I knew that when I finished up my series on Ant-Man and the MCU I’d want to take a stab at ranking all the movies in the MCU. I figured my list would be pretty divisive, since my personal preferences don’t always align with the general consensus (especially within the comic community). Then I woke up this morning and saw IGN’s ranking of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I realized that my list could never be as awful as theirs. Seriously, go check their list out. It’s abysmal.
With the confidence given me by their shitfest of a list, I sat down with renewed energy to write my first Power Rankings blog post. Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems like the perfect place to start after all those posts discussing it. So let’s count down the twelve movies released so far from my least favorite on up.
12. Captain America: The First Avenger
Alright, so here’s the deal: I can’t stand this movie. If you’ve been reading my blog at all this past week, this isn’t news to you. But truthfully, Captain America: The First Avenger is the only film in the MCU canon that I can’t stand to watch. I’d hoped the period setting would elevate this film against the others, but it’s its biggest detriment. It’s just insanely silly watching enemies fire laser beams at Cap during WWII. Like, really? Are we serious? I can’t take any part of this movie seriously after Steve makes his transformation to Captain America. The Red Skull is one of Marvel’s biggest villains and he’s reduced to an utter bore in this movie. And then, y’know, he dies. Or maybe not? It’s Marvel, death is irrelevant. The only thing this movie accomplishes for me is showing us the kind of man that Steve Rogers is. On that front, the movie succeeds with flying colors.
11. Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2, aka Welcome to the Cinematic Universe, Bitches, is a movie I desperately want to like more than I do. Sam Rockwell delivers such a great performance as Justin Hammer, an absurdly underutilized villain. Let’s face it, though: everyone is underutilized in this movie, because there’s just so much shit going on. Iron Man 2 shows the first negative effects of having a shared universe of films, as the movie is so preoccupied with setting up future installments that it neglects to take care of its own plots. Tony drinks a lot, Tony is dying, there’s an Expo, there’s a terrorist villain who’s just a different version of Iron Man, Howard Stark pops in, there’s romance with Pepper Potts, there’s mystery with the Black Widow, SHIELD and Nick Fury are a thing, Justin Hammer wants Tony’s tech, the government wants Tony’s tech, War Machine is now a thing, etc, etc. This movie is jam packed with shit to do, and it does it all rather blandly. Its saving grace is its performances, like the aforementioned Rockwell, and of course, Downey, Jr.
10. Thor: The Dark WorldUgh, this one hurts. Marvel brought on Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor, and it sounded like heaven. That was exactly what Thor needed. I was looking forward to an action-heavy, dramatic Thor movie. Instead, we got a light comedy. Thor: The Dark World is probably the biggest letdown for me of all these movies. The hype was real, and the payoff was astoundingly disappointing. Malekith has the honor of being the weakest MCU villain, and that’s really saying something. The film too often jumps to humor when it should instead focus on drama or action. The movie is elevated by the familial drama faced by Thor, both with his mother and in his scenes with Loki. Many claim Loki is the highlight of the movie, but I think it’s his interaction with Thor that is the true highlight. The movie soars when the two of them are alone together; their dynamic is infinitely compelling.
9. Iron Man 3
What an incredibly divisive film Iron Man 3 is. The movie is either hated vehemently or utterly adored. I fall in line with neither. I think the movie is a mixed bag. I’m in the minority of comic fans who don’t mind the Mandarin twist. It’s a little lame after all the marketing that came before it, but it works for the movie. I understand that a lot of comic book fans feel cheated, and I won’t fault them for it. Ultimately, for me, the movie is weighed down by its final act. Part of the problem of this shared universe is my inability to believe SHIELD or Captain America is AWOL during the abduction of the President of the United States. Why is this Iron Man’s thing to handle alone? And also, the end credits tag reveals Stark has been narrating to Banner all along. That’s fun, but if they’re so tight, why didn’t Stark ask the Hulk to come help out there at the end? The Iron Legion is neat, I suppose, but it seems like an insane deus ex machina. Barring some mild criticisms, I think Iron Man 3 is still a lot of fun. I happen to really like the subplot with the little boy, despite many hating it.
