Every so often, there comes along a subject too big for a single Snooty Usher. Something too broad to fit into the confines of a Top 10. A list too important to truncate. When this happens, The Snooty Ushers are there for you, to give order amongst the chaos. Welcome to Ranked!
In this first issue of Ranked!, the Snooty Ushers have got together to assess, evaluate, and…well… rank the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For the release of Age Of Ultron last year, we gave our thoughts on the MCU as a whole, and for the release of Captain America: Civil War we are taking on each and every film.
So, without further ado, here’s our list of all of the Marvel Cinema Universe films so far.
12. Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013)
Dave: Ah, Iron Man 3, I could not wait for this at the time. Coming off the back of the Avengers finally assembling, this was looking to get phase 2 of to a big start. Shane Black taking over from Jon Favereau, a brilliant set of trailers and a hero suffering from PTSD.
What we got was a mess. The PTSD stuff was interesting and The Mandarin was a brilliant villain, he really worked as a terrorist.
Then it all goes wrong. Firstly, Tony Stark is hardly ever in the suit and when he is, he hardly ever has his mask on. It is more of a Stark film than as Iron Man one. He is saddled with an irritating kid sidekick and then there is that utterly daft twist with The Mandarin that sucks all the excitement out of the film. Now, it is not all bad, this is an MCU film after all, so it is not short on action and while Downey Jnr is as charismatic as ever as Tony Stark and the post credit sequence is fun it just feels like it is missing something. Whether this is just a bit of a let down following the mega spectacle that was Avengers Assemble or just a poor film is open for debate, but either way it most definitely is the weakest Iron Man film and for me at least only Thor 2 fares worse overall. But hey, this is a team effort and Iron Man 3 secures bottom spot.
11. Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013)
James: The power of the Aether is brought out of nowhere to give Thor another set of fearsome enemies in the form of Christopher Ecclestone’s Malekith and his dark elves. He has brought peace to the Nine Realms, and he is ready to take the thrown from Odin
The first Thor mixed the Norse family politics with a sci-fi film about an alien abandoned on Earth. Here, the mix isn’t quite right. Loki is one of the very best characters in the MCU, but in The Dark World he becomes more despicable than ever, and yet should be at his most relatable. They really need to move on from him as the villain, but Tom Hiddleston is just so good they can’t! The fight scene at the beginning doesn’t hold up to the Frost Giant battle of the first Thor.
Also, one of my big problems with the Marvel films is that the heroes are never in real peril, and Thor is in full-on invincible mode here. Loki will irritate and annoy him, but a broken heart is the worst Thor suffers.
Oh, and by the way, I enjoyed this a lot more than the other Ushers! The Aether infused bad guys are pretty cool looking, and even though Hopkins isn’t on the same form as he was, I still love the regal succession politics. Game Of Thrones has totally altered that landscape however, so it will be interesting to see where Thor: Ragnorak goes.
This feels like a very, very different film, almost stand-alone from the rest of the MCU, which is impressive when we’re this deep into the universe. It really picks up when Loki and Thor get together,and Idris Elba gets more to do, so that’s got to be a good thing, as is the raving Skarsgard! Plus there’s that cameo. Eh, it’s not so bad I guess.
10. Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010)
Dan: Honestly, I feel like I’m standing alone on the top of Everest when it comes to telling people that I thought Iron Man 2 was good. In actual fact it’s my favourite in the trilogy of Iron Man films, why? Well…
Robert Downey Jnr. gives us (in my opinion) the best and most enjoyable Tony Stark we’ve seen so far. Sam Rockwell is equally charismatic as the dodgy arms dealer Justin Hammer. Also Mickey Rourke, though not the Whiplash or Crimson Dynamo most were expecting, was still really fun to watch in all his pantomime villain glory.
Plus War Machine guys! We got our first taste of Stark’s long time sidekick and it was worth the wait. The final battle is arguably a touch short, and anticlimactic but the film as a whole was great fun.
9. Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnson, 2011)
James: One of the most enjoyable things about the MCU is the sheer breadth of the types of films. The two Captain America are the best examples of this. Captain America: The First Avenger is a war movie. A young man goes off to war, has to prove himself at every turn, and even when he makes it, the “real” soldiers don’t respect him. It takes acts of incredible bravery for him to be accepted, and he ends up leading his own unit. Add in Tommy Lee Jones as the grizzled Colonel who eventually comes around and you’ve got a quality army movie.
(Now the fact that the young man becomes a super soldier half way through does slightly change the course of the film, but my point still holds!)
When you mix in one of the best villains (Hugo Weaving has been a real loss to the MCU), you have a good film that has plenty of re-watch value. I do remember the 3D feeling very unnecessary when I first saw it in the cinema, but this is a film that brought the final part into place for the Avengers. And the events that gave more depth to that story (Howard Stark searching for years to find Cap, Banner trying to recreate the results with radiation etc), so this is an important film in the MCU, and is probably the best handled origin story of them all.
8. Ant-Man (Payton Reed, 2015)
Welshy: I love this film partly because of the slightly smaller contained narrative that changed the pace after Age of Ultron and went back to what Marvel has done so well. Introduce new characters. I am a big Marvel Comics fan and I am not fond of either of the Ant-Man incantations (whether it be Scott Lang or Hank Pym). Yet I really enjoyed this film because how it was told. It made a man who shrinks pretty awesome.
Dave: Great fun. Now, I would have really loved to have seen what Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish would have done with this, but none the less, Paul Rudd is great as the unlikely hero. Let’s not forget it has a great performance from Snooty Ushers Dependable Michael Pena on comedy sidekick duty. A great origin movie, companion piece to the MCU or even as a stand alone film, this works.
7. The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008)
Dan: Hulk Vs Abomination = Win
Welshy: One of my favourites of the stand-alone films. It had Ed Norton as a weedy, quiet Bruce Banner dealing with the Gamma radiation. Great supporting cast and very entertaining finale. I like how it showed The Hulk in all his strength and glory as oppose to the Ang Lee’s avant-garde version. Great supporting cast, its a shame we cant see what became of Samson and the Leader…but hey William Hurt in Civil War, so a small victory. I still maintain Norton was a better Hulk/Bruce Banner. (I do like Ruffalo though, who despite all the rumors was cast because Norton is not a team player. In my opinion anyway)
Dave: I really liked this, The Hulk is always a difficult character to bring to the screen and following the Eric Bana disaster, they manage it here. Giving him an equal to fight in Abomination was key. I think Edward Norton is a brilliant Bruce Banner. The final fight and “Hulk Smash” had me out of my chair. I am glad William Hurt is coming back for Civil War. An under-rated entry in the MCU collection.
6. Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015)
Welshy: A great sequel that does everything a sequel should do. Ramp up the action and the suspense, develop team dynamics and add a few more players to the roster. I love Spader as Ultron, the kind of casting you wouldn’t think of but it just works. There are a few niggly things as a comic fan that irritate me and also a few as a film fan but given the issues Whedon faced and the scope of the franchise by that point. I can understand. Nevertheless really enjoyable watch.
Dan: Avengers Assemble is not only a tough act to follow, it’s a monumental moment in film history, not just the MCU. So a sequel to such a behemoth of a success is always a risk, but they just about pull it off. The Hulk effect, and teasers to a wider world outside of our initial team are needed additions, and it was a blast to watch.
James: Thor has both the best, and the worst moment in this film. First the good: the scene with the drunken Avengers one by one failing to lift Mjolnir, and the look on Thor’s face when Captain America seems to move the hammer is priceless. But… he also doesn’t really have anything to do. Where the first Avengers film makes every member of the team, here he is totally superfluous, and actually slows the plot with his trip to the cave that has no bearing on the rest of the film. Unfortunately, slightly too ambitious.
5. Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011)
Dave: This was the highlight of the first wave for me. This was the point for me that made me believe that they were actually going to make this Avengers thing work. Iron Man and Hulk were both humans who either put on a suit or affected by gamma rays, this is an actual God. From the opening scenes as The Asgardian warriors battle the Frost Giants, to the cast out Thor finding is feet on Earth, to the final battle, this is a blast.
