Top 10: Marvel Cinematic Universe Films

Avengers: Age of Ultron is out, and it is the eleventh movie under the Marvel Studios banner. Each of these films has avoided being a box office flop, but how do they rank against each other? I am only covering the Marvel Studios projects in my list, not any of the licensed films or those made by other studios. As much as I loved Blade, X-Men, and Spider-Man, they have no place here, but it also means I do not have to rant about Ang Lee’s Hulk movie again. I am a huge fan of these films. I have seen each of them in the theatres; and most more times than I want to admit, but they are not all classics. I know not everyone will agree with me exactly on these, but those people can write their own list if they want to argue about it.

#10 - Iron Man 2 (2010)

I questioned whether Iron Man 2 was the worst of all of these films for quite a while, trying to gauge different elements between several of the titles, but in the end I had to admit that it was the most disappointing. After such a successful showing from the first Iron Man, this sequel simply seemed to fall short—put politely.

The plot was not as good, the villain could not stack up quite as well—although I love Mickey Rourke—and the final battle had no real sense of threat or attachment and felt like it was thrown together at the last second. There were parts that worked though, like some of Sam Rockwell’s scenes and the introduction of Black Widow, but this movie seems like a chore to revisit knowing little carried over and that there are nine better films.

#9 - The Incredible Hulk (2008)

My brother was a huge fan of the Hulk when we were younger, so I have read quite a few of his comics, but the character has never been a one I related to or really liked that much. I had hoped the Hulk movies would change that, but was so disappointed by the 2003 Hulk film from Ang Lee that I almost did not see this one in theatres.

Edward Norton and Tim Roth are two of my favorite actors though, so I had to give this one a shot, and if you are going to watch a huge green monster tear things up, might as well do it on the big screen. The overall story was better—and nothing against Eric Bana—but I thought Norton also captured Banner a lot better. There was a lot to like in the film, especially since fans got their first Avengers teaser afterwards (even though nothing else in the story carried over really), but the last fight scene left a sour taste in my mouth, leaving this one pretty low on the list.

#8 - Thor: the Dark World (2013)

A lot of fans love Thor and Loki. Their back and forth conversational jabs are fun, and the emotional rollercoaster between the two brothers makes for good entertainment, so I get the appeal. It is sad that the second installment in this series has such a paper thin villain and questionable dialogue though. This was a CGI heavy movie that gave brief glimpses into the rest of the nine realms, but of course ended up back on Earth for the finale.

There was so much more they could have done with showing off the other realms and explaining details about them, but it seemed that time was spent showing Natalie Portman’s character in Asgard. Even those scenes did not offer much in the way of character development though, so this film felt more like a speed bump in the story of the Thunder God than an important step to Ragnarok.

#7 - Iron Man 3 (2013)

This is one of Marvel’s most polarizing films. Fans either love or hate it, but few fall in the middle for one reason or another. The two big issues that separate most fans seem to be the scenes with Tony and Harley (the ten year old kid), or the way the script depicted classic Marvel villain The Mandarin.

I did think the Harley character was a bit too much, but some of my friends disagree. I was fine with the way Mandarin was portrayed, but some fans freaked out over it. That would have been a hard character to pull off on screen though, and I liked how his reveal was handled. The movie took elements from the Extremis story arc, which is a good read, but probably did not need to be in the movie. This third installment made it a bit higher on the list though for how it handled Tony’s character development and how he had trouble dealing with the events of the alien battle in New York. Also, I know not everyone enjoyed the last fight scene, but it was a wonderful spectacle and part of the character progression.

#6 - Thor (2011)

In another instance where I hoped that the film would give me a greater appreciation for the character, Thor did a lot right in the character department. Each of the Asgardians seemed interesting and felt like their comic counterparts, and brought life to the alien world with some great actors and decent CGI.

This is also the film that introduced so many fans to Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, but what sold me was the directing of Kenneth Branagh. Parts in Asgard scenes felt like classic Shakespeare, while Thor adjusting to Midgard was purely entertaining. I enjoyed the movie up until the end, which felt incredibly rushed, and The Destroyer seemed like a bland final fight. This did not keep the film from being enjoyable overall, and showing why Marvel chose wisely by making Hemsworth worthy.

