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With Avengers: Endgame coming out in a few months, I thought I'd take this chance to reflect back on the 20 movies that Marvel Studios has already brought us. With so many great films, especially in recent years, this was surprisingly difficult!
So, a little bit about this list before we dive into it. Personally, I had never read the comics before I watched these films, and since then I've looked a little bit into some of the back-stories of some of these characters. I've been a huge fan of these movies and always tried to see them in the cinema once I got hooked around the time Avengers Assemble came out. This list is mostly based on the story and how much I enjoyed the film, but sometimes there are curve balls why I loved/hated it (my list, my rules :P). These are purely my opinions, so if you disagree on anything, I'd love to hear your opinions. And obviously, I'm going to be talking about some key plot points so spoilers ahead! But I'm sure if you're reading this then you've seen every film on this list. So here we go!
20. 'The Incredible Hulk'
This is the only film on this list I haven't seen, and frankly, based on the clips and reviews I do know, I don't really want to ... By default this had to be at the bottom of the list. Perhaps one day I will watch it and it would of been somewhere else on the list, but until that day comes, here is where the big guy stays ... Sun's getting real low on this one!
19. 'Thor: The Dark World'
After enjoying the first film so much (Thor was my favourite character back at the start) I was very disappointed by his sequel. It lived up to the title of being 'dark' but it felt so unnecessary—like something from the DC universe, as Deadpool would say! The only thing that impacted me was when they killed Loki (silly me thinking he actually died) only to bring him back before the end of the movie. I didn't really understand the plot, something about portals and maybe alignment of planets? I honestly can't remember, it was that forgettable.
18. 'Iron Man 3'
This was another disappointment for me, more about the plot than anything. I thought it was cool that Pepper had some powers for a bit, instead of just being the stereotypical side-character cheerleader. Tony had shown real character development since the events of Avengers, no longer the arrogant, egotistic guy from the earlier films. My problems with this film were the Mandarin, who turned out the be a fake, and the whole "I'm Iron Man, not the suits" thing. When I saw this, I thought it was the end of Iron Man, and he wouldn't be in any future installments of Avengers or other films. But then in Age of Ultron, there he was, in a suit, and it was never spoken of again. I've read since that it was metaphorical, as he had been using the suits to hide behind, like a cocoon, after the events of Avengers and other past movies, but I didn't pick up on this from the film.
17. 'Captain America: The First Avenger'
I've seen a lot of hate for this film, but honestly, I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as that. It's an origin story, and I'd say a pretty good as far as they can go. I related a lot to small Steve Rogers, having a good heart but not the physical body to do much with it. Obviously, I didn't get any serum to make me into a buff Chris Evans, but I still cheered him on as he beat up Nazi's. And then at the end when Nick Fury shows up, I knew something bigger was coming.
16. 'Iron Man 2'
I absolutely loved the soundtrack to this movie. I got the album for Christmas and listened to it all the time. I thought this was a great sequel to the first, as we got War Machine fighting alongside Iron Man, which 16-year-old me thought was the coolest thing ever, after Rhodey says "next time" in the first film. We also got to see Black Widow for the first time, again, 16-year-old me loved this film. Whilst it's not my favourite anymore, it's still nostalgic for me.
15. 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'
Following on from the world-wide sensation of Avengers Assemble was a tough feat to pull off, and I didn't personally feel that this completely did. Sure, all our favourite heroes were back, some new faces joined the team, they had that cool action shot in the little church building with the slow motion, but to me, that was most of it. I thought Ultron was a bit lacking as a villain—I never felt like the world was in danger, say compared to Thanos where you just knew they weren't going to simply "win the day." This one felt stereotypical and underwhelming, but despite that, the cast was great, and I gained a lot more respect for Hawkeye with his "I've only got a bow and arrow" speech.
14. 'Ant-Man and The Wasp'
This movie wasn't particularly bad, I think it just suffers from "sequel syndrome." By that I mean, you have a great first movie and then, nine times out of 10, part two doesn't live up to the expectations of the audience, and it's either very samey, or it's very different. Normally, it seems that we don't like either. In this case, it felt like the first one, but just not as good.
Ahh, my teenage self's favourite Avenger. I loved everything about this character, his powers, his origin, his ability to be hit by trucks repeatedly. I thought the humour was fairly good, and his brother was a great villain that I was happy to see return in Avengers and other movies. But nowadays this one doesn't particularly stand out amongst the other titles in the MCU, so middle of the list is where the God of Thunder stays.
