It’s your definitive ranked guide to Marvel’s filmography, starting at the beginning of Phase 1 in 2008 with Iron Man, all the way through to Doctor Strange released this year.
To coincide with the release of the @AIComicPod’s 1 year anniversary pod, Rory Greenfield, Stuart Bridson and Gags Tandon rank each and every Marvel release. No doubt it’s been a challenge with the quality available, we really are spoilt for choice.
If you fancy listening to us talk about our rankings below you can click on the play button below and give the podcast a whirl!
Iron Man (2008)
Rory – 6th. Narrowly missing out on a place in the top 5. Jon Favreau’s now legendary action film, is a joy to watch, combing the driest of humour with great storytelling. Oh and one of the most inspired pieces of casting (Robert Downey Jr, as Tony Stark) in modern cinema.
Stu – 8th. Not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination and one of the best, most faithful origin stories you’re likely to see in comic films but there are simply 7 films which blew my mind far more no matter how much I enjoyed the timeless tale of Tony Stark becoming Iron Man. As Rory said, casting RDJ as Tony Stark will live on as one of the finest pieces of casting of all-time – rarely has someone been born to play a part as Downey Jr. was for this one.
Gags – 3rd. I know what you’re thinking… What the fuck eh? Yes, this could have been number one for emotional reasons. Being a cinematic Marvel fan and not one through the comics this was my first introduction to Iron Man, I’d never even heard of him, I saw the trailers and just thought it would be passable. I went to watch this with my daughter and dad, for the first time three generations watching a movie together in the cinema. I won’t lie but this movie blew me away. RDJ played the cocky, witty, annoying rich bloke to a tee and this is what made the entire cinematic Universe for me. It would be a travesty if I didn’t give the movie that got me into it this respect and also the movie that kicked everything off. The casting of RDJ was a masterstroke and one that maybe laid the foundations for what was to follow.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Rory – 14th. Sadly for me this is the black sheep of the Marvel family. It hasn’t aged well and doesn’t fit within the narrative. I hold hope that Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner, will get the solo film he deserves, so this can be forgotten, sorry Ed.
Stu – 14th. It’s not a very good film at all, it’s that simple. And while it was lightyears beyond the truly abominable “Hulk” film, not even the casting of Ed Norton Jr. is enough to save this one from the scrap heap. A bland script did nothing to help this and I doubt you’ll find many people who have it anywhere other than at the bottom of their list.
Gags – 14th. I actually thought this was the first movie of the lot. I suppose we have to acknowledge it because RDJ appears at the end to really introduce himself. It wasn’t bad but wasn’t good either and it’s not a Bluray or DVD that I’d have purchased. I haven’t even introduced this to my daughters so that tells you everything.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Rory – 12th. A disappointing sequel, to the iconic original. It lacked the imagination of its predecessor and choose to focus more on style, than substance. The introduction of Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanov softened the blow a little mind.
Stu – 12th. Not even the War Machine armour (WHICH WE ALL LOVE) could drag this offering up to the standard that we all expected. Iron Man has such a legendary gallery of villains that he could have fought so the decision to amalgamate Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo into a new, awful character is just baffling. On the plus side: Black Widow.
Gags – 10th. I love Iron Man and I loved the introduction of Natasha Romanov. Nuff said.
Rory – 11th. Kenneth Branagh’s cosmic caper, showed promise but didn’t reach the hopeful heights set by such a promising cast. Chris Hemsworth steals every scene and is every inch the perfect Thor, but the narrative lets him and others down, particularly with the lack of chemistry between him and Natalie Portman.
Stu – 11th. I, as a huge Thor fan, had such high hopes for this film but it simply failed to deliver but I guess the story about a God-like figure living in a heaven-like utopian society was always going to be a bit of a stretch for the casual fan who is more used to science-based explanations with radioactive spiders or tragedy based parental slaughterings. And while we applaud Marvel for casting Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth – they should be dragged over hot coals in the nude for Natalie Portman who manages to sap the emotion, humour and excitement out of every single scene she’s in. Not even the delightful Kat Dennings could atone for that!
Gags – 12th. Thor is awesome but he needs more than just himself to really make it interesting, it doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of Natalie Portman. It certainly was interesting to see how this played out as again I’d never read any of the comics. Loki was fantastic and remains to be so but it wasn’t enough to get this higher on the list!
