1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
There are numerous reasons why Captain America: The Winter Soldier tops our list but forgive me as I detour into lesser observed territory.
I think there’s reason to argue that part (a small part) of just why the film succeeded so greatly was due to Henry Jackman’s score. Much has been made about the fact that the score is where most of Marvel’s films drop the ball, especially when they could have been using individual pieces and themes (think John Williams for the Star Wars saga) to better enhance key emotional moments and action set pieces by having a distinct tone. A score is great when it doesn’t distract from a movie but where you can hear it and recognize its origin. None of the Marvel films have accomplished that last part except for “Winter Soldier.” Steve desperately racing away from the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters is given greater emotional significance due to the piece “Taking a Stand” while Bucky and Steve’s relationship delivers more due to “End of the Line.”
It’s that attention to detail that made the film so enticing, drawing viewers back into theaters for multiple viewings.
Beyond the terrific score, there’s the simple fact that not only did the Russo brothers excel at everything that’s made the Marvel universe thrilling so far, including relationships being explored (Natasha and Steve), exciting new characters introduced (The Falcon) and action packed sequences that have you on the edge of your seat (the first stand off between Hydra operatives and Fury being a highlight). Then, they went one step further and deconstructed everything we knew about the Marvel universe up until this point. Steve’s emotional struggles of doing what he believes to be right, his older belief in the law is tangible, and Chris Evans delivers his best performance as the hero out of time in Marvel’s finest so far.
Now we’ll have to see where Captain America: Civil War will place.