With Avengers: Endgame coming out, I thought I would finally make a Best-To-Worst list, like we did with Star Wars. This obviously isn’t the definitive list, but instead is my personal opinion. Full disclosure, I’m a Captain America nerdd. Now, here are all 21 movies that were released before Endgame!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
To me, a good superhero is two things: Action + Character. This movie has amazing action and fight scenes, as well as beautiful character development. If you don’t like this movie, you’re wrong.
Best: I’m with you until the end of the line
Worst: Fury’s magic lightsaber, that causes Bucky to stop following him.
Avengers: Infinity War
This movie is such a satisfying buildup to 10 years of films. Every single character has a moment, when the screen is on them, and they do something memorable. It can be hard to do that with 10 characters, much less 76!
Worst: Hand cutting magic isn’t used to cut off Thanos’ hand.
Captain America: Civil War
This movie is everything Batman v. Superman should have been. Also, by the way, the reason Iron Man lost and Cap one, isn’t because the Russo brothers value personal freedom over national security. They were making commentary on how reactionary measures, based on fear, will always fall short. Whereas careful consideration based on core values are stronger and cannot be shaken.
Best: I can do this all day.
Worst: The other Winter Soldiers, being removed. So much excitement dropped.
Captain America: The First Avenger
People always make fun of the “Boy Scout” hero, claiming it’s unrealistic for someone to be this pure and true. This movie shows that Steve Rogers is just trying his best, and sometimes he messes up. He falls prey to emotions and anger just like the rest of us, but that doesn’t mean he stops fighting against it.
Best: I don’t like bullies. I don’t care where they’re from.
Worst: This guy. He’s a jerk.
This movie accomplished something no other movie in history even attempted. Thus starting a wave of attempts from every major studio in Hollywood. No one should have to tell you how amazing this movie is.
Best: This shot
Worst: Eventually Hawkeye will get to be cool. It’s coming. I promise.
One of the most fleshed out villains in the entire MCU, in an amazingly artistic film, surrounding one of the best heroes in Marvel. This movie has made huge strides in African American centralization and normalization in Hollywood, and it deserves every bit of praise it has received.
Best: Cultural Design
Guardians of the Galaxy
Many people have said that this movie is this generation’s Star Wars. Not meaning that this film should be put on a pedestal like Star Wars, but that it has shown younger audiences the joy of absurd sci-fi, and opened the doors of storytelling. A solid team film, where no characters were introduced previously, and yet they all feel real. They all can stand on their own two feet, and I would watch a solo movie featuring any single character, except maybe Groot. But Groot gets enough love as it is.
Best: Amazing team dynamics
Worst: That’s just nasty.
This movie started the entire MCU. Marvel wasn’t even owned by Disney when this movie came out (which shows). An amazing redemption story, full of strong plot choices, that it has been repeated by almost every other Marvel movie since. This movie can’t be blamed for that, since it created the cliches.
Best: Gulmira fight scene
Worst: Complete disregard for civilians on highway fight scene.
While this movie uses Amnesia for the origin story like some kind of Jason Bourne movie, it gets a lot of things right. Awesome combat, twists, Feminism, and Samuel L. Jackson being so charming it hurts. Australian Ben Mendelson alien is hilarious. Powerful woman realizing that the men in her life are holding her back. Just everything is firing on all cylinders. Hopefully Carol can be a bit more excited in later movies.
Best: Goose the Cat
Worst: Saying “Hold back your emotions” to an emotionless woman.
You could take out ever scene that involves Spider-Man or Iron Man, and this movie would still kill as a John Hughes film. Balances the two stories of Spider-Man as well as Peter Parker, emphasizing the stress he’s going through leading these two different lives. Just the right amount of reference to the wider MCU, believable child actors, and Happy being a big goofy goober. It’s great.
Best: Michael Keaton
Worst: Too much Iron Man interference.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
This movie has a lot of ups and downs. Some strong character moments are great between the opening party scene and the farm scene. There are also some beautifully shot action scenes. Even the villain is the most charming robot I’ve seen since I, Robot. Unfortunately it’s stitched together with some things that don’t really seem to fit, a weird nightmare sequence, and Thor’s little side story that never really pays off. The nightmares do lead to the Hulkbuster, so that’s good.
Best: Hawkeye’s Farm
Worst: Quicksilver’s Death
This movie is about as middle of the MCU-origin-story road as you can get. Fairly intelligent white guy, who is way too charming, gets himself into trouble somehow and can’t continue the life he was living before. Then he meets with an older scientist who needs our hero to complete their life’s mission. Unfortunately an evil version of our hero is after the same McGuffin, and has a history with old scientist. Hero and Villain must fight each other, using their nearly identical power set. Luckily, earlier in the story our hero learned a valuable lesson the villain never did. This is why Ant-Man is in the middle. It just is what it is.
Best: Scott Lang actually being super smart.
Thor: The Dark World
This movie would have been so much better as just a Loki film. We meet Loki in the first Thor movie, and he’s the villain of the first Avengers film, but this is where we really learn who Loki is and what’s important to him. His whole relationship with his mother is so much more important than Thor and Natalie Portman being into each other. The inter-portal fight scene was exciting though.
Worst: Infinity Stone Intro
Iron Man 3
Tony Stark creates the Iron Man suit, then shortly after realizes that he’s essentially created super villains. Him or his dad at least. Then when the Avengers movie happens, it’s easy to believe that Tony would put all of that destruction on himself. Everything was fine before, but once he started rocking the boat, the whole world’s crap hit the fan. So his entire PTSD journey is super engaging, and the best part about this film. However, the villain is lackluster, before and after the reveal, the Extremis is stupid, and half of the rest of the plot. If they just picked a story and followed it, it would be better.
Best: Ben Kingsley basically playing two parts.
Worst: US Veterans are the bad guys?
Before The Avengers, the MCU didn’t have the financial backing that they do today. So how do you handle a god-tier hero, who lives on a planet that’s basically heaven, and have impossible powers? Easy! You just take them all away so he can learn humility. It makes this one of the more boring, non-comic book movies in the whole series, but they did what they could.
Best: Thor being super genuine.
Worst: Thor’s lack of anything else super.
This is definitely going to make some people upset. This movie is so far down on this list for one big reason. It doesn’t take itself seriously. A lot of super upsetting things happen in this movie. Odin dies, the Warriors Three die, Thor is made a slave and literally has to fight for his life, and Asgard explodes. Every time something happens, Thor just keeps on going. He should be devastated! We see more sadness from him in Infinity War, when he gets 15 minutes of screen time. Maybe some of the hour that he has in his own movie can be dedicated to him being a little upset. Yes this movie is hilarious, but set on the backdrop that it is is just disturbing.
Worst: Warriors Three Death
This movie has all of the same faults as Ant-Man did above. Unfortunately not only did it come out a year later, making it even worse, but it doesn’t even have the same charm. It’s tough introducing the Mystic side of the Marvel Universe, and they did it fantastically! The visuals are beautiful, and I understood how the magic works as best as you could hope for. If only they hadn’t spent all that time ignoring their protagonist, causing him to be kind of boring. We know Benedict Cumberbatch can be engaging, he’s done it before. But here he is just hanging out, kinda having a character, kinda being a stand-in. Hopefully they let him grow more in the later movies.
Best: Mystical Visualizations
Worst: His love life.
Iron Man 2
No one is going to argue, this movie just isn’t great. Now they know that they are going to make The Avengers, so time to shoehorn all the wider MCU stuff they couldn’t put in last time, while also trying to balance two villains, and a fracturing friendship. It’s too much, and they don’t really do any of it to the point where it really matters.
Best: War Machine
Worst: I wan’t my bird.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
I’ve already written an entire article on this movie, so if you want in depth analysis on the relationships here, go read this article. The reason I put it so far down on the list isn’t because of the relationships, as much as it is how it relates to the rest of the MCU. The whole movie builds up to this point where we learn that Peter Quill is half god! That’s an amazing revelation! And yet, by the end of the film, he has lost all of his powers, and nothing has changed for the better. He now appreciates everything that Yondu did for him, but Yondu is dead now. If they didn’t want to give Quill such strong powers right before Infinity War, that’s fine. Just don’t tell this story. Infinity War Quill is indistinguishable from end of GotG vol. 1 Quill. It makes the whole story kinda meaningless in the grande scheme of things.
Best: I’m Mary Poppins Y’all!
Worst: Spiritual Baseball
The Incredible Hulk
This movie only half counts as an MCU film. The only connection from this movie and the wider MCU, is General Ross telling the Avengers about the Sokovia Accords. Otherwise, it’s just another Hulk movie, and at this point, no one knows how to make a good Hulk movie. If you think Hulk deserves more praise, let me know. But for now, it’s down here.
Best: This kick!
Worst: This guy.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Why was Ant-Man not in Infinity War? Because he was doing this. I might think this movie is better when I can watch the Ant-Man Trilogy, and see some cool character development and world-building or something. But as it stands, this was the first movie after Infinity War, and it’s just so flat. This is just some weird tangent, that doesn’t matter, and it’s a bummer. Who cares? I don’t.
Best: Giant ant playing the drums.
Worst: No one can take this seriously knowing Thanos is, at this moment, kicking the Hulks butt before he kills Loki. There are no stakes here.