Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. The official task for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was for participants to talk about their favourite Bookish Characters. While this was an interesting and unique topic, I was in a real Marvel mood (I’m sure most people can work out why) and I decided to do instead update a list from last year.
I am sure that it will come to now surprise to anyone who has read some of my posts that I am a major fan of all things comic related, which includes the fabulous works coming out of Marvel. I have an outstanding amount of love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney’s juggernaut film franchise that brings some of the most iconic Marvel Comics characters to life in their own distinctive universe. As such, last year I spent a significant amount of time ranking all the MCU movies from my least to most favourite. This was a pretty interesting experience, especially considering the overall quality of the franchise, and it proved surprisingly hard to figure out which ones I liked more than others. Nonetheless, I endured and ended up with a massive list that fit my then current views of the MCU.
Since that first list, a few more MCU movies have been released, including an absolute ripper of a Spider-Man film, as well as a trippy new Doctor Strange movie just out last week. I had a lot of fun watching all of them, and I thought that this would be a good time to redo the list and chuck in the new films. Naturally, this was a much easier experience than the original list, especially as most of the films stayed in the same position that they were last time. I was able to slot the new films in fairly easily (new films highlighted in red), and I already had a pretty good idea of where they needed to go. I also chose to make a couple of minor adjustments to the existing list, mainly because I have re-evaluated my opinions about one or two films and moved them around a little. This hasn’t impacted the overall list too much, but I think it fits my current thoughts on the entire franchise a lot better. So, let’s have a look and see how the current 28 films in this franchise currently stack up.
Spoiler warning below
List (Ranked – Reverse Order):
28. The Incredible Hulk
I want to make something clear: The Incredible Hulk is not a bad movie. It is actually pretty watchable, with an interesting cast, some decent graphics and an enjoyable story about the origins of the Hulk and his conflict with the military. Despite this, it is probably the least enjoyable MCU film, and for that reason many people skip it or try to ignore it when doing an MCU marathon. Edward Norton, while a fine actor, does not really click as Bruce Banner, and the later re-casting with Mark Ruffalo really highlights that. In addition, he does not have any chemistry with Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross, who was a borderline damsel in distress (especially when compared to the strong women that dominated the early MCU films). A pre-Modern Family Ty Burrell is underutilised as Doc Samson, a character that was never featured to its full potential (I want a raging, muscle-bound Ty Burrell with flowing green locks, dammit). I liked Tim Roth as the villain (before he was CGI’d), and William Hurt (RIP) is a great Thunderbolt Ross. While the movie starts off strong, I think it lost its way towards the end, and the CGI fight between the Hulk and the Abomination is sloppy, especially compared to most other MCU entries. Still a solid comic film, but, unfortunately, something must take out the last spot. My opinion of this might change in the future, especially with the upcoming She-Hulk series apparently going to be taking a lot from this early film.
27. Thor: The Dark World
I must admit that the only reason that this did not score lower than The Incredible Hulk was purely because of Tom Hiddleston’s performance, as he was at his Loki best. Still, in comparison the rest of the MCU, this movie is not great, especially as it compounds many of the faults of the preceding Thor movie. It has a weak story, and I am not a major fan of the portrayal of Asgard in this one (I laughed in scorn when the flying boat ships starting fighting the Dark Elves). The cast, with the notable exception of Hiddleston, is also not amazing here. Chris Hemsworth, while a better actor in this second film, is still playing Thor way too seriously, and he still lacks any great chemistry with a pregnant Natalie Portman, who was obviously unhappy to be involved at all. While Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård and Idris Elba do bring some flair and thespian backbone, the film is very much let down by its villain. Malekith is one of the worst villains in the MCU and is constantly overshadowed by Loki. Despite this, The Dark World is still a fun film and has some great moments in it. The death of Frigga is pretty heartbreaking, and the final fight sequence, while a bit random at times, is very entertaining, combining great visuals with some excellent comedy. Let us also not forget that this was the first time Infinity Stones are mentioned, making Thor: The Dark World an important entry in the franchise, and one I can re-watch very easily.
