Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies

Best moment:Peter Parker, the boy truly becomes the Spider-MAN.

Theres a realness to the characters, relationships and the world that make this perhaps to most grounded MCU film so far, but thankfully the spectacle keeps pace and is almost as satisfying as the character interactions.

And the success is absolutely warranted. Doctor Strange is the best single character origin movie the studio has done to date.

Because this is where it all began, the film will always have a special place in my heart. Upon subsequent viewings, however, it becomes very clear that the first half of the movie is far better than the second half, which suffers from a few too many superhero movie tropes. Id watch Tony Stark invent stuff in his garage for eight hours if I had the chance!

The final fight between Hulk and The Abomination still holds up for its visceral, kinetic fun and inventiveness, and I still love the last shot (before the Tony Stark cameo) of Bruce with the glowing green eyes.

Great characters you immediately care about, interacting with each other in fun ways, coupled with well-directed action — thats whyGuardiansis so good. From the late title card to the final dance-off, the movie strongly establishes its tone and doesnt deviate for over two hours.

Best moment:Strange forces Dormammu to kill him over and over and over again until the demon cant take the endless monotony of it all and gives the Doctor what he wants. A bargain.

This was the first MCU film to get the love story right. The mutual respect and adoration between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) that organically grew as the story progressed was something few films (superhero or otherwise) nail as well as this one does.

Sure, the humor is hit or miss and there are some confusing character motivations on first viewing, but the cast, the quality of the acting, visual effects and details (the movie never lets us forget the heavy price Strange pays for choosing to be a sorcerer) elevate this to something much greater than the sum of its parts. Doctor Strange proves that magic and sorcerers can work in the MCU by flipping a few movie tropes on their heads and having an abundance of really cool ideas.

Were going from worst to best, so we have to start somewhere.The Incredible Hulkfrom 2008 (not to be confused with Hulk from 2003) isnt a bad movie. Yes, you could totally skip it and not miss a story beat in theMCU saga, but that doesnt make it bad. It just means that the stuff that happens here has little bearing on everything after.

Ant-Manmay be the MCU movie I was the least excited about (Ionlysaw it three times in the theater). I was never a huge fan of the character in the comics and there was nothing in the trailers that gave me cause to feel differently.

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Thordoes a good job of establishing the Norse god as a being who could exist in the same world as Iron Man. Your ancestors called it magic and you call it science, Thor says. Where I come from they are one and the same.

Im going to be honest, it took me four viewings ofBlack Pantherbefore it made it to No. 1. It took me that long to finally realize what a multilayered and brilliant work it is.

But what really surprised me was just how affecting it was. There were several times that I found myself getting really emotional. The movie takes everything that has come before in the MCU and uses that baggage to make an even better film than would have been possible otherwise. Thanks to this movie Ill never be able to watch any of the previous films in the same way. It really does change everything and I love it for that.

The movie takes some bold actions and its ramifications are still being felt years later in the MCU. Almost as much time is spent developing the characters of Natasha Romanov and Nick Fury.

Spider-Man 2(2004) is one of the best superhero movies ever made and that train sequence is one of the most memorable action scenes ever put to film, in any genre. From an action standpoint nothing in Homecoming stands up to that train sequence and yet, Homecoming is easily the better movie of the two.

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Director Jon Favreau set the bar high with the first outing of everyones favorite genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist.

Age of Ultron isnt The Avengers and it isnt trying to be. Its something much more interesting, thought-provoking and (dare I say it) profound.

How to watch every Marvel Cinematic Universe film in the right order

Best moment:The best training montage ever!

Still, the Shakespearean family dynamic (especially between the two leads) and Anthony Hopkins as Odin hold it together long enough to make for an entertaining film with some surprising turns toward the end. Its a classic redemption tale told well that never takes itself too seriously, but brings in enough weight to make the relationships believable.

As the culmination of this series of movies that has spanned over 10 years, it works absolutely best the more familiar you are with the huge amount of  characters that appear in the film.

Evans earnest portrayal of the self-sacrificing guy who just doesnt know when to quit only works as well as it does because Atwells Peggy is a real person with her own arc. She isnt at all marginalized and isnt there to motivate the hero. To the scripts credit, their characters operate almost equally narratively, elevating the film way above lesser love interest fare.

There is a scene at the end of this movie that absolutely wrecks me. Its a spoiler so I wont go into it, but it features Cat Stevens Father and Son. And as I watched it unfold I was surprised at just how much it was affecting me. Its a beautiful sequence and its the moment I realized that I was watching my favorite MCU movie.

