I’m aware of what Marvel movies are.
What I mean by that is I know they’re not the most prestigious form of filmmaking that exists. I know there have been great Marvel movies and I know there have been bad Marvel movies. I know that many of the films follow are extremely formulaic, which can be frustrating or unappealing to people, including myself at times. But I also know that they’ve been a part of my life since 2008. I was just 12 years old in 2008, which means I’ve watched these films from age 12 to age 23. These movies were part of the reason I fell in love with movies in the first place. They played a part in me becoming obsessed with filmmaking as an artform. Perhaps that sounds like a crazy thing to say about Marvel films but it’s true. Being a huge fan of these films when I was young led me to finding communities online that celebrated film. And from there my obsession grew. I learned more about films I knew nothing about, I found people much smarter than me who talked about classic films, and different styles of films. As I’ve grown older my tastes have changed and evolved and I may not totally have the same relationship with these films that I did when Avengers came out in 2012. But I know they will always mean something to me and I will always have them to thank for, in part, sparking my interest in film.
Here is my completely biased, totally subjective, based on nothing other than personal preference ranking of the 23 MCU films:
(I’m only going to attach a brief overview of my feelings on each film instead of a formal review because this is the biggest movie franchise in history, they have certainly been talked about enough.)
23. Iron Man 2 (2010)
This film ranks at the bottom of my list for multiple reasons. First, it’s just not a good movie. The story is the bland. The villain is forgettable (something that will come up many times throughout this list.) It lacks the excitement that the greater Marvel films give to you. But the reason this gets my last spot has to do with why this franchise is so successful. Marvel knows how to schedule out their movies years in advance and follow that plan properly. Iron Man 2 feels like the one time they got truly money-hungry and rushed a film. This film came out just two years after the original Iron Man and it’s clear they rushed it into production after the success of that film.
22. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Probably the consensus worst movie on most Marvel lists. I honestly don’t remember much of what happens in this movie and I don’t think anyone else does either, including the people that made it. Thank god they figured out what to do with Chris Hemsworth’s Thor character in the more recent years of the franchise because this version of the character was interesting.
21. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The forgotten film of the Marvel universe because of the recasting of Bruce Banner from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo. It’s become clear over time that the Hulk character works much better in a supporting role rather than the star of a film. I actually wouldn’t say The Incredible Hulk is a completely terrible movie but considering how little it’s discussed nowadays there was no way it was finding its way past the bottom few spots on my list.
20. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
A movie that has its entertaining moments but ultimately feels sloppy and sort of thrown together. Perhaps I’m being a little too harsh on this film by ranking it so low, but the fact that I feel like they made an entire film just so they could have the post-credit scene to help set up Avengers: Endgame is why I think it’s deserving of its ranking.
19. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
As time goes on I feel like we have forgotten just how bad this movie is. It’s really a mess all over the place. Ultron was a huge let down as a villain. There are aspects to the story that don’t make sense or feel completely out of place. Joss Whedon talked publicly after the release of this film about its flaws and his struggles making it, which included many conflicts with the studio.
18. Thor (2011)
Like I said when discussing The Dark World, thank god they went in a different direction with Thor because his first two films took themselves way too seriously. Loki is fun in this film but besides that there are not a lot of reasons to throw this movie on for a rewatch any time soon.
17. Captain Marvel (2019)
I actually think Brie Larson is great in this role, I just wish the movie around her was better. Although I had a decent amount of fun when I saw this film in theaters last year, I found that it does not hold up that well when comparing it to the other films in this universe. A problem that persists with some Marvel is that at times it feels like they can be more focused on the films they are setting up rather than the one we are currently watching, and I felt that with Captain Marvel.
16. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Not necessarily a bad film but a real disappointment for me personally because I loved the first Guardians of the Galaxy so much. In my opinion, the sequel was not able to recapture the same magic the original had. The jokes felt more stale and played out this time around and the Kurt Russell storyline did not pack the emotional punch they were hoping it would.
15. Doctor Strange (2016)
Not a perfect film but certainly not a bad one. Doctor Strange is one of the most visually stunning films in the Marvel franchise, which helps make up for it’s, at times, difficult to follow plot. I like how the structure of this film feels so different than most of what Marvel has done though. It was nice to see them get a little experimental with this character.
14. Ant-Man (2015)
A movie that shines in large part because of its star. Paul Rudd was great casting for this character and the movie has a lot of fun moments. Although the departure of Edgar Wright over “creative differences” sort of bummed out the fan-base at the time and tempered expectations for this film, I think Peyton Reed did a pretty good job here at delivering an entertaining film. (Even though I still would like to have seen Edgar Wright’s version of this film.)
13. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
I honestly think this film has become a little underrated overtime because of how successful and beloved the next two Captain America movies came to be. This is a really fun movie though. It contains one of the more memorable villains in the franchise, which is obviously an area Marvel struggles in. It also probably contains the best romantic plot line in the entire franchise, another area Marvel has struggled in with other films. It’s not a flawless film by any means, but it’s certainly some good big budget, blockbuster movie fun.
12. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Definitely the most controversial Marvel film at the time of its release and perhaps even still today. The twist in this movie is loved by some and hated by others. Personally, I wasn’t a huge fan of it when the movie was released but over time I’ve grown to like it more. It was the first movie released after the original Avengers and at the time did the best job of showing the real consequences the heroes in this universe have to deal with. It was also nice to see a slightly darker tone to this film because so many of Marvel’s films share the same light, comedic tone.
11. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
We go from the movie that followed the events of the first Avengers to the movie that followed the events of Avengers: Endgame. Marvel has really figured out the formula to making entertaining Spider-Man films, which is basically just make entertaining high school comedies and throw Spider-Man into them. Like all Marvel movies the plot isn’t perfect but Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Mysterio worked for me. Also, probably the number one post-credit scene that made you want to see the next film immediately so that has to count for something.
10. The Avengers (2012)
Starting off the top ten is maybe the movie that has changed Hollywood more than any other film in the past 20 years. There were some who believed a movie like this would never, and could never be made. However, Joss Whedon pulled it off and did so spectacularly, which led to every other studio in the world trying to figure out how to make their own version of a connected universe. Some of the other big “team-up” films rank higher on my list but I have to give credit for The Avengers for being the first to do it.
9. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Speaking of big “team-up” films, Captain America: Civil War lands at number nine for me. This was surprising to me when I was making my list because I would have thought this would end up higher, but I found there were eight films that I liked more. I still very much enjoy this film though. It remains impressive to me how they were able to pull off this movie with all the characters they had to include in it. And of course the airport set-piece is still one of the best scenes in any film on this list.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
This movie had a lot going against it. This was the 6th Spider-Man movie released in the course of 15 years, with the 3rd different actor playing Peter Parker. After Andrew Garfield’s films people were starting to become fatigued by this character. Sony and Marvel not only did a great job of making these films feel fresh, they also did a great job in choosing the right star. Tom Holland is such a big part of why this movie works as well as it does. The supporting cast is stellar here too though, and Michael Keaton gives us one of the better villains in a stand-alone Marvel film with his portrayal of Vulture. The use of humor also works a lot better in the Spider-Man films compared to some of the other Marvel movies.
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The Winter Soldier ranks as my number one Captain America movie and remains one of the smarter films Marvel has ever given us. I really enjoy this movie. The 70’s political-thriller aesthetic that this movie has separates it from many of the other movies on the list. It is no surprise that after this movie the Russo brothers were really given control of this universe. Although this film lands in the middle of Marvel’s “Phase Two” I think it really led the way and set the stage for the next five years of the MCU.
6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
I know, I know, biggest movie of all time and it doesn’t even crack the top five, but I have my reasons. I tend to enjoy the solo stories rather than the “team-up” films, and I prefer a different “team-up” film over this one so that’s why it fell to six. That being said, I absolutely love this film. It is quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had in a movie theater in my entire life. I’m still blown away at how they were able to wrap up 11 years of storytelling so flawlessly. I’m not saying this is a perfect movie, but I am saying I’m not sure there was a better way to make this movie, if that makes sense.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Because many of these movies can share similar tones and formulas, I tend to enjoy the ones that feel like breaths of fresh air, and Guardians of the Galaxy is a perfect example of that. This movie contains probably the 2nd best use of humor in any Marvel film. Although the plot has its flaws, it is the chemistry of this team that you end up rooting for that makes this movie special. Side note, I have long held the belief that this is the most important film for Marvel, because this was the film that showed us and them that they could do almost anything and it would be successful. They took a supporting actor on a sit-com and made him the star of a film with characters no one had ever heard of, which included a walking tree and talking raccoon, and made over 94 million dollars opening weekend.
4. Iron Man (2008)
This might seem like a very high placement to some and maybe I’m giving it preferential treatment because it is the movie that started it all but Iron Man lands at number three for me. You could make the case that the reason we even got 22 other films is because of Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in this movie. The supporting cast is great in this film as well. I also love the story in this film, and find it to still be one of the more interesting studies of a character that Marvel has given us. This film, along with The Dark Knight, in 2008 ushered in a completely new landscape for superhero films and made people take them seriously.
3. Black Panther (2018)
The only Best Picture nominee Marvel has in its catalogue, Black Panther is not only one of the most commercially successful films of all time but one of Marvel’s biggest critical hits as well. There is an argument to be made that this movie contains the best Marvel villain of all time. Killmonger is a villain that you can understand, at times sympathize with, and he has real complex and interesting goals and beliefs instead of just wanting to take over the world. From top to bottom this is arguably the best cast Marvel has ever assembled, headed by one of the most exciting young filmmakers in Hollywood, Ryan Coogler. Its inclusion of themes that resonated in the real world in 2018 when it was released, and still do today in 2020, made it easily the most culturally important and impactful film Marvel has released.
2. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
After the first two Thor films landed in the bottom six of my list, the third one finds itself at number two. As I’ve hinted at and mentioned throughout this list I like when Marvel goes in new, weird, and experimental directions with their films. And handing the reigns to Taika Waititi for this film was a brilliant move by them. He was able to find a way to have fun with the Thor character as well as unlock Chris Hemsworth’s gifts as a comedic actor. This is right above Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of funniest Marvel movies for me personally. This movie was so unexpected after the boring, overly-serious first two Thor films and I love every second of it.
1. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
I know I said I tend to prefer the stand-alone films rather than the “team-ups”, and if I’m being honest with myself, strictly speaking just as films I may prefer Ragnarok and Black Panther over Infinity War but in the context of the MCU I have to give my number one spot to this movie. This is another example of them flawlessly handling the inclusion of all these different characters into one film. It really introduced Thanos as a formidable and serious villain. It had real emotional moments in it that resonated with audiences who had been following these stories for a decade. Although, we might have all known the events of the snap were not going to be final, that was still one of the biggest moments in pop-culture of the last decade and that has to count for something. To me, Infinity War is not only the best Avengers movie, but also the number one MCU movie.