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

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 16-20

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. Doing all 21 films at once is madness, so I’m breaking into four and this week is the bottom of the barrel. The worst the MCU has coughed up. You will notice from the title I am only ranking 20 movies, not the full 21. That is because I am leaving out Avengers Infinity War, as in a lot of ways that and Endgame are two halves of one whole and also because it would be No 1 easily, but only because of the groundwork done by the previous 20. So here goes, bottom of the list:

This post contains spoilers for every film, some major, some minor, so reader beware!

20 – Thor: The Dark World

There’s only one film I think could take this spot, and it’s a film nearly everyone agrees is “meh” at best. Taking the foundations of the first film and making Thor an even less relatable character was an odd choice, and that for me is where this film falls down. There’s also the forced relationship between Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth on top of some comedic beats that fall flat on their face.

All that being said it’s got some redeeming features, the actions exciting, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is entertaining at all times and he’s given plenty to do in this film. What I think could have been utilised more in Dark World is Thor’s companions like Lady Sif, and the Warriors three. They’re relegated to side roles and I think this could have been a better team up movie than it was, although I do wonder if we’d have got the magnificent Ragnarok, which is essentially a team up movie, without getting through this faltering effort.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World combines some of the worst elements of the MCU movies and doesn’t do enough of the good elements to keep its head above the average line. Arguably the franchise’s biggest waste of an actor is with Christopher Eccleston as one note villain Malekith is the biggest sin of all, and that pushes this film to the bottom of the MCU list for me.

19 – Thor

I can imagine some people harbour fond memories of this film, as it has a lot of fun moments, but if you go back and re-watch it, this is the most glaringly obvious evidence that marvel was still very new to this during Phase 1. Chris Hemsworth has grown into an excellent character, but here is stiff, unrelatable and at times simply unlikable. He acts like a Shakespeare character taken out of time and plonked into the real world, but he’s actually from a world that is far in advance of Earth’s technology.

I think Thor is the film that time has treated the worst in the entire franchise, as to me it feels very dated now. The character has changed and developed so much over the years that the over-confident, cocksure brute we see here just doesn’t seem like he is cut from the same cloth. As an individual film, it does work quite well, that Shakespearean thing working as a kind of genre unto itself, but it doesn’t fit the MCU as a whole for me. The actions decent, The humour lands better than in its direct sequel, and it does get credit for being a Thor film that people actually took seriously.

It’s perhaps harsh to judge this film by today’s standards, but as you will see later in the list, that doesn’t automatically put a film down the rankings. Thor is a near hit, just the right side of 5/10 compared to The Dark world. Perhaps I am being harsh, and you think this should be heralded as the introduction to debatably the MCU’s most powerful hero. I can certainly see why some people rate it, but when compared to the rest of the MCU, it just doesn’t measure up.

18 – Iron Man 2

Iron Man is, and always will be, the gateway to the MCU. His first movie (we will get to it eventually) is an astounding film, breaking new ground and putting a B list marvel character on the map. His second outing took that same character, turned down the likability a touch, upped the snarky attitude, and then let Mickey Rourke shit all over the film.

I don’t really enjoy railing on an actor or actresses performance as I genuinely believe the vast majority of them put in a decent amount effort at the very least. As Iron Man 2 villain Whiplash, I think we see an example of a role Mickey Rourke took purely because of a big pay cheque. He puts on a lazy russian accent, and delivers his lines with all the passion and gusto of a tired teacher in front of an unruly, disinterested class. The film overall is actually quite good, features some insanely cool easter eggs (Peter Parker!) and some of the best action in any of the phase 1 marvel films.

The F1 race scene is brilliant, and the suitcase armour is one of the coolest moments in the MCU. On top of that, the end fight is actually well done, with Iron man and War Machine teaming up just as they did in the TV shows I used to watch. Sam Rockwell often gets lumped in with Mickey Rourke for being the villain, but I actually think he is decent in the film, but he’s wasting his time trying to play off of Rourke’s Whiplash character. Damn this could have been brilliant. I bet Mickey wishes he took this role seriously seeing what the MCU has become.

17 – Antman and the Wasp

Okay here we are, the first of the tough decisions I had to make figuring out this list. The bottom three picked themselves, but every one of the films from here on in are movies I really enjoyed. Antman and the Wasp is a film that I think is a prime example of a modern-day MCU movie. It’s fun, it’s got clever action unique to the hero, and the villain is more promising than we experienced in Phase 1 and 2 of the MCU.

What puts it so low on this list is that I can barely remember what happened, why I cared, or if anything major happens except about 3 lines of dialogue and the after credits scene. Just 2 entries ago I mentioned how age has affected the movie, and Antman is the first entry that I think falls into the bad timing category. This film came out a few months after Infinity War. Nobody, me included, was really that invested in what Antman was doing during the events of the epic movie that released months prior.

It’s not bad, and I think repeat viewings might raise it up the rankings a little, but as it is, today, ranking the movies, This one just couldn’t spark anything in me to make it sit higher. This is essentially the benchmark for a standard MCU movie, and the next few entries aren’t necessarily better films, but it just doesn’t have that magic moment that the next few films did.

16 – Captain America: The First Avenger

This was, when it released, a film I honestly couldn’t believe I was seeing. Captain America was always something of an enigma to me. He would show up in the odd Spiderman cartoon, save the day by chucking his shield about and then leave after a cheesy, overly patriotic line about freedom. This film took that goody too shoes, near infallible character and made him feel real.

This captures the character of Captain America so well. Steve Rogers is a very good, honest and unselfish guy. I mention moments earlier, and I think that’s a theme that will continue in these mini reviews. I remember the “I can do this all day” scene, partly because of its impact in Civil war and Winter Soldier, but also because it was iconic immediately when he picks himself up off the dirt. The moment that really sells me on this film, and sold me on the entire character of Captain America, is the scene with the “Grenade”.

Whilst discussing the potential of the men in the company, the sergeant chucks a dummy grenade to prove a point and show he should pick his preferred option. The grenade hits the floor, everyone dives away to save themselves. Steve doesn’t do that, he dives straight onto the grenade and yells for everyone to get back. In this moment, I understood what Captain America is all about. He is not just a symbol for America, he is there to save anyone he can, and will sacrifice anything to save someone else regardless of the situation. It’s a characteristic that has stuck with the character throughout 3 Avengers films and his own trilogy, given even more of a highlight by his fierce loyalty to his childhood friend Bucky.

The film actually makes a bit of a hash of the Red Skull character in my opinion, and there’s a considerable lull in the film with the montages of the war for me, but its a solid start for a character that, to me, is the centre of the best MCU films to date. Sorry Tony Stark.

So there we are, the bottom 5. Starting this list has reminded me how many good to great films Marvel has produced. Fan’s of this kind of stuff should count themselves lucky, I remember a time when X-men was as good as it got. You probably have fond memories of that film, go back and watch it now, it does not hold up. I can’t wait to go through the next 5, and from this point on its just going to be like listening to a greatest hits album of your favourite band. Thanks for reading as always.