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We are entering a whole new era of superhero cinema. The launch of Warner Bros.’ DC Comics cinematic universe hits theaters with Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, putting an end to the era of Marvel’s status as the only comic company with claim to shared movie worlds.
But it’s not the only thing that changes for superhero movies. The first week of May gives us Captain America Civil War, and besides the major change it will release within the Marvel Studios Cinematic universe, it also marks the fresh start of Marvel’s Phase 3 and the post-Joss Whedon era in Marvel’s films. So now might be a good time to look back at the current existing slates of Marvel theatrical releases and rank them all together.
First and foremost, I admit that I love all of Marvel’s films and don’t regard any of them bad. On a five-star rating scale, there aren’t any Marvel Studios movies with less than a 3.5 star rating from me. So, when I rank them in order from #1 to #12, keep in mind that the film placed at #12 is not “the worst” Marvel movie, since I don’t apply the term “worst” to anything from the studio. Some films are great, and some are excellent, so the film at the bottom of the list is not bad but rather just a different state of very good.
In addition, this isn’t an article about Marvel vs. DC, so there’s no point in leaving angry comments about why they hate one company and prefer another company. Let’s please keep the discussion civil and focus on talking about these specific Marvel films, and which is the best, rather than why Marvel is worse or better than DC, okay? We’re all fans here, and we should be happy to live in an absolute golden age of superhero cinema!
Lastly, if the movies are ranked differently than your personal expectation, remember that this is the Internet and you’re bound to sometimes face other people’s preferences and lists that don’t strictly conform to your own taste. So, without any further, here is my ranking of the Marvel Studios cinematic universe!
There is much to enjoy in this sequel, including much (much, much) better character’s development for the female characters and hilarious interactions between Thor and Loki. Plus, the visuals are just terrific to behold. It didn’t quite adapt the sense of great myth as the first film did though, and ultimately Loki’s was the only transformative and moving arc. Yet, it’s a joyful, great action-packed ride.
11. The Incredible Hulk
I hate that this movie ranked so low on the list due to that doesn’t express how much I enjoy it and how underrated the film is among the genre. Despite some inconsistent visual effects and a Hulk who doesn’t visually capture Bruce Banner’s personality, the story is classic Hulk from comics, a Universal monster movie in the guise of superhero story. Although some of the CGI was often inconsistent, there were moments of beauty, like when the Hulk roaring at a storm amid flashes of lightening.
10. Iron Man 2
The film is probably the most inaccurately critiqued film of the MCU, it literally has more actual story than the beloved first film, a more complex arc and transformation for Tony Stark, a greater center villain with a much more interesting motive, and breathtaking action set pieces. The way the build the world and new characters were never as problematic as complaints claimed, and in fact those elements are some of the highlights of a story showing a much bigger world with bigger stakes than even the film reveals.
I walked out of this film with the same feeling I had when I first saw Superman: The Movie. It was incredible, grand myth-making that fully appreciated the lead character and granted him one of the most compelling personal arcs of any superhero movie. Despite a few less than ideal romantic scenes here and there, the overall effect is glorious and gives out one of the best screen villains of modern cinema. It’s Shakespeare as superhero comic book adventurism, and it turns out flawlessly.
The most recent Marvel Cinematic Universe film and the final entry in Phase 2, it’s also the most hilarious and most family-friendly Marvel movie. The stakes are also much more personal than most superhero films, with a grand finale happening in a kid’s bedroom as two costumed characters battle over who will continue the legacy of their mutual mentor.
It in addition has one of the most favorite lead actors (apparently nobody on Earth can dislike Paul Rudd), one of the most distinguished visual concepts, and the best crossover of another superhero in someone else’s solo film in the MCU. I love it more and more every time I watch it, and it seems like it should take a higher place on this list, which would be the case if not for the fact all the rest are also so great.
This is the particular solo superhero MCU movie that captured me the most. I grew up as a huge fan of Captain America comics even before I’d even started going to school. I still own every single issue of Captain America comics from his appearances in Tales of Suspense and the start of his own personal series in 1968 through to the mid-1990s, and then picking up again with Ed Brubaker’s amazing series in the 2000s.
I didn’t expect Chris Evans portraying the correct tone and personality for Captain America, but all of my doubts disappeared when he embodied the heart and soul of Cap on the screen. The first half of the film forever remains one of the finest origin tales of any superhero movie, rooted in his inner humanity and strength.
6. Iron Man
It is largely considered to be the best of the Marvel movies, and one of the all-time greatest superhero origin films. Robert Downey Jr. discovered the role he was born to play on the silver screen, in comparing with Christopher Reeve as Superman and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. It’s a tough testament to Downey’s charisma and acting talent that the whole movie is basically watching him create a suit, then watching him create it again.
The plot is a lose framework to provide Downey the chance to shine and he completely nails it. This film’s success is what made the Marvel Cinematic Universe possible, and it is the fame of Iron Man that served as a foundational base upon which all future success could stand. Iron Man rose from the B-list to the A-list with just one film, and he’s quickly advanced through the ranks to stand side-by-side with Batman and Spider-Man as the most influential superheroes in modern cinema.