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Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked From Worst To Best


It's been two years since Avengers 2.5, aka Captain America: Civil War and the third Avengers film, Infinity War is here. As we bask in the joy that is Thanos actually doing something more than just sitting in a chair for six years, surely everyone has thought of watching all 19 Marvel cinematic universe films again and ranking them from worst to best? No? Well one (awesome) saddo actually has the time to do that. THIS saddo, that's who.

19. Iron Man 2



What was it you loved most about the first Iron Man film? The engaging social commentary over terrorism and war profiteering? A kickass origin story based on technology grounded in reality? A protagonist who doesn't let any of his obstacles knock him back? Said protagonist blowing up a terrorist's tank with an explosive-walk-away? Jeff Bridges' mighty beard? Well remember that love and hold on to it tight because that's all gone in what I call Iron Meh, aka Iron Man 2.


Not even Robert Downey Jr's Downey Jr-isms and the introduction of Scarlett Johansson in leather catsuits can save Iron Meh from being nothing more than Marvel's first rushed take on killing time before an Avengers film. It's the definition of "sequilitis": the hero gets too full of himself and falls from grace, mixed with a few random subplots that don't go anywhere meaningful, including something about metal poisoning.

You get two halves of one half decent villain: Sam Rockwell playing a bland corporate weasel and Mickey Rourke as some Russian dude who likes birds, working on a half-baked scheme of one-upping Tony Stark. Both are so bland and badly written, all you want to do is check your watch when you're watching a scene without Downey Jr.

Filled with tedious meetings about nothing, Iron Meh waters down the fine wine of the character you knew before throwing him into a plot you'll forget an hour after watching. As Honest Trailers once said: "it's a sequel you'll fool yourself into liking only because it had Iron Man in it".


18. Iron Man 3



When Iron Man 3 first came out, there were a few headlines that debated whether if it was the best Marvel film ever. I of coursed scoffed every time because this isn't really an Iron Man film. It's the cinematic debut of Regular Man.


The adventures of Regular Man slightly improved on asking the same question that Iron Meh stumbled on: "who is Iron Man, the suit or the man who wears it?". Director, Shane Black's initiative to realistically develop Tony Stark's character is crippled by the film business equivalent of alcoholism: bad writing. The many instances of lacking logic for the sake of moving the plot along is almost laughable. Moments like Tony threatening a terrorist organisation, giving them his home address, putting on his one incomplete Iron Man suit that malfunctions and not turning on any security system are examples of plot holes that make you imagine the script looking like Spongebob Squarepants.

If you were hoping for the rebirth of excitement, thrills and genuine Tony Stark'isms from the first Iron Man, the once-again butchering of the character is all the more heart breaking. Taking Tony Stark out of an actual working Iron Man suit for almost the entirety of the film is one thing, making him anxious, insecure and suffering post traumatic stress disorder is another very depressing thing. However, it all could've been worth it if there was a decent pay-off. Sadly, in the theme that is Iron Man 3, these chances are blown up spectacularly with Tony's Iron Man suits for no reason, namely in the form of the bland villain being defeated by Gwenyth Paltrow wearing workout gear.


17. Thor: The Dark World




A cinematic definition of "well, it's just.... there". Thor 2 is both an example of an inferior sequel and the cemented thought that whilst the standalone franchise is passable, the direction at this point certainly makes these films forgettable. Even writing about it feels forgettable.


Forgettable generic end-the-world plot; generic villain, generic Natalie Portman, generic Natalie Portman's kooky sidekicks, forgettable already-played out fish-out-of-water humour. The one exception to all of the forgettable(-ness) is the delight in realising that the trio of pointless that is The Warrior's Three will be swiftly murdered in Thor: Ragnarok.


16. The Incredible Hulk



Remember when Tim Roth was a Marvel villain? Me neither.


