In this era of superhero movie dominance that are making the studios mega bucks, and the actors into huge stars, there is without a doubt one studio that is firmly leading the way, and that is Marvel Studios. Back in 2008, in the first post credits scene of Iron Man, the prospect of the Avengers Initiative was teased. 10 years later and from that one film has spawned an enormous universe filled with colourful characters aplenty.
With a now considerable 20 movies of their Extended Universe graced the big screen, there have been some truly spectacular flicks, and so it is time for me to rank all of these movies so far from worst to best (up to and including Ant-Man and the Wasp). Please bear in mind, that these are my picks, and so I very much doubt you will agree with all of my choices. You might completely agree with me, or maybe you will hate my list altogether, it is all good! Having different opinions is what makes movies and discussions about film so entertaining. So with that all said and done, it is time to Hulk smash into this list!!!!
22. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Speaking of The Hulk, it is where I begin my list. I’m pretty sure if you ask people do they remember this movie, the answer would probably be no. It has become the forgotten movie of the MCU especially since they recast Mark Ruffalo in the role for The Avengers, replacing Ed Norton as everyone’s favourite green rage monster. As a result, this movie has probably slipped from many people’s minds, and for good reason. Norton did a decent enough job as Bruce Banner, and the story was interesting enough, but never truly gripping enough to be memorable.
The action between The Hulk and his nemesis The Abomination just got a bit cartoonish at times and very CGI heavy, in a similar vein to the Star Wars prequels, and it was just a bit boring watching two forces matched in power fight one another and was nowhere near as enthralling as the other MCU movie that came out that year, but more on that later.
21. Iron Man 2 (2010)
This movie is a classic case of a studio just pumping out a sequel too quickly after the explosive success of the sequel. While this movie does have its moments such as the showdown in Monaco which was undeniably entertaining, and seeing Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in action for the very first time was awesome. The story did feel a bit rushed and uneven in terms of its pacing. There was potential for a really good story, but this was not fully realised.
Despite having two antagonists, neither really stood out (more on that throughout this post) and the movie struggled to recapture the brilliance of Tony Stark’s first outing as Iron Man. It is by no means a terrible film, but much could have been done to improve on it and definitely ranks as the weakest film in the Iron Man trilogy.
20. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
While the first Thor film was all about Thor learning what it means to be a leader and a warrior, all while being without his God-like power, in this film he had his hammer by his side at all times. While director Alan Taylor did bring some impressive visuals to this story, and there were some really solid and entertaining fight scenes. Furthermore, we got to explore the God of Thunder’s relationship (if you can call it that!) with his brother the mischievous Loki, brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hiddleston once again.
The real trouble here was, as is so often the case with MCU movies, the villain. Christopher Ecclestone is a fine actor but his portrayal of the Dark Elf Malakith left a lot to be desired, as he was another of the many disposable Marvel villains and he wasn’t memorable at all. His motivations for his actions were just not explained at all. Furthermore, Hiddleston’s performance as Loki completely overshadowed him.
19. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
This film showing the origins of Steve Rogers as the iconic Captain America showed what the character was all about. A loyal and determined man who thanks to the super soldier serum is transformed into the awesome superhero, who is fiercely patriotic and just wants to serve his country. Chris Evans was an excellent choice to play him and he has done so right throughout his tenure as the character. The rest of the cast were also excellent with Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones all delivering excellent performances.
Equally great was Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, although his accent was a little dubious in places. This film was a bit light on the action scenes, but it was a perfect introduction to see Cap get his stars and stripes, and as we will see, the Captain America franchise only got better and better.
18. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2
After their first glorious outing, it was inevitable that everyone’s favourite band of flawed but lovable collection of criminals turned heroes made a return to the big screen. The first film was such an enormous risk but one that paid off massively. Hence, it made perfect sense to continue in the bonkers style of the first one, as the Guardians meet a man who claims to be the father of Star Lord. The Marvel brand of humour has become such a staple of this universe and this one very much continues in that trend, whilst also crucially allowing the relationships between these characters to grow and develop.
