The Marvel Cinematic Universe is hands down my favorite franchise of this decade... Maybe my favorite franchise period. It has some of the best superhero movies ever made, some world-breaking records at the box-office and some astonishing reviews from both fans and professionals. Furthermore, now it is the second highest grossing movie franchise only behind Harry Potter and will likely pass it after the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
But why is the MCU really that good? It is because they have a plan (a huge one, by the way) for now up to Phase 3 and they connect everything perfectly with all kinds of references and easter eggs. Not to mention that Spider-Man is back in the house and his new solo movie will be part of this third phase!
But let's cut the pleasantries and get right into it: ranking the MCU movies (till Guardians of the Galaxy) from worst to best!
10. IRON MAN 2
As the sequel to the first and still one of the best Marvel movies... I was definitely expecting something better from Iron Man 2. Not only it failed to be as epic and gritty as the first movie (consequently falling into cheesiness and a whole bunch of general MEH), but also forgot to give us a whatsoever decent villain.
Now before I start crapping all over the film, I can say that there were good parts: RDJ was great as always as Tony Stark/Iron Man (even tho this is arguably his worst performance in the MCU); Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle were pretty good as their respective characters, but rest... Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow was good, but compared to her Avengers and Captain America 2 performance, this wasn't good enough; Justin Hammer was way too different from the comic-books and way too cheesy and Whiplash... Whiplash was just annoying and forgettable altogether (him and his freaking bird...).
The action wasn't bad, but the army of drones was generic, making pretty much all the scenes not as good as they could have been. In conclusion the film was fun and action-packed, but it lacked the soul of the first one. It really just felt like an obligatory pre-Avengers movie, instead of a self contained great story that will lead to something bigger.
Overall rating: 6,75/10
9. IRON MAN 3
This movie wasn't "bad" in the true sense of the word, it was mostly... Disappointing as hell. All the trailers, commercials, toys, ... Everything sold you to a movie that was supposed to be Iron Man vs his arch-nemesis, The Mandarin... And what we got was Iron Man vs Bad Corporate Guy #3 (who breaths fire in one scene) that was using a fake-Mandarin as facade. Sure, the All Hail The King short kinda made it up for it... KINDA... Since we wasted one movie on this and the possibility to see the REAL Madarin in the near future is really - REALLY - slim. But, you know, if it was only for the Mandarin "thing" this movie could have still be pretty darn good, but it wasted so many good opportunities (from A.I.M. to Pepper Potts's comic book alter ego Rescue, not to talk about the Iron Patriot or even the wasted cameo of Bruce Banner, that was, yes, funny, but still...). Also, even tho I kinda liked the soundtrack, the missing AC/DC was pretty sad.
To be clear tho, this movie wasn't all bad or disappointing: RDJ gives one of his best performances as Tony Stark, Pepper was great and even Happy Hogan, played by Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau, was given far more screen time and complexity. Even the villain Aldrich Killian, based on a "one page" comic-book character, was actually pretty interesting overall. And the action, expecially in the final fight was actually really good (sure some armors were a bit wasted and I don't get how the Mark 6 could withstand Mjolnir, but the new ones can be destroyed so easely... Still it was still great to look at).
In the end Iron Man 3 was disappointing, but it felt as a self contained movie and moved the characters forward, plus the action and the performances were great.
Overall rating: 7/10
8. THOR: THE DARK WORLD
What a forgettable movie this was, just SO forgettable! And SO damn generic! Sure it has some strenghs, for example the new and improved view of Asgard, more as an alien medieval world (as it's actually pictured in the MCU) then a legendary godlike environment. Also the acting of most of the cast is pretty good (Hemsworth gives his best performance yet as the God of Thunder as well as Hiddleston as the trickster Loki).
What really didn't work was the villain of the situation: Malekith. And it's not Christopher Eccleston's fault, but the script's, that gives him pretty much nothing to work with, thus creating a two-dimensional threat (probably one of the worst in the entire Cinematic Universe). I was particulary disappointed with how they handled Malekith, since he is such an interesting and psychotic villain in the comics (in the movie he is cold and has everything under control, the exact opposite). They even managed to make his (and the Dark Elves') outfit SO generic, expecially compared to the comic-book one. They should have been an awesome fantasy like race and instead were relegated to be a super generic alien race who want to bring the Universe into... Eternal darkness? Bah...
The humans (from Jane Foster to doctor Eric Selvig, Darcy and her useless sidekick) were kind of annoying and not that well characterized, not bad or anything, but not as good as they were in the first Thor movie. Also Sif and the Warrior Three were pretty much side-characters (all to give Loki more screen time) and could have been used WAY better.
Overall the movie was still enjoyable, the action was pretty darn good and I liked the new angle on Asgard and the Asgardians.
