It’s now less than a month to go until “Age of Ultron,” Marvel’s follow-up to its major 2012 blockbuster “The Avengers.” While the film firmly established Marvel Studios’ dominance of superhero cinema, the studio released a number of successful superhero films leading up to “The Avengers.” Before “Age of Ultron” hits theaters, I thought it might be fun to revisit Marvel’s previous films. Here is a ranking of my favorites, ending with my all-time favorite Marvel film. I’d love to hear your favorites, as well!
10. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
While I like some of the Marvel films better than others, all of them — at least for me — have never failed to be entertaining. I enjoyed “The Incredible Hulk” movie, but do have to admit it’s not Marvel’s best. The acting and overall plot are fine; perhaps what’s missing is that familiar shot of adrenalin and fun that always seems to fill Marvel movies — it’s here, but isn’t at the same level of the other films. The Hulk character was definitely one of the highlights of “The Avengers” film, but his solo run didn’t work quite as well.
9. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
It was a blast seeing the banter between Thor and Loki in this movie (Tom Hiddleston is a Marvel treasure). It was definitely an entertaining film, but for me the story wasn’t quite as strong as the Thor origin film. Although there’s a lot of witty lines and funny moments, the villain isn’t as well defined.
8. Iron Man 2 (2010)
I actually kind of liked the much-maligned Iron Man sequel (don’t judge me!) 😉 Yes, it’s not as strong a story as the first Iron Man, but it’s always fun to watch Robert Downey Jr. play this character. Then again, Iron Man is my favorite of the Avengers superheroes, so maybe I’m a little biased…
7. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Chris Evans was a perfect choice to play Steve Rogers/Captain America; the character easily could have come across as cheesy or too earnest, but Evans brought genuine heart to the role. Overall, I think “Thor” was a stronger film, but I loved the retro World War II setting, and the poignant ending still gets me.
6. Thor (2011)
Thor and Captain America both had strong, well-cast origin stories, and “Thor” was a fun blend of sci-fi and fantasy. However, perhaps the best find was Tom Hiddleston as Loki, arguably the best (and definitely the most fun and well-developed) villain to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
5. Iron Man 3 (2013)
This film also was a little more polarizing among fans, due to the villain switch-up, but I thought it did a nice job of proving Marvel wouldn’t be falling into a post-Avengers slump. “Iron Man 3” felt gutsy and fresh, and Robert Downey Jr.’s snark was as sharp and entertaining as ever.
4. The Avengers (2012)
“The Avengers” was, hands-down, one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in the theater. It was great to see the team up of famous Marvel characters, and how their personalities clashed but they eventually learned to work together. I was a little surprised to find it ended up just No. 4 on my list, but I think “The Avengers,” more so than any of the other Marvel films, is a movie that begs to be watched in the theater, on as large a screen as possible, with a crowd of other enthusiastic fans. It’s an “experience movie,” which means it’s not *quite* as much fun to watch it solo at home.
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
While I put it at No. 3, I think there’s a case to be made — from a purely objective standpoint — that this may actually be the best of the Marvel movies. It combines the superhero and political thriller genres into a story that is suspenseful, relevant and all-too timely. The unexpected chemistry between Captain America and Black Widow was another bonus.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Technically this isn’t a superhero or “Avengers” tie-in film, but I couldn’t resist including it because it’s one of my favorites, and it’s conceivable there could be an Avengers cross-over someday (please make this happen, Marvel!). No one expected a movie about a trigger-happy raccoon and a talking tree to be a huge summer blockbuster, but it turned out to be my favorite movie of 2014 and almost my all-time favorite Marvel movie. It was great to see an old-fashioned space opera with a great sense of humor and an awesome soundtrack. This movie perfectly captures Marvel’s winning formula of action, heart and humor.
1. Iron Man (2008)
My favorite Marvel film is actually its first. It probably has something to do with the fact Iron Man is my favorite Marvel character and Robert Downey Jr. is my favorite actor, so I’m not pretending this is an objective choice. 😉 However, Downey is a blast to watch in this role, and it’s fun to see Marvel start putting together the building blocks of its Cinematic Universe.