However, there is a lack of emphasis on plot in favour of telling jokes, which while entertaining at first, quickly loses steam and this film really grinds to a sharp halt in the second act, and the story suffers as a result. Though it does pick up again towards the end, not every joke lands this time around. Much like the first film, the villain is also something of a let down. Though the film has another excellent soundtrack, the first film set such a high bar in terms of quality that matching it was always going to be a tall order, and this never reaches the first film’s lofty heights. Baby Groot though is still really frickin adorable though.
17. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
When we were first introduced to him, Scott Lang was a guy in a tough spot just trying to do what he could for his young daughter, which in turn led him to becoming the Ant-Man. After running off to join Cap in Civil War, it landed him in a bit of bother that consigned him to house arrest. This changes when former associates Hope and her father need him for information concerning Hope’s mother, the original Wasp. After the earth-shattering events of Infinity War, and to a lesser extent Black Panther, a light-hearted blast of entertainment was exactly what the MCU needed, and the tiniest (sometimes the largest) hero Marvel has to offer delivered exactly that.
A very similar film to its predecessor in terms of going deep into the science-y world of Hank Pym, but with a much more personal story this time around, particularly for Hope. As she finally gets her wings and becomes the Wasp after her mother. The chemistry, especially between Scott and Hope is strong which helps to drive the plot forward, but while it passes the time, it is not nearly as memorable or impactful as other MCU entries, most notably the first Ant-Man film. The film itself is very enjoyable, but give a take a few scenes, is quite forgettable. Furthermore, despite an intriguing backstory, the villain once again left a lot to be desired.
16. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
When the first teaser for this movie arrived, it exploded all over the internet, with Ultron looking like he was going to be the badass awesome villain that the MCU had been craving for a very long time. When the final product arrived, while it was still really enjoyable to watch and to see the Avengers reunited. The introductions of Scarlet Witch and Vision were welcome ones to the plethora of characters we have seen so far, and the action was, as is often the case with Marvel, really well handled.
However, despite being all badass in the trailers, the Ultron we got was ultimately a little bit disappointing, he had his moments of brilliance but was far from being the quality villain we had hope he would be. For all of his efforts, Joss Whedon couldn’t manage to make a film to go one better than the original, which is what a sequel should do. It was quality to see the team reunited, but a few of the side plots could have been very easily taken out of the finished product, and it wouldn’t have made too much of a difference.
15. Doctor Strange
The MCU up to this point had dabbled into many fascinating subjects, but until this movie, they had not dabbled in the world of sorcery and magic. It certainly was an interesting direction for the MCU to go in and ensures that the franchise retained interest for the audience. Benedict Cumberbatch was excellent in the titular role and it provided some of the most remarkable visuals that we have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point. One could make the argument that it did basically follow the formula that the first Iron Man did, and yes the similarities between Tony Stark and Stephen Strange are plain to see. However, as it was one that worked so well to introduce the MCU to the world, only makes sense to use it to introduce a new facet to the MCU.
Once again though, the villain is the real Achilles Heel of the film. Like with many Marvel villains, Mads Mikkelsen is an extremely talented actor. However it is the script does not give him the chance to become a villain on the level of quality like Loki, though he does have some decent moments, perhaps in no small part due to the rather intimidating eye make up that he and his minions acquire.
14. Thor (2011)
A movie based on the Norse God Thor might have seemed something of a far-fetched concept when it was first pitched, but under the vision of Sir Kenneth Branagh, this movie really worked. Chris Hemsworth as the titular character was a tremendous casting choice, as was casting Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief Loki. The sibling rivalry between the two of them is what ultimately drives the movie forward It’s Shakespeare in Asgard, what more could you want? With the legendary Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Rene Russo as Thor and Loki’s mother, and Natalie Portman as Thor’s human love interest. Shakespeare but with Asgardian Gods, and magic.
