The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is now at eighteen films. I’ve not spoken to one person who fully agrees on the order these films should be ranked in, and my wife is still giving me crap about where I’ve put Iron Man 3.
It’s a good topic for discussion.
Part 2 ranks the top 10!
10 – Black Panther
The MCU has a well-recognised villain problem. Mirror images of the hero that are only there to help the on their way to being what we expect. With that in mind I was fully prepared to lump in Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger with the Whiplashes, Yellow Jackets, and Abominations of this world. But he’s much more than that. Like the best villains, he’s got a point, and it’s pretty damn valid one. Disagree with his methodology for sure, but can you say he’s 100% wrong? I’d be surprised if you could. Add in the fact that Jordan has charisma and presence for days and you’ve finally got another great MCU villain.
For all the stunning Afrofuturism on display there are some problems. Popping two guys in dark costumes and then having them duke it out in a dark area with choppy edits does not make for entertaining or easy-to-follow action. Considering other scenes in the films, and Director Coogler’s very own Creed, this seems like an odd misstep.
At no point during the film did I feel blown away, but every time I reflect on it there’s a hell of a lot to like. Black Panther brings so much, I can’t wait to see what else it has in store for us. Now we finally know something about that dot on the map in Iron Man 2!
9 – Thor: Ragnarok
Taika Waititi’s idiosyncratic style melds seamlessly with the God of Thunder as Thor: Ragnarok immediately becomes the strongest film in the Asgardian’s trilogy. Eminently re-watchable, it’s a highly entertaining affair as Thor now seems to have picked up some Earth banter and finally moves on from being a fish out of water.
Ragnarok is another good Marvel film. It moves things forward nicely into Infinity War and is joyous in its appreciation and use of zanier aspects of the comic books this universe is based on. Marvel have consistently grown braver when it comes to tone, but they could still do with improving in a couple of areas. They don’t have to follow every serious moment with one of humour.
8 – Iron Man 3
Post Avengers this could have been a tricky one. Why would they bother tackling baddies on their own when they could just get Thor or Hulk to come flying in? Watching IM3 I found myself not giving them any thought. This is a great self-contained (ish) story.
This time around Stark is a wreck. He may be a hero of Earth now but he’s prone to panic attacks and letting his ego get in the way. Calling out the villain and giving him your address is one thing. But not preparing for it is criminal! Without his friends or his tech it’s up to Tony to prove he’s a hero without the armour, and he does so in a great buddy cop meets James Bond style.
Black and Downey Jnr were great together in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and that same relationship is present here, with plenty of sharp dialogue that serves the cast well, especially in scenes that Tony shares with Rhodey and Harper. Pepper Potts even gets to step up this time around.
Iron Man rescuing people from a blown up plane is a fantastic real life stunt, and they even manage to make how he puts on the suit cooler again. Surely he’ll have to go Bleeding Edge next?
In the end though, Tony Stark is Iron Man, suit or not, and this third film does a great job of showing that.
7 – Captain America: The First Avenger
I had reservations about Chris Evans. He has the physique of an action figure (seriously, that size and leanness?) but I’d only seen him playing the cocky jock type really, with Sunshine not overly impressing me. How silly do I feel now!
Evans is as earnest, well meaning, and heroic you could be without being cheesy. Steve Rogers is a good man (a worthy man Mjolnir might think) and doesn’t change when his body does, keeping the promise he makes Dr Erskine (the always excellent Stanley Tucci). The same values that have him picking up a trash can lid and standing up for himself shine through when he saves millions of lives later whilst standing up to the Nazis and Hydra as Captain America.
For a film that could have so easily alienated foreign audiences, Steve Rogers is a character we can all root for. The WW2 setting sets it apart in aesthetic and tone, and seeing a pyjama clothed Cap hoisting a motorbike above his head for the US recruitment drive is a sight to behold! Patriotic, yet never so much to be a turn off. A great balance.
6 – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Rightly assuming we all know the story by now, this isn’t really an origin tale; it’s more about learning lessons. He’s already got the powers and a suit, but at 15 his wants exceed his abilities. Holland’s Peter is acrobatic, clever and witty, but not overly mature as is befitting his age. There’s none of the overt awkwardness of Maguire or the occasional meanness of Garfield. It’s all different enough to make this fresh, and more importantly a much truer representation of the character from the comics.
