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– by Nick Doll

3. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Speak of the devil. Age of Ultron may not be as neat a package as The Avengers, it certainly has its flaws and extraneous scenes and story-lines. But, it also features a more ambitious plot that gives Earth’s Mightiest Heroes a lot more to do, and adds a great deal of depth to even the characters we’ve seen in multiple solo films before this outing. Hawkeye is given too much of a backstory as a response to Whedon screwing him in the last film, and Thor’s entire story-line is a bit of a wash.

But, my favorite Avenger, Captain America, has the most screentime by a large margin, and he really shines, even when he is fighting Ultron Prime and being told by his teammates he doesn’t stand a chance. James Spader is very underrated as Ultron, who is not as great a villain as Loki or Vulture, but is delicious nonetheless. The finale does fall into the overdoing the destruction trap, even by super hero team-up movie standards, but this was apparently part of the plan, setting up Captain America: Civil War in Phase 3.  One of the film’s most powerful and redeeming scenes are the visions shown to Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Black Widow by Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), calling to mind their biggest fears and sense of loss in a very classy and dreamy way that only Whedon could pull off.

2. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Civil War earns its place above both Avengers films for having the single most powerful moment in the entire MCU, the revelation in the finale when Tony Stark learns The Winter Soldier aka Bucky (Sebastian Stan) killed his parents. This leads to the most personal and heart wrenching fight scene in the MCU, pitting Captain America and his friend Iron Man against each other in an actual fight to (nearly) the death. Who can argue with that amazing slow motion shot of Iron Man blasting Cap’s shield and it reflecting off, an image straight from the Civil War comic?

Civil War may not be as refined as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but the directing Russo brothers earn their spot on Avengers: Infinity War by balancing a great deal of characters and setting up the large clash between Avengers at the airport, the scene in the MCU most like a glorious splash page from a comic. Spider-Man is rehabilitated in his quick appearance, an impressive achievement indeed. Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is yet another underrated villain, another of the top five in the MCU. And can we please get a buddy picture featuring the pairing of Bucky and Falcon (Anthony Mackie)? Those too are just too great together!

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a nearly flawless film, and not simply the best film in the MCU, but also perhaps the best superhero film of all time in a top five club with The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2, and Logan. The Russo brothers’ first action film and second film overall, they and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely perfectly marriage the superhero genre and all the elements of a ‘70s conspiracy thriller; the most seamless and effective blending of genres in the MCU.

The fighting is real and visceral with minimal CGI (there is still plenty… this is a superhero movie) and maximum stunt work, one of the reasons I prefer Captain America to any other Avenger. The plot is amazing, full of twists, turns, and major reveals you don’t see coming. The finale is powerful, with Captain America delivering a rousing speech while Hydra boards their helicarrirers meant to wipe out all enemies according to Zola’s algorithm. Watching Rogers find out Bucky is the Winter Soldier is heartbreaking, but not as heartbreaking as letting himself be beaten by Bucky at the end of the film because he is unwilling to fight his best friend and doesn’t believe Bucky is completely lost. And can we talk about Robert Redford, another underrated MCU villain? The Winter Soldier is the complete package and a movie I would recommend to anyone, even someone who doesn’t like superhero films.


That’s all, folks! What are your thoughts? How would you rank the MCU, or if that is too daunting a task, what does your Top 5 look like? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a source of extreme joy for many of us, and analyzing it can be half the fun! So, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Thor: Ragnarok lands in theaters on November 3, 2017.

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  • RX178

    Iron Man 2> Iron Man 3. More Justin Hammer! They completely ruined AIM- they should be just as formidable as Hydra!

    • elhonez

      Justin Hammer is the best. Sam Rockwell rules.

  • Kronx

    An opinion cannot be wrong… But all of your opinions are wrong.

    • Nick

      Not all! I think if you did a poll of best MCU films, The Winter Soldier gets first place! Maybe Avengers beats it… maybe.

      • Kronx

        Pound for pound, Guardians of the Galaxy was the best film. It’s a more entertaining, more satisfying experience. I can sit down and watch it again and again. It also had great emotional resonance, deftly laying its seeds early that were harvested at the end (Peter’s mom, We are Groot, etc.)

        It’s packed full of amazing shots that feel like splash pages, brief iconic moments that speak volumes.

        Winter Soldier is a very good film, but, once you know the mystery, it doesn’t quite have the same impact. (Although the “Did you get the flowers?” line is one of my favorite Marvel moments). And the grand scheme of having three death carriers never really feels like a great threat. It’s more of an excuse for things to happen.

        In fact, I think Civil War holds up better because it leaves you questioning whether Cap was a villain in his own movie (which he was).

        And Avengers; Age of Ultron needs to be a bit lower on the list. The dream sequences, Thor running off, I’m a monster, Ultron v. Jarvis all of these scenes disrupt the flow of the film.

  • Victor Roa

    hehe, fun list, although worst still is…. spending a weekend night as a teenager with friends watching Generation X and saying “well, this is closest we are ever going to get a comic book adaption.” and then sighing how Screwed marvel is on filing bankruptcy. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a3d46bd6fc41438b2b3171c81760ae93be6e61da1c1afb8cef39084db25e879b.jpg
    so any MCU film still is a massive step up from 20 years ago before Blade 1 was released.

  • TFCB

    I foresee much flack for this list. Hoo boy.

