THE MARVEL UNIVERSE — After wading through months of bad movie after bad movie with a decent one popping its head up from time to time, we’re finally on the cusp of the summer movie season.
Kicking off the 2015 season is what will most likely be one of the highest-grossing and most talked about films of the year, “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
The second installation of the Avengers team-up films and the 11th film from Marvel studios hits theaters on May 1, and the buzz is loud and constant. Solid reviews are already coming in and fans have been dressed in their Captain America suits for weeks now just counting down the days.
In an effort to whet your appetite and undoubtedly make a lot of you Marvel fanatics angry beyond belief, we’ve decided to rank the films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe from worst to best.
This is obviously an objective list and not definitive, but if you don’t agree with me you’re crazy. I’m kidding, of course, and the purpose of this is to watch some of you squirm with contempt for me and my list, but mainly to get a discussion going about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Be aware that this list only covers the what is known as the MCU, which started with “Iron Man” in 2008 and the latest release, sans “Age of Ultron,” being “Guardians of the Galaxy.” So if anyone asks where “Daredevil” or any of the X-Men movies are we’ll just ignore you, because they were not made by Marvel studios and not considered part of the MCU.
That’s enough setup; let’s get started. Here are the 10 films released by Marvel studios ranked worst to best.
When “Thor” released in 2011 it had a lot going for it. The film had an intriguing character that most people had heard about but didn’t really know. It had a solid cast with the likes of Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman as well as veteran actor Stellan Skarsgard and intriguing newcomer Chris Hemsworth.
Then we saw the movie and all that excitement was drained.
Sure, some audiences liked the film, but when broken down “Thor” was little more than the equivalent of a pilot episode of a Thor TV show on basic cable. Yes, the budget was higher, but the plot, story progression and character development were mediocre at best.
The movie threw continuity right out the window and it felt like a rush job to introduce the character so he could join up with the Avengers a year later.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” was a hard pill to swallow. The film started off so strong with the origin story of a skinny kid from Brooklyn who had the courage of a hero but the body of a child. The narrative was engaging and the story moved along with intrigue and depth. Then the USO tour happened and the ship sunk.
The movie quickly transformed from mesmerizing to laughable. Things started happening just because, simply to move the story forward, but they made absolutely no sense. I mean, Steve was a smart guy; he had to know there were more options than to crash the plane into the water. I’m literally shaking my head as I write this and think about it.
The only reason “Captain America: The First Avenger” ranks above “Thor” is purely because the first act of the film was so strong. Well, that and it didn’t have the Rainbow Bridge track from Mario Kart in it. It did, however, have a villain that more closely resembled Snidely Whiplash than a Nazi bent on power.
I’m sorry, Thor fans, but both of his solo movies are in the bottom three.
While “Thor: The Dark World” was an improvement on the original, it was still a stale, distant and disjointed film. The humor was solid and it is hard to not like Tom Hiddleston as Loki. One of the main problems with both Thor films is the fact that certain rules are set up and then blatantly broken and ignored later in the movies.
Fans like to chalk up all the inconsistencies to the fact that Thor is a god, but if that’s true I chalk it up to lazy scriptwriting and moviemaking. These examples are too rampant to list here; we don’t have that kind of time or word count. Just suffice it to say some fun jokes and flashy visuals can’t save a mediocre film.
7. Iron Man 2
Spots seven and six on the list are nearly interchangeable with “Iron Man 2” and “Iron Man 3.” Both films have their merit and Robert Downey Jr., which makes them instantly watchable, but overall they aren’t great films.
Let’s start with “Iron Man 2.”
I loved the addition of Sam Rockwell and it was even nice to see some more of Jon Favreau — not to mention this was our introduction to the fan-favorite character Black Widow. With all of this going for it, the film still fell flat in a lot of areas.
Downey Jr. was solid and entertaining as always, but Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko was laughable at times and the pacing of the film was sporadic and sloppy. The film had its moments, but overall was a letdown considering where the Iron Man series started.
6. Iron Man 3
“Iron Man 3” is just a hair above “Iron Man 2,” and that’s strictly based off entertainment value. The film is more of a comedy than anything else with jokes and sight gags by the minute.
The film itself is well paced, but let’s be honest with ourselves about that ending. The final battle with all the Iron Man suits forced eyes to roll all over the country, and the fight between Pepper and Killian was awkward and out of place. I had no issue with Pepper being the heroine, but it just didn’t fit.
