Well, with Avengers: Infinity War out now, I think it’s time to rank the MCU library! Ten years ago, Iron Man kicked off the massive franchise, and since then we’ve had nineteen films! Yes, nineteen films in the most successful franchise in history (I’m basing that solely on my own thinking! Surely it must be?). They’ve ranged from fantasy, to WWII drama, to sci fi opera, to political thriller…and have ranged from great to god awful. So here’s my (definitive?) ranking of the MCU library…
- Thor: The Dark World
The Incredible Hulk may be forgettable, but the sequel to Thor is simply terrible. Apart from a relatively innovative final battle, there’s nothing to recommend about Thor: The Dark World. It throws away the Shakespearian vibe of the original, and throws in the worst MCU villain and groan-inducing “humour.” It’s definitely the one I’d skip.
- The Incredible Hulk
It’s my nature to watch these films in order, and thus I’ve watched The Incredible Hulk more times than I’d care to remember. However, I always struggle to remember what happens in this reboot. There’s something about the Super Soldier serum, an abomination of a CGI villain, and Liv Tyler attempting to act. That’s about it.
- Iron Man 2
This is simply a bloated Avengers teaser trailer, and nothing more. Black Widow and War Machine are introduced, there’s more of Nick Fury, and Mickey Rourke is wasted as a whip-toting villain. It’s overly long, chockful of risible humour, and lacks the charm of Iron Man.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
It was always going to be hard to top the novelty value of The Avengers. But this turgid mess doesn’t even try. From bolted-on scenes to set up later films to an awkward middle act set in a farm, Age of Ultron gave us another terrible MCU sequel. Oh, and it wasted another potentially great MCU villain.
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
I’ll be honest: I’m biased in favour of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. For me, they will always be the supreme Spider-Man films. Homecoming spent too much time telling us that this particular Spider-Man was part of the MCU than anything else, which distracted me no end. Yes, Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and Michael Keaton made a great villain in the guise of Vulture, but everything else bored the stuffing out of me.
- Captain America: The First Avenger
This starts out well…until it becomes a montage of Captain America fighting Hydra. That’s fine, but that’s all this film struggles to be: fine. It’s merely there, existing merely to set up The Avengers rather than create something special.
- Thor Ragnarok
The most positive thing I can say about this Thor threequel is that it’s better than the sequel. Oh, and it’s beautiful to look at. But then again, I’d rather watch The Incredible Hulk Returns than Thor: The Dark World. There’s no doubting this is a funny film, but it’s more a series of skits than anything coherent. And in the process, it becomes a Guardians of the Galaxy facsimile rather than a Thor film.
- Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2
I think this wins the competition for most boring second act in the MCU library. Ego’s exposition sends me to sleep, and there’s not enough happening around it for me to care. This sequel overdoes the jokes and treads many of the same storylines as the original GOTG. It looks gorgeous like Thor Ragnarok, but brilliant visuals are no substitute for a great story.
- Iron Man 3
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Iron Man threequel, purely because of the gutsy twist in the second act. It may be the same story as the other two Iron Man films, but it’s a distinctly Shane Black film, which at least gives it a modicum of charm. Plus, it has one of the most thrilling superhero save scenes in the MCU.
- Doctor Strange
Great visuals, predictable and generic origin story. That’s Doctor Strange summed up. Not only that, but it didn’t sell me on Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. One of the rare cases of an MCU superhero being miscast…
This is a purely enjoyable film, nothing more, nothing less. What always takes me out of the film is the fact that this could have been an Edgar Wright film. It always makes me wonder what could have been…
- Iron Man
Ahhhh, where the MCU began! There’s nothing wrong with Iron Man, it hits all the right notes and stands out in stark contrast to that other big superhero movie of 2008 starring The Joker. It may end in a predictable smash-fest, but Robert Downey Jr. carries the film as the ever-lovable prick Tony Stark. A good, but not great, start to the MCU.
I don’t understand the dislike the original Thor receives from the majority of people. It’s Shakespeare in space (and earth), what’s not to like? Guided by the hand of Kenneth Brannagh, it feels Shakespearian in scope and theme. It has the best villain in the MCU, Loki, at his mischievous best. I find it hard to say anything negative about Thor!
- Guardians of the Galaxy
This is a case of everything coming together in a sweet little package, from the visuals to the cast to the soundtrack. It’s the MCU attempt at Star Wars, and is far more successful at Star Wars than Disney’s attempts at Star Wars have been (ironically!). I will always love GOTG.
- The Avengers
Team work definitely made the dream work, and made me see this classic three times at the cinema. Sure, it’s not a flawless film, but it gave us everything we wanted from B-level superheroes uniting to face the MCU’s best villain (Loki!): inter-hero brawling, epic quips, and a wonderful shot where our superheroes finally unite!!! This is escapist, joyful fun that never fails to put a smile on my face.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Until The Winter Soldier arrived, I thought we were doomed to awful MCU sequels. This came along and not only blew away that notion, but also made Captain America a bad-ass! There’s intrigue, twists and awesome fight scenes in the 70s-esque political thriller. In fact, it was so good that it overshadowed pretty much everything in Phase 2 of the MCU.
- Avengers: Infinity War
This may be the freshest MCU film in my mind, but when I watched it I thought: this is the greatest movie I’ve ever seen! Of course, that was my mind ploughing into hyperbole, and after thinking about it for a while I’ve picked it apart and picked more than a few flaws. But for now, this stands as a testament to the decade long build-up of the MCU. It’s everything we wanted from Infinity War, and more.
- Black Panther
I’m still astounded by this film. For much of its duration, it didn’t feel like an MCU film. It had a distinct identity and a compelling villain. Like the original Thor, it had a Shakespearian vibe about it, but wrapped in a racial theme that made it all the more potent. Ryan Coogler cannot make a bad film, and this may just be his finest work. Powerful film making.
Let’s be honest, you could just show the airport brawl and have crowds cheer. But it’s more than just the airport fight scene. There are plenty of fight scenes, but it ends it an extremely personal fight scene that flies in the face of the CGI smashfests we are accustomed to in superhero films. It’s personal, it’s emotional, it’s complex, it’s gripping. This is the MCU at its finest.
Agree or disagree? Leave your comments below!
Click here for my reviews of the MCU catalogue!