Ranking Stan: One Dude's Opinion Of Every MCU Film So Far... | 21-11
Updated: May 29
Before Avengers: Endgame makes its hugely anticipated birth into Marvel canon, there are 21 Marvel films that constitute the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but which is the best? Which is the worst? Which of the sequels actually stand up against their, let's face it, better predecessors? Well let's delve in and rank them right here, right now!
NB: Before Marvel connoisseurs and trolls rake me over the coals, this is One Dude's Opinion and should therefore not be taken anywhere close to seriously!
So without further ado, let's take a closer look at arguably the most ambitious movie franchise ever created, starting with entries 21 through 11:
21. Thor: The Dark World
(Rotten Tomatoes: 66%)
The easiest decision I have ever made. If this movie didn't introduce the Aether as the Reality Stone, it would be legitimately skippable. Even the mercurial Sir Anthony Hopkins didn't seem interested (his pronunciation of the word "birthright" still baffles me). Tom Hiddleston is literally the only positive to take from the whole movie, the rest of the film's cringingly forced wit falling embarrassingly short of funny!
20. The Incredible Hulk
(Rotten Tomatoes: 67%)
Seemingly created as a fairly immediate reboot (and apology) to 2003's Hulk, this admittedly much-improved instalment of Hulkdom is scarcely more than an Avengers box ticker. Not nearly as witty or well written as the only-recently released Iron Man, Hollywood giants Edward Norton and Tim Roth really struggle to make Zak Penn's script sound sincere at any point. On a positive note, the Hulk-Abomination showdown is visually brilliant, and Robert Downey Jr comes and makes the film necessary right at the end. wit falling embarrassingly short of funny.
19. Iron Man 2
(Rotten Tomatoes: 73%)
I mean, I can see what they tried to do. They tried to make it different to its predecessor rather than bigger and more of the same, but it just didn't work. Whomever decided that Mickey Rourke was an appropriate casting choice needs firing (I'm quite happy never again hearing him say "boert" as long as I live), and the very talented Sam Rockwell was just plain irritating. Both the journey from a park map to an atom of an undiscovered element is fortuitous to the point of ridiculous, and the ludicrously simplistic synthesis of said element were enough to make every movie fan (let alone Marvel fan) cringe. However, Don Cheadle's replacement of Terrence Howard is a welcome one, and the effects to create Whiplash's electro-whips were commendable; shame the final battle was so anticlimactic.
(Rotten Tomatoes: 77%)
Of all the casting choices in the MCU, Chris Hemsworth is my least favourite. He is admittedly witty when the movie demands it, but his sincerity is unconvincing and his transformation into a thoughtful and selfless Prince of Asgard is extremely forced. In general, Thor is a fairly benign introduction to one of the strongest characters; its weak and generally nonthreatening "Big Baddie" only saved by Tom Hiddleston's masterful portrayal of Loki. In fact, Hiddleston brings out the best in Hemsworth, as their scenes together are Thor's only moderately impressive moments and a welcome break from the love story hodge-podge that is the rest of the film. On the upside, I didn't realise the etymology of the word Thursday until this movie. Kudos.
17. Iron Man 3
(Rotten Tomatoes: 80%)
When did the MCU get so dark?! Terrorists, onscreen executions and violent deaths litter this improved conclusion into the Iron Man trilogy, but it still falls well short of an MCU jewel. It attempts meaningful self-evaluation, and instead delivers bewildering over-the-top fantasy. The MCU's strongest feature has been weaving unbelievable superhero stories into a contemporary world, but this was one step too far. Glowing super Pepper, irritating child actors and Stark's unconvincing anxiety are bad enough, but the appalling mistreatment of one of Iron Man's most iconic enemies is frankly embarrassing. An improvement on Iron Man 2, but barely.