Before accepting that he only works in non-solo supporting roles, the Hulk was given one last chance to smash his way to box office success by being all sad and serious. Having not seen this one since before Mark Ruffalo took over the role for The Avengers onwards, I forgot how much I liked Edward Norton's take on the character of Bruce Banner and what was done with it. The Incredible Hulk is an emphasis on drama, with Banner constantly at war with himself, being both a victim of circumstance, emotional pain and the odd bit of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ironically, that's all that's really entertaining: The Incredible Hulk is at its peak when the main character is just a man and not the big CGI monster the film's named after, which is what drags the film down. Besides the characterisation of Banner and Tim Roth's performance, it's all a bit of a boring formula: Banner's on the run; they nearly catch him, he becomes the Hulk, fights off the baddies, runs away, repeat twice, only the third time ends with a generic fight between two CGI monsters with an obligatory "Hulk SMASH!" thrown in.


15. Doctor Strange



Iron Man with magic.

Cocky; rich man with a goatee has near-death experience, acquires superhero capabilities in foreign land, fights a baddie with nearly the same superhero capabilities, cocky rich man is now a better person than he was 90 minutes prior, roll credits.

It really tells you something about a film when you've put off buying the Blu-ray for a year and a half. That's because compared to Iron Man, Iron Man with magic's biggest difference is that it has only a fraction of the substance and life that makes a film enjoyable.

Whilst the humour eventually picks up simultaneously with your interest, it's a long journey getting there. By this point, you're wondering "Benedict Cumberbatch is great as Steven Strange but why couldn't they just let him use his British accent"? Alongside with being curious as to how a sentient cloak has more personality than most of the cast.

The best thing about Doctor Strange is its trippy visuals, with memories of seeing it in 3D at the cinema still making me occasionally wonder if I was on acid. The issue is that with a smaller screen, like that of a decent-sized television, its impact is far less significant. In terms of the story itself, Iron Man with magic achieves very little in actually making you care what happens to those involved, except for the sentient cape of course.

Although it's ending is uniquely enjoyable in the form of defeating a villain by really annoying another villain, Doctor Strange contains mostly forgettable exposition about who the wizard man is in Infinity War.


14. Thor



My inner thoughts whilst re-watching Thor include repeated but mixed sequences of the following: "Wow. Epic music". "Oh. the Blue Man Group". "My god that's A LOT of CGI". "Damn, Loki is so good". "Cringe with a side of cheesy". "Does anyone actually care about Natalie Portman at this point?". "Please. Just. Put. Loki. Back. On".

The first Thor film was a fun-ish time back in the olden days of 2011 with a few elements that are still enjoyable today (mostly Loki). However, Marvel found their footing with its formula since then, being able to consistently make their films entertaining, funny and grounded at the same time. Thor's entertaining for sure but the rest comes off as cheesy and slightly dull. Other than the "ANOTHER!" bit, most of the jokes fall flat enough times to make me start imagining tumbleweeds rolling by.

The whole character development journey Thor goes on is only really half believable, doing almost a complete flip of his personality after two days. The plot as a whole's pretty weak as well. When not in the CGI-bloated Asgard, it's mostly the generic fish-out-of-water story line you've seen in any series or made-for-TV film from the early 2000's.


13. Captain America: The First Avenger



CGI skinny mini Chris Evans. That is all.


Seriously, you know how far film-making technology has come when you can make an actor with the body of a superhero look like a well-groomed Gollum with correct posture.

Having just finished the Secret Empire story line in the comics (Cap becomes leader of the Nazis. It's a good read), watching The First Avenger is very nostalgic. The overall message of "just don't be a dick, ok?" sticks with you when it's accompanied with that inspirational orchestral score. It definitely has its flaws, basically being a feature length trailer for the first Avengers film.

In a film that's all about fighting the Nazis in World War 2, the majority of Captain America fighting said Nazis is condensed into a two-minute montage. That's after a lot of build up to making him Captain America in the first place. Explaining its several plot holes and interesting elements of its set period is instead replaced with setting up the next film. But hey, Tommy Lee Jones is in it.


