MCU Movies Ranked: From Iron Man to Thor: Love and Thunder

Mcu movies ranked joblo

Over 13 years and 25 movies and counting, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still doing alright. Across this cavalcade of almost two dozen movies are a wide variety of iconic superheroes, grand stories, impressive visual tapestries, and the occasional entry that manages to be just not bad. We all have our rankings for the very best and the very worst of the Marvel series, but now JoBlo officially has the MCU movies ranked from The Incredible Hulk to the most recent No Way Home, working our way to the absolute best of the bunch.

29. The Incredible Hulk

Perhaps the reason why The Incredible Hulk often ranks at the bottom of viewers’ MCU barrels like it does here is because where the 2008 series entry, Iron Man, signified a bold step forward for the genre as a whole, this one feels like a relic. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about this second crack at Bruce Banner and Big Green (Edward Norton), and it feels right at home in the early era of many comic book movies that play simply like over-priced action movies. While Norton is fine in the role as a Banner on the run looking to find a way to control his rage, there’s nothing exciting about his journey, or a reason to care about anyone else he comes into contact with. With the exception of the final fight between Abomination (Tim Roth), the spectacle is a bore, and director Louis Leterrier’s approach is very by-the-numbers, checking off boxes to deliver a simply not-terrible Hulk movie that clears the very short hurdle set by Ang Lee’s take in 2003. That hurdle will be just as small should the corporate overlords decide to greenlight a new solo Hulk movie, but until then, Incredible Hulk is the best we’ve got.

28. Thor: The Dark World

You wouldn’t think that a planet-trotting action blockbuster with evil space elves and more of a Thunder God could be a total snooze, and yet, that’s what we got in 2013. Thor: The Dark World is proof that even after succeeding in setting up the MCU with several movies and the massive hit of The Avengers at its back, Marvel was still capable of missing the mark. On a technical front, there are few things the sequel to 2011’s Thor had going for it, like some solid costume design, visual effects, and great work from Brian Tyler on the score. Factor in yet another entertaining performance from Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and you have a movie that can at least be a distraction. But should you actually try to pay attention, you won’t get much back for that mental exercise. On a narrative and character development level for the title character (Chris Hemsworth), Dark World is a dud that seems to exist solely to introduce another Infinity Stone, all while wedging in Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and a villain even an actor like Christopher Eccleston can’t make the least bit interesting. 

27. Iron Man 2

Like a puppy peeing on the sofa, it’s hard to be completely upset with Iron Man 2 simply being the movie it is. Despite teasing big things at the end of the first movie, Marvel still didn’t quite know what they were doing with their film franchise, so with a sequel where they were juggling an expanding cast of characters, exploring heavy-duty subject matter for Tony Stark, and trying to recapture the magic of the first entry, you kind of had to expect it wouldn’t turn out amazingly. The action sequences are kind of cool, Robert Downey Jr. is just as excellent as Stark, and there is some somewhat important stuff happening to his character that impacts who he is as a person going forward. But then there are all the symptoms of “sequel-itis” on display – such as too many villains who don’t spend enough time actually doing anything, and a bunch of characters balancing for screen time. Iron Man 2 isn’t necessarily a bad movie – and it’s actually a solid summer blockbuster on its own – but compared to the rest of the series it’s definitely an example of how Marvel was still very much finding its feet. 

26. Thor

As far as Shakespearean dramas wrapped up in cosmic summer blockbusters go, 2011’s Thor isn’t too bad. Director Kenneth Branagh did the work of exploring the complex dynamics between the cast of otherworldly gods like Thor, Loki, and Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the effects of which continued to impact the characters going forward. He did equally efficient work with the fish-out-of-water, romantic elements between Thor and Foster, crafting a sweet, funny story to match the more spectacular elements. But that doesn’t stop Thor from being uninspired-looking, and sluggish in the spectacle realm, and Branagh couldn’t quite nail the blockbuster excitement with loud, ham-fisted action sequences fumbling otherwise effective character work. But, on the whole, Thor was a decent if flawed start for the God of Thunder with a cast of characters well established against an unremarkable backdrop. 