Best moment:The entire opening scene, ending with the title card. Immediately gets you invested in this character and his story.

The script is taut with enough surprises, texture and detail to surprise even the harshest superhero movie critic. And until Civil War, the action set pieces were the best wed yet seen in the MCU.

By the time Marvel Studios announcedDoctor Strange, the company was already on such a roll, with untested properties such asGuardians of the Galaxyand Ant-Man finding success, that I really never had any doubt it would be a hit. And judging by its $85 million opening weekend in the US, I was right.

Hemsworth and Hiddleston turn in star-making performances. But the love story with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and some of the sitcom-like humor (which doesnt hold up well after repeat viewings) keep this from being truly great.

Best moment:Hulk clapping his hands together with such force that he essentially snuffs out an explosion that had only started a split second before.

Thor: Ragnarokfeels like when your favorite comic gets a new creative team and they have a slightly different interpretation of the character. That doesnt always work, but it absolutely works here.

Best moment:After bringing the Frost Giants to Asgard to kill his father, Loki turns the tables on them at the last possible second.

While the first film is one of the best examples of a purely fun blockbuster with enough depth to keep it interesting, Ultron is a completely different beast. It takes more narrative chances and as a result (at least from a character standpoint) has bigger payoffs.

Not everyone appreciated the twist, but I did. It made me confront how quickly I bought into the prepackaged obvious villain instead of the real threat.

Again, the movie is all about how its characters relate to each other. By the last shot in the film, there were tears running down my face. As the onscreen characters realized what theyd lost, the path theyd chosen and what it meant for their opportunity for redemption, I was in awe at the movies staggering accomplishment.

Still, the performances are great across the board and the action is definitely entertaining. Im just glad Marvel was able to learn from a lot of the mistakes it made in these early days.

The biggest issue, however, is with Bruce himself. He doesnt want to turn into the Hulk, but at the end of the day, thats all you want him to do. Its difficult to sustain this kind of dynamic for two hours and have it not get repetitive, frustrating and a little boring. This is something Marvel Studios now understands. The Hulk probably works best in an ensemble like the Avengers movies or the upcomingThor: Ragnarok.

I dont really know why it works as well as it does. The Avengers is just really fun to watch. Its not a perfect film — the first third is somewhat shaky — but the last two thirds easily make up for it. While the novelty of watching characters from different franchises interact in the same movie has waned, the interactions still feel right and are entertianing as hell.

Iron Manis still an incredibly fun movie, but Marvel has gotten better.

The biggest problem withThe Dark Worldis that it services Loki better than it does Thor. As a result, Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, is one of the movies least interesting characters. Hes trumped only by Malekith — Marvels dullest villain yet — in his inability to make the audience care about his needs and wants.

Best moment:The Vision, Iron Man and Thor shoot Ultron with their beams!! is the way I would describe my favorite moment in this film if I were 8 years old.

Yes, Earth has wizards now. And thanks to Doctor Strange theyre badass wizards who will kick your ass and look cool as hell doing it.

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies

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Age of Ultronasks some interesting questions of its heroes. Why do they do this? How long can they continue doing this? It goes deeper with the characters than any other Marvel movie before it.

This is the first movie ever that, in order to get the most out of its narrative, absolutely requires you to have seen at least most of the 18 movies in the series that preceded it. Thats not criticism, but I think one of the movies biggest strengths.

Its Erik Killmonger, though, and his effect on TChalla that truly made this movie sit head and shoulders above the rest. And Ilovemost of the films on this list!

Best moment:The highway battle, culminating in a fight between Steve and the Winter Soldier, is one of the best action scenes in any movie ever.

The best thing inIron Man 2is Robert Downey Jr. — hes just as charismatic and interesting as he was in the first movie. But this just feels like a stopgap. Iron Man 2 has a lot of heavy lifting to do, introducing Black Widow and War Machine, and establishing S.H.I.E.L.D. All of which felt like it diluted the central conflict in the film: Iron Man versus his dark past.

Best moment:The Willy Wonka-esque introduction of The Grandmaster.

The fact that people actually watched this movie and came to care about a talking raccoon and a walking tree is a testament to the skills of Marvel, the director (James Gunn), the writers and actors. Youd have to be ultra nitpicky to find any fault here.

Best moment:Iron Man and War Machine teaming up to destroy a bunch of robots. Simple, effective and fun.

Winter Soldieris Three Days of the Condor mixed withThe Raid, with a littleHeatandReturn of the Jedithrown in for good measure. If you never thought of Captain America as an interesting character, this is the film with the best chance to change your mind. Before Civil War, of course.