Overall rating: 7,25/10
7. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
The first (and unfortunatelly last) Hulk movie was actually really enjoyable. Now, before I continue, I just want to underline that this movie is not a sequel to the 2003 Ang Lee's Hulk and it's in no way related to that atrocity; that movie is not part of the MCU (that started in 2008 with Iron Man). Many people has been misled since The Incredible Hulk begins in medias-res, with the experiment that transformed Banner into the Hulk narrated only via flash-back during the opening credits.
With that out of the way, lets dive into the movie. The story was really good, well executed, heartfelt and all. Even though I prefer Ruffalo as the frightened doctor turned monster, I really enjoyed Norton's take on the character (expecially of Banner). Liv Tyler was good as Betty and the two had good chemistry together; I also really liked William Hurt as Betty's father, general Ross. The movie also had a great primary villain with Tim Roth's Abomination: his backstory was well explored as well as his motivations; not only that, he was also badass in the final fight. I also loved that Leader hint and I still have the finger crossed that he will return in the future of the MCU.
In the end TIH was great, really enjoyable and well-crafted. Just a side note: the CGI, expecially on the Hulk, still looked a bit too much fake, but the action sequences (final fight in particular) were still great.
Overall rating: 7,5/10
6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
Even tho the first Cap movei was actually pretty good, it was still too generic and stereotyped and gives not much love to such the amazing hero that is Captain America. Chris Evans was great as the titular character (better than Johnny Storm, but that fault was mostly on the terrible Fantastic Four movies), but he hadn't got that much to got with, aside from the generic american hero. Sure Cap got a good backstory and the relationships with the various side characters made him grow as a hero, but it still wasn't enough. The film, however, has given us some interesting side-good guys, from Bucky (who will return in the sequel) to Peggy (who had her own show and a cameo in the sequel), Howard Stark and the Howling Commandos, they all got, expecially the first two, pretty strong fanbases.
Not only that, but the movie also managed to bring a great villain in the MCU and a great secret organization that will be behind tons of interesting stuff in the whole Universe. Red Skull, played by the great Hugo Weaving, was a really interesting villain, even if a bit stereotyped, and nemesis to the hero and I'm really hoping that sooner or later he will turn out to be still alive. And Hydra, even tho in this first movie had a pretty generic role, was a great set-up for the sequel and the Agents of SHIELD show.
At the end of the day, this film is pretty darn good, really the only thing that was missing was a great director, but Marvel had adjusted the shot for the second one.
Overall rating: 7,75/10
Kenneth Branagh's Shakespearean view of the mythical realm of Asgard distinguishes 2011 Thor from all the other MCU movies. Whether you like it or not, it still gives the film an unique and magical vibe, more in line with the comics than Thor: The Dark World's Asgard. Hemsworth still has to adjust himself in his new "Mother's drapes" as he gives a remarkable performance (but not as excellent as the ones after this). Same goes for Hiddleston as Loki, that was more of a "spoiled brat" than a God, expecially compared to the Avengers and Dark World interpretations.
In comparison to the second movie, the humans are well characterized and serve well the purpose of the story. The only one I thought was a bit exaggerated was Kat Dennings's Darcy: in the end she was pretty useless aside from being the comic relief. Sif and the Warrior Three had enough screen time and were well crefted throughout the movie. Also the villain Laufey, even if not great, was functional and enjoyable.
In the end Thor is a great movie and a great spectacle, not only of visual effects. The fights and action scenes (expecially Thor vs the Destroyer) were pretty good and the soundtrack was remarkable.
Overall rating: 8/10
4. IRON MAN
The one that started this Nerdvana called Marvel Cinematic Universe, the first Iron Man movie it's still one of the best of the bunch. I mean Robert Downey Junior just kills it as the "genius billionaire playboy philanthropist" Tony Stark and the journey of the character from weapon seller to superhero (a pretty self-centered one, but still) was just superb and the supporting cast help building this incredible change, from the loving assistant Pepper Potts to his best friend James Rhodes and his business second-in-comand Obadiah Stane. The movie introduced us to some of the most beloved MCU characters from Iron Man himself to Agent Phil Coulson (that now has his own freaking TV show, Agents of SHIELD).
Even tho the secondary characters didn't have that big of a change during the film, they are still greatly shaped and introduced into this magnificent universe. Also the villain Iron Monger, even tho not perfect, was bad ass and well characterized and the battle between him and Iron Man at the end of the movie was just so darn cool.
The special effects and the designs for the suits were just amazing: it all looked just so real and perfect; all the flight and fight scenes were amazingly crafted and a piece of eye candy. Not to mention the AC/DC soundtrack that made it all particular and recognizable expecially compared to other superheroes.
Overall, even tho it's the first one, it still holds up to the challenge, remaning one of the best superheor movies of all .
