We are only a few months away from the release of Avengers: Infinity War. This is what everything has been building up to thus far. All of the Marvels heroes, teaming up, to face one big villain. From a purely logistical standpoint, it may be the biggest movie of all time. Not in terms of importance to film, but in terms of the sheer size of the movie. A ridiculous cast feating characters from 10 different franchises, with new characters as well. Multiple locations, and a budget larger than many small countries.
It took 18 movies to get to this point. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America had three movies each. There have been two Avengers movies. Guardians of the Galaxy have two films. Hulk, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Dr. Strange each had a movie as well. So how do they stack up? Marvel has yet to have a movie as awful as Suicide Squad, but they also have yet to have anything that even comes close to touching a film like The Dark Knight. So in anticipation of the upcoming release of Infinity War, which is said to change the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, though it probably won’t change that much, I revisited all the movies and will rate and rank them all here.
18. The Incredible Hulk
This movie feels so detached from the rest of the cinematic universe. Only one character besides Bruce Banner ever returned, and that was only in a small role in Civil War. Edward Norton left the role after this movie, which I thought was always for the best. Mark Ruffalo brought a lot more to the character than Norton did. Ruffalo’s Banner feels like the genius he is supposed to be. You could remove this movie from existence, and the MCU would be no different. It just feels like a waste of time. Even as a stand-alone, it has very little to offer. Norton feels somewhat charmless in the leading role.
17. Thor: The Dark World
The Dark World commits one of the most unforgivable sins a movie can make, it is completely forgettable. I watched it in theaters, and a week later, I had forgotten what the villain’s name and motive were. Hell, I watched this movie two weeks ago, and I have already forgotten again. Why? Because it is the most boring motive ever. He literally just wants to destroy the universe. But this isn’t the only movie with a forgettable villain, so why does it rank so low? Because of Jane. Natalie Portman is a fine actress, but Jane is an awful character in the MCU. She has no purpose, but she tags along for the entire movie. Chris Hemsworth is charming and enjoyable as always, and Loki is still a fun character, but the rest of the film is just a drag.
16. Iron Man 2
This movie is far too obsessed with setting up the rest of the MCU. It’s a problem that hurts many of the Marvel movies, and this was the first example. But beyond Robert Downey Jr.’s wit and charm is wasted by having Tony Stark just be a mopey alcoholic for most of the movie. It starts out fine, with a fairly entertaining scene where Iron Man fights the main villain Whip Lash on a train track. But then it screeches to halt, and nothing of much interest happens until the conclusion of the film, and even then the final fight isn’t that interesting. The movie tries to go for emotional weight as Tony battles his demons, but it doesn’t work.
15. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America’s debut movie is kind of sloppy. The plot meanders from set piece to set piece, with no real purpose. First, his mission is to save his friend, then we just get a montage of pointless action, and then the plot finally arrives and he has his goal to stop The Red Skull. The movie isn’t bad, but it is kind of boring. The character of Captian America at this point is bland. While Steve Rogers would go on to become a more complex and interesting person, in this movie he has as much flavor as soggy cereal. He suffers from boy scout syndrome. The saving grace is leading lady Peggy Carter, who is still one of the best romantic interests that we have seen in any of these Marvel movies. It is a shame her solo TV series spun out in its second season.
Thor has a lot going for it. The title character is a ton of fun, and the fish out of water nature to his story as he adjusts to Earth leaves space for a ton of good humor. The villain, Loki, is still the best villain Marvel has featured, mostly because they took the time to develop him and make us empathize with him. The problem, the movie has no real plot. Thor does nothing all movie. He just wanders around New Mexico until the end where he fights Loki’s Destroyer. I know the idea was he was supposed to learn humility, but if so they messed up the moral. Thor gets his powers back when he heroically is willing to sacrifice himself to save his friends. But he was always heroic, He probably would have given his life in combat to save his friends at the start of the movie. His sacrifice had nothing to do with the lesson he was supposed to learn. The movie is fairly fun, but it just feels like it wasted a strong lead and a great villain.
13. Iron Man 3
The twist in Iron Man 3 was shocking as hell, but it was also stupid as hell. They set up Mandarin as a fairly menacing villain. He was mysterious, intense, and loomed large over the movie. But then the decided it would be funny if he turned out to be fake, and was just a goofy actor. And it was funny, but also a horrible idea. It goes to show, just because something makes for a funny joke, does not mean it is a good idea. It killed the movie for me. The movie fell apart in the third act because the actual villain was nowhere near as interesting. Iron Man 3 was on its way to being one of the better Marvel movies until the twist happened. It ended up being only a mediocre entry, because of a bad third act.