The cast was excellent and it was well acted but maybe a little bit rushed in terms of its plot, and again a largely throw away villain in Laufey, leader of the Frost Giants. Like with the sequel, Hiddleston’s brilliant work overshadowed the role of the Frost Giants, and that was something of a waste. In spite of this, the CGI was excellent and it was a very different movie to those that had come before it.
13. Iron Man 3 (2013)
The first film of Phase 2 of the MCU, and the third solo outing for RDJ as everyone’s favourite billionaire/playboy/philanthropist, who’s understandably struggling with what he experienced in the wake of the events of The Avengers, and the impact that has on those closest to him. With Shane Black on board as writer and director, this film gave the audience a much closer look at the genius of Tony Stark, and what the effects of fighting off a horde of extra-terrestrial invaders can do to a man.
Yet Tony’s problems extend to more than just PTSD as he battles The Mandarin played by Sir Ben Kingsley. Yet the directions they go in with his character in the film alienated a lot of fans, and the film received quite the subsequent backlash. Whilst it was admittedly a clever plot point, it just seemed such a bizarre decision to have made with an extremely popular character in the comics. Nevertheless, despite this villain conundrum, there were some pulsating action sequences, with the plane scene being a particular highlight.
12. Captain Marvel
It took a long time, but finally after 20 previous films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe its first female led superhero film. The MCU wasn’t exactly short of strong, inspiring female characters before Carol Danvers was introduced, but with her arrival, it introduced potentially the most powerful hero the MCU has ever seen up to this point. For her MCU debut, it’s a blast back to the 90s as she crash lands on Earth in the middle of a war raging between two alien races and a hero who’s just beginning to discover the full extent of her powers.
The film is a joyful blast from the past, with a full on 90s orientated soundtrack to boot. A much younger Nick Fury is at play, and it’s a very different side of his character that we haven’t really seen before. The chemistry between him and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is extremely entertaining and undoubtedly one of the best aspects of the film. It’s therefore frustrating that while Larson was an absolutely perfect choice to play the titular hero, the accompanying story goes in an intriguing direction that, whilst admirable, doesn’t quite stick the landing as well as it could have done.
11. Spider-Man Homecoming
When Marvel and Sony announced that everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man would have his own MCU outing, it was music to the ears of Spidey fans everywhere. Following on from his glorious debut in Civil War, Tom Holland continued where he left off bringing us the best on screen Peter Parker we have ever had. For Peter, all while trying to impress his mentor Tony Stark, must battle high school troubles and win the affections of the most popular girl in his school. Though it doesn’t break any new ground, it is still an absolute blast of fun as we watch Spidey going from dealing with petty crimes in his neighbourhood to something altogether much more troubling.
This trouble is in the form of Michael Keaton’s Birdman the 2nd, AKA The Vulture, who is definitely one of the better MCU villains that we have had. His motivations are clear, and it does make you sympathise with his character, something a good villain should do. Furthermore, his relationship with Peter goes in very unexpected directions and it adds so much more to the story, which is crucial because while Homecoming is fun, it never really added anything to what we hadn’t seen before.
10. Iron Man (2008)
The film that started this mad universe off, and aren’t we all glad it did! It’s by no means the best film in the MCU but if this film had not been the storming success it was, what has since come after it might not have been green-lit. This film revived RDJ’s career and transformed him into a huge star and he has since become one could argue the face of this whole universe. Jon Favreau put together a very gripping and emotional story telling of Iron Man’s origins and how he became the awesome superhero that he is. While Jeff Bridges gave one of the better performances as an MCU villain than many of the others. The final fight while deeply entertaining and very well made gave a taste of things to come as it was two people with essentially the same arsenal fighting one another, which again proved to be a bit frustrating.
