This post is updated as I’ve now seen the second “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie, aka “Baby Groot and Drax Variety Hour.” I wanted to give my quick thoughts as to what the best Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”) movies are. Please note that the list below is in worst-to-first order. Sorry, Thor. Feel free to disagree or tell me how wrong I am in the comments!
1. Thor: The Dark World
I mean…yikes. Just one year after “The Avengers,” and we re-do the whole “skies open up and aliens might invade” plot? This movie is so unmemorable, when Secretary of State Ross talks about all of the destruction the various Avengers have wrought, no one even mentions London and the events of this movie.
2. Iron Man 2
There is a scene where Tony Stark gets drunk, dresses up in his Iron Man suit, and dances around at his party. And that, frankly, is the highlight of the movie.
3. The Incredible Hulk
A movie that is never referenced in any of the other MCU films, and whose lead actor was summarily replaced.
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Maybe it was because everyone was more excited for Civil War? This movie just fell flat. Ultron wasn’t a compelling villain: one minute, he controlled the nuclear launch codes and, if I understand it correctly, the entire internet, and yet he was felled in Sokovia because….reasons?
5. Dr. Strange
It was the exact same as Iron Man, except worse. Goateed, arrogant individual gets in an accident partially of his own doing, and learns humility and some new skills. Saved only by the number of times I got to say “BENEDIIIIIIIICT CUMBERBAAAAAATCH.”
Only rates this high because Natalie Portman, fresh off an Oscar win, was game to play in the Marvel sandbox.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Really funny in parts, but didn’t have quite the panache of the original. One of the better MCU sequels, all things considered.
I love Paul Rudd. I loved Michael Pena’s performance. It’s a testament to how much I enjoyed the other MCU movies that it’s so low on this list.
9. Iron Man
The movie that started it all. Robert Downey Jr. and Tony Stark are an example of perfect casting.
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
The first Marvel movie to feel tonally different from the rest. Even the lighting and sepia tones evoke 1940s films. Bonus points because Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is amazing.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy
The first Marvel movie to be essentially unconnected to the rest (no mentions of any Stark, S.H.I.E.L.D., or even Asgard, and the lone connective tissue being the proper introduction of Thanos), the movie wins points alone on Chris Pratt’s performance as Star Lord, and Vin Diesel’s Groot. Probably the most fun (and funny) Marvel movie so far.
12. Iron Man 3
A movie that actually deals with the repercussions of past films, Tony Stark’s PTSD behavior and his reckoning of what happened in New York gave this movie serious weight. Hopefully not the last solo Iron Man movie we’ll see.
13. The Avengers
What a thrill, finally seeing all of Marvel’s mightiest heroes team up. While I wasn’t crazy about Loki playing the villain (I thought he was summarily dispatched in the original Thor movie, only to come back yet again in Thor 2), Tom Hiddleston is still the best villain the MCU has had.
14. Captain America: Civil War
What essentially felt like Avengers 2.5, this movie succeeds in bringing all of the disparate characters of the MCU together to fight against each other, instead of a common enemy. The Russo brothers deserve major credit for balancing so many characters’ stories, without ever feeling like someone was there just to be shoehorned in.
15. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Still my favorite. This movie answers the question, “What happens when the MCU meets ‘Three Days of the Condor?'” Espionage, political intrigue, and Robert Redford as a great bad guy.