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Rory – 9th. A truly great origin story, which provided the platform for its sequels to flourish. Chris Evans shines as Steve Rogers, whose physical and mental transformation to become Cap, was executed to perfection. It’s a brilliant comic adaptation, which stays respectful to its source material.
Stu – 9th. Marvel did such an incredible job here of telling a story that some already know and others have probably never heard before of the mild-mannered kid from Brooklyn who just wants to help his fellow man and his meteoric rise to becoming the face of the war and, as the title suggests, the first Avenger who would one day change the world. Casting, writing and shooting were all spot on and the film has no real major flaws. I also love the fact that the old “Brooklyn” scenes was actually shot in Manchester and Liverpool!
Gags – 9th. I loved the entire back story of this and was great to see a movie set up in the World War era. The transformation is brilliant as you revel in watching this courageous scrawny guy become Captain America and then kick ass. Excellent casting and this was the movie that showed Marvel was on top of it’s game with Stark’s father making an appearance in the movie whom we’d seen glimpses of in Iron Man so the signs of everything fitting into place were there.
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
Rory – 3rd. Our first taste of what Marvel could really achieve in cinema. A blockbuster of monumental proportions. The action was taken to another level, but it’s the story Joss Whedon tells, which stands it apart. The dialgoue between the heroes is so sharp and funny, you’d be forgiven if you laughed more than watching the years best comedy. Despite containing so many iconic characters, it’s Tom Hiddleston’s Loki as the dry written villain, that steals the show.
Stu – 7th. Controversial I know but I have to deduct serious points for the fact that Captain America spends the entire film wearing the worst suit he’s ever had. You’d think S.H.I.E.L.D. could have hired a better tailor and come up with something a little less… shit. This film is a true cinematic great to me so my placement here might seem strange especially when I say that, again, this film has no noticeable flaws or weaknesses, the casting and plot are all near-perfect and the action scenes are as gripping as you’ll likely see. Definitely one to recommend and a fine culmination of four years of foundation laying by Marvel.
Gags – 2nd. Up until recently I didn’t think anything would remove this from the top spot. I don’t think I’ve cheered or laughed as much through a movie as this. I loved the interaction between the entire cast and they put it together perfectly. The action was top notch, the fights between the main characters were excellent and then when they finally all get together it’s epic. HULK. SMASH!
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Rory – 10th. An improvement on its predecessor, this was a supercharged Iron Man outing, full of fun and pyrotechnics. The most memorable performance is delivered by Ben Kingsley who plays faux villain the infamous terrorist Mandarin, or his true alias Trevor Slattery. It was a true moment of genius, when Downey Jr discovered Kingsley’s real identity.
Stu – 10th. Seems like a low rank but I really like this one! Visually it’s probably the best Iron Man, it’s the smoothest and most polished and arguably RDJ’s best and most Stark-like performance in any MCU offering but the Mandarin twist was a monumental anti-climax and one of my biggest gripes is that after introducing the Extremis technology – Marvel decided to not pursue this and introduce the more bio-tech elements of Iron Man’s armour. Also, as great as Guy Pearce is, the character of Killian was kind of boring.
Gags – 11th. I was disappointed with this one. I loved the Iron Legion but was disappointed by it a little bit, I thought it was too much. I preferred Iron Man 2 personally even though Ben Kingsley’s cameo was fantastic and the twist excellent too. I didn’t buy into Guy Pearce either. Meh. Tony Stark was awesome as ever though so it still isn’t the worst one!
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Rory – 13th. A slightly disappointing sequel, despite it’a promising premise. Alan Taylor’s telling of the Hammer wielding gods latest outing is full of visual delights, but lacks the script to really deliver. Something tells me, my partner in crime will strongly disagree.
Stu – 13th. Poop, basically. Not even my throbbing love of Thor could overwrite the fact that the story was overly complicated and hard to follow at times. It looked better, the characters and costumes were better than the first Thor film and the way it linked in with the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV show was fantastic but, at the end of the day, it once again failed to live up to the incredibly high standards set by the MCU. It remains to be seen whether Ragnarok can allow the Thor trilogy to end on a high note or he risks being remembered as the Avenger who did better in the team-up films than he did in every single one of his solo efforts which would be a damn shame.