12. Avengers: Age of Ultron



A film with a timescale that makes many think of it more as something along the lines of Bank Holiday Weekend of Ultron. 


It has its great moments. The Hulk vs Hulkbuster Armour fight is a hilarious visual spectacle. Characters get put through the realism filter, being in conflict over what they could do/should be when not trying to save the world, asking themselves are they too damaged to be happy when there's no fight left to fight. My favourite aspect of this is Hawkeye. Despite being arguably the weakest or least powerful by comparison with no special abilities of his own, he's the one who actually has a family of loved ones to go home to. A normal life. It's great to see that in this team consisting of a god, a man in armour and a big green rage monster, he's the only one who's actually got his shit together.

Sadly, that's as far as Age of Ultron goes in terms of standing out. The product of constant studio pressure to capture lighting in a bottle a second time makes this Avengers sequel feel like an ex who's desperate to reconcile a once-great relationship. Its repetitive plot about a menacing but slightly witty villain trying to destroy the world with the help of a faceless CGI army feels dryer and more uneven than before. A few too many plot lines and multiple waves of misplaced jokes scream the impression that Age of Ultron just trying too hard to impress you in all of the wrong ways.


11. Spider-Man: Homecoming



Iron Man but poor:


Taking place after Civil War with Peter returning from a distant land in a technologically advanced suit that features an A.I assistant, he hopes to prove that he can make his own positive mark on the world whilst ultimately fighting an enemy in his own technologically advanced suit. Thankfully, that doesn't really matter because Homecoming's self awareness as a superhero high school comedy separates itself to make its own positive mark on our hearts.

Being what can be universally described as the definitive onscreen take of the lead character, Tom Holland does both sides of the wall crawler justice, whilst acting opposite Michael Keaton's memorable performance as the film's villain. Being able to portray Peter Parker's socially awkward yet charming personality and switch over to Spider-Man's innocently confident energy heightens the indulgence of this lighthearted story.

For the first time, instead of inappropriately casting adult actors in their 30's, Peter Parker is what he should be: a kid. The second act drags on but this Marvel-Sony collaboration deals with the idea of there being such a young superhero, including the recklessness and naivety that comes with it. Being what is Marvel's take on the teenage coming of age story, the credits roll with you being delighted with Peter's journey about power and responsibility.


10. Avengers Assemble



Ah 2012. A time before plots about a big beam in the sky ending the world got old. Avengers, having to be renamed for the UK because of a 60's series no-one ever heard of, actually holds up a lot better than I thought it would. The memories of it all being bright, colorful and about fighting a faceless CGI army made me skeptical.

Aside from Captain America's suit, which is basically just a bright onesie with a hood, it still shows why the Joss Whedon-directed spectacle was first reviewed as the lightning in the bottle that its sequel couldn't replicate. Watching characters who've already had their own films come together for the first time, bouncing well-placed banter and quips off each other, is just as fun as it was 6 years ago. Its humour, action and story is all written so well, it's enjoyable for anyone who hasn't seen a Marvel film and is only heightened by those who've seen the standalone entries leading up to it.

In addition to the theme tune that's still addictive to hum today, Avengers gave way to this beautiful moment:



9. Ant-Man



Iron Man but tiny:

A reckless yet likable man acquires a special suit with amazing capabilities. Using said suit to thwart a villain from using a large company's technology for their own personal gain, our hero defeats his foe who is also wearing a suit with almost the same amazing capabilities.


Ant-Man's similarities to Iron Man are dwarfed by its own individual personality. Direction by Peyton Reed, the still-visible contributions by Edgar Wright, the likable onscreen delights that are Paul Rudd and Michael Peña gave us something the MCU was yet to have: a smaller scale, personal story that's a fitting platform for it's simpler stakes and concentrated humour.

Being simply a comedic heist film, Ant-Man remains a breath of light-hearted fresh air despite the villain being played by the bland bald man from House of Cards. Its dynamic cast, witty writing and hilarious sequences are memorable gems that give Ant-Man its own identity.


