Avengers: Endgame is nearly upon us so to honour this momentous occasion I’ve ranked the 21 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies in order of my preference from last to first.
One thing I will say is that I’m a huge Marvel fan and I like all of these movies, just some of them more than others!
WARNING: Mild MCU spoilers ahead
21. The Incredible Hulk
The Hulk has always been my least favourite Avenger. He’s incredibly powerful but the story arcs he’s given always revolve around trying to cure his mutation and a longing to be with Betty. The Incredible Hulk doesn’t stray far from this but it’s a solid film nonetheless. Also, what ever happened to Betty? Liv Tyler to take down Thanos?
20. Thor: The Dark World
Thor’s second outing was the second entry into Phase 2 of the MCU and introduced us to Malekith and the Dark Elves, but is probably the least humorous of the Thor films. It also began sewing seeds for Guardians of the Galaxy and Infinity War with appearances from the Collector and the Reality Stone. Additionally it features a last on screen appearance for Natalie Portman’s, Jane Foster, remember her? Being a non superpowered love interest isn’t good for your longevity in the MCU!
Don’t hate on me for the low ranking for GotG Vol. 2. It has some really great moments and Baby Groot is a scene stealer but it was always going to be difficult to follow up the amazing highs of the first film. I’ve struggled to find a reason to watch it again recently which probably explains its positioning.
18. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 made a few bold moves with varying degrees of success. Virtually no actual Iron Man-ing takes place with a large chunk of the film devoted to exploring Tony’s fragile psyche. The biggest issue for most Iron Man fans though is the Mandarin fake-out, although it did give us Trevor Slattery so it’s not all bad.
17. Doctor Strange
Prior to this entry in the MCU my knowledge of the sorcerer supreme largely came from his infrequent appearances in Spider-Man comics and cartoons. Despite some negative publicity about white-washing of a character (which for me is a non-issue in this instance), Dr Strange surpassed my expectations. Arguably, it has the strongest lead hero & villain acting wise of any of the MCU entries.
16. Iron Man 2
Terrence Howard was replaced by the always likeable Don Cheadle as James Rhodes, who finally don’s his War Machine armour. A fairly forgettable villain in Whiplash, but there’s plenty of Tony Stark at his arrogant best to keep you entertained.
It followed Iron Man 2 into cinemas and it follows it in my list too. Kenneth Branagh imbues a shakespearean vibe to proceedings while also adding some genuine humour. I will never tire of Thor demanding a dog large enough to ride! It’s worth noting that in the comics Thor is one of my least favourite Avengers, so the fact I enjoy his MCU portrayal so much earns bonus points.
14. Ant-Man and The Wasp
Hope van Dyne was infinitely more qualified to be Ant-Man than Scott Lang so it feels like justice that she is given her own, vastly superior suit in the sequel to the original. Plenty of humour, plenty of action and a sympathetic antagonist made this a worthy follow up.
One of the most surprising successes of the MCU. My expectations on it’s announcement were low but, despite a dull villain, Ant-Man blew me away with its tense yet comical action. I also wish I had Luis as my best friend, his stories are just the best. Also R.I.P Anthony (I’m not crying, you’re crying)!!
12. Captain America: The First Avenger
A first outing for straight laced Steve Rogers and also our first proper look at an Infinity Stone. Jumping Back over 60 years gave us an entirely different film than we were used to at this point in the MCU and it was a very welcome change of pace. It also gave us the excellent spin-off series Agent Carter which was unjustly cancelled, Disney+ revival anyone?
The second team up for Earth’s mightiest heroes saw them take on the manifestation of Tony’s hubris in Ultron. Originally the creation of Hank Pym in the comics, Tony got shifted over to the creator role as Hank had yet to be introduced. At this point the chemistry between the Avengers is in full effect and even with the weird addition of a Black Widow/ Banner/Hulk romance arc this was the MCU at it’s epic best.