26. Ant-Man and the Wasp
I was very disappointed by Ant-Man and the Wasp, as it should have been so much better than it was, and it ended up being another weak entry in the franchise. Most of the comedy, character development and style are recycled from the first film without anything new being added. In addition, the villains are extremely weak, with Hannah John-Kamen not bringing any strength to the character of Ghost, and Walton Goggins’s Sonny Burch is a very odd, if amusing, secondary antagonist. This film does have its strengths. It is visually beautiful, the main cast is great, with Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas keeping the amazing chemistry they had in the first film, and I especially loved Lilly’s expanded use in this film as The Wasp. Michael Peña still shines as Luis, whose riffing long stories are so much fun to see. While this is a fun movie, it suffers from being released less than three months after Infinity War. The sheer expectations that people had going into Ant-Man and the Wasp really altered people’s perception, and I know I was hoping for a whole lot more, especially when the “snap” happened. Still, the post credit scenes were great, and that clever question mark struck surprisingly hard.
25. Iron Man 2
People were hoping for a film that could stand up to the first Iron Man, and unfortunately, Iron Man 2 just did not deliver. Despite very strong performances from Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a newly cast Don Cheadle, this film was not as good as the first, relying too much on CGI and not enough on story. Mickey Rourke’s villainous Whiplash was ok, if a bit overacted, but he was nothing to really write home about. Still, this film has a lot of fun parts to it. Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer was extremely zany and, as always, it was so much fun to see him perform (I am really hoping he comes back for Armor Wars). In addition, this was also the film that gave us Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, a role she performed perfectly, especially with that epic corridor scene, although the character does develop into something better later. An extremely fun action romp that I am actually pretty fond of, Iron Man 2 just does not live up to some of the other films out there, so it has a lower spot on this list.
Thor is a fun movie that serves as a great introduction to some of the best characters in the MCU. Unfortunately, it is a little rough compared to some of the later entries, which knocks it down a bit. The film is a little too serious for its own good, perhaps thanks to director Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean approach, and while it has an amazing fish out of water story to it the scenes set in Asgard are over the top, and I am not the biggest fan of the way they turned the Asgardians into a science fiction race rather than a mythological one. Still, the cast is very good, and it introduced Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston to a wider audience. While an unnaturally blond Hemsworth was still finding his feet in this film, Hiddleston lays some great groundwork with Loki, setting him up perfectly and ensuring he would be a memorable and exceptional villain. Natalie Portman fills the role as love interest well, although her chemistry with Hemsworth is a bit off. Overall, this is a great film defined by the new Thor and Loki.
In 2021, Marvel tried to produce the next Guardians of the Galaxy-esque hit by adapting another relatively obscure comic team into a film with Eternals. This new film saw a team of cosmic immortals, known as Eternals, attempt to guide humanity and save them from attacks by the rampaging Deviants. An interesting concept with some unique ideas that introduce MCU fans to some of the weirder and wilder elements of the more cosmic Marvel comics, Eternals ended up being a pretty solid hit that I had a lot of fun with. It has a great story that did a surprisingly good job of compressing a lot of complex ideas into a single film, while also massively expanding the universe in some fun ways. Featuring a massive cast, this ended up being a big character-driven epic, and stars such as Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie and even the newly jacked and always hilarious Kumail Nanjiani gave great performances. However, they were probably a bit too ambitious here, with way too many main characters complicating the narrative a bit. Despite this, the story held together extremely well for most of its run, with several great twists around the Celestials and Ikaris. The story did fall apart a bit towards the end, and I felt that it lacked a particularly great antagonist, even with the villain turn towards the end. Still, it sets up a few great storyline and there was a pretty stacked set of post-credit scenes, including the first appearance of the new Blade.
22. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Prepare to get your kung-fu on as Marvel brings its mega tribute to Chinese culture with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Another great recent film that seeks to introduce some fun new characters, Shang-Chi is a fast-paced action film that tells a great story about the titular Shang-Chi, a kung-fu master on the run from his powered crime-lord father who is suddenly brought back into the world he turned away from. Featuring many, many references to Chinese culture and classic kung-fu films, Shang-Chi starts off fast with the iconic bus scene, before taking its fun characters into a great adventure story. A guaranteed fun trip, I did think that the narrative was a bit too derivative of most other MCU films and there were honestly no big surprises or twists anyway through it. However, the excellent cast of Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang and Tony Leung do wonders here, and I had so much fun seeing Ben Kingsley again. I particularly loved the amusing chemistry between Liu and Awkwafina, and they served as a great buddy team, with a refreshing lack of forced romance (at least in this film). The graphics are pretty cool throughout Shang-Chi (although the final battle could have been better lit), and I loved the great kung-fu fight scenes (although it needed a few more). An overall great film, I think it gets a bit overrated by some MCU fans, but it’s one I would rewatch quite a few times.
21. Captain Marvel
Though it is ranked a little lower, Captain Marvel is still an outstanding comic film. The first Marvel film to feature a female superhero lead, this film needed to do a lot, while also being one of the unfortunate films to be released between Infinity War and Endgame. Despite this pressure, it definitely delivered providing a well written, entertaining and clever film. I deeply enjoyed the cool 1990s setting and the creative team do a great job bringing some fun nostalgia to the film, especially with the great music. The twists about the Skrulls was also pretty clever, setting up some interesting stories for the future, and I liked how it tied into the origins of the Avengers team. In addition, I reckon you will have a hard time finding anyone who was not moved by the Stan Lee tribute in the opening credits. Brie Larson does a great job in the titular role, although I look forward to seeing her relax into it a bit more in future films. Samuel L. Jackson was great as ever as Nick Fury, and the de-aging worked surprisingly well. Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch and Annette Bening are all pretty awesome in this film, although I think Jude Law particularly shone as eventual villain Yon-Rogg. Overall, the visuals and acting turn this into a good film, and the only reason it is lower on this list is the incredible competition from the future entries.
20. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is an awesome movie with many cool features to it. This includes the first-rate cast, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Tilda Swinton doing some fantastic work in this film, although Benedict Wong was a particular stand out for me. I did think that Mads Mikkelsen’s villain, Kaecillius, was a bit under defined, and it seemed a bit of a waste chucking an actor of Mikkelsen’s calibre into such a role. I also felt that Strange could have gone through a little more character development, as he keeps up his arrogant persona well after this film ends. The story is also a tad unpolished, and I particularly thought that the rift between Strange and Baron Mordo was a little forced. Despite all this, Doctor Strange is visually spectacular, and viewers are treated to a kaleidoscope of colour and movement every time magic is used. This visual work really enhances the entire film and I think this was a pretty strong comic film.
19. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Next we have the second Avengers ensemble movie. Age of Ultron was another MCU film that had many expectations surrounding it before its release, especially after the success of the original Avengers film. Director and writer Joss Whedon had to do a lot in this film, including introducing new characters, continuing existing storylines, and setting up future films. Unfortunately, this proved just a little too much to pull off. It is still a very good movie, with the all-star cast doing an outstanding job bringing their iconic characters to life, especially the veterans from the first Avengers film. James Spader brings some real malevolence and humour to Ultron, although the villain’s use of a disposable CGI army was a bit unoriginal. Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen both debut their characters extremely well, and while they are not as strong as they later proved to be in WandaVision, they are an interesting inclusion. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver is a little less impressive, especially as Evan Peters absolutely killed it as the same character in an X-Men film less than a year before. The story is pretty fantastic, although it definitely suffers from the creative team trying to fit way too much into it, making it a weak or derivative in places. In addition, it has one of the most pointless post-credits scenes in the entire series. I did think the action sequences were very good, especially Hulk vs Iron Man, although I did think they spent a little too much time trying to recreate the feel of the original film. Still, this an excellent film, and it serves as a major part of the franchise, even if it is outshined by every other Avengers film.
18. Black Widow
I will admit that I did go into Black Widow with some slightly higher expectations brought on by a two-year drought in MCU films. However, I still deeply enjoyed this movie, which finally gave Scarlett Johansson her own solo outing. Anchored by a great cast, Black Widow was an exceptional film which did a great job highlighting the character’s mysterious origins and finally telling her story. I was pretty hooked after its strong opening, especially after a sequence featuring a beautifully slowed down Smells Like Teen Spirit. Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz are all outstanding, and I loved the unique family dynamic created between these main characters. Despite this strong start, I did feel that the ending was rushed, and there is a certain two-week gap in the story that is still bugging me. I was also not blown away by the villains, with Taskmaster and Dreykov being a little underwhelming. Still, this was a great film, and I was just super glad that it finally came out. If nothing else, this served as a brilliant introduction for Florence Pugh’s Yelena to the MCU, and I look forward to seeing more from her in the future, especially after her great performance in Hawkeye.
17. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America is an excellent film that takes the MCU wackiness right into the centre of WWII. This film features an impressive origin story that does the classic comics proud while also making use of a great cast of characters. Chris Evans shines as Steven Rogers in this film, and I loved the transition from a weakling with a strong heart to the ultimate symbol of strength, goodness and freedom. At the same time, you have an outstandingly evil Red Skull in Hugo Weaving, which I think perfectly balanced the entire film. Add in the great supporting cast in Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci and Toby jones, and you have a pretty exceptional group of actors in the film (Richard Armitage, Jenna Coleman and Natalie Dormer also have small roles). The story is very strong, and there are very few flaws or plot holes for it to stumble upon. An overall outstanding film, this was one of the better entries in the early days of the MCU.
16. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The very latest film to drop, the second Doctor Strange film, directed by the weird and talented Sam Raimi, is one hell of a trip that will keep you guessing. Featuring Strange as he explores Marvel’s current obsession, the multiverse, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness serves as a major entry in Phase Four that will no doubt be one of the key starting points to the next big story arc. This awesome film has a trippy and intense narrative that sees the Scarlet Witch finally snap and try to take control of the multiverse, forcing Strange into several alternate universes to find help. This story goes to some dark places, and there are some brilliant moments scattered throughout the film, including some visually stunning fight scenes and examples of magic. Raimi also brilliantly taps into his horror repertoire to create some shocking and scary scenes, with several freaky moments really sticking in the mind. Benedict Cumberbatch has another great outing here as a slightly arrogant Doctor Strange who is still living with the regret of his decisions, while the returning Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams all have excellent parts to play in the film. However, the real star is Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, who absolutely blows the audience away with her intensity, her tragic story perfectly carried over from the awesome WandaVision, and some insane amount of power. Throw in some excellent cameos from the multiverse, several of which hint at a bold future for the MCU, and you have a great film that is pretty damn epic, even if it didn’t live up to its entire potential.
15. Black Panther
Featuring one of the best African American casts of all time, Black Panther was an exceptional film that combined a great character-driven story with some awesome visuals. This film did a brilliant job bringing the nation of Wakanda to life, and I had a wonderful time exploring its advanced technology and compelling past. The late great Chadwick Boseman is an outstanding Black Panther, continuing the great work he did in Civil War. He is joined by the fantastic Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and Winston Duke, who all bring their new amazing characters to life in a distinctive way. Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis both make fantastic secondary appearances in this film, and I like the manic energy Serkis brings to the role of Ulysses Klaue. One of the most noticeable stars of the film is Michael B Jordan as Killmonger, one of the best and most complex villains in the entire MCU. All these wonderful performances are wrapped up in a fantastic story, with some amazing visual scenes. The entire sequence in Busan is beautiful, and the final fight is pretty epic. If I were to make a criticism of the film, it would be around the CGI rhinos; whose presence I think was just a little too ridiculous. An overall exceptional film, you will be shouting “Wakanda forever” until you run out of breath.
