Our Definitive MCU Film Rankings

As we hurtle ever-closer to the release of Infinity War, it’s the perfect time to rank the many MCU movies that have brought us to this moment. Our contributors and friends submit their lists, then battle it out for their favorites in commentary below.

 

Valerie: I’m basically just waiting to be scolded for my putting The Dark World as high as I did. I know it’s coming. Andrew, how in the world can you list The Incredible Hulk so high? Over Captain America: The First Avenger, really?

Andrew: To that I say, how can you put Thor: The Wack Thor over Thor: The First Thor?

I knew I’d receive some criticism for having Incredible Hulk so high. I know I’m in the minority here, in fact a lot people I know would say it’s skippable, which it definitely is since Avengers did a fine job reintroducing Banner. Any threads left untied in Incredible Hulk were never and probably will never be addressed, including the current status of Abomination and the secret origin of The Leader, but I still prefer it slightly over The First Avenger. Even though Mark Ruffalo IS Bruce Banner, I still really enjoy Norton’s portrayal and his chemistry with Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross. And The Hulk scenes were just awesome, and more exciting than any action sequences in The First Avenger. Also, I really don’t want to hate on First Avenger too much, but I was never sold on the love that spawned between Steve and Peggy, to the point where when they eventually kissed, I was just like “oh, 

I guess they’re in love.”

Tatiana: I do have to agree with Norton and Tyler’s chemistry, which for me was the only saving grace of Incredible Hulk. I wasn’t a particularly big fan of Norton’s performance, but perhaps if Banner was given more of a personality outside of “I love Betty and don’t want to be an angry green man,” he would stand out more to me. But comparing that movie to, say, Black Panther, shows just how far the MCU has come and how compelling a visionary director can make their story.

Valerie: TBH, I think Hulk is my least favorite MCU character. Mark Ruffalo does an amazing job in the role now, and at least the characterization in Avengers and especially in Ragnarok have been great, but I really don’t care for the character. I guess that’s up until I made myself critique the films a little more this last go round. I’ve always put The Incredible Hulk as dead last (now I realize Iron Man 2 is a far worse film). Norton does ok in the role, and I do like Liv Tyler’s Betty, but other than that the movie is just a mess. And the fact that we’ll likely never see any of those threads paid off in the rest of the MCU? A relief.

I’ve explained my My TDW vs. Thor thoughts many times, but it boils down to the fact that I don’t feel like Natalie Portman phoned it in in TDW, and that alone makes me feel like it’s a better film. Though I was still relieved when she was cast aside so easily in Ragnarok, even if it was kinda awkward.

Tatiana: Since I had no problems with Portman as Jane, I enjoyed Thor well enough as an origin story. Whereas Dark World fell apart for me with the whole Dark Elves plot, and I struggle to remember any moments that stood out to me aside from Loki impersonating Odin.

Valerie: Loki impersonating Sif and Steve was fun too. But agreed, I find the first 2 Thor films highly forgettable, tbh.

Tatiana: Now who’s going to drag me for putting Avengers so low? I honestly think my issue with it and Ultron are that I’m not really a big Whedon fan – Firefly aside – and I don’t actively care about the team dynamics. I’m invested in Steve/Bucky/Sam, for example, and in Tony/Rhodey, but I’m not really all that interested in how they interact with each other. Unless it’s done really well like it was in Civil War and hopefully will be again with Infinity War.

Valerie: Yeah, I don’t get that one. I mean, I actually really like Iron Man 3…but how in the world can you put that over The Avengers?!

Tatiana: I think it’s precisely because Iron Man 3 feels like it could complete Tony’s story. PTSD from the first big team-up, trying to settle into life with Pepper, tying up loose ends from his past, etc. It was a fitting farewell for the character and his supporting cast, and he didn’t need to come back after that. But then here comes Age of Ultron with Tony back at it again for no good reason. As for putting it just above the first Avengers movie, there’s no defense aside from I care about the characters more in the Iron Man movies than I do in the team-ups.

Valerie: Yeah, but as you pointed out with TDW, the villain is awful. At least Loki is a more compelling villain. Again, I love that they really addressed Tony’s PTSD post-The Avengers, but the rest of the movie is a mess. Except for maybe the great chemistry between RDJ and Ty Sympkins.

Tatiana: But I didn’t care about anyone in Dark World, tee hee.

Corey: On the subject of Iron Man 3 being a “fitting farewell” for Tony Stark… I don’t see it that way at at all. It’s about Tony overcoming his trauma and realizing – as he later relays to Peter Parker – that the suit doesn’t make the hero. His last line, pre-credits: “My armor? It was never a distraction, or a hobby… It was a cocoon. And now… I’m a changed man. You can take away my house… all my tricks and toys. One thing you can’t take away? I am Iron Man.” Those aren’t the words of a man who’s ready to hang it up. They’re the words of a man who’s come to terms with himself.

One thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that Malekith is a horrible villain, whose portrayer disappears behind a layer of makeup and foreign language that makes him utterly unrelatable as a character. Also, I’m still pissed at Christopher Eccleston for being a baby about Doctor Who.

