Ranking the Movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

As I sit here and look at the calendar, we are only a few days away from the release of Avengers: Infinity War. The storm of anticipation hasn’t fully crashed upon our not-so-peaceful shores yet, but in the distance, you can hear the gradual building of buzz. Before long friends, there will be life before Infinity War and life after Infinity War. They will have names. Spring and summer. I just came up with that.

In anticipation of this landmark film being released, a movie that will feature nearly every major character from all (checks quickly) 18 previously released Marvel movies, as well as a handful of secondary characters and characters who could easily become major characters once Marvel enters Phase 5…I think we are in Phase Two now, but I could be wrong. Okay wait, I got distracted. Multiple phases can do that to a person. But either way, in anticipation of Infinity War‘s release, I have decided to do something that literally no one else has done- rank the 18 Marvel movies that preceded¬†Infinity War.

No I’m serious. Like no one else has done this.

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First though, a disclaimer. I have not seen all 18 of these movies. I will blame some of this on being a parent of a toddler and some of it on just straight up not being interested in seeing some of them. I mean come on, I’m cool with all of these comic book movies, but not cool enough with them to see a second Hulk movie in a handful of years, both of which starred different dudes as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Limits dude. My fandom of Marvel movies is not immune to limits.

So let’s start there, with the Marvel movies I haven’t seen. I will rank them in order of how likely I am to see them.

4) The Incredible Hulk (2008)

This is the Edward Norton one. As opposed to the Eric Bana one. Man, think about how hard it is to actually make a compelling and interesting movie about the Hulk. At it’s core, whether you like it or not, is a scientist who is afraid of getting too amped up because if he does he becomes a giant monster who ain’t too good at speakin’ English. So how do you pull that off?

Spoiler: You kind of don’t.

3) Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Here’s what I know about this one: it’s allegedly the worst Thor movie out there. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has evolved; gone through phases if you will. He wasn’t all that interesting or cool in the first Avengers’ movie and started to get better in the second one. Then Thor: Ragnarok was his coming out party. Now I for one, am all in on Thor. Still not going to go back and watch this movie, though.

2) Thor (2011)

Nope, not going to go back and watch this one either. Or I might. If it’s like, on cable or something and I’m home sick and nothing else is on and the Internet is down and so is HBO and the weather is shitty and there is literally nothing else on. Also if it hurts to read. Like if I had a bad headache or something.

Then I’d maybe watch Thor. Maybe.

1) Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

I know, I know. It’s totally not cool I haven’t seen this yet. I know. It’s not like I don’t want to, but it’s like I said earlier, I have a small kid, man. That plays a significant role in things like how much time you have to watch something or what you’re going to watch when you actually do have time. I’ll watch this at some point. It’s inevitable.


Okay, now let’s move on to the ones I have seen, but will also freely admit that when it comes to try and tell you what it was actually about, I’m at a loss. These are ranked by my level of confusion.

4.) Iron Man 2 (2010)

Mickey Rourke was the bad guy, but wasn’t there another bad guy? And didn’t that bad guy try to use Rourke, who was a Russian scientist who had electric whips connected to his arms? I think that might be right. And wasn’t Tony Stark’s dad somehow involved – or the memory of him?

Beats me. The race track scene was really cool, though.

I mean, I have no idea why Tony Stark is a race car driver but hey, whatever. Looked cool.

3) Iron Man 3 (2013)

There’s an Iron Man army, a bunch of scenes between a little kid and Tony Stark and then Piper Potts on steroids. That’s all I got.

2) Doctor Strange (2016)

Yeah, you definitely lost me once or twice with this movie. Mysticism will do that. I’m still not totally sure what Doctor Strange is. He’s like a wizard, but also kind of a intergalactic security guard, right? I don’t know. Movie was cool to look at though and they get credit for that. Tilda Swinton playing someone called The Ancient One was a little dicey, though.

1) Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

I am now going to accidentally stumble into what was going in this movie. Ready?

Tony Stark creates some sort of artificial intelligence thing, but then it somehow becomes like Hans in Frozen, not cool. It becomes Ultron and goes from scrap heap-looking dude to super stealth looking fella with designs on taking over the world. Ah, oh my God, fire, explosions, a dude who runs fast, a witch, Hawkeye is forced to end his retirement early and it ends with a big battle in a place called Sokovia, which at some point, is floating above the earth. They defeat Ultron and we get Vision.

Nope. I guess they got Vision before beating Ultron. I apologize.

Don’t let that totally on point recap fool you. I’m really not sure what was going on this movie.


That would then leave the movies I’ve seen and more importantly, understand. These will be ranked more traditionally, from worst to best.

10) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Back in the day, when I was a young buck, writing shit like this in a notebook, I was a big Captain America-head. I probably liked him more than any other comic book dude besides Batman. So with that being said, I was justifiably excited about a Cap movie. Of course then I saw this movie, stopped it after a half hour and wouldn’t try to watch it again for a few months. And while I made it through that time, it was definitely a struggle. This movie is just not that good. Plain and simple.

9) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Follow-ups are tough business, man. It doesn’t matter if it’s an album or a television series or in this case, a movie, following up a successful debut is a damn near losing proposition. Unfortunately for Guardians, they fell into a lot of the traps that trip up someone trying to ace their sophomore effort. They also tried to go both bigger and smaller. Explosions and scope were bigger, but as far as the plot itself, it seemed like they tried to bore down a little, explore some of Peter Quill’s daddy issues. Except his dad was an effin’ planet and you know, it was fun, but not nearly as fun as the first one was.

8) Ant-Man (2015)

Hey, I liked Ant-Man. I liked it more than the first Captain America and the second Guardians.

That’s about all I have to say about it.

7) Captain America: Civil War

This movie gets points for getting most of the band together, laying the ground work for Black Panther and Infinity War and despite all they pomp and circumstance, really being about the beef that exists between Captain America and Iron Man.

However, we are going to deduct a point or two for the bad guy being super anti-climactic and, if memory serves correct here, being a dude who is sad.

6) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

This movie shouldn’t have worked or at the very least, been as successful as it was. They took a gang of heroes that only diehards knew about, dipped out to space for a few and pushed all their chips in the middle of the table because they saw something in Chris Pratt. Yet it worked. And it was fun. And it was good. And then kind of sad. But ultimately good. And it was at this time that Marvel realized that they could pretty much do anything they wanted at this point.

Except make a stand-alone Incredible Hulk movie.

And a Fantastic Four movie.

But you know, besides that.

5) Iron Man

Patient Zero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man was a breath of fresh air. It was opening the windows after a long cold weekend spent watching Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. If you think about it, a lot of what was said about Guardians, could be said about Iron Man. Not super well-known, funny in a genre that typically wasn’t and dependent on the performance of someone not voted most likely to anchor a superhero movie/franchise.

I still love that cave escape sequence. Even if he did kill Tom Morrello.

4) The Avengers (2012)

How was this release in 2012? It seems like it came out so long ago. Of course that could be because Marvel has since released at least a dozen movies since then. It’s hard to properly rank this movie when it is kind of the O.G.. Yes, there were movies that came out before it. There had to be. But this one was Marvel dropping their balls on the table and defiantly asking if you had a problem with it. I think Civil War and certainly Infinity War will diminish the accomplishment that was The Avengers, bringing together a group of stars, giving them equal billing and swinging so effin’ hard for the fences, but we’d be foolish to sleep on what The Avengers was able to do.

3) Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

They rescued Thor! They made Thor cool! We got a taste of cool, fun Thor in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but dude came out to play and stretch his legs in his third solo joint. And yes, it was a solo Thor movie, but kind of in the same way Civil War was a Captain America movie.

Ragnarok was part buddy comedy with Thor and the Hulk and part ensemble piece with Thor and the Hulk teaming up with Valkayrie, who was easily the best female character Marvel has put out there yet.

2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

They rescued Captain America! Well, The Avengers helped, but The Winter Soldier really sealed the deal. But think of it, Marvel needed Captain America and the Captain America they got with that first one wasn’t going to cut it. The Winter Soldier brought him down to our level, got him out there in the streets. It humanized him, which then helped when it came time to pick sides in Civil War. He became the Rolling Stones to Tony Stark’s version of The Beatles.

Also, this movie is dope. It’s got kind of a retro spy thing going on and never gets too big and flashy, but also doesn’t hide from taking their shot when it counted.

1) Black Panther (2018)

Full disclosure, I just saw this. Yes, it took me about three months to do so but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Either way, I’m going to be honest, Black Panther is just straight up amazing. I was in it from the jump, totally committed and immersed into the world it had created. And really early on, I was a little surprised by how much I cared about the characters and what was going on. Watching Black Panther was the furthest thing from a pedestrian experience as possible, which is something I couldn’t necessarily say about any other Marvel movie. It separated itself from it’s MCU brothers in a variety of ways, but it’s ability to stand on it’s two legs is the biggest way in put some distance between itself and the rest of the Marvel movies.

Black Panther, coupled with Thor: Ragnarok and from what I’ve heard, Spider-Man: Homecoming, provide both Marvel and fans alike with hope for the future, a time when the Infinity War has wrapped up and everyone has moved on. What are they moving on too? I’m sure some people know, but most don’t. And with these three movies, it almost doesn’t matter if we never see The Avengers again. If we do, it would just feel like a luxury. But I’m much more interested in future Black Panther and Thor movies than more Avengers’ movies.

I also always think SZA is singing “all the stars are bullshit” in this song, but we can save that for later.









Categories: Longreads, Movies

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