14. Iron Man 3
Director Shane Black had a lot of pressure to deliver the third and ultimately final Iron Man film immediately after the success of The Avengers. Luckily, Iron Man 3 is pretty epic, and ends up being a very different film than some of the previous Iron Man movies, as Black presents a gritty, well-written tale around a traumatised Tony Stark. This was a very clever techno-thriller, which plays off the damaged protagonist perfectly. Downey Jr is once again exceptional in this film, and you get to see the Tony Stark beneath the snark and sarcasm. With the usual great cast of supporting characters, as well as a couple of fun villains, this was a pretty cool film. I personally enjoyed the twist with the Mandarin, and thought it was extremely clever and funny, although it was a controversial choice (I really hope Ben Kingsley has some sort of cameo in Shang-Chi). While there is more of a focus on the story, there are still some outstanding action sequences, including the assault on the Stark Mansion and the final epic confrontation between the various suits and the Extremis soldiers. I also very much liked the inclusion of the scenes were Stark has to use more low-tech methods to beat his enemies, and the multi-part suits add a lot of fun to the overall story. An overall incredible film, I will admit I did not like this one too much when I first saw it, but several re-watches have really enhanced my opinion of it, pushing it above some of the great entries above.
13. Spider-Man: Far From Home
This second Spider-Man film faced the daunting prospect of being released less than three months after Endgame. However, despite all that pressure, Far From Home was an incredible film that continues to highlight one of the best portrayals of Spider-Man ever. While not as good as Homecoming, Far From Home boasts an amazing narrative loaded with feels. Featuring an uncertain Peter Parker still reeling from the death of his mentor and the legacy left behind, this story takes the protagonist on a whirlwind adventure in Europe. Thanks to an outstandingly talented Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio, this film is loaded with great twists and false leads, and I loved how we were punked into believing this would be the start of the multiverse. Tom Holland continues to shine as Spider-Man and I loved the boyish enthusiasm he brings to the role, as well as his sense of fun and duty. Samuel L Jackson serves as a harsh, but intriguing mentor figure as Nick Fury, backed up by Cobie Smulders. The recurring cast from the previous Spider-Man movie are still a lot of fun, with Zendaya serving as a great love interest, Jacob Batalon playing a romantically distracted Ned, Jon Favreau as a fun Happy Hogan, and you have to love Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson. Another spectacular and amazing film, the epic post-credit scene sets up the third Spider-Man film beautifully.
What is it with Marvel casting comedic actors as fantastic action stars? Paul Rudd was a surprising choice to play Ant-Man, but he ended up knocking the role out of the park, and Ant-Man was one of the funniest MCU movies ever. I have a lot of love for this movie, from the great characters, wicked humour, intriguing origin tale, and the fact that this movie is essentially a super-powered heist story. It features a fantastic cast, each of whom add so much to the tale, from Rudd’s excellent comedy, Evangeline Lilly’s badass Hope van Dyne, Michael Douglas’s take on iconic comic character Hank Pym, and Michael Peña’s hilarious Luis. The real strength of this film is the outstanding size shifting, as Rudd and Corey Stoll’s villainous Yellowjacket shrink and grow throughout the film. I was blown away by the really cool graphics surrounding the shrinking, and you have to laugh as a variety of items are shrunk and grown throughout the final climatic battle. There was also a great appearance from Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and it is one of the more entertaining hero-on-hero fights out there. An impressive and hilarious thrill ride that will have you chuckling the entire time.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2
One of the most re-watchable films in the entire series is Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. This sequel is pure fun, bringing back the amazing elements that made people love the first film. Featuring an outstanding cast, an unbelievably catchy musical score and another fantastic story, you are in for a lot of excitement. The returning cast continue to seamlessly inhabit the roles they played in the first film, and it is impossible not to fall in love with Baby Groot. Kurt Russell serves as a particularly good villain (just ignore the de-aging in the first scene), and I loved the eventual reveal of his true nature. This movie is exciting from start to finish, with a bonkers finale that culminates in two godlike beings fighting with a range of creations, including Pacman. However, the most memorable and touching part of the movie is the death of Michael Rooker’s Yondu Udonta, a scene guaranteed to make you cry, especially at the funeral with Father & Son playing. Other highlights include five post-credit scenes, a unique and catchy credit song and one of the best David Hasselhoff cameos ever. I honestly enjoyed this one just as much as the first, but due to a slightly weaker story and some lost character development, I have it slightly lower on the list.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy
From the sequel to the original, the first Guardians of the Galaxy film clocks in at number nine. While now an established part of the MCU and wider Marvel Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy was originally a bit of a gamble, as it featured a somewhat obscure group of Marvel characters. Luckily, the gamble paid off, as director James Gunn produced an outstanding and memorable film, with its own unique style and humour. Bringing together five excellent actors in the central roles, and expanding the borders of the MCU into space, there is so much going on in this epic movie. The epic music gives the entire movie a touch of nostalgia, and several great acting careers were made thanks to this film. A beloved and exceptional entry in this amazing franchise.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
There have been many attempts to start a Spider-Man franchise over the years, but the most recent might be the most successful. Following on from Civil War, Tom Holland brings Spider-Man to his own movie in Homecoming, which takes the character back to his roots as a high school student turned crime-fighter. This is a sweet and compelling film that shows an eager Spider-Man attempting to rise to his potential. Holland perfectly inhabits the character in a way few others have, and it was great to have a younger, fresher face to the iconic role. This movie has a great story to it, and I loved the combination of wider conspiracy and the adventures of a teenage hero. Michael Keaton is at his best as the Vulture, giving the character a very sinister edge, especially in that menacing car scene. MCU newcomers Zendaya, Jacob Batalon and Tony Revolori all add so much to the movie’s humour, from Zendaya playing the snarky girl who is totally not watching Peter, to Batalon playing Ned, Peter’s guy in the chair. I also love the use of Robert Downey Jr and Jon Favreau in this film, particularly as they start the fun tradition of having another hero mentoring Parker in one of the films. A great and memorable film.
8. The Avengers
Next we have the film that proved that a joint superhero franchise could work, The Avengers. The Avengers is possibly one of the most significant films in the entire MCU, due to the way it brought together the stars of the various introductory movies and forged a cohesive, team-based narrative around them. Already established MCU stars Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L Jackson all perfectly bring their respective characters back and the various larger-than-life personalities have a wonderful time interacting with each other. Hiddleston shines as the villainous Loki, adding more depth and madness to his already great character, crafting one of the best villains of all time. In addition, the newly cast Mark Ruffalo proved it was possible for someone to do a good Hulk. All these actors, characters and existing storylines come together perfectly and viewers are left with a sensational film with some amazing sequences to it. While the front half of the movie is great, it really picks up steam in the second half, especially after one of the most tragic MCU moments (Coulson, nooooooo!!!). The battle of New York was one of the most epic moments in film up at that point, and I loved director Joss Whedon’s use of continuous shots. A perfect first introduction of The Avengers, this series could only go up from here.
7. Captain America: Civil War
Sixth spot is given to the amazing third Captain America movie, Civil War. Loosely based on the Marvel crossover comic of the same name, this film serves as a mini-Avengers movie, bringing in all the characters who appeared in Age of Ultron, as well as Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Winter Soldier and Black Panther. Serving as a perfect introduction to several amazing characters (Spider-Man and Black Panther really shine here), there is such a good story behind this movie, especially as Captain America and Iron Man are manipulated into fighting each other. Featuring several epic scenes, including that unbelievably awesome airport fight, and the final emotional battle between two former friends, you cannot leave Civil War without having your pulse raised to the max, especially in that iconic moment when Iron Man’s repulsor beam hits Cap’s shield. The directors really focus on characters here, and there is so much amazing drama and development. I do think that the villain, played by Daniel Brühl, was a little understated, but the rivalry between the two main heroes more than makes up for it. Easily one of the most iconic films in the franchise.
6. Iron Man
At number six, we go back to where this series started, with the first film, Iron Man. This outstanding film completely revolutionised the superhero genre. Featuring a perfectly cast Robert Downey Jr in the lead role, as well as a great group of supporting characters, this film captures the transition from playboy to a selfless hero. With a tight, powerful story, this movie perfectly combines action, drama, and comedy to make an exceptional film. The graphics are amazing and still hold up to this day, and there is a great gradual visual evolution of the Iron Man armour. Despite there being no guarantee that this movie would succeed, the creative team manages to tell a great solo story, while also laying much of the groundwork for the wider MCU to come. Not only did a surprise Samuel L Jackson cameo popularise the current trend of post-credit scenes, but there are several great references to characters and locations that would be used for years to come. One of the best films in the franchise to focus on one superhero character, this is the film an entire franchise was built on, and boy did they chose an outstanding foundation stone.
