Well, this post is unbelievably late. A definitive ranking of all the MCU films that was originally meant to lead up to the release of Avengers: Infinity War ended up being so delayed that the Top 6 is coming out two months after Ant-Man and the Wasp – which I haven’t even seen, so it’s not on the list.
A post that was meant to come out around the time of a movie’s theatrical release is instead coming out AFTER it’s home release. What’s the excuse? None, to be honest. This has been drafted and pretty much ready to go for months now. I guess I’m just a lazy bastard.
This still doesn’t beat that time I put off my ‘Why Hasn’t Leonardo Di Caprio Won an Oscar Yet?’ series so long that Leonardo Di Caprio actually won an Oscar before I finished it – but it’s close.
Still, I don’t like leaving things unfinished. We’ll just call this the definitive ranking of (almost) every MCU movie.
Here’s the ranking so far:
#6 Iron Man
The one that started it all. The original Iron Man still holds its own as as one of the best MCU films and a really damn great superhero movie in general. RDJ’s Tony Stark was, is and forever will be a revelation, Jeff Bridges is a cool, underrated Marvel baddie and the whole thing is a high-flying, rip-roaring origin story that turned Iron Man into a household name.
#5 Spider-Man: Homecoming
The MCU has always been known for its light touch and fantastic sense of humour, but even by those standards, Spider-Man: Homecoming is amazingly funny, lighthearted fare. It’s the first live-action Spider-Man movie that really leans into the ‘he’s just a kid’ angle and it works beautifully. Tom Holland proved his mettle in Civil War and here he gets a chance to really shine. The supporting cast is lively and memorable and Michael Keaton is terrific as The Vulture.
As a huge Spider-Man fan, I was sceptical at first, but Homecoming won me over quickly and handily.
#4 The Avengers
The movie that changed the landscape of blockbuster cinema for the better part of a decade (and counting) and showed the world that this MCU business was the real deal. A straightforward superhero team-up that coasts off the back of a wonderful cast, insanely quotable dialogue and a treasure trove of fan service and kick-ass action. The Avengers is dynamite blockbuster entertainment and I love it.
#3 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Part political espionage thriller, part superhero action romp and all around awesome, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not just a really damn good movie about a conflicted Steve Rogers, it’s also the best Black Widow movie we’ve seen yet (ball’s in your court, solo-probably-prequel-movie). Anthony Mackie’s Falcon was an awesome addition to the ever expanding MCU character roster, the action is terrific and the HYDRA twist even ended up kickstarting Agents of SHIELD’s transformation into a good show.
Throw in the multiplying factor of awesome that is Robert Redford and the shocking reveal of The Winter Soldier’s true identity (you’ll never guess! – unless you’ve read the comics, seen the trailers or been on the internet), and you’ve got yourself a hell of a movie.
#2 Avengers: Age of Ultron
I find it infuriating that Age of Ultron is generally considered to be underwhelming and even one of the MCU’s weakest films. Yes, it’s flawed, messy and crowded. Yes, the Thor sub-plot is painfully disposable, even more so since Ragnarok came out. Yes, the Black Widow and Hulk romance was divisive (I’m cool with it, but I don’t begrudge people that aren’t).
Yet, in nearly other respect, this is a superior sequel. Stronger, deeper characterisation across the board. Interesting and memorable new characters (Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Vision, one-scene-wonder Ulysses Claw). A really cool villain – yes, Ultron is awesome and one of the better MCU villains. A deadly AI with the emotional intelligence of a child and Tony Stark daddy issues AND the voice of James Spader? Sign me up.
The party scene, the farm scenes, Vision’s introduction and Hawkeye’s speech to Wanda are all pretty high on the MCU’s greatest hits list. You want a surefire way to piss me off? Just walk up to me and talk shit about Age of Ultron.
It’s not just better than the original Avengers, it’s straight up one of the best MCU movies to date.
#1 Captain America: Civil War
Many refer to Civil War as Avengers 2.5 and given the sheer size of the cast, it’s pretty apt. It’s basically an Infinity War/Avengers 4 trial run for the Russo brothers and the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely – and they knock it out of the park. They took the promising ideas from the Civil War comic book storyline, ironed out a lot of the kinks and threw in some of that MCU magic.
At its core, the movie version of Civil War plays out like a bitter family squabble. Good intentions and valid arguments mixed with dark secrets and long-standing emotional baggage. A thoughtful story that nevertheless finds plenty of opportunities for action and humour. Every action set piece stands out in some cool or creative way, every character has at least one big moment or memorable line.
Spider-Man or Black Panther’s introductions are great, Ant-Man leaves a giant impression and the final confrontation doesn’t pull back any punches, emotional or otherwise. The Captain America movies are one of the rare trilogies where every sequel is better than what came before.
(UPDATED) #1 Avengers: Infinity War
And here we are – the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to date. All due respect to Ant-Man and the Wasp, but I don’t need to see it to know it’s not better than Infinity War. I don’t mean that as a slight – Ant-Man and the Wasp was always going to be the fun, light distraction in between the gigantic, universe-changing movies.
And Infinity War is definitely a gigantic, universe-changing movie. It’s genuinely amazing how quickly the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown. A little over six years ago, people were sceptical about The Avengers. Could Marvel make a movie with that many superheroes?
And now here we are, with a universe-sprawling epic that takes us from the farthest reaches of space all the way to Wakanda. Norse gods and talking raccoons, wizards and super soldiers, space ships and all-powerful, multi-coloured stones.
Infinity War is impossibly big. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It finds a way to juggle its massive cast, makes smart choices about which characters should get more screen time and who they should be paired up with. It knows when to slow down and lets its characters (and audience) breathe and when to ramp up the action.
Thanos is both the biggest threat and the greatest villain the MCU has ever had. Putting him and his quest to collect all the Infinity Stones at heart of the story was a very smart move and it keeps the whole thing from buckling under its own weight.
I could go on and on. It’s just a masterpiece of modern blockbuster cinema that manages to meet impossibly high expectations.