#16 Thor: The Dark World
The Dark World is perhaps the most mediocre movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m not saying that it’s an awful movie, it’s just a very boring movie. The film does quite a few things right: Thor’s family dynamic is executed well, Loki’s inclusion helps to carry the film, all of the Asgard elements are strong, and the action pieces are engaging. Thor stumbles in its connection to Earth and the human cast, in particular Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. In a fantastical movie such as Thor, it spends too much time wallowing in the mundane characters back on Earth when they aren’t necessary to the story. On top of that, the villain Malekith lacks any motivation whatsoever and is completely forgettable, a complete waste of Christopher Eccleston’s talents. While the film is passable, it’s very forgettable and not worthy of the god of thunder’s character.
#15 The Incredible Hulk
The second entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and probably the most forgotten entry in the group, The Incredible Hulk is an awkward addition to the Marvel family. Starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, who would be replaced by Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers, the film is entertaining but leaves much to be desired. William Hurt’s General Ross, who recently reprized the role in Captain America: Civil War, played an excellent foil to Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner. Liv Tyler also did an excellent job as Betty Ross, Banner’s love interest, and I would be excited to see her return to the Marvel Universe. The Incredible Hulk scores so low on my top MCU movies because there were incredibly interesting elements that were never fleshed out. Allowing William Hurt to return is a step in the right direction, but I’m still upset that we never got to see what happened to Samuel Sterns after his transformation into one of the Hulk’s more notable villains, The Leader. Edward Norton also does a good job as Bruce Banner, but Mark Ruffalo has become iconic in the role and brought an energy that Edward Norton wasn’t able to generate.
#14 Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 was the movie directly following The Avengers, and many had high hopes for director Shane Black’s interpretation of the character. Pitting Iron Man against his greatest nemesis, The Mandarin, this film had the potential to be one of the best Marvel movies yet. However, due to a odd twist involving Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin and the Extremis drug and the villain Aldrich Killian, audiences got a much different film than what was promised by the foreboding trailers. By no means is Iron Man 3 a bad movie because of those elements, but it doesn’t quite reach the highs established by the first Iron Man movie. The movie does do a few things right though, including focusing on Tony Stark’s PTSD following the events of The Avengers and how they’ve changed him personally. Iron Man 3 is an excellent Tony Stark character film, but it’s incredibly light on the action and it squandered the potential to be a much more memorable addition to the MCU.
#13 Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2’s greatest sin is that it feels like an advertisement for The Avengers, instead of a standalone Iron Man story. Inspired by one of Tony Stark’s greatest stories, where he must overcome his alcohol addiction, Iron Man 2 replaces his near-fatal alcohol monitoring with a disease caused by the arc reactor embedded in his chest. Yes, battling an alcohol addiction would be a little dark for a Marvel film, but it’s an incredibly important moment for Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr.’s performances is the best part of the movie, and the first appearance of Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/Was Machine was a great moment for Iron Man fans. The introduction of The Black Widow is also a huge moment for the MCU, but the movie’s underused villains drag down the tension. I’m hopeful that we’ll get to see Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer return, but otherwise Iron Man 2 is mostly forgettable, albeit enjoyable.
I am a big fan of Chris Hemsworth’s first installment as the Mighty Thor. Hemsworth nails the character of Thor, and the fish-out-of-water story of Thor humanizes the Asgardian in a huge way. While Thor is a great movie, it lacks the scale and epic-feeling that usually accompanies the god of thunder. The action is wonderful when it’s there, but it’s only really present during the first and third acts. The highlight of the film is its villain Loki, as portrayed by Tom Hiddleston. While Thor lacks the epic battles and strong action, it makes up for it as an excellent character film that introduces fans to the world of Asgard and the rivalry between Loki and Thor.
#11 Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger is one of the few movies that is made retroactively better by its sequels. The First Avenger is an incredibly strong movie that relies heavily on homages to old-school World War 2 era films. The performances of Chris Evans as Captain America and Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter are incredibly heartwarming, and the journey of Steve Rogers is one of the most inspiring in the Marvel Universe. My biggest complaint is the movie jumps around too much, including the use of a montage scene detailing Cap’s exploits instead of letting us see him in action. This forces the film to glaze over Cap’s relationship in the battlefield with Bucky and The Howling Commandos, as well as Cap’s rivalry with The Red Skull. The Captain America sequels give the moments and characters of this film the depth that they deserve, but on its own the movie skips over the deeper moments of Cap’s time in the war.
#10 Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron had a lot to live up to, serving as the sequel to its critically acclaimed and highly successful predecessor. Age of Ultron has a ton of positives, I’m personally a big fan of James Spader’s Ultron, but I wish we got to see him do more. For the “Age of Ultron,” he wasn’t around very long and the implications of an AI taking over the world could have been much more widespread and sinister. However, the movie includes incredibly satisfying moments including the Hulkbuster fight, the entire first 15 minutes of the movie showing the Avengers fighting as a trained unit, the introduction of Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Vision, and the spotlight on Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. There was a lot going on in Age of Ultron, but the good parts massively overshadow the awkward stumbles.
