8. Doctor Strange (2016)
This film marked an interesting new direction in the franchise, not just introducing a big new character into the story, but bringing in magic and sorcery for the first time.
Benedict Cumberbatch was terrific as Doctor Strange, a protagonist with an interesting and well-thought-out character arc, and Mads Mikkelsen gave a good performance as Kaecilius, even if the character wasn’t particularly engaging.
The effects in this movie were jaw-dropping, and it is one of the best looking movies the franchise has delivered.
It’s not a film that will work with all fans. The sorcery used can become a bit technical at times and this might lose some people. Also, its actual plot is fairly basic, breaking no boundaries.
However, it’s an entertaining movie, and despite its by-the-numbers plot, this new direction and character helped the film feel fresh, and the fans stay interested.
Doctor Strange was a hard film to get right, but they managed it.
7. Ant-Man (2015)
There was a lot of panic before this movie came out. It was already a risky choice, but when director Edgar Wright left the project, the whole production went through the roof.
It was a relief when Ant-Man ended up being one of the most fun and unique movies the MCU has yet produced, and since Edgar Wright went on to give us Baby Driver, everything worked out well.
The character of Ant-Man is silly, so making the film a comedy and casting Paul Rudd was a stroke of genius. It works on all levels as a film that knows how cheesy it is, and embraces it.
The whole production feels a lot smaller than other entries in the franchise. The character is small, so rather than give us some ‘end of the world’ scenario, we get a nice little contained heist movie, and it plays for laughs very well.
Also, the size of the character gave the filmmakers a lot to work with on a creative level, leading to the most imaginative imagery in any MCU movie.
This film isn’t exactly ground-breaking, but it’s insanely entertaining. Ant-Man shouldn’t have been a success, but it was one of Marvel’s finest outings.
6. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Fans all over the world had waited for years for Marvel to finally get the rights back to their most iconic character, and they rejoiced when the deal was struck with Sony to do just that.
The pressure was on to get the job done, and fans need not be disappointed. The recent film is the best movie about the web crawler since Spider-Man 2. It may even be better.
Tom Holland is perfectly cast as Peter Parker. He is clearly having a lot of fun, and it only adds to the film’s biggest plus… Spider-Man feels like a kid.
The reason young kids related to Spider-Man is because he’s a kid, too. Past incarnations of the character have been played by actors who look at least 30, but this is not the case here. The whole film is delivered almost like a high-school comedy in places, and that’s a very smart move.
The film takes enough interesting and different turns in order to have a Spider-Man movie feel fresh again, and it balances the drama very well while still managing to be the most fun audiences have had watching the character since 2004. Michael Keaton is pretty great as Vulture, too.
Homecoming was worth the wait. Spider-Man is back where he belongs, and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Here’s hoping Sony doesn’t mess this one up…
5. Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man was where the whole MCU began. To this day, it remains a lot of people’s favourite Marvel movie.
While Marvel has done better since, Iron Man remains one of their best. It’s also hard to forget that they wouldn’t be where they are without it. You could argue that Jon Favreau and Kevin Feige were the two people responsible for the whole look of the MCU.
It’s also a pretty great film in its own right. Coming right at the beginning, it doesn’t burden itself with sub-plots. It does its own thing and it does it well.
Robert Downey Jr. was simply born for the role of Tony Stark. It is one of the finest casting choices in cinematic history. He has made a lesser known character iconic, and has rightfully become the glue that holds the MCU together.
The action is well directed, the film moves at a brisk-pace, the effects are superb, and the performances are impressive. As usual with Marvel, the villain is weak, but that isn’t enough to stop Iron Man being the thrill-ride that it is.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy was (and still is) the biggest surprise in the franchise so far.
These aren’t exactly well-known characters. In truth, they’re a bit of an oddity. The story includes a talking tree and a racoon with a gun… you’d be forgiven for questioning what on earth Marvel were doing.
What a treat this was. What a breath of fresh air; a jolt of energy in a franchise that was running the risk of becoming repetitive. Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t so much a superhero movie as it is a comedy space opera.
It’s relentlessly funny. In fact, it’s the funniest movie they’ve yet produced, and the cast are superb. It made a star out of Chris Pratt, and it’s not hard to see why. It also gave us Groot, a now iconic character that everyone adores.
