It is funny how time changes. I remember being accompanied by only a dozen individuals for the first day, first show of Iron Man back in 2008. It was hard to imagine then that a decade later, the scenario will change and people will be flocking in numbers to watch American superhero movies. People in India knew Batman and Superman but Iron Man? It was an alien name for them. However, things changed and Marvel Studios became a brand that they could trust. Be it Iron Man, Captain America, or Hulk, each character is now a household name. Thanks to Joss Whedon’s Avengers, they are the heroes people love to celebrate and watch on the big screen.
Now, the biggest moment has arrived. All the heroes you have cherished over a decade are going to show up together to fight their greatest battle. As astounding as it sounds, it is an incredible achievement for the studio to efficaciously combine eighteen films and bring together dozens of A-list actors to deliver a climax that will create history.
The road to Infinity War has been quite bumpy. While there hasn’t been a single bad film, some were just about okay when compared with others. So here’s my ranking of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe from worst to best:
18) The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk was the most standard film Marvel ever made. It delivered on the Hulk smashes but had nothing else to offer. Also, it has the second lowest rotten tomatoes score in the MCU. It’s enough to justify its rock-bottom position.
17) Iron Man 2 (2010)
From here, the quality only goes upwards. Iron Man 2 was a fantastic follow up to Iron Man that introduced a lot of pivotal characters. Unfortunately, its biggest failure was also the same i.e. to introduce too many characters at once, leading to a chaotic narrative.
16) Thor – The Dark World (2013)
Alan Taylor’s take on the God of Thunder was a lot of fun. We saw the Mighty Thor commuting through trains and put his hammer on wall hooks. However, the utterly bad villain and breakneck pace stalled the film from getting under the skin of the audience.
15) Thor (2011)
Kenneth Branagh effectively mounted Chris Hemsworth’s first outing as Thor. It had a fine balance between introduction of Norse mythology and the quintessential superhero movie elements. It only lacked humor which would have made the film even more enjoyable.
14) Captain America – The First Avenger (2011)
The First Avenger was a fantastic World War film that perfectly established its characters. All the scenes featuring skinnier version of Steve Rogers were gold. Evans was great as Captain America. Although, Hugo Weaving was wasted as Red Skull and was no match for Evans.
13) Ant-Man (2015)
Peyton Reed’s version of the silliest named superhero in the MCU was very refreshing. After a series of overblown comic book movies, Ant-Man acted as a breath of fresh air that reduced the stakes and heightened the humor. The comedy and special effects were absolutely amazing.
12) Spiderman – Homecoming (2017)
Homecoming was a film that was most likely to fail considering it was the third incarnation of the web crawler. Surprisingly, it turned out to be awesome by having a good story, well-etched characters, and a memorable villain. Tom Holland surpassed both Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire by being the best blend of Peter Parker and Spiderman.
11) Avengers – Age of Ultron (2015)
This Avengers sequel had a lot of pressure. It not only had to act as a standalone film for those not following the MCU but also take the universe forward. While it succeeded for most part, especially by putting focus on the less valued Avengers (Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Bruce Banner), it failed to do justice to its overhyped villain, Ultron.
10) Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange was basically the first Iron Man albeit with sorcery. The run-of-the-mill writing was overshadowed by the psychedelic imagery and a class act from Benedict Cumberbatch. The visual effects were incredible and the final act, hilariously great!
9) Iron Man 3 (2013)
There is a lot to love about Shane Black’s Iron Man 3. It’s not only a standalone, old-school superhero film that delivers barrels of fun, but also the least caring when it comes to building the Marvel universe. Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin and Robert Downey Jr.’s full throttle avatar of genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist was extraordinary.
8) Iron Man (2008)
This film gave rise to multiple things – first the MCU, second Robert Downey Jr as the charismatic superstar, and third, a belief that comic book movies can be darn good. The first forty minutes of the film are still riveting to watch.
7) Thor Ragnarok (2017)
Where the first two films failed, Taika Waititi’s Ragnarok succeeded. The third Thor outing had some of the best scenes that the MCU has been dignified with. Often feeling like an indie film, Ragnarok had great comedy and action to ensure the audience get bang for their buck.
6) The Avengers (2012)
Joss Whedon’s Avengers was one of its kind superheroes ensemble to come out six years ago that changed the game of comic book moviemaking. The insane success of the film led to the trend of building cinematic universes. The film was gobsmacking in all aspects but lacked the depth in story which stalled it from becoming the best in MCU.
5) Captain America Civil War (2016)
An Avengers 2.5, Civil War was the necessary bridge that led to Infinity War. Creating a divide between two sagacious superheroes was never going to be an easy task (for instance, Batman Vs Superman) but Russo Brothers did a remarkable job and surpassed all expectations. Also, we got a monumental action scene in the form of the Airport battle.
4) Black Panther (2018)
Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is extraordinary. Unlike other Marvel films, Black Panther cuts loose of the stereotypes and delivers an absorbing story that highlights real world problems. The astounding production design, incredible visual effects, uniformly robust performances, and a rousing score by Kendrick Lamar make it one of the best MCU films till date.
3) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Sequels carry a lot of weight when the original film has done exceedingly well. James Gunn’s Guardians sequel was everything one had wished for. It retained the inventiveness and camaraderie of the original, while boasting another killer soundtrack. However, the biggest selling point of the film was the way it put personal stakes at front. Friendship and family bonding was the central focus that made it special and stand out from rest of the Marvel films.
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2) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 (2014)
You really want to live in a universe where Chris Pratt casually dances to a song amidst a life and death situation. Guardians of the Galaxy has been the most marvelous film about a bunch of ragtag individuals who reluctantly save the universe and form a bonding. Full of splendid visuals and stunning art design, the film is a masterpiece. There are characters you care about, villain you feel afraid of, bigger things you wish to explore, and a soundtrack you love to listen to over and over again.
1) Captain America – The Winter Soldier (2014)
Hands down, this adrenaline-fueled conspiracy thriller is the finest Marvel film to date. Utterly rewatchable and meaningful, Winter Soldier elevated the genre and reignited our love for superhero films. Emotive and full of realism, the film minimized use of CGI and stuck to old-school stunt choreography. The highway scene remains the best action scene in the MCU. With The First Avenger and Civil War, Captain America stands as the best film trilogies ever made!
By Mayank Nailwal