12. The Incredible Hulk
There's basically nothing notable about this movie. It's bland, boring, and pretty much ignored by the other movies anyway. Even the action isn't terribly interesting, and it more or less proves that the Hulk doesn't work in a solo movie because he spends the entire time trying not to do the one thing we all want him to do: smash. That's frustrating in a movie with nothing else to occupy everyone's attention in the meantime, which this is.
The problem with both Thor movies is that they're completely undercut by the total lack of chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman There's nothing about their interaction to make it the least bit believable that this guy would cross the cosmos for this woman, and since much of Thor's character arc hinges on that very thing, it keeps mucking up all the rest of the movie.
Thor beats out Hulk though because it does at least have some humor and the Asgard stuff is really well realized. Plus Hiddleston and Hemsworth totally nail their respective roles, and overall it's a less frustrating experience.
10. Iron Man 2
If it weren't for Robert Downey Jr. just being awesome in general, this movie would be at the bottom for being a mess. It wastes way too much time on stuff that's just setup for Avengers and can't really decide what kind of story it wants to tell. But since RDJ is hilarious as usual, it's easier to overlook a lot of that and enjoy this one anyway, whereas Thor and Hulk have no particularly redeeming features to offset the parts that aren't so great.
9. Thor: The Dark World
Thor 2 on the other hand does have some redeeming features. It's much more coherent than IM2 of course, and it does a considerably better job of expanding Thor's world than IM2 did for Stark. The stuff in Asgard is often awesome, epic, and interesting, but again, this movie revolves entirely around Thor/Jane Foster pining for one another, and their chemistry is even worse in this one than the first one. Hell Hemsworth and Hiddleston have more chemistry than they do, which is part of the reason the Asgard stuff is fun.
On top of that, it has the most wasted, useless villain of all the MCU movies and the Aether thing goes nowhere. (Yes I know it's an Infinity Stone. I mean in regards to the plot of the movie itself.) Plus the irritating sidekicks show up and only exist to do some stupid technobabble stuff that would've been better served tossing out entirely.
At least it isn't completely all over the place, and despite the sidekicks, the multidimensional final battle was cool.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger
I was prepared to loathe this movie based on the comments the director made during production, but ultimately it's a pretty enjoyable movie. It's a great little period piece, and Chris Evans is the best casting decision Marvel's made next to RDJ. Unlike Hemsworth and Portman, Evans and Hayley Atwell do have chemistry and so their brief romance actually works.
It's not perfect though. It montages its way through Cap's early adventures instead of using them to build him up, and ever since the guys at HISHE did their bit on it, I can't watch the ending without cracking up even if it worked really well the first time I saw it.
But unlike Thor 2, I'll actually stop flipping channels to watch it when it's on.
7. Iron Man 3
Oh Iron Man 3. So many people loathe this movie for what it did with the Mandarin, and the fact that it has a little kid in it. The thing is, the Mandarin bit was actually a hilarious twist used to great effect, and the complaint of it ruining the character was easily rectified with the little short they did after the movie came out. The kid similarly wasn't annoying, and he played off RDJ incredibly well compared to how most child actors are.
The only thing that really hurts this movie is the shameless attempt to shove a "girl power" moment in it at the end with the bad guy coming back so Pepper can finish him off. If the movie ended with Stark blowing the suit and finding Pepper alive in the rubble, it would've been a perfectly good movie. (Especially if the trailers hadn't spoiled some of the best parts of it.)
6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
In a perfect world, Ultron would be at the top of the list, but while it is an overall awesome movie that in many ways captures the fun and majesty of The Avengers, ultimately it's just too much. It wastes too much time setting up the upcoming Infinity War movies, it pulls Vision out of its hat right at the end, and it stuffs in that awkward Hulk/Widow romance.