Let’s be honest, the concept for Ant-Man is a tough sell. First off, Ant Man’s powers are shrinking and communicating with ants, which is difficult to convince audience’s to see. Second, by choosing the second character to take up the Ant-Man mantle, Scott Lang, and allowing the original Hank Pym to act as a mentor was a risky move that ended up paying off. Scott’s journey as an ex-con trying to support his family added an emotional weight to the film that Hank Pym’s Ant-Man didn’t provide. However, adding in Hope Van Dyne, who was the daughter of Hank and the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne provided a strong symmetry between Scott and Hank’s journeys. The movie was one of the funniest entries in the MCU, thanks to Paul Rudd’s performance and his sidekick in Michael Pena’s Luis. While Ant-Man isn’t the best of the MCU films, it’s a solid addition that introduces us to an excellent cast of characters.
#8 Doctor Strange
Just when you thought Marvel was all about playing it safe, they produced a visually mind-bending movie about a group of sorcerers protecting the world from a demon from another dimension. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange is another example of Marvel’s impeccable casting, and the visuals from this film are some of the most impressive I’ve seen to date. This was one of the few movies where I was genuinely happy to see in IMAX 3D. On top of being visually gorgeous, Doctor Strange’s emotional journey is captivating, alongside Tilda Swinton as the Sorcerer Supreme, who may deliver one of my favorite performances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
#7 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
A worthy predecessor to the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 has the benefit of getting to expand on the relationships of the Guardians following the first movie. Drax steals the show, and Kurt Russel’s Ego is an incredibly menacing villain that poses a very personal threat to Star Lord. Guardian’s 2 was incredibly humorous, but the dramatic moments were just as important. The soundtrack was, once again, phenomenal and GotG Vol. 2 is one of the most visually stunning Marvel movies produced.
#6 Iron Man
The movie that started it all, and revived Robert Downey Jr.’s career, Iron Man was an unprecedented success that set the stage for an entire cinematic universe. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, and his charm elevated Iron Man into popularity worldwide. Iron Man was an incredibly solid film, and that would have been enough. But fans who stayed after the credits were treated to the greatest easter egg of all time, introducing Tony Stark to Nick Fury and setting the stage for what would eventually become The Avengers, “Mr. Stark, you’re part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”
#5 Guardians of the Galaxy
On paper, Guardians of the Galaxy should not work. Featuring the team-ups of characters that most people have never heard of, Guardians of the Galaxy will make you feel invested in the friendship of a talking racoon with machine guns and a sentient tree. Director James Gunn tackled an impossible task, but Guardians is one of the best Marvel movies to date. With a stellar soundtrack, lovable characters, and stunning visuals, Guardians of the Galaxy earns is deserving of a top spot on any MCU list.
#4 Spider-Man: Homecoming
Marvel Studios’ version of the Web-Slinger proves why Marvel is the king of superhero movies. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a love letter to what makes Peter Parker special, and they capture the heart of what makes the character the greatest superhero in Marvel’s roster. Spider-Man feels like a comic book coming to life on the screen, and Tom Holland’s performance as the Web-Head was sincere and heartwarming. On top of a strong performance, Michael Keaton’s Vulture is one of the best and most threatening Marvel villains to date. Homecoming took inspiration from John Hughes films such as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, and it is a perfect blend of coming-of-age high school flick and superhero movie.
#3 Captain America: The Winter Solider
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the most exciting standalone Marvel movies to date. Cap is a leader and a solider, and adapting Ed Brubaker’s Captain America comics as a political thriller was the perfect way to bring him to the modern world. Pitting Captain America against his brainwashed former best friend Bucky Barnes, and the revelation that the organization he fought for was compromised by the enemy he died fighting to destroy, The Winter Solider has huge stakes on a personal level. The action was gritty, the drama was intense and the movie was incredibly well-paced. Chris Evans is the definitive Captain America, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who disagreed after watching The Winter Soldier.
#2 The Avengers
The Avengers was one of the most unprecedented experiments in cinema history, but director Joss Whedon and Producer Kevin Feige nailed it. The spectacle of seeing superheroes from different movies come together for one massive team-up was the coolest theater experience I have ever been a part of. Seeing the Iron Man teaming up with Captain America or The Hulk for the first time was magical, and after four years of build-up, it was absolutely worth the wait. The Avengers changed the world of cinema forever, and the film masterfully executed the action, humor, spectacle, and tone that a comic book team-up movie should be.
#1 Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War is the pinnacle of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about. Civil War would not have worked without having the previous 13 movies of stories and characters to support its story. While remaining focused on Steve Rogers, Civil War was also a much more personal Avengers movie. Instead of pitting The Avengers against a world-ending threat, they were pushed against one another as they had to decide if they needed government oversight to hold them accountable. Pitting Tony Stark against Steve Rogers, Civil War took advantage of the rich characters of the Marvel Universe and what had come before them. Also acting as an introduction to characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man, Civil War is the shining example of how a Cinematic Universe should operate.