level
Here we go, the best of the best when it comes to the MCU. These films just nailed it and show just what these characters are capable of. Casting, story, villains and special effects, these are the movies just got it all right. These films represent everything that young comic fans would lay awake and dream about in the eighties, the Marvel Universe leaping off the printed page onto the screen.
Iron Man – This is the original MCU film, the one that started it all and it still holds up today. Remember when there were people upset that Robert Downey Jr was cast as Tony Stark? At the time he was damaged goods and was rehabbing from a series of drug addictions that for years seemed to have doomed his career. This film saved his career and he helped launch the biggest series of movies in history, not a bad trade-off.
Avengers – The ultimate super-hero team (sorry Justice League) finally makes it to the big screen and fans see how all the previous movies built up to this. This seemed like the culmination of the MCU, a one-time mega-event but this was just the beginning of even bigger and better crossovers.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – Spider-Man is the gold standard for super-heroes and this one gets the character right and stands right up there with Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 as the peak of the characters cinematic achievements. Making him a young student again brought back what we love about the character after two forgettable Amazing films.
Thor: Ragnarok – Finally the Thor movie I have been waiting decades to see and one that makes me forgive (and forget) the first two films in the series. Finally freed of his earthly shackles this movie finally sees Thor out in the universe meeting aliens and creatures and having a series of adventures that would make Walt Simonson proud. Don’t even get me started on the awesomeness of Valkyrie and the Grandmaster or we could be here all day.
Captain America: Civil War – Not so much a Captain America film as an alternate Avengers film, this one takes the story line from the comics and pits hero vs. hero as the worlds governments struggle to control the damage that superheroes have caused around the world. In a film that introduces both Spider-Man and Black Panther to the MCU there is still room for the other characters to breathe and remember that airport battle scene? Greatness.
Guardians of the Galaxy – I am still not sure how Marvel took this group of characters and made a hugely successful film with them but this was the moment when fans believed that Marvel could introduce any character or team and make them awesome. Maybe, even the Fantastic Four will someday will get the film they deserve. This shows that it is possible with great characters, a rocking soundtrack, top notch action scenes and a constant stream of humor that lands almost every time. Any film that features a cameo from Howard the Duck makes the cut with me.
Avengers: Infinity War – The big one, the first half of the biggest super-hero event in history and it lived up to the hype. Dare I say it even managed to exceed the hype? I dare, I dare! I remember walking out of the theater after the film ended and the looks on peoples faces were just shocked and in a daze. It is rare that a movie has that effect on people and rarer still a super-hero movie. This is what the past decade of films built up to and they managed to make a film that struck a cord with audiences around the world. Who is ready for Endgame?