Marvel Movies, Ranked (Part 2)
I’ve ranked all of these movies, all for you! In the first part, we looked at some of the weaker entries in the franchise. Now, we’re onto the more fun part. Pretty much every movie here is a solid, fun time that you can enjoy.
As always, these rankings are 100% correct! If you disagree with me, you’re wrong and you can’t get mad at me. To the movies!
Ant-Man knows exactly what it is. And that’s okay! Paul Rudd is extremely charming, and Scott Lang is a cheerful joy to be around. His energy of “dude who is trying so hard but just constantly fucks up” is EXTREMELY relatable. So is his chemistry with Hope Pym, one of the few Marvel romances to be remotely plausible. Unlike a lot of the heroes in the MCU, Scott just wants to be a normal guy with a normal life, and that makes it easy to root for him. Hank Pym is also hilarious — I love that in this movie, the wise old mentor is a complete and total dick to everyone around him.
Besides the main cast the biggest strength of this movie is its visual effects, which are just so much fun! From the first shrinking scene all the way to Scott’s foray into the sub-atomic realm, this movie looks incredible.
The fight scene with Falcon is also pretty fun and well done. And this movie really made me care about Scott’s friendship with ants, which is a sentence I never expected to type!
But the rest of this movie is pretty meh. Scott’s friends are hilariously, appallingly pointless. Why is TI in this movie? I truly don’t remember the name of the villain in this movie, and I refuse to look him up because he is insanely evil for no reason! The plot is stupid, there’s way too much science babble in this movie, and I refuse to think about this movie any longer. This movie is neither good or bad, it is merely Ant-Man.
14. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange is the perfect replacement-level Marvel movie. If I like an MCU movie more than Doctor Strange, it’s probably good. If it’s not as good as Doctor Strange, it’s probably meh. Doctor Strange has some really nice tie-ins and callbacks to the larger Marvel universe, and it also functions as a solid standalone film. Doctor Strange is very important to Infinity War and Endgame, but you don’t have to watch his standalone movie to understand him as a character (he’s a wizard, he’s a dick and he’s got a stone thingy — cool). So yeah, watch this movie as part of a larger MCU binge, skip it, or just watch this and never see another MCU movie — none of that will change the fundamental “yeah, it’s pretty solid I guess” energy of Doctor Strange.
The biggest thing this movie does right is nail Doctor Strange’s arc. His journey is a simple one — selfish asshole goes through catastrophe and is forced onto a journey of self-discovery — but it’s executed very well. Benedict Cumberbatch really sells the pre-accident Stephen Strange as just the absolute worst. Strange isn’t evil or malicious, he just fully doesn’t give a shit about anyone else.
The film then pushes Strange into crisis, and throws him up against the perfect foil — The Ancient One, one of the few mentor figures in the MCU to actually have some real weight. Tilda Swinton (a flagrantly whitewashed casting choice who also totally kills it in this role, make of that what you will) plays a character who is compassionate where Strange is self-obsessed, patient where Strange is reckless, and selfless where Strange is selfish. We get to see Strange push back on The Ancient One constantly, but also learn from her.
He’s genuinely moved when she dies, unable to save someone he has come to care for. And when it’s time for him to face Dormammu, Strange embraces what The Ancient One has taught him and realizes there’s more important things than himself. The most selfish man has become someone who is willing to sacrifice himself over and over again, forever suffering enormous pain to save the world. That’s just great writing!
Also the visuals are completely insane, and Wong is a very fun side character who’s in the film for exactly the right amount of time. The movie takes the whole concept of space wizards just seriously enough, and plays around with time travel without breaking the movie. And the cloak is very fun.
But yeah, there’s also some pretty stupid stuff in this movie. Biggest thing — they really did Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor dirty. The movie pretends I care about Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo and I just don’t. Mordo is a random dude who is no fun. His turn away from Strange at the end of the movie is supposed to be a big moment and I just don’t care.
Even that’s not as bad as Rachel McAdams. Of all the poorly-written love interests in the MCU, her character is by far the worst. There’s just no substance to Christine at all! She exists purely as a love interest for Doctor Strange, and has zero agency. She pops up whenever the plot decides she should be there, and then she just vanishes again. Why is she even in this movie? Who are the people demanding that Doctor Strange have a love interest? Why is this happening? Goddamnit.
13. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Most Marvel love interests are pretty bad. So it’s very impressive that the best part of Far From Home is Peter and MJ’s adolescent romance! Tom Holland and Zendaya’s chemistry is absolutely adorable, and it’s a genuine connection that is given time and space to grow organically in the film.
This is also a solid movie on a world-building level. Far From Home does a nice job exploring what life was like for non-Avengers coming back from a post-Endgame world, and also highlights how Peter Parker feels the pressure to live up to Tony Stark’s memory. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is an excellent character who serves as a perfect mentor figure and foil to Peter throughout the film. In their first interaction, you can immediately see why Peter looks up to him as a mentor and as a new Iron Man. You can also see why Peter needs to eventually stand on his own in order to reach his full potential, and that story arc is a testament to both Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting.
The weaknesses in this movie really come from the bench of side characters. A lot of these side characters were very fun in Homecoming, but they just get a bit too much time for their own good. Like, I love Martin Starr, but his science teacher (who was a delight in Homecoming) is just on screen for too much time. Far From Home sometimes feels like it has the same problems as Infinity War/Endgame, but instead of having to find space for a bunch of Avengers, this movie is trying to find space for Ned and Flash Thompson, which, what? Also, a lot of the action scenes can feel pretty drab and samey.
At the end of the day, this movie really rests on the chemistry of Tom Holland and Zendaya. If you want to see them have a really fun time in a cute, charming film — go for it! You’ll enjoy this movie. They’re papering over some substantial flaws, but whatever — it’s still pretty fun just to hang out with Peter Parker and MJ.
12. Captain America: Civil War
Civil War is really fun, and there’s also just SO MUCH GOING ON! It’s hard to rank a movie like this, because some things are absolutely great, but there are also some pretty big weak spots.
Let’s start with the not-great stuff — the plot of Civil War is too complicated. The main conflict follows the Sokovia Accords and reigning in superpowered heroes. Which works in theory as a conflict for Tony/Cap, but for any real conflict to happen it requires Cap to make some choices that don’t really make sense given his history. You can see how weak that main story arc is because they basically discard it in the final third of the movie, where the focus shifts to the revelation that a brainwashed Bucky killed Tony’s parents. Which works much better as a point of dramatic conflict, but it feels like it comes from a totally different movie! There’s also a misdirection about more Winter Soldiers that is extremely confusing, and Baron Zemo is a strange villain as well. There’s just so much plot in this movie, and so much of it basically leads in circles.
The good parts — i mean, come on, the airport battle is so so fun!
You can feel the glee as the directors smash these characters together like action figures, playing around with mainstays like Hawkeye and newcomers like Ant-Man. It’s really silly and incredibly fun!
Also, the side characters in Civil War are amazing. This is the first time we’re introduced to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, and he is so much fun! Every scene that Spider-Man is in is absolutely fantastic. He brings a real energy and positivity to both dialogue and action scenes, absolutely selling us on the idea that this is Peter Parker, energetic kid who is in way over his head. Spider-Man is just so much fun, and he goes a long way to energizing a murky movie.
He’s not even the coolest side character! That honor goes to T’Challa, who has the best arc in the entire film. At the beginning, T’Challa is an angry man burning with vengeance for his father’s death. His first real dialogue scene is just an absolutely badass, raw, ice cold threat.
Then, by the time he has reached the secret facility T’Challa sees how hate has warped Zemo and Tony. T’Challa realizes he is letting his own thirst for vengeance poison him, and he makes a decision to not only spare his father’s murderer, but to save his life.
What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good arc!
11. Iron Man 3
Woof, I have such conflicted feelings about Iron Man 3. I both love and hate it so much, so I kind of just threw it in here. You probably think this movie is either rated way too low, or way too high, and honestly I get it.
So, let’s do the good stuff first. Shane Black is a director who specializes in portraying snarky, sarcastic badasses, then peeling away their bravado to unpack and examine their damaged psyches (Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys; Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Also, he previously directed Robert Downey Jr., so he’s perfectly suited to lead an examination of Tony Stark.
That means this movie has some of the best acting Robert Downey Jr. has ever done. There’s an excellent line in the Avengers where Cap asks Tony “take away your suit of armor, what are you?” and Shane Black basically takes that concept and runs with it. Iron Man 3 destroys Tony’s life, leaving him in the wilderness with no toys, money or connections.
