Ranking the MCU
With Avengers Infinity War upon us, I’m gonna share my MCU film rankings from worst to best. Some will disagree with my placements, but we can talk about in the comments! Now a little bit of a primer, some of these change every so often (with the exception of 1,2, and 18), and while I recognize some on the list are better-made films this is mostly based on enjoyment – including flaws and all. With all that in mind, let’s do this:
#18 – Iron Man 3:
I’ve talked about how much I hate this movie several times, there’s not much to add. Downey Jr acts his butt off, but there’s nothing for me here – only frustration. Easily the worst of the MCU.
#17 – Iron Man 2:
After the unexpected success of Iron Man and (the still successful but not as big) The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 was rushed into production – and that rush shows. The movie goes all over the place, with some bad villain performance choices (I vant my biord), rushed plot (I’m dying, hey I’m alive and created a new element – let’s never speak of this again), and a whole lot of world building – all of that kind of makes it hard to tell a good story. But it’s not all bad, Black Widow gets a solid introduction, we get War Machine (and a much better Rodey with Don Cheadle), Sam Rockwell being just awesome, and the suitcase armor – something I remembered from the 90s Iron Man cartoon, and really loved seeing on the big screen.
#16 – Thor:
This movie is OK. It’s not bad, but aside from an amazing scene with Tom Hiddleston, it’s not great either. What puts it lower on the list is how quick Thor’s growth is, the forcing in of world building (a common Marvel movie problem) and that Asgard isn’t shown all that much (it’s mostly close shots, this place is supposed to be amazing, show me that). It’s still enjoyable, but my least favourite of Thor’s solo outings.
#15 – Captain America The First Avenger:
Caps first flick is a solid, fun movie – but doesn’t have the depth of it’s later sequels. It’s strength is that the world building is contained to the beginning and the end of the movie. Chris Evans is great as Cap, we meet Bucky, Agent Carter is fun, and Tommy Lee Jones cracks me up as always. But we also get a lot of montages (I’d love a flash-back non-montage WW2 Cap movie/sequence to be honest), and a great but underused Red Skull (why do you under-use Hugo Weaving Marvel?). A fun romp, but not close to Cap’s best.
#14 – Thor The Dark World:
Is it the second weakest of phase 2? Absolutely. Is it flawed? Yep. but there is still some good stuff here. We get wide shots and actually see Asgard! We get more development of Thor, the 3, and his supporting cast, we get crazy Selvig (not everyone’s favourite, but still cracks me up), some good action set pieces, and some great bro-ments (“I wish I could trust you”) between Thor and Loki (which, let’s be honest, is a big reason of why we’re here). But we also get a generic villain plot, some unneeded humour, and (yet) another under-developed and underutilized villain (why do you under-use Christopher Eccleston Marvel?).
#13 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2:
A stronger villian helps this flick, but I don’t find Guardians 2 all that great. It’s got some solid development for some characters (but on the flip side, some forced ‘you’re me’ development for others) and enjoyable performances – but the humor was a bit cruder (something that happens with a lot of comedy sequels), and Drax was amped up a bit too much in this. In the first his humor and mannerisms were great, but here it’s ‘everything hilarious’ and yelling about nipples and sex. It’s still a fun movie, but (minus the villain part) a step down from the first movie.
#12 – The Incredible Hulk:
The black sheep/cousin under the stairs of the MCU, I still really enjoy this movie, and love that parts of it are becoming more incorporated to the MCU (like Thunderbolt Ross). It’s far from perfect, a lot of stuff has been left hanging, but it’s a fun flick with some great action pieces – which is the main reason I’m here, green rage monster choas. And that end battle tho. Hulk using two halves of a car? Brutally ripping out Abominations elbow and stabbing him? HULK SMASH?! I’m in and digging it.
#11 – Black Panther:
The most recent addition to the MCU, and this is the one I expect people to take the most issue with. There are so many good parts in this movie (great actors, solid character development, enjoyable characters, solid villains), but for me it didn’t all come together. The film is two in one, and in that first hour (the first movie) I was able to figure out how the second movie was going to go – and I wasn’t able to get past that. I also really didn’t like how they killed Klaue – that was a waste of a character who could easily be weaved in and out of the MCU movies and shows. What the film does in the real world is wonderful, but focusing just on the film – I find it alright, but not great. If you’d like to hear more, you can check out the episode of One Cross Radio Steve and I did about it.
