When Iron Man was released back in 2008 few could have predicted just how great a global phenomenon the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. The MCU continues to prove that the appetite for superhero movies is still strong and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
As the 13th instalment in the MCU, Captain America: Civil War is the culmination of eight years worth of story-telling, but is it the best Marvel have produced? With Civil War marking a dramatic turning point in the MCU, now seems like a good time to rank the movies we've seen so far.
13) Thor: The Dark World
The sequel to 2011's Thor was the most forgettable movie Marvel have released to date. Thor struggles to carry his own film here, highlighting that he's at his best when he has the support of his fellow Avengers. The movie explored Thor's relationship with his father Odin and his companion Jane Foster, but fell flat. Natalie Portman is pretty poor as Foster but not as poor as the films main villain. Malekith the Dark Elf is without doubt amongst the worst bad guys in the MCU. A disappointing sequel, hopefully Thor: Ragnarok will be better.
12) The Incredible Hulk
Much like Thor, the Hulk struggles to sustain a solo movie. 2008's The Incredible Hulk was an improvement on the CGI mess that was Hulk (2003), but it still ranks as one of the weaker instalments in the MCU. Visually the 2008 Hulk looked better than the one that had appeared five years earlier (though that wasn't hard), but he still pales in comparison to the one we see in 2012's The Avengers. The movie performed poorly at the box office with Mark Ruffalo taking over from Edward Norton as Bruce Banner by the time The Avengers arrived.
The first movie was better than its sequel, but still not overly impressive. The plot to the original was no doubt better, in this movie we see Thor exiled to Earth as a mortal along with his hammer which he cannot wield until he is worthy. The movie has great importance in the context of the MCU because it introduced movie-goers to Thor's brother Loki, who remains Marvel's only truly great villain. Despite this there's still a number of frustrating elements to the movie, Natalie Portman is an annoyance as Jane Foster and the move lacks the humour of other entries in the MCU.
10) Iron Man 2
A flawed but fun movie, Iron Man 2 failed to live up to its predecessor but avoided being a total write-off. The movies villain was arguably its weakest link with Mickey Rourke delivering an underwhelming performance as Whiplash. This was an early example of the villain problems that would become prominent in the MCU. While the villain is disappointing, Robert Downey Jr. is once again exceptional as Tony Stark. The movie maintained the wit and humour of the original, thanks largely to its leading man. Its also worth remembering that Iron Man 2 gave us our first glimpse of Black Widow and Don Cheadle as War Machine. It may not have been the most memorable instalment in the MCU but it was certainly important.
9) Avengers: Age of Ultron
After the incredible Avengers movie of 2012, the follow-up was a huge let-down. Age of Ultron is by no means a bad movie, its just that many expected it to be so much better than it is. In Ultron, it looked as if Marvel might have finally found another decent villain, but he's seriously disappointing. His origins feel rushed and his subsequent plan to destroy mankind is nonsensical. Unfortunately, Age of Ultron also lost some of the humour of its predecessors, this time around the laughs feel awfully forced. Ultron's army of robots are also a uninspiring enemy. Thankfully the movie is saved by a few moments of brilliance, in particular the Hulkbuster v Hulk sequence, which is top-notch. We also see the birth of Vision and the introduction of Scarlet Witch both of which have become key characters in the MCU.
8) Iron Man 3
Personally I feel that Iron Man 3 is quite underrated. Putting aside the whole Mandarin issue, it's a pretty good movie. The third instalment was a marked improvement on the second and stands out as the funniest entry in the Iron Man trilogy. Robert Downey Jr. is again crucial to the movie, delivering another tremendous performance as Stark. There are also some great action sequences, the attack on Air Force One stands out as a real edge of the seat moment. Of course this movie has its issues, Killian is yet another poor villain and the ending seems pointless considering what has followed. However, Iron Man 3 is still an entertaining, if controversial, movie.
7) Captain America: The First Avenger
Anyone who saw the dreadful 1990 Captain America movie would have understandably questioned whether Cap could work on the big screen. 2011's The First Avenger quelled any of those fears. Chris Evans got the role as Steve Rogers, despite his role as Johnny Storm in two woeful Fantastic Four movies. Evans immediately made the role his own, whereas Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark, Chris Evans IS Steve Rogers. The First Avenger delivered an origin story that stuck closely to the comics while the World War II setting was a pleasant diversion. We also get the MCU debut of Red Skull who doesn't last long but ranks as one of the the universes better villains.
