Best Movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Up to Thor: Ragnarok)

Here’s RunPee Jilly’s list of the best-to-worst films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since so many of these movies are good, and there are so many of them, I’ve chosen to rank the films by “tier”. Top Tier, Middle Tier, and Bottom Tier. (And one that is simply Bad.) I’m not going to stress over exactly which ones are better than the others within the tiers.

Keep in mind this list only goes as far as The Black Panther at this point in time. This is pre-Infinity Wars. Keep mindful also: this is my personal opinion of the best/worst MCU films — I expect everyone will have their own list. Scribble down your top to bottom tiers in the comments below.

Top Tier

These are the BEST MCU offerings, IMO (of course). The most cohesive plots, solid connections to the through-story, best character pieces (whether solo or in ensemble form), prettiest filmation/scenery, and most enjoyable films that hold up to re-watches. [pullquote position=”right”]Notice that the ensemble pieces largely wound up on top.[/pullquote]

  • Avengers: Assemble — (Top notch; Joss Whedon got everything right. Including Shwarma, mmmmm.)
  • Captain America: Civil War — (Basically an Avengers ensemble piece, and perfectly executed. The airport set piece is as good as the hype surrounding it. More like this, please!)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1 — (My personal favorite movie in the entire MCU. And one of my new top five all-time films. I need this movie when I feel down. The humor, characters, music, and general story are everything I look for in a fun, feel-good, groovy film.)
  • Thor 3: Ragnarok — (I have to admit, I didn’t think anything in the MCU would approach the likability factor of GotG 1. Well…this one does. Chris Hemsworth is hysterical, for one thing. And while ostensibly a solo film for Thor, it’s more like an ensemble piece for the spacefaring MCU characters. I expect the Grandmaster’s ship  – nay, now Thor’s ship – is how we scoop up the Guardians in time for Infinity Wars.)
  • Spiderman: Homecoming — (Everything in this movie went right. And the villain, usually the sore spot in the MCU, just rocked it! <—- finally)
  • Black Panther — (Beautiful scenery, good characters, solid storytelling and a compelling connection to the larger universe).
  • Iron Man 1 — (The movie that kickstarted the entire decade’s-worth franchise…and rebooted the bank-ability factor to a personable, funny, and charismatic star that redefined how Superhero films could be writ. [pullquote]Can’t forget this moment: “I am Iron Man.” And the world leaned back in their seats, satisfied.[/pullquote])

Middle Tier

  •  Captain America: The Winter Soldier — (I know. This one is top tier for many. As a spy movie, it’s just not to my taste, and this is MY list.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 — (I wanted to place this one in the top tier, but will concede it doesn’t hit all the marks it should have. If the first GotG is perfect, this one does show up and make the effort, in spite of not quite getting somewhere great.)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron — (Another one just shy of greatness. I wanted to place it top tier, but there are just better ones to choose from.)
  • Ant-Man — (not an ‘epic story’, but fun ‘small tale’ with decent humor and a strong likability factor.)

Bottom Tier

  • Thor 1 — (Not a bad movie; just not awesome. The MCU was still figuring out their formula.)
  • Thor 2: The Dark World — (This one is easily one of the least exciting Marvel films, but on a rewatch it’s better served.)
  • Iron Man 2 — (Dull.)
  • Iron Man 3 — (Dull again, bummer.)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger — (It’s okay. Like Thor, movies with Cap improve as his trilogy progresses.)
  • Dr. Strange — (I wish I could place this one higher. It’s just a bit derivative and…well…strange. Not likable or particularly exciting…but we HAD to have the Gem of Amarra in place for Avengers: Infinity War).

Just Bad

  • The Incredible Hulk — (Edward Norton’s outing is the bottom of the MCU barrel. I can’t even sit through this film in its entirety. I’m ashamed to admit it…but, well, there it is. I love Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, but anyone else falls flat.)

MCU Movie Rewatch – Thor 2: The Dark World

I was surprised at how easy Thor 2 was to re-watch. I remember it as “the boring installment.” It’s still not exciting on the level of the top tier of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers, Civil War, Black Panther and Thor’s own 3 – Ragnarok). Making myself even more clear, The Dark World is still a bottom-tier MCU movie…it’s just not as excruciating as I recall it being. It’s really pretty (with a sort of Lord of the Rings “lite” essence), there’s a a lot more plot and humor than I remembered, and the story hangs together pretty well.

So it’s worth watching for more than just pretty guys in capes! And if you are doing a re-watch to get ready for the Infinity Wars (part 1) coming up April 27th, 2018, The Dark World is kind of unmissable. Want to know where the Infinity Gems are? This one’s crucial. Making a guess that we’ll see The Collector again? Again, you have to catch this one. You’ll learn more about the Aether (the singular, non-solid Infinity Gem) than any other “stone” in the series.

Another thing that stood in hindsight: [pullquote position=”right”]at this point in the MCU the directors clearly haven’t figured out just how FUNNY Chris Hemsworth is.[/pullquote] All the humor goes to Loki and Darcy in The Dark World. Which is a pity — we get to see Hemsworth’s wonderful comedic timing in the ensemble pieces, one-shot webisodes, and Thor: Ragnarok. I wish they could go back in time (Dr. Strange could help out) and tweak Thor 1 and 2 for more comedic beats and a lighter tone.

Loki stands out here, as he does in any scene that he promptly steals. Eric Selvig put in a lovely turn (he got some of the funny as well), and this seems to be the last we see of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, or Darcy (or her intern).

I’ve heard Portman didn’t like working on Marvel films, so writing her out is probably for the best, and this frees up Thor to date Lady Sif, or Valkyrie, or perhaps Captain Marvel herself. Hey, why not even The Grandmaster, with whom, last we heard, is now bunking with Thor’s old housemate, Darryl.

What’s the takeaway for The Dark World? The Dark Elves aren’t important to the grand sweep of the Infinity Stone Saga. Jane and Darcy don’t matter. Erik still has a place on the science team (and here we find out he thinks better without his pants on). Loki both can and can’t be trusted. Thor Odinson has extremely dysfunctional family issues. And the Aether is (safely?) in the storerooms of The Collector. That’s it.

Skip this film if you’re in a hurry and you’ll be fine with that bit of info, unless you’re fascinated by the Infinity Stones/intrigued by the unusual form the Aether takes (which looks like a red “Obscurial”, a la Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).