Overall rating: 8,5/10
3. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
The big hit no-one saw coming it's hands down one of the best in the entire MCU. Sure quite different from the pretty much unknown comic-book counterpart, the movie still manages to create an awesome (for most parts) version of it, while maintaining the original feel of the paper brother. Sure not all of it it's perfect, for example Drax is way under-characterized and under-powered and overall less interesting compared to the comics; Gamora is a bit too much "generic-alien-assassin" compared to "best assassin in the entire universe"; Ronan is limited to be the villain of the situation pretty much "just because", instead of being an anti-hero, military leader of his race following the orders of the wrong leader... Kinda wasted if you ask me.
And even tho it had this not so little problems it still managed to be awesome... Why? Mostly thanks to some awesome characters from Rocket and Groot to Starlord, Yondu, Nebula... And that Thanos scene... DAMN! Not to mention the Star Wars/Serenity vibe all over the place, the colorful humor and the AWESOME soundtrack.
All of the actors (even the voice actors) did a great job; Chris Pratt from now on, thanks to this movie, will be an action star, Vin Diesel confirms he is pretty much still up for a possible Iron Giant 2 (how could he, with two sentences, made most of the audience cry?) and Zoe Saldana confirms that she is the bad ass sci-fi lady of the moment.
Guardians of the Galaxy is just an amazing fun ride, that will make you laugh, cry, smile of joy and will leave you hanging for more.
Overall rating: 9/10 ("You're welcome")
2. THE AVENGERS
What made it SO darn cool was the fact that for the first time we saw the Avengers assemble on the big screen in a freaking epic way. Not only that, all the characters had enough space, were well written and their interactions with each other were just perfect.
Does that mean that it's perfect in every way? Unfortunatelly no. The first part was kinda slow, the whole story was pretty simple and generic, there are some big errors (like Tony's arc reactor disappear and reappear between takes, Avengers talking to each other without any form of earpiece device during the final fight, ...), plus the end was kind of convenient with all the Chitauri dying after the mothership was destroyed.
But did all these thing brought the movie down? Not that much, really... The movie still felt awesome in pretty much every way. Loki was finally pretty darn menancing and bad ass and all of the Avengers, including Hawkeye even if he had the least screen time, were awesome. All the previous MCU movies are a really great springboard: most of the characters were already introduced in the previous films and, in this one, most of them gave their best performance. The newely introduced Banner/Hulk is just outstanding: Ruffalo is just perfect as the doctor and the monster is finally believable and really awesome looking.
All the fight and action scenes (from Cap and Iron Man vs Loki to Thor vs Iron Man and Cap, Thor vs Hulk, Black Widow vs Hawkeye, ...) were great and the final fight is one of the best directed action sequences ever in a comic-book movie: all the characters (even Hawkeye and Black Widow) have enough screen time and no one overshadow the other members, just like a team fight should be.
The film is also characterized by lots of humor and sharp jokes, but avoids really well the cheesiness; not only that, but it's probably the most quotable of the bunch (all thanks to the genious writing of Wheadon).
In the end The Avengers is one awesome ride made the cine-comics history and will be remembered for a long time.
Overall rating: 9,25/10
1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Guardians of the Galaxy was clearly the third one, a close third, but still... The real fight was between this and The Avengers, but in the end Cap took it. What made this movie so great is the fact that they took Captain America, probably everyone least favorite Avenger, and made him one of the best and most compelling characters in the whole Universe, all while making one of the best superhero movies ever made. What really sets this movie apart is the tone, borrowed from the classic spy/conspiracy movies, way grittier and more realistic, compared to most of the other MCU movies. Not only that, but they also managed to make HYDRA one of the best threats of all, with repercussions throughout the whole Cinematic Universe. And what really make this movie pop up from the bunch were the stakes: you really felt how important Cap's mission was to the whole and how this movie changed the whole conception of the MCU itself. Considering that Thor had to protect the whole universe from eternal darkness, you can easely say that execution and repercussions in a bigger scale is what made you care.
Not only has one of the best evil organizations, but also one of the best villain in the entire MCU: the Winter Soldier. He was just bad ass altogether and Sebastian Stan did an amazing job potraying the character. Also the new head of HYDRA, Alexander Pierce, could have been such a generic bad guy, but thanks to the great writing and the exceptional Robert Redford, it turned out to be one great foe for the star-spangled hero.
So lets talk about those heroes: Cap was finally as great and bad ass as he is in the comics and Evans gives hands down his best performance till now; Widow was pretty interesting and was cool to see her finally work as a real spy/agent; Fury was really good as always and Falcon, the new addition to the bunch, was atually really well done.
Overall the movie was one awesome piece of cinema, the action scenes were awesome and well choreographed and all the characters were awesome and well played.
Overall rating: 9,5/10
Hope you enjoyed my ranking and my mini-reviews for each movie. Now I wanna know which is your favorite MCU movie! Vote down here!