Welcome back to my blog ranking the MCU films from my least to most favorite! This is where the list gets hard. The gaps between the remaining films are narrow. I saved the best for last. Perhaps you'll agree, but perhaps not. Please share your thoughts below! And if you missed the first half of this blog, check it out by clicking here.
Quick warning. I won't shy away from spoilers for any of these films. So skip over any film you haven't seen and are concerned about having spoiled.
Let's end this game!
10-Iron Man 3
I quite like Iron Man 3. It's a notable departure from the first 2 films (there's even a change of director). It's a really great arc for Tony. I love the kid he befriends in that town he crashlands near. I think Guy Pearce is a severely underrated actor that should be in more stuff. The scene where Tony rescues all the people falling out the airplane is just nuts. That's the kind of stunt work I would expect in a Fast and Furious movie. I love the different variations of the Iron Man suit. There are some really cool ones that we'll likely never see again.
About the twist. I love it. Ben Kingsley is brilliant as both Mandarin and Trevor. Trevor is a delight. And it all makes sense within the context of the world.
I'm not wild about how anime the Extremis villains get. It isn't fitting with the rest of the film (or the rest of the Iron Man series). It just feels like a sharp left turn.
What a cast this movie has! So good. Michael B. Jordan in particular gives an unforgettable performance. He is seriously imposing. There isn't a bad performance here from anyone, frankly. The soundtrack is great. Wakanda is beautiful. There's some really good action. I especially like the big, indoor fight scene in Korea (which is followed by a solid chase scene). The waterfall fights are all fantastic.
The reveal of everything that happened with Killmonger's father and the former King is expertly delivered. I understand why every person involved did the things that they did. Of course, it all comes down to one extremely terrible decision from T'Challa's father that sets this whole film in motion. He was really a terrible uncle.
The climax is weak, sadly. The big battle is like 12 guys on a field with 2 CGI Rhinos. It leaves much to be desired. And the fight between Black Panther and Killmonger is just a CGI-fest that is hard to follow. If the climax had been better, this film would be higher on this list. The rest of the movie is quite excellent.
8-The Incredible Hulk
I've written at length about how underrated this film is, so I won't go too long here. TIH has so much going for it. I especially love Tim Roth as Blonsky. He brings so much to ferocity to the role. I love the physical depiction of Hulk. He is titanic. I love how he uses the objects in the environment around him as weapons (especially the car turned into boxing gloves). This film also has one of the best soundtracks of any in the MCU.
I think it's a shame that we'll likely never get another solo Hulk film. The rights are weird. Universal has the rights to make a Hulk movie, but Marvel has the rights to the character. It doesn't make any sense.
The film that started it all. And it holds up all these years later. This movie premiered the same year as The Dark Knight. But against all odds, this film has an even bigger legacy than Nolan's masterwork.
Casting Robert Downey Jr. was nothing short of genius. He has all of the acting chops you could ever want. He has gravitas. He has comedic timing. He can demonstrate vulnerability and instrospection. He can portray a wide emotional range. There's a case to be made that he is the best actor of any of the Avengers. I would probably make that case.
Tony starts off with an ego the size of the Sun. He suddenly find himself in a situation where he loses everything except his brilliant mind. His world turns upside down. He turns from a war monger to a peacemaker overnight. After he escapes the hands of terrorists, he vows to rid the world of the dangerous weapons he spent his career selling. He does so with haste and without mercy. He kills many a bad guy here. He is a peacemaker, sure. But he is not a pacifist. I could talk about the rest of the cast, but this is really Tony's movie. Even the remarkable Jeff Bridges is overshadowed by Downey's Stark.
The final fight here is, of course, weak. It's just Iron Man vs a bigger, slower, stupider Iron Man. It's a shame that it ends with a fizzle and not with a bang...... except...... it doesn't. It ends with Tony announcing to the world that he is Iron Man. I had never seen anything like that in a superhero movie before. It was amazing. I love it. It still feels like a baller move.
And of course, the post-credits stinger is legendary. Nick Fury appears in Iron Man's house and teases the entirety of the MCU. No one could have predicted the path that this scene would would lead us down.
6-Captain America: The Winter Soldier
In the previous entry to this blog, I wrote about how Cap's only power is jumping. In Avengers, he doesn't even do that. He mostly just stands around. All that would change when Marvel hires the Russos to direct the next Captain America film.
I would argue that Winter Soldier has the best fight scenes of any in the MCU. The action is unrelenting. And it's character driven! I understand why every character throws every punch. There is no action just for the sake of action. It all serves the characters, who serve the story. And Captain America gets to do more than jump. He punches, kicks, and does physically-impossible tricks with his frisbee shield. I can't believe the variety of ways they use the shield in this movie.