25. Captain Marvel

Brie Larson soared into the Marvel scene in the first entry to feature a woman in the leading role and in the director’s chair (Anna Boden alongside Ryan Fleck), introducing a powerful new character in Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, who has limitless potential in the series. Her movie as a whole, though, wasn’t quite as marvelous. With a story instantly hindered by giving the character amnesia, so much of the plotting feels centered on solving a mystery anyone can have solved from the jump, as well as on the prequel elements for Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s entry into the space game. In essence, it’s trying to be two origin stories at once, and while the aim of giving Danvers a story that finds her discovering her power and independence is admirable, the execution is too messy to be fully masked by the fine performances (especially Ben Mendelsohn) and occasionally cool visuals. 

24. Doctor Strange

After getting audiences acquainted with gods and the cosmos, Marvel sent audiences into the realm of the mystic arts with Doctor Strange, and it’s…mostly fun. Yeah, fun is a good summation. Not the kind of mind-blowing, transcendental experience Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) went through, but, yeah. Inception-level visuals are trippy and exciting, and the individual action within them is often quite clever – making use of all sorts of magical spells and objects. Director Scott Derrickson got the most mileage out of the movie when it came to bringing those magical elements to life and establishing that world – but everything on the character and story front left a lot to be desired. Much of Strange’s arc feels rushed; the romance angle is wanting; Mads Mikkelsen is criminally wasted as the key villain, etc. As an intro to the world of Marvel magic, it’s a bold entry, but for the ground-level stuff that can truly set these movies apart, it’s about as exciting as a birthday party magician pulling dead pigeons out of a hat. 

23. Black Widow

Arriving at least a half-decade too late, Marvel finally got to giving Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) her own movie…two years after they already killed her off. An explanation as to what she was up to in between the wars of Civil and Infinity, we got a glimpse into Romanoff’s past and her family, giving us the deepest look at the character yet. The movie succeeds largely thanks to the exploration into her family life, establishing a cast of characters that are worth coming back to should Marvel ever choose to, which they definitely have chosen to in the case of Florence Pugh’s Yelena. With a great ensemble and a welcomely grounded espionage-thriller approach, Black Widow does much more right than wrong. But that wrong – namely a story that stays put for far too long and disappointingly messy action sequences – stop this from being the triumphant solo movie the character deserved for years. 

21. Thor: Love and Thunder

Director Taika Waititi harnessed the mighty power of Chris Hemsworth’s sense of humor and blended it with his own colorful sensibilities for the marvelous, hilarious, character-reviving smash, Thor: Ragnarok. All eyes were likely to be on the sequel, Thor: Love and Thunder, especially given it would see the return of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster (taking on the mantle of Mighty Thor). Sadly, Love and Thunder proved Ragnarok was the lightning that strikes once. The rebellious, endlessly strange and hilarious vibe of Ragnarok was replaced by a sporadically funny, deeply messy outing that missed many, many chances to be a worthy follow-up. Thor’s story is muddy; Jane’s is deeply diluted from her excellent comics run; the pacing and tone are mismatches of goofy, scary and heartfelt, and; many of the gags are phoned in or hammered to death. Bright spots are an absorbing action scene or two (Shadowland, in particular), supporting plays from Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Russell Crowe’s Zeus, and scene-stealing work from Christian Bale’s villainous, unsettling Gorr. Ragnarok benefitted from a brand of confidence that made its shakeup of the Thor formula refreshing, and while Love and Thunder does somewhat find its footing in the final half and can benefit from a personality the movies below this one lack, it sinks into a realm of complacency from a director who perhaps did less here to subvert formula and more to cram his style into it, very much to mixed results. 

21. Ant-Man and the Wasp

On the whole, Ant-Man and the Wasp – which came on the heels of the epic Infinity War – is a colorful blast. The cast is hilarious; Paul Rudd is as charming as ever; Evangeline Lily whips an insane amount of ass and; the shrinking/enlarging gags are a constant riot. As a palette cleanser after the destruction of the Avengers movie that came before it, it’s pure, undemanding Marvel fun. Why it ranks towards the lower half of the list is because in being such an energetic blockbuster that plays like Marvel-meets-Ferris Bueller, it forgets to do a lot with the characters to make it feel like more than a colorful romp. Much of the movie’s story hinges on Lang patching things up with Lily’s Hope Van Dyne and Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym, but it feels like a simple motivator to give a layer to when things aren’t chaotic. None of it is very compelling, and despite the title, this is still very much Scott’s story. But, I also think it’s okay for the Ant-Man movies to be the quirky, low-key entries that never demand too much from the audience. Although, with this one, a better villain shouldn’t have been too much to ask for.  

