Back to finish what I started. Hopefully the previous half of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie list has sparked the appropriate amount of ire. Because now we’re getting into the nitty gritty, the top 10 films in the Marvl Cinematic Universe. If your detective skills are up to snuff, you can probably get a decent idea of what movies are in my top 10, but let me attempt to explain myself here. I’m sure a couple of these may come as a surprise. But for the most part, I think you can come to agree with these inclusions.
#10 – Spider-Man: Homecoming
What a refreshing change of pace. Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. Bar none. The only one who even comes relatively close is Batman. So you can imagine how good it felt to watch what Kevin Feige and Jon Watts were able to accomplish with the second Spidey reboot in 5 years. Tom Holland brings such a youthful exuberance to Peter Parker that we hadn’t seen on the big screen so far. Between Tobey Maguire’s geeky awkwardness, and Andrew Garfield’s (misplaced) sly coolness, there was never much room for Peter Parker to be a high school kid with high school problems. This is the best possible version of Peter Parker that could exist in the MCU, which is more than what I could have ever asked for.
Homecoming goes the farthest in making the Marvel Cinematic Universe a living, breathing universe. Things that happen elsewhere have effects and consequences, small and large in Homecoming. The story-like, I alluded to earlier, is grounded and feels real. Peter is a high school kid, dealing with the issues that high school kids go through. Those are appropriate stakes, that are made really clear to the audience so you can have moments like…
“HOLY S*** LIZ’S DAD IS THE VULTURE”
Oh yeah, Michael Keaton is in this movie. And he immediately solidifies himself in rare air, as one of the top villains in the entire world of Marvel. Keaton’s Toomes gives us a sense of duality that I don’t think has been explored so far in this franchise.
Marvel really needed to hit a home run with this film, and I don’t think they could have done a much better job than this.
#9 Avengers: Endgame
I think Endgame suffers from Dark Knight Rises syndrome. It’s tasked with following up on one of the most significant cinematic events that we have ever seen. That’s quite plainly and quite simply very difficult to do. Despite checking all the boxes, and even being able to implement a time travel plot that doesn’t suck, it’s just hard to follow up Infinity War. Maybe the issue is that the movie put a little too much onus on checking those boxes and wrapping up this saga with a neat little bow.
I really liked seeing the Avengers defeated and traumatized. It really helped drive home the feelings of shock that the end of Infinity War hit us with. It was a little disappointing to see that theme fail to carry over through the rest of the movie, but I don’t think it takes away from how amazing of an experience watching Endgame is.
#8 Black Panther
OOOOOWEEEE I love Black Panther. Being one of 2018’s most popular films has brought out the contrarians focusing on this movie’s (very few) shortcomings. The criticism is rooted in the superficial aspects of a brilliant movie with forceful themes. I used to be of the opinion that T’Challa was a more interesting character in Civil War than he was in his own film. Since then I’ve come around to really appreciate his arc in this film. Both T’Challa and Killmonger bearing the weight of their father’s sins was a great way to mirror the characters and helped make both characters feel compelling. If there is anything that holds this film back, it’s the overreacting that I have come to expect from Michael B. Jordan’s roles. Otherwise, the soundtrack, visuals, and overall cultural impact this film has will help it stand the test of time.
#7 Spider-Man: Far From Home
Far From Home is the manifestation of every complaint people have about Tom Holland’s Spidey. And I love it. Feed me your tears, nerds. Everyone talks about the MCU’s Spider-Man being Iron Man Jr. And I thought it was obvious that that was the point. Like I said earlier, this was the Spider-Man they had to make in order to fit the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Additionally, it happens to be a really good Spider-Man in my opinion.
Far From Home does a stellar job showing us how easy it is to collapse under the weight of great expectations. I honestly feel like people didn’t actually watch this movie, or didn’t really see anything below the surface since they seemed to have missed this point so badly. Of course, MCU Spidey is overly reliant on Iron Man, but the whole point of Far From Home is Peter being forced out on his own, without his security blanket. He now has to make a name for himself. I’m rating this film higher than Homecoming because Holland’s performance is so incredibly personable in Far From Home. To him, the hard part is over, and he wants to unwind. I feel like that’s something everyone can relate to. And isn’t that the point of Spider-Man in the first place?
#6 Marvel’s The Avengers
The impossible movie. Every single time I talk about The Avengers, I can’t help but note that I think it’s a miracle that it was able to exist. There is no logical explanation for how they could come together to combine four different film franchises (most of them missing the mark) to make one film that crushes it this hard. It’s amazing that each main Avenger has an arc of their own, a challenge for each of them to overcome in this movie. Joss Whedon perfectly interweaves these arcs through one cohesive plot. And the impact of The Avengers cannot be understated. It was the movie that made our current Marvel Cinematic Universe centric climate of films possible, whether you think that’s good or bad.
#5 Thor: Ragnarok
Goodwill toward Chris Hemsworth’s Thor had been building due to standout performances in the 2 Avengers movies leading up to Ragnarok. A lot of people, myself included, find the character to be quite enjoyable when the Shakespearean intensity is dialed down just a tad. Ragnarok is the Marvel’s Thor fully realized. Waititi brings a refreshing sense of focus to what is essentially a reboot of the Thor movies. That focus is centered around a more relaxed approach to the character. You can see how comfortable Chris Hemsworth is in his performance. That sense of ease and comfortability trickles down to the rest of the cast to the point where even The Hulk is lovable. The chemistry between this cast is absolutely excellent. I feel like someone who may have been feeling burnt out on comic book movies may have been reinvigorated by Ragnarok, just as the Thor character himself was.
