The Marvel Cinematic Universe began in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. Today, it is one of the world’s most famous multimedia shared universes and has sixteen films under its belt, and at least eight being released in the future, with Thor: Ragnarok being the next instalment.
Here is a personal ranking of all 16 Marvel films so far:
16. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Sequel Syndrome is going to be a term that is repeated throughout this list. Jon Favreau’s second instalment to the Iron Man trilogy proved to suffer. The film does give us gifts, with Robert Downey Jr.’s unremitting charm and wit being the substantial, as well as the introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (and the incredible Hammer building fight sequence that came with it). All in all, Iron Man 2 was little more than a lackluster and often boring romp.
15. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Again, Sequel Syndrome appears. Alan Taylor’s follow-up to Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 Thor failed in delivering a fantastic feat for fans of the God of Thunder. The film utilises the brilliant visuals and flare that worked well for the first Thor film, however replicating exactly what previous entries of a franchise have done only works so far. Thor’s corner of the MCU has had many noses turned up at it and we can only hope that Taika Waititi’s third instalment can change our minds.
14. Doctor Strange (2016)
Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange managed to impress most, and it certainly did have stunning visuals and… well, not much else. The structure is pretty formulaic and the fantasy genre of superhero is something we are well used to with Thor. It’s also hard to root for an arrogant, pompous protagonist unless they are portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. Doctor Strange appeared, and then slipped out of memory. Unfortunately, we’ll have to remember again in preparation for his appearance in Infinity War.
13. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Iron Man‘s trilogy finale came in 2013, with a new director in Shane Black. The film, which featured bountiful wit courtesy of Robert Downey Jr. and a few impressive action sequences, stuttered to a hideous stop after the script ran out of smarts just over half way through. There’s not much to say about this film other than the unforgivable mess that can only be referred to as Mandaringate.
12. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
It’s always easy to forget that this film even exists within the MCU, what with the recasting of Mark Ruffalo. The Incredible Hulk is sharp and impressive until a disappointing final act, nothing more than a standard blockbuster. It did enough to set up the character of Bruce Banner for the rest of the franchise, but not enough to be a fantastic example of how exceptional action movies can be like many other Marvel films.
11. Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
Another example of Sequel Syndrome! The loveable characters from 2014’s Guardians Of The Galaxy return and are still as infectious and wonderful as before. However, other than force of character, this film fails to amaze. Pop culture references, colourful visuals and oddball antics within fight sequences worked well for the first Guardians film, yet they fall flat in this one. Guardians 2 relies too much on the formula of its predecessor to impress and if it weren’t for the unbearable pathos for Baby Groot, it would be further down on this list.
10. Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)
The final case of Sequel Syndrome appears. Joss Whedon’s follow-up to 2012’s The Avengers was heavily anticipated and many fans look back on this 2015 feature with anger. The film has many (many) faults, with the nonsensical introduction of a relationship between Black Widow and the Hulk, the reappearance of Whedon’s mischaracterization of Captain America and the over-focus on future film set-ups standing at the forefront. However, Avengers 2 is still an emotional ride for any die-hard Marvel fan, and the scene in which Cap almost picks up Mjolnir remains one of the best scenes in the MCU.
9. Thor (2011)
Kenneth Branagh’s introduction of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is an incredibly beautiful and a lot of fun. The tonal shifts as Thor moves from Asgard to Earth are perfectly entertaining and the storyline, while obviously formulaic, is as compelling as it needs to be. Thor struggles to break out of the summer blockbuster container, but it holds it own and fits easily into the MCU.
8. Ant-Man (2015)
Many were surprised that Ant-Man, a character that raised many eyebrows when it was announced to be appearing in the MCU, was an excellent addition to the Avengers franchise. The film’s humour and creativity, driven home by director Peyton Reed and leading man Paul Rudd, is effervescent. While the script is nothing unique, Ant-Man stands out from all other Marvel films through the dynamic that its titular character brings.
7. Iron Man (2008)
The one that started it all, Iron Man is a thrilling, well-scripted, fun and effective piece of work. More than just an exhilarating action film, it brings questions of morality and politics to the forefront and includes a superhero figure that audiences aren’t used to. Iron Man is everything it needs to be as a franchise starter, but isn’t too fantastic that its follow-ups never live up.
6. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of The Galaxy is a fantastically fun and colourful ode to the 80s as well as brilliant addition to a world of exceptional superhero films. It brought a group of mismatched, underdog characters to the big screen and made the world love them. While it often feels impossible for this film to exist in the same universe as characters like Captain America, the thought of the Guardians meeting the Avengers in Infinity War brings feelings of endless glee.
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The Captain America trilogy is easily the best sub-series of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first instalment came in 2011 and provided an origin story within the framework of a World War II film. We were introduced to the wonderfully compelling and complex character of Steve Rogers in the best way possible, with sleek action sequences, stunning cinematography and a sincere script.
4. The Avengers (2012)
The culmination of all of the core Marvel character’s origin stories came in 2012 with Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, and it remains to be one of the best superhero films of all time. With wonderful humour, stunning visuals and heart-racing fight sequences, The Avengers was all that Marvel fans hoped for and more. You can guarantee that this film will be ardently talked about in the future, the way that films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark are today.
3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Many view the third instalment to the Captain America trilogy as just another Avengers film. That aside, Civil War was everything that fans hoped for as a finale to the beloved trilogy. We delved more into the complex relationship between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, we were given some amazingly performed and gritty scenes of conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark and we watched in awe of the pure brilliance of the airport sequence. Not only that, but we were introduced to the Black Panther as well as MCU’s Spider-Man in the best way possible. The Russo brothers proved with this film that they were the perfect hands to leave the next Avengers films in.
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
This blog has already reviewed this year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, so to put it short: this movie is wonderful. From Tom Holland’s perfect portrayal of Peter Parker to an awesome villain from superhero-movie veteran Michael Keaton, from flawless humour to honest characterisation and authenticity. This film has it all and was head-spinningly wonderful for anyone who loves Spidey.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Joe and Anthony Russo’s 2014 sequel to The First Avenger is not just a superhero movie. Under the surface, it is a gritty political thriller. This film serves as an example to other franchises on how to make superheroes compelling, complex and cinematic – instead of just popcorn trash. Elevated by Chris Evans’ impeccable performance and sleek action sequences to die for, The Winter Soldier is a callback to Cold War-era conspiracy thrillers and is easily the most grounded, interesting an endlessly thrilling of the Marvel movies. There aren’t enough words to describe the admiration for this film.