#5 - Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

One of comics’ greatest stormed onto the MCU scene with a hard right hook of a film that saw the character’s humble beginnings as a wimp no one wanted, test subject, entertainer, and finally a national hero. It is an underdog story about rising to a challenge during one of the world’s biggest wars. The evils of Hydra know no bounds, and the Red Skull is a classic villain beautifully played by Hugo Weaving, as he sought the power of the tesseract.

This film had some great fight scenes, set up villains for its next film, and introduced fans to some great characters like Howard Stark and Agent Carter (which is my favorite Marvel television product so far). The ending was a bit emotional, but what it set up with Cap waking up in New York and meeting Nick Fury left fans excited for what was coming.

#4 - Iron Man (2008)

Tony Stark may be a key member of the Avengers, but his comic sales had not always done so well. Basing a movie off of the character seemed like a gamble at the time, and some thought that bringing on Robert Downey Jr. to play the titular character was risky as well, but it all paid off. The first Iron Man film is not a perfect superhero movie, but it comes close.

It is an origin story that isn’t boring, where the villain is believable, and the character grows within the film. This also sees the beginning of Agent Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as that iconic post credits scene where Nick Fury begins recruiting for his superhero team. Not only is the film entertaining from beginning to end and boosted comic book sales, it cemented Downey as the only Iron Man in the eyes of many fans. I know anytime I read a book with Tony in it now, it is his voice I hear in my head.

#3 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I was concerned when this movie was announced, not only because I wanted it to be just as good, if not better than the first, but I also knew they were basing it off of a storyline that is highly regarded in the world of comics. Sebastian Stan returned to the franchise but with a serious makeover, and he helped that character look like an unstoppable juggernaut. Bucky is not the only villain though, as Captain America deals with the remnants of Hydra, who have managed to tear S.H.I.E.L.D. apart from the inside out, forcing Captain America to mistrust and go against the nation he swore to protect.

Cap gets the help of Black Widow and Falcon—whom they did beautifully—and ran into an old foe, Arnim Zola, before having one of the craziest final battles on top of a crashing helicarrier. This movie was so good it gave Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. some of its best episodes, but I will always remember it as the film that made me want to reread all of Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America.

#2 - Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I knew nothing about the Guardians of the Galaxy going in, other than there was a raccoon and a tree. As a comic book fan, I had never gotten into Marvel’s space titles, but I know I was not alone, as this film was seen as one of Marvel’s riskiest moves to date. When the trailers first came out the movie seemed a bit eccentric and almost like a comedy, which I did not think I would enjoy. I decided to give it a chance after the second trailer though, and I am so glad I did.

Guardians cemented my idea that I should not judge a superhero movie until I have seen it, and one of the few movies that gave me a soundtrack where every song is just flat out good. The cast did wonderfully, even the ones I thought would let me down, and all though I wanted more character development and backstory, the film succeeded in making me care around them. I went out and bought some GotG graphic novels after that and now cannot wait until the coming sequel to see what the biggest losers in the galaxy get sucked into next.

#1 - The Avengers (2012)

This being number one may not surprise anyone, but there are plenty of reasons it is here. Comics have always loved team-ups, bringing all the greats together to deal with a world threatening problem. This is something many thought fans would never see on the big screen though, and I have to admit to being worried about it failing horribly. I was worried that with so many key characters, none of them would get enough time or any development. Not knowing who the alien race was concerned me, as well as Loki being the main villain.

Also, as much as I have enjoyed some of Joss Whedon’s television shows, I have to admit to questioning whether or not he could handle this. All of my worry was for not though, as this is just an all around great movie. Avenger’s manages to pull off the classic superhero team first meeting, fighting and then joining forces to combat the great evil, without it feeling cliché. It also adds in the appropriate level of comedy amidst the action. Each character had their moment to shine, the story was good, and that Thanos tease at the end made me happy. They made me care about Coulson’s death as well as introduced one of my favorite characters from the comics, Maria Hill. This is a film I saw multiple times in the theatre and could not be more excited for its sequel. I cannot wait to see where Age of Ultron ranks on the list of best Marvel movies.