Avengers: Infinity War has finally come out. It is the culmination of 10 years and 19 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But it is also a great time to look back at all the greatest films. So out of the 19 films in the MCU, let’s look at the 10 best ones. Everyone’s list may differ, so let me know what you think in the comments. Oh, and spoilers!
10. Doctor Strange
Origin stories have become tired and overdone, not just in the MCU, but in the superhero genre as a whole. It seems once we’ve seen one, we’ve seen them all. Not to mention, Doctor Stephen Strange’s arrogant, smart-ass personality is very reminiscent of Tony Stark. Regardless, the film still manages to stand out. The doctor’s development as a sorcerer and a character makes for a compelling, even if derivative, story. However, Doctor Strange stays afloat in large part by the stunning visual effects. Just like the comics, the movie is a psychedelic acid trip. Whether you like the story or not, Doctor Strange challenges your perception of reality and drags you on an exciting adventure for the eyes.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy immediately separated itself from the other MCU films. It had an entirely different style of its own. As with other space epics, it introduced tons of weird names, characters, and locations. While that can intrigue viewers, it can also distance them too. Yet, even when the universe was at stake, Guardians never took itself too seriously. With Star-Lord’s sarcasm and pop-culture references, and a killer soundtrack, the movie struck a great balance that made it a fun and gripping experience for all. At first a relatively unknown group of heroes, the Guardians of the Galaxy have since become household names.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
The odds were against Tom Holland when he became the third person to take up the mantle of Spider-Man. Argue with me if you like, but the other Spider-Men had issues. Tobey Maguire played the sweet, awkward Peter Parker well, but didn’t make a smart, sarcastic Spider-Man as he should have. Andrew Garfield had the opposite problem. But Tom Holland achieved both personas perfectly.
Aside from the acting, Spider-Man: Homecoming made for a wonderful coming of age story. Throughout the movie, Peter struggles to overcome his ego and his recklessness so he can truly deserve his suit and a place in the Avengers. Peter’s realization that he should take things slow and enjoy his adolescent innocence is a clever twist on the classic coming of age story. While not the most gripping MCU film nor even an integral part in the lead-up to Infinity War, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fun adventure for any age.
7. Iron Man
Let’s face it, without Iron Man, the MCU would not exist. The movie’s success laid the foundation for the MCU’s empire. And the key figure behind that success is undoubtedly Robert Downey Jr., who is almost synonymous with his character Tony Stark. His trademark wit and ego are incredibly addictive. They also make tremendous opportunity for character growth. Over the course of this movie and others, we get to see the arrogant, billionaire play boy slowly break down. It’s actually a fantastic parallel to the constant evolution of Iron Man suits. Regardless, the point is that characters make a story and Tony Stark is one hell of a character.
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Another example of its versatility, Marvel delivered a tremendous spy thriller with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Most movies suffer from the curse of the terrible sequel, but Captain America’s second entry turned out better than the first. Filled with plot twists, conspiracy, and emotional character interactions, there is hardly anything to complain about. The actions scenes are fast-paced and engaging, and the cast additions are all keepers. I could watch this movie again and again.
5. Marvel’s The Avengers
Marvel’s The Avengers is everything you could want from a superhero movie. A great villain, great action, witty humor, and great character interactions. The film even gives us a character to live vicariously through: Agent Coulson. His fanboy behavior with Captain America mirrors exactly how we feel seeing the Avengers finally assemble. But then Coulson dies, so it hits us as hard as it hits the team. Tragedy brings the team closer. In the end, we are left with a deeply satisfying battle and a post-credits scene that had all the fan boys screaming.
4. Thor: Ragnarok
Until the third film, the Thor movies were all flops. The second Thor film was one of the worst MCU films and the first Thor film was alright. But a badass character like Thor deserves more than alright. Finally he got what he deserved in Thor: Ragnarok. The visuals were breathtaking. Any still from the Valkyrie sequence, for example, deserves a place in the Louvre.