8. The Avengers
The placement of The Avengers on this list is probably going to get me a lot of flack, but guys, really, when’s the last time you rewatched this movie? As an event film, it’s spectacular. Seeing all these heroes come together on the screen for the first time ever was an absolute joy and an unforgettable cinematic experience. Because of this, it’s so easy to forget just how utterly boring the first half hour or so of this movie is. And then when all our heroes do come together, they’re battling each other for another forty-five minutes. The movie comes into its own finally in the end battle, when the Avengers are actually formed and fight Loki’s alien army. And what a sight to behold that is. The Avengers is a great movie, but when I rewatch it I usually fast forward through a lot of it.
Thor, like the next movie on this list, gets an unfair rep, in my opinion. I love this movie. Part of this love comes from my love for the title hero, but I also dig the fall of Loki and Thor’s ascent to hero. It’s an old story, I know–selfish prince is outcast and must learn to be a better man. But I love redemption arcs, I love mythology, and I love Marvel movies. Thor has a lot of heart, and I love almost everything about it.
6. The Incredible Hulk
It really grinds my gears when people forget about The Incredible Hulk or rank it at the bottom of their lists. This movie is so good! As much as I like Ruffalo as Banner in the Avengers movies, I must say I really prefer Edward Norton. Viewed as the red-headed stepchild of the MCU, I find The Incredible Hulk actually outshines most of its companion films. The final showdown between Abomination and the Hulk is, well, incredible. Abomination needs to come back. We just got confirmation that Gen. Ross will next be seen in Captain America: Civil War next year–I believe he’s the only actor from the movie to be seen again in the MCU. It’s a shame, really. The movie tantalizing teases the origin of famous Hulk nemesis the Leader, and we’ve gotten no follow up on it. Betty hasn’t been talked about since, as Banner has apparently moved on to Black Widow. I often view this movie as a missed opportunity–so much more should have been spun out of this film.
5. Iron Man
The movie that went out on a limb and started it all, Iron Man still holds up seven years after its release. Robert Downey, Jr. is a revelation as Tony Stark, and the movie’s got one of those oh-so-spectacular redemption arcs I’m such a sucker for. The movie stood on its own while also successfully creating the beginning of the MCU with the mention of SHIELD, the introduction of Agent Phil Coulson, and the first appearance of Nick Fury, who name drops the Avengers. The movie’s only flaw for me is its boring, unoriginal villain, a trend which would unfortunately continue as the MCU grew.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron
I know a lot of people won’t like the fact that Avengers: Age of Ultron is so high on my list, or that I liked it more than the original. But it comes back, in some ways, to what I said earlier about the first Avengers movie being a bit boring. Age of Ultron starts the action right away, with the team fully formed and kicking all kinds of ass together. This movie is an absolute blast to watch. It does, occasionally, buckle under its own weight: Thor’s subplot is super fucking weird, Ultron’s characterization is iffy, and it has more than one deus ex machina, which is just plain lame. But the movie successfully introduces Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Vision, and even establishes actual stakes, something other MCU films struggle with. Hawkeye, a character Whedon more or less shit on in the first movie, is almost our central protagonist here, and boy does he shine. But more than all that, though, it’s a movie I’d pick to watch over and over. It’s just plain fun.
If you missed my series on Ant-Man and the MCU, you might be wondering why the movie ranks so high on my list. The thing is, after eleven other movies that retread a lot of the same ground, Ant-Man feels fresh and exciting. It’s a comedic heist movie, and it’s the most self-contained movie since Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were released in 2008. Paul Rudd is awesome as Scott Lang, and I’m super excited to see him on screen with the other Avengers. Ant-Man also boasts some of the most imaginative action sequences in the MCU.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy was predicted to be Marvel’s first big flop, and instead it became one of its biggest successes. Funny, action-packed, irreverent, and original, Guardians of the Galaxy is a better team movie than either of the Avengers movies. James Gunn brought his signature style to Marvel and it paid off in spades. Every one is perfectly cast, and they all have excellent chemistry together. The biggest success of Guardians is its ability to introduce five brand new faces to an audience and have us believe they’d care about each other within two hours of screen time–and, even more than that, make us care about them.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
While the first Captain America is at the very bottom of the list, its sequel reigns supreme among MCU movies. The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel has to offer: lots of heroes, character development, a diverse cast, incredible action, and big stakes for our heroes. The movie is Marvel’s most bold entry to date (barring Daredevil), completely changing the landscape of the MCU. I could watch The Winter Soldier over and over again and never be bored of it.
So there’s my first Power Rankings post! It was a lot of fun to write and I look forward to writing more. But hey, what do you think? What’s your favorite MCU film? What’s your least favorite? Leave a comment or send a tweet and let me know!