Turns out, even if Tony’s lost everything — he’s still a hero! We see that his real superpower is his ingenuity and grit. Tony gets absolutely backed into a corner and nearly gets murdered by a super soldier. What does he do? MacGyver together a dog tag, microwave and gas stove to barbecue the assassin. That’s a real hero.
The action here is some of the best in the Marvel franchise. You can almost see the gears turning in Shane Black’s head as he puts together absurd sequences like Tony fighting with half a suit of armor, or Tony infiltrating the Mandarin’s palace with a handful of tools from Home Depot. Every fight scene serves the plot of the movie, and they’re all so good! I could watch Tony jumping in and out of suits as he duels Killian over and over again.
Unfortunately, the plot makes no sense at all. It’s not quite as dumb as Ant-Man & The Wasp, but Iron Man 3 is still EXCESSIVELY stupid. Like, the fakeout where the Mandarin is revealed to be an actor? The random precocious child? Okay fine, I’ll accept that.
But — Maya Hansen shows up to tell Tony that Killian is working for the Mandarin, but is actually working for Killian as well? Tony doesn’t take any precautions (and tries to keep Pepper from leaving the house) after giving a terrorist his home address on live TV? The Extremis supersoldiers are supposed to be veterans recovering from traumatic injuries, so why are they suddenly massively evil after they’re able to walk again? Pepper is a damsel in distress for like 90% of the movie, but then somehow becomes a complete badass by the end of it? Pepper is injected with Extremis and then is totally fine by the end of the movie (and it is NEVER brought up again)?
Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall do their best, but the script basically means their characters make no sense at all (This is where I admit that as much as I like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, the plots of those movies also basically don’t make sense, so guess I should have seen this coming). So yeah, this is somehow both the best and worst Iron Man movie. By far. I’m just not sure which!
10. Avengers: Endgame
This movie is totally nuts. Endgame is an undertaking of absurd hubris and completely insane ambition. Just literally what happens in this movie is bonkers. Endgame has a bloody revenge on Thanos, a bleak Leftovers-inspired look at the aftermath of the Snap, and Hulk Banner incompetently sending Scott Lang back in time. And that’s just the first thirty minutes!
This film should not work. It should be criminal to try and stick a landing like this. In a sane world everyone in the writers’ room would have quit the second they heard the Russo brothers’ outline. There is just no way any of this could possibly be good. And yet…it totally is! Somehow, someway, this movie is an amazing experience. It’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in theaters, and it’s totally awesome.
It really helps that even though the movie covers a ton of ground, the main arc of Endgame is tightly focused on the stories of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Infinity War had a lot of development for Thor and Thanos, and their stories take a deserved breather while we focus on Iron Man and Captain America. These are the two original Avengers, and it’s their story that drives this movie forward. It makes perfect sense that Tony would walk away from the Avengers after the trauma he’s suffered. It makes perfect sense that Steve wouldn’t give up the fight. And at the pivotal moment it’s Tony, whose instinct is always to outsmart his ways out of impossible situation, who dives on the proverbial grenade.
Then, when the dust has settled? Steve Rogers, who’s always been the man to jump on the grenade, has a chance to settle down and live a normal life.
The references are silly but not too distracting (my personal favorite is the Asgardians consistently calling Rocket Raccoon a rabbit), each of the 37,019,419,874 superheroes somehow gets a nice callout moment, and there’s excellent acting throughout (particularly for Nebula and Rocket). There are some issues (this is a time travel movie, so there are always going to be quibbles), but besides the big one — Hawkeye should have died, not Black Widow — most of those issues are pretty minor.
Hurting this movie is the fact that, well — I’m not really sure it’s a movie? Like if you showed this to someone who had never seen a Marvel movie before, I don’t know how they’d even respond? This is a 3 hour movie that makes no effort to introduce its central characters or conflict. Which should be bad, but is also good? Anyways, this movie rocks but don’t see it if you haven’t seen ~90% of the movies on this list!
9. Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Look, this movie is basically the same as Guardians of the Galaxy. If you liked that movie, you’ll like this one too! The action is great, the visuals are fantastic and the music is a ton of fun. Every single action scene in this movie is just so good, and they all move the plot forward/give the characters space to develop. This movie gives Gamora a lot more to do, and her relationship with Nebula gets much more fleshed out in this movie. Oh, and Baby Groot is awesome.
