The Marvel Cinematic Movies Ranked

So Marvel fans, here we are yet again on the cusp of a new film – the 13th in the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before Captain America: Civil War obliterates our collective fan minds and possibly changes the MCU from here on out, the TYF team has ranked the existing 12 films so far from worst to best. To make this a fair list, the ranking was determined by a poll held for the full staff of writers, otherwise Iron Man 3 would have been much higher and Ant-Man would be coasting at the bottom.

That being said, check out which movie placed where and let us know in comments what we got wrong, what we got right and what your personal ranking would be below.

12. Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 movie image

Some (meaning me) might go as far as to say that this was unfairly maligned upon its release when in reality it’s perfectly serviceable as a popcorn flick. However, it certainly lacked a strict narrative thread as it disposed of more intriguing storylines such as Tony’s addiction and the idea that the very thing that had saved him was now killing him – for set up for the larger universe. An unforgivably forgettable villain, a third act that played like an after thought and the criminal poor utilization of Sam Rockwell sticks this at the bottom of the list. It’s a great film to flip to during commercial breaks and as a piece in the larger Marvel puzzle, but not much else.

11. Thor: The Dark World

I’m guessing that we all would have preferred to watch a full length intergalactic roadtrip between the bickering Thor and Loki than the drab, humorless film we actually got? The only moments where the film doesn’t suffer from its own stepping stone mediocrity is whenever Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is on screen, particularly when it’s focused on the demi-god brothers. A shame since it’s the first time Thor himself has felt like a real, tangible character who isn’t just the bumbling, quippy jock in the background. Far from being an downright poorly made movie as there are some gorgeous imagery (a funeral procession is a particular highlight), but maybe even more than Iron Man 2,  it felt like a pit-stop on the road to better things. And it was.


10. The Incredible Hulk

I can’t be the only person who sometimes forgets this film exists right? I certainly can’t tell you what the hell happens in this film without referencing the official synopsis, which has to be the most damning aspect of the film – it’s utterly forgettable. Edward Norton is fine as Bruce Banner, Liv Tyler could have been excellent as Betsy and William Hurt was clearly okay enough to be invited back for the upcoming Civil War, but the film further explores just how difficult it can be to make a movie about the Hulk. While he works beautifully in an ensemble and was the clear standout in The Avengers, when the character is both the hero and the antagonist, how do you wrap a superhero film around that? I’m not saying it can’t be done; it simply hasn’t thus far.

9. Thor

It would seem that Thor isn’t a favorite character around TYF, but in total fairness, he has to be toughest character to nail, right? Kenneth Branagh does his very best creating a world that’s fantastical and fun, but we have to wonder if it could have been made any better if they’d just gone and embraced the full, campy nature of the character. It’s not much better on earth, but there’s plenty of humor derived from the fish out of water mentality as Thor is completely out of his element. Such is the case with its sequel though, it’s Tom Hiddleston’s Loki who ends up being the film’s greatest asset. With his nuanced and quietly enraged performance as the ultimate trickster, he became Marvel’s biggest breakout to date.


8. Iron Man 3

Despite a few TYF staff members valiantly trying to rally around Shane Black’s take on the character (including this one), Iron Man 3 ended up on the lower scale of or list. Divisive, clearly, the film both won and lost fans due to the darker places it takes Tony Stark’s character as he battles PTSD after the events in New York and the more satirically comedic places it takes the villain, the Mandarin. Distinguished from how often Tony isn’t in his Iron Man suit, the story takes an overall more personal tone and that mixed with Black’s signature style makes Iron Man 3 a perfect ending to the Iron Man trilogy.


7. Ant-Man

I will not mention Edgar Wright. I will not mention Edgar Wright. I will not mention Edgar Wright.