8. Guardians of the Galaxy



The classic that is Space Avengers.


Guardians of the Galaxy excels the earthbound counterpart in every way to the point that it's just more fun. Being one of those instances where you don't even need to have heard of Marvel beforehand to enjoy it, you are presented with a feel-good yet comedic story about individuals who are lost in the universe, finding solace in one another despite their baggage, wrapped in the delightful warmth that is the Awesome Mix soundtrack.

Featuring a group of characters you follow and connect with almost immediately, Guardians of the Galaxy's five protagonists end up becoming just as if not more likeable than a group of heroes that take five individual films to set up. The villain being little more than a human-sized space smurf with anger issues drags it down slightly but the pleasant bond between a talking raccoon and a sentient tree brings it back up a bit.


7. Black Panther



Iron Man in Africa: 

Following the death of his revered father, a good-hearted man takes on the position that was left behind along with the burden and responsibility that came with it. Fighting off those who wish to take his power for themselves, the hero dons his metal suit with amazing capabilities to defeat the villain wearing almost the same suit with amazing capabilities.


Despite being the most over-hyped box office success in recent memory, Black Panther roars loud enough (Get it? 'cause it's an animal. Ha) to be heard as a quality film in its own right with its heavy swings at themes of family, succession and the moral grey area between what's right and wrong. The narrative clash with its two villains is a noticeable stumble in its flow but the excellence of Michael B. Jordan's playing Erik Kilmonger, the main antagonist, cannot be denied. He's a gripping and thought provoking example of how a villain can merely be a victim of circumstance with no path to walk down besides the wrong one. The layer of tragedy beneath the surface makes you resonate with Black Panther on the same emotional level as The Lion King, and we all love The Lion King.



6. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2



Space Avengers 2: Electric Boogalo 

Mostly confined to a single location, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had been knocked by many for not being a typical space adventure, jumping around over 35 and a half planets. Effectively building on the character dynamics already established in the original, this sequel excels in every way by offering a story that's hefty on the comedy but is also able to seamlessly pull back the laughs when needed to serve up some of the most emotional moments Marvel have offered.


Dealing with Peter Quill's daddy issues; Gamora with her angry robot sister issues, Drax using his comedy to mask his pain, Rocket and Yondu facing their complexes between family and friendship make Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 more of a a hard-hitting comedy drama than what it says on the Blu-ray case. It's everything a sequel should be, developing on existing character arcs supported on pillars of qualitative humour. In particular Yondu's arc, marking the first genuine death of a major character in the entire MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 even improves your view of the original, making you look back at these heroes and their relationships in an even more loving light.

The fact that the villain was the charmingly gruff Kurt Russell instead of an angry blue space terrorist was also a massive plus.

5. Thor: Ragnorok



We're all sceptical when we hear the whole "third time's the charm" spiel. The idea of a third Thor film was similar to the concept of going on another date with someone who you've already had two yawn-filled experiences with. Turns out all you had to do was throw out all of the franchise's forgettable baggage, focus on what works and you've got Marvel's funniest film ever.


Thor: Ragnarok is the Thor film that finally feels worthy of its title by basically being the MCU's first pure comedy. Director Taika Waititi takes the larger than life source material of gods, monsters, rainbow roads etc and instead of trying to tell a half-hearted serious story, hones the material and just has fun with it. Characters from Nordic legend are painted in the same tone as Guardians of the Galaxy and actually feels even more fitting.

Waititi's comedic routes from films like What we do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople shine bright by ripping out the Thor franchises' foundations and just making it over the top ridiculous, especially for Thor and the Hulk. Their characters have worked in other films but their growth had been so limited to the scope of their genres, making them stagnant. Ragnarok's writing adds layers to the potential for the MCU's comedic prowess along with the personality and wit to these main Marvel characters, making them more than just semi-serious muscle heads.

Also, Jeff Goldblum.