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron was a step back from the first Avengers. It is by no means bad, but it has many flaws. For one, it was the start of them using too many quips, and relying too much on humor. There was no need for Ultron, who is supposed to be an emotionless machine, to be cracking jokes left and right. It also suffers from trying to set up several future movies, which brings the movie to a halt multiple times. Another problem I have with it is they waste Ultron. Ultron is such a threat in the comics. Take his appearance in the animated series Earth’s Mightiest Heros. He felt like more of a threat because they actually used his powers. He can take over any computer, including the Iron Man suit. But he never really does that here. No instead, he has this convoluted plot to use vibranium, to create thrusters, to send a city skyward, and then crash it back into Earth? That was really the best plot they could come up with? The movie is still fun, but it just feels messy and drags in the middle when they decide to go to this isolated farmhouse.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Another movie that suffers from too many jokes. The first Guardians had a great balance of humor, but the sequel leaned on it far too much. It tried to have some heart, but the heartfelt undercut. I think the humor hurt the character of Drax the most. In the first movie, he worked great as the straight man. His utter lack of humor was itself one of the funniest parts of the movie. But in this entry, he was trying to be funny. And while it often worked, it made the character himself a bit of a joke. Though I still like the movie. it was fun, and they surprisingly did not lean too much on the cuteness of Baby Groot. Baby Groot was not a crutch, every time he was on screen he was fun, but never weighed the movie down. Ego also made for a decent villain, though he was too prone to giving big speeches that didn’t really say all that much. Guardians 2 made for an okay movie but was disappointing compared to the first movie.
I had a lot of fun watching Ant-Man. The heist plotline was a nice twist to the superhero genre. The movie was funny, and unlike Guardians 2, the humor never felt intrusive. It had an easy going nature that made the movie feel loose. Overall it was just a good time. The movie is inconsequential, but it benefits from that. Too many superhero movies have the need to make its story the most important event that has ever happened in its world. It was nice to have a self-contained story. My problem is what it could have been. As I have said before, Edgar Wright is one of my favorite directors. I would have loved to see what his Ant-Man would be. But he and Marvel couldn’t make it work, so he had to step away from the project. If Edgar Wright made his movie, I can’t help but think it would have been one of the best Marvel movies. But even without him, we got a fun entry to the MCU.
9. Captain America: Civil War
The action scenes in Civil War are among the best so far in the MCU. You would think it would feel messy with so many characters on screen, but it blends together really well, and I never felt lost in the action. The problem at least for me is the conflict at the center of the film feels contrived. The rift in the Avengers didn’t feel natural, it feels like they wanted to do Civil War, so they made up a story to tear them apart. Also, why the hell are the Avengers being blamed for the events in the first movie. I can understand blaming them for Sokovia because Ultron is literally Tony Stark’s fault, but they didn’t cause the invasion of New York, they just saved New York, and they stopped the government from stupidly nuking the city for no reason. Even worse, they undercut all the consequences of the film pretty immediately. The Avengers are broken up at the end, but it is okay because Cap makes sure to tell Tony if there are any real issues, they will be right there to help. Rhodes, War Machine, is paralyzed, but that is okay because with Stark tech he will basically be able to walk again. Some of the Avengers are locked up, but they get broken out of jail so it is no problem. On the plus side, the introduction of both Black Panther and Spider-Man goes great. Those two steal the movie for me. I loved the movie the first time I watched it, but it loses something with every rewatch. It is a solid entry but fails to reach the heights it could have.
8. Marvel’s The Avengers
The Avenger’s has a ton going well for it. Firstly, it is just fun. It is a great time from start to finish, and I never felt like the movie dragged. The cast is great, and most of them get a good balance of screen time, sorry Hawkeye. While the main characters never really felt like they were in danger, there was at least one death of consequence. Coulson’s death, while undercut by Agent’s of Shield, had weight. He was a well-liked character, and his death impacted the course of the cinematic universe. However, while fun, the final action scene had little to no consequence. It never felt like civilians were in danger because the city felt empty during the invasion. We see one small group of people get saved, and that is it. They explained later in Civil War that many people did die, but it sure did not feel like it at the time. Despite this, I really loved the movie. it is not great, but it is fun. It is a true summer blockbuster.