But incredible acting and action aside, the best quality of Thor: Ragnarok is its humor. As the MCU neared Infinity War, the tone of its movies got darker and darker. Even Ragnarok has a darkness to it: the death of Odin and the destruction of Asgard. But Director Taika Waititi gives us all a welcome break from the seriousness with his own brand of quirky humor. Thor: Ragnarok is probably the funniest Marvel movie.
3. Black Panther
Black Panther has been celebrated as a massive cultural achievement, and I don’t want to understate the importance of that. However, that shouldn’t distract from the fact Black Panther is a genuinely good movie. With a unique futuristic African twist, there is plenty of new and exciting elements to grab your interest. More than that, the movie fixes a lot of issues in the MCU. Just to name a few improvements: strong female leads, brighter color palette, catchy theme music, and deep thematic material. In addition, Black Panther’s villain Killmonger is not just some generic evildoer who wants to conquer the world and kill everybody. He is complex and sympathetic. The sheer emotional weight Killmonger brings to the movie is almost reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy. Everything considered, Black Panther is a memorable work not just in the MCU, not just in the superhero genre, but in film as a whole.
2. Captain America: Civil War
Captain America: Civil War is often viewed as the second Avengers film that Avengers: Age of Ultron never was. That’s because Age of Ultron focused on the cliched task of taking down an evil guy and his evil plan whereas Civil War honed in on the reason any of us go to see a Marvel movie: the characters and the struggles between them. This Captain America film isn’t so much about Captain America actually. It’s more a discussion and exploration of friendship, family, loyalty, and responsibility. Sure, things come to a head in one final slugfest, but it never comes across as cheap fan service. There are stakes. In the end, that’s what makes Captain America: Civil War so rewarding. It is more an emotional ride than an everyday braindead action movie.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
You’re going to say Avengers: Infinity War is only number one because it was the last Avengers movie I watched, but hear me out. We all should’ve exited the theater saying “It was okay. The Russo brothers did the best they could, but there was just too much hype. They tried to make a comprehensive film, but there were just too many characters.” But I didn’t hear any excuses from anyone. Avengers: Infinity War lived up to the hype.
The film featured such a wide breadth of emotions. There were moments I laughed out loud, moments where my heart throbbed with fear, and moments where I wanted to cry. Most of these emotions revolved around Tony Stark, Thor, and Thanos, who operated as the movies main characters. The movie meant something different for each of them. Thanos chased after destiny while wrestling with the costs in getting there. Thor engaged in a quest for revenge as he suffered through the death of all his people and his family. Finally, Tony Stark completed the character arc that was set in motion during his origin story. Once a selfish, arrogant playboy, Tony Stark has matured. He struggles with his responsibility to the safety of the world and of his pseudo-son Peter Parker, and ultimately has to come to terms with complete and utter failure.
And with all this happening, the movie never lost focus. The Russo brothers compartmentalized the story arcs so you only had to remember a few locations, not each and every character. Towards the end of the film, three climaxes occurred simultaneously: the fight in Wakanda, the fight on Titan, and the construction of Stormbreaker at the Space Forge. To further separate the scenes, the locations are separated by three distinct color palettes: green for Wakanda, orange for Titan, and black and grey for the Space Forge. It’s a smart and effective way to deliver three distinct plots at once. However, while separate, the various plots attract our attention equally because each story arc depends on the other. If even one group of Avengers fails, they will all fail to stop Thanos. The threat of the Mad Titan is a common thread that ties the movie up nicely
Some might say Avengers: Infinity War was hard to follow because you need to have watched every MCU movie before it. That’s true. You definitely need to have watched the other movies. But that’s the point. Avenger: Infinity War has no set up. It doesn’t waste time introducing this character and that character. You should already know who they are.
Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that shouldn’t have worked, but did. It is a feat of modern cinema. It is a comic book fan’s greatest dream. It is the culmination of 10 patient years. If you care anything about the MCU, you must watch this movie.