With the release of each new movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the time always comes where you have to rank them in order and find out where the latest one sits in relation to the others. That time has come again with the release of Captain America: Civil War. It's been almost three weeks since release, I've seen it twice and I know where it sits for me on the list, so in descending order, let's see where it falls:
#13 - IRON MAN 2
The weakest link in the MCU by far, but still not a bad movie because despite Mickey Rourke's Whiplash being one of the weaker MCU villains and Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer constantly annoying the crap out of me, the movie did introduce us to Black Widow and brought us the War Machine suit, so it's not all bad.
#12 - THE INCREDIBLE HULK
A vast improvement over Ang Lee's 2003 "Hulk," this one suffers from major hindsight because of Mark Ruffalo's later performances as Bruce Banner trumping it. It's definitely a solid movie with a good cast and helped establish the MCU, but it was still an early one for them and a slight comedown from the excitement of Iron Man earlier that year.
#11 - THOR
As low as this movie is on the list, it really is underrated. After all, it did bring us arguably the best MCU villain to date in Tom Hiddleston's Loki and cemented Chris Hemsworth's place as a bonafide action movie star. It's also a great coming of age story where Thor has to learn how to be the badass that he is meant to be. There is way too much Dutch Tilt in the movie, though. Seriously, Kenneth Branagh leans the camera on an angle in almost every other shot and it ends up being annoying like lens flares after about an hour. Still a solid movie.
#10 - THOR: THE DARK WORLD
This one is even more underrated than the first Thor movie. It isn't that Christopher Eccleston is a particularly memorable villain as Malekith, or that the action and VFX are ramped up. It's mostly because the cast in this movie seemed to be so much stronger after the first Thor movie, especially Hemsworth's Thor himself. If the first movie was about getting to know their world, this one is where they just hit the ground running and are completely confident from the first frame on and it's fantastic. It's literally only this low because it's a list of 13 movies.
#9 - AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
This movie has gotten a lot of criticism in hindsight from people watching it again a second time and it's not the best Avengers movie, but it's still solid. The only huge issue I had with it is that it slows down big time in the middle after the big Hulkbuster scene when everyone hides out at Hawkeye's place. That seemed to go on pretty long and slow down what was an otherwise fast paced, high octane movie. It's also the first MCU movie that really started to show how the franchise is telling a long form story over several movies. Going into this one blind is likely to have you asking a lot of questions. At the very least, there's about five or six MCU movies that you will have needed to see before this one to not be lost at all with what is happening. It's still a solid, fun movie to watch.
#8 - IRON MAN 3
I'm a DC fan first, Marvel fan second and I have no personal connection or deep-seated respect for the character of The Mandarin, so it didn't personally bother me what they did with his character, basically fusing him with Aldrich Killian and using Ben Kingsley's Trevor Slattery as a decoy. In addition, I really like the story of this movie. It's Tony Stark's most personal journey by far and was a refreshing "apology" for the self-indulgent narcissism of Iron Man 2. To show the most ego-driven of the Avengers actually dealing with serious PTSD from the events of the first Avengers movie was a brilliant idea and I love the "Iron Legion" sequence at the end with all of his suits. It showed just how far Marvel Studios had come in five short years with the VFX for his character in particular and it was a sign of great things to come.
#7 - ANT-MAN
This is the one that surprised me. Big time. After Age of Ultron, I was waiting for a true Marvel clunker of a movie because they were really "due" for one, and with the issues that had been surrounding this movie, most notably the departure of director Edgar Wright, it really felt like this was going to be Marvel's first "bad" movie. I could not have been more wrong. It's hilarious, it has a strong cast with great chemistry between Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly, it fits seamlessly into the MCU like a perfect puzzle piece and it has a great heart at the center of it. Not only did it win me over, but I'm now excited for Ant-Man and The Wasp, which has been moved up to July 2018 right after the next Avengers movie.
#6 - CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
This one holds a special place for me because it's a period piece directed by Joe Johnston, the same man that directed one of my favorite Disney movies of all-time, The Rocketeer. In many ways, the same nostalgia and old school heroism that he showed in that movie, shows up big time here in this one and it's a great introduction to Chris Evans' "Marvel redemption" as Captain Steve Rogers. I only wish that we had seen more of Hugo Weaving's maniacal turn as Red Skull because he's one of the more fun Marvel villains we have seen to this point, but then again I'm also one of the people that isn't completely convinced he's dead and thinks that he might show up later in another movie, so we will see.