#4 Iron Man
The perfect origin story. Tony Stark introduces himself as so incredibly unlikeable in the first act of this film. This lends itself to really setting him apart from a traditional protagonist that we’ve seen in the genre before. Jon Favreau does masterful work crafting an arc for Tony that would be relevant and consistent for the next 10 years, especially when it finally came to a close in Endgame.
I think people put too much onus on the plot in films. While the plot Is obviously an important aspect of filmmaking, to me, well-written characters are what drive most good films. Iron Man keeps it simple, plot-wise, allowing Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark to have a lot of room to operate creatively. The characters drive this film forward. All the supporting characters exist as part of a whirlwind around Tony Stark’s life. Some characters enable him, others manipulate him for their benefit. The one thing that stands against Tony’s erratic nature is Pepper Potts. Pepper is the sole entity that keeps Tony grounded with 2 feet on earth, and the dynamic is established very well here and carries on in the rest of the films.
Face the Music
The most underrated aspect of this film for me is the score. I am a Ramin Djiawadi stan. The GOT and Westworld composer made his only contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe undertaking in Iron Man, and it was amazing. The biggest mistake Marvel made between the first two Iron Man films was neglecting to bring Djiawadi back for the sequel in my eyes. Replacing him I think was contributory in Iron Man 2 lacking soul. Djiawadi is known for creating swelling and dramatic scores, but the level of immersion that he adds to Iron Man is one of the biggest reasons I still enjoy watching it today.
Robert Downey Jr. is THE Iron Man. It’s not very often an on-screen depiction of a comic character supersedes any prior appearances in print, but Downey breathes new life into what many considered before to be one of Marvel’s B-tier heroes. And has established himself as the one true Tony Stark across all media then, now, and hopefully forever.
#3 Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
I will never EVER understand why people don’t like this movie. Especially the ones that adored the first one. I have actually seen people put it amongst the Marvel’s worst, and it simply doesn’t compute with me! Vol. 2 takes the most important part of the first Guardians film and expands it in a profound way.
The relationships between all these traumatized individuals were the cornerstone dynamic in Guardians of the Galaxy. Where the first film explores how different people compartmentalize trauma, Vol. 2 explores how the trauma that each member of the team has experienced affects their relationships with one another. Peter’s got issues with his parents, Gamora’s got issues with her sister and their shared experience of abuse by Thanos, Rocket has issues that cause him to push people that care about him away. All these story beats are set up in the first film and executed beautifully in Vol. 2.
Some of you were upset about the high standard I held sequels to in the previous half of this list. The reason I had such a high standard was that this film exists. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 accomplishes exactly what a sequel should set out to do, and it’s what a lot of other sequels in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have failed to do. Capture the essence of the original, and expand upon it in a meaningful way.
#2 Avengers: Infinity War
What is there to say about Infinity War that hasn’t already been said? Remember how I talked about how impossible the first Avengers film was? Take that difficulty and multiply it 10 fold, and that’s the task the Russo brothers were Intent on tackling. How do you accomplish doing a film with so many potential protagonists to focus in on? You make the bad guy the main character. Infinity War puts Thanos in the spotlight and frames the story almost to the point where you want him to gather all the Infinity Stones.
I think focusing on Thanos was a brilliant way, and realistically the only way Infinity War could tell a cohesive story. What’s better is how nobody really expected this heading in. There are a million think pieces and video essays on this movie, you guys know how epic it is. And how hard it made for Endgame to follow it up is even more of a testament to its greatness. It is the crowning achievement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
#1 Guardians Of The Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite films. Point blank, period. No movie evokes more of a physical reaction from me on every single rewatch. I cry at the first scene, the second scene makes me grin ear to ear. Guardians is the full realization of my idea of characters having more importance than plot in the film. The way each guardian interacts with one another is the core of what drives this movie. Almost every element of the film was a dice roll from introducing the Guardians at this point of the MCU’s lifespan, to trusting James Gunn with writing and directing the film.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the music. While the licensed 70s pop songs that populate “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” added a ton of personality to the movie, it was Tyler Bate’s score of the film that really gave it that emotional push. The GOTG main theme is incredible and puts the lack of effort in the music of other Marvel movies to shame. The fact that Guardians is such a memorable film is in no small part due to the immersion the music provides.
You gotta be honest, GOTG being the last Marvel film released before Age of Ultron didn’t inspire a groundswell of confidence and enthusiasm. But by the end, we all understand how much of a home run Kevin Feige and the boys had just hit.
That’ll do it folks. I have now ranked every single Marvel Cinematic Universe film. What a journey we’ve just gone on. We laughed, we cried, we ranked Ultron where it deserves to be. I wanna thank everyone for joining me as I took on such an effort. Make sure you tweet me your thoughts @kevinOMO_, so we can have a nice, pleasant discourse like every other conversation on the internet. Also, check out the newest episode of The Other Identity now!