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Ranking the MCU Films –– Phases 1-3

Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.

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Ranking the MCU

A few months ago, I finished up my chronological rewatch of the MCU with my review of Spider-Man: Far From Home. I had planned to publish this ranked list soon after that review went up... but kinda forgot? As strange as it may sound, I got really tied up with school and other writing ventures that this list just slipped my mind. But now we have an official start date for phase 4: January 15. What better time than ever to finally publish this list.

I am going to keep my explanations for why a film is where it is as brief as possible, otherwise, this list could get really wordy. But, of course, you can check out my full reviews for each film by checking out my page.

And let me just say that I had a very hard time ranking these movies, and this list could easily change over time. I mostly love all of these films and placing them above and below one another really hurt me. But it had to be done.

So, without further ado, let's talk about my favorite interconnected film universe of all time.

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23. Thor: The Dark World

I'm sure this was expected. I, frankly, find this film semi-boring, and it's obvious to me that the creators didn't know exactly how to treat the Thor character. Thankfully, Taika Waititi came in later and helped fix that.

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22. Iron Man 2

I'm sure this one was expected as well. In every sense, this film failed to be anywhere close to as good as its predecessor. It also lacks good villains.

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21. The Incredible Hulk

I know I enjoy this movie more than most––mostly because I think the final fight scene is insanely cool––yet watching this film knowing that Mark Ruffalo would take over and become the official face of Bruce Banner really throws me off a bit.

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20. Thor

I really like the Thor lore, and I understand that the film needed to be a fish-out-of-water story so that Thor could learn, yet I still wish that his time being powerless on Earth had been a bit shorter.

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19. Captain Marvel

Say what you want about Brie Larson... I just think this movie is really generic. Fury's and Danver's relationship, as well as the introduction of the Skrulls, is what saved this film for me.

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18. Iron Man 3

I really like that Tony was taken out of his element in this movie. I really don't like the "Mandarin" all that much. It's a good movie to watch around Christmas, though.

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17. Doctor Strange

Insanely trippy, Doctor Strange brought a nice bit of freshness to the MCU. Yeah, Steven Strange can sometimes come off as discount Tony Stark... but I still really like the character and his growth throughout the film. Like most movies near the bottom of my list, this one also lacks a decent villain. 'Tis a shame, really. I like Mads Mikkelsen.

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16. Ant-Man and the Wasp

A decent sequel to Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp manages to be fun, yet it still comes off as quite generic. It does, however, set up so much of what happens in Endgame. That honestly feels like its only reason to exist. I still had fun with it, though.

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15. Ant-Man

Ant-Man is interesting in the fact that it is mostly a heist movie... that turns into a generic superhero vs. supervillain showdown at the end. But is it really a superhero movie if there isn't a generic superhero vs. supervillain showdown? I really like the heist stuff, though. That aspect definitely brought something new to the MCU.

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14. Black Panther

I really appreciate how this film showed us a completely new area of the MCUs universe. The set design for this film is awesome––I just really love Wakanda. The action scenes are pretty cool, too, but again... it ends with a generic final fight that definitely needed some polishing in the area of visual effects.

I must give praise to Chadwick Boseman for putting his heart and soul into the character of T'Challa. It really shows. I hope that he is resting in peace. He will be greatly missed.

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13. Avengers: Age of Ultron

I know for sure that I like this film more than many. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the big team-up movies when everyone and everything comes together. Yes, I recognize that this movie heavily acts as a set-up for the future rather than focusing on the here-and-now, but I still really enjoy watching it. Plus, James Spader as Ultron? Yes, please. I guess the introduction of Vision is cool, too, but I'm still upset at Marvel for spoiling that in the trailer.

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12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This movie is funny, tear-jerking, and action-packed all at the same time, yet it still doesn't compare to the first film. I love the film, however, and I think that Kurt Russell as Ego was a great villain.

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11. Captain America: The First Avenger

This film is highly enjoyable, and I love that it takes place in a completely different setting and time than any other MCU film. In every sense, it's a war movie, but it just happens to include the super-soldier himself, Captain America. We really get to see how and why Cap is the way he is, and the fact that he never changes his stances really shows how great of a character he is. He is inherently good, as all of the best heroes should be.

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10. Thor: Ragnarok

This is the film where the creators finally learned that taking Thor in a less serious direction is the best direction. They embraced how odd the Asgardians can come off as and showed a whole new side to the ever-expanding universe––a side that includes Jeff Goldblum and, my personal favorite, Korg. Moreover, the film boasts a pretty awesome villain in Hela and gives the Hulk more character development. Overall, it's a very entertaining film to watch, and Taika Waititi's humor shines through it.

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9. Guardians of the Galaxy

Who knew that a movie based around a little known Marvel team would become so popular? I certainly didn't. But the film is hilarious and heartfelt and introduced viewers of the MCU to some pretty awesome characters.

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8. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Spider-Man is my homeboy. He was my favorite superhero growing up. He is still one of my favorites today. I am so glad he had the opportunity to be a part of this massive cinematic universe. Far From Home is epic in that it gives the hero a new playing ground. Plus, it includes an outstanding villain in Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio.

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7. Spider-Man: Homecoming

As much as I love Far From Home, I have to give Homecoming a higher spot because of how Spider-Man-like the movie felt. I needed this after the failure that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I got what I wanted and much more.

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6. Iron Man

The father of the MCU. Everything we have seen came because of this one movie, and it is dang good. Tony Stark is an awesome character who is extremely flawed but given space to grow. This movie still stands today as a fantastic installation in the MCU, 12 years and 23 films later.

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5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

What I love the most about this film is the sheer brutality of it. The action is fantastic. The music is fantastic. The espionage aspects are fantastic. This movie is spectacular and character-driven and just plain badass.

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4. Captain America: Civil War

Sure, this film does feel like Avengers 2.5. However, as I said before, I love the team-up films so much, and this one, rather, has the team split up and fight each other. This movie does have great fights, but the characters are the most important part. That's why I love this film so much. We finally get to see what happens when these two characters'––whom we know and love so much––beliefs collide.

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3. Avengers: Endgame

Endgame is the culmination of everything we had seen prior. It all lead up to this one giant of a movie... and it was breathtaking... tear-jerking... beautiful. Yeah, it's long... but it's worth it.

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2. Avengers: Infinity War

Really, the reason this is ranked higher than Endgame is because of its focus on Thanos. This is, essentially, his movie. And for a hero team-up movie of this size... well, it's just astonishing that the villain could steal the show.

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1. The Avengers

This is the first film that proved to all of us that the MCU could and would work. This easily could have flopped, but the film is able to not draw too much attention to one certain character. Each character feels important. Not only that, but Loki as the villain is just fantastic. I love this movie. Frankly, I had a hard time deciding which film to put here, but I ultimately chose this one because of how nostalgic I feel when rewatching it. It is, in my eyes, the epitome of superhero team-up movies.

© 2020 Benjamin Wollmuth

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