My Top Ten Favorite Marvel Films
Posted on June 15, 2019
So, with the recent close of the Infinity Saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with the final entry being Avengers: Endgame – I figured that now would be a good opportunity to not only make another Top Ten list (because I haven’t done that in a while) but also to make it about my own favorite films in the MCU’s roster.
Please note: These are my favorites as of now, June 2019 and are probably going to change around at some point in the future. Also, these are MCU films – not any other Marvel films like the disastrous Fantastic Four flicks that have come out in recent years or films like Venom, which don’t tie into the MCU as of yet or even the excellent animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is probably the best Spider-Man film I’ve ever seen but doesn’t fit into the MCU proper.
So, with that out of the way – let’s get started. Here are my Top Ten Favorite Marvel Films:
10. BLACK PANTHER (2018)
PLOT: Still reeling from the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his home of Wakanda – an advanced African nation hidden from the world by superior cloaking technology of Wakanda’s invention – to take his rightful place as King, and to don the sacred mantle of the Black Panther. However, T’Challa must defend his position as ruler against M’Baku (Winston Duke); leader of the Jabari tribe and also against an American mercenery going by the name of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) – who both want the mantle of the Panther for their own ends.
WHY I LOVE IT: Black Panther was a film I was super-excited for when I heard it was going to be released. The character of Black Panther has been one that I’ve always thought was uber-cool, and I hoped that the filmmakers could do the character justice on the big screen, though with a character like Black Panther, I knew there was lots of room for failure. I was not disappointed. Ryan Coogler hit it out of the park, for the most part. With its surprising depth, its focus on myth, and its stunning visuals – Black Panther definitely earned a top ten spot on my list. It lags behind some of the others on this list due to my own perceived problems with its pacing and energy (the film really loses momentum in the middle, in my opinion), but overall I thought it was really, really well done. Killmonger has got to be one of the coolest villains in the MCU and Klaw (Andy Serkis) was definitely worth the price of admission alone.
09. MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (2012)
PLOT: When the God of Mischief, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), sets his sights on Earth for an invasion – Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) must bring together the band of heroes he’s been collecting for the Avengers Initiative. Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey JR), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must overcome their differences and work together to take down Loki’s army of alien warriors hell-bent on destroying New York City.
WHY I LOVE IT: All I really have to say about this film is that it was the very first time that all the heroes of the MCU up until that point came together under one banner (no pun intended) and kicked ass. I went to the theater on opening night by myself and I went through so many emotions. I bawled my eyes out, I laughed myself hoarse, and my heart went into overdrive multiple times. There was a sense of surreal acknowledgement that I was witnessing something that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. The only reason that this film is lower on my list than some of the others is that there were simply more intriguing stories to come into the MCU in later years and from later films. But for a brief window of time, this film was king in my eyes. Loki was the best villain before he became more of an antihero and it was neat to finally see all the heroes play off one another after all that buildup. It’s hard to describe the feeling of finally seeing all these characters together on one screen if you weren’t there for the initial release in theaters. I never thought I’d see the day, and yet here we are and it’s not even the top film on my list. What a time to be alive.
08. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)
PLOT: When the United States Government deems the Avengers Initiative too dangerous to move forward anymore without being under their control, the personal morals and beliefs of the individual Avengers clash and it causes a rift in the team which leads to all-out civil war. One faction, led by Iron Man (Robert Downey JR), is pro-government control while the other faction, led by Captain America (Chris Evans) believes that the Avengers must act independently. Who will prevail?
WHY I LOVE IT: Most of the Captain America films, to me, are middling at best. He’s never exactly been my favorite Avenger on or off screen – but Chris Evans does a great job portraying him on screen regardless. In Civil War, Captain America’s choice to be anti-government control finally makes his character more complex and rich in a way that some characters like Superman from DC are not. And with that and his feud with Tony Stark, and the great action sequences where the Avengers square off against each other – this is a bit above the ensemble we got back in Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012. Plus, it’s the first time the new Spider-Man is introduced into the MCU – and also when we first get to see Black Panther in action. Definitely an MCU milestone. The reason this film lacks compared to later entries on my list is that as a stand-alone film, it doesn’t exactly stand alone. Despite having the Captain America label on it, it’s really more of an Avengers film – or else that’s how it feels as you’re watching it. So with those two factors going against it, I couldn’t lift it higher in my top ten although it’s still an excellent entry.
07. DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)
PLOT: A brilliant neurosurgeon named Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is involved in a horrible car wreck which irreversibly damages his hands, and thus his career. Out of options and feeling desperate, Strange hears about a mystic in a far-off land who may be able to help him. Soon, he finds himself drawn into the chaotic and beautiful world of the mystic arts as he attempts to heal not only his hands, but his soul.
WHY I LOVE IT: I’ve always loved the character of Doctor Strange, and I even sat through the entirety of the trippy and laughable made-for-television movie that Doctor Strange appeared in during the 1970’s. We used to watch it on VHS when I was a boy. So when I heard they were doing an updated version in 2016, I couldn’t wait. The movie is an origin film, so there was a lot to unpack – but I think the filmmakers did a good job. I also think Benedict did a great job portraying Strange, and I look forward to the next installment. With amazing visuals and a slight foray into Marvel’s mystical realm, it’s a nice and refreshing departure from the other superhero fare that Marvel has to offer. Still, with its weird backstory and powers – Strange is not palatable to some, and inconsistencies within the MCU and Strange’s realm were prevalent in Endgame, so I didn’t move this up as high on my list as others. Definitely one of my favorites, though, and I wish Strange had had more time to interact with the original Avengers before the Endgame finale to the story arc. Here’s hoping he’s a major player in the decade of Marvel films to come.
