Ranked: Top 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe Films
Being ranked this time around are the films in the MCU that have all been leading towards the impending arrival of Thanos next week. When Iron Man kicked off the MCU way back in 2008 no-one anticipated just how big this universe would become, but 10 years and 18 films later the MCU has made the superhero genre one of the most profitable in modern cinema. Through their very calculated and highly detailed approach to transmedia storytelling they have built this universe that successfully fills theatres by name alone. We are at the point in this universe where people only need to see the Marvel Studios logo on an upcoming film and they will buy their tickets and count down the days. It’s truly remarkable what Marvel has built here and with the release of Avengers: Infinity War literally right around the corner I thought I’ll go through my personal ranking of the top 10 MCU films to date. But before I get to the top 10 I’ll just run through the placement of the 8 films that didn’t make the cut;
18. Iron Man 3 (2013)
17. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
16. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
15. Iron Man 2 (2010)
14. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
13. Thor (2011)
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
11. The Avengers (2012)
This doesn’t mean I think all of the above films are bad, but none of them are good enough to warrant a spot on my top 10 list which has gone to 10 better MCU instalments. So now that that’s out of the way lets go through the best of the best from 10 to 1 starting with….
#10 – Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Spider-Man was a very sudden last minute addition to the MCU in 2016 when a deal was struck between Marvel and Sony to put their differences aside and share the character, I am so grateful that they did. This rendition of Spider-Man, although not my personal favourite, is so damn fun and enjoyable to watch. He’s a high school student with a great sense of humour and sense of innocence and bravery very indicative of the Peter Parker Spider-Man character. And Tom Holland is an excellent choice to play this hero because he embodies everything that is Spider-Man so well I didn’t even really need to see him in action to know he’s a great fit for the role.
The movie itself I very much enjoyed, it’s a Spider-Man story inside of a coming of age movie and that brief description alone is enough to get me invested. It was a good Spider-Man story where with the help of Robert Downey Jr‘s Tony Stark we got to see Parker grow and embrace becoming the Spider-Man the world or rather Queens, New York needs. As far as the villain goes Michael Keaton is fantastic as Vulture, he’s not just a guy who wants to crush the world there’s some complexity to his character and you really understand his motivations and why he has taken up a life of crime. The overall pacing of the story is where my issues lie and why it isn’t higher up on this list but it’s still an enjoyable film which cemented Spider-Man as a long term member of the MCU.
#9 – Doctor Strange (2016)
2016’s Doctor Strange is the film which introduced magic into the MCU along with Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Stephen Strange, an arrogant surgeon who after a car crash goes on a journey of self discovery that leads him to becoming the sorcerer supreme. As far as MCU origin stories go this isn’t the best but it most certainly isn’t the worst as it introduces Doctor Strange to the universe very well. Benedict Cumberbatch bought a tonne of personality and charisma to the film and this character by the end you came to love and root for going against the evil forces. Along with the supporting characters from Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, and Benedict Wong there were some great dramatic moments in the film as well as a good amount of light humour which didn’t mess with the overall tone.
Now I mean the cinematography and visuals in this film are some of the best in the MCU to date, whenever the world is being manipulated or Strange is taking a trip into the Quantum Realm I found myself in awe of the stunning visuals. And the action sequences are fast paced and unique just down to that fact that they are able to break the laws of physics and change up the game. It’s another great standalone story within the MCU which feels very seperate but at the same time very connected to what is going on in the rest of the universe. It’s the debut of a strong hero and a villain played by Mads Mikkelsen who after a few viewings is just ok, a little more development there could have gone a long way but he’s good nonetheless.
#8 – Iron Man (2008)
This movie feels like it was so damn long ago, in a time where Terrence Howard was War Machine and Gwyneth Paltrow actually had a place in this universe. It’s the one that started it all and gave us Robert Downey Jr as the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist himself. It has been a few years since I last revisited the original Iron Man but this movie set the bar for the MCU with a great origin story with big blockbuster action sequences and big names behind it. RDJ puts in a great charismatic performance as this billionaire turned superhero who takes it upon himself to fight off the evil the government can’t. One thing people seem to forget is how good of a villain Obadiah Stane was in that film, and that’s entirely a result of Jeff Bridges‘ incredible performance as this backstabbing and purely evil person.
Bridges is one of the only people who could go against RDJ’s bounding charisma and he provides a formidable opponent for Stark who doesn’t need superpowers to pose a serious threat. Gwyneth Paltrow is good in the movie, her role and arc isn’t the most engaging part of the story but it’s executed and integrated a lot better than in the Iron Man sequels. But whether you think this movie is good or not you can’t deny that what it did for the superhero genre alone makes it worthy of a place on this list.