It helps that Chris Hemsworth is a perfect fit for Thor and in Loki we have the MCU’s best villain. Even the potentially campy warriors 3 come across well. The highlight for me though in the introduction of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. “I’m starting to root for this guy” really started to bring things together, not to mention this has Idris Elba in it.
James: And similar to Captain America: The First Avenger, another film vastly different in tone and content, but still definitely a Marvel film. In fact, it’s two vastly different films. The stuff in the desert reminds me of an old sci-fi film (the Detroyer seems very similar to Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still), while in a pre-Game Of Thrones world, I love the intrigue of Loki trying to prove himself worthy. I think that is what makes Tom Hiddleston’s Loki the best villain in the MCU – his actions are totally justifiable here. Whereas in The Avengers he has gone power mad, in Thor he is sincerely trying to earn his father’s respect: “I could have done it” . Lady Sif and The Warriors Three are really fun as well, and Stellan Skarsgard is a great addition.
4. Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008)
James: This film was such a gamble, it’s hard to explain if you weren’t there. The X-Men and Spider-man films had been so successful that Marvel decided to look beyond the Hulk and develop some its other characters. Iron Man was a huge success and here we are, eleven films later.
This was so unlike the other superhero around at the time. It wasn’t deadly serious like Batman had become, or overly worthy like Superman tended to be. It set the tone for what was to come. Good work all round.
Dave: Where it all began, I was lucky enough to see this a few weeks before it was released and it was obvious that we had something special on our hands. Robert Downey Jnr was a perfect fit for the walking ego that is Tony Stark, with the brilliant Jeff Bridges proving to be a great bad guy. The subtle introduction of S.H.I.E.L.D. and some great action set pieces make this a great blockbuster. On a re-watch, it drags a bit when he is in the prison, but other than that it stands up perfectly. Then there is that post credit sequences…started it all.
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2014)
Dave: This is my favourite of MCU films. I am not much of a Marvel fan outside of the films, but there is just something I love about Captain America, he is just so noble. Action packed with echos of an old time spy thriller, this was just right up my street. Robert Redford as the over arching villain, who himself starred in my favourite spy film of all time Three Days of The Condor. Cap and Black Widow work brilliantly together as partners and why Marvel haven’t given this character her own movie is beyond me, that is a conversation for another day. This is just a brilliant film.
Dan: There was a path that Disney & Marvel could have taken leading into Winter Soldier, rinse and repeat previous successful films that they churned out. Thankfully they took the correct path and began to explore using these characters, and making films that break the conventional superhero film mould. To comic fans this won’t be anything new as we’ve been through plenty story arcs and issues and experience it before. But for the film world, it was different and it was great.
Welshy: I like the idea of doing something that happens regularly in comics, lots of corruption within the higher echelons of S.H.I.E.L.D. etc. One of the best films all round I think. Everything worked from the directing down. I like the fact that Cap and Widow are friends/ partners not romantically involved, it’s believable and un- cliched Like Dave said give Black Widow a movie.
James: Although it didn’t break my top 5, I do like this film a lot. It is an old spy film (leaving the important evidence somewhere to be collected at a later time, Fury hiding in Cap’s apartment, using phrase from conversations as identification could have come straight out of a Fredrick Forsyth novel), however I have two issues: Captain America is never in any danger (the character we see through this movie is Captain America, the frail, insecure Steve Rogers is gone), and this would have been better as a Black Widow film. She’s right there!
2. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (Joss Wheddon, 2012)
Welshy: Should have been first on the list. In my opinion, it’s a groundbreaking film in the genre of superheros and even cinema in general, in regards to building a world, building characters and marketing them in such a way that dominates the box office for a decade to follow. It was a landmark for a nerd like me.
Dan: A film that will go own in history as changing the superhero landscape forever. I knew for years that this could work, honestly I fully believed, and it was so brilliant to see it on the big screen. The film was fantastic fun, and put a brilliant cap on Phase One.
Dave: Thrilling, in every way. A venture that should never have worked. It did, in spades. As a DC comic book fan, why the guys at Warner’s haven’t taken a leaf out of these guys book is beyond me. The chemistry between the heroes is brilliant. One of my favourite moments in the whole series is when Iron Man defers to Cap in the final battle. Thrilling.