Gags – 13th. As you can see, I’m not a major fan of the Thor movies and the best way to describe this movie is to say that I don’t remember it. I’m very sorry!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Rory – 4th. The first time for Marvel, that a sequel has not only matched, but improved upon its predecessor. I’ve always described this as a soviet crime thriller, set in the MCU. It’s an intense, at times dark film, which focuses on substance over style, through some excellent lead performances. It’s one of my favourite films to date and only just misses out on a place in the top 3.
Stu – 2nd. Just missed out on the top spot despite being the almost-perfect blending of superhero meets espionage, powers versus cunning and friendship versus the mission. The re-introduction of Bucky Barnes in the comics is one of the most important moments in Captain America’s life and also one of the most poignant “characters never truly die” moments of all-time but the way it’s explained and the manner in which he’s brought back is staggering. You want to hate the villain but you find yourself empathising with his plight, he’s the biggest victim in this whole saga so the pay-off at the end is so rewarding.
Gags – 8th. This was fantastic but there are a few movies recently that just pip it for me. I prefer Iron Man over Captain America but the Cap movies are so well made that they blew the 2nd and 3rd Iron Man movies out of the water. In Winter Soldier I got introduced to another new character that seems will be very important going forward in the MCU.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Rory – 2nd. Of all the Marvel films released, this was the one I was least looking forward to. A tree, a talking raccoon and a green enchantress, I had great fears. I was wrong on every single level. From the opening credit scene in the cave, when Star Lord (the masterful Chris Pratt) sings ‘Come And Get Your Love’ into a lizard, I was hooked. James Gunn created a unique world, with characters full of heart and humour, backed by the perfect soundtrack. No matter how sad you’re feeling, I promise this film will always make you smile 🙂
Stu – 6th. Used to be a top 5 mainstay of mine but has recently been pushed out by Dr. Strange, this is sure to get me an ear-bashing from some but doesn’t diminish what a stellar (pun intended) film this is. Visually incredible, overflowing with talented actors and when two of your main cast members are a tree who can only say a handful of words and a sociopathic racoon yet you still manage to rake in the big bucks – you know you’ve done well. The sequel is almost certain to be a masterpiece, one which which we cannot wait to feast our eyes upon.
Gags – 6th. Drops just out side of my top 5 unfortunately but it’s just got everything this one. The soundtrack gives it a bump up too but the characters, the how funny it is and just everything about it was brilliant. I cannot wait for the characters from this movie to crossover into the rest of the MCU. I have a feeling Dr. Strange may have something to do with this!
Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)
Rory – 8th. Joss Whedon provided the sequel fans craved, reuniting the old gang to face another brilliant foe (Ultron, voiced brilliantly by James Spader). Fractious and funny, there is a lot to enjoy here, but fundamentally it falls short of the original. It feels somewhat forced at times and given post interviews with the director, it’s clear his vision wasn’t fully brought to screen.
Stu – 4th. I’m one of few people who actually rank this higher than The Avengers/Avengers Assemble and I can only explain this by saying that everything just felt… right. The characters were more established on screen, the relationships between them were more solid and the chemistry seemed to – for me at least – add another dimension. The big fight scenes felt bigger, the design and costumes felt more on-point and James Spader puts in the second best villain portrayal seen so far by Marvel, falling just short of Tom Hiddleston’s now legendary take on Loki.
Gags – 4th. It’s an Avengers movie, it has to be in my Top 5. I can’t really add more than the guys have above but it had hype and it delivered for me. The Iron Man vs Hulk battle was incredible to see and they moved things even further towards Civil War which was had it’s foundations laid in both Avengers movies. Incredible how Marvel have been able to piece everything together with so many movies, directors, writers and yet deliver these huge ensemble cast movies.
Rory – 5th. This may be a surprise for some, but I hold Ant-Man in very high regard. Paul Rudd is excellent in the lead role, bringing his unique brand of humour to each scene. Underrated by many, this is pure fun from start to finish. The action is innovative and fresh, the casting pitch perfect, with Michael Pena’s hilarious narration a particular stand out for me.