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
When Captain America: The Winter Soldier was announced, I do not think any of us were prepared for just how incredible this film would be. In their first MCU film, the Russo brothers created one of the most thrilling espionage films in the entire franchise, with twist after twist layered into its captivating narrative. Chris Evans reaches a whole new level in this film, and his usually naïve and wholesome Captain America is forced to get down into the dirt to defeat his enemies. Making great use of franchise regulars Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson and Cobie Smulders, as well as a returning Sebastian Stan, this was an incredibly well cast movie. I loved the introduction of Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, and it is always great to go back and see where the future Captain America’s journey begins. Legendary actor Robert Redford is a pretty sinister villain, and I loved the change of pace for this great actor. However, I must really highlight Stan’s turn as the Winter Soldier. While I knew who would be behind the mask, it was still a fantastic portrayal of this great character, and you will be moved by his tragic plight. There are so many epic moments to this movie, and I loved the big twist about Hydra and SHIELD that would change everything about this franchise (it was so good, it turned Agents of SHIELD into a completely different show). A powerful and captivating film that is one of the absolute classics.
4. Thor: Ragnarok
Now we have the formerly third ranked film, the fantastically hilarious Thor: Ragnarok. I know many people, myself included, were unimpressed when they announced that they were doing a new Thor movie. However, the moment the first trailer came out, I knew that this would be something different. The brilliant, if insane, Taika Waititi used all his substantial creativity to produce a wild and crazy thrill ride which takes Thor on a bonkers adventure of self-discovery. Killing off many of the worst elements of the first two films (sometimes literally; goodbye Warriors Three), and adding in more humour, fantastic actors and an outstanding story, Ragnarok instantly stood out from the other films in the franchise. Waititi let Hemsworth unleash his full comedic potential in this film, ensuring that fans were laughing along with every sentence. Cate Blanchett was a fantastically evil villain, while Tessa Thompson brought a drunken anger to the new character of Valkyrie, plus you cannot ignore the hilarious Korg. Add in a returning Hulk, a teleporting Dr Strange, and the madness personified that is Jeff Goldblum, and you have a cast that is capable of outshining even Tom Hiddleston’s excellent Loki, although Hiddleston is still a hilarious treat with some of the best lines. Despite this mainly being a comedy, Waititi adds in enough drama and some spectacular drama to hit the feels button, and you run the full range of emotions in this film. Beautiful filmmaking at its best, you will spend this film laughing your head off at all the awesome jokes.
3. Spider-Man: No Way Home
The final new entry on this list is easily one of the best films in the entire MCU, with Spider-Man: No Way Home. I knew going in that I was going to love it, but even so I was blown away by how incredible it turned out to be. One of the brightest parts of 2021, No Way Home serves as the ultimate homage to Spider-Man in film, while also starting the MCU’s slide towards the multiverse. Following on from the exceptional post-credit scene in Far From Home, No Way Home sees Spider-Man’s secret identity revealed, forcing him to turn to Doctor Strange for help. Their spell instead brings forth Spider-Man’s villains from alternate universes (previous Sony franchises), as well as a familiar couple of web-heads in Andrew Garfield and Toby Maguire in a particularly epic scene. This entire movie is pretty damn perfect, with a brilliant, intense and emotionally rich narrative that sees the current Peter Parker face his darkest days and greatest challenges. Everything, including the absolute wreck of the characters’ personal lives at the start, the unbelievable and unexpected turn of May taking on Uncle Ben’s role, the return of the iconic phrase “with great power, there must also come great responsibility”, and the emotional removal of everyone’s memories, is designed to move you, especially with the amazing team of assembled actors. Not only does it feature an amazing cast of reoccurring baddies, including exceptional work from the always awesome Willem Dafoe and Alfred Molina, but the supporting case of Zendaya, Jacob Batalon and Marisa Tomei shines like never before. However, this movie belongs to the Spider-Men, with Tom Holland giving his best performance in the MCU, and the returning Garfield and Maguire able to give final justice to their most iconic characters. The real joy of the film lays in the deep dive into all things Spider-Man, with so many references, call-backs, and jokes about the proceeding films. This is emphasised when all three Spider-Men are on screen at the same time, with the jokes flying thick, while the three actors bring forth their best moments of their characters. There are so many cool moments here in this film, and it was great to finally see all the lose ends and unresolved storylines come full circle (Garfield’s Spider-Man catching MJ for example). The packed cinema I was in kept bursting into applause for good reason, and this was truly a brilliant film, even beating the exceptional Ragnarok out of third place.
