A bit of post-Christmas fun, occasioned by a list of Marvel movies ranked in some sort of order that seemed to me to bear no resemblance to anything I’d ever write down. That’s cool – taste and enjoyment are subjective.
Still, here’s how I’d order the movies, from least favorite to most.
Again: highly subjective, and I put a lot of value on repeat viewing as a “turn my brain off and just have fun” activity.
So, here we go. There are twelve Marvel Movies. And I’m going to split the voting up into three tiers.
The Bottom Tier
The good news for Marvel (at least from my perspective) is that these are all watchable. The not-so-good news is that for some of them, once they’ve been seen, you’re quite done with them.
12. Iron Man 3 – This one I saw once, and I own the Blu-Ray but I don’t think I’ve ever re-watched the movie. It just never really grabbed me. That being said, there were some fun bits in it, including Tony struggling with his post-Avengers brush with death.
11. Iron Man 2 – The highlight of this one was really the introduction of Black Widow, and the spectacular fight scene with her beating up, well, everyone. They played up Pepper’s role a bit, which was good, and Tony gets his new element to help power his suit. The interaction with War Machine was a fun scene, but still overall not enough to lift it out of the top.
10. Thor: The Dark World – Also known, I think, as Loki 3 (the first two being Thor and Avengers). Tom Hiddleston is such a compelling Loki that it’s worth watching almost just for that. Plus, the pageantry of Asgard is something I love watching. Objectively, I should put this one lower than 10, but I will rewatch this one before the 2nd and 3rd Iron Man movies, so it moves up in my book. Plus: Zachary Levi as Fandril. Boom.
9. Hulk – This one is a good movie, but it’s basically a stand-alone, and the fact that Edward Norton was replaced by the excellent Mark Ruffalo in Avengers and Avengers 2 means that it tends to stay on the shelf. Still, as a self-contained story, it does very well. Norton is a good Banner, and the Hulk is, of course, the huge green rage-monster we’ve grown to know and love.
The Middle Tier
Neither my favorite nor least favorite, these are solid hitters for me. The closer you get to 5 and 6, the less real distinction between them in terms of enjoyment.
8. Ant-Man – This was a heck of a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and a better movie in many respects than my choices for 9-12. I liked the old/new continuity with Michael Douglas as Pym, and the new actors for Ant-Man and Wasp. The Tommy the Train scene (not a spoiler – it was in the trailer) was and is laugh-out-loud amusing, especially for a parent. The interactions with Falcon at the Avenger’s base were well played, and proved Ant-Man can be a serious player, as well as played for laughs.
7. Thor – A controversial choice, I’m sure. Most people didn’t care for it. I, however, never get tired of it. Chris Hemsworth owns the role as Thor, and I’m not sure it was Anthony Hopkins playing Odin so much as it was Odin playing Anthony Hopkins – he’s just that good in the role. Loki gets a smaller but still critical role here, and the tale of the arrogant boy becoming a man – proving his worth by realizing how unfit he is to rule – is enjoyable as hell to me. The movie is simply gorgeous as well, and while Academy Award winner Natalie Portman is underutilized (as she was in Thor 2), she doesn’t make me want to take a screamin’ leap off a cliff by playing scientist. This one moves way up as a movie I will pull off the shelf and just watch. Bonus awesome: Idris Elba as Heimdall? Brilliant.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy – I didn’t really groove on this one personally, but I can see that it’s a good movie, with an interesting plot and characters, each played well. The overall movie is deliberately much more shades of grey (something good? something bad? bit of both?) than the rest of the movies, but that’s not always a selling point for me. I rewatch Thor more frequently than GotG, but I can also see that for most, it’s a better movie.
5. Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – The opening battle sequence, Hulk’s rampage and fight with Veronica, and the final battles are great film-making. The focus on Hawkeye and his vulnerability relative to the other Avengers – plus his hidden home life – is a nice touch. Still, I heard that the movie lost something like 20-40 minutes on the editing room floor, and it shows. Rewatching the movie last night was still fun, though – the interaction between the characters, especially Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, sets up both this movie and Civil War quite well.
The Top Tier
These are my top four Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which means they’re some of the best superhero movies ever made, in my opinion. For me, there are two groups of two movies, the merely awesome lower half and the ‘best movies ever made’ top two.
4. Iron Man – What? Fourth? Well, yeah, for me. This was, for a while, simply the best superhero film ever made. The introduction and construction of the first suit was a fantastic beginning, and while Don Cheadle is a great actor, Terence Howard did a great job in this one as Rhodey. The only thing that makes this one fall down a bit is that Jeff Bridges really does chew the scenery in the final confrontation. Oh, sure, the battle itself rocks on toast. But “My suit is more advanced in every way!” is just arrogant crap, delivered badly. And frequently. But overall, Iron Man was the foundation of the entire line of movies, giving the runway – deservedly – to some of the blockbusters that followed.
3. Captain America: The First Avenger – This one ranks among my favorite movies of all time, and it’s only number three on my list. I enjoy every moment of this film, from Steve’s recruitment and training, to his first moments as a super-soldier, to his eventual adoption of the Howling Commandos and the fight with Red Skull, and his eventual sacrifice. The movie also gave us Peggy Carter, a wonderful heroine who deservedly got her own TV series. Solid entertainment that was deeply respectful of the patriotic themes of WW2 America, portraying them in a way that could have been corny, but was not.
Truthfully, Iron Man and Captain America could go either way. I find Cap a bit more compelling as a hero than Tony, but Robert Downy Junior and Chris Evans both utterly own their roles. And i truly, deeply respect the work both have done bringing the joy of their characters to fans everywhere – especially their work with sick kids. Chris Evans (and Chrisopher Platt) have both travelled to children’s hospitals in costume to spread cheer, and of course RDJ donned his Tony Stark persona to gift a boy with a missing arm with a new Iron Man-themeed prosthetic. Chris Evans has said that Captain America is the kind of man he has always wanted to be – and apparently he’s taking that up as a challenge.
2. Avengers – This is a real candidate for #1, actually. It has the highest rewatch value of all of these movies, and if a brilliant ensembe piece that takes the best from each character. Plus, of course, Loki being so delightfully Loki. From start to finish, this movie defines the superhero ensemble piece.
1. Captain America: Winter Soldier – Simply brilliant, and to bring such moral and ethical complexity to a red-white-and-blue hero that is Captain America was a deft touch, well executed. The big reveal of the movie rippled through the MCU, and Captain America, Black Widow, and relative newcomer Falcon carried the movie quite well. The reintroduction of Bucky as the Winter Soldier was very well done, and the film manages a level of tension that is visceral. So much so that it’s rewatch value is lower than Avengers, but overall it’s the better movie.
I love superhero movies. Great fun, good effects, and a sense of escapism and fantastic immersion that is hard to beat. The best of them have, in the past, made me “believe a man can fly,” and with some of them, can inspire one to better things like the modern Gods they are.
In particular, the pairing of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers stand out as well acted, supremely well cast, and flawlessly executed. Tony, other than his origin story, seems to require the others around as a foil to his gigantic personality. I can watch Captain America – and have – in anything he’s in.
In fact, I’m about to play in a GURPS Superheroes game, and my character, Commander Samurai, is accurately described as Captain America Lite. Oh, sure, some differences, because if i’m going to play Cap I’ll actually make and play Cap (though he’d be hard in GURPS; I might have to do that just to see if I can).
But I started off with “I want to play a character like Captain America” for a reason. And I simply cannot wait for Captain America: Civil War.