The soundtrack shouldn’t work but it ends up giving the film its identity. The entire look feels different, and thanks to being set so far away from the rest of the action, it mostly stands completely on its own, meaning even people that know nothing about Marvel could stick this on enjoy it. It has universal appeal, so in hindsight, it’s easy to see why it did as well as it did.
This is one of Marvel’s finest outings. It was here they proved they could continue to surprise their audience, and that they understood exactly how to craft a movie around their characters, as opposed to the other way around.
3. The Avengers (2012)
At the time, this movie was pretty much the most anticipated superhero movie ever made.
As we all know, it lived up to the hype. The Avengers was the pay-off of 4 years work from Marvel. Now that they’d taken the time to develop their characters slowly, they could finally let loose and have some fun with them.
Watching these characters finally interact was very much worth the wait. Thanks to Joss Whedon’s snappy script and good understanding of the characters, the dialogue wound up being just as slick and entertaining as the action scenes.
Also, Loki remains the best villain in the MCU. He was superb in this. Tom Hiddleston finally had a good script to work with, and he delivered a villain that was both threatening and hilarious.
The action was very well shot, the humour was on-point, the performers excelled and the script was exceptional, not just in its dialogue but in its structure. It’s a hard skill to deal with an ensemble cast as big as this, especially with characters as strong as these, most of whom have already helmed their own movies. In The Avengers, every character had their moment to shine.
Most importantly, it’s just so much fun. It does absolutely everything that a good superhero movie should do, and it finally gave the fans what they wanted. Above all else, they didn’t let anybody down. The Avengers remains one of the most re-watchable and enjoyable MCU movies, and a ground-breaking moment in the superhero-genre.
2. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
If The Avengers was the result of 4 years of hard work, Civil War was the result of 8. Years spent not just introducing the characters, but their rivalries, their conflicting ideologies and their personal differences, all led to this one moment. Adapted from the much loved series of comics, Civil War was a hugely anticipated film that delivered on all expectations.
The conflict is well-constructed. It makes sense not just within the confines of the movie, but the whole universe. None of it felt rushed. The story was told gradually, and when the time was right, the movie was made, and what a movie it is.
This was the second film in the MCU directed by the Russo brothers, two very talented filmmakers who really understand these characters. Joss Whedon had a tough task in The Avengers, but the Russos have more than double the cast here, on top of having to introduce new characters and a believable villain. Not only did they pull this off, but they gave every single character something to do. Nobody was short-changed. All of the motivations were clear and the story unfolded naturally.
On top of that, the film is relentlessly entertaining. In particular, the airport sequence is one of the finest moments in the history of superhero cinema.
No entry in this franchise has had a harder task to pull off. The Russos did it, and they did it with ease and grace. This was everything that the fans had been hoping for and more.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The second outing for Steve Rogers remains the finest movie that Marvel Studios have ever produced.
Civil War and The Avengers may awaken those nerd butterflies inside you, but The Winter Soldier is by far a better piece of filmmaking.
For a start, the story is the most engaging. The film works almost like a conspiracy thriller, and remains totally unpredictable until the very end, at which point a huge twist is introduced which changes the franchise forever in a big way. All the MCU movies are fun in different ways, but The Winter Soldier is as intelligent as it is enjoyable. It treats the audience like they have a brain. This is blockbuster entertainment as it should be done.
Also, the action is extremely well directed by the Russo brothers. Every single sequence is thrilling, no matter how big or small, including a little scene in which Nick Fury comes under attack in his vehicle, which is one of the tensest and most exciting scenes in any Marvel movie.
The film also further fleshed out the character of Black Widow. She was effectively made Steve’s right-hand-woman in this, and she did a fantastic job, going toe-to-toe with the protagonist and sharing excellent chemistry. With the introduction of Falcon as well as the inclusion of Nick Fury and Maria Hill, this film almost works as a little Avengers story while still keeping Steve as the focal point.
This is a movie that never gets old. Every time you watch it, you find something else to love. This was the film that saw the franchise exceed expectations. It’s the best MCU movie because it goes so much further than any of the others, both in terms of its subject and its production value. 16 films in, The Winter Soldier remains the high point of the entire franchise, and it may be some time before another film comes close.