Ranking the Marvel Studios Films So Far

In anticipation of this weekend’s release of the money-printing blockbuster “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the previous ten Marvel Studios productions and create a pointless ranking!  This should get us all through the next few hours until we see the new movie:

Not Ranked – Thor: The Dark World (2013)

I haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World, so I can’t rank it.  I’m sure I’ll watch it on basic cable someday, but the character of Thor has never been a big draw for me.  The comics I most enjoyed reading when I was growing up were the X-Men, Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Batman books.  Sure if a Thor book came in a package I would slog through it, but I never found his character particularly exciting.   Sorry Thor.

9. Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 isn’t a terrible film.  For a summer blockbuster it’s fairly average, and therefore suffers in comparison to Marvel’s other films.  The only thing that happens in it that’s so far relvant to any of the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series is that it is the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.  It’s the least memorable, and least essential, film in the series.

8. Thor (2011)

I might be a little biased – as stated above – in my opinion of the characters and storylines of the Marvel Thor mythos.  That being said, the movie Thor was pretty disorganized and a bit of a mess as a film.  The Thor mythos is complicated, and trying to shove all of that exposition into one film made was problematic.  Still, it exceeded my admittedly low expectations.

7. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Ed Norton made a great Bruce Banner, but I feel like he was wasted a bit in this film.  The problem was the Marvel decided to make a sequel to 2003’s poorly received “Hulk” instead of starting from scratch.  I would have rather seen Ed Norton as a younger, pre-accident Bruce Banner that dropping him in the middle of a story like they did.

6. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Tony Stark has problems.  Iron Man 2 scratched the surface of those problems, but the third film in the series does a better job of humanizing them.  Showcasing Stark’s issues here laid important groundwork for the direction the series seems to be heading with Friday’s Age of Ultron and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.

5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The MCU Series has done a better job of setting up Steve Rogers as a likeable character than his comic book series.  Rogers often comes across as a bit of a stiff in the comics, but the film version of the character gives him a great deal of depth and warmth.  The only reason that this one doesn’t get ranked higher is that I think it was a mistake eliminating the Red Skull as a threat so early.

4. Iron Man (2008)

Now we’re getting into semantics.  The top four films here could be ranked in any order and I would probably be okay with that.  Still, like any pointless ranking post, there must be winners and losers.  Iron Man is a fun, high quality film.  Since there are films that build on, and improve on, Iron Man in the MCU series, it has to be listed behind them.

3. The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers is a fine film and a landmark in serial film storytelling.  What it doesn’t, and can’t really, do is spend much time on the characters in the film.  It relies heavily on the characterizations established in the other MCU films, and for this practical creative decision, there are two films ranked ahead of it on our pointless, time-killing list.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

What sets Guardians of the Galaxy apart from the Avengers is that, for structural reasons, it has to spend a lot of time setting up its characters.  The story is pretty basic, even for comic book movie standards, but it does a better job of establishing a large group of characters than any other movie on the list.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Winter Solider takes the characters established in the other MCU films and builds upon them, but it’s strength lies in its story.  The film deals with more complex themes than the other MCU films and is better structured than most of them.  It makes me look forward to the next Captain America film more than the Avengers made me look forward to this weekend’s release.

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe