Welcome to the first post in the new section “Lists, Geek Style” here at EYG. Like everyone, I love me some lists, and I have been known to put things in subjective order for years. I remember as a junior high kid doing my own weekly Top 20 songs chart much like the Billboard chart. Yes, even then, I was a geek.
So this semi-regular column will focus on me placing a certain themed group into a list and counting it down. The first list will focus on something a lot of different sites did after the release of Captain America: Civil War. This list will contain all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in order from best to worst.
Now, the word “worst” does not indicate that the last few films on this list are bad. In fact, I would go on a limb and say that Marvel Studios has yet to release a bad film. The last couple of films just happen to be the weaker of the group. I mean, everyone can’t be Top 5, can they?
Without further adieu, here is the list of MCU movies in order according to me.
#13. Iron Man 2. This is a fairly common choice for lowest on this list. Iron Man 2 was not as good as it could be. It felt like it was spending more time trying to set up for future movies than actually telling a compelling story. I believe that Marvel learned how to world build from the shortcomings of Iron Man 2.
#12. Thor: Dark World. There are some really solid moments here, mostly dealing with Loki (Tom Hiddleston). This featured, arguable, the weakest of all Marvel cinematic villains in Maleketh and some strange storyline involving what would turn out to be an Infinity Stone.
#11 Incredible Hulk. The film that most everyone would forget was in canon, this Hulk film had the unfortunate situation of having to follow the horrible Hulk movie with Eric Bana and Hulk dogs. This version of the Hulk was pretty solid, including a very strong performance by Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. However, the trouble between Norton and Marvel led to Norton leaving the role. Of course, that also led to the best Bruce Banner ever coming on board for Avengers.
#10. Iron Man 3. This one is either loved or reviled. The biggest issue with Iron Man 3 for everyone was the reveal of the Mandarin. I did not mind the twist, so I enjoyed the movie. I know plenty of people who despised that twist, claiming that Marvel ruined the character. I found it clever and Robert Downey Jr. is at his smirky best here. He had to be because there was a lot of him and not that much of Iron Man. Some people claim that Iron Man 3 is too much of a Shane Black movie to work in the MCU. I would respectfully disagree as that different flavor is what makes the MCU a great place to be.
#9. Thor. This was a huge risk for Marvel since this was one of the first films not including Robert Downey Jr. in the MCU. And it was being used to set up the Avengers. Had this failed, the anticipation for the Avengers would have been tarnished. Thankfully, not only did this film show a great humor and a great Thor, it also bought us the best MCU villain of all time in Loki. Sure, Jane Foster wasn’t great, but that could be excused. Thor continued the progression towards the greatest movie team up of all time.
#8. Captain America: First Avenger. Placing this at this spot on the list is tough for me, because I truly do love this film. The fact is I just can’t place it above the other films. First Avenger is the Cap origin story with the perfect Steve Rogers. Chris Evans was a questionable choice for Steve since he was really an actor who played the smart-ass character and he was already Johnny Storm in two Fantastic Four movies, but this film showed how right Marvel is in their casting. Captain America: First Avenger was a great war film and served as the final connection to Avengers.
#7. Iron Man. The godfather of the MCU. An argument could be made that if Iron Man did not succeed, that nothing that followed would have come into being. I know RDJ laughs off this fact, but without Iron Man, the MCU is a completely different place. Iron Man was a wonderful origin story and is full of awesome characters and exciting action. Seeing that grey armored behemoth coming out of the cave for the first time is every geek’s dream.
#6. Ant Man. I wouldn’t have guessed that this film would wind up this high, but Ant Man turned out better than anyone would have anticipated. Especially after the behind the scenes drama of Edgar Wright departing the project just over a year from release. Marvel did not panic and they did not postpone the film. Instead, they found a perfect replacement in Peyton Reed. Ant Man was a welcome change (although the story beats did resemble Iron Man). The heist movie was smaller, more personal than some of the other offerings from the MCU and that was just the right decision. A classic cameo from Falcon. Michael Douglas! Paul Rudd knocked it out of the park as Scott Lang. Ant Man was the little hero that could.