Okay. I failed. Despite my forever curiosity about what the aforementioned director could have delivered, Ant-Man is a wonderful showcase for Paul Rudd to mix his charm in with a more physical performance as he becomes as reluctant a hero as they come in the Marvel universe and completely captures the audience’s attention in his very first moments. With some stand out fight sequences – especially in the third act – and the promise of a future team up between Ant-Man and the Wasp, Ant-Man works so well because it brings the superhero story to the micro scale (heh), all the while playing with a familiar origin story format.

6. Captain America: The First Avenger

As tricky as Thor admittedly can be, Steve Rogers’s Captain America certainly has its hurdles as well. Namely being the Superman complex – how does a film make a natural do-gooder, boy scout interesting? The answer is to show him pre-serum and then also show him making the ultimate sacrifice at the end. Aided by having the most touching, longing romance to date, no matter how fleeting, between Peggy and Steve (helped immensely by Hayley Atwell’s terrifically layered performance), The First Avenger isn’t a perfect Captain America movie, but it sets the stage as to why we’re going to become so invested in Steve Rogers and his story.

5. Age of Ultron

Joss Whedon clearly was feeling a bit lost while writing Age of Ultronand it shows with weird subplots involving Hawkeye’s home life and the Bruce Banner and Black Widow romance. The film very easily could have begun to feel a bit bogged down by too many things going on at once. It’s saved however in the bleaker turn it takes in showcasing real consequences for its characters as their inner strengths and weaknesses of these heroes are revealed.

4. Iron Man

It’s the movie that both re-launched Robert Downey Jr.’s career as a bonafide movie star as well as the film that became the springboard for the current superhero mania. As stripped down as a Marvel movie will ever be, Iron Man established Tony Stark as a character within moments – egotistical, aloof and then deconstructed what we knew about him in the next 20. Before we got to meet Iron Man the superhero, we met Tony Stark the genius mechanic. John Favreau was smart to show us just how clever Tony was to make him more than a rich guy in a suit, and then further explored his tinkering nature in some stylish sequences of the first stages of building Iron Man. The push and pull dynamic between Tony and Pepper is instantly engaging, but 90% of why the film works to the extent that it does is all due to Downey. Imbuing a character who very easily in other hands could have been insufferable (ahem Joss Whedon) with a sense of vulnerability despite his larger than life persona. It might still be the finest bit of casting Marvel has ever done. Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man.

3. The Avengers

I harp on about Joss Whedon’s one note depictions of these characters quite a bit, but The Avengers was undeniably a huge undertaking, and the result was one of the most engaging and joyful theater experiences in recent years. It was difficult not to feel like a kid again as we sat in our seats and watched the now iconic shot of the Avengers finally fully assembling. Introducing a new version of Bruce Banner in Mark Ruffalo, bringing these characters together and orchestrating an enormous alien invasion staged in downtown New York is daunting, and Whedon and co. pulled it off with skill and a lot of humor. The film never stopped feeling like the audience was experiencing an epic scale story. Maybe we can look back now and find something to nitpick (I’m guilty of it), but very few films have touched the sheer joy of seeing all of these beloved characters overcome their near hostile differences in order to save the world.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

Vibrant, hilarious and arguably the most heartfelt film Marvel has put out yet, Guardians of the Galaxy delighted surprised fans with  little known characters. Following Marvel’s predicted structure in terms of where the basic narrative was going to go and when, James Gunn an co. got to have more fun with their characters and the multiple worlds they visited. Shaking off the typical color quota, Guardians luxuriated in greens, purples and pinks that grabbed our eyes and our ears with deliciously catchy pop hits that helped give the film a distinct voice. Chris Pratt proved himself as a leading man with the bad boy with a heart of gold Star Lord, while Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel shine in their respective voice performances. The film felt energized by its ability to go off the rails of its predecessors and the joy that went into the film was mirrored by those watching. With hints of The Fifth Element as well as Star Wars in terms of aesthetics and world building, Guardians of the Galaxy kicked back and ran with Marvel’s more wild side.

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.


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