20. Ant-Man

Much like its sequel, the first Ant-Man is an undemanding, uniquely fun Marvel entertainment. Where it gets out the win over the sequel is that with one of the stronger MCU origin stories, it feels far more focused and paints a heroic arc for Scott Lang – all while giving dimension to the supporting cast. Rudd’s Lang has that likable, everyman approach, and his journey from well-meaning cat burglar to superhero puts a spin on the formula, diverting away from genius billionaires, super soldiers, and thunder gods. It’s a superhero origin story that isn’t reliant on big set pieces (albeit the ones here are hilariously clever and gripping), but on how hard you’re rooting for Lang to pull through. Does that make it an entry that manages to stand above the rest? Not really, but everyone involved pulled out all the stops to make this entry one that’s impossible to ever fully write off. 

19. Spider-Man: Far From Home

The more and more I think about Spider-Man: Far From Home, the more and more it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. To get the good out of the way, Tom Holland is still doing a bang-up job a Peter Parker, and Jon Watts and Co. are still finding those ways to make him that relatable teen we all know and love – especially when it comes to him trying to juggle his personal and superhero lives. To boot, Jake Gyllenhaal rules as Mysterio, one of the better MCU baddies. And yet, when it comes to fully shaping who Parker is as a hero in this world, this movie proves that, even in death, this Spider-Man isn’t doing much without Iron Man. While Homecoming found him handling the presence of Stark while trying to break out and (often failing) to do his own thing, this one is all about who he is in relation to Iron Man. Can he be a hero without him? Can he live up to the pressure of being the “new Iron Man”? Can he responsibly wield the unbelievable power Stark gave to him? Can he, ultimately, step out of Stark’s shadow? Given how Parker had been set up before this with his bond with Stark, and perhaps where he will go in No Way Home, Far From Home feels like a bridge needed crossing because there was no other way around. Gotta love that ending, though. 

18. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

With “Multiverse of Madness” in the title we should have expected the latest Doctor Strange to be, in the most delicate way I can put it, a sloppy bitch. And yes, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a messy, jumbled, sometimes illogical journey through the MCU multiverse — all with sorcery and witchcraft mixed in just to spice things up. But of all the Marvel movies that make up the bottom half of this ranking, the flick from Spider-Man and Evil Dead helmer Sam Raimi is the most welcomely bonkers, in no short order thanks to Raimi going, “Okay, yes to the Marvel formula, but also yes to Scarlet Witch emerging from a gong like the Ring girl with her limbs contorting and rearranging into place.” The horror movie elements are comparable to the likes of his Drag Me to Hell, and can get vicious enough in ways that can shock and even repel longtime viewers, and even give young watchers some everlasting nightmares. It’s fascinating; on the one hand, character development and logic buckles under the weight of franchise world-building. On the other, the movie goes to places no other Marvel movie ever has, making it a heavily flawed entry I’m really glad exists in this space. I mean, if they are willing to let Raimi have his villain turn a beloved comic book character into string cheese, who knows what else is next.

17. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

What’s amazing about the films from Marvel is that even after over 20+ entries, there’s still room for big surprises. With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we get one of the most exciting entries in the series that stands on its own two fleet feet by embracing its own identity. A martial arts fantasy brought to life by some wonderful visuals, a great ensemble of characters, and the very best fight choreography of the series thus far, director Daniel Destin Cretten and his team did the work to make sure this was a world you wanted to come back to. Like with any origin story of this caliber, the story of the lead character can get lost in all the world-building. That makes the middle act feel a little deflated compared to the rest, dampening some of its impact with lots of MacGuffin talk and exposition. However, Simu Liu is such a capable lead and the world is so refreshingly mesmerizing, it doesn’t always feel like a total hindrance. Then you can tack on great work from veterans Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, and Tony Leung – the latter bringing to life a villain with some actual dimension. Even with those first-entry hiccups, Shang-Chi has opened the doors to a fantastic new section of the Marvel world that’s only just beginning to unfold. 

16. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a perfectly fun, well-crafted entry of the MCU. It’s digestible popcorn entertainment, and director Jon Watts and the team of Homecoming smartly took a John Hughes route and put this new Peter Parker smack dab into the madness that is high school. Not only does this set the clock back from Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man fumble, but going back to school makes his origin feel perfect for his character, so eager to make a name for himself as a hero that, like a teenager, he’s always biting off more than he can chew and having to learn from his mistakes. Of course, his mistakes can have more destructive consequences, but that benefits his arc and makes the final act all the more triumphant as he literally lifts himself out of the rubble. As a result, it plays more like a simple teen comedy that happens to feature superheroes, and in turn, is easy to just pop on because it’s not terribly challenging or trying to do anything unique. While having a modern voice and sense of humor, it owes a lot to simply being in the MCU and having the likes of other series figures around to add a special flavor to make it stand out from past movies. But, what works about it works well. Fit with an on-point, funny ensemble of young and veteran stars, and some standout work from Michael Keaton as one of the MCU’s best villains, Homecoming is a knockout first entry for the Web-Head. 

15. Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age of Ultron is a messy one. It’s a big. messy second child. The visual effects are all over the place; the set pieces are either appropriately exciting or God-tier noisy and; When there aren’t some of the more compelling character interactions of the whole series, there are some character choices that are just damn questionable. But it also features some of the biggest ideas to come from a Marvel movie yet, with writer/director Joss Whedon using this massive tentpole feature and its superpowered characters to question their ideologies and the very nature of herodom. Truly one of the better MCU villains, Ultron (James Spader) is a sentient A.I. system that acts as a mirror towards the Avengers and forces them to examine their place in the world, one in which humanity is perhaps doomed to fail no matter all their heroics (he was sort of right, in the end). For a billion-dollar movie that pretty much exists to set things up for the next movies, there’s some deep philosophical shit going on here that makes it a far more fascinating watch than you probably remember it being — which comes on top of some solid laughs and set pieces. Yes, it’s a sloppy chap, but it’s also one of the rare entries that feels like it actually has something to say. 

14. Iron Man 3

On the contrary to Far From Home, Iron Man 3 is one of the entries that the more I think about it, the more I like this final solo Iron Man outing. Director Shane Black (who co-wrote with Drew Pearce) went into this movie and said, “Audiences want this, and I’m not giving it to them.” Not only did this apply to the villain in one of the most brilliant moves in the series’ history, but in the general approach. The first post-The Avengers movie, it doesn’t cave to what was perhaps the audience’s expectations at the time, existing to tease future movies or feature a flyby from Thor. It operates entirely on its own terms, taking Tony back to the basics, and crafting a colorful espionage story about him discovering that even after an alien invasion, he’s so much more than just a suit. As for the villain, Guy Pearce understood the assignment as a smarmy corporate sociopath, who smartly uses the media to stoke fear chaos (which seems increasingly relevant nowadays) and works into that certain brilliant, hilarious switcheroo. Low points are “Rhodey”/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Pepper Potts feeling just sort of “there” or in captivity, but even they aren’t totally wasted, and there’s little that stops this one from being one of the series’ most undervalued entires. 

13. Eternals

As of this writing, Marvel’s Eternals currently rests on Rotten Tomatoes with the lowest approval rating of any of the MCU films. But unlike other movies near that side of the spectrum, such as Thor 2 and Incredible Hulk, I firmly believe Eternals will age with grace and oft be looked back on as one of Marvel’s most special entries. While other entries succeed on their showmanship and ability to add big, colorful pages to this cinematic compendium, director Chloe Zhao’s vision here is singular and focused solely on the grand, existential challenges of its team of godly heroes. With a humanist lens and via some of the most breathtaking visuals in the whole of the series, Eternals tells a massive, centuries-spanning story of these figures and what it means to love, lose, and embrace their own mortality and that of the humans they’ve sworn to protect. Avengers movies like Age of Ultron and Endgame do some of the same, but against massive, tried-and-true blockbuster stakes., and while Eternals does fit in its own cataclysmic events, Zhao’s vision lives and breathes for the smaller moments. The first time we’ve met these characters, the team of actors and filmmakers do the nigh impossible of making you care for each one of them, weaving in several heart-wrenching moments, and thanks to more than a few cast members, some of the humor these movies are known for. It’s a whole lot of movie, and there’s no arguing it can struggle under that weight, and that’s likely what is turning critics and perhaps some viewers away. But this is Marvel at its most individually beautiful and effective, and in time, it could easily find its way near the top of many fans’ best-of list.