Stu – 5th. A total surprise package. When you can make over half a billion dollars about a superhero who talks to ants and can shrink himself down to their size… well… you must have done something right. Paul Rudd is a comedy genius (fight me if you disagree) and his tasteful blending of comedy, action and genuine pain escalates what could have been a dull film to a whole new level. I want the entire film to be narrated by Luis because they were hysterically funny as were many of the other random moments such as the giant ant and Thomas the Tank Engine! It’s such a shame that Edgar Wright wasn’t able to see the project through to the end as I suspect we would have had a top 3 MCU film on our hands but we still ended up with a character who has established himself as a valued Avenger and the introduction of The Wasp will benefit mankind when they both take on Thanos in the near future.
Gags – 7th. Oh my me and my girls expected nothing from this one and after the initial 35 minutes we thought the worst but then this one came to life and Paul Rudd and Kate from Lost were amazing (yes I love Wasp, okay!). Michael Douglas in a Marvel movie was a coup and well the real star of this movie was Michael Pena and his amazing flashbacks! So, so funny! I look forward to Ant Man and Wasp!
Captain America Civil War (2016)
Rory – Winner. I feared the release of this film, given the sheer size and scale it was aiming to achieve, but boy was I wrong. The Russo bros deliver a near perfect film from start to finish, combining stunning action and scenes of genuine emotion, whilst giving each character the time they needed to shine. The introduction of Spider-Man and Black Panther was done superbly and you can trust that the grand finale of Phase 3, is in the safest of hands.
Stu – 1st! It took me two viewings of this film to know that it had knocked The Winter Soldier off the top spot and what can you say about this film? It’s perfect from start to finish. To take such a huge cast of established, world-renowned stars and give it so much balance, so much tact and yet still pack such a punch is astounding. The fight scenes got bigger, the emotions got more intense and more real and in amongst all of this it oftens get lost that this isn’t an Avengers film but is the third Captain America film and gave Phase 3 the start it needed. The fallout from this film will be felt for years – fractured friendships and potentially two different superhero teams on opposite sides of the world plus we gained two vital new characters who will add serious firepower to coming films as we transition from the old guard to the new.
Gags – 1st. You can’t touch this. The movie had me jumping in my seat, this movie had me seething with anger wanting Tony to smash Cap and Bucky to pieces. If a movie can really get you going emotionally – well it’s a super hit for me and more than any other comic book movie this one had me hooked. The additions of Black Panther and Spiderman were absolutely brilliant and it looks like the Spiderman franchise will now be rebooted with a kick up it’s arse and Tony Stark to help too, what’s not to love? I loved Civil War and may have watched it 10 times already.
Doctor Strange (2016)
Rory – 7th. Marvel’s first venture into the realm of magic. Strange delves into new unexplored territory and absolutely nails it. Visually stunning, with a great cast and strong script, it’s a real triumph. Ultimately the film left me craving more and that 14 films in speaks volumes, inspite of the accent.
Stu – 3rd. Might seem that this has been ranked unusually high for such a recent release but I was truly blown away by everything from the casting to the visuals and every stop in-between. Tilda Swinton’s inclusion bought with it a wave of “whitewashing” accussations but I defy anyone to tell me that, after seeing her performance, she didn’t also bring a geniune class that can be hard to find. Truly wicked villains, stunning visuals which are a true hark back to the original Steve Ditko pages and an essential introduction of the mystic arts which will be so vital for the safety of humanity. If you haven’t seen this film then go watch it – PLEASE – and if you have but didn’t see it in 3D then PLEASE DO THAT TOO!
Gags – 5th. It’s in my top 5 immediately. I love Benedict Cumberbatch. I’d never seen anything of his before but the man is awesome. The next best casting after RDJ and Tony Stark for me. He’s the future of MCU. There I said it. Special effects, casting, the origin story. Loved it. Watched it 3 times in cinema already and like Stu emplored above. You must watch this in 3D but do it IMAX too! Madness, the room literally moves!
There you have it, 14 films discussed and dissected. A few surprises along the way, but overall an extremely positive opinion about nearly all that Marvel has produced in the last 8 years. Superhero films are now the most commercially popular films in cinema and this trend shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Marvel will continue to bring films of great quality, they will push the boundaries of cinema, through great casting, insightful direction and production of the highest order. All you have to do is watch and the Comic Pod will be with you every step of the way.