When Edgar Wright, who had been attached to direct this film for a long time, left the project, it looked as though this project was doomed, almost destined to be a complete train wreck with very small odds (sorry!) of it being a successful hit. Fortunately that didn’t happen and the movie that emerged was one of the funniest MCU movies to have emerged so far, maybe even the funniest. Paul Rudd excelled as the titular character with Michael Douglas brilliant as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly also on form as his daughter.
New director Peyton Reed did a tremendous job with the action sequences, both small and big, but yet again, the real trouble with this film was the villain, the Yellow-Jacket. Corey Stoll’s performance was one of the better ones, but he proved to be another one of those throw away villains which is again frustrating. In addition, it was another case of two characters with very similar power bases fighting, which while it made for some great viewing, was hard to ignore.
8. Black Panther (2018)
As with Spidey, Civil War marked the debut appearance of Prince T’Challa, who following the events of Civil War ascends to the throne of Wakanda. After stealing the show, we finally got to see the mystical world of Wakanda and all that it has to offer on the big screen, and though it perhaps took longer than it should have, it was worth the wait in the end. In the hands of Ryan Coogler, this incredible place was brought to life in such spectacular fashion. When a fictional place feels as though it could be somewhere on this planet, that is a very impressive achievement.
The accompanying story sees T’Challa balances his duties as King with the burden of being the Black Panther, and when the villainous Killmonger comes into the picture, he sees his rule challenged. The performances were excellent across the board, in what was a star studded cast. Michael B Jordan as Killmonger was another superb, well fleshed out villain. But the scene stealers were Wakanda’s women, namely T’Challa’s little sister Shuri, his ex Nakia and the leader of the Dora Milaje, Okoye. Filled as usual with excellent humour, this was a very important film for the MCU, and it met those expectations with the flying vibrant colours. Wakanda Forever!
Prior to the release of this film, if you had asked your average comic book fan: “Name a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy,” chances are good that you would have received a perplexed look in response. When this movie was first announced, there were suggestions that a movie about these characters simply could not and would not work. How wrong they were, how very wrong they were. Director James Gunn brilliantly brought these characters to life with a funny, and exciting story that probably ranks as the funniest film the MCU has seen thus far.
Our quintet of villains turned heroes were all very interesting to watch and each and every one of them had the screen time needed to flesh out their characters and to make the audience care about them. Who’d have thought a talking tree that only says three words could get the viewers tearing up? What’s more, the action was extremely exciting and that soundtrack was just the icing on a very delicious cake!
6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The events of Infinity War left audiences in utter shock as the Mad Titan Thanos snapped his fingers and half of the population disintegrated away into dust. It probably left audiences wondering, where on earth do they go from here? In the build up to this film, we were promised that it would be the last hurrah for some of these heroes that we have gone on this extraordinary journey with. So, in all of its three hour glory, they provided us with the answers to the questions we all had, since that fateful click of those fingers.
The hype was enormous, and the final film certainly justified that hype, delivering an extremely satisfying, and sometimes heartbreaking conclusion for these characters. It was everything a fan of the MCU could have possible wanted, with an enthralling final throwdown that was just the definition of epic. From Iron Man all the way back in 2008, to Avengers: Endgame in 2019, an extraordinary twenty two film journey over the course of over a decade, Marvel accomplished something that no studio has ever really done before, and it will go down in cinematic history. They took audiences on an incredible journey, and with Endgame, this particular chapter of the MCU was brought to an extremely satisfying conclusion.
5. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Usually the third film in a trilogy is the weakest of the bunch, this can definitely not be said for the Thor trilogy. While the first was all Norse Gods meets Shakespeare, and the second sort of continued on that path, everything changed for the third installment. With Taika Waititi on board as director, this was essentially a buddy cop comedy film set in space. Weird combination? Maybe, but under Waititi’s direction, it all meshed together quite brilliantly in what might just be the funniest film Marvel has ever made.