Robert Redford makes a stupendous appearance as the head of SHIELD. But of course, the big twist comes. He actually works for HYDRA, Cap's old fascist enemy. They've been secretly running SHIELD behind the scenes for decades. No one saw this coming. It's sort of funny. In theory, the big twist of Winter Soldier is the identity of the Winter Soldier. But Marvel didn't even try to keep that a secret. They show his unmasked face in some of the trailers. Even still, the theater was full of gasps when Bucky was revealed. But this all paled in comparison to the HYDRA twist.
On the downside, this film twice pulls an MCU trope of bringing back characters from the dead. Both Bucky and Nick Fury should be dead and gone, but they're not. I can't really fault this individual film for that, but it is a failing of the MCU as a whole. I suspect Endgame will more than address that, however.
5-Avengers: Infinity War
I thought about excluding Infinity War entirely from the list. It's only half a story. It feels like I'm including The Two Towers before Return of the King comes out.
And yet, unlike Spider-Man: Homecoming, this is a cohesive story. I'm not certain that you could understand it in isolation, but the story is self-contained. At least from a certain perspective.
The real twist here is that the Avengers are the bad guys. The hero is Thanos. He is the protagonist. He is the man with the vision. He knows what must be done to save the universe and he will stop at nothing to fulfill that mission. No one but him is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to preserve life. He has tried slowly conquering. He has tried employing agents to do his work. But he has failed to complete his mission. Therefore, he determines he will do it himself and he will do it now. He begins a relentless onslaught to obtain all of the Infinity Stones. When he has all 6, he can do literally anything he wants. But he doesn't want power. Or glory. All he wants is for the universe to spin on and for life to continue. So, he defeats all the Avengers and the Guardians. Everyone who stands in his way is torn asunder. All so he can complete his quest. He obtains the stones and snaps his fingers. Balance is brought to the universe. He departs to spend the rest of his days in peace, smiling at the sunset.
Josh Brolin puts forth a marvelous performance as Thanos. And he leads a cast of dozens that all put in their best effort. There are so many freakin characters in this film and they all are given things to do. Some much more than others, but none are neglected. I can't understand how the Russos even kept all these characters straight in their heads, let alone in the screenplay.
I struggle to even think of a flaw for this movie. Anything negative has the potential to be remedied or explained in Endgame. That said, The Black Order (Thanos' primary henchmen) are severely underdeveloped. They're powerful and impressive. But I couldn't tell you any of their names, much less their backstories. Also, I truly hate the stupid buckler things that Cap wears on his forearms instead of having a traditional shield. They look ridiculous (and not in a good way). May they never appear on screen again.
This movie is exhausting to watch, but it's amazing. I would never have guessed that Disney would end a movie like this. It just feels completely un-Disney. Contrast this with Iron Man 2 in which no one really gets hurt or dies. Marvel has really come a long way in the balls department.
4-Captain America: Civil War
A.K.A. Avengers 2.5
When Batman vs Superman was announced, it was given a release date that was identical to Captain America 3. Kevin Feige seemed genuinely delighted when questioned about this. I thought he was crazy. I mean, Winter Soldier was great, but how could it compete with the majesty of finally seeing Batman and Superman together on the big screen? Little did I know that Civil War would be bigger and better than even my wildest imaginations of Cap 3 (nor could I have guessed at the problems BvS would ultimately have). And of course, Warner Bros delayed BvS and didn't pit it against an MCU juggernaut.
This movie is astonishing to me, even upon repeat views. It is elegant. We take the two main leaders of the Avengers and make them firmly opposed on a political matter that directly affects them (and in a big twist, Tony Stark is the one willing to answer to someone other than himself). It splits up the family. And that's what the Avengers really are at this point. They are a collection of weirdos and outcasts. They don't have traditional families. They come together to fight evil, sure. But they form a family that loves and relies upon one another. Sometimes families have arguments. Sometimes those arguments are political. It's interesting that this film would release in 2016, during one of the most bitter election cycles in recent U.S. history. Families in the audience were divided, just like the Avengers. The big difference between our families and the Avengers are the way we fight with each other. We may use words, social media, and passive aggression. Avengers use their fists.
I love the introduction of Black Panther. He comes on the seem like a bolt of lightning. He won't let anyone stand in his way. And I freakin love his shoes he wears in his civilian clothes. He has a really great character arc. He sees his country attacked. Then he watches his father, the king, die in front of him. He believes one man to be responsible and he hunts him. Over time he learns that Bucky is innocent and Zemo is truly to blame. And he watches as events tear the Avengers apart. He sees Cap and Iron Man turn from brothers to basically willing to kill each other. He decides that hatred and vengeance will not consume him.