#5 - IRON MAN
I feel like the movie that started it all has to be in the Top 5, right? It does belong here to me, though. It's a fantastic origin story for a comic book superhero and never has a dull or slow moment from start to finish. One of the best parts of the movie is seeing Tony build the suit and test out various features of it to get the hang of just what it is he is creating, and the bar was set high right off the bat for the MCU with the star-studded cast between Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane, Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts and Terrence Howard's one-film turn as Colonel James Rhodes, paving the way for Don Cheadle since then. I saw this one twice at the theater and knew then that Marvel had stumbled onto something for sure. The energy and the fun were just there from the beginning.
Now......here comes the controversy, I'm sure:
#4 - CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Yes, after two full viewings and a lot of deliberation, I put Marvel's latest and greatest in the Top 5, just barely. Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic movie. It lives up to the example set by the whole franchise, fits well into the MCU storyline, reaches a new height with VFX for the series and has a dynamite ensemble cast from top to bottom. Seriously, everyone is good in this movie, there are no weak links as far as performance. The best part of the movie is that they were able to keep it centered around Captain America without letting Tony Stark steal the show, even though he is heavily involved and really gives this movie an Avengers feel. The Russo Brothers do a great job of keeping the story centered on Cap and Bucky and their common foe, Helmut Zemo.
So, why is it fourth on my list? Despite everyone calling it the best MCU movie to date and one of the best if not the best comic book movie ever made? Well, I don't agree with any of that. There's three movies in the MCU that I consider to be superior to this one which you will see in a bit. This movie did slow down a bit in the first hour, not nearly as much as Age of Ultron but it reminded me of that, and the airport battle, while awesome and fun to watch, really took me out of the movie for too long and completely forgot about the plot and the main villain in favor of a huge, fun Avengers-style battle sequence. On a smaller note of complaints, I thought Spider-Man's introduction was a little too convenient at first but got better on the second viewing, and I'm still going to have to get used to Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. I'm sorry, I'm just used to that character looking a lot "older" than that. I'll reserve full judgment on her and Tom Holland's Peter Parker when Spider-Man: Homecoming comes out next year.
3 - THE AVENGERS
I saw this one four times at the theater and twice in IMAX. It's close to perfect for an MCU movie. In fact, I really can't find anything wrong with it. The only reason it is 3rd is because the two movies ahead of it are THAT damn good. This one has a great plot, an excellent balance between the main cast even with Hawkeye under Loki's spell for most of the movie, has the best villain by far with Loki, and is perfectly paced from start to finish. When the movie "slows down," which is the entire second act with Loki aboard the Helicarrier, we are invested in seeing the Avengers team come together and interact with one another to see the chemistry happen. After spending the first five movies of the MCU being introduced to Stark, Banner, Black Widow, Thor and Rogers, we were excited to see them finally come together and it was as glorious as we were hoping it would be.
#2 - GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
The surprise of this movie wasn't that it was good, it was how good it was. Very good. Very, very good. Director James Gunn hit a grand slam with this one by giving a story about characters that so few were aware of an incredible heart, hilarious humor and state of the art action and VFX. This is just a fun, well done movie that I could recommend to anyone whether they are a Marvel fan or not. It is literally the only one that stands completely apart from the others despite having a connection with Thanos, the ultimate villain of the entire franchise that we eagerly await to face-off against the Avengers. Great cast chemistry, strong story and truly a spectacle of a comic book movie.
#1 - CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
This is Marvel Studios' best movie to date, without question in my opinion. The plot is the strongest and most well-written as it is a brilliantly executed spy thriller. Not only are you left to guess the big twist in the middle about Hydra, but the ultimate resolution of the movie is nothing short of seismic to the entire MCU. This movie changes the whole game and remains the single biggest event in the MCU's 8-year timeline. Hell, it completely flipped the show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on it's ass and took no prisoners. I was not expecting it to be as good as it was, but it remains Marvel's greatest and most adult movie in the MCU so far, even more so than Civil War in many respects. A big reason for that is because with this movie, there was no need or indication to tie it into a previous story or use major elements and events in a loose fashion from one of the comic storylines. Winter Soldier is able to cut loose and do it's own thing with a story that serves the MCU and has incredible implications for it and the characters within it. This is all in the midst of excellent casting with Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan's return as Bucky Barnes. It might be the perfect MCU movie so far to me.
So there's my list of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in my own personal order of preference. What do you think about it? Is Civil War really your favorite of the whole series, or do you agree with me about Winter Soldier? Or do you have another one that tops all of these and your list is completely different? That's always a fun discussion to have, right? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!