I didn’t think I’d be calling a Marvel film mundane, but here we are. Not in a bad way mind you – that grounded quality comes back not just in the environment but also in the characters. This is most obvious in the villain. It brings me great joy to say that Michael Keaton gives us a great villain in The Vulture. His standard kookiness is on display, but with both honour and malevolence mixed in. Like Peter he’s had a rough time, but he chooses to deal with it very differently.
Leaning fairly heavily on the themes introduced in Iron Man 3, Spider-Man: Homecoming mixes Ultimate Spider-Man with just enough MCU to make a thoroughly entertaining movie.
5 – The Avengers
This is the big payoff that was promised when Nick Fury appeared at the end of Iron Man’s credits. Nothing like this had been seen before, and with all the films leading up making a big splash (apart from maybe Hulk) this film was hyped to the max, and for the most part it delivered. Director Joss Whedon was the perfect choice for such an ensemble piece, juggling the characters well whilst giving them all some quotable dialogue.
Hawkeye gets a bum deal (being taken out early on and made into a Loki pawn), but Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is by far the strongest representation yet, stealing the show on several occasions.
If you want character progression I’ll refer you to the solo films. But if you want action, humour, and a geekasm of superheroes doing their thing? This is the one for you.
4 – Iron Man
The start of it all. Weird to think now that the general public didn’t know who Iron Man was before this film.
Of course Robert Downey, Jnr is Iron Man, in what is possibly the best casting of any comic book film. The likeable douchebaggery of the billionaire play boy and his journey to becoming a superhero was a great introduction to the larger Marvel world. With hints to the Ten Rings and SHIELD it doesn’t go crazy but gave those in the know enough to salivate over.
I loved Jeff Bridges as Stane, and although his final ‘battle’ with Tony could have been stronger I’ve seen this film many a time on TV now and it never gets boring.
The highlight for me though is the process of designing and testing the Iron Man suit, with Tony’s robot helpers stars of the film. I’d have loved to see Cheadle cast at this point, as I much prefer his chemistry with Downey Jnr, but what can you do?
3 – Captain America: Civil War
Winter Soldier told a great story whilst carrying with it massive ramifications for the characters involved. Civil War does the same but betters it, mainly due to the sheer awesomeness of seeing the likes of Ant-Man, Hawkeye, War Machine and Spider-Man interacting. In addition to that it uses the history built up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to great effect as it tells a wonderful tale of friends caught on opposite sides of a conflict.
Imagine the MCU as a song. Previous top dog Guardians of the Galaxy is like an awesome guitar solo. I adore it, but taking it out doesn’t spoil the song. The Captain America trilogy is the bass line – fundamental to the entire thing.
2 – Guardians of the Galaxy
Fights. Spaceships. Humour. Charm. Villainy. Heroism. Great music.
It’s all going on in Guardians of the Galaxy! Each time I’ve seen it I’ve been wowed. All the strongest parts of Marvel films tied up with an irreverent verve by director James Gunn.
With Jurassic World under his belt now Chris Pratt can be considered a leading man, but it’s Guardians that showed he was up to the task, with a swagger that never annoys and constantly surprises.
Everyone gets a chance to shine with quotable lines and action scenes, but Groot is my favourite. An innocent seemingly along for the ride with his pal Rocket (also amazing), he provides the heart of the story, and I wasn’t surprised to find online folk already offering merchandise based on him. Vin Diesel takes four words and makes them work.
From the way the ships handbrake turn like speeding cars to impromptu dance-offs, GotG may be full of losers but fully deserves its place this high up the list.
1 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
By this point it had become clear that each Marvel film would mix humour with cool action and then take on a different genre to throw into the mix. A quasi political thriller fits Captain America perfectly, forcing him to look at his past whilst completely changing the world that he and The Avengers operate in.
Drama and intrigue mix in with action that really shows Cap at his best; with great control over his shield and some new moves he’s picked up.
But best of all? His relationships with both the brilliant newcomer Falcon and Black Widow. One an open and honest guy who immediately forms a bond and the other a spy who has her motives and doesn’t always let him in on them. Both serve to show the different sides of our hero.
We also get to see how Rogers deals with the present and how being displaced has affected him. In all honesty it doesn’t seem to be sitting with him all that well. Before Falcon he doesn’t seem to have any friends outside of work and is constantly monitored. To see him come to terms with present day and just how grey it is makes for a moving experience you rarely see in these films.
How would you rank them?