I know people don't rate this one particularly high, but I thought it was hilarious. Michael Peña's fast word/lip sync monologues, the Thomas the Tank Engine fight scene, naming the ant Anthony. Very dry humour that was right up my street—Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas were great leads for this film. Extra credit to the 15 second "Ants, Ants, Ant-Man" skit they did in promote this film, I love that every time, even now! Check it out on Youtube if you've not seen it.
11. 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'
There was so much action and thrill in this, it's one of the few that doesn't have sequel syndrome. It was so different from the first, and so much more intriguing. I also (naively) didn't know that Winter Soldier was his old pal Bucky that fell from that train, so that became a great twist for me watching for the first time. Compelling right until the end, this is how follow-up movies should be made.
10. 'Doctor Strange'
I've been a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch since Sherlock, and it was great to see him step into the MCU, with a character that completely suited his personality and even how he looked—it's like Stan and Steve knew ... Doctor Strange was different from every other film that came before it—delving into mysticism and dimensions (we're intentionally ignoring Thor 2 here...) in a way that was refreshing but also familiar with previous movies. Also, I thought the concept of bringing time to a place without time was a very clever way of outsmarting Dormammu.
9. 'Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2'
Now, I am very fond of Guardians 1, so I had high expectations for it's sequel, but for me, it's got sequel syndrome ... more of the same that I loved from the first, right down to the details like the soundtrack on a cassette tape, and the jokes like stealing somebody's body part for a gag, but only a few things that really set it apart as it's own (Mantis, look out!). Now don't get me wrong, this has still made the top 10, I just thought it could have performed a lot better. What saves this from being lower on the list is Dave Bautista. He really became the star of the show with hilarious one liners and his laughter, but also for me, the scene with him and Mantis when she reads his thoughts and can't handle the emotions he feels, whilst he looks off into the distance thinking of his family. I thought it was a great scene that I could strongly relate to.
8. 'Iron Man'
The one where it all began—a classic that I don't think anyone dislikes. A great origin story that sets a good standard for all the films to follow (not to say that they all reach it). Tony is a like-able character, with the super power of unlimited money and intelligence, both of which I'd love to have! It also has a compelling story where he is nearly killed by terrorists wielding his own weapons, and his reaction as he realises he fuels a lot of the destruction of the world, to become it's protector instead.
7. 'Black Panther'
I feel like this guy came out of nowhere - just showed up in Civil War, and became a hit with the audience. Incredibly cool powers and a suit to match it. An awesome story, with an awesome villain that cuts down another awesome villain from an earlier film. Also a great protagonist, that you're totally rooting for from start to finish, but at the same time, you sympathise for the bad guy, creating a great conflict between the characters. Great visual effects, and an all round solid entry into the MCU.
6. 'Avengers Assemble'
Iron Man may have been the original MCU movie, but this one was the one for me that got me hooked on the whole franchise. They took all the awesome standalone heroes we'd watched already, and teamed them all up to defeat Loki, arguably the best villain we'd already seen up until that point. Everyone loves this film—you've seen it at least twice in the cinema, and at least once more since it came out on DVD. The classic pan shot around the team in New York getting ready to fight together, still gives me nerd chills. Bruce Banner's "I'm always angry" sequence—nerd chills. The team poised above a defeated Loki? You guessed it—nerd chills.
5. 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'
After so many terrible Spider-Man movies, I was so happy to see the web-slinger debut in Civil War, then get his own movie following on from those events. Tom Holland's Spider-Man is believable, lovable, and entertaining to watch. He's literally a teenager figuring out his place in the world, like all of us have done at one point or another. I love that they skip the backstory, as even my parents, who know very little about comics, know about the radioactive spider and Uncle Ben. It wasn't necessary and I appreciated that skip on Marvel's part, and the new story that Spidey followed. A great villain, a great twist with Liz's family, and great mentoring/cameos from Tony Stark.
4. 'Captain America: Civil War'
The airport scene ... Need I say more? Seriously though, this film weaves together the characters and plots of what feels like EVERY other film up until this point. The story was SO compelling, SO believable, and didn't follow the formula of good guy beats bad guy. Sure, there was a bad guy that they defeated, but ultimately his plan succeeded—to break up the Avengers. I remember hashtags for Team Iron Man and Captain America all over social media. What other movie has divided an audience so much? Neither side was actually wrong, and you didn't know what the outcome would be.