By far the biggest issue I have with this movie is Star-Lord’s arc, which is unfortunately the main storyline of the movie. Kurt Russell is good as Ego, and Ego is an excellent villain. But essentially, this movie takes Star-Lord, (a clear Han Solo stand-in) and turns him into Luke Skywalker for no reason. Star-Lord in Guardians Vol. 1 is fun because he’s basically just a guy — an extremely cocky, quick-witted, skilled pilot and survivor, but still just a regular person who’s somehow capable of outdueling/outwitting superpowered villains like Ronan. Why would they want to give Star-Lord godlike powers? Why is Star-Lord the Chosen One? It adds nothing to his character — and it’s a sign of this weakness that at the end of the movie, his god powers get taken away. I probably wouldn’t mind this so much if it wasn’t front and center in the movie, but with so much time spent on Ego’s planet I can’t help but notice how weak this story is.
It’s also extremely apparent what the main arc of Vol. 2 should have been, because Yondu Udonta steals this movie. Michael Rooker’s blue-skinned, inexplicably Southern, arrow-whistling pirate was a treat in the first Guardians of the Galaxy and in the sequel he just fully swipes the entire film away from Chris Pratt and co. From his disgrace as a fallen Ravager, to being overthrown in a mutiny, to his redemption and ultimate sacrifice, Yondu is the best part of this movie. Coming in a close second is Rocket, who is forced to feel, explore and face the pain that drives his cynicism, snark and self-destructive tendencies. The Rocket and Yondu scenes are absolutely amazing, and they nail emotional beats that most Marvel movies don’t even attempt.
Oh, and on top of it, Yondu and Rocket also get the best action scene in the movie.
And the funniest/most visually insane scene this movie has to offer:
I understand why Marvel was wary about centering an entire movie on a talking raccoon and a side character, but still — you should have focused the movie on Yondu and Rocket, cowards!
8. Avengers: Infinity War
It’s not a secret that most Marvel villains suck. They’re not bad, just flat and unmemorable. So the big question going into Infinity War was, how would this movie handle Thanos? Especially given that Ultron was kind of a flop, how would the movie portray another massive, iconic villain?
The answer is, pretty well! Infinity War does its best to make you empathize with Thanos, and as much as you can empathize with a genocidal all-powerful monster — it kind of succeeds? The whole movie is structured as the hero’s journey for the film’s villain. We see him assemble the stones, overcome obstacles, make personal sacrifices and struggle to achieve his ultimate goal. And it ends with him winning! This movie is a triumph for Thanos — trying to think of another major studio mega-release which ends with the villain relaxing on a farm, having won a complete and total victory.
Besides Thanos, the other real standout character is Thor. He’s the other character we follow from the beginning of the film all the way to the end, from his brother’s death all the way to his ultimate failure. Chris Hemsworth does in amazing job teasing out the vulnerability and fragility behind Thor’s brash exterior. Thor has gone through real loss in this movie and Ragnarok, and the Russo brothers show how much his loss has affected him.
He still has his moment of triumph, though — witness the coolest superhero entrance in the MCU:
Infinity War has its issues. There’s way too much time spent on Thanos’ idiot children, and I’m sorry, but I do not give a shit about Vision (I’m sorry Paul Bettany, you’re doing your best!). Infinity War also has some of the same problems as Endgame — there’s just no point in watching this movie if you haven’t seen most of the movies on this list, because there’s no effort whatsoever put into introducing these characters.
But those pale in comparison to the absolute adrenaline rush that is seeing all of our favorite heroes square off against a massive, incomprehensibly powerful foe. The last third of Infinity War ends with not one, but two massive superpowered battles, each of which would be the most fun parts of a normal movie. On earth, we get to see Black Panther, the Avengers and the Wakandans face off against an entire army of space monsters.
In space, we get to see Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy take on Thanos.
Just typing those sentences is insane. It is insane that a major studio put all the time and money behind creating those two scenes. And thank god they did! Because Infinity War is an amazing experience.
End of Blog
So we’ve done it! We’ve gone through the movies that are pretty solid but still have their flaws. Next week we’ll take a look at the true classics of the MCU, the best films that this universe has to offer.