5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
There were many different ways to follow up The First Avenger. While I would have liked to see a quiet character study about Cap’s struggles reconciling the world of the 1940s with the world of today, the film we ended up with is still pretty great. And it’s clear that Cap’s uncomfortable with what S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing–punishing criminals before they even commit the crime. What I liked most about The Winter Soldier was that it was essentially a political espionage thriller that happened to feature characters from comic books. This film, like Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight, proves you can tell a mature story with comic book characters; that comic book movies aren’t just for kids. This is the film that made me more than a casual fan of Cap and made me excited to see what happens next with the Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, née the Winter Soldier, in Captain America: Civil War.
4. Iron Man 3 (2013)
This one and the next one could switch places, depending on my mood. This is just a fun film and was, in my opinion, the perfect follow-up to The Avengers. It was great seeing Tony Stark stripped of his suit and still being able to save (part of) the day. It’s everything I loved about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (also helmed by Shane Black) with a whole mess of Iron Man suits thrown into it. I’ve noticed that fanboys tend to hate on this film and while I can appreciate their anger with the twist of the Mandarin actually being an inept actor hired by the film’s real villain, Aldrich Killian, I think it works for the film. Some things in comics (or the source material for any adaptation, really) don’t always work in film and with a character with such a racially insensitive history as the Mandarin, I think what we got was fine.
3. Iron Man (2008)
I have to give the edge to this one because it launched the MCU. I can still remember being in the theaters, my butt numb from sitting through the end credits, when Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury swaggers into frame and states that he wants to talk to Tony about the Avenger Initiative. I remember that the Internet lost its collective mind. A shared universe, while not unheard of (see: Universal’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Toho’s King Kong vs. Godzilla and New Line’s Freddy vs. Jason), was never before attempted in this massive medium-spanning scale. It seemed that with that thirty-second tag, anything was possible and here we are, seven years later, seeing that it’s true. To this day, Iron Man still holds up not only as a good comic book origin story movie, but as a parallel to Robert Downey Jr’s life and career (Please don’t walk out on me for bringing up your past, RDJ!). Without this film, I’d probably be biking around the city today instead of readying myself for nearly two and a half hours of Avengers awesomeness.
2. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
I feel like I’d be cyber-bullied into oblivion if I listed this one any lower and, to be honest, I almost ranked it third. This is what we’d been building to since 2008 and it did not let us down. While some argue that certain characters didn’t get enough screen time, I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to write a script that juggles almost ten major characters, so that gets a pass from me. The best part of this film is seeing these larger-than-life characters, that we already know from their solo films, put aside their differences and egos and come together to, well, avenge. It’s a comic book come to life and its success has prompted other studios to attempt to create their own shared universes. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say this film has changed modern cinema.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Before the midcredits tease in The Dark World, I had no idea what to expect from this movie. I’d never even heard of them before it was announced. That barely ninety-second clip, however, sold me completely on the premise. The movie was everything I could have hoped for. I watched it just a few days ago and it really hits all the right notes. It’s funny, action-packed and, I’ll admit, I tear up a little bit at the end every time. It borrows from everything we love as a pop culture-consuming society (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars just to name a few), adds a dash of 70s rock and makes it its own. It’s weird, it’s funky and it embraces what makes it so different. That’s why it gets the number one spot for me.
All the reasons I rank Guardians so highly are the same reasons I’m ANTicipating (see what I did there?) July’s Ant-Man just a tad bit more than I am Age of Ultron. Ant-Man just looks different, it’s the first origin story and non-sequel since Guardians and Ant-Man’s powers are something we’ve never seen before on screen (well, except for the grammatically incorrect Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, I guess). Plus, I have a feeling that Paul Rudd Scott Lang/Ant-Man will have just as much charisma as RDJ’s Tony Stark/Iron Man and Chris Pratt‘s Peter Quill/Star-Lord, if not more.
Now, I’ve got to run; the movie is about to start and I think the ticket taker can tell I’m smuggling in chocolate-covered raisins!
What about you? How would you rank the MCU? Sound off in the comments below!