#10 – Spiderman Homecoming:
Marvels most famous character gets his first solo film in the franchise after returning in Civil War, and it mostly worked. It’s not the Spider-man I wanted, but it’s enjoyable. Tom Holland does a great job as the young wallcrawler. The main gripe I had is with some of the character alterations – namely with Aunt May and MJ: neither are really an update, but more of a complete departure from what we’ve ever read (or seen) before, and I’d rather have something close to the character I know (OR, just make this a new character, I don’t want ‘in name only’). With that said, I dug both Marissa Tomei’s and Zendenya’s performances, and I’m interested in where these new takes will go. But the main reason I enjoy this movie as much: Michael friggen Keaton. His version of the Vulture is a looser but enjoyable adaptation, gets a good amount of screen time, and I loved his performace. That drop-off-at-prom car scene is terrific, and one of the MCU’s most tense. Michael Keaton plays intense/slightly unhinged characters so well, and you could legit by him going to kill someone. It makes a good movie even more enjoyable.
#9 – Ant-Man:
Let’s be straight up, Ant-man is flawed and it’ suffers from an under-developed villain (like a lot of MCU films). However, what wins this movie over for me is Paul Rudd’s hilarious performance, the fight between Ant-man and Falcon. the excellent and funny ‘boss battles’, and a terrific cast (particularly Scott’s ‘team’, who (while one-note) are excellent and add so much humor. I also really enjoyed how (for the most part) isolated it was from the rest of the MCU – it got to focus on its own story. We got a fun, smaller superhero heist movie – I’m in.
#8 – Doctor Strange:
While it might be ‘magic Iron Man’, it’s insanely enjoyable. The main cast all give solid-great performances, especially Benedict Cumberbatch as ‘Dr. Stephen Strange’, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s ‘Baron Mordo’, Tilda Swinton’s (albeit different adaptation) ‘Ancient One’, and Mads Mikkelsen’s ‘Kaecilius’ (but – even when with not enough screen time, when isn’t Mads great?). The film does suffer a bit from the MCU’s underdeveloped villain/vanilla villain ‘take over the world’ plot, but what makes this movie so enjoyable is (it’s cast/performances, and) it’s embracing of the magic element – we get a lot of ‘busy’ but stunning visuals. The mirror dimension scene where Strange and Mordo are fleeing Kaecilius and the zealots were like Inception’s ‘dream world’ scenes and amped it up to 35. The scene where the Ancient One first gets Strange in his astral form and into other dimensions is downright trippy (and much like old Doctor Strange comics). The final fight with Kaecilius scene, in particular, is a highlight, where they fight as time is reversing around them – we see all this chaos being undone, and they have to battle it as well (loved the visual of a body being re-injected into the car’s window). The other thing that makes this movie so enjoyable for me is how Strange beats Dormammu (“I’ve come to bargain”). He didn’t win with a kick, flick of a switch from a sidekick, blowing him up or any of the other usual ways. He outsmarted him. He played him. I thought that was great, and very in line with his character. For me, this was a very pleasant surprise.
#7 – Thor Ragnarok:
Thor’s best solo adventure by far is also the MCU’s first comedy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a superhero action movie with some fantastic action set pieces, but it’s a comedy movie first – and a very enjoyable one at that. Chris Hemsworth has always been enjoyable as Thor, but he really shined here. The movie was genuinely funny, and that’s part of it’s charm. As much as I wanted a dark ‘Ragnarok’ movie, I’m not sure it would have worked – more serious Thor movies were mediocre (though enjoyable), and not clicking with audiences. This was different though and was a much bigger home run for Marvel then expected. Kate Blanchett’s ‘Hella’ was a joy to watch, you could see how much fun she was having. My favourite parts were Jeff Goldblum’s ‘Grandmaster’, the previously mentioned Hela, the Loki and Thor bro-ments (always solid), and the treatment/development of the Hulk – loved seeing him like an angry 5-year-old. It’s not perfect (looking at you killed Warriors 3 and missing Sif), but for me it’s the most enjoyable of the 3 Thors. Plus, that awesome bridge scene with Led Zeppelin though.