7. Black Panther
I already shared my opinion on Black Panther in a full review so I will not go too deep here. In the review, I called Black Panther a top 5 movie, but upon further review, it falls short of that for me. I watched Black Panther a second time after my review and liked it a little less. The villain is well developed, and the supporting cast is so strong. I have a problem with the overuse of pg 13 violence though. If you are going to go pg 13, and not show blood, then do not have action scenes that would call for blood. Do not have someone have their throat slit, but show no blood. But that is a minor issue. I do think though, that because of how culturally important this movie is, it is being overvalued as a film. What aspects make this the best Marvel movie as people claim? To me, it feels like the average Marvel movie. Enjoyable for sure, but nothing exceptional. In fact, there is one weak aspect of this movie, that surprised me given how good Marvel usually is at this. The special effects. Visually this movie looked fake several times. When T’Challa had to do inhumane acrobats, it looked fake. Those CGI Rhinos looked fake. So while I do like it, I do not believe it is in the top tier of Marvel movies
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
This is where we get into the top tier of Marvel movies. These are films where the filmmaking aspect, actually shines through. Guardians may have a problem with an uninteresting antagonist, but of all the Marvel movies, it did the best job with the ensemble cast style. Every character had a motive and an arc. More than that, they played off each. Guardians is funny when it has to be, and sincere when it has to be. Some small flaws, I think it spoon feeds the audience too much. I do not think we needed to see the hallucination of Peter’s mother to make the connection after Gamora said “take my hand.” They did a great job searing that image of Peter’s dying mother asking him to take his hand into our mind, that we all should have picked up the callback without having to make the call back that obvious. But this is obviously a minor critique. Overall, I really liked this film
5. Thor: Ragnorock
This movie was a non-stop blast. Almost all the humor works, the action is great, and it isn’t without sincerity and heart. It immediately reminded me of the first Guardians movie. The one thing that makes it better, is the villain. I would not call Hela a great villain, but she is at least fun to watch. Cate Blanchet seems like she was having a hell of a time playing the character, and she truly feels like an unstoppable force. One problem I have with it, it kind of glosses over some serious stuff. The warriors 3 all die, and it is treated like it is nothing. Hell half of Asgard dies, and the deaths have no weight in the movie. If you want to make a fun movie, awesome, do so. But the humor and the fast pace undercut moments that should have been serious. It would have been better to leave the deaths out.
4. Captain America: Winter Soldier
A lot of people go crazy over this movie. They put it up on a pedestal as this example of being the best Marvel movie? But is it really? It is definitely good. I think people like it because it is the most serious Marvel movie. It is not devoid of humor, but it leans mostly on its intricate plot. But to me, it is a standard spy thriller. The classic man on the run story. No different than a Jason Bourne movie. Which is fine, the Bourne movies are good. But I do not think Winter Soldier is quite as good as many think it is. For sure it is up there with the best Marvel movies, but it still follows the Marvel formula, and the filmmaking itself is still standard. It does try to break the mold in terms of tone, and I give it credit for turning the MCU over on its head, and developing Cap into a much better character.
3. Dr. Strange
From a pure filmmaking standpoint, Dr. Strange is the best Marvel movie. It has the most creative camera work, the best sound editing, sound mixing, best special effects, and the best cinematography. People tend to underrate this movie. It blends the humor and the seriousness well. It also has the most creative ending in my opinion. It would have been easy to end it with Dr. Starge clashing with another magic user, the way almost every Marvel movie ends with the hero fighting a villain with similar powers, but instead, they did something else. The whole idea of using the time stone to keep Dormammu trapped in a time loop was clever as hell. The only problem is the main plot thread is a bit too similar to Iron Man. But, if you are going to emulate a movie, Iron Man is not a bad movie to copy.
2. Iron Man
The original movie in the MCU, and still one of the best. The humor worked, the action worked, everything just clicked. Marvel probably didn’t know just how big of an impact this movie would have for them. It launched the biggest cinematic universe of all time. The villain may have been a bit dull, but the rest of the movie worked so well. It made Robert Downey Jr. a superstar and made Marvel a goliath in the film. This movie set the standard and created a formula that Marvel would use to make many more successful movies.
1. Spider-Man Homecoming
Homecoming, I felt, really broke the Marvel mold. It felt way more sincere and personal than most modern Superhero films. The scene where Peter in under the rubble, and struggling to break free, may be one of the best Superhero scenes since the Dark Knight. They really captured the essence of Spider-Man. As Peter, he was nerdy, awkward, and unsure of himself. But with the mask, he was confident, snarky, and outgoing. They didn’t capture this dichotomy in any of the prior Spider-Man movies but nailed it here. Filmmaking wise, it was standard. The camera work and cinematography was standard. They took no risks with the way the film was shown. The writing and acting is where the film shined bright. The stake of the film are low, but I like that. This wasn’t a story about Peter saving the world. It is about Peter figuring out who he is. A low stakes plot works perfectly for that. On top of that, Vulture was a great villain. Michael Keaton brought an intensity to the role, but also empathy. He wasn’t the same boring villain trying to rule or destroy the world. He had real reasons for what he does. The more I watch this movie, the more I like it.