That said, its certainly not a great movie. It failed to make the relationship between Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) and Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) worth caring about and was devoid of the humor the MCU is now known for.

Best moment:The midair rescue of Air Force One is spectacular because its an actual real-life stunt and one of the more cleverly heroic action sequences youll see anywhere.

Best moment: Killmongers dream. This is the best scene in the MCU so far. Everything about it, from the acting and writing, to the music and editing, even the set design, is perfect.

This is thebest Iron Man movieso far, thanks to a sharp, hilarious script and strong character work. With Tony Stark out of the armor for most of the running time, the film really has time to dig deep into who this guy really is.

Its funny, its weird, its creative and completely entertaining.

The villains are credible and intimidating and the final fight with Aldrich Killian is one of the best comic fights of all time. The film is diabolical in its ability to make the audience think its going one direction only to turn a cliche or trope on its ear, with mostly hilarious results.

Best moment:The airport fight is a comic book superhero fight scene come to life. Not just in the action, but maybe even more in the characterization and banter. It has never been done as well as it is here.

Still, even if youve only a passing familiarity with thes series, theres still enough funny, spectacle, and suspense to sate your summer movie blockbuster hunger. And a fairly straightforward plot means its unlikely youll be too lost.

Best moment:The team comes together to share their pain in the overwhelming power of the Infinity Stone. It still makes me tear up.

Paul Rudd is perfect as Ant-Man, and the movie showcases his powers and heroism, making you care about why he becomes a hero. I love this movie. Never thought Id ever get the chance to say that about a film about a guy who can shrink down really small and talk to ants.

The First Avengeris a 1940s-style war film thats part Indiana Jones, partThe Rocketeer– and all heart.

Theres so much richness here. So much to unpack. This is Marvel Studios at its most mature. How ironic that it was its youngest director that brought it to fruition.

Nearly every aspect is top-notch. Writing, acting, set design, editing and costumes. But most important are the characters. You could easily make an awesome Okoye, Shuri, Nakia or MBaku movie.

Best moment:Steve doesnt hesitate one second to jump on a grenade in order to protect his fellow soldiers. One of the best acts of self sacrifice Ive ever seen in a movie.

The film takes some really far-fetched leaps of logic (the solution to the arc reactor problem is just silly) and many of the narrative decisions dont come from character, but instead feel like theyre shoehorned in to fit where the filmmakers wanted the movie to end.

Best moment: The whole sequence that begins with Father and Son is payoff after payoff and completely wrecks me.

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This film contains the best character work of any of the previous movies. Not everyone gets an interesting arc (sorry, Thor) but pretty much every Avenger is confronted with intriguing character challenges that are handled in the most elegant way.

Still, Tom Hiddleston is completely dialed in here as Loki and is easily the most interesting character of the bunch. It looks great — there are some awesome and inventive action sequences. Its just too bad that Thor the character gets lost somewhere along the way. Hopefully he gets a much better run at it in 2017sThor: Ragnarok.

Best moment:The single tracking shot of superhero teamwork bliss I thought Id never live to see captured in live-action.

To say that this is the best Thor movie is not saying enough. To say that this is the best version of the Thor character in any movie (including the first two Avengers) is still not saying enough.

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Best moment: Thors entrance into a certain battle is a thing Ive waited my entire life to see.

Best moment: In his battle with Malekith, Thor is teleported from Earth to an entirely different planet without his trusty hammer, Mjolnir. The weapon (which always comes to him when he beckons it) beelines out of Earths atmosphere on a course to meet the mighty Asgardian light years away.

And yet, here it is in my top 10. Its one of those low-key movies that just keeps getting better.

Theres so much character depth here, its almost staggering. Story arcs are interwoven between multiple characters and everything matters. Every scene and every line seems to have meaning behind it. And Im not even going to go into the amazing effects, editing, action scenes and acting. If you thought the filmmakers used 70s and 80s pop music effectively in the first movie, this is on another level. The first Guardians had catchier tunes, but the ones in the sequel have much more meaning.

The third Captain America movie,Civil War, takes the pure popcorn fun of the first Avengers movie, adds the grittiness of The Winter Soldier and bathes it in the character depth of Age of Ultron. I got everything I wanted from this movie. Black Panther and Spider-Man are perfectly represented and woven seamlessly into the central conflict.

Imagine living in a reality where this didnt work. Where all the pieces failed to come together in such a rousing, entertaining way. Despite all the problems in this world, if theres one thing Im grateful for its thatThe Avengersexists in the same universe I do.


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