#7 – Ant-Man (2015)
When Ant-Man hit back in 2015 I had anticipated this movie to be a good one due to the cast involved but I didn’t expect just how much I’d end up enjoying this movie. It’s a very isolated and much smaller story seperate from the larger world-ending fiascos of the other Marvel films and that was a very refreshing story to see. It placed a lot of focus on the characters and the relationships between them and how Paul Rudd‘s Scott Lang learns to embrace his responsibilities given time. The personal story with Scott trying to be a better father to his daughter is something that worked really well and was a strong emotional driving force of the movie. But where the emotion really worked on one end this movie was also incredibly funny from beginning to end thanks to the wonderful cast.
The comedic timing from everyone was on point but especially from Michael Pena who was a scene stealer whenever he showed up. The relationship between Michael Douglas‘ Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly‘s Hope van Dyne is also another strong point that allowed for an engaging character subplot whenever Ant-Man wasn’t on the screen. This is another case in the MCU where the action is top notch due to the use of Ant-Man’s shrinking abilities making for a tonne of fun and exciting sequences. That battle on the Thomas the Tank Engine train in the climax is just as fun as it is comedic. Where the film could have improved a little is with Corey Stoll‘s villain Yellowjacket, there’s times where he is a believable villain but sometimes he does delve into an end-of-the-world seeking cliche bad guy.
#6 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
As directors Joe and Anthony Russo described it, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a political thriller which sees Chris Evans‘ Steve Rogers team up with Scarlet Johansson‘s Black Widow to take down a newfound enemy known as the Winter Soldier. This movie was a game changer for the Captain America series of films. I wasn’t a massive fan of his period piece origin story as I couldn’t get extremely invested in the character and his story and the tone didn’t really work for me. With this film the Russo brothers took a much more serious approach to Captain America’s journey and delivered a hard hitting action packed sequel that was so good it cemented the Russo’s as the directors of the third Captain America film and the subsequent two Avengers movies. From beginning to end I remember I was on the edge of my seat as this fast pace story never let up on the thrills the whole way through.
The story was absolutely great because of how personal it was to Captain America having to fight against his oldest friend who wasn’t in control of his own mind. This is the movie that pushed Captain America right up there as my favourite member of the Avengers with great assistance from Chris Evans’ powerful performance. He completely embodied the character of Captain America and everything he goes through in here you really do feel. But as thrilling as this movie was there are still five movies in the MCU that I enjoy watching more than this.
#5 – Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
My guess is that this isn’t the Avengers movie you expected to see make the top 10 on this list but the fact of the matter is I absolutely loved Age of Ultron and believe it’s a much better movie than The Avengers. I loved so much about this movie including the returning characters, new characters, large scale action sequences, and of course the titular villain and his sarcastic and sadistic personality. As far as the story goes this was a very packed film with a lot to do, they had to set up a new villain in Ultron (James Spader), successfully introduce new characters Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Vision (Paul Bettany), and still give all of the returning heroes enough screen-time to warrant their presence. I feel like it did all this excellently and make a movie that was just a tonne of pure fun from beginning to end.
The action in here is absolutely top notch, seeing everyone combine their unique powers to take out Ultron and his endless army of drones is awesome and that one scene where all of the heroes are fighting together and the camera is circling the room is absolutely fucking stunning. The introduction of the new characters is handled excellently to where even though this is the first time we I’d seen Quicksilver I still did care about his death, and how that moment works in building Scarlet Witch’s character is great. Vision instantly became my favourite part of the movie as he completely stole every scene he was in right from the moment he is awoken, And then you have James Spader’s villain who contrary to what most people think about him I thought he was very compelling and offered a perfect blend of comedy and intensity to make him a memorable villain.
#4 – Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther is the most recent MCU film to be released and it comes in very high on this list and for good reason because there is so much to love and not a lot to dislike about this movie. Black Panther is one of those MCU films which changes the game so much that it pushes the superhero genre to new heights. It has a very deep character-centric story that incorporates a lot of emotion and touches on themes that are indicative of things going on in todays society. It also boasts and phenomenal ensemble cast including Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, and Letitia Wright among others where everyone puts on their A-game and it really shows.
Michael B Jordan is also fantastic as the villain Killmonger because he’s a villain with a tonne of depth to his character, you understand exactly where he is coming from and it allows you to in some ways empathise with him. With a thrilling story, incredible characters and performances, and awesome action sequences Black Panther deserves to be up here. But that being said I have only seen this movie once so this could be a result of it being fresh in my mind and it could change upon further viewings with time.
