Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 10-6

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. This week we enter the top 10, down to number 6 on my list. So here goes…

10 – Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is a film you could show someone as a great example of an MCU film. It hits every beat you would want from a new character origin film, it has some really cool visual flair, some kick ass action and a fun character. It also has some great comedic moments, a clever plot twist that subverted my expectations, and it’s the first time we see a woman lead one of these films. I won’t go into the societal impact of the film, as that doesn’t play into my enjoyment, but it has all of that to it as well.

It’s not a perfect film, as I mentioned in my review a month ago, but that’s me reviewing the film completely critically and trying to tone down the fanboy side of me a little bit. When I watched Captain Marvel, I really enjoyed it from start to finish. The Skrulls are some of the best characters we have had so far, and Carol Danvers’ skill set takes the MCU into a whole new world of cosmically powered heroes.

This is a film that begins to set up the future of the Marvel Universe, and Brie Larson is going to be a big part of it. This film is a the best of the origin stories in this list so far, and it feels like the lessons Marvel Studios have learnt over the last 10 years were taken into account when making this film. That is why it just scrapes into the top ten over Black Panther, but they are really quite close in quality to me.

9 – Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is the only MCU film to date that I have seen at the BFI IMAX screen in london, and that experience really showed off this film’s spectacular effects and the range of colours. That visual style, with the introduction of the mystic arts to the MCU, makes Doctor Strange one of the most unusual looking films and characters in the entire franchise. Even in Infinity War and Ragnarok, the character is clearly a little different from the rest of the characters we have seen.

A big part of what makes this film work is the committed performance of lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch. The world of Doctor Strange is ridiculous, more so than any of the other parts of the Marvel Comics world. The phrases he has to utter, the hand movements, the names, everything is crazy. Cumberbatch initially reacts in a similar way to the audience, that all of this is madness. But as he begins to uncover the abilities he can possess the character dives into the world. This commitment to being this character and embracing this world makes the character of Doctor Strange compelling. I found myself invested in the film because of this performance.

The film appears as if it is going for the standard Marvel origin story, but the twist at the end is a surprise and thoroughly entertaining to watch. The villain is as good as you’d expect for a MCU origin film, but the twist takes it up a level for me. Doctor Strange is an example of the MCU in its stride, producing a very entertaining film.

8 – Iron Man

Here it is. The original. The starting point of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. The introduction of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark is an important moment in cinema history, not just in super hero movies. This was the beginning of a series that has changed how we view franchise films now, and everyone is trying to build their own cinematic universe. Taking a B, arguably C list character in Iron Man and making him the first movie out of the gate is a very brave move, and one Marvel were forced into by the licensing issues with Xmen and Spiderman.

Honestly it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how they got right, and when you watch it now the villain is funny in ways he isn’t meant to be, and the combat is nothing on the current movies. But the current movies didn’t release in 2008, at the time this was mind-blowing. It was a believable, funny, good-hearted action movie with a charismatic, now iconic lead.

The decision to cast Downey Jr seems like a no brainer now, as we can’t imagine anyone else as Tony Stark. But at the time, he was not in Hollywood’s good books, and was slowly making his comeback. He absolutely nails the role, as he has continued to ever since, and the film that launched it all has a special place in every Marvel fans heart, including mine.

7 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

The first Guardians set up some excellent characters and a really cool world that everyone wanted to get back into that world. Guardians 2 gets us back in straight away, with a perfect opening action scene happening in the background of Baby Groot dancing to Mr Blue Sky. That sets the tone sets up the rest of the film. From there we just get more and more of the team together interacting and having fun on their adventures.

If it’s just more of the same then shouldn’t this be higher up on the list above its predecessor? Not for me, because it has a few more problems for me. There is a bit of a lull in the film when we get some very heavy exposition explained to us, and whilst all the talking in the guardians films is fun in its own way, this just puts it below the first one.

Guardians of the Galaxy are a special group in the MCU, as they are something completely different and are an example of how diverse the universe can be. We learn a lot about the origins of Star Lord and the emotional pay off at the end of the film is excellent and one of the few times in the MCU that we get a really emotional moment for the audience and the heroes.

6 –  Avengers

There was a long time when The Avengers was considered the gold standard in the MCU. It is the first time in history that four movies have crossed over in one epic event. Watching The Avengers blew my mind, I genuinely couldn’t believe they actually managed to make this work. We see six superhero characters team up, brought together by Nick Fury and we get more than our fair share of epic comic book moments, from the Hammer Vs Shield moment to the Hulk / Thor fight.

For many this still ranks as the top of the MCU, especially in a list without Infinity War. I have it at Number 6 but that is a reflection on the quality of the MCU, not the quality of Avengers.

This film took a bunch of B and C list characters, even the villain as Loki was an odd choice before we saw the film. Loki is of course excellent, and the interactions between the Avengers give us a glimpse of what is to come later in the MCU. Joss Whedon’s masterpiece is one of the most important films in history and has shown the world that the interlinked movie franchises can work very well.

Next week we have the top five, right in time for Avengers Endgame to hit cinemas next thursday.

20 – Thor: The Dark World

19 – Thor

18 – Iron Man 2

17 – Antman and the Wasp

16 – Captain America: First Avenger

15 – The Incredible Hulk

14 – Antman

13 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

12 – Iron Man 3

11 – Black Panther

10 – Captain Marvel

9 – Doctor Strange

8 – Iron Man

7 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

6 – Avengers

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