Doctor Strange (or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the Batch) opened over the weekend, and you know what that means: A shitload of updated MCU ranking lists. But you know what else that means, too: the Pajiba list is the only one that matters. Enjoy, and feel free to politely shout at me in the comments.
13. Captain America: The First Avenger: Perhaps it’s my own expectations that plummeted the first outing for Steve Rogers to the bottom of the pile. The Rocketeer is easily one of my top 3 comic book movies, so this movie really should have put on a clinic of fun pulp action and Greatest Generation nostalgia. While Chris Evans as Cap proved to be a revelation, Marvel has proven time and time again that casting is their secret weapon and they can’t just lean on it. The First Avenger had to do a ton of scene setting for Avengers, and had started to collapse on itself by the time the third act rolled around. Also, most of the Nazi fighting is in a montage? Shame, First Avenger. Shame.
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron: While I probably owe Ultron a few more viewings, this flat mess of a sequel drove Joss Whedon off of Twitter and me into a nap. I joke about Marvel movies playing ‘stuff you know’ bingo a lot, but this is the movie that really does it. “This metal is from…WAKANDA!” Ugh. So much happened in this movie and I don’t remember any of it. How could so many talented people assemble to make something so dumb and hollow?
11. Thor: I can’t get ‘HOW GOOD IS TOM HIDDLESTON’ and Thor throwing coffee mugs out of my head. Odin be damned but I’m going to lose sleep over this one being ranked so low. While this movie gave us those good things, Thor 2 gave us moar better Loki, while the final confrontation of this film is Thor hitting an inanimate object as hard as he can.
10. Thor 2: The Dark World: I wanted to rank this movie higher because I legit love the third act portal jumping shenanigans, and the fact that this movie feels like the closest thing we’re going to get to a remake of the 80’s Masters of the Universe cheesefest. That, by the way, is high praise to me. But I kept pairing it against its upstairs neighbors and just couldn’t justify the joy of Kat Dennings shouting ‘meow meow!’ at a flying hammer enough to pull it out of the bottom five.
9. Iron Man 2: I know Iron Man 2 is overstuffed, but upon rewatching after Ultron that complaint seems quaint and overstated. Tony Stark’s sequel is packed with enough talent having fun that it is fun, despite clearly having no idea where it’s going at times. Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer remains one of my favorite MCU villains. Here’s to hoping all those name drops in Luke Cage are leading to something.
8. Incredible Hulk: This is honestly a pretty good movie. Hulk pulls a lower ranking because of how out of step it feels with the developing MCU. A completely different Banner aside, Hulk doesn’t feel like a piece that fits into the larger puzzle. I hate that this is a valid complaint about a Marvel movie, but it is what it is. Hulk vs. Abomination is one of our first modern comic book ‘computer graphics punching each other’ fight scenes, so seeing that was pretty great. Emil Blonsky as an aging soldier who didn’t want to miss a step was a great villain motivation, drawn on abs and all. It’s a shame these supporting characters haven’t been revisited.
7. Ant-Man: Pure casting. This movie shouldn’t have worked in the slightest, but not even a villain stupider than Malekith can keep Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Pena down. Can we all agree that this movie would have been infinitely better if they had cut the new boyfriend and just made Judy Greer his ex wife AND detective bringing him in?
6. Iron Man 3: Shane Black just makes really good movies. His entry into the Iron Man series just feels fresh and different. The reveal of Mandarin was massively controversial, and that’s why I love it. It’s one of the few times Marvel has genuinely surprised and challenged us instead of just providing a checklist of things we’re expecting to see. In fact, the only reason this movie doesn’t crack the top of the list is that aftermatch of the reveal sort of sucks. A big robot fight that feels studio mandated? An insanely boring white dude thats mad Tony called him a dork one time has spent his whole life plotting revenge? Actually, that second one seems pretty realistic.
5. Captain America: Civil War: While it’s an ultimately pleasing popcorn flick, Civil War falls short of the first Marvel film by the Russo Brothers. The airport and chase sequences are fantastic, and Spider-Man steals the show, but I really felt like nothing actually happened in this movie. Like Batman V Superman, the plot was needlessly complicated and took the weight of having to make actual tough decisions off of our heroes. And by the time Tony stops reading a letter from his pal Steve, the implications of a superhero Civil War feel superficial at best.
4.Iron Man: The little movie about a C lister that could. Predictable or not, this movie is pure joy, frame for frame. From the first unforgettable moments of RDJ’s Tony Stark flirting in an armored truck to Samuel L Jackson saying the word ‘Avengers,’ this movie changed everything. It didn’t make change or launch a franchise or a cause a Disney purchase because of corporate mandate. It came from a place of pure underdog movie making. I can only hope that by the time post Infinity War movies are rolling into production, the folks at Marvel-Disney can still maintain a sense of this scrappy little movie that had no other choice but to lay every card it had on the table and play to win.
3. The Avengers: Still their biggest, brightest, and boldest. Not only was The Avengers a revolutionary moment in filmmaking, it’s also an incredibly fun movie. This is Joss Whedon at the top of his game playing with an absurdly cool cast. From high spectacle battles to small character moments (“I’m always angry”), the heart dumped into every frame of this thing sets it apart from Age of Ultron, Dawn of Justice, the X Men franchise, and Civil War.
2. Captain America: Winter Soldier: First Avenger may have introduced us to Cap, but the Russo Brothers made him matter with this eye opening sequel. It’s not the ‘espionage cold war throwback thriller’ people tried to paint it as, though it definitely plays with the DNA. From the opening frames of Steve kicking the shit out of terrorists on a boat, we know we’re in for something completely different and extremely special. This is a surprisingly small feeling movie that never loses focus of its leads, no matter how many evil robotic gunships are falling out of the sky.
1.Guardians of the Galaxy: Is it the soundtrack? The setting? Chris Pratt? The raccoon? The assassin sisters? The talking tree? Batista? Michael Rooker killing people with a whistling trick? Kirk from Gilmore Girls? All of the above? A little bit of both? Guardians is a bit of an enigma because it feels exactly like a Marvel movie and nothing like a Marvel movie at the same time. It’s completely conventional but feels completely batshit at the same time. Therein lies the brilliance of James Gunn. He can make an arthouse flick. He can make a blockbuster. But wouldn’t it be fun to just find a weird hidden path between the two and see what happens?
Hate this list? Let us know! Doctor Strange is not included because I think we should give it some time to sink in and breathe- I know I tend to want to rank all of these films super high as soon as I’ve seen them. What is your MCU ranking? Pajibaing minds want to know where the good Doctor falls on it.