It’s almost been exactly ten years since the MCU kicked off and the climax is round the corner. Time for a ranking? Yes, we thought so too.
Let us know your favourites in the comments!
1. Captain America: Civil War (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2016) ★★★★
Give or take the odd overblown inter-hero battling, Civil War is as perfect as they come. Here, the political beats of The Winter Soldier get an injection of real-world consequence to thrilling effect.
2. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018) ★★★★
Once you set aside the talk of cultural impact, take a moment to appreciate just how terrific Black Panther really is. Distinctive characters, unforced humour and solid action are juggled perfectly throughout while emotional resonance is key.
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2014) ★★★★
Bucking the odds, Captain America’s second outing left his first in the dust. The Russo’s new political layer gives this one a real edge on the pack.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014) ★★★★
There’s an urban myth that says nobody predicted Guardians of the Galaxy would be the success it was. We disagree. With Parks and Rec‘s Chris Pratt in the lead we were always excited. Gunn’s penchant for a vintage soundtrack, however, has a lot to answer for in the face of many subsequent imitations.
5. Avengers Assemble (Joss Whedon, 2012) ★★★★
This first assembly was unprecedented when it first hit cinemas but set a tone that would define its era. Avengers Assemble is a near-perfect, high-octane blast.
6. Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013) ★★★★
How do you follow a multi-super extravaganza? With an epilogue that is every bit as light and witty but infused with hints of consequence.
7. Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008) ★★★★
The inspired casting of a pre-blockbuster Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role allowed Iron Man to overcome a typical formula and kick start Phase One in style.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, 2017) ★★★★
Being the third Spider-Man franchise to launch within fifteen-years, what’s amazing about this Spidey is just how fresh it all feels. A fun turn by Tom Holland is matched by a cracking Michael Keaton.
9. Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011) ★★★★
Charismatic leads helped Branagh achieve the impossible in 2011. Thor is an interplanetary superhero romp with a Shakespearean tone that actually works rather well.
10. Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016) ★★★★
With its formulaic and forgettable plot, Doctor Strange ought to be lower down on this list. The reason it isn’t lies in some glorious visuals and all-in performances. No sign of a sequel yet though.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (James Gunn, 2017) ★★★★
Going against the grain, the second Guardians film had lower-key stakes than its predecessor. Instead, Gunn focussed on upping the humour, the chromatics and the character count. A lot of pleasingly humanised fun but very chaotic.
12. Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi) ★★★
The third MCU feature to hit cinemas in 2017 continued a year of lightweight super-fun. It’s hard not to feel that this one is just a tone-balancing stabiliser for the heavier Infinity War.
13. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015) ★★★
The second and most-recent Avengers film struggled to juggle its character load. A terrific villain, voiced by James Spader, was a plus but the plot let him down.
14. Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015) ★★★
If Ant-Man had never been made, this list would be one shorter but no different. A fine outing and a neat showpiece for Rudd.
15. Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010) ★★★
A so-so sequel – fun while it lasts, forgotten when it ends – Iron Man 2 is boosted by the promisingly elastic debut of Johannsson.
16. Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnston, 2011) ★★★
For all the fun here, not to mention some delightful retro vibes, the Cap’s first outing can’t overcome the blandness of its hero and the hamminess of the villains.
17. The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008) ★★★
There’s a joke in Game Night in which Jason Bateman is trying to get his friends to guess ‘Ed Norton’ in Articulate. He says: ‘the Hulk’ and they say basically every actor who has ever played the green giant except Norton. This one gets a bad wrap and deserves reassessment. It’s not a Hulk smash but it has its moments.
18. Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013) ★★
Never recovering from its dire opening, Thor 2 is saved only by the abundant charisma of its leads – who aren’t given nearly enough to do.