With Captain America: Civil War hitting cinemas this Friday, we’re about to enter ‘Phase Three’ of what is known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while we love every single one not all MCU films stand equal, and so without further ado, here is our totally unbiased ranking of those who have come out thus far (spoiler warnings!):
12. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
What drags this one down the list is the continuity issue: Edward Norton, who stars here as Bruce Banner, is later replaced by Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers onwards. Otherwise, the plot is so-so: much of the film alternates between Banner causing havoc as the Hulk, and then going into hiding. The repetition gets tedious. Do look out for Banner’s sort-of-nemesis General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) in Captain America: Civil War, where he is set to make an appearance.
11. Thor: The Dark World
Trying to understand the plot of Thor: The Dark World gives us a bit of a headache. There’s a villain called the Dark Elf Malekith, a strange toxic substance known as the Aether, and the upcoming convergence of the Nine Realms. There’s plenty that we love about Thor’s universe (see below), and it’s a pity that it’s undermined here by such a convoluted plot.
10. Iron Man 2
After all that life changing, humbling experience undergone in the first film, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is back to his old ways. Which makes this sequel a tad irritating. There’s also a silly spat between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) which involves a strawberry allergy. Thankfully Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are here to bring some much-needed common sense to the table.
Watch Iron Man 2 now on Virgin Movies via your Virgin Media set top box. Simply press Home on your remote, then On Demand > Movies
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Seeing the Avengers relax and interact together at the beginning of Age of Ultron is rather fun. Yet everything goes wrong, for them and the audience, when Tony Stark’s creation Ultron comes to life. Ultron doesn’t make for a very enticing opponent (you could just have, um, not created him, Avengers), and so it’s easy to lose interest in the fight.
8. Iron Man 3
We like this one for its thoughtful portrayal of post-traumatic stress. And Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) makes for a repulsively suave villain. However, the much-built up mystery regarding the Mandarin doesn’t pay off, and we don’t understand why Tony Stark has to destroy all of his suits to then have to rebuild them later. Finally, the filmmakers dodge a great opportunity to make Pepper Potts a superhero in her own right.
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This follow-up to the first Captain America is a tad disappointing. For starters, the story takes a lot of cheap shortcuts. The Captain’s former enemy Hydra improbably re-appears. A slew of characters conveniently return from the dead. And then, there’s sudden implosion of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency. We’d only just gotten our head around it, so to see it fall apart is more than a little frustrating.
Thor is perhaps the cheesiest out of the MCU films, and that’s why we love it so. This is where we first get introduced to Asgard, Thor’s awesomely dramatic home world. It also introduces some of the franchise’s very best characters: Idris Elba as Heimdall, and, on earth, Stellan Skarsgård as the distracted scientist Erik Selvig. Of course, our very favourite of them all is Tom Hiddleston, who was clearly born to play the deliciously charming Loki.
Watch Thor now on Virgin Movies via your Virgin Media set top box. Simply press Home on your remote, then On Demand > Movies
5. Iron Man
We love Iron Man’s first half, in which Tony Stark faces captivity and must use his wits to get himself out of rather dire straights. The second act is more predictable, hence why we’ve docked the film some points. The character of Pepper Pots for instance, is disappointingly stereotyped. Surely the scriptwriters could have given her more chutzpah to make her a more convincing counterpart to Tony Stark’s arrogance?
4. Captain America: The First Avenger
A period superhero film - need we say more? We also just adore Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) for his bravery and morally upright outlook on life. Captain America: The First Avenger is also more thoughtful than most MCU instalments. It feels rather realistic that were we to have superheroes, we wouldn’t always know what to do with them. The film also introduces Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a British agent within the Scientific Strategic Reserve and possibly the MCU’s coolest character.
Watch Captain America: The First Avenger now on Virgin Movies via your Virgin Media set top box. Simply press Home on your remote, then On Demand > Movies
The superpower of its hero is plain silly. The film’s first director, Edgar Wright, quit mid-way. And let’s be honest: it had a terrible trailer. Yet, Ant-Man revealed itself to be one of the best films of the MCU, thanks to its hilarious dialogue, Paul Rudd’s genial performance as the titular character, and Corey Stoll, who plays Yellow Jacket, simply being an amazing villain. (His evil laugh in the last battle sequence? It still gives us the chills).
2. Avengers Assemble
The dream team at last comes together. Watching the banter among the superhero crew is a real highlight (and don’t miss out that post-credits scene where the team grab a much-deserved kebab). We don’t like that New York is the site of the final battle (it’s been done so often in superhero films) but Marvel has since then made an effort to diversify locations, so we’ll forgive them this once.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy has everything we’d want in a blockbuster film. It’s Hollywood big-studio fare, but it remains remarkably original; it’s funny, yet also tender and frequently visually stunning. What’s more, it takes amazing risks: who would have dared to hire Vin Diesel only to say ‘Groot’ in various intonations? Yet it works, and so well at that. To top it all, it’s got a catchy, dead-cool 80s soundtrack. Guardians of the Galaxy, you win.
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