And it’s clear that everyone is just having an absolute bundle of fun on screen. The film brought some very intriguing new characters into the mix such as Valkyrie, and the most fleshed out villain of the Thor franchise by far in Cate Blanchett’s Hela. And yes, perhaps the best side character the MCU has given us thus far, Korg, voiced by Waititi himself. Hilarity ensues every time this bundle of rocks opens his mouth, delivering some extremely memorable jokes, and the perfect use of Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song.
Back when Iron Man in 2008 came out, a post credit scene hinted at something called the “Avengers Initiative,” fans went crazy thinking something like this could actually be possible. After four years since Iron Man was released, the fans dream came true courtesy of super-nerd Joss Whedon, and it was glorious to watch. As you might expect when the team meet up initially, it is fair to say that they don’t exactly get along. In fact, they bicker and squabble about a lot of things until they’re needed to come together to help save the world from the threat of a familiar face, Loki and his extraterrestrial army.
In Loki, the MCU produced its best villain (until some Mad Titan came along). Like all good villains, you understand why he is doing what he’s doing, even though you really don’t want him to succeed. Whedon managed to also make the movie really funny in places, and Whedon deserves enormous praise for making this film the storming success it was, and it set the benchmark for other studios to try and create their own cinematic universes.
3. Avengers: Infinity War
After ten years since Iron Man arrived in cinemas, with each film that came along, we knew that this vast universe was building towards something, and that something was the arrival of the Mad Titan Thanos and his bid to seize control of the Infinity Stones. Though his appearances leading up to this film were fleeting, we knew that it was a matter of time before he made his big entrance. And he made that entrance alright in the third MCU film to be helmed by Joe and Anthony Russo. And of course it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him.
With so many characters in this film, balancing them all and making them all relevant players seemed an impossible task, but the Russos did exactly that. The humour that we come to expect from a MCU film is here, but at the same time, it set the stakes to an unprecedented level that we had never seen before in this world. And for all of its problems with villains, Thanos broke that curse and then some, delivering THAT jaw dropping ending that stunned audiences and shook the MCU to its core.
The thirteenth film to have exploded onto the big screen, and it was at the time of release, the biggest movie that Marvel has made. But was it unlucky? Not a chance. Many dubbed this film Avengers 2.5, but at its heart, it is most definitely a Captain America film. Throughout the movies so far, it has all been building to this titanic clash between Captain America and Tony Stark. The Russo brothers along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely delivered a really emotional story that was just gripping to watch from start to finish. You might have decided what team you were on before the film’s release, but the film does a tremendous job of making you see and understand where both sides are coming from.
What’s more the terrific introductions of new characters such as Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, only added to the collection of great MCU characters that we have assembled so far, along with all the characters we are familiar with from the previous movies. The Achilles Heel of these films has often been that the hero and the villain are too similar, well that is thrown out of the window here! The handling of the action scenes was once again tremendously well done by the Russo brothers, with that airport battle scene being quite possibly the best action set piece that we have seen in the MCU so far.
The cream of the MCU crop remains 2014’s The Winter Soldier, and that’s a hat-trick for the Russo brothers. This movie took the character of Captain America that was established in the first movie, and made him a very unique and interesting character without a doubt. On top of that, this film provided an enthralling storyline that really went past the standard Marvel formula, and it became this gripping spy/espionage thriller, as we watch that SHIELD is not what we thought it was at all, as the sinister Nazi organisation HYDRA has been lurking in its shadow for decades.
Besides Loki, the Winter Soldier proved to be a very capable villain who certainly left his mark on the MCU, as did the film’s other antagonist Alexander Pierce played by Robert Redford. The decision to put the Winter Soldier in was perfect because as a character, he’s a very significant one to Steve Rogers. What’s more he did not become one of the many throw away villains that we have seen in a few of these movies. Throw in Black Widow kicking ass once again and the introduction of Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and you have for me, what is the best MCU movie to this day.