4. Iron Man



Every other ranking list for Marvel films I've seen always starts with "the one that started it all" and I gag a little bit because that doesn't do the Iron Man film justice. Notice my wording there. I'm not talking about this as the first Iron Man film. This is THE Iron Man film. Compared to this masterpiece, Iron Meh and Regular Man haven't come close to being the treasured thrill it was and still is today.

From start to finish, even through Iron Man's quieter moments, you're interest is constantly engaged. It's not just about waiting for Robert Downey Jr to iron-suit up and shoot some ray beams, you're rooting for Tony Stark to conquer his demons, all whilst on a quest for discovery to fight the terrorism that he inadvertently created. Before the sequels took the character on journeys difficult to enjoy, we witnessed a competent protagonist who used his brilliance to kill terrorists and villains similar to those still in today's world, channeling a rage we can all relate to. Iron Man introduces Tony Stark as everything we wish we could be; rich, confident, intelligent and a ladies' man, and ends with him being a cinematic message that says, "if we have the power to do some good in the world, do it". Not to mention the "I am Iron Man" line is up there with some of the best film endings to date.

The AC/DC; Downey Jr's performance, the grounded action, Jeff Bridge's glorious beard and the blowing up of a bloody tank (with that explosion walk-away), makes the Iron Man film immediately re-watchable after each viewing. Also, not enough praise is given to Jeff Bridge's performance either, creating a spectacular out of the blue, over the top villain moment:



3. Avengers: Infinity War



Watching Infinity War six hours prior to writing up its ranking, I could summarise it alone with "Ow. My emotions". 

A few people I know were sceptical about Infinity War; wondering how a bunch of characters getting together for the third time to fight some CGI bad guys could be any more exciting than before besides the new and shiny heroes?

The answer is that the era of Joss Whedon-directed Avengers films is over. That and the happy-go lucky gloss that goes with it. The Russo brothers are in charge now, continuing their reign of redefining the art of adapting comics to the big screen. In what's currently the third film their directed trilogy, Joe and Anthony Russo were tasked with delivering on ten years of superhero franchise build-up. They've done just that by not making Infinity War a superhero story but more of a story about the villain, Thanos, and how he's actually the hero in his own story. No one a decade a go would believe that a computer generated purple space giant would become one of the most compelling cinematic villains in recent history. Feeling like it should have actually been called "Thanos: Infinity War", the new title holder of best Marvel villain is understandable and terrifying simultaneously, making each scene he's in feel more invigorating than each one before.

Constructed so that the humour is more of a passenger than the driver, Infinity War feels more like a hard-hitting graphic novel than a film. Opposed to a film's standard three acts, Infinity War is paced so that one scene or sequence with a particular group of characters each feels more like an individual comic part of a larger story. Any humour present feels well-placed and earned, with each grouping feeling thought out and meaningful to watch. That same sensation comic readers have when pining to read the next issue is present until the very end, causing the 3rd of May 2019 for the next film feel painfully too far away. 

Infinity War stops itself from being ranked higher with its necessity to make room for a cinematic universe's worth of characters within the time frame of a single film. Despite the two and a half hours flying by, the inevitable uneven sharing of the spotlight is fairly noticeable with some characters. With so much going on, it's 149 minutes of pure action, leaving little room for character development compared to what some would prefer. With this much fast-paced content, you may go away feeling a little bloated in the same manner as whenever you get carried away at a Chinese buffet. This film has also been specifically made for those invested in the franchise. For those who have seen barely any (if any) of the Marvel films, the impact of its developments will land a lot softer. 

Nevertheless, Infinity War is a heart-clenching reward for Marvel fans, awarding their commitment to the franchises' evolution over the past decade to its transcendence into a suspenseful drama with super powers. If Game of Thrones sets the TV precedent of using established; mature stories to make its suspense, developments and deaths as impactful as they can be, Infinity War is a lesson of how to be a cinematic equivalent.


