With Marvel's Phase 2 ending this summer with Ant-Man, it seemed appropriate to add my 2-cents to this ongoing conversation. Everyone is going to have their opinions and rankings when it comes to the movies in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. In fact, many of you have posted your very own version of this article. But this is going to be a little different. Friend and fellow Movie Pilot contributor, Derrick Weston and I have a plan to put our own respective rankings out and, much like the Fantasy Team Contest, compare our rankings and then let you participate in the conversation as well. So, be on the look out for all that.
Without further ado, my MCU movie ranking. I'll be basing these films as movies (and not on their comic book adherence).
12. Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World, in my opinion, had the worst character development, story line, villain, and ending out of all the movies Marvel has release in their Cinematic Universe. Granted, it was still an enjoyable movie (so don't read this as "1 out of 10 stars" or anything like that), but the storytelling felt a little lackluster, with everything forcibly pointing to the Infinity War, making the movie feel rushed in all the good spots and straining to stay committed to the unimaginative love story of Thor and Jane Foster. Furthermore, Malekith the Accursed seemed more along the lines of some strange underling rather then the main villain (which is a real shame when you consider Christopher Eccleston is such a fantastic actor and the role could have given us so much more). Apart from those faults, each actor held their own and it was still a pleasurable superhero flick.
11. The Incredible Hulk
What The Incredible Hulk did that the previous versions couldn't give us was two-fold in a.) showing a Bruce Banner you wanted to like and b.) allowing the story line to build into something more for the Hulk. One of the problems with Dr. Jekel/Mister Hyde-type characters is that you rarely get to see the humanity of both parts of the character done in a way that makes you want to see more of that characters story. The Incredible Hulk did just that without the typical origin story we're so accustom to (this may have been my favorite opening credits of all, showing the origin and catching us up to "present day"). Also, both William Hurt and Tim Roth were fantastic in their roles. Having said that, Edward Norton was not the best Bruce Banner and there is only so much you can tell in a Hulk solo movie without getting repetitive (unless you go Planet Hulk on us, then you can go a little deeper into the character and show less of the Jekel/Hyde dichotomy).
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
My wife saw where I put this in the order, gasped, and then said something along the lines of "you disgust me..." Don't get me wrong, Captain America was a fun film. My biggest beef with it was that it was old, on all fronts. A WWII story line with good, old-fashioned Captain America traits; nothing bad, but also nothing overtly exciting (and Cap is one of my favorite characters, I even love Chris Evans portraying him). Despite being one of the best origin films for any superhero, the buildup to Red Skull's disappearance was quick and relatively disappointing (I'm still counting on him returning at some point) where I was hoping for more of an epic battle. Still, at the time, having it lead directly into The Avengers teaser was jaw-dropping.
9. Iron Man 3
I'm sure to get much grief for this one, but here's the thing: this was a good movie. I know the surprise twist was infuriating to hardcore fans and Tony's PTSD was not very realistic, but apart from those two things I didn't see what the big deal was. Even the Mandarin twist, in my book, was not a huge deal; in fact, I think it was shocking to everyone, which was the point. Marvel is going to have to divert from the comics every once in a while to keep fan audiences on their toes. This movie attempted to do just that, leading quite well into the predicament we find ourselves in for Age of Ultron.
8. Iron Man 2
A whole movie dedicated to making sure Tony Stark is not self-combusting, while fighting against Russian Mickey Rourke, bringing a bit of the history of S.H.I.E.L.D., introducing the bad-ass-ery that is Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow AND Don Cheadle as War Machine, as well as teasing Thor in the end credits? Count me in. This is another film that doesn't get enough credit for being a fun action flick. Yes, Iron Man villains are going to be mostly knock off versions of his tech. Yes, this isn't what Whiplash looked like in the comics. Can we, as fans, decide to get off that soapbox and just enjoy what realistic changes Marvel throws us? Humor, action, good storytelling. It only gets better from here (or so I thought).
I went into the movie theater to see Thor not expecting much, but I figured with such a great cast, how bad could it be? Give me some slack, this was only the forth film of the MCU, how was I to know it was going to be so great?! Plus, Thor was one of my least favorite of the Avengers in the comics, due to his extreme nature and lack of relatability, so needless to say, this movie shocked me in every way. It was spectacular on all fronts (which I believe is what made Thor: TDW even more disappointing, for me). From this point on I'll probably just start waxing eloquently about how much I love Marvel. Forgive me.
6. Iron Man
Iron Man started it all with a bang. Literally. While this movie definitely has some nostalgia attached to it, starting the MCU and bringing Marvel into this age of grand superhero movies, the movie demands respect by its own merit. I know Joss Whedon was Marvel's golden boy through Phase 2, but I think Jon Favreau deserves more credit for his directing of the first two Iron Man films (I sincerely wish they would have kept him on for directing all 3) and starting what is arguably the largest superhero franchise (look at the numbers, people). Not to mention the ingeniousness of casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.
I really struggled, not having Iron Man in my top 5, but Ant-man tipped me over the edge. Well written and acted, this film brought so much more to the MCU table. Cameos, MCU references, the constant humor, a believable villain that had depth, and introducing at least 2 heroes, with Ant-man and Wasp (unless you count Hank and Janet, which would bring us to 4) to an already exciting new roster for the end of Phase 2.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron
My only complaint about this movie (which I clearly loved, putting it at #4) was Ultron's character development. There really could have been so much more there, which makes me wish it was longer (knowing that Whedon wanted that as well, I'm sure for more character development). Apart from that, this movie allowed everything from Phase 2 to come back into one location and sort itself out in the formation of Ultron, forcing the Avengers to see themselves as a team more than a group of individuals, and truly set the stage for Avengers Academy (which should be a tv show), Civil War, and all of the other excitement that Phase 3 brings.
3. The Avengers
Seeing The Avengers come to life on the big screen was one of my favorite movie going experiences. Apart from the lack of Hawkeye, this movie was near perfect, for both the hardcore comic fans and the newbies. Watching Mark Ruffalo take over the mantle of the Hulk, the tension built between everyone, and finally coming together to mark the beginning of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" to take down Loki and an alien army... hold on. I'm going to go watch it again, right now.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
You may be saying to yourself, "Guardians beat out The Avengers for the #2 spot?" I understand your concern, but here's my reasoning. The Avengers was built up to with many solo films and everyone knew it was going to be awesome. Guardians of the Galaxy was a wildcard for many (even for the comic fans) and with it Marvel proved that they can do whatever they want. They had already done the building-up-to-the-Avengers bit, so the fact that they could throw a brand new team to audiences and blow us away sets it above The Avengers in my book. Also, that soundtrack? Come on! So good.
1. Captain America: Winter Soldier
It's no surprise that Captain America: The Winter Soldier made the top of my list. It is just about perfect for everyone coming to the table. Even if this was the first Marvel movie you've seen since 2007, I bet you still loved this movie. Lovingly called "Avengers 1.5" by some, being just as much Black Widow's movie as Captain America's, this film showed us why we should fear Hydra and why the Russo brothers are Marvel's new favorites. Granted, there were a few issues with the story line, but they were easy to overlook for all the incredible things it brought. I cannot wait to see how Bucky is brought into things with Civil War and where things with S.H.I.E.L.D. go from here (if you've been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at all, you have a better idea of this).
There it is, folks. I'd love to hear your rebuttals and quips in the comments.
Be on the look out for Derrick's ranking too.