There’s only around a week to go until Avengers: Infinity War is set to smash its way into cinemas as arguably the biggest movie of all time. It’s the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has built elegantly for 10 years en route to this gargantuan spectacle, which will pit Earth’s mightiest heroes against the mad titan Thanos, who is searching for the six Infinity Stones. With that in mind, now is a good time to spotlight the best movies Marvel has put out to date.
Along with my co-hosts on The Popcorn Muncher Podcast – Luke and Patrick – I listed my top five movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. We’ve awarded points for the rankings, crunched the numbers and here are, according to the three of us, the best movies that Marvel’s superhero franchise has unleashed so far.
8. Thor: Ragnarok (1 pt)
Luke said: “At the time of its release, I said that Ragnarok is disposable, and it is, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s some of the most fun you will have watching a comic book movie. Waititi’s movie is a unique entry to the Marvel canon and probably the first movie to get Thor’s tone spot on. It also brought us Korg.”
7. Captain America: The First Avenger (2 pts)
Chris Evans staked his claim to being the best Chris in the Marvel family when he appeared in this 2011 origin story, which was the film leading straight into the initial Avengers team-up.
Luke said: “From the difficult pre-Avengers albums of origin stories, Cap’s first outing remains his best, and indeed has not yet been matched in Marvel origin stories. Despite concerns at the time of anti-American sentiment harming the movie, this is the closest the MCU has come to that origin feeling of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man.”
6. Black Panther (3 pts)
Patrick said: “The sets, the costumes, the characters, everything is so inspired, it really is awe-inspiring. It even combats one of Marvel’s biggest criticisms with a truly memorable villain, brilliantly weaved into the internal struggles of Wakanda.”
Tom said: “This about as innovative as the Marvel formula can be, with a unique tone, a compelling world and a refreshing lack of franchise inter-connectivity.”
5. Captain America: Civil War (4 pts)
In a story that features so many MCU characters that it could well be called Avengers 2.5, this film sees the character arcs of the various Marvel heroes come full circle, with their competing ideologies clashing over potential state intervention in their work. However, it remains a film focused upon Cap, with his relationships to Bucky Barnes and Tony Stark forming the epicentre of the story. Full review.
Tom said: “People often criticise the MCU for the formula it follows, but Civil War is something very different and very special. As well as delivering some of the best action scenes in the entire franchise, it delves deeply into the various characters and uncovers the divides inherent within any team made up of heroes who, while united in favour of good over evil, have enormously different ideological perspectives.”
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (6 pts)
It was always going to be difficult to follow up the shock hit of the MCU. James Gunn‘s first Guardians of the Galaxy movie caught everyone by surprise, so it was interesting to see if lightning could strike twice. Gunn somehow pulled it off, exploring the characters in greater detail and pitting Star Lord against his father, who just so happens to be an all-powerful celestial being played by Kurt Russell. That’s how you make Christmas dinner awkward. Full review.
Tom said: “There’s a cigarette paper of quality between the two Guardians movies but, for me, the sequel does a tremendous job of building upon everything that made the first film entertaining. Ego is a definite trade-up from the blandness of Ronan the Accuser and the comedy is high energy throughout, whether from Drax or, of course, Baby Groot. Now, all that remains is to see whether the Guardians can retain their magic when they join the rest of the MCU.”
Patrick said: “This is pretty much a perfect sequel. It builds on all of the character threads from the first movie, makes show stealing roles for its supporting cast and is just an absolute blast. Dave Bautista is even funnier as Drax, the relationships and characteristics of Gamora and Nebula are more developed, Yondu and Rocket complement their arcs perfectly and Star Lord gets to grow up a little. Gunn hits it out of the park once again.”
3. Guardians of the Galaxy (7 pts)
Perhaps the first big risk Marvel took following The Avengers, they hired genre filmmaker James Gunn to take on an obscure roster of comic book characters for a story taking place in a far-flung, cosmic corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s the movie that first explained the Infinity Stones in proper and comprehensive detail, but it also gave us the unique spectacle of a dance-off being a key portion of the third act action sequence in a Marvel film. Full review.
