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Ranking all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies before Infinity War
April 24, 2018
With the release of the decade-in- the-making film “Avengers: Infinity War” immanent, we decided to take it upon ourselves to look back at and rank all of the previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
18. The Incredible Hulk
Last on this list, this Hulk movie almost feels as if it doesn’t even belong in the MCU. Other than being one-dimensional and flat in execution, this entry relies more on its action set pieces rather than dive into the story of one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes. While not necessarily bad, the film does not do the Hulk or Bruce Banner any justice and simply does not hold enough weight in the MCU to garner merit
17. Thor: The Dark World
The only reason “The Dark World” isn’t last on this list is because it has at least a couple of redeeming qualities. For starters, it plays a significant role in the MCU by introducing the Reality Stone. Additionally, we get to see how Thor deals with his relationship with his brother Loki in the fallout of Loki’s attack on New York in The Avengers. Their further strained relationship makes for moments both heartbreaking and enjoyable. That’s about all that “The Dark World” has going for it, though. Given that it premiered after The Avengers, the Thor sequel had a lot to live up to, but it unfortunately fell short. With a forgettable plot set between Asgard and London and an even more forgettable villain in Malekith, the film proves to be lackluster in comparison to the rest of the MCU.
16. Avengers: Age of Ultron
“Age of Ultron,” the second film in which all of the Avengers join together, feels drawn out and overcomplicated in a lot of areas, and what’s supposed to be its emotional moments never truly feel earned. Much of the film’s jokes and intimate moments fall flat despite the usually good performances by its well-developed cast. James Spader’s performance as Ultron is the highlight of an otherwise average film that feels like it rests on its laurels a bit too much.
15. Doctor Strange
“Doctor Strange” provides some of the most intriguing visual elements in the MCU, but never truly tears itself away from feeling like yet another origin story. It’s entertaining throughout, but Strange’s stubbornness and arrogance throughout much of the movie gets a bit tiring at points and, save for the creative conclusion in a showdown with an otherwise forgetful villain, never really gets to stand out as something truly special.
Thor is not necessarily a bad movie. When it first premiered, it pulled us away from Earth and introduced us to a world of gods and Infinity Stones. When viewed in the context of the entire MCU, though, Thor is just okay. It’s really nothing more than your average superhero origin story: we learn about how the God of Thunder obtained his famous hammer Mjolnir and what made him care about protecting Earth. Nonetheless, Thor is still fun to watch. From seeing him trying to navigate our world to learning what motivates Loki’s villainy, the film has its share of enjoyable moments. At the end of the day, though, it falls under the curse that some early MCU movies seem to fall into: it’s just not that special anymore.
13. Iron Man 3
This entry is always a polarizing subject of debate between fans of the MCU. Is it a true sequel in the Iron Man series? Regardless, many fans love and revere it while others discard it. Coming in at 13, “Iron Man 3” just did not live up to the hype that the previous Iron Man and Avengers films built up. With cheap humor and a very disappointing twist, “Iron Man 3” is just a bit of a letdown.
12. Ant-Man A fresh face and unheralded hero, “Ant-Man” does a lot right, yet isn’t really a major player in terms of the MCU. Paul Rudd is exceptionally cast as the tiniest superhero, delivering humorous levity throughout the film. Its action is excellent, with the final fight between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket being one of the most impressive scenes in the MCU. Unfortunately, due to its lack of impact on the major events and players of the MCU, Ant Man lands here at 12.
11. Iron Man 2
“Iron Man 2” was similar to the first in a lot of ways, but took the superstardom of being the world’s most famous superhero to new heights. The intimidating villain Whiplash made for some incredibly cool camera shots, but ultimately a slower third act bogged down what was otherwise a great sequel to the MCU’s first film.
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
“The First Avenger” not only gets the idea of the superhero origin story right, but it perfects it. “The First Avenger” gives us Steve Rogers in his finest form–punching Nazis and standing as a symbol of unwavering patriotism during WWII. The film boasts a powerful cast, with Sebastian Stan still going strong as Bucky Barnes and Hayley Atwell earning herself a spinoff TV series as Peggy Carter. Knowing the events that Steve faces after awakening from his 70-year frozen sleep, from the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. to a war against his closest friends, it’s refreshing to relive the nostalgia of Captain America’s earliest days and to see the scrawny kid from Brooklyn, chosen for his selflessness and heart, become a symbol of hope.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Following everyone’s favorite superheroes in space, “Guardians Vol. 2” is a great sequel and a great entry in the MCU, which is why it cracks the top ten. Hilariously funny, over the top action, a killer soundtrack and the direct ties to the MCU’s main villain all play in to making this entry what it is: pure fun.
8. Iron Man
The first movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe still sets a high bar for all of the most recent films in the genre. It instantly made Robert Downey Jr. synonymous with billionaire superhero Tony Stark, and his performance in the film is one that will likely inspire the character on and off of the screen for decades. While flawed in some areas, “Iron Man” showed that superhero films were here to stay and provided solid framework for the decade of films that soon followed.