#5. Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is another film that can be somewhat divisive. Many people did not like this movie. I loved it. Here is the issue, IMO. Age of Ultron was never going to be able to capture that amazing feeling of watching the original Avengers movie because that film had the ability to be the first time these characters were together on the big screen. There was a nostalgia pop that was lost in Ultron. If you went in hoping to recapture that feeling, you couldn’t help but be disappointed. I loved Ultron, and I loved James Spader. Ultron being like Tony Stark made sense to me (that echoed the comics, only in the comics, Ultron is more like Hank Pym, who created the robot in the comics). Age of Ultron gave us a perfect rendition of the Vision, created stakes for our heroes, and wound up killing one of them (who has, as yet, not been brought back). Maybe it did not have the magic of the first time, but that did not mean that it was bad. Nitpickers can always find faults. Age of Ultron was a solid film.
#4. Guardians of the Galaxy. What a surprise this one was. When Marvel announced a big screen adaptation of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the world responded with a collective…”WHO?” A group of heroes that included a talking raccoon and a walking tree that only said “I am Groot” was weirder than anything you had seen in the MCU up until then. But the thing was… weird isn’t bad. If you do something weird, but you do it brilliantly, people will love it. James Gunn took this unknown property and made it a massive hit. Everyone believed that this would be Marvel Studios’ first “bomb.” Oh how wrong they were. Guardians of the Galaxy was funny, irreverent, off-beat, while still having that Marvel feel to it. It was a space opera of the finest order opening up the cosmic side to the MCU.
#3. Captain America: Winter Soldier. Captain America’s sequel completely changed the tone of the series. This was not a war movie like the original Cap movie, but a ’70s political thriller, and this film captured that feel and tone perfectly. This was grittier than any Marvel film to date and gave us tense action and drama. Robert Redford was here as well. Robert “freakin'” Redford in a Marvel movie. That signaled the times we live in. Winter Soldier gave us Falcon, a great brother-sister relationship between Cap and Black Widow, and the return of Bucky as the brainwashed Winter Soldier. It also brought down SHIELD and changed the MCU forever.
#2. The Avengers. The plan came together as one of the greatest comic book movies ever. Seeing Hulk, Cap, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor together for the first time was awe-inspiring. It was something that many never believed to be possible, and yet Marvel pulled it off. There are so many great moments in the Avengers, from the fight between Iron Man and Thor to “Puny God”, this film balanced its heroes better than it could ever have been imagined. Each hero had his/her moment to shine and developed as characters. Plus, we had Loki. And an after credit scene with Thanos! Audiences responded.
#1. Captain America: Civil War. This epic film was unbelievable. It took so many characters that many people called it Avengers 2.5 and made it a film that definitely feels like a Captain America film. The central conflict between Cap and Iron Man made sense and actually created stakes that created tension. Everyone kept asking who was going to die in Civil War to make the stakes high enough, but Marvel did not fall into that trap. They created stakes without having to kill someone off. That final fight scene with Cap and Iron Man was as intense as it could be. There were action scenes galore in Civil War, including perhaps the greatest action sequence ever with the Airport scene. It introduced us to what could become the greatest cinematic Spider-man of all time. It brought us an incredible version of Black Panther, completely nailed by Chadwick Boseman. It advanced the Vision-Scarlet Witch relationship. It brought us the scene-stealing Ant Man. It gave us a different type of villain in Zemo. And it split the Avengers into two sides without demonizing either side. You could understand why Cap did what he did and you can understand why Tony did what he did. Neither man was wrong. That is an amazing piece of writing with characters that we care about and know after all of the other films that came before it. Civil War had that major advantage. It was able to take the continuity of the other films and give us a rich and textured story of characters who we love. It is the best Marvel film to date.
Now…bring on Dr. Strange!