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22nd Apr 2017

Ranking all of the Marvel movies from worst to best

Don't even try to argue with these rankings...

Rory Cashin

With Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 hitting Irish cinemas any day now, it seems a good a time as any to look back over what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought us so far.

Before the nit-pickers start picking nits, this does not include any Marvel movies that lies outside of the current MCU, so yes, that means no Spiderman, X-Men or Fantastic Four (although who would want to include that quartet, anyways?).

So with that in mind, on with the listing, starting with the worst of the bunch. Oh, and obviously, SPOILERS:


Let us just start off by saying that there isn’t really a bad Marvel movie so far, but in terms of pure laziness Iron Man 2 takes the cake. Despite Mickey Rourke having a ball playing a bad-guy from, tonally, a completely different movie, there isn’t a lot going on here that doesn’t just feel like wheel-spinning. It exists just to make money, which it did, but it was the first and laziest in several lazy Marvel sequels to come.


The first Eric Bana-starring Hulk isn’t part of the MCU, probably because it was FAR too ponderous for the blockbuster crowd. The director made it in between Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, to give you an idea of where he was coming from. You’ll notice we’ve not actually mentioned this Hulk movie yet, and that’s because there’s not a lot to say about it. Hulk smash, Edward Norton was … fine, but it was mostly just about one big CGI green guy punching another big CGI green guy.


There’s a lot wrong with the second Thor movie – the red bubble evil, whatever the bad guys plan was meant to be, having no idea what to do with Natalie Portman other than put her in a coma – but there’s also a lot right with it. Primarily, it is actually very funny. From Thor hanging up his hammer on the coat hook when he arrives in a guest’s home, to the Portal-inspired climax, there’s some great bits in here. Too bad it gets overshadowed by the “Bigger = Better?” storyline.


Chris Evans is perfectly cast, Red Skull is a great bad-guy, and the old school, Boys’ Own flavour works for some of the run-time. But it keeps falling between the stools of being a big superhero epic or a down’n’dirty war epic, and never really nails either of them. Plus, the whole best-buddy sub-plot with Sebastian Stan just doesn’t hit home the way the film-makers think it does, which causes a bit of a major problem for the Captain America movies to come…


This was initially to be directed by the guy who gave us Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz (amazing!). Instead, the job went to the guy behind Yes Man and The Break-Up (eh…..). Coasting on the pure charm offensive of Paul Rudd, who is ably assisted by Evangeline Lilly and Michael Pena, this is a fun comedy that just doesn’t work as well as an action superhero movie. That being said, the miniature bedroom showdown is pretty great, but again, mostly because it’s funny, not because it’s a great action scene.


Whereas the sequel went maybe a little too silly, the first Thor went maybe a little too serious. Director Kenneth Branagh brought his Shakespearean background to the mix, and cast the film impeccably, giving a rich visual sheen that still stands out. Loki is arguably still the best Marvel movie villain, but his big plan to… release a big robot in a small American town isn’t exactly what great movie villains are made of.


A rich genius with some a sharp tongue and sharper facial hair is involved in a terrible accident that forces him to push himself to his boundaries and come out the other side a different, better man… No, this isn’t Iron Man, but it might as well be if it weren’t for those amazing, trippy LSD visuals. Hopefully now that the origins are out of the way, Strange can get, y’know, a little stranger and not stick so rigidly to the Marvel routine.


We can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to coral so many famous people with so many growing careers into one movie, let alone come up with a script that explains why some of them are there and some of them aren’t. Ultron is a great villain (voiced immaculately by James Spader), but despite the great action scenes and dizzyingly witty script, there is sometimes a sense that none of it really meant anything other than to have a $250 million reason to introduce us to the Scarlet Witch and Vision.


Reuniting with his director from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Robert Downey Jnr got his most interesting iteration of Tony Stark here, mainly by being kept out of his Iron Man suit for the majority of the movie. The villains are crap (one breaths fire, the other turns out to be entirely fake), but by focusing more on the hero and what makes him so interesting, we get one of the more psychologically interesting insights into what it must be like to be a hero every day.


The opposite of Age Of Ultron, here we get so much happening that its hard to keep up with events. The Avengers are told they have to abide by the world’s governments’ rule, which causes a massive split down the middle, and pits Captain America’s “Thanks, but no thanks” group against Tony Stark’s “A little regulation never hurt nobody” team. We also get Black Panther, that massive airport scrap, the introduction of a good version of Spiderman, and a bad guy that doesn’t want to rule or blow up the world. He just wants some good old fashioned revenge.


Looking back it is very easy to overlook just how massive an undertaking the first Avengers movie was, but at the time we were all jaw-dropped by seeing these huge characters share the screen to help save Manhattan from giant space metal worms. It was also very funny, with some great and natural chemistry by everyone involved, and barely an ounce of fat to be found on the run-time.


And as much as we should rightfully be awed by the Avengers movie, look back even further to the first Iron Man movie, and the shock we got by a (at the time) D-list action hero showing over superhero movies how it should be done. Amazing casting in the (at the time) out of favour Robert Downey Jnr, along with some inventive but gritty action sequences, this was the massive surprise that would become, for better or worse, the template for all other origin stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


If very few people had heard of Iron Man when it first came out, then the Guardians Of The Galaxy was a complete unknown. But having built up so much good will on the back of their previous movies, people gave them the benefit of the doubt, just like Marvel did with the movie’s writer/director James Gunn, and the risk paid off for everyone. Hugely original, lovable characters, unique settings and visuals, and that soundtrack all added up to a brilliant, galactically sized expansion of the Marvel universe that we’re still only getting to grips with.


Unlike most of the other sequels, The Winter Soldier dug its heels in and showed what can be accomplished if you really want to rebuild your character from the ground up. Ditching most of the OTT-ness from the other heroes’ movies, Captain America deals with visceral, street-level shoot-outs and political intrigue for most of the running time, until we feel it (and we) have fully deserved that massive air-ship shoot-out over Washington. Robert Redford gave a great human face to evil skulduggery, and The Falcon and Black Widow were perfect back-up to Chris Evans’ Captain America – a character who, like Cyclops or Superman, could’ve been dull as dishwater. But The Winter Soldier effectively muddies that water, showing that just because you’re the good guy, that doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes have to do bad things.