Ranking the films of Marvel's Cinematic Universe

With Marvel Studios gearing up to release the eleventh movie in its Cinematic Universe, it's important to revisit the first 10 as a crash-course refresher of the smaller, less noticeable connections. In honor of "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" being released in May, here is the ranking of all Marvel’s major films .

10. “Iron Man 2”

Marvel set the bar high with the first "Iron Man" film, but the second installment in the saga of Tony Stark couldn’t live up to those expectations. Messy action scenes and cluttered villain motivations made the film feel overstuffed and unsatisfying. It's not a bad film — the movie is certainly watchable and entertaining — it’s just underwhelming considering its predecessor.  

9. “The Incredible Hulk”

Following the disastrous 2003 version of our green hero, “Clash of the Titans” director Louis Leterrier tried to bring new life to Bruce Banner in his first official appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film fell flat. Edward Norton’s take on Banner was well done, but the film focused too much on his personal struggle and not enough on that of The Hulk. While the film shows that The Hulk and Banner are different people, it didn’t work well. 

8. “Thor”

The first “Thor” film was by far Marvel’s biggest challenge prior to the release of “The Avengers.” The studio tapped Shakespearean enthusiast Kenneth Branagh to introduce audiences to the Nordic god. While the film’s tone was different than its predecesssors, it was a fairly solid entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Tom Hiddelston’s Loki brought a new villian superstar to Marvel and the character would later have an effect on its Universe as a whole.

7. “Iron Man”

The movie that started it all, “Iron Man,” was an absolute surprise when it was initially released. Although it’s now second nature to see Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, when he was initially cast, there were naysayers galore. The movie was a risk as it was really the first “serious” adaptation of a Marvel comic.  However, this was the most fun to watch again as it was great to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s humble beginnings and compare them to where the studio’s films are at now.

6. “Thor: The Dark World”

Released in an awkward November slot, the sequel to “Thor” was better than its predecessor.  While it was fun to see such a major storyline tackled on the big screen and to see what was new in Asgard, “The Dark World” proved that perhaps Thor just isn’t an interesting enough character to sustain an entire film on his own.

5. “Captain America: The First Avenger”

Although Chris Evans is now engrained in geek lore as Steve Rogers, there were question marks surrounding his casting, namely the notion that he had previously played The Human Torch in the dreadful “Fantastic Four” films. Fortunately, the casting paid off and once again proved that Marvel knew exactly what it was doing.  The film represents where Marvel really found its footing, making a period piece out of a comic book film that was surprisingly enjoyable.

4. “Iron Man 3”

Following the disappointment that was “Iron Man 2,” Marvel changed directors and brought Shane Black in to helm the third chapter of Tony Stark’s saga. Again, Marvel’s move paid off and Black managed to make the best of the three Iron Man films. A darker film greatly impacted by the events of “The Avengers," the movie was the first to explore what came before it and the impact those events would have moving forward. Full of solid action and a great performance by Downey Jr., “Iron Man 3” served as the perfect kickoff to phase two of Marvel Cinematic Universe.

3. “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Although it would be no easy task for cult director James Gunn to turn a film about a talking raccoon and his tree friend into an interesting affair, he  managed to do so in a big way.  Guardians became Marvel’s most successful film to date. Toeing the line between being a love letter to the comics and standing on its own, the film was the best gift a comic book fan could ever ask for.

2. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Here's the movie that showed just how dark Marvel was willing to go.  “The Winter Soldier” managed to provide justice to one of the Captain’s biggest comic arcs of all time. Seamless action directed by the Russo Brothers as well as their solid writing managed to turn Captain America into a star of a nearly perfect espionage thriller whose ripples will surely be felt in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years to come.

1. “The Avengers”

Surely no surprise, “The Avengers” is the best Marvel film to date. No man was better suited for the directing job than Joss Whedon, who managed to also write a film that allowed all established Marvel characters to come together in a way that worked. The potential for an overstuffed film was there, yet Whedon managed to let each character breathe and have their own moments.  Watching the characters come together for the fist time was an absolute joy and “Age of Ultron” is shaping up to be just as good.

Contact this reporter at: seweinst@asu.edu or on Twitter: @S_Weinstein95.

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