Leading up to Avengers Endgame, Mad About Movies asked if I would be willing to rank all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies up until now. Let’s fight about Iron Man 3, I will die on this hill.
21. The Incredible Hulk
What is there to say here? It is a mess and can easily be overlooked. Plus, the only main recasting in the whole series, so it feels disconnected. We are all lucky we got through this stumbling block and kept the franchise going.
20. Iron Man 2
I used to not have so much disdain for this movie, but I watched it again recently and it is just not good. They so clearly don't know what to do with Tony Stark, so they revert him back to pre-Iron Man. Doesn't make sense.
19. Thor: The Dark World
I watched this recently and wanted to really dig into it, but there just isn't much here for me. It is equally the "nerdiest" and takes itself very seriously. Meh.
18. Avengers: Age of Ultron
While the fallout from Ultron opens some interesting reflection (Civil War), I don't find much to praise here. Convoluted plot and a boring villain. Plus, I just don't care much about any of the new characters added.
I have a bias against this movie because I love Edgar Wright and he got booted from this project. The Michael Pena storytelling device is cool, but other than that, this is a forgettable origin story to me.
16. Doctor Strange
I remember liking this a lot at the time but it has fallen over time in my regard. What an overqualified cast; I think people forget Rachel McAdams was even in this because she had so little to do.
Thor is my favorite Avenger these days, so I may be biased. But again, a middling entry in the origin stories.
14. Captain Marvel
Everything about this should have worked for me! 90's girl rock, Jude Law, Brie Larson. I didn't dislike it, it just seemed like a 2012 Marvel movie instead of a 2019 one. I felt they played it very safe, but also introduced a potential premise-breaking hero. Just seems poorly calculated on a few fronts.
13. Ant-Man and the Wasp
I just have a weird grudge where I think this should have been a Wasp-centric film. She is much more qualified and interesting. Marvel clearly has a women problem they are working on fixing; I just worry they are overthinking everything.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
Good, but not as good as the original.
11. Captain America: The First Avenger
Entering the top tier now. Who doesn't want to watch Chris Evan's pummel Nazis? He could do it all day. While I think looking back this could be a little generic, it sets up Cap perfectly.
10. Avengers: Infinity War
I had trouble ranking this because the Russos had so much to do here. But I think they pulled it off brilliantly. The first time I've felt there were serious stakes, the payoff of Thanos as the biggest bad, and some fun team ups.
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I am a Bucky Barnes apologist, so I just think this is a fun one.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Everything I want out of a Spider-man movie is here. Very high school-centric, a believable villain, skipped right over his previously well documented origin story. Bonus points for the Michael Keaton Factor.
7. The Avengers
I'm a sucker for people putting aside their differences to fight for the greater good. You can't tell me you don't get chills when the theme kicks in during the battle of New York.
6. Captain America: Civil War
The best Avengers movie isn't actually an "Avengers" movie. One Chris Hemsworth away from being top 3 for me.
5. Iron Man 3
I will defend Iron Man 3 until I die. It is a beautiful allegory of anxiety, depression, and addiction, while also being funny and serving our characters. It is the perfect topper to this trilogy and manages to subvert some dated tropes with the Mandarin character. Big fan.
4. Thor: Ragnarok
The first in my "directors matter" argument, the "soft reboot" of Thor is so unbelievably successful to me. I foresee this being the post-Endgame Marvel model, little side quests with fun pairings. And Queen Cate Blanchett.
3. Black Panther
Ultimately the biggest cultural moment, Black Panther is nearly flawless (some sloppy action, but forgivable). Marvel has never done world building better than this, which is enriched with some of the best performances and to me, the best Marvel villain. Coogler, we stan a legend.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
I see Guardians as the beginning of this "auteur" Marvel era where they start giving the director more influence, which I think really enriches the extended universe. Funny, cohesive, and a, of course, fire soundtrack, this is when I really bought into the "universe", as opposed to just the earth-based entries.
1. Iron Man
How can you beat where it all began? I saw Iron Man maybe four times in theaters and will always watch it if I'm channel flipping. So much magic came together here that still influences lesser imitations. I hardly have any new insights to shed on this, but it is crazy to see how far we have come. Even if Tony doesn't make it through Endgame, at least we'll always have Obadiah Stane yelling, "Tony Stark was able to build this in a CAVE! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!" Best line reading of all time.