2. Captain America: Civil War



Let's be honest. The airport scene alone deserves this.

What on paper seems to be an Avengers film instead of Captain America 3 manages to seamlessly blend both together, being everything fun about what a comic book film should be whilst being an emotional vessel for storytelling from a real world perspective.


Putting the impact of the MCU's events under a microscope, Civil War drags this comic book world and its characters down to reality, addressing real world consequences of the Marvel films that came before it, including the many off screen deaths that have previously been glossed over. Placing many players into a hard-hitting story, The Russo Brothers being back in the directors chairs masterfully does each character justice without one being given too much time or an insignificant amount of it compared to another.

When fists and laser beams aren't flying in captivating actions sequences, heroes are lent significant and meaningfully impactful character developments. The highlight of this being Tony Stark. Focusing on the significance of the relationships between him, his father, Bucky and Captain America himself, this arc holds more depth and weight than Iron Meh and Regular Man combined.

Even the use of the villain raises the bar. Daniel Brühl's Helmut Zemo is written in a way that changes our perception of the character and his goals as the film goes along to the point where you empathise with him. Despite having no powers or a nameless henchmen, he ends up becoming the most pitiful and yet one of the most brilliant Marvel villains. Outwitting the heroes at every turn, he manages to do something no villain in the MCU has ever done up to this point: he wins. He achieves his goal and our time with him ends with a smile on his face. 

Also, we have the best introduction to Spider-Man ever. Neat.


1. Captain America: The Winter Solider



Before kicking off my Marvel re-watch, a friend told me how he thought Winter Soldier's one of the best films ever made. He's definitely on the right track. Being one of my favourite films, Winter Solider's the easiest to get excited about re-watching due to how exhilaratingly impeccable it is from start to finish.


It explores the real-world concept of our technological advancements, ever-present threats of violence and war coinciding to ask the question "how far is humanity willing to go to ensure it's safety, even if it means prioritising fear over free will?".

If Civil War is a love letter to those who love comic book films, followed by Infinity War being a reward to loyal Marvel fans, Winter Solider is a love letter to those who love films in general, very closely taking the top spot due to its tighter focus that suits practically all audiences. You don't even need to like superheroes or know anything about them to enjoy this film. All you need to know before watching is there's this super solider WW2 hero who got frozen in 1945 and now it's the present, which is all explained anyway.

The director duo that is the Russo brothers ground and further humanise the character of Steve Rogers, going from a patriotic wet blanket wearing a onesie in Avengers Assemble to an unstoppable force of strength, skill and will, with a moral compass from another time.

Winter Soldier's use of an ensemble of villains actually work in its favor unlike many other comic book films which trip the narrative by using multiple antagonists. The highlights being Robert Redford's Alexander Pierce as the calm and collected corrupt brains behind the dormant Hydra organisation, whilst The Winter Solider himself not only represents the cold brutality that Hydra can inflict, but also the relentless hurricane of skill and cunning that makes him Captain America's equal as a moral opposite.

Out of all Marvel films, it also makes the best use of its side characters. Nick Fury actually seems like a competent badass besides his usual role of just appearing in post-credit scenes and giving motivational speeches. The "you need to keep both eyes open" line delivery still gives me chills. Black Widow is finally shone solely in the light of a deadly spy instead of a sex symbol, laying the groundwork of hype for a solo film we're still pining for.

Winter Solider successfully combines the genres of action, conspiracy thriller and spy film all in one, being carefully balanced with moments of tender character development to be a complete example of what perfect entertainment should be. Action sequences are fluid yet excitedly rough; matching with the well-placed score, making sure the intensity and suspense never waver no matter how many times you've watched it, all laid on the foundation of a story of friendship and doing what's right.

Captain America: The Winter Solider isn't just the best film Marvel has ever made, it's one of the best action films ever made, raising the bar that many others are still trying to reach.

Do you agree or disagree with these rankings? What's your number one Marvel Cinematic Universe movie? Tell us what you think in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

 
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