Patrick said: “After watching Guardians for the first time, I really thought it had the potential to be Star Wars for a new generation. That may be hyperbolic, but this is still a phenomenal movie. While the other MCU movies are criticised for their bland, formulaic tone, this stood out with a distinct tone and aesthetic brought to the endeavour by James Gunn. Chris Pratt transformed from schlubby sitcom comic relief to movie megastar thanks to this film, which is a testament to his performance and the production as a whole.”
Luke said: “Just as Marvel was getting tired, it cast Chris Pratt as an action lead and filled a movie with absolute musical bangers. Sure, it never quite managed to follow it up, but how can you follow up a movie with so much originality, within the necessary Marvel conventions, and so much fun packed into every scene? For introducing us to Dave Bautista as an actor, this belongs near the top of any list.”
1=. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (11 pts)
It’s easy to forget how significant The Winter Soldier was for the MCU when it showed up back in 2014, but it deserves to share the top spot on this list. Everything in the universe was up-ended by the reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been compromised by HYDRA for as long as we have been aware of the organisation, building a massive Trojan Horse within the Marvel world. It’s also significant, of course, for being the film that let the Russo Brothers into the universe, which would subsequently see them direct Civil War and, now, Avengers: Infinity War. Full review.
Tom said: “This is both a superhero movie and a political thriller, which is a combination that should never have come together in a way as memorable and accomplished as this. The action sequences are bruising and intense in a way that we had never seen in the MCU before and Chris Evans really sells the emotion of a man forced to question everything he has believed in.”
Luke said: “The greatest comic book movie of all time when it came out is still the greatest today. No other franchise comic book movie manages to be as honed as this, while still delivering drama, laughs, emotion, social commentary and the best hand-to-hand combat outside of a John Wick or Raid film. Evans cemented himself as one of the all time great action leads in this movie and it all fits nicely within an extended universe. “
Patrick said: “This is not just a great superhero movie, it really cemented Cap as my favourite hero in the MCU. At a time when Man of Steel had forgotten that Superman is supposed to actually save people, or even care about them, Cap became the moral absolute that was the perfect antithesis. Add to that a great Marvel version of the action espionage genre and huge sweeping changes to the MCU status quo and you have something truly special.”
1=. The Avengers (11 pts)
Sharing the top spot with Cap is the movie that brought all of the most powerful heroes – and Hawk Eye – together for the first time. Joss Whedon performed the incredible alchemy required to pull all of these disparate parts into a coherent whole and he solved the villain problem by simply bringing back Tom Hiddleston, who was already beloved after his appearance in the first Thor movie.
Tom said: “This is, by quite some distance, the best movie in the MCU and one of the best superhero films ever made. It brings together all of the heroes, delivering some A-grade quips between the characters and revelling in the inherent joy of seeing these various icons share the screen. Then, when it explodes into action, it has enough spectacle to fill ten ordinary movies, with room to spare.”
Luke said: “The first superhero team-up is still the most definitive, and probably the only good one. Whedon managed to blend some of the best action spectacle ever seen in an ambitious narrative that brought together several disparate elements many, including me, didn’t think would work.”
Patrick said: “This nails what it had to be – a fun blowout after a four-year build up on one of the largest scales undertaken by a major studio. It truly is a blast and still fun to watch again. It’s light on plot but goes all in on the character interaction and action which needed to be the focus. All of the main cast are on top form and Hiddleston lit the fire of 1,000 Tumblr accounts with his brilliant return to the Loki character.”
And here are our full lists. For our weekly reviews and chat, check out the podcast. If you want to yell at us for what we have chosen or indeed what we haven’t chosen, feel free to pop down to the comments section and scream your heart out.
Cap: Civil War
Cap: Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Cap: Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Cap: First Avenger
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Guardians of the Galaxy
Cap: Winter Soldier