#6 – Iron Man:
The first entry into the MCU, Iron Man had a lot going for it and little working against it. Downey Jr gave a great performance (and changed how people view and write Tony Stark), the great effects, a solid story, and the post-credits scene that blew everyone’s mind. Iron Man is the staple origin film for the MCU, it’s what they keep going back to – we see this with Antman and Doctor Strange. The low point was again the villain, but outside of Loki – what phase 1 villain wasn’t (and to give credit, he was much better than the bad guys of Iron Man 2 & 3).
#5 – Guardians of the Galaxy:
Where Marvel excels is team up movies, and Space Avengers is a great one. Its humor felt natural (and not forced), it looked different from other Marvel movies, the cast was great with a lot of chemistry shown between them, the action was solid. The two best parts though? First, it’s story. This movie benefited greatly from being as separated from the other films in the MCU as it was. It got to set up things (then yet) to come in the franchise without its own story suffering (a struggle for other Marvel movies) – it got to be pretty isolated from the world building. And second, it’s music. The music here was ingrained in the story; the songs fit within the tone of the film and added to it. Was the weak spot the villain? Yuuuuup (notice a pattern?). But the rest? Pretty stellar.
#4 – The Avengers:
The Avengers is one of the best comic book movies – heck, it ranks in my top 10. It’s a fantastic concluding chapter to phase one, has wonderful action, and (questionable cinematography choices aside) is a great film. Where it suffers for me though is its rewatchability. I like watching the Avengers be a team, and that’s contained to the finale of the film. I don’t have the interest in rewatching them become a team unless the mood strikes (which is rare), I just love watching them interact, save the world, and be a team together. Which leads me to…
#3 – Avengers Age of Ultron:
Now I’m not saying Age of Ultron is a better film than The Avengers, because it’s not. It suffers from world building and Ultron isn’t developed enough. But it has a lot of wonderful team moments, Hawkeye being redeemed, great action, and an out of left field romance plot that I actually really dig (WHERE DID IT COME FROM??). Though far from perfect, I’m here for the team as a team, and this film has that.
#2 – Captain America Civil War:
The best Avengers movie by far. I had very high hopes for Civil War, and it mostly met them. It brought Black Panther and Spiderman so smoothly, integrated The Incredible Hulk more into the MCU (which outside of Hulk himself, has barely been referenced), had an engaging (yet flawed) story, had that wonderful Bucky/Cap vs Iron Man handicap match at the end, and featured my favourite RDJ Tony Stark performance yet (dude had a lot of range and stuff happening in this movie). My only complaint is that it was more an Avengers movie than a Captain America movie – and I just wanted more Cap and more of the tone we got from Winter Soldier. But that’s it, I still loved what we got. It’s best part is unquestionably the airport battle – which for me is the MCU’s new high mark for fight scenes. Every character got their moment to shine (heck, Antman almost stole the show for me because of how funny he was), the kept fights fresh by switching partners, and nobody was disserviced by it – all the characters looked great. Excellent scene, and hands down one of the MCU’s top films.
#1 – Captain America The Winter Soldier:
The top of the MCU, and the best of the solo movies by far. It improved on its predecessor in every possible way. It suddenly made Cap the best Avenger, it flipped the MCU on its head in ways that hadn’t happened yet, it had some fantastic action set pieces (the car chase at the start, Winter Soldier vs Cap on/around the bridge, the final helicarier battle), and had such a different tone compared to other MCU films that it really stands out. It was dang near perfect from top to bottom. I have no issues with this movie, it was fantastic, and in my opinion the best film in the MCU to date.
So that’s my list! But what I’m really curious about is “what’s yours”? How would you rank the MCU movies? Let me know in the comments!
Thank you all for reading! Hope you enjoyed it! God bless my friends!