Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary: Ranking the 20 MCU Films

Two thousand eighteen is a monumental anniversary year for comic book movies. Forty years ago Superman: The Movie helped a worldwide audience “believe a man can fly,” upping the ante with groundbreaking cinematic special effects. Twenty years ago, New Line released Blade, and Hollywood, finally, keyed in on the profitability of Marvel’s stable of characters, understanding that superhero flicks not starring Batman or Superman could still draw an audience.

And that of course led to the formation of Marvel Studios which, ten years ago, brought funnybook continuity to the movies with Iron Man, the first entry in Marvel’s wildly successful Cinematic Universe.

With this week’s home video release of Ant-Man & The Wasp, the latest installment in the MCU’s film canon, a team of Idlers assembled to rank all twenty movies, from worst to first. Counting down to our favorite (so far):

Thor: The Dark World
Tough to sit through, lousy plot to blame more than anything. The sole bright spot might be in the performance of Tom Hiddleston. Loki might be the most underrated character — from his characterization through his development — in the MCU. – MMDG

The Incredible Hulk (2008)
This still isn’t good. I’d forgotten that Marvel tried setting up The Leader (I’ll wager Marvel was counting on us forgetting this as well) for some future sequel or tie-in. Worth noting: during the climactic brawl in Harlem, there’s a Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) cameo! Apparently he had a minor part that included some lines, but none of that made the final cut. – MMDG

Iron Man 2 (2010)
The first thing people usually mention about this film is Mickey Rourke’s cockatoo, which, uh, isn’t good. We get introduced to ScarJo as Black Widow, Don Cheadle dons the War Machine suit, and Sam Rockwell is pretty entertaining as Justin Hammer, but there is still a major lack of any sort of villain character to make this film stand out. – hltchk

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
I left the theater with a no-doubt feeling that this was better than the first Avengers movie. It was a solid reaction accompanied by a gut feeling that everyone would agree with me. Turns out people didn’t like it. Nope, not that much at all. Maybe I’m wrong? Orrrr let’s think about Ultron, the villain. He’s a frighteningly accurate rendition of what upcoming A.I. could deliver in the near future. Machines are trying to bury this. Don’t be fooled. #getwoke – lebronald

Thor (2011)
I remember when this was released thinking it was going to be this big Shakespearean opera with Kenneth Branagh leading the charge. While it certainly has some of that with the Asgard stuff in the opening, the film really hits its stride in Act 2: a fish outta water story. Thor being a powerless bro in Midgard has always made me laugh and I still chuckle thinking about him demanding more libations during breakfast. While certainly not without flaws it does some important things for the universe like setting up the MCU’s best villain (Loki) and showing how important S.H.I.E.L.D. is for the world as a whole. Hemsworth really carries the whole thing as Thor and really sets the table for his future comedy goldmine. – MeanOldPig

Ant-Man (2015)
Way more fun than I think anyone was really expecting, Paul Rudd brings his trademark charm and humor to the MCU, and his rapport with costars Michael Douglas and Pena is fantastic. The constant shrinking and enlarging allow for some of the most eye-popping action set pieces too. – hltchk

Iron Man 3 (2013)
Of all the oddball Marvel movies, this might be my favorite. An RDJ and Shane Black collaboration in the Marvel universe is a weird idea, and though it’s no one’s favorite, I think this movie will hold up over time. It’s the most we see RDJ deal with the Tony Stark persona, and his relationship with the little kid is pretty charming, if not a little out of place in this series. Also, the way they portrayed Mandarin was pretty clever. I’m all for a power ring-wielding alien, but watching Ben Kingsley act ridiculous is a great time. – tyrannofloresrex

Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange in a vacuum is one of the best films of the MCU. The visuals are stunning, one of the few to justify IMAX prices, and the story is a solid superhero origin. Within the context of the larger MCU, however, it can seem derivative. Still, Doctor Strange looks great, is fun as hell, and totally nails the aesthetic of the comic. – IP

Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)
Part rom-com and part buddy cop flick, with the best parts of each, all wrapped up in a fun 3D-worthy capes n’ tights package. Love that so much of it was filmed on location in San Francisco. – MMDG

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Infinity War is the first cinematic adaptation of a comic book crossover to truly resemble the feel of a comic book event, with all the good and bad that comes with it. – IP

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
A pretty damn good sequel. Manages to both do a big space story while also telling a great fathers/sons arc. The scene where Ego explains how “Brandy” relates to him is one of my favorite moments in all of the MCU. It’s not as good as the first movie but I still find it pretty charming. – MeanOldPig

Captain America: The First Avenger(2011)
A straight meat-and-potatoes comic movie, in the best sense of the term. Enough beautiful action sequences punctuated with red, white, and blue that you’ll forget to be ashamed of our country, if only for a few hours. – rengstorff

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Civil War got me back into Marvel movies. I was in the middle of writing all of them off but this one had a grounded and compelling plot with fun twists and a couple entertaining and conflicted villains. Plus Iron Man was in it. – lebronald

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Finally, Sony came to their senses and decided to give Marvel Studios some creative license to bring one of their most storied superheroes into the MCU, and they did not disappoint. Tom Holland gives a fantastic performance as Peter Parker with his high school antics and growing sense of responsibility. Of course I would be remiss without mentioning Michael Keaton’s Vulture, arguably the best of the Marvel villains in a cinematic universe sorely lacking in them.  – hltchk

The Avengers (2012)
The first truly successful ensemble superhero movie, and every bit as good as a teenage me could have hoped for in a big-screen adaptation of his favorite comic. – MMDG

Iron Man (2008)
This one gets a lot of credit for legitimizing the super hero movie genre – which is true, but you’ve heard all that already. It still holds up with exemplary acting and an underrated villain. The couch scene where Stane is slowly lording Tony’s arc reactor in front of his face is genuine theater. Plus Iron Man should get credit for having hero limitations and powers that are explainable. No magic, no godliness, no gamma-does-something-great. He had a debilitating problem, developed a solution, and started kicking butt. – lebronald

Black Panther (2018)
Like Guardians before it, Black Panther may not have been the most visible hero in the MCU, but thanks to the amazing cast and crew led by director Ryan Coogler, Panther is not only a great comic book movie, but a significant little slice of film history. It conquers the lame villain problem that most of these movies suffer from, and it has my absolute favorite Andy Serkis performance. Now if only they’d learn to stop killing all the cool bad guys… – tyrannofloresrex

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Winter Soldier is so good that it transcends the superhero genre and stands as one of the finest spy films of the decade. – IP

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
MeanOldPig and I were just saying how this movie establishes the more fun tone of the phase 3 movies. The Guardians’s relative obscurity in the comics world demonstrated the breadth of Marvel’s sandbox, and handled by James Gunn, this movie has some of the best character work and visuals in recent blockbuster history. – tyrannofloresrex

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
I saw this movie after three straight 12+ hour work shifts. I was tired as hell and wondered why was I doing this to myself. Within the first few minutes of the film, I was re-energized. This movie is the closest thing I have ever seen to Kirby designs come to life. The colors, sets, and the background characters all breathe so much life into every frame. Digging deep into Asgardian lore to describe the dangers of colonialism and how you can wash over a bloody past make the film even timely. It’s so great and this all goes without saying that it’s also the funniest thing Marvel has ever made. – MeanOldPig