Civil War brings us our first taste of Spider-Man in the MCU and he's great. His appearance is brief, but powerful. The way he moves and fights and quips is perfect. His dynamic with Tony Stark is endearing. I love his suit.
The entire fight scene in the airport is just glorious. Yeah.... it feels just the tiniest bit contrived. But I can't be bothered to care. It's just too good. It's too fun to see how all the heroes fight each other.
I once watched a youtube video essay where a person talked about how they hate the action in Marvel movies because it's just silly and has no stakes. They go over this fight and talk about how the only person to get hurt happens by accident. As much time is spent jousting verbally as it is physically. Jokes abound. This person doesn't like that the action is not serious. But this person is an idiot. This was a family squabble. No one wanted to hurt their family members (at least not seriously). Everyone pulls their punches. No one is going to die here. That's how the story unfolds. Contrast this with the next bit.
Now comes the true genius of the film. It narrows in scope. We leave the rest of the Avengers behind. All we have left is Iron Man, Captain America, and the Winter Soldier. They are led (through a series of convoluted events) into a trap. Zemo reveals to Tony that Bucky killed Tony's parents. Tony flies into a rage and wants to kill Bucky. Logically, he knows that Bucky wasn't in control of his own actions, but he is too angry to worry about that. Bucky killed his freakin mom. And worse. Captain America knew about this for quite some time and didn't tell him. This was a harsh betrayal that only further blinds Tony with rage. We end the film with the most brutal single fight in all of the MCU. Tony is determined to kill Bucky. Cap and Bucky beat the living snot out of him and leave him for dead. And in contrast with the airport scene, there are no jokes. There is no humor to be had. No silliness. It's real now. It's as personal as a fight can be.
As of yet, we still haven't seen Iron Man and Captain America reconcile. They are at opposite ends of the universe during Infinity War. I hope we get to see them together in Endgame to see if and how they come to terms.
I posit that this is the funnest film in the MCU. It's just pure joy. Chris Hemsworth had played Thor for years now and had grown bored of the character. He wanted to to cut the hair, break the hammer, and approach the character from a completely new perspective. Taika Waititi was brought on board as a director. He shared and furthered this vision. They were unafraid to tear down literally everything we knew about Thor and begin anew.
It took us so many films to get here, but we finally see a fully realized god of Thunder. Thor grasps his true power and makes nearly every other character in the MCU look absolutely weak in comparison. I also can't believe it took this long to get Karl Urban in one of these films (I adore him, he should be Batman). I don't know how they got Cate Blanchett in here but she is gorgeous, menacing, and terrific. She seems to be having the time of her life. And Jeff Goldblum. He isn't even acting. He's just himself. And I love it. He's a delightful man.
Before this film was made, Kevin Feige had a meeting with Mark Ruffalo. He asked Mark basically, "If we were to make a Hulk movie (which we're not), what would you want to see? What would you like the character arc to be like?" Mark pitched him exactly what he wanted. Kevin was like, "I love that. Let's keep all of that. But since we can't have a Hulk movie, what if we take that arc and spread it across three movies? We'll do it in Thor 3, and Avengers 3 and 4." All this lead to Ragnarok being as much Hulk's movie as it is Thor's. And he's great. He's like an angry toddler in a way. He is monstrously powerful, but really, he just wants to be appreciated and loved. We get great scenes of him just sitting with Thor and talking about feelings. We also get the best Hulk combat that we've seen since The Incredible Hulk. He wields weapons. He smashes, rips, and tears. He fights a giant wolf. It's awesome.
I really love this movie. It's super rewatchable. It has impact. It makes real changes in the greater MCU. We finally see Thor as he should be. I desperately hope we get a Thor 4. Thour. Thfour. Whatever.
I do have one complaint with this film. Taika views it as a comedy and it's chock-full of jokes. That's all great except for one instance. When Asgard is melting and our heroes fly away, this was the perfect opportunity for a moment of quiet. Give a beat for our heroes to look back and what they've lost and what they've learned. But they don't get that chance because Korg comes in with a joke. Twice. And it's funny! It's a good joke! But it does take away a bit from the emotion of that moment. But hey, if that's all the complaint I have about your film, you've done a damn good job.
2-Guardians of the Galaxy
I never get tired of that trailer.
