Movies

Best MCU Movies So Far

Before you check out Avengers: Infinity War in theaters (review here), check out our personal picks for the best MCU movies so far.

Dylan S. Phillips

Honorable Mentions: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok

3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

It was very difficult to pinpoint what film would make the final spot on this list, but after weighing the pros and cons nothing could edge out this beautifully self-contained political thriller. The Winter Soldier delivers non-stop action in a film that turned the entire MCU on its head at the time. The reveal of HYDRA’s infiltration into SHIELD sent shockwaves through every Marvel property shaking the foundation of the cinematic universe going forward and yet this film is equally one of the strongest standalone stories that Marvel has made. It has near-perfect pacing paired with tons of action, humour, narrative twists and deep socially relevant themes. The Winter Soldier dissects its characters and gives a lot more development to them as the story shows the motivations and character of Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, Natasha Romanov and Nick Fury, which not many earlier Marvel films had done. Directing duo Anthony and Joe Russo created a magnificent film that does not feel bogged down by overused superhero clichés, which helped paved the way to their involvement in both Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

2) Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 was Marvel’s first venture into uncharted territory, not only in storytelling, but also in locale as it brought us into what is now known as the Marvel Cosmic Universe. While films before it set up a world of superheroes on Earth, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 was able to expand this world by showing life beyond our atmosphere opening this universe up to unlimited opportunities. Writer-director James Gunn was able to create a vibrant (a term sparsely used to describe films based on comics up until this point), hilarious and well paced space soap opera, with a killer soundtrack, which both had the tone of successful sci-fi movies before it while creating its own unique tone to cement itself as a great sci-fi story. It’s no wonder that Thor: Ragnarok decided to move away from the darker colours and serious tones of its predecessors to branch off into the more colourful and successful Cosmic Universe. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 proved that action and comedy could be blended together without feeling campy setting the groundwork for all films that followed.

1) Black Panther (2018)

One of the more recent releases from Marvel has ended up being one of their best showing that even after a decade of stories they are able to keep things fresh and entertaining. Black Panther is a revolutionary and empowering action adventure that pushes away from overused superhero story elements to pave a new, deeply-layered path that focuses on a richly-cultured story supported by mesmerizing visuals, a heart thumping score, emotional themes and memorable characters all while delivering the action and quirkiness of an MCU story. Ryan Coogler creates a perfectly paced, socially relevant and action-packed film that boasts not only the best ensemble in any MCU film (including Avengers and Civil War), but also the best depiction of a Shakespearean relationship between burdened hero and tragic villain. Loki may have been the MCU’s prized villain, but Killmonger’s story and portrayal becomes the best comic villain on-screen since The Dark Knight.

 

Jason from Jason’s Movie Blog

3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

The second installment in Steve Roger’s / Captain America’s tale was a really game changer for the MCU. While the first movie (i.e. Captain America: The First Avenger) followed the basic superhero stance and nuances and was a bit silly and cheesy at times, The Winter Soldier was another beast entirely. Yes, it was still a Marvel superhero feature, but it was more of a grounded story based on power, freedom, and security, which translated in the real world, is palpable more so than costumed heroes and villains. Because of this, the film went big on action and intensity and succeeded on those two endeavors. The movie also gave a big twist in plot (i.e. Hydra had corrupted S.H.I.E.L.D from within), which shook up the movie universe. Beyond that, the acting was great (Cap’s second adventure was good and how he must adapt in the today’s modern world of villainy), the villains were solid built (the Winter Soldier was one man reckoning machine), and the overall presentation was quite impressive. All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was fantastic movie that grabbed a viewer’s superhero attention and gave us quite a game changer feature within the Marvel’s cinematic universe.

2) Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Building upon their success with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directors Joe and Anthony Russo presented the third installment in Cap’s adventure with Captain America: Civil War. Much like The Winter Soldier, the film was very much grounded as part of the “streel level” narrative within the MCU (no shadowy appearance of Thanos or the hunt for the Infinity Stones) and loosely adapted from the comic books series of the same name, pitting heroes against heroes on who was “Team Iron Man” or “Team Cap”. Additionally, the more grounded themes that were similarly found in The Winter Soldier return in Civil War, conflicting ideas of control over power and obscure viewpoints on what must be done and what is legal. Plus, the movie showcased the introduction of Black Panther and the new iteration of Spider-Man (both of which were fun and cool addition to this ever-growing MCU franchise). Perhaps the biggest and most famous scene of the entire film was the whole airport scene, featuring a whole slew of superhero characters with each one fighting and showing off their superhero skills in battle. It was fun and exciting sequence that showcased the Russo talents on handling (and juggling) all these characters at one time, especially with Avengers: Infinity War coming out soon. Furthermore, the movie’s third act was quite palpable and emotional, resonating from the two big heavy hitters (Stark and Rogers) of the MCU in a big-time confrontation brawl. Awesome to see on the big-screen. In the end, Captain America: Civil War delivered on its premise and gave its viewers an entertaining and powerful superhero movie.

1) Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 (2014)

So, what could possibly beat those two exceptional and highly entertaining superhero adventures in the MCU…. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1. Yes, the cosmic ragtag band of misfits is my #1 favorite MCU film out there. The movie itself was fantastic in almost every way. Instead of trying to tie itself super closely to the rest of the MCU, director James Gunn sends viewers on sci-fi adventure that had all the bravado and gusto of previous Marvel superhero films but was able to make its own identity on its, standing firmly on its own two feet (and on its own merits). Gunn also succeed in bring the “Guardians”, a group of lesser-known Marvel characters, to forefront and make them now a household (i.e. now everyone knows Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot). The cast for the film was also another big highlight, rounding out a stellar cast that brought their own quirks and acting talents to the proceedings, making them all work well together (both as individuals and as a group). And then, of course, there was the film’s music, which showcased a selection of quirky (yet catchy) old hits that felt proper in the movie (tied to the character of Star Lord) and added to the film’s overall enjoyment. In short, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 cemented itself within the MCU and stands tall and proud for taking us (its viewers) on an epic sci-fi superhero adventure.