Part one of the Avengers grand finale was a feat of epic proportions. With so many heroes to juggle it’s no wonder the run time was a whopping 149 minutes. Despite everything that had to be crammed in everything felt well constructed and finishing on the “snap” leaves things perfectly poised for Endgame (although I still have issues with “killing” characters who we know are coming back).
9. Black Panther
After his introduction in Civil War we get a first solo outing for Black Panther in what can only be described as a cultural phenomenon. It also happens to be a pretty good movie which ticks all of the boxes for a superhero blockbuster. I’m devastated that the “snap” seems to have claimed Shuri as I was beyond excited to see her and Tony Stark in the same room. Fingers crossed Tony survives Endgame!
A taste of how Marvel could manage so many stars in one movie, Civil War was a relentless experience that pitched hero against hero. It also introduced two new heroes in Black Panther and arguably Marvel’s biggest star, Spider-Man! It took a slightly different path than it’s print counterpart but it was no less impactful on the MCU.
The most recent addition to the MCU, and it’s not for the uninitiated. For my money it’s the one of best origin stories in the MCU, behind only Guardians of the Galaxy and Iron Man. Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers pitch perfect, unsure of her place in the universe while simultaneously sure she’s a bad-ass.
Marvel’s most famous hero, alongside maybe only Wolverine, gets his MCU debut in 2017 thanks so some contractual witchcraft between Disney and Sony. Following a novice Spider-Man, it focuses on the part of Spidey’s life that is usually shown in a montage. Tom Holland is also the complete Spider-Man with the awkwardness of Maguire’s Peter Parker and the quips of Garfield’s Spider-Man.
5. The Avengers
Avengers Assemble! 4 years after Iron Man got the ball rolling on the MCU we were treated to a superhero movie unlike any experienced to this point. Avengers is a perfect culmination of the groundwork Marvel had laid over a 4 year period and was a runaway success, commercially eclipsing anything that had come before. The impact on cinema can’t be understated either, with shared universe franchises now the dream of every big studio.
No film in the MCU prior to Infinity War has had quite the in universe impact that The Winter Soldier had. An action/espionage extravaganza took everything we knew about the MCU and flipped it on its head leaving our heros more vulnerable than they had ever been previously. Add to all the action sizzling chemistry between Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson alongside a bromance with Anthony Mackie, and The Winter Soldier keeps you firmly on the edge of your seat.
3. Thor: Ragnarok
Ragnarok saw Taika Waititi take the directors chair and the result is pure genius. Up to this point most of the comedy in the Thor films had come from either Thor’s ignorance of the folly of man or Kat Dennings’ millennial research assistant Darcy. Ragnarok transformed Thor into buddy comedy gold with the back and forth with both the Hulk and Bruce Banner a pleasure to watch throughout.
Iron Man launched the MCU but Guardians of the Galaxy helped it transcend. Following its 2014 release comparisons were drawn to pretty much every sci-fi franchise going including Star Wars but make no mistake Guardians of the Galaxy is very much it’s own film. Every member of the crew brings something to the table and quite frankly it is the funniest film in the MCU. Dance off for the fate of the Universe….. why not!?
1. Iron Man
In 2008 the director of Elf released a superhero film starring a former Academy Award nominee, looking to rebuild his career. Neither Jon Favreau nor Robert Downey Jr could have predicted what would happen next. Iron Man is superhero origin perfection. Tony Stark declares to the world at the end of the film that he is Iron Man, what this movie declares to us all is that Tony Stark is Robert Downey Jr. The larger than life performance of Downey Jr is what sets this origin story apart from its peers and it was powerful enough to launch (and maintain) the MCU. If Endgame is when the torch is passed to a new breed of superheroes, then we should all stand and applaud how Robert Downey Jr has carried that torch for the past 11 years.
How did your favourite MCU movie fare? Do you agree with my rankings? Let me know.
By Mark Jankowski