While some of the CGI is a little dodgier than the first movie, the action is still pretty solid, and the jokes still land just as hard. Even though Ultron doesn't get the time he deserves as a villain, he's not completely wasted like some of the others and he is an interesting take on the typical psychotic AI compared to what we normally get. Not to mention the expansion of Hawkeye's character was a really nice touch.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Perhaps the best use of a soundtrack to sell a movie in recent memory, Guardians took a concept that nobody thought could work and made one hell of a fun movie out of it. Chris Pratt proved he could be an outright Harrison Ford level action hero, and Bradley Cooper knocks it out of the park as Rocket, and the animators back them both up with a completely convincing set of CGI characters.
But the reason this isn't anywhere near the #1 spot that IGN put it in is mainly that it has so much freaking exposition. Half the dialog in the movie is just someone explaining the who, what, or where of this universe. In addition, its villain is only second to Thor 2's in terms of being a complete and total waste, only redeemed slightly by the fact that the dance-off bit doesn't work without a straight man to play it against.
Still, we are Groot.
Like with Guardians, most of us looked askance at Marvel when they announced Ant-Man. Even after Guardians was a hit, I don't think anyone was terribly confident they could turn something this goofy into something awesome, but they did.
The advantage it has over Guardians though is it is much more focused and doesn't feel the need to throw paragraphs of exposition at us whenever someone says a character's name, which is doubly amazing coming off Ultron's super stuffed plot. It's also tied into the larger MCU in a stronger and more satisfying way with the whole Falcon bit.
It probably has the cleverest use of its hero’s powers than anything else in the MCU, and the way it sends up some of the tropes Marvel itself is often guilty of is just fantastic.
3. Iron Man
Marvel's first outing is still one of its best. Ant-Man has a similar feel, but Iron Man does everything better, right down to showing how its hero's powers come to be. They both have villains that aren't super strong, but Iron Man's is far better integrated and his motivations make way more sense. And ultimately, nobody in the MCU has RDJ's raw charisma, which makes Tony Stark easily the most entertaining character of all of them.
Of all the Marvel films, it's still probably the most consistently good movie. It has a little bit of everything great about all the other ones, and it proves beyond all doubt that one does not need to "ground movies in reality" by making them all gritty and depressing to have a good solid character arc for your hero.
2. The Avengers
The tracking shot during the final battle of The Avengers says pretty much everything that needs to be said about it. Not only is it an incredibly awesome ride, it managed to integrate all these characters into one movie in a way that felt perfectly seamless and natural.
Sure Loki's a little underused, but Hiddleston is still awesome to watch. It's weak on theme, but strong on heart. Throw in a finally good Hulk, some fantastic humor, and CGI that still holds up better than some of the sequels, and you've got something that celebrates everything that's great about going to the movies.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
But even though The Avengers is the best ride, Cap 2 is still the best story. It's one of the few superhero movies that isn't either an origin story or about the hero losing/giving up his powers. Its thematic elements are deeply ingrained in the superhero stuff, and it deals with questions we're wrestling with in the political realm today.
Unlike in most of the Marvel movies, Cap doesn't just have to fight a copy of himself that has some personal vendetta against him. Instead his real fight is against a broken system, and in a way against fear itself. It's fear that drives both HYDRA and SHIELD to try and control everyone else, and the titular Winter Soldier serves to spread that fear. That's why he comes off as more menacing than he should be given his limited screen time.
Chris Evans pulls this role off brilliantly, and unlike RDJ, he doesn't have the option to rely on smartass remarks to get by because his character isn't like that. Even still, the movie finds ways to make us laugh and keep things from getting too dark.
Its secondary characters have actual stuff to do and things to contribute to the arguments being had about freedom, fear, and the like, which should make even the SJWs happy since a couple of those people are black and one is a woman.
On top of all that, it shook up the entire MCU, making it one of few superhero films to have actual lasting consequences beyond "hey, I'm a superhero now." It even gave Agents of SHIELD a means to become an actually watchable TV show.
So if Marvel wants to top this one, they're going to have to work really hard.
*this post cross-posted at http://www.theirfinesthour.net