All Marvel Movies RankedMay 13, 2019
With Avengers: Endgame behind us, it feels like a huge milestone has been passed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Whilst technically there's one more movie still to come in MCU's Phase 3 - I expect the Spiderman: Far from Home to bridge the story rather than add to the previous chapter so I think it's fair and fitting to reflect a little on the past eleven years of Marvel cinema.
Ranking the movies is difficult and so I caveat my opinion with a few disclaimers. Firstly, the Marvel back-catalogue offers no real apples for apples comparison. Origin movies like Iron Man and Thor were designed to tee up for The Avengers, whereas movies like Iron Man 2 were made to propagate their character's stories and set-up the overarching Thanos and Infinity Stone narrative. Of course there are a whole heap of other movies that really don't fit into either bucket and come with their own standalone story like Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain America: Civil War, etc.
Secondly, the MCU has been going for ten years. There's been a heck of a lot of hands that have touched movies along the way and whilst there are some recurring star directors like the Russo brothers, James Gunn, and Joss Whedon - ultimately they all look and feel different because a lot of people have had input along the way. My biases for particular directors may show!
Finally, my opinion is heavily tainted by nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses in places.
The 22 Movies Ranked
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Captain America: Civil War
- Iron Man
- The Avengers
- Captain America: Winter Soldier
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Doctor Strange
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Ant-Man and the Wasp
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2
- Avengers: Endgame
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Iron Man 3
- Black Panther
- Captain Marvel
- Iron Man 2
- Thor: The Dark World
- The Incredible Hulk
To finish, here are a few thoughts on some of my more controversial choices. Out of the gate the ranking for Iron Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron may look a little inflated. Put bluntly, I've got a bit of a soft spot for them. Iron Man in some ways is close to my perfect comic book movie. The chemistry between Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges is nothing short of perfect - I'm not sure if you could've had a better cast. The plot gives just enough room for small moments of character to shine through but it never feels like it's lacking momentum or is lost at sea. Whilst the final 20 minutes of the movie lacks the polish of more modern superhero finales Samuel L. Jackson's appearance lends enough intrigue to the movie as a whole to make it feel like it sticks the landing.
Avengers: Age of Ultron on the other hand lacks the strong narrative Iron Man possesses but definitely is more than the sum of its parts. It has a number moments that shine the Hulkbuster Iron Man vs Hulk battle, when Captain America tries to pick up Mjonir, and meeting Hawkeye's family on his ranch that really stand out as classic MCU moments. it also does a stellar job of setting up for the next phase: it continues Stark's decline into paranoia, foreshadows the end of the Avengers, and manages to introduce Vision and Scarlet Witch- all at the same time. The final battle definitely feels weak compared to its predecessor, Quicksilver never quite makes enough of a mark, and Thor feels lost for most of the movie - but it still gets there in the end.
I'm not super sure about my Avengers: Endgame ranking - but it feels hard to put above some of the stellar movies from phase 3 like Ant-Man and the Wasp and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 considering the lack of strength of it's middle third. The Russo brothers are great directors1 so this might rocket up after a few repeat viewings, judging it on one midnight watch is hardly fair, but for now given some of my misgivings with the way the handle core characters, it falls towards the bottom of the list. It has moments of greatness, but it doesn't feel like the epic movie Avengers: Infinity War was.
Black Panther is a fan favourite but I found it pretty bland and uninteresting the first time around, never mind on repeat viewings. Captain Marvel, whilst not quite as beloved as Black Panther, falls into a similar category - both have great villains but lacklustre lead characters and most of the interesting parts of the movie happen around them rather than because of them. Thor, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange - and even Spiderman: Homecoming are great examples of how to do an origin story, Black Panther and Captain Marvel try and mess with the formula and ultimately fall far too short because of it.
All of their other Marvel titles are in the top six, not bad! ↩︎