Two years ago, right around this time, I ranked all 13 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.
There have been six more since. Let that sink in for a second.
With Avengers: Infinity War demolishing box-office records and getting lavished with praise from fans and critics alike, now’s the perfect time to re-do the list — but in our patented Top 13 style. (Last time it was a fun coincidence that there were a total of 13.)
I intentionally did not go back and read my old list before doing this one. So much has happened in the last two years and contexts shift. Time and distance have a way of altering your perceptions. (I can even make a case for flipping around some of my choices below.)
If you want to compare this list with the one from two years ago, click here — especially if you want my take on those that fell off (and to see if you agree or disagree). Oh, and most definitely click here to check out 13 QUICK THOUGHTS on AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. I have a hunch you’ll dig it.
Quick note: I don’t necessarily dislike the six that didn’t make this Top 13 list. It’s just a matter of preference. In my mind, there have really only been two misfires in the entire series: Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 2.
Now, on to the TOP 13 MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE MOVIES — and yes, there are SPOILERS, including for Avengers: Infinity War:
13. Ant-Man. I liked Ant-Man quite a bit but it’s really a trifle. That’s OK, obviously: The idea that comics movies should be all-serious is what’s kneecapped the DC movies. Sometimes all you want is some cotton candy. Beats out Doctor Strange because it’s slightly more memorable.
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron. On the other hand, Age of Ultron veers too far into the dour. The movie’s impact is significant in terms of the overarching MCU plot and themes, but it’s a bit of a slog.
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming. An all-around charming movie that deftly inserts Spidey into the MCU. At the same time, it unfortunately eschews a lot of the classic Spider-Man trappings. Michael Keaton is terrific — one of the better villains in the MCU. But I actually think the sequel has a better shot of being the movie I really want to see.
10. Iron Man. The more the years go on, the more I see the seams. But there’s no doubting Robert Downey Jr.’s megawatt charisma — or the role this movie played in building this franchise. On the whole, I think the Iron Man movies are among the weakest of the entire series but this one still packs a punch.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy. I liked Guardians when it came out but wasn’t part of the cult that called it the second coming of Star Wars. (It’s not.) Some of the jokes are forced and it’s a little too pleased with itself but the movie holds up well on the whole. It’s one of the most important movies of the franchise but it’s relatively low on my list based purely on personal taste.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The first one is probably better but I still like this one more. Kurt Russell’s great as Ego and it gets huge points for making Brandy — one of the absolute greatest of ’70s one-hit wonders — into a central plot point. I was genuinely moved by the ending and its message that the family you build can be more meaningful than the family you inherited.
7. Black Panther. The first MCU flick to become a bona fide cultural phenomenon in its own right, Black Panther has earned all its plaudits. It’s a terrific movie, whether you’re looking at it from a cultural or pop cultural standpoint. Michael B. Jordan absolutely burns up the screen as Killmonger.
6. Thor: Ragnarok. The funniest of all the MCU movies, it cements the idea that Thor is at his best as a fish out of water and comic foil. Same with the Hulk. It’s the polar opposite of the eminently forgettable Dark World: bright, cheerful, hilarious.
5. Captain America: Civil War. One of the most serious entries in the series, Civil War deals head on with the question that a lot of these kinds of movies (and comics) like to ask: What if superheroes actually existed? What would their impact on the world be? Civil War addresses these questions with nuance and sophistication, alternating the viewpoint between Cap’s stoic independence and Tony’s anguish. I’m #TeamCap but I totally understand where Iron Man’s coming from: Perhaps more than any other MCU character, Tony Stark has borne the scars that the superhero life inflicts.
4. Captain America: The First Avenger. I’ve said this before: Cinematically speaking, Superman’s heir doesn’t wear a cape. He carries a shield. It’s weird to think now that fans were so alarmed when Chris “Human Torch” Evans was cast as Captain America but that brilliant move was on a par with Christopher Reeve’s choice as the Man of Steel. The writers and directors craft Cap’s moral compass but Evans embodies it with his quiet, compassionate performances. It all began here with a movie that at the time carried a lot of risk but comes across now as a whiz-bang period adventure.
3. The Avengers. When I walked out of The Avengers the first time I saw it, I actually said, “I haven’t been that excited at the movies since Star Wars.” And it was true. It was an ecstatic experience and I’ve since held that it was the pinnacle of the MCU. And of all 19 movies, it’s probably the one I’ve seen the most. There are some tiny cracks — the dialogue is sometimes a bit too cute — but the movie remains one of the most satisfying blockbusters ever filmed. It’s just no longer the best.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This is a great movie. Just flat-out great. A lot of the Marvel flicks have secondary themes: The First Avenger is a period piece/war film; Ant-Man is a caper; Doctor Strange is a mystical adventure; and so on. The Winter Soldier is a ’70s-style paranoid espionage thriller — and Robert Redford’s casting puts the exclamation point on that. Brilliantly paced by the Russo Brothers, with sharp performances by Evans and Scarlett Johansson. This movie crackles.
1. Avengers: Infinity War. Yeah, it’s the best and I don’t care in the least that it ends on a cliffhanger. The Russo Brothers seamlessly shift between characters, filling every scene with import and many of them with emotional weight. The center holds: The movie is serious when it needs to be and hilarious when the moment calls for it — and the movie never slips its axis. Brilliantly conceived and executed, Infinity War sets a new standard for the MCU — and deserves mention with the greatest blockbusters of all time.
— 13 QUICK THOUGHTS on AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Click here.
— 2016 Edition: All 13 Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies — RANKED. Click here.
— The MARVEL MOVIES: What to Watch — and What to Skip. Click here.
April 30, 2018
Sorry but I disagree. My top 5 –
1. Captain America – Winter Soldier
2. Guardians of the Galaxy – I thinks it’s a fabulous movie, far superior to any Star Wars movie since “Return of the Jedi”
3. The Avengers
4. Captain America – The First Avenger
5. Iron Man
I would put ”Infinity Wars” probably next. I enjoy the MCU movies, but once I get past these 6 films, I don’t find anything particularly special about the remaining movies. I find them enjoyable, nothing more.
May 1, 2018
I should add that I despise “Captain America: Civil War.” For all of this faults, at least “Batman v. Superman” took its dark premise seriously. Not so with “Civil War.” Between superheroes getting maimed (James Rhodes) and getting sent to concentration camps, the writers made sure to include plenty of jokes and one liners.