We now have twelve films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Phase Three is promising us at least another ten (with hopefully much more to come!), so now, in the pause between Phases, is as good a time as any for a countdown.
It’s times like these where I wonder if I don’t have just a little bit of masochist somewhere in me. It’s not enough to wrangle with myself over ranking the Pixar films, now I do the same with the MCU films, which is far more difficult, because I love every single one of them! 🙂
Or perhaps it’s just because I’m just such a Marvel fan-boy that, after doing my Pixar Countdown, my thoughts just sort of naturally drifted towards this. Either way, here it is!
Obviously, this list is made up entirely of my own opinions and if you disagree with it, by all means do your own and share it with me. 😉
Minor disclaimer and clarification: this is not a list of which films are “the best” and “worst,” but simply my personal favorites.
Finally, as a matter of procedure, even though it really should be 1) agonizingly obvious and 2) completely unnecessary because pretty much everyone has seen the majority of these films, still…
Now, with that out of the way, and with no further ado, I present my personal Marvel Cinematic Universe countdown!
This may surprise some of my friends, putting a Thor movie at the bottom of the pile. While a number of people had lukewarm reactions to Dark World, I personally loved it. I mean, one of the most hilarious scenes in cinema has to be when Thor and Loki are just walking down a corridor, with Loki plays with “disguising” himself and Thor. It’s a prime example of how, even in the midst of a cosmic crisis, Marvel can keep making us laugh. (*coughcoughunlikeDCcough*) And it was just so sweet how they gave Darcy a boyfriend!
But I do still understand the lackluster reaction. Jane’s role was forced, not to mention it was mostly reduced to “damsel in distress,” Loki’s supposed death and taking the throne from Odin without anyone noticing were both stretches of plausibility, the dark elf villains were largely forgettable, etc. This is a good movie, which I like very much, but in the in-house Marvel competition of my favorites, I’m afraid it just has to come in last. Sorry, Dark World.
The second installment in Iron Man’s trilogy was mostly well done, I say. It’s yet another example of Marvel bringing humanity to superheroes, as Tony Stark has to wrestle with the growing certainty of his impending, painful death. We also start seeing some of the consequences, local and global, that our heroes are having, as ghosts of the past come back for blood. Best of all, we have Scarlett Johannson’s debut as the sexy, ass-kicking Black Widow, and ain’t no one complaining about that! 🙂
That said, this one had another forgettable villain, who was two of Marvel’s classic villains rolled into one. Even worse, Tony seems bent on trashing his reputation as Iron Man, just to push everyone away and trick his best friend into seizing the war machine suit, as opposed to simply entrusting it to him. I mean, I can understand Tony’s reluctance to let the military have his suits, as that worked out so well for him the first time, with his own weaponry being turned against him and the soldiers he had intended to protect, just because he trusted the wrong man. Still, not cool to manipulate your best friend like that, Tony. Not cool.
Before Mark Ruffalo’s iconic and wildly popular appearance in Avengers, Edward Norton’s portrayal of Bruce Banner left little to be desired. Opposite Liv Tyler’s role as Betty Ross, Norton showed the tragedy of the Hulk, being hunted by the military and forever barred from the people he loves, for their own safety, even as he searches in futility for a cure. In fact, I’d say it’s the depth of that tragedy, worn on Banner’s sleeves in this movie, which makes this one of my less-favorite MCU movies. You gotta love how wily he is, though, using pizza to gain access to an anonymous computer.
In particular, I think what I like most about this movie was actually the villain, Emil Blonsky the Abomination. While Banner is trying desperately to be rid of his dangerous power, Blonksy becomes obsessed with gaining a similar power for himself. Banner maintains his rationality, while Blonsky becomes more and more irrational. He may not have Loki’s charm, but I’d have to rate the Abomination in a tier just below Loki’s.
Man, the sequels aren’t doing so hot on this list, are they?
