Two weeks ago, we asked everyone to rank the films of the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ from their favourite films to their least favourite, and the results were above our expectations, so a huge thank you to everyone who put their time to vote and rank the MCU feature films. This list wouldn’t have been possible without you.
Please Note: This post was co-written between Daniel and Nic.
Without further ado, here is the ranking that the followers voted for in their favourite MCU films.
1) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
How did we end up here? 3 years ago, when nobody knew who these a-holes were at all, few could have predicted them to be the stars of one of Marvel’s most popular films ever. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is still the riskiest, most bizarre gamble Marvel has ever made, a comedy space-opera about ‘Star-lord’, a man taken from Earth with a cassette tape of 70’s hits. Joining him are Gamora, a deadly assassin; Drax, an outcast thug bloodthirsty for revenge; and to top it all off, Rocket, a talking raccoon-like creature, and Groot, a sentient tree who only knows how to say ‘I am Groot’. Needless to say, Marvel’s biggest gamble became their biggest reward in a smash-hit that really got people hooked on a feeling!
2) The Avengers (2012)
Avengers Assemble! A crossover event like nothing that had been attempted before, at least not of this magnitude. Putting the crossover film/cinematic universe back on the cinematic map, ‘The Avengers’ managed to connect various stories and their characters and bring them together in a group called the Avengers. A risky move that paid off big time, and still to this day, all the major studios want to create their own cinematic universes based on its success. The dynamic between the characters in ‘The Avengers’ and the film’s witty humour made it a box office phenomenon in 2012, and deservedly so. It brought everything we loved about Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and Cap together and the rest is history. It was funny, it was emotional, it was an action-packed comic-booky serving of superhero goodness with an all-star cast. It was excellent.
3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
2014 was a good year for Marvel Studios, with yet another of its film so high up on the list. If some people still weren’t too convinced of Chris Evans’ Captain America after his origin film, ‘The First Avenger’, they sure came around to him very quickly once ‘The Winter Soldier’ was released, skyrocketing the character’s popularity to rival Tony Stark/Iron Man. With this film, Marvel opted for a mercilessly fast-paced political thriller that set the course for the future of the Marvel universe. And what an excellent way to introduce the character of the Winter Soldier into the MCU. It’s easy to argue that ‘The Winter Soldier‘ greatly influenced the feel of the films that followed it, right to the present.
4) Iron Man (2008)
Without ‘Iron Man’ we wouldn’t have any of this at all. The first big gamble from Marvel Studios became the launching point for the entire cinematic universe that we know and love. But what places it so high on this list is that it still holds up as such an excellent film, with a complete story and a character arc that made audiences instantly identify Robert Downey Jr. with Tony Stark. He excels in the role as billionaire Tony Stark. Without him, who knows whether ‘The Avengers’ would have been the success that it was. No wonder he became the unofficial mascot for the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’.
5) Captain America: Civil War (2016)
2016 was the year of superhero showdowns, and while Batman was versing Superman, Marvel’s heroes Captain America and Iron Man were battling it out too, as friends turned enemies. It’s Stark vs. Steve. Just when ‘The Winter Soldier’ changed the Marvel dynamics, ‘Civil War’ continues that path to set-up this split between the Avengers crew. Whilst ‘Batman v Superman’ was in many eyes quite a disappointment, it’s a testament to the MCU that with three times the cast of heroes, ‘Civil War’ still managed to be a brutally honest exploration of contrasting ideals and the conflict felt real.
6) Ant-Man (2015)
Despite its rocky pre-production with talented filmmaker Edgar Wright exiting the project after developing the film for nearly a decade, ‘Ant-Man’ still turned out to be a hilarious, fun-fueled Marvel adventure. Much of that is thanks to Paul Rudd, one of the best casting choices Marvel has ever made. His instant likability and comic talent elevates the film in every scene. It’s an ant-sized film for an ant-sized hero and that alone makes it feel different from Marvel’s usual offerings, but it’s also one of ‘Ant-Man’s main charms.
7) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The problem with ‘Iron Man’ being such a knockout good film, was it set a high bar for all Marvel origin films to follow. Of their two 2011 ones, it’s ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ that comes out on top. In retrospect one of the most underrated films in the MCU, ‘The First Avenger’ introduces arguably the most important character in Marvel’s history. It’s worth noting that ‘The First Avenger’ is to date Marvel’s only period film, and the production value is fantastic, but it also establishes Steve’s character with the dramatic weight of being a ‘man out of time’ that he carries into every subsequent film. For that, ‘The First Avenger’ deserves high praise.
