By Miguel Acuña
The original Star Wars Trilogy was released between 1977 through 1983 (6 years). The Lord of the Rings graced theaters between 2001 and 2003 (2 years). The closest franchise to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was Harry Potter which went from 2001 through 2011. The key difference is that these franchises build upon each other and are dependent on one another to create a story for fans to enjoy. The MCU created 18 stand-alone (for the most part) movies which can be enjoyed on their own merits, but when you take a step back you realize each one was a piece of a much greater masterpiece. Over the course of 10 years, Marvel has created a universe which not only celebrates each hero and story but consistently brings them back for something even more incredible. For those of you who are coping with the aftermath of Infinity War, to help with the healing process, I have ranked ALL the movies in the MCU. To make sure this list is not the longest article in history, of the 18 movies in the MCU, I’ll rank 13 of them, and then give short breakdowns on who made the top 5 and why. This list is based on my own opinion and does occasionally change depending on the day, but for now, this is where everyone stands. Excelsior.
The ranking for 13 of the 18 MCU movies are as follows:
18) Iron Man 3
17) Incredible Hulk
16) Iron Man 2
15) Thor: The Dark World
13) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
12) Doctor Strange
11) Captain America: The First Avenger
9) Avengers: Age of Ultron
8) Thor: Ragnarok
7) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
6) Black Panther
Now, the top 5:
5) Spider-Man: Homecoming – The two iterations of Spider-Man on the big screen both started out pretty strong but ended up less than stellar and disappointed fans. Nervously, fans waited for the next big reboot and were very cautious when rumors started that Spider-Man would make his debut in Civil War. Holy crap, it was an incredible debut! More on that later. This gave way for a new wave of excitement and love for the Web-Head. Many of us wanted to be vigilant with the new movie but couldn’t help but jump on the hype train. We were rewarded with amazing dialogue, high paced action, and comic-accurate shots come to life. Homecoming showed Peter’s naive nature, his determination to be a hero, and overall fun attitude. It was a great intro movie for our current Spider-Man and will definitely lead to more awesomeness.
4) Guardians of the Galaxy – Making movies of well-known heroes is easy. It may not turn out well (cough…Dawn Of Justice…cough) but you can always bank a bit on the fact that a famous hero will bring in a crowd. It was a guaranteed hit for Marvel to make a movie with a talking raccoon and huge tree person when they had so many other better-known characters in their wheelhouse. Instead, Marvel risked it for the biscuit, and it was the incredible surprise of the summer of 2014. People everywhere fell in love with Chris Pratt’s Starlord and the cherry on top was definitely the soundtrack. The sequel was not as stellar but these characters are hilarious and exemplify the underdog team that comes out on top because of their heart.
3) The Avengers – The culmination of Phase One, the first Avengers movie did the impossible. No one could fathom that one movie could bring together so many characters, much less, bring them together well. Fans had invested at least 4 years into this Phase of the MCU and it paid off in a big way. Great (albeit very much staged) group shots, throwbacks to each individual movie that came before, and a bright look towards the future of the MCU. The movie showed that they were not just putting out movies for the hell of it, but rather, laying the groundwork for a major payoff. Visually it blew everyone’s mind, characters got screentime and development, and the overarching story in this universe just grew even bigger. Marvel had definitively taken the crown of comic book movies and with more Phases being planned and having the backing of the House of Mouse, Marvel was now slated to dominate every year. And dominate, they have.
2) Captain America: Civil War – The start of Phase 3 was kicked off with another huge team-up movie. Civil War was loosely based on the comic event of the same title, with some changes here and there. The MCU had created this amazing family of heroes and would now break them apart. Aside from the obvious divide regarding the Sokovia Accords, the more personal fight was regarding the fate of fan-favorite, Winter Soldier. Whether you were Team Cap or Team Tony, feels were all over the place to see these two friends fight for what each one sincerely believed was the right thing. One of the major bright points of this movie was, of course, the first on-screen intro of the new Spider-Man, complete with those Ditko eyes, a new suit design and the sincere Spidey quips that were missing in other iterations. The banter sounded more like a young kid in front of his idols, than someone just reading off sound bytes. Aside from creating actual consequences for the actions of our heroes, Civil War pushed the idea that even when the bad guys don’t win, they still win. While we see Helmut Zemo being taken away, the damage to the team is done and by the end of the movie, the Avengers have disassembled.
1) Iron Man – In 2007, Marvel comic book movies were in a sad state. Marvel had released Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3, and Fantastic Four: Rise Of the Silver Surfer. With the exception of Ghost Rider, these movies ended their respective franchises until a reboot happened. In hindsight, perhaps it should have ended Ghost Rider too. DC had not put out any movies that year because they were still recovering from Superman Returns (released 2006) despite having released Batman Begins in 2005. It was a very rough time to be a Marvel movie fan. Then 2007 came and with it, Iron Man. The first part of a newly announced series of movies that would come out and create a movie universe for Marvel. Many people couldn’t fully understand what this meant, but at the time, it didn’t matter. Phenomenal casting put Robert Downey Jr. as a true to life Tony Stark and insanely awesome writing made his origin movie into one of the best superhero movies of all time. This movie set the bar for all movies to come. Had it not been for the Dark Knight coming out a few months later, I’m positive it would have continued to create even more bank for Marvel. Iron Man was able to bring a sense of realism and humor that had not been found in other movies. Most superhero movies were done very seriously and dark (again, Batman Begins), or were overly campy and ridiculous (X-Men: The Last Stand). Iron Man had the kind of writing where the humor had matured and would set the tone of this universe. Iron Man would definitely stay true to the comics with unbelievable CG that remained grounded in reality but it never took itself too seriously. It allowed fans to enjoy a great movie experience, which opened the door for the mainstream moviegoer. I have never been a huge Iron Man fan, I own a handful comics, and at most, a few figures. That being said, I cannot deny the impact that Iron Man had on the superhero movie genre and for the role it played in becoming the cornerstone of the now world-famous Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well done, Mr. Stark and thank you.