With Avengers: Infinity War just over one month away from its worldwide cinematic release, we’ve had eighteen films released within the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since Iron Man came out in 2008. Here I shall be ranking the films within the MCU from ‘worst to best’, in the order of my preference, you may have the ordering of the films differently this is just my personal opinion on what I enjoyed personally.
18. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke
Iron Man 2 was the earliest disappointment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to them putting in too many characters and plot lines to set up for future instalments in the MCU to come. We’re introduced to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow here and with more of an arc about S.H.I.E.L.D and how Tony’s father Howard Stark being revealed to be one of the founders. There is some good to be found in the film, just unfortunately for me it peaked at the Monaco Grand Pix when Whiplash attacks Tony in the middle of the race. Tony Starks alcoholism wasn’t tackled like I would’ve hoped and the film really can’t find the balance on who the main villain is between Micky Rourke’s Ivan Vanko aka Whiplash (visually impressive, though cop out villain comeuppance) and Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer. It’s not one of the worst comic book films made by any means, just one of the most disappointing considering just how good the original Iron Man was and still is to this day.
17. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings and Christopher Eccleston
Thor: The Dark World I thought to be decent when it came out, but as time has gone by since its release five years ago, I just care for it less and less. The obvious bright sparks of the film would be the interactions between Thor and Loki, the attack on Asgard by the Dark Elves and the funerals sequence that takes place after. Shame however that a man of Christopher Eccleston’s talents is playing one of the most bland villains of all time in Malekith, who is evil for the sake of being evil.
16. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson, Ty Burrell and William Hurt
The Incredible Hulk is a reboot with a quick recap of the origin in the opening of the film. I really liked Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in this film, showing how he nails the tortured version of Banner here in this one and thought Tim Roth done well in the role of Emil Blonsky/Abomination, showing the opposite of Banner and how he embraces the transformation.
15. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders and James Spader
Much like the first film, Avengers: Age of Ultron is an event of epic scale, yet too much may be spent into going big for the sequel here, especially in the action sequences, that will leave viewers suffering battle fatigue. The film overall is just too long and there is some scenes/side plots that could’ve been reduced or not used at all (mainly talking about Thor’s side plot which…ended up serving no purpose in Thor: Ragnarok). The chemistry between the cast members shines through the incoherent script however, with two key ongoing jokes throughout the film such as Thor’s hammer Mjölnir and Captain America’s response to use of profanity from the opening scene, it’s entertaining and at times hilarious to watch this family vibe shine on screen. Also, it’s nice for a change that Hawkeye gets some on screen love as he didn’t have it before, and hasn’t had the same amount of attention since. James Spader does a fine voice performance as Ultron, though on repeated viewings I don’t enjoy this villain as much as I initially did.
14. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Ty Simpkins and Ben Kingsley
Probably the most controversial Marvel Studios film to date on the list is Iron Man 3, with Shane Black at the helm instead of Jon Favreau. Here we got to witness more about Tony Stark the man, rather than the man in a can, as he begins to struggle with the aftermath of Avengers Assemble. The dialogue for Stark’s quirks are as fast paced as they are witty with the Black/Downey Jr collaborating once again after Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The main grips everyone has with this film is this is more about Stark than it is Iron Man and also for the fact of the character that they were nailing in The Mandarin and then…..yeah, they twisted that with Revor. But for the twist in the way that the film was going, some, like myself, bought it and others understandably checked out at that point and were done with the film.
13. Doctor Strange (2016)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton
Visually, the film is a terrific spectacle to watch on the big screen when it comes to the use of magic and sorcery with its kaleidoscope-visuals. Having very little knowledge with the character from the Doctor Strange comics, I thought the film done a decent job in building the character and explaining the world of sorcery as well as the multiverse. Cumberbatch was really good in the role for me as Strange and a character that definitely intrigued me with his arc as a character that was only out to look out for himself at the start, to ending up being the protector of all the realms by films end. Tilda Swinton was also good as The Ancient One, despite the controversy that surrounded her casting in the role. The kaleidoscope-visuals are terrific when they’re first revealed to us the audience, but for me once it comes to the final act in particular, the visuals end up overshadowing what’s happening on the surface, taking the focus away from the characters. The MCU is known for its certain type of humour and here particularly it feels noticeably out of place, I’m still trying to figure out how they thought the Beyonce gag was a good idea but everyone has their taste in comedy, here the majority of it felt forced for me. while Mads Mikkelsen brings a certain menacing presence on screen as Kaecilius, I still didn’t feel him provide much threat to the world.
12. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins
This film places emphasis on the fun side of things and especially when it comes to the middle act, it’s at its strongest when the Hulk is introduced to the silly madness that exists on Sakaar. It’s worth noting that it could be argued that Thor: Ragnarok may have the best Production and Costume Design in an MCU film to date, with Sakaar bursting with colourful sets in the Grandmaster’s chambers, to the people’s love for Hulk and the overall world itself. The special effects when it comes to the fight sequence between Thor and Hulk, Hela’s attack on Asgard and the final act I thought was very well handled and the new wave/synthpop score from Mark Mothersbaugh (aka Devo band member) works well with the tone of the film. While it’s all good for the film to have some fun, for me the road trip comedy vibe doesn’t gel with the apocalyptic epic that you would be hoping for. There are a few scenes here that should have emotional weight but I feel like we’re not given enough time to soak it in before the next joke/slapstick bit of comedy is thrown at the audience. while I did enjoy Cate Blanchett’s performance of the Goddess of Death, her character is rather short-changed in the development stakes and it feels the story is more focused on the Thor/Loki/Hulk/Valkyrie journey so much that her scenes feel more of a hindrance to the flow of the film.
11. Ant-Man (2015)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, Tip ‘T.I’ Harris, Wood Harris, David Dastmalchian and Michael Douglas
fter the epic scale we were given with Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man takes us back to basics of a superhero film contained in a small (literally) area. What makes Ant-Man different from the rest of the Marvel films thus far is how Scott Lang is doing this heist job for Hank Pym in an attempt to insure that he has a future to reconnect with his daughter, giving the film an emotional depth where some Marvel films before have been lacking. Paul Rudd makes a charming hero as Scott Lang, surrounded by compelling performance from Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, a good performance by Evangeline Lilly (Who will thankfully get a bigger role in the upcoming sequel Ant-Man And The Wasp), the fight sequences are well handled with the particular highlight and crowd pleaser is when Scott goes up against the Falcon.
10. Thor (2011)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Kat Dennings, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Tadanobu Asano and Anthony Hopkins
Before Guardians of the Galaxy, you could argue that Thor was Marvel Studios biggest risk in trying to create a film with Thor, the God of Thunder, played by Chris Hemsworth who is still unknown to the film going audience and somehow make this God a character that audiences can relate to and yep Marvel and director Kenneth Branagh pulled it off nicely by having Thor cast out from Asgard onto Earth without his God-like abilities. Hemsworth is Thor, literally, and carries the film alongside Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who became an instant sensation and scene stealer. The overall cast assemble is great as well as the action sequences.
9. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn and Kurt Russell
While the original was grand and epic in scale, I was surprised by just how self-contained and character driven Vol. 2 is. While we witnessed Peter Quill having to come at peace with the loss of his mother, here it focuses on Quill finally meeting his father Ego and learn about his lineage. As this is seen as the main focus, there’s the development of Gamora and Nebula relationship, giving us some further backstory to their upbringing under Thanos and why Nebula is the way she is, to Rocket and Yondu coming to a respective understanding of their similar upbringing and even Drax and Mantis, though mostly providing comedic laughs in comparison to the other character relationships, provides one serious scene that was subtle yet more powerful than I expected it to be. The special effects for the most part where we’re shown the worlds in particular is very well done and even the cinematography from Henry Braham may have some of the best imagery in an MCU film. I thought Kurt Russell was really good as Ego, the man is makes his role effortlessly good and Michael Rooker as Yondu for me was the most impressive in terms of his character progression in the film and he has some of the best moments in the film
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr., Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier and Tony Revolori
What I will credit this film for is playing up the High School setting and actually having it embodied in Parker’s character progression here as we see how his obsession to become an Avenger, to being apart of something bigger than himself affect not only his education but his social skills as well. For me, this portrayal of Peter Parker is the one that stands for me as being the best as Tom Holland perfectly balances the characters awkwardness when it comes to interacting with his crush Liz, his fun side as he interacts with various villains and also having someone that’s having fun about being a superhero. Every heroes journey can only be as good as its villain and with Adrian Toomes as Vulture, he is certainly one of the best to come into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a long time. Vulture isn’t someone that’s out for ultimate power, taking over the world or even world destruction, he’s a blue-collar worker that is stripped of his livelihood as after the battle of New York, his salvage company is put out of business by the U.S Department of Damage Control that’s created by Tony Stark and the government. Michael Keaton is menacing as Toomes and at times intense as hell, particularly in one scene where he gives a monologue in a car that is personally my favourite scene in the film and it helps that the character has been given depth and a sense of moral self-righteousness in his motivations.
7. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke and Stanley Tucci
A film for me that just ages better with time, Chris Evans is great as Rodgers as we see the transformation of this little man into this genetically modified super soldier and his relationships between Bucky Barnes and Peggy Carter keep you invested throughout the film. Schmidt/Red Skull is a formidable villain but is displaced too easy (one would say, too easy) but for Marvel Studios period piece, it was a nice step to have us invested in Cap and setup nicely for Avengers Assemble.
6. Black Panther (2018)
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis
While a big studio budget normally serves as unnecessary expectation and pressure on the director, Ryan Coogler manages to create a fascinating world grounded in reality within the superhero genre. The nation of Wakanda is absolutely gorgeous to look at, blending African culture with futuristic tech, thanks to vibranium, complimented by Rachel Morrison’s cinematography. While Coogler is working on the Marvel Studios palette, the film focuses very much on the characters, political intrigue, tackling issues that are being tackled such as racism, colonialism and slavery and even examines the relationship between Africans and African-Americans. Some of the action sequences are well done, with the highlight being the casino brawl and the car chase sequence that follows. Chadwick Boseman is great here as T’Challa, serving more as a stoic presence where you can see his personal conflict throughout as he feels the pressure of not only being put on the throne too soon, but him wanting to go outside of Wakanda’s traditions and help those around the world, even though he knows his good intentions will make enemies amongst the tribes. Michael B. Jordan is terrific as one of the MCU’s better villains as the charismatic and bitter Killmonger, whose actions are extreme and yet when we learn his backstory, we sympathise with him.
5. Iron Man (2008)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub and Gwyneth Paltrow
2008 we witnessed the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and also saw the resurgence of Robert Downey Jr. as an A-lister and as one of the most iconic cinematic characters of this generation. The fact this still remains one of the best films let alone origins film in the MCU is a testament to how strong this film is, with a well structured origin story and an interesting villain and considering the MCU catalogue of villains he’s definitely in the top 5 for me personally. Tony Stark is a role that Robert Downey Jr. was born to play and it’s comfortable to say that without RDJ in the role, the film may not have been impactful as it has been over the course of the last seven years, with the dialogue mostly ad-libbed throughout and you can tell with the way that he delivers his lines throughout the course of the film, adding an extra layer to the character in a terrific performance while the rest play it straight in front of his deadpan humor with Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s personal assistant Pepper Potts who’s concerned that this idiot could die in his new found mission as Iron Man, Terrence Howard as Stark’s friend Col. Rhodes playing it straight and then there’s Jeff Bridges performance as Obadiah Stane as the convincing villain of the piece. Entertaining fun film from Marvel that probably still has one of the best after credits scenes in the MCU thus far.
4. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt and Daniel Brühl
Captain America: Civil War may be dubbed by some as Avengers 2.5, but the Russo Brothers have managed to create a film that not only serves as an Avengers film but still works on a personal level as a Captain America film. The linchpin that causes a divide amongst the superheroes here is not just the Sokovia Accords, but Bucky Barnes himself. That’s the key ingredient for the personal emotions making this a Cap film, for Steve is Bucky still worth saving and becoming a vigilante in the eyes of the government in the process? The motives for the Avengers signing/not signing the Accords are explained that audiences can see both sides of the argument with Rogers believing that Government agendas will deny them from what they should do when the time comes and Stark believing that they need to should be reined in and be held accountable. Chadwick Boseman’s introduction as T’Challa and Tom Holland’s introduction as Peter Parker make for a great additions to the MCU, there are some great sequences including the Leipzig/Halle Airport fight with some memorable moments in there. I also liked Daniel Brühl here as the villain Zemo, who is a consequence of a previous Avengers actions in releasing S.H.I.E.L.D intel to the public. Does the aftermath still feel that there’s no real long-term effects amongst the group overall? Absolutely.