8) Thor (2011)
‘Thor’ is an imperfect film but it’s by no means a bad one. Just imagine the task that it had ahead of it, being Marvel’s introduction to not only Thor and Asgard but also their first foray away from Earth, or should I say Midgard? It was a drastically different universe at the beginning of 2011 than it is today and ‘Thor’ remains a charming film with enough heart and a fun enough story to make the idea of ‘Magic’ and aliens fit seamlessly into what was a very grounded franchise up to that point. And it introduced Loki as well, to date one of the best villains in any Marvel film ever.
9) Iron Man 3 (2013)
I don’t think hype for the MCU has ever been so high as in the lead up to ‘Iron Man 3’. Coming off, ‘The Avengers’, expectations were stratospheric regarding its most popular character’s next solo outing. It proved divisive to say the least, and is still one of the most debated films in the MCU today, but those in favour truly loved Shane Black’s take on the character. It’s hilarious, it’s heartfelt and it takes Tony back to what made Iron Man such a relatable character in the first place. In ‘The Avengers’, Cap asks Tony, ‘Big man in a suit, take that away and what are you?’ ‘Iron Man 3’ offers the answer and it does so with action, heart and hilarity.
10) Doctor Strange (2016)
Marvel’s most recent film mixed things up yet again. The Sorcerer Supreme, ‘Doctor Strange’ was a huge success for Marvel financially, but some criticised it for its story following a now tried and true Marvel checklist. While narratively, it was a little unremarkable ‘Doctor Strange’ shines in other ways, like its lead character played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and its mind boggling visual effects. It also introduces a magical aspect to the MCU that is more fantastical than even ‘Thor’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. It may not be as memorable as other Marvel films but ‘Doctor Strange’ remains a solid romp and a great character introduction.
11) Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
No other Marvel film had this amount of pressure on it as ‘Age of Ultron’, as the follow-up to the phenomenon that was ‘The Avengers’ in 2012, and while it wasn’t as great as many fans had wanted, it was still very entertaining, and opted to go for a darker story. It fleshed out many characters who had up until now been one-dimensional, such as Hawkeye, and introduced us to new major players like Scarlet Witch and Vision, who were instantly likeable. If it were less of a stepping stone in the larger universe and more of a complete story in its own right, it would have been much better. As stated in Nic’s review: “It is a solid attempt to follow up a film that was impossible to follow up.”
12) Iron Man 2 (2010)
If ‘Iron Man 2’ was a sign of the direction this franchise was going in 2010, it would have spelled a very early end to the MCU’s success. The drop in quality between the first and second Iron Man adventure is the sharpest in Marvel’s library and it’s obvious from the get go that the film was rushed through development. Its story feels lopsided and some subplots pointless. Even Tony’s character seems to zigzag around indecisively without much of a point other than adding drama. It’s not a complete loss, however. This is the first MCU film to actively acknowledge its place in a large universe and lay a lot of the groundwork for the successes to come. Also Whiplash is a pretty frightening villain, never more so than when he wants his pet bird.
13) Thor: The Dark World (2013)
In recent years after Marvel Studios’ dominance in producing high quality superhero movies, ‘Thor: The Dark World’ sticks out in a bad way. Sandwiched between such a period of high quality output with ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Iron Man 3’ before it, and ‘The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Guardians‘ after it, it’s still a huge surprise that ‘The Dark World’ is as average as it is. It’s funny at times, and has an excellent use of Loki, but other than that it feels a little devoid of emotion. The villain, Malekith, is the weakest we’ve ever seen in the MCU and the stakes never feel too high even when they try to be. Plus, the Jane Foster subplot often becomes distracting and unnecessary and I’m not always convinced of Thor’s chemistry with her. The ‘Cars 2’ of Marvel films, ‘Thor: The Dark World’ is watchable but that’s about it. Marvel was having a bad day with this one.
14) The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Every studio has a forgotten film, and ‘The Incredible Hulk’ seems to be Marvel Studio’s. Despite the character’s rise in popularity since, not many seem to remember he once had a solo outing and it seems for this reason alone that ‘The Incredible Hulk’ ranks last on this list. It’s not a worse film than ‘The Dark World‘, it’s just less people have seen it. Edward Norton does a pretty good job too, and the argument between who is the best Bruce Banner continues today among fans. If only the story and villain had been more memorable, more people might have seen it.