Well, we’re well into Phase III of the unlimited number of “phases” that Marvel’s cinematic universe will be having, and Marvel releases three or so movies every year, so obviously this list will need to be updated quite often, but let’s give it a go…
#15 – The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The second MCU movie to be released (it followed Iron Man). This movie is a big improvement over Ang Lee’s 2003 standalone Hulk snoozefest, but it’s nothing special on its own terms. Apparently, Edward Norton agreed as he decided not to reprise the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk for 2012’s Avengers. It would be interesting to see Marvel give it a go again with Mark Ruffalo, but we’re already getting elements of the popular “Planet Hulk” comic book story in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie, so I don’t think Marvel has any plans for the Hulk to star in his own movie again anytime soon.
#14 – Iron Man 2 (2010)
It’s amazing to me how spot-on Marvel was with the release of the first Iron Man movie, but then could release this garbage. The movie was a financial success, making just a little less than the original, but man, is it terrible. I mean… Whiplash? That’s the best you could come up with as the villain? And he looked completely ridiculous and nothing like his comic book counterpart. This would easily be the worst Marvel movie of the bunch if not for the fact that The Incredible Hulk was so boring.
#13 – Thor (2011)
Very cheesy/squeaky clean/visually polished movie that really overdid it with the CGI. Sometimes, watching these “live-action” superhero movies is more like watching a CGI cartoon. Plus, to me, Thor just isn’t interesting as a standalone character.
#12 – Thor: The Dark World (2013)
A step-up from Thor, but can we focus on anyone other than Loki? By this point, Loki had already been the main villain in the first Thor movie and the main villain in Avengers. He’ll even be co-starring in Thor: Ragnarok, although I guess at this point Marvel is trying to turn him into an anti-hero of sorts where the movies are concerned.
#11 – Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Ultron has long since been a thorn in the side of the Avengers, and this could’ve been a really cool story, but instead it was a bloated mess. First, there’s the fact that Disney/Marvel worked in their film versions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch just as 20th Century Fox was introducing their own Quicksilver in the X-Men movies. Disney/Marvel doesn’t own the film rights to mutants (though how Disney/Marvel retain the co-rights to Quicksilver I’ll never know), so in this movie there’s no connection to them being mutants or the children of Magneto.
Then you’ve got Ultron, who was created by Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man/Giant Man/Yellow Jacket) in the comics, but since the Marvel Cinematic Universe hadn’t yet introduced Hank Pym, the movie version of Ultron is created by Tony Stark. Little things like that bugged me, and even the movie’s director/writer Joss Whedon admits the movie is a mess due to studio interference, and it was after this movie that he decided to step away from doing any future Disney/Marvel movies. In recent times, Whedon has signed on with Warner Bros. Pictures to direct/write a Batgirl live-action movie based on the DC Comics character and set in the DC Comics Cinematic Universe.
#10 – Doctor Strange (2016)
Okay, now we’re past the threshold of what I consider to be the bad Marvel movies and into the zone of average Marvel movies. Casting of Pricklepot Humperdink was Doctor Strange was a great move, but the movie itself..? Eh. Completely forgettable, but it did have some cool moments of CGI in the reality-altering scenes. Like Thor and Hulk, I think Doctor Strange is a character that best works in an ensemble setting and not when the focus is put squarely on him and his lackluster villains.
#9 – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Why they felt they needed to give this movie the subtitle of “The First Avenger”, I’ll never know. He’s never been referred to that in the comics and it wouldn’t be accurate anyway. Captain America was neither the first Avenger in the comic books OR the movies.
“Oh, is this that Captain America movie?”
“No, it’s ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’.”
Like, what’s the point?
The movie is another average and somewhat cheesy effort from Marvel, but better days would be ahead for the Captain America franchise.
#8 – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The most overrated of all these movies, in my opinion. It’s also where Marvel started to tread a bit too much into comedy. This is basically a comedy/musical/sci-fi/action movie. I’m not saying all superhero movies need to be somber like The Dark Knight, but I guess I’m a grumpy old comic book fan because I think Marvel inserts too much humor into their movies these days. It’s not something you see in the comic books (unless you’re reading Deadpool), so why insert so much of it into the movies?
Not a bad movie, but again, it’s completely average and probably the first time I can remember people (including myself) started to complain about the Marvel movie “formula” and its use of humor.
#7 – Iron Man (2008)
This is the one that started it all! Iron Man was a breath of fresh-air in a world we’d only been familiar with Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four. It offered something different than what those movies could and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is the role of a lifetime, in my opinion. This guy is going to be synonymous with Iron Man/Tony Stark for decades.
The scope of the movie seems a bit “small” in regards to what most Marvel movies would grow to encompass, but this was a promising start. It’s funny though, that a mid-to-low tier comic book superhero (in terms of comic book sales) could become such a blockbuster movie superhero.
#6 – Ant-Man (2015)
Probably the most low-key movie of the bunch, Ant-Man doesn’t rely on world-conquering villains and all-powerful heroes. Instead, you’ve got the story of an arrogant man-child trying to act like a hero while battling an evil corporate executive. There’s a lot of similarities in this movie to the first Iron Man movie, and just like Iron Man, much of this movie is carried by the charm of its lead actor (Paul Rudd in this case). It’s also really cool to see Michael Douglas (as the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym).
#5 – Iron Man 3 (2013)
Reviews for this movie were not kind, but I don’t care. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot of fun. We get to see more of Don Cheadle as War Machine/Iron Patriot and it’s fun seeing him and Robert Downey Jr. interact. If there’s an Iron Man 4, they might as well call it Iron Man & War Machine and let it be a buddy superhero movie. The chemistry between these two is just too good. The movie’s finale is also pretty fun. Overall, just is a silly and fun comic book movie and you can’t complain too much about that.
#4 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Since I wasn’t impressed by the first one, I was indifferent to this movie with the exception of wanting to Kurt Russell (as Ego, the Living Planet) and my favorite actor, Sylvester Stallone (as Starhawk). It turns out, the movie itself is a good story. There’s a lot of heart here. It’s a movie about family. Sure, you’ve still got the crude humor and ’70s rock/pop soundtrack that the first movie had, but there’s a lot of good character moments in this movie and Kurt Russell absolutely KILLED IT here.
#3 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Not so much of a superhero movie, but an action/spy thriller. The difference between this movie and Captain America: The First Avenger are like night and day. This is one of the few Marvel movies that I would actually like to own and give repeat viewings to.
#2 – Avengers (2012)
Is it corny? Yes, but this movie did something no one had ever done before… put a bunch of superheroes who already had their own movies into one BIG movie! It was a such a popular idea, that Hasbro, DC Comics, and Universal Studios have started to follow suit. This was a MAJOR event at the time and a phenomenon. You kinda have to shut your brain off for this movie, but it’s a lot of un.
#1 – Captain America: Civil War
This feels like a third Avengers movie, and the Captain America series of movies has quickly become the very best of all of Marvel’s franchises. While Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a slightly more down-to-earth action thriller, Captain America: Civil War goes back to being a full-blown superhero movie. New characters are introduced into the universe such as Black Panther and Spider-Man (!!!), recent characters are seen interacting with other heroes for the first time (Ant-Man), core Avengers are missing in action (Thor and Hulk), and the Avengers split into two groups to fight with among themselves!
Great fun seeing so many (more) heroes on screen and fun to see them all duke it out. I don’t see Marvel topping this until 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, which will be the actual third Avengers movie.