I remember at the time saying how a movie like this was so much better than another super hero film that came out in the same year, X-Men Apocalypse, whose story was good guys stop bad guys from destroying the world. Obviously, the world isn't going to be destroyed, and the good guys are going to win, no matter how stacked the odds are. You're just waiting to see what hax they pull out of the bag at the last minute (looking at you Jean Grey). But not Civil War—this was a conflict between heroes, with consequences that last beyond the credits of that film. This grey-area style of storytelling really left a lasting impression on me.
And yes—the airport fight scene. Again, nerd chills. Seeing all our favourite heroes fighting it out was so rewarding after years of character introductions and developments. And the introduction to Spider-Man was simply genius. I remember seeing the trailer for the first time and I remember the internet simply EXPLODING with reactions to it. There's a great video on Youtube of people reacting to Spider-Man's introduction and it's amazing to watch, even three years on.
This was originally my number three, but I couldn't put Civil War above:
3. 'Avengers: Infinity War'
Similarly to Civil War, Infinity War unites/reunites our favourite heroes, not just from the Avengers, but the Guardians and the other characters that we've met so far. Whilst I just talked about how good guy vs bad guy movies aren't the best stories, this one blows that away—or should I say, snaps it away—by having the bad guy win. Yep. The heroes lose. And half of them, along with half the universe, die. This Christmas, I watched Infinity War with my parents and brother, who hadn't seen or heard anything about it until then. They were so shocked and upset at the ending ("I don't feel good Mr. Stark")—and THAT is great storytelling. When art of any form can make you feel a certain way, then it is truly a masterpiece. Heck, I've even booked time off work in April to ensure I can see Endgame as SOON as possible. This could arguably be number one on my list, however the last two entries on this list have been personal favourites of mine.
2. 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
For a long time, this was my number one Marvel film. It was fresh, funny, simply fantastic at the time. Even now I can re-watch this and have a great time doing so. I don't think this film, for me personally, will ever go stale. It always makes me laugh, the cast is great, and the story is interesting to follow. Chris Pratt breaks almost every stereotype of a super hero (challenging the villain to a dance-off? Genius!). Every character in the team brings something unique to the table, and they sync together brilliantly. The soundtrack is still my favourite of all of these films, and I happily listen to it at work and remember the scenes that they go with. Kicking alien rats to "Come and Get Your Love?" Any day.
And as I said, this was my number one for ages, however that changed last year...
1. 'Thor: Ragnarok'
Taika Waititi is a genius. This is a complete masterpiece, firstly by turning around from the abysmal Thor 2, by seemingly doing everything opposite to that film. Dark? We're going with every colour imaginable. Serious? We're going to taser the God of Thunder multiple times throughout the film. Forgettable side characters? Korg. Even Thor's iconic hammer gets the chop (Stormbreaker foreshadowing xD).
This is exactly what Thor needed. His first film was ok, his second ... well, the less said the better. Right from the opening scene, with Thor in chains spinning around, interrupting Surtur's monologue, you know what flavour this film is going to have—and it works SOOO well in my opinion. Thor also goes through some great character development in these two hours—and yes it may be a bit cheesy—"the power was in you all along"—but my God, that power is badass.
The final battle, Thor jumping into a horde of enemies with his one eye, wielding lightning (yes he's the thunder god but we'll let that slide), all to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," literal goosebumps—nerd chills doesn't cover it. Then you have fireworks from an orgy ship in the background for simultaneous comedic value and visual epic-ness. It's all brilliantly done.
The casting is on point as well. Valkyrie, Hela, Grandmaster Goldblum, and the aforementioned Korg, all well-written, interesting characters (we still quote him to this day, that rock man is comedic gold).
There are so many memorable moments in this film that have stuck with me. For example, the entire cinema wetting ourselves when Banner jumps out of the ship, that this film was always going to be my personal number one.
I think we can all agree that Marvel has done something incredible over the past decade. They have built a universe that we have become invested into, using so many creative ideas, unique talents and wonderful personalities that gives the world a franchise that dares to be different, and encourages us to be as well. Whatever your superpower is, use it to make a difference in the world.
I hope you enjoyed my list, I certainly had a blast writing this and reflecting on the many memories that these movies have given me. Let me know what your favourite Marvel film is and why! I'd love to hear some different points of view :)