12. Captain America: The First Avenger

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is very much the heart and the soul of the Marvel Universe, who despite a physical upgrade was always the small kid from Brooklyn who stands up to bullies, no matter how big. That spirit drives his first outing from director Joe Johnston, an old-fashioned adventure filled with pulpy thrills, and one that ages like a fine wine. It’s the kind of movie that can bring you up when you’re feeling low, reaffirming why we love superheroes in the first place, brimming with romanticized, old-school heroism that never feels cloying. A cherry on top of it all is some excellent work from Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, and Hugo Weaving – giving Rogers a love, a mentor, and a villain all worth remembering. Perhaps that traditional approach is what turns some people off the movie, feeling a bit too indebted to movies like Indiana Jones or The Rocketeer–  but if anything that makes First Avenger the perfect palette cleanser. There’s a simplicity to the movie’s themes and Rogers himself that – like Richard Donner’s Superman – really speak to why audiences can love these characters so much and can be that much-needed ray of light when the series can get a bit too in the weeds.

11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

What I really admire about James Gunn’s approach to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is that he looked at the sprawling adventure of the first movie and said, “Hey, for this next one, let’s slow it down a bit.” While its early minutes are chaotic, colorful mayhem, much of what follows is Gunn using the runtime to explore the core team, digging into many of their insecurities (especially Rocket and Yondu), and giving them scenes that make them come together as a team, in the end, all the more special. These folks are a bunch of assholes, and they have shit to work out, essentially. In that way, it feels like an antithesis to the nature of most blockbusters to “go bigger” the second time around. Gunn’s second entry values the characters over the (albeit stunning) spectacle, favoring small moments against gorgeous backdrops that deepen the connection to the characters, and thus the audience to them. The finale is a bit messy, but by the end, it ends up being one of Marvel’s most heartfelt entries yet. 

10. Spider-Man: No Way Home

During one moment between Peter Parker and Dr. Stephen Strange, the latter admits that, despite everything they’ve been through together, which involves saving the universe, he forgets that Parker is still just a kid. No matter his abilities and all he’s managed to accomplish, he’s still a teenager trying to find time with his girlfriend and get into college. Trying to have it all drives him to some extreme, possibly fabric-of-time-ruining decision-making, and what makes No Way Home a special entry for him and the MCU is how having him deal with the universe-bending fallout of his actions shapes him on a ground level as both someone on the verge of adulthood and a web-slinging superhuman. Yeah, that journey goes through the lands of blatant fan service, meta gags, and Easter Eggs specifically designed to make audiences hoot and holler in crowded theaters, which at times can be both exhausting and undeniably, unforgettably fun. But weathering it all, the team behind the camera and an exceptional Holland ensure that Parker remains the clear focus, using the ghosts of Spidey past not only to make audiences wilt in their chairs but to tell one of the more enriching, human Spider-Man stories to grace the big screen.

9. Captain America: Civil War

What I love about Captain America: Civil War is that it’s a movie that acknowledges and emphasizes – via the conversations between the characters and some of the action sequences – that these are people with defined viewpoints that have evolved over time, and that there’s gravity to the fissure erupting between the team. Yeah…airport scene, Spider-Man, whatever. There’s some undeniably cool stuff going on here. But Civil War is at its best when – after a destructive scenario that forces to posit that these heroes need some accountability – it puts the Avengers under a microscope and explores how they would respond to that event and each other’s actions as a result. There are a lot of strings being pulled, and it can get messy at times, but what I respect is how these heroes we’ve come to admire on the big screen don’t feel cheated out of development – which is an impressive achievement considering how much is going on. If these movies are going to act in part as set up for what comes next, then they should at least use their time to leave an impact and do the work to make it feel like what happens during the runtime matters. Civil War does that, and in often spectacular fashion. 

