With the impending release of ‘Black Panther’ later this week, the writers here at Def Pen all huddled together to create our list of the Top 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe films up to now. The films will include everything released before ‘Black Panther’ and will exclude Marvel films that did not take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Honorable Mentions: Ant-Man and The Incredible Hulk
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger is technically the first movie you should watch if you wanted to do a Marvel Movie marathon (Chronologically), and it offers an interesting take on the beginning of the MCU’s first Avenger. This was the movie that we were introduced to Chris Evans version of America’s superhero and he did not disappoint. The movie that was set in WW2 times had Cap’ going at it against the Red Skull and the beginnings of Hydra (which as we know now) has a big part to play in Captain America’s story arc. Other than setting up a bunch of other cool storylines for Marvel to adapt (like Bucky and the Winter Soldier), the movie had a bunch of great action scenes and a great storyline that connected it to all other movies in the MCU.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2
The original Guardian’s of the Galaxy came in like a wrecking ball when it was released back in 2014. The film vastly outperformed expectations and was the closest thing to an original space-opera we’d seen in decades. The sequel however opened huge as expected but was criticized for being too similar to the first film. While the sequel certainly had its shining moments it paled in comparison to its predecessor. That being said, that doesn’t make the movie bad. While it’s certainly not as good as volume one it is easily better than some of the other films in the MCU overall. Plus, who doesn’t love baby groot?
8. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange was by far the visually daring film in the MCU thus far. The film went full on ‘Inception’ with its interpretation of the multiverse. Coupled with a fantastic portrayal of The Sorcerer Supreme by Benedict Cumberbatch. The film’s shortcomings were few and far between but the narrative of the story did closely mirror other origin stories that have come before it in the MCU. Doctor Stange is set up to be a key player in the MCU moving forward and hopefully, we can get a sequel that can build upon the very intriguing universe that was set up in this film.
7. Iron Man
2008 was the most influential year for superhero cinema in the history of the genre thus far. That summer gave us the kick start of the MCU with ‘Iron Man’ as well as Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’. While ‘Iron Man’ was certainly not up to the standards of ‘The Dark Knight’ in terms of quality, it’s arguably become more important as it’s aged. The film single handily created the biggest connected franchise of films that Hollywood has ever seen. As well as relaunching the career of one of Hollywood’s best, but most troubled talents. The action, the acting and the narrative structure of the film were all very new at the time and could have very easily gone wrong. While there have been better film’s in the MCU post Iron-Man, the film is arguably the most important super-hero film of all-time.
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming
When Spider-Man was introduced into the MCU in ‘Civil War’, I was reluctant to give my full approval for Tom Holland’s version of the web-slinging superhero. However, when I watched Homecoming (which is a version of Peter Parker we have yet to see on the feature film side of things) I realized that he was absolutely perfect for this role. I grew up on Tobey Maguire’s version of Spidey, but Holland’s younger spin on the character made for a perfect ‘Highschool superhero’ type movie. Not only that but it was hilarious and for that reason it ends up in the top 10.
5. Thor: Ragnarok
It took 3 tries but Thor and his hammer finally got a good movie. Thor Ragnarok was arguably the best movie out of the Thor trilogy mainly because of 2 things; It’s humour & the addition of Planet Hulk and the Hulk in general. Marvel has tried (unsuccessfully) numerous times to reboot the Hulk franchise but they gave it a real shot with Mark Ruffalo in Ragnarok. It was the best CGI for the green monster in years and he finally talked! As for the movie itself, the buddy adventure that included Loki and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and Thor facing off against his sister Hela, the goddess of death, truly was an enjoyable ride, even though it ended in disaster for Asgard. You can’t have Jeff Goldblum in a movie and it failing, it just doesn’t happen.
4. The Avengers
In order to fully understand the scope and importance of what ‘The Avengers’ meant for the future of blockbuster filmmaking you truly have to be of a certain age. It’s easy to look back and nitpick things in the film as I have tirelessly, though I’ve never forgotten just how special a moment this was in the cinema. Ever since they teased that an Avenger’s film might be on the way during the first MCU post-credits scene attached to Iron Man back in 2008 my views on blockbuster filmmaking were changed. This was before The Dark Knight, and after a slog of early 2000’s superhero films that were mostly sub-par. After being pleasantly surprised by what I just saw in Iron Man, the thought that they were actually going to try to build a massive multi-part universe. Where all of the films were interconnected was truly a colossal mind fuck. While the end product might have left something to be desired in retrospect, the first true culmination of this massive undertaking was truly a movie-going experience I’ll never forget.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Hard as it might be to believe now, prior to release, this was seen as a very risky move for any studio to take and there were numerous questions. Were the comic and characters too obscure? Was James Gunn the right person to trust? Would it be any good? As it turns out, there was no cause to worry. Though considered an unconventional choice by some, Gunn was able to deliver a fantastic space adventure with great humor, heartfelt characters, exciting action, and the proper tone to balance it all out. It also took full advantage of its interplanetary settings and offered some truly memorable Easter eggs.
2. Captain America: Civil War
The 3rd instalment in the Captain America franchise should really have been called an Avengers movie. It includes most of the whole gang, other than Thor and Hulk (who we know were busy on Ragnarok) and truly creates a divide or a ‘civil’ war between the Avengers. With Captain America taking Bucky’s side and the world looking to hold the Avenger’s accountable for their actions, tensions grow between Cap’ and Tony Stark. There’s a truly amazing action scene in an airport and there is a plot twist at the end of the movie that will shock you, so what else could you really ask from a movie? The reason this movie is so high on the list is because it puts a bunch of different storylines into one film (even introducing the Black Panther) and does so gracefully.
1. Captain America: The Winter Solider
Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ is our pick for the best MCU film to date. This was the only unanimous decision when we were compiling all of our lists and for good reason. The Winter Soldier elevated the MCU into the realm of cinematic seriousness that few comic book films had reached previously. The film managed to maintain the fun-loving aspects of the MCU while simultaneously crafting a narrative that we hadn’t seen since Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy. Coupled with an emphasis on hand to hand combat and practical effects, The Winter Soldier’s spot at the top of the MCU is safe until at least Friday when ‘Black Panther’ debuts in theatres.