#3 – Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
At #3 is Taika Waititi‘s spectacular Thor sequel which completely revolutionised the Thor franchise with a new tone and visual aesthetic, changes I wholly welcome considering the first two Thor films aren’t all that good. The movie is packed full of awesome action sequences, great music to accompany them, and filled to the brim with Waititi’s unique visual and comedic style. I’ve seen the movie multiple times now and it still holds up completely, the comedy is so damn well done with perfect timing to where the same jokes still got me to laugh even on the third viewing. And it’s not jarring comedy, Waititi manages to integrate every comedic beat perfectly to where it never feels out of line with the characters delivering it. As far as the characters go, Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor is better and more entertaining than he’s ever been and his interactions with everyone from Mark Ruffalo‘s Hulk to Tessa Thompson‘s Valkyrie are pure gold and makes every scene as good as the last.
Speaking of the supporting cast Tessa Thompson kicks ass as Valkyrie and I would love to see her get a film where she is front and centre because she deserves it. Tom Hiddleston has the character of Loki locked down to a tee and he’s so much fun to watch because you always know that at some point he’s going to do something to try and mess up everyone’s plan. And then you get to Cate Blanchett who delivers such a gripping performance as the evil Hela that she just may in fact be the MCU’s best villain to date with a top 3 spot an absolute certainty. I really hope we get to see her again as the dynamic she had with Thor is such a strong story point in the movie I’d love to see it developed further.
#2 – Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Whatever you want to call it, whether that be Captain America: Civil War or Avengers 2.5 nothing is going to change the fact that this movie is pure awesomeness from beginning to end and everything I wanted the movie to be. Because the only thing better than heroes teaming up to fight a big villain is heroes teaming up to fight other groups of heroes and so the war between Team Cap and Team Iron Man was born. There was so much damn content packed into this movie that it’s so damn impressive that the Russo brothers managed to pull it off as well as they did. This story was so damn captivating not only because it incorporated all of the characters we know and love but because of how personal it was to the titular hero concerning Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and the Sokovia accords. It really is a psychological thriller at its core as this rift between the Avengers pits differing opinions against each other and the only way to settle things is to fight them out.
On top of all of the infighting going on between our heroes this movie also has a new villain in the form of Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) whose personality and overall goal I did like but his plan to achieve his goal is a little convoluted and overly complex. I don’t think he even needed to do anything to turn Iron Man against Captain America because due to the nature of the story with the Sokovia accords they were going to duke it out anyway. But that being said, even when the heroes aren’t going head to head in an airport it’s still just as thrilling watching the teams struggle with overcoming what they did in Sokovia and the death they inadvertently caused. And on top of ALL that I’ve already mentioned this movie also had the task of introducing Black Panther and Spider-Man into the MCU and it does both fantastically to the point where everyone was waiting for their respective standalone films immediately when the film ended.
I’m curious to see if Avengers: Infinity War can provide a massive team-up experience better than this one because it is going to be very tough to beat. But not as tough as it will be to overcome my number one which has held that top spot for the last 4 years.
#1 – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Nothing in the MCU to date has come close to giving me an experience anything like what I got from Guardians of the Galaxy which came out of nowhere way back in 2014 and surprised me in the best way possible. Before the trailers came out I had no idea who the guardians were and because of the great trailers I went into this movie with high expectations… and wouldn’t you believe it… it blew my expectations out of the water. I loved everything about this movie, sure Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) isn’t the greatest villain we’ve seen in the MCU but he was serviceable and contributed to the story as he was required. The introduction and formulation of this team was so damn fun to watch and seeing all of these great unique personalities interact made for scene after scene of comedic gold. And the awesome thing about this team is that everyone got an ample amount of screen-time to where as soon as the credits hit you knew every character’s name and cared about everyone in here.
All of the performances in here were on point emotionally and more importantly comedically as the jokes in here were so rapid there wasn’t even a 5 minute span of time where I wasn’t laughing. Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, and Michael Rooker are all great and endlessly entertaining to watch in here. Even Vin Diesel is great and brings a tonne of emotion to a character who says a total of 4 words in the entire movie. The visuals are stunning they hold up throughout all of the fast paced space battles to where even though you know it’s CGI it’s not blatantly obvious. James Gunn seems to have an immensely tight grip on who these characters are and he showed that here with an incredible film that to me is still the best the MCU has to offer.