For example Thor: The Dark World regularly gets cited as one of the worse MCU films, but I quite enjoy it – so will probably rank higher than other lists. Likewise most lists have Guardians of the Galaxy at the top, however I’m not a huge sci-fi fan so again this will be lower than expected.
That said, this is truly a difficult task, as the Marvel Studio movies all tend to range from good to great, with a few truly excellent films. There aren’t really any bad films, and I genuinely like all of them. I think I can rank my top 3 in a definitive order, and my least favourite(s) at the bottom, but the one’s in between will be hard and could arguably have an interchangeable order.
Anyway, let’s give this a go…
18) Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2 was definitely released at a stage when Marvel Studios were finding their feet for how to tell an individual story, whilst also building a wider world and setting up future films. As a result this film is a bit clunky as a standalone, however it's still entertaining and re-watching Iron Man 2 recently I did enjoy it.
17) Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol2
I’ve got to say I was really disappointed with this, there are some great bits, but overall it was a let-down. Firstly it feels like the movie only has 2 acts, and the decision to separate the Guardians from one another hurts it, together with some odd character choices (Rocket becomes a complete jerk because...? Reasons). It’s ok, but is the only MCU movie (post Iron Man 2) I’ve come out of genuinely under-whelmed. Though the opening credits sequence is incredible! After re-watching the film I have since blogged some updated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 impressions, however it doesn't change it's place on this list.
16) The Incredible Hulk
To be honest I think most people forget this is part of the MCU. There’s nothing technically wrong with the film but it does stand out from what we currently expect from the series. The tone is much more serious, the lead actor doesn’t carry over into The Avenger (Edward Norton being replaced by Mark Ruffalo) and there are very few ties into future films. That being said, it’s still enjoyable and the Hulk / Abomination showdown at the end is fun.
I’m not a fan of “fish out of water” story-telling approach, it’s a conceit usually used for high fantasy films where the movie studios can’t afford to set the whole film in a fantastical realm. Hence the need to get our hero into the real world. Thor and Loki are both great and so is the opening section, however once Thor leaves (read: banished) from Asgard the film loses a bit of its charm for me.
14) Iron Man 3
This used to rank a lot higher on my list (even above the original Iron Man), but after rewatching it recently I really didn't enjoy it as much. It's still good, but it doesn't really hold up. I like Shane Black's quirky dialogue and the buddy cop nature of the film, but the twists no longer have the same impact on repeat viewings. The sky-dive / Air Force One sequence is still spectacular though.
Who’d have thought this would have turned out genuinely great? It’s extremely funny and set around the much smaller scale of a high stakes heist, that makes it a much more personal tale. I’d love to be able to see the Edgar Wright version, but to be honest I feel this version probably fits into the MCU much more naturally.
12) Thor: The Dark World
This film gets a bad rap, but I genuinely enjoy it and think it’s better than the first. It’s funny, has some great action and the relationship between Thor and Loki is really fun to watch. It’s also set primarily in Asgard so we get to see the world of which the gods are born.
11) Iron Man
Absolutely great film, and without it the MCU would not exist. Should it be higher? Maybe, but then I’m in no way saying I think it’s bad, I just enjoy the next 10 films more. Robert Downey Jr owns the screen as Tony Stark and this is a superb origin story that not only sets up our lead hero, but sets the tone for the MCU in general.
10) Doctor Strange
Okay, so this is basically Iron Man 1 with Stephen Strange sat in for Tony Stark, beat for beat. However for me it ranks higher primarily due to the insanely inventive visuals and action sequences. It genuinely delivers something we haven’t seen before, it is quite literally mind-blowing.
9) Captain America: The First Avenger
I really love the first Captain America movie, it’s a great origin story of who has now become my favourite MCU hero (I was definitely #TeamCap when it came around to Civil War). Although after a first viewing, I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying (it’s necessary to get Captain America to the present day for The Avengers). The journey we see Steve Rogers take from zero to hero is great and inspirational.
8) Thor Ragnarok
Marvel films are always described as “fun movies” but Thor Ragnarok truly is just that. It’s extremely funny, filled with great characters and has some amazing action sequences. However due to the light-hearted nature of the film, it doesn’t quite have the same emotional weight as some of the films higher on the list which for me means it sits just outside the top 5. You can read my spoiler-free review or my in-depth spoiler-filled thoughts on Thor Ragnarok separately.
7) Avengers: Age of Ultron
I love this film, however I have 2 issues that prevent it from cracking the top 5. One, Thor’s dream side-story is a needless inclusion and doesn’t go anywhere (yet anyway). Two, the section on the farm really grinds the film to a halt and apart from some “nice” character interactions doesn’t move the plot forward. That being said, everything else is golden, my highlights include the opening action sequence, the Hulk v Hulk-Buster and of course, the drinking / lift Mjonir scene in Avengers Tower.
6) Guardians of the Galaxy
Technically the most perfect film Marvel Studios has ever produced. A self-contained origin story that introduces a completely new universe, at least 5(!) protagonists and makes it seem effortless and stays completely entertaining. This is a genuinely excellent film and without a doubt one of the best in the MCU. Also, what a soundtrack!
5) Black Panther
This is a landmark movie for obvious reasons, and I absolutely loved it. I've only seen it once so far, so after multiple viewings it might actually be ahead of Spider-Man Homecoming, but for now it goes straight into the top 5. You can read my full Black Panther review, but in summary I loved the story, the characters and the action, truly one of the MCU's best.
BUY ON DVD / BUY ON BLU-RAY
4) Spider-Man Homecoming
My favourite Marvel super-hero, and he’s finally a part of the MCU. This is the most definitive version of Spider-Man on the big screen (you can read my full thoughts here). A great coming of age story, funny, action packed with subtle links to the wider MCU.
3) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A superior film in every way to the original and one of the best solo superhero movies of all time. The Winter Soldier is a genuinely scary adversary, and the tale of espionage with Cap questioning the morals of the 21st Century government is genuinely thought-provoking.
2) Captain America: Civil War
Basically Avengers 2.5 (but that’s no bad thing), Civil War not only has the most ambitious super-hero action sequence put on screen in the form of the team-up airport fight, it also has the most emotional climax any MCU film has ever had. By pitting Captain America against Iron Man the audience is completely emotionally invested from start to finish. Love, love, love this film.
Oh and the fact it introduces the most definitive version of Spider-Man AND Black Panther is a huge bonus.
The final act of this film is absolutely spectacular. It is by far the most fun and joyous experience I have ever had as a cinema-goer. It’s magnificent. The opening 10-15 minutes are a bit cumbersome, but once we have the Avengers in play this film is truly great. My only criticism with this film is Captain America’s outfit, it just looks so “comical” for lack of better term. But everything else is awesome, the character interactions, the action sequences, Loki as the villain, etc. I absolutely love it.