Marvel Films Ranked from Worst to Best

By Brenden Bell

Whether you like it or not, you have to admit..Marvel Studios’ groundbreaking, cross-platform film continuity approach to creative storytelling is a resounding success.

So much so, Warner Bros is trying to create their own movie universe with the DC comics, Universal is creating their monster movie universe, and Fox is attempting an X-men filmverse.

Before we kick off this year’s newest additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 next week here in Australia, let’s take a look back at the 14 previously released films as I definitively rank them from worst to best.

14. The Incredible Hulk

The worst MCU film by a mile and the only one in the bunch that I would grudgingly say is probably a bad movie.

There’s a lot that bothered me about this movie, but more than the bad Hulk design, or the negative chemistry between Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, was tying the unleashing of the Hulk to Bruce Banner’s elevated heart rate.

Bruce’s psychology and his relationship with the Hulk is a complicated one. A complexity better explored in Ang Lee’s 2003 film, which is saying something. To diminish all the complexity to a heart rate felt like a cop out and a disservice to such a beloved character.

His heart rate has never been brought up in the Hulk’s subsequent appearances in the MCU, and I’m looking forward to them keeping it that way.


13. Avengers: Age of Ultron

There is some great action, character moments, a great running joke about Thor’s hammer, and some great new characters in this entry.

However, from its wise-crack a minute approach to dialogue to its overcooked thematic material, this film is tonally all over the place. The end product was muddled and forgettable, passable through the charm of its actors alone.


12. Iron Man 2

Making the internal conflict in this film Tony’s potential death through illness was this film’s biggest sin for me. I never believed he was in danger, because he was obviously going to be in The Avengers movie coming out the next year. This will be even more obvious to future audiences as he is clearly in MCU films following this entry.

As a result, the tension in the story was minimal, and the emotional impact was low.

While Don Cheadle is a great recast of Col. Rhodes, and Scarlett Johansson is a welcome addition to the MCU, the story feels undercooked and leaves you wanting.


11. & 10. Thor & Thor: The Dark World

Both have their virtues and pitfalls on an individual level, but on the whole I see them as essentially the same: fun space operas with genuine heart.

While, they are light on story and complexity, and criminally underutilise Natalie Portman as a lovestruck physicist, They do also introduce the MCU’s greatest and most complicated villain to date…Loki.

They are not for everyone, but are a fun way to spend a boring Saturday.


9. Ant-Man

Ant-Man is a great movie trapped in narrative cliches and a story bogged down by mountains of exposition.

The three leads offer enough pathos to keep the story interesting, bolstered by some truly spectacular visuals, it helps you overlook the cookie-cutter villain and mediocre side characters, as well as the not so subtle Avengers shoe-horn.

It’s passable, but leaves you wondering what Edgar Wright’s version would’ve been like.


8. Captain America: The First Avenger

While the narrative isn’t as satisfying as the premise promised, and the character of Captain America is perhaps a bit too perfect for audiences to identify with, the film still manages to be entertaining and engaging in spite of its flaws.

It features my favorite Marvel lady, the great Hayley Atwell in the role of Peggy Carter, in a fun piece of pulp fiction filled with great production design and wardrobe from the World War II era.


7. Doctor Strange

Under the direction of horror director, Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange manages to fall into every MCU cliche (forgettable villain, too much exposition, nothing ever feels at stake, meaningless female love interest), but somehow still feels fresh. Partly because they gathered a collection of incredible actors, partly because it’s the first MCU film to deal with magic, and partly because of its surreal visuals and unique final battle.

It’s a highly entertaining film, and one I would definitely recommend.


6. Iron Man

The one that started it all! A well-written and near perfectly cast introduction into the world of Marvel through one of its more privileged citizens, Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr. gives the performance of his career here, which perfectly blends genuine heart and emotion with entertainment and action.

The story hiccups for a moment in the cliche final battle between Iron Man and Iron Mongerer, but it by no means make it any less worth a watch.


5. Iron Man 3

Shane Black was a perfect choice for writer and director for this final Iron Man film, creating a highly stylized, comic action thriller. The story isn’t profound, but coherent, and is brought to life by a fantastic cast of characters and some truly winning dialogue.

This movie gets a lot of hate because of the Mandarin twist, which I think would’ve made me angry if I was a huge fan of the comics, but since I was wasn’t, I found it hilarious.


4. Captain American: Civil War

Perhaps a bit overstuffed and confusing, but still highly affective and HIGHLY entertaining.

It introduces Black Panther and Spider-Man to the MCU, redeems some pointless characters from earlier films (Scarlet Witch and Vision), while jumping full force into themes which should have been brought up more in previous films (superhero collateral damage).  

This film is a finely tuned machine that manages to give every character their moment to shine. The filmmakers wisely made the stakes in this film emotional, personal and relational. As a result, the battles meant something to me as a viewer and were filled with dread. I knew everyone would physically survive, but I didn’t know if their relationships would.


3. The Avengers

There has been no film like it in the history of comic book films. The experiment of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe was about to supremely payoff or massively bomb with the Joss Whedon’s 2012 film.

Thankfully they succeeded.

Finding that fine line between camp and genuine human behaviour, Joss Whedon does what he does best; taking us on an exhilarating adventure with characters we fall in love with instantly. It’s a movie I could watch on repeat and still enjoy it. Highly recommend.


2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I expected nothing out of this movie when I saw it and had the pleasure of watching not only one of the best MCU films, but one of the greatest action films period. Every action sequence in this film is memorable and well executed, while never feeling out of place or taking away from the story.

In my book this is a near perfect movie, but still just shy of the greatest MCU film of all time.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy

I didn’t know what to expect from this movie, and even as Chris Pratt began to dance around a deserted planet with this walkman, I was still not sure how I felt.

What truly made this film stand out from the others, beyond the cosmic setting, fantastic costumes and makeup, and great writing, is it’s the most complete and self-contained narrative in the entire MCU. It’s one of the only MCU films that felt like an end in and of itself rather than simply a means to an end with a pay off down the track.

The themes were primal, the characters were relatable, and their growing family of freaks and weirdos felt like an authentic anchoring for the story.

What’d you think? How does it compare to your own lists? Let me know in the comments section below.



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