The fact that “Iron Man 3” is really just a superhero remake of “Lethal Weapon” doesn’t help either. You have the by-the-book authority figure (Don Cheadle/Danny Glover) teamed up with the unpredictable and charismatic wildcard (Robert Downey Jr./Mel Gibson) and they try to bring down a ring backed by a wealthy villain in Los Angeles during Christmas. We also have the partners infiltrating a mansion in the Hollywood hills filled with bad guys as well as a finale that takes place on the docks amongst shipping containers. (Granted, the shipping dock finale is from “Lethal Weapon 2” and not the first one.)
The real kicker is the fact that the man who wrote “Lethal Weapon” and “Lethal Weapon 2” was Shane Black, the same man who co-wrote and directed “Iron Man 3.”
People tend to forget that “The Incredible Hulk” starring Edward Norton was released just after “Iron Man” in 2008 and is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The movie isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s a lot better than people give it credit for and while I like Mark Ruffalo, Norton was a solid Bruce Banner.
When you compare “The Incredible Hulk” to other Hulk movies it’s far superior and actually creates a superhero we can really cheer for. The movie has some serious missteps, but it’s good enough to be high on this list and deserves another look.
4. The Avengers
There are plenty of people who will have “The Avengers” in the top spot on this list, but we have it here at No. 4 and we’re confortable with it there.
“The Avengers” is fun, funny and entertaining, and to its credit it’s likely the best superhero team-up movie to date. Joss Whedon did an excellent job of giving big characters adequate screen time while remembering who the star was.
The movie is a spectacle and despite your best efforts you can’t help but have fun. With all of that said, it’s still not the strongest of the bunch. When you really break it down not a lot happens, and remember the plot holes I mentioned about “Thor”? Well, “The Avengers” isn’t far behind.
Despite its fun nature and fancy special effects the film as a whole isn’t very well constructed and executed. Argue all you like, but at the end of the day “The Avengers” is a lot of flash and not a lot of substance. If that’s what Whedon and his team were going for then they knocked it out of the park.
Considering the mess that “Captain America: The First Avenger” was I walked into “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” with the same enthusiasm as walking into an appointment for a root canal. What I got instead of numbing and torturous pain was an entertaining and action-packed movie.
The gap between “Winter Soldier” and No. 2 and No. 1 on this list is a fairly big one, but “Winter Soldier” was a massive improvement over its predecessor and again — I can’t stress this enough — it was fun.
The action was strong and intriguing and the humor wasn’t over the top, but interjected in just the right places. Don’t misunderstand, this movie is no great cinematic feat, but it is a fun popcorn flick that’s exactly what a good time at movies is all about.
The strangest and riskiest film in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe is no doubt “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The movie is a bizarre sci-fi flick that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. For those that do like this particular brand of hot beverage, it will be one of the most entertaining movies you’ll ever see.
There were a lot of great movies in 2014, but I’m not sure I had more fun in the theater last year than when I watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” for the first time. Chris Pratt proved he can carry his own film and Bradley Copper gave one of the best voice performances I’ve heard in a long time.
The movie had a solid enough story and it kept you interested to find out more, but at the end of the day “Guardians” is just a fun, irreverent and unique movie that is tailor-made for multiple viewings.
1. Iron Man
While Marvel movies aren’t cinematic masterpieces, they aren’t supposed to be. These movies are supposed to be fun and entertaining films that let you have a good time at the movies, and for the most part they succeed.
While each movie has its merits and issues there is one that stands above the rest by a long shot, and that’s the original “Iron Man.”
Not only is “Iron Man” the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it could be argued as one of the best superheroes movies ever made. The film ties in beautifully with the rest of the films in the universe, but it also stands alone as a strong, intriguing and fun movie.
Robert Downey Jr. is the best thing to happen to the Marvel universe and his charm and confidence keeps you mesmerized throughout the film. That same magnetism is in “Iron Man 2” and “Iron Man3,” but the first of the series is just an all-around good movie. Not just a good superhero movie, but also a good movie.
“Iron Man” has an intriguing story arc, great character development, smart pacing and pinpoint humor. One of the reasons I’m often so hard on Marvel movies is because they started out with such a massive homerun and have yet to meet the potential of “Iron Man.”
So, there you have it, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe ranked from worst to best. Are you ready to start burning effigies of me at your Marvel-movie marathon before seeing “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” or do you agree with the assessment?
Let us know on the comment boards and any other social platform that you feel like chatting with us on. We’ll be listening.