With Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe about to come to a close now that Captain Marvel has been released and Avengers: Endgame is on the horizon, I wanted to take a look back at the previously released twenty-one films that have been distributed and share with you which of them have been my ten favorites so far. Now, don’t get me wrong as I have been a fan of each of these films to some degree or another, but there are some that I have been happy to see once and don’t really mind skipping during my MCU mini-marathons that my family enjoys every so often. But whether a film makes my top ten list here or not, I will admit that every film in the MCU has made it a fun and incredible ride getting to Avengers: Endgame.
There have been some funny moments that each film brings to the audience, there certainly has been a fair amount of action and drama scattered throughout each of the films, and some of these films even managed to strike an emotional chord within the viewer that certainly hit them hard enough in the feels to bring out some tears. But that is the wonder and splendor of the MCU and why it has become the bar for every other wannabe cinematic universe other Hollywood studios have been trying to replicate. So, sit back and enjoy my list; hopefully you agree with some of my selections, but if you don’t I hope you’ll consider sharing your thoughts in the comments below so we can discuss this further.
10. Doctor Strange
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Release date: November 4, 2016
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton
Doctor Strange was a bit of a departure from your typical Marvel superhero faire. Oh, it definitely followed the motions of the typical MCU film, but the introduction of magic in the way that Doctor Strange did it was something new and added a bit more flair to the MCU. And from its amazing cast, intriguing story, and spellbinding visuals, Doctor Strange added a new depth that the MCU needs to continue to explore.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Directed by: Jon Watts
Release date: July 7, 2017
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
Spider-Man: Homecoming was exactly the kind of homecoming that the web-head needed to mark his official entry into the MCU. Skipping over an origin story that we all know by heart by now, the story jumps right into Peter Parker dealing with his powers and new responsibilities – all while under the watchful eye of Tony Stark. Add to this a great young cast who fully embraced the story and their characters, and you have yourself a fun and energetic film.
8. Marvel’s The Avengers
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Release date: May 4, 2012
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson
The Avengers was the culmination of five previous MCU films (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America) that all alluded to the formation of one of the most iconic comic book teams of all time – but in the confines of a huge Summer blockbuster film. With a director who understood and respected the film’s source material and an all-star cast that fans came to love, and you have a great blend of story and action that fans thoroughly enjoyed.
7. Thor: Ragnarök
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Release date: November 3, 2017
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins
The first two Thor films were suitable at best (Thor: The Dark World less so), but the change in tone and direction in Thor: Ragnarök, initiated by director Taika Waititi, made for a much more action-packed and entertaining film that fans resoundingly embraced. And even though the relatable human element was gone, the film felt much more accessible to fans, despite the over the top set pieces and story.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Directed by: James Gunn
Release date: May 5, 2017
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell
I love the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. I thought it was a hilarious and exciting film that really changed the complexion of the MCU. But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 came out and did everything the first film did right and even added to it. A greater story, additional interesting characters, and even adding to the lore of the MCU by expanding the role of the cosmic side of its reality.
5. Captain Marvel
Directed by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Release date: March 8, 2019
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening, Jude Law
Captain Marvel was the MCU film I have been waiting for. Admittedly, I wanted to see a solo Black Widow film because I knew that the MCU could handle a strong female lead character, but bringing in a character like Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, knowing what she can do, and making her so relevant in the MCU… it was such a great film and added so much depth to the history and lore of the MCU, how could I not put it so high on this list.
4. Captain America: Civil War
Directed by: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Release date: May 6, 2016
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl
I could just say that the whole movie was perfectly reflected by the airport fight scene: how one scene could involve so many characters in an all-out battle and still look and feel like a cohesive film. But looking at the whole of Captain America: Civil War in its entirety and the stakes that were presented for the MCU. It’s amazing what one superhero film could do with so many characters better than another film from another company. But then the MCU outdid itself once again.
3. Avengers: Infinity War
Directed by: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Release date: April 27, 2018
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt
Take the ensemble casts of all the Avengers films, both Guardians of the Galaxy films, the additional characters added in all the solo films, and add in some bold, new, threatening characters so overpowered that they should not have worked on film – but they did – and you have Avengers: Infinity War and perhaps the biggest ensemble all-star cast in all of film telling a story that forever changed the MCU and all of film in its scope, complexity, and popularity.
2. Black Panther
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Release date: February 16, 2018
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
Black Panther was more than just another comic book film, it was a cultural phenomenon that was more reflective of the times we are living in than most other films ever could. Story aside, the film had one of the most amazing ensemble casts I have ever seen for a film, the Afro-futuristic set pieces were simply awe inspiring, and the action that was presented in the film was second to none in the MCU… except for one film.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Directed by: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Release date: April 4, 2014
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson
Even after all these years, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still my favorite MCU film. I feel that it has the perfect balance between story and action that makes it the bar for all other MCU films to follow. Intrigue, suspense, hard-hitting fight scenes, and deep character depth that allows for growth of the most iconic Avenger in all of the MCU – this is the story arc that I believe helped define the entirety of the MCU’s Phase 3 and will continue to do so long after Avengers: Endgame has hit theaters.