Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

I’ll do like I did with my Pixar list: Three tiers, one for the MCU greats, one for the goods, and one for the bads.

Worth noting: None of Marvel’s tier 1 movies reach the stratospheric heights of Pixar’s tier 1. Pixar at the top of their game is simply on another level from just about everyone.

From best to worst (though each movie in each rank, as with the Pixar list, can reasonably be argued to be in any spot in that tier without too much trouble)

Tier 1 – These movies are all excellent, and if not all-time classics they represent what the superhero genre can do at its (almost) best (“The Incredibles” and “The Dark Knight” are both clearly on a whole other level of excellence).

Iron Man – The one that really started it all. Cemented the career resuscitation of Robert Downey Jr. and re-established Iron Man in the Marvel canon of superheroes from B list to A list. The screenplay is quite good, but it’s all held together by an outstanding performance by Robert Downey Jr.

The Avengers- This nearly took “Iron Man”‘s spot. Ask me again and it might. While the acting of the movie was generally excellent, the real star was Joss Whedon’s superb direction and screenplay. Whedon, as we knew from “Firefly”, is excellent at handling ensemble casts, and in “The Avengers” he’s in fine form. Any scene where all the avengers are in the same room at the same time is brilliant.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” – Very, very funny, and fun.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A fun political thriller with excellently choreographed fight scenes. While it doesn’t exactly break the mold it does stretch it a bit.

Tier 2 – These are the majority of Marvel’s movies. Tier 2 movies are what I would classify as good to very good, but not deserving of being grouped with the very best examples of the genre.

Ant Man – First, I want to emphasize that the first three tier 2 movies are basically interchangeable. That said: A brilliant second act managed to overcome a fairly solid but relatively weak first act, resulting in a movie where the lasting impression is overall very impressive.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Some of Marvel’s most optimistic stuff (I absolutely loved when Captain America refused to accept that there had to be civilian casualties), it suffered from a fun but overly long climax and not enough of Joss Whedon’s excellent dialogue. That said, when there was dialogue it was terrific, and the fight scenes may have come a little too often but were still very well done.

Captain America: The First Avenger – I loved the 40’s vibe of the movie. If anything I actually wish there was more of it. It suffered a bit from origin story-itis though, and the villain was bland. Even so, Captain America himself was cool.

Thor: Love Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston of course is great, but the story does drag a bit in the middle. A lot of fun, though.

Iron Man 3: Yes, the plot was very dumb. I don’t care. I just liked it, so there.

Tier 3 – Look, these were bad. I don’t know how else to say it. They were just crap.

The Incredible Hulk – I never managed to finish this one. Because it sucked.

Iron Man 2 – I somehow managed to finish it without sleeping. Progress!

This movie was so dull.

I haven’t yet watched “Thor: The Dark World”.

Anyway, there you go. As far as superhero movies go, I firmly believe that the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies (especially the second, though the former is the perfect example of how to nail an origin story) belong in tier 1, and “The Dark Knight” and “The Incredibles” transcend the superhero genre entirely and belong to the overall list of classic movies. As far as the MCU goes, I stand by this list.

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5 Responses to Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

  1. Jakeithus says:

    Overall I generally agree. I’d have Iron Man at the bottom of Tier 1/top of Tier 2, and have Captain America 1 higher. Thor 2 certainly falls into Tier 3.

    I’ve also given up hope of ever seeing a Marvel Cinemas movie rise to the level of The Dark Knight; that’s not what they’re trying to do with their properties. I think it means less chance of making a real dud, but I think they are playing it too safe and formulatic at this point. It’s part of the reason I’m more excited about DCs upcoming properties, although I think it adds to the divisive reaction audiences had with The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel.

    When I erase X3 from my mind, I probably think the XMen franchise is the most consistently good comic book franchise, woth the highest number of Tier 1 entries.

    • I actually never really got into X-Men until the last two reboot movies.

      It’s a very clever reboot, managing to technically keep the old canon while still being able to update with new actors. I loved the last two movies in the franchise.

  2. Randy P. says:

    Marvel has a steady course through the end of phase 3, so I don’t think things will get too out there. Though I think Black Panther and Dr. Strange should be different.

    All in all your list isn’t too far from mine. The two Cap movies are my favorites, though. Everything I enjoy about superheroes is contained in those two films.

    X-Men is great, too. Mostly the first two movies and the most recent two, however. X3 and the first Wolverine movie are total messes. Second Wolverine is a decent action flick, but that’s alright. I hope the new one lives up to the series highs.

  3. So instead of tiers, you just mean ranking them by: “Good – Mediocre – Bad”?

    • That’s not quite right. The middle tier movies are much better than mediocre, and the top tier movies are great. Tier 3 is bad, though.

      But anyway, what else would you even mean by “tier”?

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