8. Avengers: Infinity War

On the surface, I think it’s an easy – and even valid – complaint that Avengers: Infinity War is about nothing other than a big purple dude collecting space stones. In a way it is, and Thanos (Josh Brolin) being able to do so so quickly feels like one of the MCU’s bigger plot holes. And yet, none of that diminishes the movie from being one of the more impressive feats of blockbuster filmmaking. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo juggle the massive cast and equally massive set pieces very well, for the most part, getting plenty of great character moments out of them and making Thanos the true main character (with Brolin nailing the big, ominous lug with menacing statute). The scope of the movie is immense, ranging between planets and various teams, seamlessly put together to feel like one massive adventure. It’s blockbuster filmmaking at some of its most technically grand, and featuring a suitably epic score from Alan Silvestri, nothing can rob it of being an impressive feast for the eyes.  But what aids it beyond the “space rock heist” simplicity is in how it makes the case that it’s about all these superpowered people realizing that they aren’t strong enough. All their upgrades and lessons learned are no match for a bigger threat, and seeing them having to operate on the back foot – and ultimately face their biggest failure –  gives it more depth than the surface spectacle suggests. 

7. Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok proves that even if you don’t have the strongest story or make full use of the biggest members of the cast, you can still achieve peak excellence. Marvel mixed with Flash Gordon and the silly mind of director Taika Waititi, Ragnarok looks at everything surrounding the God of Thunder and confronts the reality that it’s all very weird and very strange and we just need to lean into it. Easily the funniest movie in the MCU by however far the Rainbow Bridge can shoot, Waititi and his team crafted the most colorful and effortlessly entertaining movie of the lot, embracing the kind of comic book sensibilities that pull you into a world of bizarre. As a reinvention of Thor, it’s a huge success, embracing star Hemsworth’s likability and humor, while not making him any less badass and god-like. Then you got Cate Blanchett as the key villain, Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, and Mark Mothersbaugh on the music. There are simply so many levels on which Ragnarok pulled out all the stops, and you can feel that unrestricted sense of fun in every frame and from every cast member, making for the entry that’s the easiest to watch again and again.

6. Iron Man

Sometimes it’s hard to top the first, and even some 13 years later, the MCU’s first entry remains one of its very best. An indie movie as far as summer blockbusters go, 2008’s Iron Man was assembled by Marvel Studios alone on a massive gamble, hoping audiences would flock to see a relatively unknown character played by a leading man (Downey Jr.) not very well known to mainstream audiences. But both that character and that leading man proved to be aces in the hole. The approach from director Jon Favreau and the team to make it a character piece about a man coming to terms with his life and creations – literally reinventing himself in the process – makes the movie a strong, singular character piece that explores Tony Stark beyond the armor, and gave RDJ more than enough ammo to make the character his own and bring his own charm and complicated past to Stark. Combine that all with a whip-smart sense of humor and superpowered set pieces, Iron Man only feels increasingly timeless as the series moves on without him. 

5. Black Panther

So much of what Black Panther achieves is monumental, to the point where we’ll likely be experiencing its impact long after the MCU as a whole gets the reboot treatment. Even with a whole universe of movies at its back, Panther is operating entirely on its own level. The world of Wakanda is so richly drawn out, with director Ryan Coogler and the team injecting so much culture and personality into every element. Costumes, art direction, music, makeup, etc. – all these details make simply looking at the movie an invigorating experience from start to finish.

Staking its claim in the craft arena, Panther also features some of the series’ best storytelling, forcing new king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to confront his father’s legacy and Wakanda’s place in the world, with timely themes masterfully woven in. Alongside T’Challa is an incredible supporting cast including Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, and more. A standout from the group is Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, who is arguably the series’ best villain, filled with purpose and depth, and is brimming with charm, making him tough to root against. With only some poor visual effects bringing it down, everything else about Black Panther makes it nigh-impossible to rank it as anything less than among Marvel’s very best.  