Critics Without Credentials

Honorable Mentions: Thor: Ragnarok, Ant-Man

3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I admit this wasn’t initially in my TOP 3 until a recent rewatch where I was compelled to place it there (Originally- Thor: Ragnarok) but after seeing it from a different perspective it is just that good that I had to make room. The story is one of the better written and executed ones in the MCU that contained near-perfect pacing and somehow managed to balance perfectly through the entire runtime. The Russo brothers showed their knack for exciting action sequences and large-scale set pieces that in hindsight served as their audition tape to direct Infinity War. Even more so, The Winter Soldier made me care about Captain America. {Full Disclosure: He’s just alright in my opinion} The story went BIG and it delivered so much so that it resulted in the dismantling of SHIELD and HYDRA which had a ripple effect across all MARVEL properties. From start to finish, it immediately grabbed your attention and didn’t let it go until the end credits. My new-found appreciation for The Winter Soldier might have taken longer than others, but now that I’ve arrived at this conclusion I don’t see it being unseated for quite awhile (or at least until Infinity War).

2) Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 (2014)

First, the dice roll that Disney and Marvel took in taking their narrative to space occupied by some largely unknown characters (outside of comic book nerds) cannot be stated enough. This was a huge gamble for them because prior to this the main heroes’ encounter with other-worldly beings was Thor and Loki. To then ask the average movie-goer to trust their vision to introduce a completely new ensemble of characters and completely depart the confines of Earth was a massive request. This is partly what made GOTG an easy choice in my TOP 3 because of how well they reciprocated this trust by providing one of the best films in the entire MCU. Guardians Vol. 1 has everything; an origin story of the group, well-written story, great direction, risks, implications that affect later films, comedy and one, if not, the best MCU soundtrack to date. All these factors combine to create one of the best films Marvel has ever created. It showed that while yes, Marvel has been reliable with existing comic heroes that most were familiar with (Thor, Iron Man, Captain America) it could also be trusted to introduce new ones into the narrative and make them just as appealing to the public. Even despite not being my TOP MCU film, I still maintain that Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 is Marvel’s most complete film, containing the right formula of elements that create a balanced film that appeals to (almost) everyone. And I don’t care what you think, that soundtrack is UNTOUCHABLE.

1) Iron Man (2008)

How can you NOT put this as your TOP MCU film of all? It is the film that single-handedly started the MCU machine and not only that, but it completely delivers on all levels. It is equal parts an origin story, comic book movie, action film, comedy as well as the beginning of a franchise and bears the weight of all those facets while managing to display each component in its finished product. First, it cannot be stated enough about the peculiar position Marvel was in going into this film’s production. Let’s remember that both Downey Jr., and Favreau were not proven box office commodities with the latter coming fresh off a box office bomb in Zathura: A Space Adventure. But both were perfectly poised with a prove-it mentality to Hollywood which showed through every scene in Iron Man. It’s a masterclass in comic book filmmaking that handles a hero’s origin with such importance that it takes up almost half of the film and yet doesn’t feel unnecessary and at no point do you think that this could’ve been skipped over in order to see more screen time of the man in the suit just blowing up the bad guys. Not to mention the attention to detail from Favreau in choosing to show the labor pains of learning how to operate a suit of this magnitude (again, more dedicated screen time away from blowing stuff up) which helps inform the audience of type of character Tony Stark is. And while I could go on analyzing the merits of Iron Man for longer than I should, let’s not forget the most important aspect of all – It still holds up as a great action movie a decade later! I already knew this, but upon another rewatch it was so apparently clear to me that even after ten years, Iron Man still boasts cutting edge CGI, well-structured storyline, expert pacing and incredible action sequences. All other films that followed in the MCU stands on its shoulders and homage is paid by placing as the TOP MCU film that will take an act of God or a Titan (nerd joke) to displace.

My Picks

Honorable Mentions: Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1

3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2016)

This movie was the first MCU movie to go beyond the MCU so to speak in that it works well for someone who hasn’t seen a MCU movie before. Not only did it work as a superhero movie, it also works as a tense political thriller. This was the first Captain America movie set in modern times (not including the post-credits scene from The First Avenger) and changed the landscape of the MCU (film and TV), chronicling the destruction of SHIELD from the inside at the hands of HYDRA. The MCU has featured some big names but at that point, it was exciting to see Robert Redford in an MCU movie and he did not disappoint (twist and all).

2) The Avengers (2012)

Speaking of MCU team up movies, this was the first and it showed where the universe could go. After fleshing out most of the members (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and sort of the Incredible Hulk) in solo films first (I’m talking to you Justice League), they were put together with a few new heroes to take on Loki (still my favorite MCU villain so far but I’m reserving judgement until I see Thanos). While fun individually, they were even better together with this film serving as the first showcase of the great chemistry between all the MCU actors. Of course, Joss Whedon’s script and direction didn’t hurt either in this film at least (Age of Ultron didn’t quite work as well).

1) Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Out of all the MCU movies, the team up ones have always been the best. While this movie doesn’t have Thor and the Hulk, it currently stands as the largest team up so far (not including Avengers: Infinity War of course). Another reason why the MCU has been so successful are that they could be different things to different people (with varying success depending on who you ask). There’s plenty of action, humor, tension, and suspense just to name a few and they have all been fun to watch (for the most part). What this movie did so well was that it arguably was the best combination of all those elements, however, Avengers: Infinity War looks to be more of the same which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 

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