Valerie: For Malakeith, WORD. I actually remember watching TDW after having avoided it for years, and being surprised when I realized it was Christopher Eccleston under all that makeup. I honestly hadn’t recognized him the first few times I watched it. Or maybe I was just trying to ignore it because wow the character is terrible. I’ll also never forgive Christopher Eccleston for the way he’s reacted.

But, Cory, I am so angry at your ranking of The Winter Soldier that I can’t even form coherent sentences. I don’t know if we can be friends anymore. ;-p

Andrew: I keep scrolling back up to Corey’s list to make sure I read it right. Doctor Strange and Ant-Man in the top 5? To each their own, I guess, but Winter Soldier? C’mon.

Corey: To be fair, there’s like my top 4, my bottom 2, and the other 12 are pretty much tied for 5th.

Tatiana: What do you like so much about Doctor Strange, Ant-Man and Thor specifically? I found Steven Strange to be a very forgettable protagonist despite his origin story being solid enough, and the visuals weren’t enough to move it up my list. I liked Thor marginally better just because Chris Hemsworth is so likeable, but otherwise it’s pretty average in my book too. And Ant-Man came out the gate swinging, so the only reason it’s so low is because I think the other movies are so good – except for GOTG 2, which beats it out purely on account of the family theme and baby Groot.

Corey: Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Thor all have heavy lifting to do in terms of world-building. They each find themselves in corners of the MCU that are far afield from the more reality-based stories we’ve seen before, and all succeed in presenting entertaining, attention-grabbing tales that add to the rich tapestry of the universe as a whole. Oh, and unlike Something America the Something Something, they all have fantastic musical scores and MEMORABLE end credits.

Thank you all for including me in your perverted little game of 18-way Sophie’s Choice.

Andrew: I recently rewatched Doctor Strange and I ended up just cleaning up my apartment while it was playing since I lost interest. In response to what Corey said about the score… meh. The score was fine, passable, but I remember leaving the theater so disappointed since I know Michael Giacchino is capable of so much more. For the most part, though, the MCU doesn’t allow its composers to do too much with the scores. Each hero’s theme, other than maybe the Avengers theme, becomes lost and forgettable. This is probably one of the few things DC does better 🙂 Ragnarok and Black Panther’s scores were incredible, though.

Valerie: I’m actually with Corey on the music thing. I don’t get why people are so down on the MCU music. We were at Disney’s California Adventure last year and they were playing various MCU themes, and we had no problem figuring any of them out. Even for the films I haven’t watched as many times, I picked the theme out easily.

Andrew: What I will say about Ant-Man is it felt a little too mediocre for me. Had it came out in Phase One maybe I would have liked it more. I still feel terrible we’ll never see the Edgar Wright version. I wish there could have been some kind of compromise between him and Marvel Studios, so he can make a movie that felt like his own, but also fit into the grand scheme of the MCU.

Valerie: I second the wish we’d seen the Edgar Wright version of Ant-Man. Even though the version we got is actually my Mother’s favorite film of the MCU (she hasn’t seen Black Panther yet, but I don’t expect it to change her ranking, though I know she’ll love it), I do feel like the wackiness of Wright would have added a level that would have been great to see. And as the Honest Trailer for Thor: Ragnarok said, Marvel needs to make sure not to fire the weirdos. Because Taika Waititi was a gift to the Thor series, and actually made me rethink the #1 Avenger I would have chosen to knock off (which was Thor until that movie, because Thor & TDW sucked so hard).

Valerie: But I do have a bone to pick with you, Andrew. How can you say that Guardians 2 is better than Guardians 1? The story, the characterizations, the music, the villain, the humor – all were better in the first film.

Tatiana: Let me gang up on Andrew too! Guardians 2 had some really high emotional points, but it also had about five stories going at once and probably three times the necessary amount of toilet humor.

Valerie: Yeah, that was the one thing Tatiana and I really agreed upon when we did our rewatch of Guardians 2. The humor was much more juvenile this time around, and every time I watch it bothers me more and more. The film was actually higher on my list before, but the more I watch it, the lower it drops. O.o

Andrew: You think the villain in the first Guardians was better? Not even close. Ronan was almost on par with Malekith in TDW. As a villain, Kurt Russell’s Ego I felt was a huge improvement and one of the MCU’s better villains overall. As for everything else in the movie, I thought Vol. 2 was on par with the first. The characters. The visuals. I especially enjoyed seeing Peter Quill’s relationship with his surrogate father Yondu get explored. That whole “he wasn’t your daddy” quote was the icing on the cake. Also, once you had ELO to a soundtrack it immediately becomes 10x better.

Valerie: I’m just going to have to agree to disagree on Ronan vs. Ego. I hated Ego, and at least with Ronan I can recognize a fanatic radicalized by a hatred of the decisions of his government as a compelling villain. Plus, it lead to a dance off, and who doesn’t love a good dance off? And in the end, Guardians 1 has one of my favorite moments of the entirety of the MCU: “You said it yourself, Bitch. We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.” I tear up every damn time.

 

And with that, we leave the rest of the debate up to you. Which is your favorite MCU film and how would you rank the rest? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter at @withanaccent! And then prepare do it all over again after watching Infinity War a couple hundred times.