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

Much like the next movie on this list, Guardians of the Galaxy had every right to fail. But there’s a freedom that comes with making a movie that features a talking raccoon who partners with a talking tree who can only say his name, and director James Gunn exploits every opportunity to embrace sci-fi weirdness. Blasting entirely off Earth, Guardians breathes life into Marvel in the cosmos, showing off just how strange and vibrant the galaxy is, loaded with colorful characters, warring factions, and mysterious planets. Coupled with a broad sense of humor, incredible visuals, and constantly delivering on unexpected thrills, Gunn’s vision of an adventure beyond that stars made space fun again.

Much more than the kind of blast off in the look and feel department, Gunn understood the characters at its core. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) are all giant jerks, but that doesn’t make them any less endearing and relatable. Finding that duality and not being afraid to explore it and their eccentricities – all against the backdrop of a stupendous space adventure with a killer soundtrack – is what makes Guardians soar, and its huge heart makes it truly timeless. 

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The First Avenger found Captain America looking at the biggest bully around (Nazis and Hydra) and standing up to them against some spectacular set-pieces. Now firmly in modern times in The Winter Soldier, writers Christoper Markus and Stephen McFeely, and director Joe and Anthony Russo asked what kind of villain he would stand up to today. While the answer is still Hydra, the team went in less for red-faced baddies and more governmental forces via a grounded, spy thriller approach to tremendous results. The movie gets great mileage out of centering the story so strongly on Cap as a modern man trying to exist and live up to his own ideals, having to also grapple with his past in the form of Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Diverting away from the CGI mayhem of past movies, the kinetic action sequences and tone set it apart and made it compelling in ways Marvel hadn’t been up to that point, and still haven’t this day. The Winter Soldier remains a fan favorite because of the confidence behind the camera to look at how these movies could be different than how they have before, which in turn pushed the excellent cast of new and returning actors to some of their best work in the series and resulted in an entry that seven years later still stands on its own. 

2. Avengers: Endgame

There’s no easy way to put the final stamp on 11 years of moviemaking that included well over a dozen movies featuring twice as many superheroes – all while giving some of them the proper sendoff they deserve – but Endgame did so in tremendous fashion. If Infinity War is all about chaos and failure, Endgame is all about learning to overcome failure and put everything on the line to make things right. It’s a more methodical movie than one like this should be, and is all the better for it. Thanos is not as in the picture, and in bringing the story down to the original six Avengers and a few others, the story feels more focused and character-driven, but no less epic in scope.

A love letter to everything that came before, the time travel angle allows for a thrilling adventure wherein the characters are able to look back on where they’ve come from to determine where they’ll go in next. Exciting and poignant, The Russos and writers Markus and McFeely bring home the whole shebang in ways that manage to dazzle, surprise, and break your heart, aided by some series-best performances and countless rousing moments. It’s Marvel at its biggest, most ambitious, and emotionally resonant, and sets the bar for wherever the series goes in the future. 

1. The Avengers

The first wave of Marvel movies would’ve been nothing more than two great superhero movies and three bad-to-so-so ones had The Avengers not pulled off the hat trick that it did. On top of being a masterclass of blockbuster entertainment – dishing out laughs and fun set pieces like it has them lying around – writer/director Joss Whedon proved that investment in character always pays off. Avengers works best during the downtime between showdowns, as the quarreling, budding team has to deal with their issues, mostly in ways that find them fighting each other. It doesn’t settle for getting the characters together and meandering through conversations before they can team up, but rather asks what would happen when a man like Tony Stark comes up against a man like Steve Rogers. It’s a movie that lives for the conflict between characters and uses the overcoming of conflict to form the backbone of what makes the team special. 

As the movie ages, it feels like a nostalgic entry unhampered by an over-abundance of CGI wherever it doesn’t need it. Locations, costumes, and sets feel lived in and authentic, and when the action gets going it’s bright and absorbing, with the perfect number of characters to make sequences feel uniquely epic without being too bloated. As big as Marvel will ever get again without ever having to sacrifice a single character in the name of a massive tapestry or story – making The Avengers a perfect balance of entertainment and pathos that Thanos would be proud of, and that (aside from Endgame) Marvel will perhaps never be able to recreate.

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Source: JoBlo

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