- Release Date
- April 26th
We are in the endgame now. It was just over 10 years ago that Marvel released its first film and since has taken the world by storm. No one knew how impactful this franchise would be not only on itself, but the film industry as a whole. In preparation for the climactic end to Marvel’s 10 year cinematic journey, we are looking back at the entire MCU to rank the past 21 films.
These rankings won’t be extremely detailed, but instead be just a why/why not on its place on the list.
(WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW)
#21 – Thor: The Dark World
The worst of the worst in the MCU is this attempt at a Thor sequel. It has an inconsistent tone and feeling throughout that hinders the story as it jumps from dark, brooding DC moments to more lighthearted comical ones. Nothing is memorable from the action, cinematography or infinity stone at the centre of it. The worst part is the terrible acting and development of every character including an under-utilized Loki and caricature of Thor.
#20 – The Incredible Hulk
This one doesn’t quite fit into the canon of the MCU given its character was recasted with the only major connection being Tony Stark. The film again feels tonally off and ends with a multitude of cliffhangers that are never resolved in later films. The addition of Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce seemingly destroys any minor character development made within this film making it a forgettable entry to the universe.
#19 – Iron Man 2
It is easy to cut this one a bit of slack because of how early on it is in the MCU’s life. However, it still contains a lot of problems that made it hard to get through. The story is full of plot holes, inconsistencies and recastings that caused a disconnect from the first film. On top of that it wastes a great potential villain in a campy, underused performance while bringing little beyond the development of Iron Man himself. Thankfully, many of these issues are rectified in later instalments to the universe.
#18 – Avengers: Age of Ultron
This film divided many fans as being either a great followup to the first Avengers film or a severe disappointment. Unfortunately, I am in the latter half. The terrible character writing of anyone outside the main four, including an awkward and forced romance between Hulk and Black Widow, pulls away from the problems posed by an international superhero fighting force. Pair that with an underused James Spader with a boring, one-note Ultron and questionable casting choices for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, this film really only works as a bridge for the main arc of the MCU.
While this film is by far one of the most visual and CGI-heavy stories, it is also one of the most forgettable. With a cast of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mads Mikkelsen, it had a strong cast to support its story. Unfortunately, the characters are thin, boring and act more as objects within Strange’s origin story. The high point is seeing the meme’d climax and having a chuckle or two.
#16 – Thor
The worst of the original Avengers films, Thor took a different route than the others. As an origin story, Kenneth Branagh decided to pull from his Shakespearean influences for a more operatic version of the God of Thunder. While this works with the storylines concerning Asgard, Thor and his relationship with his family, the Earth-set story is bland beyond Thor’s fish out of water scenario. It also introduces Loki to the MCU who proves to be one of the best additions that keeps this young universe alive.
After the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, this sequel had a lot to live up to, but it doesn’t quite hit that mark. The main storyline involving Star Lord and Ego is impactful bringing one of the better villains at this point to the MCU. Unfortunately, it has too many storylines going that end on awkward cliffhangers paired with some unnecessary cameos. It also doesn’t bode well if you rely too much on telling the story of only one Guardian through two films if they are meant to be an equal team.
#14 – Iron Man 3
The first trilogy of the MCU came quite early and ended on a bit of a low note. Shane Black brought something different to this instalment by diversifying the story and making it more than just a surface-level superhero story. Unfortunately, that focus showed a lack of development in other areas of the film including its mediocre characters, awkwardly placed comedic moments and no memorable action or cinematography, all staples of the MCU mold.
#13 – Captain America: The First Avenger
While many people aren’t a huge fan of this origin story, The First Avenger will always have a special place in my heart. Not only does it immerse us in a great WWII atmosphere, but it does so in an impactful way. The cast is phenomenal, with supporting characters like Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones being surprise additions to the MCU. However, the characters, development and motivations of Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter, Bucky Barnes and Red Skull all bring more than enough heart to this tragic tale.
Not many people are fans of the Ant-Man franchise for some reason or another, but this sequel follows in the footsteps of its predecessor. Not only does it finally introduce the important character of the Wasp to the MCU, but it also brings us into the Quantum Realm. Add in the unique action of Ant-Man’s fighting style, the strong motivations of the villain and the hilarious comedy of this franchise, and this addition proves to be the perfect distraction from the doom and gloom of the other heroes’ stories.