This film will forever hold a special place in my heart. Before my wife and I were officially a couple, we went on a few dates. On our third date, we saw Guardians of the Galaxy in theater. We went to Wendy's afterward and had fries and frosties (I didn't have a lot of money). I was determined when the date started that I would kiss her before the end of the evening. I hadn't kissed anyone in several years, so I was nervous. When I took her home and we walked toward the doorstep, I thought "Nope! Can't do it. I'm chickening out. I am chickening. Out." I gave her a hug and said goodnight. As I pulled away, she held onto my hand. She looked at me and said, "...well?" I figured, screw it. So I kissed her! That was our first kiss. Also in the movie is a song I was unfamiliar with called Fooled Around and Fell in Love. As that song played during the film, it explained how I felt. I had been on dates with many girls over the years. None had really gone anywhere. But this was different. I was falling for her, and fast.
But enough about me! This movie is great. We hadn't seen a Star Wars film in what felt like forever. When Guardians came out, it felt like a new take on the basic concept of Star Wars. It really filled that gap in the cinema. It's a true space opera.
I love all the guardians, especially Rocket. They're all severely broken people (well, besides Groot more or less). They aren't altruistic. They aren't out to save the galaxy. But through a series of crazy events, they end up together. They form a family. And most importantly, they decide that this is their chance to actually care about something bigger than themselves. They decide that they don't have to be defined by their past. Right here and right now they can change. They can put their ego and self-interest aside and serve others. It's powerful. And frankly, I really feel that it's reflective of what James Gunn was going through at the time. He had a rough past. This film was his chance to change. To grow up. To be a better man. That's why it hurt so much to watch him dragged through the mud last year. Why wouldn't people allow for him to change? He was broken. He was selfish. Yet he overcame that. We should all be so lucky.
The final fight of this film is perfect. A dance off. I would never, ever, ever, ever think of ending a superhero movie with a dance off. It was wholly unique and fit completely with the characters. And, it encapsulates how vital the impeccable soundtrack is to the movie as a whole. It totally works for me.
1-Marvel's The Avengers
What else could it be? What other movie defines the MCU? What other movie changed what we thought was possible in film continuity? None. It all comes down to this. The only movie I have seen 3 times in theaters. (side note: looking back, the above trailer is terrible)
I've praised Iron Man for creating a powerful legacy and headlining the MCU. I probably over-praised it in that regard. At the time, the concept of the MCU was barely a whisper of a dream. It was a vague idea that no one fully understood (not even Marvel, I'd say).
Somewhere along the line, someone came up with the idea to hire Joss Whedon to make this movie. At first glance, this may seem an odd choice. His background is primary in television. He's never made a superhero movie. He has, however, written comics. More notably, he's made Firefly. If you're somehow unaware of Firefly, it's a television show that lasted 1 season and 1 movie. It's science fiction, and it's on-par with Star Trek: The Next Generation in quality. What makes Firefly so great isn't the action, or the sci-fi, or the universe. It's the characters. It's an ensemble cast of very clearly drawn characters. They are layered and 3-dimensional. They have backstories. They have desires and motivations. Their motives propel the story forward. Everything is character-driven. Someone must have figured that if Joss can make Firefly, then surely he can make an ensemble superhero movie that is character-driven. And that person was right.
Joss intrdouces our heroes one at a time, in a steady drip. They don't all crash the party at once. He brings them together on a flying aircraft carrier of all things. Even today, the sequence of the helicarrier taking off for the first time is thrilling. They're all together in one boat. Before long, Loki gets in the mix. He immediately begins to sow seeds of destruction in this new team. He knows that no army can stop him. The only people that could even conceivably stand in his way are this ragtag group of superheroes (one of whom is his brother). He uses his silver tongue to drive wedges between them. Things fall apart, and fast. Ultimately, the team puts aside their differences to come together and defeat Loki's army.
This film is overflowing with beautiful moments, big and small. Little character interactions. Big fight scenes. Fast and catchy dialog. Funny jokes and quips. I could spend an hour talking about them, but I'll spare you. I'll just highlight a few. He was adopted. That man is playing Galaga. Puny god. Are you an alien? So that's what it does. Ant, boot. Court death. You want me to put the hammer down? I was present while you were unconscious.
And we have two truly awesome shots. One of the camera spinning around our fully assembled team. Another single shot through the city as we pass over each Avenger in a moment of action, working together in unity.
If you've seen this movie even once, I'm sure that you just relived all of those moments in your mind as I described them.
This movie isn't perfect. Of course not. It has flaws. Look at Captain America. His costume looks like bad cosplay, and he accomplishes very little in this film. He gets like, one good punch on Loki and that's it.
But just like the Avengers as a concept, this movie is greater than the assemblage of its parts.
Okay, things got to serious there. I had to throw in some ants.
So what do you think? How do you rank the films? What did I get wrong, what did I get right? Share with us down below! At some point in the future, probably right before Endgame comes out, I plan to write a (much shorter) blog of predictions. I hope you'll consider joining me as we throw out wild theories that will absolutely be proven false.