7. Thor: Ragnarok
On Marvel’s third attempt at making a Thor movie, director Taika Waititi finally got it right with “Ragnarok.” “Ragnarok” exchanges the dark, brooding tone of its preceding films for a fun, retro vibe that not only works but solidifies the movie as one of the MCU’s best. Waititi taps into the comedic potential of Thor and Loki that other directors missed entirely. Newcomers like Valkyrie and Korg, as well as veteran Bruce Banner, steal every scene they are in.
With its endless humor and fun fight scenes, Ragnarok is brilliant in every way. It not only gives us the kind of Thor movie we have needed for so long, but it plays an undeniable role in what is to come for the MCU. With the destruction of Asgard and Loki’s possession of the Space Stone in the form of the Tesseract, Ragnarok leads us directly into Infinity War. Of course, who could forget the movie’s greatest quality, Jeff Goldblum?
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
More of the same praise for Guardians 2 can be said for the first Guardians film. Seeing the gang come together to fight evil and rock out for the first time was nothing short of spectacular. The characters are all driven and connected, from Groot the talking tree to Peter Quill, the Guardian’s fearless leader, the audience is forced to care about these characters, which makes Guardians of the Galaxy one of the better entries in the MCU.
5. Captain America: Civil War
What happens when our favorite heroes are forced to side against each other? After the destruction of Sokovia, the United Nations is ready to pass the Sokovia Accords, which will effectively force the Avengers to relinquish their authority to the government. Iron Man supports this idea, Captain America does not, and I’m sure you can see where this is headed. The action Is perfect and the character dialogue is very driven, but what happens between the fighting is simply not always quite as interesting.
4. Black Panther
It’s no coincidence that “Black Panther” managed to break records, as not only does the movie manage to be culturally important, but it stands as one of the MCU’s best as well. Black Panther brought to life a lesser-known superhero to scores of fans who previously had no lead characters to identify with and tackled themes important to today as well. Chadwick Boseman provides one of the most nuanced and complex performances the superhero genre has ever seen, and sets the bar for what should be the norm for superhero leads. Michael B. Jordan is totally captivating as Killmonger, instantly transforming his character into one of the most iconic villains in all of superhero films.
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a collaboration between Sony and Marvel, gave us the third live- action version of the character in 15 years, and it was by far the best one. It sees a young Spider-Man learning his way as he is mentored by the experienced and calculating Tony Stark. Michael Keaton provides an edge-of- your-seat performance as Vulture, and is one of the most memorable villains Marvel has created to date. The movie is filled with twists and loaded with references that only the most dedicated of Spider-Man fans would understand. “Homecoming” is the first Spider-Man movie to fully realize the lead character in all aspects and flesh him out as completely as his now 56-year history has. It’s an exciting, hilarious coming-of-age story that stands alone as a phenomenal film outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is the golden standard for what a superhero’s solo film should be.
2. The Avengers
Though it may seem relatively small now in comparison to “Infinity War” and even “Civil War,” The Avengers is the film where it all began. It’s the moment when, after years of anticipation, the Avengers came together for the first time. The rest is history. What makes The Avengers work so well is the chemistry among its ensemble cast. Though most of the Avengers meet each other for the first time during the movie, by the end they already seem like family. Their strikingly different personalities make for enjoyable banter and a number of iconic lines (“I understood that reference”). The moments where they come together to fight, especially during the Battle of New York, are a superhero fan’s dream. From start to finish the movie feels like it jumped straight off the pages of a comic book. Above all, it solidifies the Avengers as the driving force of the MCU for years to come.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
It’s hard to believe that in a universe with the likes of the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, space, aliens and alternate realities that a politically-centered Captain America sequel could take the number one spot, but “The Winter Soldier” is more than deserving. It’s a film that’s flawless in every sense of the word. What makes the movie so special is that it shifted far from anything that had been seen in the MCU up to the point of its release. It strayed away from Infinity Stones and other worlds and instead grounded the Marvel movies if only for a moment.
The Winter Soldier serves as a wakeup call to Steve Rogers that he is no longer the star-spangled man fighting Hydra in Nazi Germany. He is no longer in a world of clear good versus evil but one where it’s hard to trust people wholeheartedly, and that changes him entirely. The lines between Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. are blurred amidst the revelation that Hydra had been infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. for years. Steve’s trust in S.H.I.E.L.D. is tested with the introduction of Project Insight, an initiative designed to eliminate potential threats to security.
The revelation that his presumed dead best friend Bucky Barnes is alive and a weapon for Hydra is a game-changer. Complete with brilliantly-coordinated fight scenes like Steve’s iconic elevator fight and a haunting performance as the Winter Soldier from Sebastian Stan, “The Winter Soldier” keeps viewers hooked from start to finish. It’s unique, it’s intricate and it’s near-flawless. Most of all, in a universe full of the supernatural, it somehow feels very grounded and real.