#11 – The Avengers
One of the big films that proved this franchise could be successful as a whole was this massive blockbuster. Not only did it put all of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together onscreen for the first time, but it did so in a strong, impactful way. By bringing back its best villain to date and tying him to an even greater foe, Marvel set the groundwork for its universe. Between the quippy conversations of the awkwardly paired Avengers with the Battle of New York, this film is chock full of memorable, iconic moments.
The newest addition to the MCU is one of the stronger origin stories in its lifetime. Introducing a new character into an established franchise can be hard, especially when it’s on the eve of its climactic battle. However, it is even harder when that character has the weight of the world on its shoulders being the first female lead in the MCU. Thankfully, this film comes out of the gate swinging and doesn’t stop as it has great characters, a few surprising twists and a strong family-centric story. It made not be as inventive as other more recent films, but just like its throwback setting it takes a page out of Marvel’s original formula.
An Ant-Man film this high on an MCU ranking surely must mean we are out of our minds, but bear with us. Ant-Man proved a number of points with its success. Not only is Ant-Man a strong addition to the MCU and will prove to be vital in the fights to come, but Paul Rudd shows he is perfect for this role in bringing the right amount of charm and comedy to this average joe turned superhero. Pair that with a fun, lighthearted storyline that isn’t focused on the destruction of the world and some hilarious supporting characters and this film ends up being Marvel’s closest attempt at a real comic movie.
#8 – Iron Man
The one that started it all. Who knew that this film would be as successful as it was or that it would spawn one of film history’s biggest franchises. Robert Downey Jr was the perfect choice for Iron Man, sorry Tom Cruise. Not only is this a great origin story, complemented by a strong villain to rival him, but it also sets the tone for this entire universe. Not all identities need to stay hidden and Tony Stark’s decision paved the way for not only his internal conflicts, but the otherworldly external ones as well. And when it comes to iconic scenes, few beat the tank missile scene.
This addition to the universe changed the idea of origin stories. It 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.
While it may not be an origin story, this end to the Thor trilogy felt both like a soft reboot and necessary recharge of this hero’s story. Focusing more on the Cosmic Universe set up by Guardians of the Galaxy, Ragnarok becomes more lighthearted, bright and most importantly funny. The relationship between Thor and Loki returns to the strong connection from Branagh’s Shakespearean style while forcing them to face Thor’s best villain yet. Pair that with Taika Waititi’s unique direction and this is one of the most visually pleasing and memorable additions to this universe.
Alright, the top five and it’s getting down to the wire. After two Spider-Man origins in the past 15 years, people were over the rebooted Parker story. Thankfully, the MCU decided to skip that by introducing Holland’s Parker during Civil War showing that he has already gotten his powers. This allowed his first solo film to focus on the troubles of balancing his two lives and it does not disappoint. Equal parts superhero action and John Hughes drama, Homecoming blends these tones seamlessly while delivering a formidable and strong villain to further the young Parker on his journey of growth and self-discovery.
#4 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This is one of those films that redefined the superhero genre as it took what audiences knew and threw it out the window. The reveal of HYDRA and its infiltration of SHIELD changed the very foundation of this universe while bringing a more politically charged story to this film. 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. It is no wonder that the duo behind this film were given the reigns for many of the major success stories within the MCU going forward.
The finale to the Captain America franchise was also one of the best overall films within the universe. Not only did it every established human-bound character together for the first time, but it showed how they could work together for a common purpose. The ongoing political issues surrounding the Avengers took a backseat in Age of Ultron, but come back in full force here as they are forced to pick a side. The addition of multiple new Avengers and the under-appreciated villain complement a strong thematic story centred around morality and justice.
#2 – Guardians of the Galaxy
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.
And to top the list is of course part one to the end of the Avengers journey. This film took everything from the past ten years and brings it together in a strong, action-packed and emotional story from start to finish. While it may feel like part one of a story from the heroes’ perspective, the film focuses on its true protagonist, Thanos, and delivers a satisfying and unpredictable story that works so well thanks to the decade-long exploration of this universe. This film had action, heart, humor, thought-provoking debates and pulse-pounding stakes all wrapped into one like never before seen in an MCU film.
For more MCU and Avengers: Endgame coverage, stay tuned to keithlovesmovies.com!