– by Nick Doll

8. Doctor Strange (2016)

Even more so than Ant-Man, Doctor Strange could be accused of being an Iron Man clone. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is more similar to Stark than any other character when we meet him; rich, arrogant, and uncaring about anyone but himself. But, like with Guardians of the Galaxy, director Scott Derrickson isn’t afraid to make things weird and trippy, and Doctor Strange really benefits from this, making it one of the most unique entries in the MCU, comparisons to Iron Man aside.

The visuals are unlike anything from any superhero movie, and the film may just sport the MCU’s best cast, including Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton. The addition of actual magic (not whatever they were talking about in Thor) is just as much a game changer for the MCU as Guardians of the Galaxy’s introduction of a much bigger world than just Asgard and Earth. And the extremely clever finale bucks classic hero v villain showdown clichés, allowing for loads of destruction while avoiding the ramifications by undoing it all, in an age when we were finally tiring of the whole “city gets destroyed in the climax” battles seen in movies like The AvengersAvengers: Age of Ultron, Man of Steel, and X-Men: Apocalypse, among many others.

7. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

In 2017, six years after his first appearance on the big screen, Marvel Studios finally figured out what to do with Thor. Ragnarok is hilarious in an entirely different way than Guardians, with a more blunt, understated, dry style of comedy that mostly doesn’t go for Guardians‘ brand of turd and chafed nipple jokes.

RELATED: Thor: Ragnarok Review: Thor’s Better Than Ever And Having A Ragnarokin’ Time

Hemsworth is finally allowed to fully use his comedic chops, earning him the title of funniest Avenger. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) too is more fully realized than even in the Avengers films, and side characters like Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) are just utterly bizarre; again, a unique brand of weird unlike Guardians of the Galaxy. Sometimes the action can be a bit of  CGI overload, and there are a few missed opportunities narrative wise, but otherwise this film is a real winner for Thor, catapulting his best solo film over Iron Man’s.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Truly the most original entry in the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge risk, that paid off better than anyone could have possibly imagined. Though all the MCU films are fairly funny (except for The Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World), Guardians was a full-on comedy, utilizing the comedic chops of a newly fit Chris Pratt. New characters included a talking raccoon and tree, something that one thought could only work in the pages of a comic book, but this sort of weirdness became the film’s greatest strength.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the gold standard for an ensemble superhero team that doesn’t benefit from origin films about each major player preceding it. X-Men and Suicide Squad wish they could be this effective. And if Doctor Strange has the most unique villain showdown, Guardians certainly takes the title for second most original, with the hilarious and memorable dance-off. Guardians also became the first MCU film were music was just as much a character as our team of five heroes, something done even more effectively in the sequel.

5. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man: Homecoming is truly unique on this list as it is a smaller scale film with much lower stakes than nearly any other film in the MCU, yet it is still a powerful film. Michael Keaton absolutely steals the show as Adrian Toomes/Vulture. Though he is a very different type of villain than Loki, I would say has stolen the crown of greatest villain in the MCU. That car ride to Homecoming is a killer scene, as is the movie’s biggest reveal and the conversation between Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and Toomes that follows.

And Spider-Man has never been better! While Sam Raimi’s films, the first two of which are still excellent, took a darker approach with a moodier Spider-Man, Homecoming is nothing but fun; a superhero film crossed with a John Hughes movie. Marvel literally can save any franchise!

4. The Avengers (2012)

What? I’m putting The Avengers below Avengers: Age of Ultron? How dare I!

The Avengers doesn’t sit as high on my list as many would put if for similar reasons to why I let the original Iron Man slip down the ranks. At the time, it was a revelation, and I can still remember my unbridled excitement and joy when Steve Rogers and a newly cast Bruce Banner (Ruffalo replacing Norton) met for the first time on what turned out to be a helicarrier! Seeing the Avengers together, after leading their own origin solo films, was a geek dream come true and an actual game changer in Hollywood. I may never get the same feeling again as watching that panning shot of all the Avengers fighting together across New York, and it is this film, not Thor, that cements Loki as one of the most interesting characters in the MCU.

But, like Iron Man, looking back at it five years later, The Avengers is a very basic team-up movie with very little plot and even fewer locations. When you think about it, The Avengers really only hits three locations, Germany, the helicarier, and New York, with almost the entire second act spent on the helicarrier. Not exactly the most epic narrative for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And, let’s be real, Hawkeye got screwed in this one, still not taken as seriously as the other Avengers four years later in Captain America: Civil War.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, Black Widow is fleshed out wonderfully after her stoic appearance in Iron Man 2, becoming on of the most interesting and badass Avengers thanks to director Josh Whedon’s love and experience with strong female heroes. The Hulk is finally used correctly, no longer a sick man seeking a cure, but a hero who wants to help others, and by the end of the film owns his infliction rather than run from it. The Avengers a nice, clean, well written, directed, and acted film, but the Avengers aren’t pushed quite as hard as they are in Age of Ultron.

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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.


    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.
      Guardians of the Galaxy,
      Captain America: Civil War,
      Spider-man: Homecoming
      Thor: Ragnarok.

    • Nick

      Very interesting!

  • Kyle

    Jesus Fuck you are retarded.