    • Nick

      Yeah, so did I as I wrote it. But it’s how I actually feel, having seen all them (except Thor: Ragnarok) at least 5 times. Plus, where’s the fun in agreeing with popular opinion? No discussion if I just guess what everyone else wants to read.

  • WTFITBS

    Too early to comprise a list such as this, I think when Marvel/Disney gets to a point where they want to stick to animated or live action shows and steer away from films for awhile, this would be appropriate. Next year we’re getting three more films: Black Panther, Ant-Man and The Wasp and Avengers: Infinity War which will make this list null and void.

    • Nick

      Easy to update! Just add each new release to the list, in it’s proper place!

  • SeanDon

    I’ll be nice…no comment on the list haha

  • axebox

    1. Winter Soldier
    2. Avengers
    3. Iron Man
    4. Guardians of the Galaxy
    5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
    6. Spider-Man Homecoming
    7. Civil War
    8. Ant-Man
    9. Doctor Strange
    10… Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor, Thor Dark World, Incredible Hulk

    • Joseph Jammer Medina

      Good list. Don’t agree completely, but by and large, your rankings are sound.

  • Mad Barchetta

    I think you’re over-critical of the Thor films, especially in saying there was no humor in The Dark World. Maybe you need to re-watch it because there was a ton of humor in that movie. A lot of of it misplaced, but hardly that dark of a film, beyond Thor watching his mother and adopted brother die. (of course, I think those things actually give the movie some impact and a sense of stakes) In my mind, Ant-Man ranks below both of them, and it generally overrated, although I did enjoy it.

    One thing I am desperately sick of hearing: “Wah, wah! They put in stuff about SHIELD (or whatever) in the story and it seemed like they were just world-building.” Yes! Yes, they were! Suck it up, buttercup. So many people got excited in that very first post-credits scene because it meant that Marvel was possibly working on building upon what they started with Iron Man. “Oh cool,” everyone said, “we’re going to get The Avengers! And SHIELD!!” Then most of them proceed to complain that this expansion of Tony’s world actually took place during the movies. Whn the hell else did you want them to do it???? During commercial breaks?? Keep it all to post credit stings??? Of course movie time would be devoted to this world-building. Frankly, I never found any of it to be a negative. It’s part of a meta-story, of which ALL the movies are a part. That means that’s how it’s going to work. Marvel certainly did a better job of integrating the various parts of its universe than BvS did, when we got a whole scene of Wonder Woman checking out all the logo-labeled MP4’s of heroes to be included in a future film.

    Either come up with a better way to do it, or stop complaining about it! Please. Enough is enough, already!

    • Nick

      Finally, someone besides my friend at work (who ranks it #1) appreciates Ultron! I’ve been getting the most flack for that.

      • Mad Barchetta

        Most people and critics didn’t care for Empire Strikes Back for a while, too. Once people get past their initial reactions, based on expectations of their own that weren’t met, they’ll start to see it for what it is: A movie that is essentially every bit as good as the first but missing the novelty. It explored the way the team had grown but also the darker aspects of each character. It also continued to explore concepts of personal accountability in the world of super heroes; Tony’s ongoing guilt and drive to protect the world, Banner’s guilt and self-loathing over the damage the Hulk could cause, Natasha’s doubts that she can ever get beyond the life of violence she’s lived. The movie has layers, but they apparently weren’t the layers people wanted, so they reacted as so many others do these days: “This isn’t just what I wanted, so it sucks!” We’ll see where it stands 5-10 years from now.

        • Nick

          Finally! Someone who gets it. Ultron may not be as clean and polished on the surface as The Avengers, or other MCU films, but it has layers! I stand by those amazing dream sequences, I think they’re pretty powerful and relate to the personal accountability theme you speak of, as well as reestablishing a heartbreaking image for Rogers.

  • Robobob

    I made a list awhile a year ago using IMDb user ratings, Metacritic’s critics and user scores and Rotten Tomatoes using average ratings from critics and users instead of their percentage system which is basically just a thumbs up or thumbs down. I added the Marvel movies from this year and the ratings from Ragnarok so far. (they most likely will change a few months out) Here’s the rankings I got:

    81.6 Guardians of the Galaxy
    80.8 Iron Man
    79.6 Captain America: Civil War
    79.2 Avengers
    79.0 Captain America: Winter Soldier
    77.6 Thor: Ragnarok
    77.2 Doctor Strange
    76.6 Guardians of the Galaxy 2
    73.2 Ant-man
    71.8 Avengers: Age of Ultron
    70.2 Captain America: First Avenger
    69.8 Iron man 3
    68.2 Thor
    67.4 Thor: Dark World
    67.4 Incredible Hulk
    66.0 Iron Man 2

    Also, if you count only user ratings the top 5 shuffle a little if you don’t feel like giving a handful of critics that much weight against tens of thousands of users.

    85.0 Guardians of the Galaxy
    83.0 Avengers
    83.0 Captain America: Winter Soldier
    82.7 Iron Man
    82.3 Captain America: Civil War

    • Robobob

      Oh and critics alone favored these top 5 in this order.
      Ironman,
      Guardians of the Galaxy,
      Captain America: Civil War,
      Spider-man: Homecoming
      Thor: Ragnarok.

    • Nick

      Very interesting!

  • Kyle

    Jesus Fuck you are retarded.