Where this one fell short, to me, was how the twists and turns with the villains seemed more “convoluted” than anything else. I could buy the whole “fake Mandarin” thing (and it was hilarious), but Maya Hanson was a stereotypical female villain (the vulnerable girl who makes a mistake and turns against her vile master… and gets unceremoniously taken out for it), and the real villain had a rather flimsy motivation (ready to step off a roof because Tony Stark preferred the company of a gorgeous woman, until he has a moment of revelation and embarks on a quest for world domination, and takes both the old and the new gorgeous women of Tony’s life as trophies).
But there’s plenty to love, too! This was the story of a knight in shining armor and a fire-breathing dragon fighting over a princess! Also, this was the first MCU movie where the hero and villain drew their powers from different sources. And we saw Tony Stark truly is Iron Man, with or without the suit. While he dealt with further consequences of past events, including the trauma he suffered in the Battle of New York.
Oh, and Pepper got a moment of kicking butt without it altering her character. (“Wow, that was really violent!”) And they finally gave War Machine some time in the sun too!
The most recent Marvel film, and the one I was most hesitant about, turned out pretty great! It’s hilarious, gripping, pushes the boundaries of the known Marvel universe, has an atypical hero using unconventional powers in an imaginative way… and it fits snugly in among the MCU has a whole. I really like this film, if only for exceeding my expectations so dramatically.
That said, it’s a bit disorienting to have murder committed so casually in the midst of what is arguably one of the most comedic MCU films yet. And the little romance between Scott and Hope didn’t get much attention, and I don’t think it would have hurt the film too badly to have something romantic precede that kiss at the end of the movie. But all in all, it’s just a fun movie.
Heh, I know it’s supposed to be the very end of Phase Two, but I can’t really help thinking of it as the beginning of Phase Three, ya know?
Before this, we had two movies about Iron Man and one about the Hulk. Thor’s debut into the MCU not only brought the wider universe beyond Earth into play, but it set up much of the background for Avengers. We had an arrogant young thunder god in need of some humility, and that is precisely what he got. I love the simple, potent journey Thor undergoes, changing dramatically from a spoiled prince into a man worthy of a crown. And with how hesitant I was about this (and I was pretty skeptical of most of the early films, though not nearly so much as I was with Ant-Man), as I’ve always been a bit on the fence about the Norse deities being comic books heroes, I was quite happy with Thor!
Though, pet peeve, Thor and Loki in mythology both have red hair. Redheads, represent! 😉 Still, can’t complain too much… they looked plenty cool anyway!
The reason Thor comes in no higher than number seven? Because all of these films are awesome, and they only get more and more so from here!
You cannot have the Avengers without having Captain America. You just can’t. He was the first, in every way. He was created before Marvel was “Marvel,” one of the first works Stan Lee participated in and resurrected, and one of the earliest comic book superheroes ever, right there alongside Batman and Superman! Much like Superman, he has long since represented everything good in America, the world, and humanity. I am so glad Marvel kept the rights to him!
This movie was just great in so many ways. The heroes were noble, and, I just gotta say, while a number of Marvel’s villains have been more forgettable, the Red Skull could easily stand on the same level as Loki, despite having only the one film to work with. Of course, depending on where the Tesseract sent him and his condition on arrival, it might be possible for Cap to run into him one last time, and how cool would that be, eh?
Once again, this one got knocked down to number six just because of how stiff the competition is. 🙂
Ah, the one that started it all! The “bigger universe” Nick Fury mentioned began here, and it is a great introduction to the epic!
Thor’s journey might have been simpler, in a way, as he was not locked in a cell and enslaved, but, then again, Tony just gets thrown into a cave while Thor got thrown clear across the stars. Still, both heroes change tremendously through their respective ordeals. From the ashes of his captivity, Tony created ideas which have altered the course of history across the Marvel world. He stopped being so irresponsible, though, judging from the events in Age of Ultron, perhaps he’s gone a little too far in the other direction?