3. Avengers Assemble (2012)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hiddleston
Regardless of your views of comic book film adaptations at the minute, let alone the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Avengers is an iconic moment in cinema for the simple reason of having the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye aka The Avengers, appear on screen together for the first time. Granted it now seems enough time has passed for enough people to now not enjoy it as much as they did when it came out a few years ago but there’s still plenty of enjoyment for me to find here, while the plot is straight forward, the special effects are terrific here and not as overloaded as what its sequel Age of Ultron became with a great sense of fun that should come from a summer blockbuster. Whedon does a terrific job with the directing and also giving each individual member of the Avengers their moment to shine (technically Barton aka Hawkeye has a really good fight scene against Black Widow but that’s when he’s under Loki’s influence) and the performances are solid here from actors that have been in the roles for a while and the obvious standout is Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki.
2. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro
From the moment of grown up Peter Quill’s face reveal leading into the opening film credits after a very serious heavy opening scene, James Gunn gives you a hint that this is going to be a slightly different Marvel film from the status quo of what we’ve come to expect from them.James Gunn has brought us this big new refreshing experience on a grand scale from the new worlds, new variations of characters and with some terrific humour and heart. I couldn’t help but let my inner childhood enjoy the cinematic experience of it all, made from a director that clearly pays homage to certain operatic space films of the past but clearly certifying his own stamp on it here. The cast is terrific and one of the key ingredients of the film is that they gel well together and somehow make it seem so effortless. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star Lord (one of the few constant running gags in this film) is a terrific choice of lead in this film as half badass and literally half Chris Pratt. Zoe Saldana is well cast as Gamora, the assassin who easily with her rich backstory could carry her own film or be the lead in that regard. Bautista fits well into the character of Drax The Destroyer on screen, though for me at the start there were a few lines from him I couldn’t make out but there seems to be a point where it just clicked for him in the film and he knocked it out of the park. Then there’s the tag team of Rocket and Groot. There was a few voices of disapproval about having high profile names for the voice acting roles of Groot and Rocket Raccoon, but you forget all about that during this film and just hear them as the characters themselves, with Diesel delivering three simple words in different expressions and making them all hit you differently is quite an achievement in itself and Rocket….well Rocket, be prepared for some Disney merchandising explosion because Rocket is a terrific character and could easily become one of the biggest characters in the Marvel Franchise.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford
Steve Rodgers, out of the Avengers aftermath, sticks with S.H.I.E.L.D and becomes their soldier but is not the stiff-necked roided up boy scout from The First Avenger film that I wasn’t really a fan of here. He’s not afraid to question the authority of what they are really doing (‘This isn’t freedom, this is fear’), so that particular scene of dialogue with Nick Fury drills home that he’s not going to sit in the background of S.H.I.E.L.D and wait to be called for and be ‘Fury’s caretaker’. In this particular film, I totally brought into Chris Evans portrayal of Rogers as a man caught up in a world where good vs evil is no longer so clearcut to see and trying to figure out what his purpose is, to remain a soldier or something more. Honestly Rodgers was my least favourite out of the Avengers members but after this film he moves up to the top. Also he is more of a badass and has become quite the expert in shield Frisbee. The film overall is of the core Avengers team having crossroads/conscious arcs. Like Natasha is figuring out where she fits into the scheme of things and Fury is also feeling vulnerable, which we haven’t seen at all before. I also enjoyed the interaction between Cap and Natasha in this film (including an ongoing discussion throughout the duration of the film), Evans and Johansson just gel so well. Also, after this film, I’d have absolutely no problem watching a Black Widow standalone film. The overall tone of the film is Marvel Studio’s most mature to date and balances the fine line of doing the spy espionage thriller with elements of superhero action. And there be lots of action set pieces. Particular highlights being the Nick Fury car chase and the second Cap and Winter Soldier encounter (they have a few). The assembled cast does a great job here too, in particular Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, Anthony Mackie getting the best jokes and a welcome addition to the universe as The Falcon, Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D main head Alexander Pierce, Scarlett Johansson adds more humour to her character here and essentially co-leads the film and Sebastian Stan does a good job as The Winter Soldier, even though he is not the main focus of the plot, he adds a air of menace as a literal Terminator chasing after Cap and Black Widow. Still my favourite film the Marvel Cinematic Universe.