6) Iron Man
Iron Man is arguably the most important movie in the MCU because it is the foundation of everything that followed. There was a lot riding on 2008's Iron Man as Marvel began building their Cinematic Universe, a process that was not guaranteed to be a success. Casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was a massive gamble, but it's paid off and then some down the years. Downey Jr. delivered the first of many stand-out performances as Stark gaining him the praise of movie-goers and critics alike. This was a new type of superhero movie that delivered spectacular action and the humour that would become a symbol of the MCU. The movie proved to be a box office success grossing over $500 million worldwide. With Iron Man, Marvel had clearly reignited people's passion for the genre.
Ant-Man far exceeded my expectations and is one of my favourite instalments in the MCU to date. Many wouldn't have known what to expect from this movie but it turned out to be wonderfully entertaining. The crucial thing about Ant-Man is that it doesn't try and too much, it features a simple plot that really allows it's protagonist to shine. Paul Rudd is a delight as Scott Lang, delivering some of the funniest lines we've heard in the MCU. The action is also exciting, despite our heroes minute size, culminating in the concluding train set fight which features some fantastic camera work. The films supporting cast are also on point with Michael Douglas providing a believable performance as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly starring as the future Wasp. There's very little wrong with Ant-Man, it's Marvel's simplest movie, but it's also one of their best.
4) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The sequel to 2011's The First Avenger, was a big step up for the series. The Winter Soldier saw Marvel deliver their first truly thought provoking plot as Cap is forced to question the morality of S.H.I.E.L.Ds surveillance plans. Winter Soldier certainly does not fall victim to the villain curse that seems to have been established over the last eight years. As Bucky Barnes, war-time buddy of Steve Rogers, Winter Soldier is the most interesting of the Marvel villains. The Winter Soldier also features some tremendous action particularly the first fight scene between Cap and Bucky and the conclusion to the movie. Of course the events of the movie have changed the direction of the MCU forever, making it one of Marvel's best and most important movies to date.
3) The Avengers
2012's The Avengers delivers everything you could possibly want in a superhero movie. After four years of world building Earth's Mightiest Heroes finally come together, and the results are sensational. Seeing the heroes of the MCU unite on the big screen was a terrific moment and well worth the wait. Iron Man and Captain America are predictably brilliant but more significantly Thor and Hulk are finally able to shine, with the support of their fellow heroes they are more at home than they've ever been in their own movies. Loki is also thoroughly menacing, cementing his title of best MCU villain. While the humour felt forced in the sequel, it was anything but in the original, the exchanges between our heroes are laugh out load funny while some of the physical humour is also a joy. There may be a few plot holes here and there but this should not detract from what is undoubtedly an incredible movie.
2) Guardians of the Galaxy
A surprise hit that deserves its place amongst the best instalments in the MCU. Expectations for 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy were not particularly high but we ended up getting one of the best movies of the year. Everything about Guardians of the Galaxy says that it shouldn't work, but it does. On paper the characters are quite ridiculous, yet they've become some of the most beloved in the MCU. Chris Pratt is terrific as Star-Lord, with his Walkman music adding nicely to the tone of the movie. Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) delivers plenty of wise-cracks and the talking tree that is Groot is hilarious despite only uttering the same three words for much of the movie. Alongside the laughs there's plenty of intergalactic action that's a refreshing change from the norm. Guardians of the Galaxy is unlike anything we've seen in the MCU before and that's a good thing, a very good thing. Of all the movies to come in Phase 3, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, is the one I am craving the most.
1) Captain America: Civil War
This was a tough decision but Civil War just edges Guardians of the Galaxy for me. With the amount of characters in play, Civil War could quite easily have become a mess. Age of Ultron saw some of its heroes get a severe lack of screen time, thankfully this doesn't happen here. Civil War raises the stakes, splitting our heroes down the middle and delivering a genuinely intriguing plot. Despite it's plot the movie manages to find a balance between seriousness and humour. The result is a movie that feels more sombre without abandoning the trademark humour of the MCU. We also get the best action sequence in any superhero movie ever as Team Cap and Team Iron Man face-off at Leipzig Airport. Captain America's name may be in the title but it's Ant-Man and Spider-Man who really steal the show. Paul Rudd builds on his excellent MCU debut while Tom Holland's Spider-Man immediately shoots to the top of the list of on-screen web-slinger's. Black Panther is also introduced seamlessly raising anticipation for his solo movie. You just can't fault it.