Either way, it’s simply wondrous as Tony creates the Iron Man suit, and takes flight for the first time, and learns lessons, takes responsibility, and deals with those who use his weaponry for their own gain. It’s a pretty fantastic representation of what “potential” really is, as the same weapons which can be used for ill can also be used for good.
Now we’re in the home stretch here, and it’s far less possible to rationalize why something is or is not my favorite except for saying, “I liked it.” 😉
Age of Ultron was, in my opinion, freaking epic! Everything about consequences just keeps getting hammered home! Tony’s trying to save the world on his own, and in so doing, he creates a monster. The twins are very much the result of Tony’s actions from many years before, and in their anger, they add to the creation of the same monster, nearly destroying the world in the process. And I noticed that moment when the Scarlet Witch realized she was really on the same side as Tony Stark, as he protected her. The mad scientists keep pushing, desperately salvaging hope from the midst of fear and despair. Everything was happening everywhere around the world and it all built into an impressive climax!
Oh, I could go on and on and on about this! And, actually, I did. Go check it out, eh? 😉
However, I can point to why this one comes in behind number three on my list, and with only one word: Loki.
I mean, come on! Ultron is great, and his movie is gripping and fantastic, but Loki is the best villain in the MCU! He is the one that brings the Avengers together, after all! He has such an elegant, vengeful charisma! He is a perfect Marvel villain!
This was the film that laid to rest most of my fears about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Between how they were able to do fair justice to most of the cast (Hawk-Eye drew the short straw, but they fixed that in Age of Ultron) and how great the action was, this was when I became truly comfortable with the MCU concept as a whole. It wouldn’t be until Ant-Man that I became hesitant about any part of it again.
You may be wondering how the Avengers, all together, got knocked back to spots three and four on this list. Well…
This may well be the single greatest comic movie ever produced.
Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much accomplished what the entire first phase of the MCU needed six films to do: establish a diverse group of protagonists and bring them together to save countless lives. It also had a distinctly different flavor from the preceding films of the MCU, thoroughly earning it’s PG-13 rating, though stopping well short of being rated R. The heroes were criminals and anti-heroes, the villain was driven by an ancient feud, the interstellar society victimized everyone, countless soldiers of the Nova Corps were killed alongside several Ravagers… all in all, it has a most distinct texture to it.
Yet, despite all of the darkness Guardians probes into, it shines a radiant light on those souls who have been beaten down their entire lives, coming together to do some good, while they’re still alive to do it. Each of the actors is awesome and in their element. Who doesn’t love Groot? And talk about a sterling introduction to Chris Pratt! 🙂
With a film this awesome, I was actually somewhat surprised when I realized that it’s not my absolute favorite MCU film. Not quite, at least!
You all know which one is left, so, without further ado, I present, my number one favorite movie from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, thus far: none other than…
While every single entry on this list could make a good argument for the top spot, Winter Soldier just resonates with me for some reason. Sure, there’s the action, the realistic violence, the intrigue, the massive betrayal, the new friends helping out, the old friends returning as brainwashed enemies… but I think it’s something simpler than that.
What the plot comes down to, in the end, is the importance of individual decisions.
Nations are built on the individual, and so it is they who set the course their nation will go. When something good has been warped and perverted by the corrosive cancer of corruption, it can only be saved by each individual’s choice, freely-made and knowing the potential cost, to brave a veritable storm of fire, to put it right. This is the only way anything might be protected, or at least salvaged and rebuilt.
Though Captain America delivered the hardest hits to Hydra’s plans, he did it with the support of every loyal agent of SHIELD. Each and every one of them helped turn the course and stop Hydra’s plans. And that, to me, is most inspiring.
And that is why Winter Soldier is my single most favorite MCU film: because it gives me hope.
So, there’s my countdown!
Agree? Disagree? What would your list look like? And why? 🙂