With the release of Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel has now churned out seventeen movies. Yep, that’s right. Seventeen fuckin’ Marvel movies and almost all of them widely popular with both critics and fans, almost all of them hit big at the box office. But not all of them are great or good. There are few stinkers and there are a few gold. The list below starts with the stinkers with the movies listed in descending order.
The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008). Say what you want about Ang Lee’s Hulk, that’s still better than this movie. This louder rehash only improves on the special effects the action, which everyone soon forgets once Mark Ruffalo shows up in The Avengers.
Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010). Iron Man 2, or: How To Make A Bloated Sequel. Black Widow made her first appearance in this movie. That’s the most vivid detail I remember from this really really long talky Robert Downey Jr. movie. That and Tony Stark literally pissing his pants.
Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnston, 2011). Joe Johnston brought his Rocketeer aesthetic into an alternate 1940s giving it a frozen in amber quality. It was good in that it looked different, if only it wasn’t so boring.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2014). Sure, it’s action-packed, implausible, and over-edited Bayhem-style. Shield-wielding Jack Ryan on steroids meets cybernetic Jason Bourne in a political thriller loaded with explosions but short on actual thrills.
Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011). Kind of disappointing that Asgard is just shiny, squeaky clean and bland. Fortunately, much of the story happens on Earth. And there’s one memorable sequence involving Thor and his friends fighting the huge metallic armor called the Destroyer.
Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016). Not the Ditko/Kubrick/Miyazaki/The Matrix mind-trip Kevin Feige said it needed to be. Ditko, sure, a li’l bit from The Matrix and a lot from Inception, minus the well established logic of the latter and the Wachowskis’ stylish kung fu mix.
Captain America: Civil War (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2016) Should have ended with that mid-movie orgy, not with the Tony-Cap-Bucky threesome. Despite its supposed depth, the plot’s one big excuse to break them apart as it forgoes the most sensible thing friends do to settle dispute: Talk.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, 2017). Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker is a perfect middle ground for those who find Tobey Maguire too dorky and those who find Andrew Garfield too dicky. Pete’s high school life’s quite a bop, but his superheroic fights, not quite blitzkrieg.
Iron-Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013). A turd of a third act, but mostly fun ride. Shane Black fucks with the fanboys by making the Mandarin a bumbling idiot. Stark without the suit is refreshing, kind of remedies the excesses of the first sequel, only to revert to the same problem in the end.
Iron-Man (Jon Favreau, 2008). This is where it all begun, the Mark I of all Marvel movies. This is also where that unsatisfactory third-act problem first came out. That being said, that crude big black suit from the cave was just so bad-ass.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015). Not quite the sequel Joss Whedon wanted to make. A little loose, a little deeper, a lot bigger than the first. It is not without its flaws, but the better parts outweighs the bad.
Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013). Step-brothers and arch-enemies get to do more in this sequel. So does Natalie Portman—sadly, in her last appearance as Jane Foster. Thor was dumb enough to think he can destroy the Aether with his hammer. So was this movie. Dumb fun.
Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015). Small movie, small hero, big heart—or at least a heart that’s relatively big for an ant. It’s a movie about “families” and therefore a family movie—minus the adult-oriented jokes of . . . Guardians of the Galaxy.
Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017). More outrageous if less heartfelt than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ragnarok is laugh-out-loud fun with Hulk/Bruce Banner vs. Thor as its centerpiece, Cate Blanchett as Hela, and that one sequence that burns Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” for fuel.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (James Gunn, 2017) It’s bigger, brighter, crazier but also—heavier deeper. Not a step down but a step into the right direction. A fun tear jerker that could reduce you to tears while these A-holes saves the universe.
The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012). Joss Whedon knows how to vary multiply divide, make demi-gods bleed and face failure, flesh out the human side instead of the super. He knows when to throw a punchline, knows when to punch and knows when to SMASH!
Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014). Bounty hunters? Check. Space adventure? Check. Awesome soundtrack? Check. Pop culture references? Check. Wait, this isn’t Cowboy Bebop-great but it’s Serenity-good—which is awesome. Going Kevin Bacon to save a planet from imminent destruction?
We are Groot!