16. Spider-Man: Homecoming
(Rotten Tomatoes: 92%)
Unpopular opinion - I didn't particularly enjoy this movie. I thought Tom Holland was fantastic, Michael Keaton managed to successfully bring to life one of Spider-Man's least interesting enemies, and thank GOD we didn't get another Uncle Ben origin story (I think everyone in the world is familiar with that thank you very much) but little bits of the movie irritated me. The HUGE emphasis on Tony Stark made it less Spider-Man and more Iron Man Jr., and I'm sorry, but whomever decided that Mac Gargan needed an *actual* scorpion tattoo can get in the bin. Anybody who knows anything about Spider-Man knows who he is, and, if you don't, it doesn't need telegraphing that sloppily. It's on par with Woody Harrelson's disastrous "carnage" comment in Venom; Easter Egg something subtly or not at all. Hopefully I'll enjoy Far From Home more (Mysterio hype much?!). Saying all that, that post credit is a stroke of genius.
15. Ant-Man And The Wasp
(Rotten Tomatoes: 88%)
Another day, another inferior sequel*. Though (in my opinion) not as fun as the original, there are positives. More incredible visuals (I need Hank Pym's box of vehicles and portable lab), more comedy that feels as brilliantly spontaneous as the original (hats off to Peyton Reed), it just seems like a 118 minute Endgame teaser (put that hat back on Peyton Reed). You just feel that Ant-Man didn't need a sequel, but the Quantum Realm needed explaining for Endgame, so they incorporated probably some the most confusing subplots ever and over-complicated EVERYTHING. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lily have some incredible on-screen chemistry, Michael Peña has absolutely no function other than comic relief and the fact that I can now legitimately make a Gi-Ant-Man pun help make it a solid movie. But the convoluted story (and Bobby Cannavale's perplexing character u-turn - lol, whut?) keep it from being great. (Also, Janet van Dyne somehow manages to age at the same rate as Hank in a place where time doesn't exist? Quoi? Also also, "You're in pain, I touch your face". Come on.) With all this in mind, the main conclusion to this movie is how much I want Paul Rudd to be my dad. Side note: how much does Michael Douglas love make-me-younger technology?! Just let go Michael; you're not 30 any more!
*to be read in the voice of Korg.
14. Captain America: The First Avenger
(Rotten Tomatoes: 80%)
This is one of those rare movies that gets better with more viewings. Tommy Lee Jones is at his sarcastic and cantankerous best, and Hayley Atwell's portrayal of Agent Peggy Carter is sublime. As much as this film is derided in some corners, it is a necessary introduction to America's Greatest Soldier, Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D., all of which play pivotal roles in the MCU. Hugo Weaving's mildly insensitive German accent aside, this movie is still a strong addition, and the pre-Cap Steve Rogers is visual effects at its finest.
13. The Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2
(Rotten Tomatoes: 83%)
This was always going to be a difficult film to make. The massive critical and commercial success of its predecessor built serious pressure on Vol. 2 to try to match. James Gunn does his best, yet all of the spontaneous wit and effortless humour of the first film aren't quite emulated in the sequel, but that's more of an accolade of the first than a fault of the second. It's still funnier than most of the other entries, and a generally brilliant film (the Mr. Blue Sky sequence in particular is beautifully crafted) but it suffers slightly from feeling overlong, and also from a confusing super-villain with a master plan that seems unnecessarily convoluted and is relatively easy to kill. (I mean they kill a God with a bomb, if that's not writing yourself into a hole I don't know what is). However, all that feels inconsequential when one considers dancing baby Groot. *melts*.
12. Ant-Man (Rotten Tomatoes: 82%)
Whomever decided that Paul Rudd would make a great superhero is a genius. Another relatively unknown superhero is brought to life in one of the most whimsical and lighthearted entries into the MCU yet, and it delivers. Sure, it's not the cleanest movie ever, and the stakes are never particularly high, but if you can name a climax as genuinely, belly laughingly funny as Ant-Man, I'm there. Also, Corey Stoll's performance is genuinely incredible, and the Yellow Jacket is one of the scariest villains in the whole of the MCU.
11. The Avengers: Age Of Ultron
(Rotten Tomatoes: 75%)
Another entry in MCUs "curse of the sequels", it's another film that doesn't quite live up to its predecessor. However, unlike most other sequels of the MCU, it is still a viable movie in its own right. A vulnerable Tony Stark vying for an "endgame" creates his own worst enemy (masterfully voiced by James Spader), and then doesn't learn his lesson and makes another one - but this time Paul Bettany's soothing English accent convinces everyone of his positive intentions. Introducing yet more characters into the shared universe, and, although it is a clunky sequel with jarring themes, it's still a necessary movie.