Movies

Counting Down the Best Marvel Movies

Since Iron Man was released in 2008, Marvel has strung together a run of quality films on such a consistent basis, they’ve become the envy of Hollywood, with every studio that has some kind of comic book property rushing to build their own universe in the hopes of having an Avengers size hit on their hands. With Captain America: The Winter Soldier releasing Friday and the very interesting Guardians of the Galaxy coming in August, now is as good a time as any to take stock of Marvel’s cinematic entries, and how they stack up with each other.

The Avengers

1. The Avengers (2012)

Duh. Seriously, how could Avengers not be No. 1? One of the biggest films of all time, Writer-Director Joss Whedon took everything that was great about the individual Marvel films, added to that, then topped it off with a climax so large it’s almost ruined the big climaxes in all other comic book films. Since, Marvel has  focused more on character than action, a wise move on their part. The scariest thing? Avengers: Age of Ultron looks to be even bigger.

2. Iron Man (2008)

Jon Favreau’s first Iron Man entry still remains the cream of the crop among Marvel’s non-Avengers films. Robert Downey Jr. became the biggest star on the planet playing Tony Stark, a role so perfectly suited to the actor it’s a wonder it didn’t happen earlier. Jeff Bridges’s villain is so-so, but Iron Man is about Tony Stark, focusing on the playboy’s maturation into Iron Man.

Captain America

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The First Avenger was full of nostalgia, but more on that film later. The Winter Soldier puts the noble, heroic Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in modern day America, right in the middle of a S.H.I.E.L.D. organization run rampant with corruption. It’s a fantastic dichotomy, seeing the clash between Rogers and the cynical present day. Despite a little too much shaky cam during the action sequences, The Winter Soldier improves on it’s predecessor in almost every way. That says a lot, considering…

4. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The First Avenger is a good movie in it’s own right. The first half of the film outshines the second, which is burdened by mandatory action, but Evans strikes the perfect amount of earnestness in his portrayal, making Rogers literally the All-American Boy everybody wants to root for. The effects, most notably a pre-Captain America Rogers, are fantastic, and Red Skull is a pretty cool villain too. The fun part about The First Avenger? Spotting all of the up-and-coming actresses in it. Hayley Atwell steals the show as Peggy Carter, but blink and you’ll miss Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer and Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman in bit parts.

5. Iron Man 3 (2013)

A lot of people are torn over Iron Man 3. Some feel director Shane Black influenced it too much with his trademark snark, others are enraged at the big Mandarin reveal, and yet some hate the parts with the little kid. Two things: Black’s snark is perfect for both Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr., and anyone still sore about Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin should watch the One-Shot All Hail the King. As for the bit with the kid? I got nothing. Iron Man 3 marks a return to form for the Iron Man series after the disappointing Iron Man 2, choosing to focus more on Stark than Iron Man. It doesn’t reach the heights of the original Iron Man, but it’s still a fun comic book movie, which is all anyone can really ask for, right?

Thor

6. Thor (2011)

After his fantastic cameo in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, Chris Hemsworth immediately graduated to the big leagues with Thor, a solid but unspectacular entry in the Marvel universe. Hemsworth is right at home as Thor, as is Anthony Hopkins as Odin. It didn’t really break any new ground, except for one thing: Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who proved so popular he became the main villain in The Avengers. Loki is such a fun villain he should be in all of the Marvel films, or even star in his own sitcom, called Loki & Friends.

7. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hulk is like the forgotten child in the Marvel universe. It was released through Universal, unlike the others, who came out through Paramount, before Disney bought up the rights. Even the film’s Bruce Banner, Edward Norton, was replaced in The Avengers by Mark Ruffalo. Not that Norton is bad as Banner (he’s not, at all), but Ruffalo nails the anger boiling just under the surface of the character. The Incredible Hulk is still an entertaining, albeit forgettable Marvel film. Hopefully, Ruffalo will get a chance to make a standalone Hulk film.

Iron Man 2

8. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Whither, Iron Man 2? Oh, what could have been. There’s two fantastic villains in Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash, but Iron Man 2 suffers from too much identity crisis. Is it supposed to set up The Avengers? Is it a sequel to Iron Man? What should it be? While the editors ran around with their hair on fire trying to figure out the answer, a superior opening sequence was shelved (it’s hard to find, but worth it. Would’ve changed the entire film), and silly, unneccessary action sequences found their way into the movie. Iron Man 2 has it’s moments, but mostly it’s just a wasted opportunity at something truly great.

9. Thor: The Dark World (2012)

Thor: The Dark World has by far the worst villain of any Marvel film in Malekith, who spits out dialogue every other second-rate villain has said in second-rate movies. Then again, that’s the problem with The Dark World. Nothing in it feels fresh. The scenes on Thor’s home world are too similar to The Phantom Menace and even Loki isn’t used to full potential. A complete mis-fire in every possible way, and Marvel’s only true clunker.

What do you think of our list of Marvel movies? Which one was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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The Author

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill

Ryan Hill used to spend his time writing screenplays into a notebook instead of doing homework. That love of film and all things storytelling led him to spend most of his time writing. He's been a film critic in North Carolina for over five years, and his debut novel, THE BOOK OF BART, is out now. Please buy it. Ryan also feels odd about referring to himself in the third person.