2. Avengers: Endgame
Topping No Way Home on this list is a pretty tall order, so let us bring in the highest grossing film of all time and the utter culmination of 11 years and 22 films, with Avengers: Endgame. Following on from the epic conclusion of Infinity War, Endgame is set in a universe where half the universe has been turned to dust, including some of your favourite characters. When an opportunity to reverse this is presented, the remaining heroes jump at the chance and find themselves facing the biggest battle of their lives. There is so much that is epic and awesome about this film, from the continued use of the amazing extended MCU cast, to the sheer tragic sadness that inhabits the world after so much loss and defeat. Each of the surviving characters is caught up in their grief and helplessness, resulting in many different forms, including Ronin Hawkeye and fat Thor (a brilliant comedic choice that is just so hilarious and unexpected). This film has literally every major hero from the franchise, and more, come together, and the amazing Russo brothers manage to ensure every single one of them gets their moment and no-one is overlooked. There is an amazing story to this film, raging from time travel adventure to epic battle for survival, with several characters’ journey in the MCU coming to an end. I challenge anyone not to react during the two big scenes at the end (He is Worthy, and Avengers Assemble), and you will leave this film breathless and in utter joy and happiness. A worthy and exceptional film that nearly topped the entire list.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
That leaves only one film left at the top, and for me the absolute best film in the entire MCU film series is Avengers: Infinity War. This was a hard choice to make, and while I could have easily moved up Endgame due to shear epicness, I felt Infinity War was the stronger movie. Not only does it bring together the events of the previous MCU films perfectly, showing fun new character interactions and fights, but it has an incredible and powerful story backed up with an exceptional cast and some amazing visuals. There are so many cool moments to this film, and very few things you could criticize. In addition to the outstanding and massive returning cast of characters, James Brolin absolutely shined as Thanos, and this film cemented him as one of the greatest film villains of all time. Viewers knew that they were going to experience some heartbreak with this film, but nothing quite prepared you for seeing the tragic deaths of several characters, especially Gamora. Top it off with that memorable and heart-breaking ending, where the villain actually wins and your favourite characters are dusted right before your eyes. I think every single person left this movie in shock and awe, and there was no way that I could place any other film higher on this list.
Well, that is the end of that list. I think that I chose pretty wisely when it came to updating my rankings, and this is how I would truly rate each and every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, I know that not everyone is going to agree with my ratings (heck I would be extremely surprised if anyone else had the exact same order I do), so feel free to share your feelings in the comments below, and I look forward to seeing which films you enjoyed. I will probably revisit this list again next year, especially with the new MCU films coming out between now and then, and it will be extremely interesting to see where the upcoming MCU films end up ranking. I am particularly keen for Thor: Love and Thunder, which has the potential to be even better than the impressive Ragnarok and will probably be the best film of 2022. Of the next batch coming out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has immeasurable potential, while Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will probably be another fun romp with major, multiverse implications. I am a little uncertain how Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will turn out without Chadwick Boseman, and The Marvels isn’t exactly wowing me yet, although that might change after the upcoming Ms. Marvel show comes still. No matter what though, I am excited for the upcoming films, and I can’t wait to see how they rank on this list.