In 2008, Jon Favreau introduced the world to the character of Tony Stark in Iron Man, the first film of what would be Marvel’s new “cinematic universe.” The film was a giant success among fans and critics alike and officially kicked off the first of a connected series of films that is still going strong to this day. Since then, we’ve been introduced to Marvel legends such as Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Thor as well as other lesser known characters like Ant-Man or the Guardians of the Galaxy. With Captain America: Civil War hitting theaters in less than 2 weeks (and I don’t know about you but I can hardly wait), I thought it’d be appropriate to take a look at the films Marvel has released since 2008, and rank them! So, let’s get going!
12. The Incredible Hulk
I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a bad film, but it is a rather forgettable film. So forgettable, in fact, that Marvel has never once acknowledged the events of this film in any of the other movies in their universe. If it weren’t for the fact that William Hurt’s, General Ross, is returning in Captain America: Civil War, many would assume this was a standalone film in a different universe. Edward Norton played Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, and while his performance was good, it wasn’t quite on par with Mark Ruffalo’s take on the character. While the film itself was fine, it did introduce the character Abomination, and we’re still hoping he’ll return one day.
11. Thor: The Dark World
Thor has had a rather rough time in the MCU. He’s a powerful character in the comics who just really…isn’t in the movies. And not to mention that he is constantly overshadowed by Tom Hiddleston’s brilliant take on Loki. While I found myself enjoying the first film, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed by the sequel. To be fair, this film introduced some great aspects from Thor’s world and the CGI of Asgard was beautiful. However, it all starts to fall apart when they brought the humans (Jane Foster, Dr. Selvig, and Darcy) back into the fold. They also inroduced Malekith the Accursed, one of Thor’s biggest enemies in the comics, and failed to impress. In fact, he was probably one of the weakest Marvel films to date. Thor: Ragnarok is on the horizon and while I’m excited for it, I can’t help but be a little skeptical. Hopefully they’ve learned from their mistakes from Thor: The Dark World.
10. Iron Man 2
So how do you follow up such a successful film like Iron Man? Well, it’s tough and unfortunately the sequel didn’t quite match its predecessor. Like Batman v Superman, this film had a lot to do to set up the MCU and it was bound to falter in a few ways. The main problem was that there was no clear focus on the story, and instead of being as memorable as the first film, I can only remember how confusing it was. It did introduce Black Widow to the MCU as well as our first look at War Machine in action. Again, the film was a waste and while it wasn’t a brilliant film, it still did contribute to the MCU in some great ways.
9. Iron Man 3
I hate to put two of the Iron Man films right next to one another but it’s the truth. This film was very controversial among the fan base, mostly due to the reveal that Mandarin, one of Iron Man’s biggest enemies in the comics, turned out to be fake. It was at this point in the movie, where I pretty much stopped caring about the rest of the film. I usually flip flop Iron Man 2 & 3 between these spots in my rankings depending on the day. While not terrible films, they certainly don’t fall anywhere above these rankings.
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Joss Whedon’s first Avengers film was a huge hit among fans and critics and the hype was unreal for the sequel. Many were expecting to see a brutal fight with one of the Avengers most notorious villains in the comics and perhaps see a hero or two die. Well, it wasn’t to be. In fact, the film we saw advertised in the trailers was completely different from the one we saw in theaters. While the trailers made this look like it would be Marvel’s darkest film yet, the final product contradicted this. Sure, it is dark in moments, but the humor sort of ruined some of the more dramatic moments. Ultron is also a character that was divisive among fans. Sure he was an intriguing villain but he wasn’t all that intimidating. And the terribly forced romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner were almost universally hated by fans and critics. Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t a terrible film by any means, but it failed to recapture the magic that its predecessor exhibited.
The first Thor film introduced us to the world of Asgard and it was absolutely beautiful. We were introduced to a young (relatively speaking) god who was a bit brash and cocky. Banished to Earth for his hubris, Thor had to learn what it mean to be a hero, to be selfless if he ever wanted to return to Asgard and wield Mjolnir once again. It was an intriguing tale, but like Thor: The Dark World, it often got boring when we focused on the humans instead of Asgard. It did introduce us to Tom Hiddleston’s brilliant take on Loki and is still a rather enjoyable film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
6. Captain America: The First Avenger
The first film to introduce us to the World War II hero, Steve Rogers. We are introduced to a scrawny, young man who wants nothing more than to serve his country to stop “bullies.” Chris Evans nails it as the First Avenger and the film itself was a rather fun tale. It does however seem to drag on a bit at times, and while Hugo Weaving’s take on Red Skull was enjoyable, it was more cheesy than scary. Still, it was a fun look at a different time period and to see the selfless Avenger’s leaders origin story.
Many like myself wondered why Marvel was so adamant about making a film called Ant-Man. It had been under Edgar Wright’s direction for years before he exited the project and Peyton Reed stepped in. I will say I was very satisified with the film, especially in a time where the audience might be a little tired of origin stories. The film’s strongest aspect is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I mean how can it with a name like Ant-Man? It relies on its humor and it gives us a completely fresh origin story. The film also introduces us to Hope Van Dyne, who will soon take on the mantle of Wasp as her mother Janet did before. (The Wasp flashback still remains my favorite scene in the film).
4. Iron Man
The first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it still remains one of the strongest. Robert Downey Jr. is easily one of Marvel’s best actors and he completely owns the role of Tony Stark. While Iron Man was not a very well known hero, since 2008, his popularity has skyrocketed with the help of the MCU and Downey’s brilliant take. Iron Man‘s critical success opened the doorway for the rest of the MCU.
3. The Avengers
Easily one of the most anticipated films ever, The Avengers saw all of the heroes introduced since 2008 brought together to take on a threat together. While the story is good, the real strength of the film comes from the character interactions with each other. Whedon’s strong dialogue gave us that chaotic sense of “too many cooks in the kitchen” with all of these heroes struggling to work as a cohesive unit. It was a blockbuster in every right, giving us a thrilling ride that’s enjoyable from start to finish.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
The film that many were considering to be Marvel’s first flop ended up blowing every one away. Guardians of the Galaxy was a massive hit with the fans and critics and introduced a new segment of the Marvel universe: the cosmic side. It’s very much a space tale as we follow Starlord and his band of misfits as they try to save the galaxy from the threat of Ronan. Now that we know Marvel can get away with bringing a talking raccoon on the screen, what’s next? Squirrel Girl? Guardians of the Galaxy was a truly fantastic film that rightfully deserves to be considered one of Marvel’s best.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Here it is, my favorite Marvel film. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not only one of the best Marvel films, but it’s one of the best comic book movies ever. One of its strengths is that it doesn’t even feel like a super hero film. It plays out like a 70’s political thriller/ spy film. The film also shows us how truly powerful and agile Captain America is. The Russo brothers also gave us plenty of time to showcase Black Widow as well as introduce Falcon. The success of this film has led Marvel to giving the Russo brothers the keys to the Marvel kingdom as they will be taking on Avengers: Infinity War. It’s a film that knows when to be serious and when it can crack a joke. After seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you won’t be thinking Cap is useless, that’s for sure.
We’d love to hear what your own rankings of the Marvel films are as we draw closer and closer to Captain America: Civil War. Make sure to visit ComicDrops for all of your info on the comic book world and let us know your thoughts on Instagram and Twitter!