James: The ultimate in never say never film making. Not only did no-one ever think that Marvel would be able to make The Avengers film, but they made an Avengers film where each character was an established star AND they managed to make them all matter in the film.The script sparkles like only a Josh Wheddon script can, and the big Avengers gets even bigger with the introduction of Thanos… a storyline that will be paid off in Infinity War 5 years and eight films later!
1. Guardians Of The Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)
Dan: Here I go again, getting all Nostrodamus, but seriously when that first trailer hit I said that this could be the new Star Wars. Honestly I thought the stars had aligned for me on this film, if nobody else liked it I knew I would. I’m was huge James Gunn fan leading into it, and having watched all his work (and I include Troma stuff in there) I knew he could make something special. He’s an outside the box guy, and not your conventional director. I was also coming off the back of Parks & Recreation so to see Chris Pratt in a leading role was intriguing.
What we got was so much more than I expected, a film for the ages, an amazing soundtrack and some wonderfully funny, touching, and action packed scenes. The film literally has everything you could want from it. And I still think it’s better then Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
James: The film that I thought would be a step too far for Marvel turned out to be their best. Almost no-one knew who they were – Dave Bautista as a main character? Andy Dwyer from Parks & Rec as the leading man? They aren’t connected to the rest of the MCU – how would this be any good?
It just was! Chris Pratt was fantastic. Out of nowhere he was a great action movie star. And I can post this:
And Dave Bautista was brilliant as Drax the Destroyer, so much so that he earned his spot at number 4 in the Snooty Rumble. Every character is great, a well deserved number 1 in my opinion.
Dave: I could not believe that Marvel were making this movie. My brother used to collect the comics in the 90s and they were dreadful. I just couldn’t see why, when they had set up things with the Avengers, they would need to go into space, boy was I wrong. This is pitches it just right. A wonderful combination of action, tragedy and humour. Chris Pratt is a superstar in waiting and will have no problem holding his own against the giants of the MCU when the inevitable crossover comes. The key to this being successful is the same as any blockbuster. It is fun and lots of it.
Welshy: A movie I went into knowing very little about the source material. I honestly didn’t know anyone who read or used to read Guardians of The Galaxy comics. Yet this film was outstanding. Funny, entertaining, action packed and really helped Chris Pratt breakthrough. The cast is strong, the visuals are amazing. I even like the soundtrack and for me that is a rare sight. The weakest thing in my opinion is Ronan. He is just a little bit watered down, for my taste. I would much rater of had Nebula as the main villain and lackey for Thanos.
And that’s our first edition of Ranked! Let us know what you think of our list, or what huge topic we should tackle next. Please give us some ideas, otherwise Dan will have us reviewing the Barbie films again.
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS. As a special treat for reading all the way to the end, here’s our individual lists.
12. Iron Man 3 12. Thor: The Dark World
11. The Incredible Hulk 11. Iron Man 3
10. Avengers: Age Of Ultron 10. Captain America: The First Avenger
9. Iron Man 2 9. Iron Man 2
8. Thor: The Dark World 8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
7. Ant-Man 7. Ant-Man
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier 6. The Incredible Hulk
5. Captain America: The First Avenger 5. Iron Man
4. Thor 4. Thor
3. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble 3. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble
2. Iron Man 2. Guardians of The Galaxy
1. Guardians Of The Galaxy 1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
12. Iron Man 3 12. Thor: The Dark World
11. Thor Dark World 11. Iron Man 3
10. Iron Man 2 10. Captain America: The First Avenger
9. Thor 9. Ant Man
8.Captain America First Avenger 8. Iron Man
7. Iron Man 7. Thor
6. Ant Man 6. Iron Man 2
5. Incredible Hulk 5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
4. Captain America:Winter Soldier 4. The Incredible Hulk
3. Guardians of the Galaxy 3. Avengers Assemble
2. Avengers Age of Ultron 2. Captain America: Winter Soldier
1. Avengers Assemble 1. Guardians of the Galaxy