06. IRON MAN (2008)
PLOT: When billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey JR) is ambushed in a military caravan in Afghanistan by rebel fighters, he is held against his will in a cave as prisoner by insurgents who demand he build them weapons of mass destruction. Instead, he secretly crafts for himself a suit of armor and unwittingly becomes the Invincible Iron Man in the process.
WHY I LOVE IT: How can you not love the film that essentially kickstarted the entire MCU? I mean, sure – we had a Hulk film right before this starring Edward Norton – but that one didn’t catch on and was sort of reluctantly added to the MCU roster as soon as they knew that the MCU would be a thing. RDJ is pitch-perfect as Tony Stark, and honestly I don’t know if there’s anyone else who could have played the role as well as he did. Although Iron Man’s later outings weren’t the best, his character is one of the strongest in terms of story and without Iron Man, we likely wouldn’t have seen the birth of the MCU as we know it. Also, as far as story and acting goes, even being an origin film, Iron Man has charm to spare.
05. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
PLOT: When an intergalactic despot by the name of Ronan (Lee Pace) seeks out a mysterious orb which is the key to his dominance of the universe, he discovers it’s been stolen by a Ravager named Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). To survive Ronan’s wrath, Quill must join forces with Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and form the Guardians of the Galaxy.
WHY I LOVE IT: I was never a huge fan of the characters found in Guardians of the Galaxy when they were only in the comics. Though I like comic books set in space, to me the space characters aren’t as relatable to me as, say, Spider-Man – who has adventures set on Earth. It’s largely why I stay away from DC Comics for the most part. However, when I first watched James Gunn’s version of their story – I fell in love. Not only does the film have a great soundtrack, but the team is also a neat tie between a character like Thor and the rest of the Avengers who mostly come from Earth. Through Star-Lord, we experience the cosmos and a new area of the MCU previously off-limits. The reason it’s a bit lower on my list than other entries is simply that I thought some of the other films were better, story-wise, later on in the MCU. No other reason. I look forward with great anticipation to Gunn’s return in Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
04. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)
PLOT: When mild-mannered teen Peter Parker (Tom Holland) goes viral as his alter ego Spider-Man, billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey JR) investigates and inducts Spider-Man into the Avengers. However, as the events in Civil War cool down – Peter must return to his normal life until a tech-thief going by the name of Vulture (Michael Keaton) shows up and makes Spider-Man’s neighborhood not-so-friendly.
WHY I LOVE IT: Out of all the Spider-Man reboots to come down the line over the years, I had no reason to think Homecoming would be anything worthwhile. The only thing to give me even a glimmer of hope was that it was somehow going to tie into the MCU. While I thought Tobey Maguire made a great Peter Parker, I didn’t exactly think he made the best Spider-Man. Then, when Andrew Garfield took the reins – I thought he made a great Spider-Man but a pretty poor Peter Parker (say that five times fast). In Tom Holland, I believe we have a great Spider-Man AND a great Peter Parker. Since it wasn’t a straight-up origin film, it actually had some surprising depth and compelling story as well, which is why it scores higher than many others on this list for me. I can’t wait to see what the MCU’s version of Spider-Man has in store for us in later films, especially since Spider-Man: Far From Home is out soon.
03. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)
PLOT: When the “Mad Titan” Thanos (Josh Brolin) begins collecting the Infinity Stones, he sets his sights on Earth. To stop him, the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – The Avengers – must put aside their differences and join forces to stop him at any cost. But can he be stopped?
WHY I LOVE IT: Coming into Infinity War, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. On the one hand, Civil War delivered some pretty heavy emotional blows, and on the other – this film was marketed to look sort of grim and high-stakes. I wasn’t really thinking that much more could happen in Infinity War to up the emotional stakes, and boy was I wrong. I could write an entire post on why I think Infinity War is one of the greatest superhero films of all time and maybe I’ll do that at some point, but for right now I can tell you that the only reason this film wasn’t number one on my list was solely due to the fact that it’s not really watchable for multiple viewings too close together for me. The emotional weight of the film is too much to just sit and have fun and enjoy watching, unlike the other two films I have left to discuss on this list. I would honestly make the comparison with this film to the Empire Strikes Back in terms of how superb the tension and the story beats were hammered out by the writers. Not to mention the incredible performance we got from Brolin as Thanos. Unlike Endgame, Infinity War is compact, which is why Endgame is not on this list and Infinity War is. Both films are good, but Endgame is exactly as it is named – the culmination of 20+ other films, so to me – watching it by itself is not an option and the top films on my list are more of a stand-alone nature, or at least part of their own respective team-or-characters films. Endgame is just pure brilliance.
02. THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
PLOT: When Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard, he finds that his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is missing. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) reluctantly helps his brother locate their father on Midgard, but when they reach him – it’s too late. He passes on, and when he does – their sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) is freed from her magical exile and attempts to kill them both right then and there. In the ensuing chaos, Thor is thrown through a dimensional portal and finds himself on a gladiator planet where he must fight his one-time friend Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in order to be free.
WHY I LOVE IT: I love Thor in the comics. He’s always been a sort of Conan the Barbarian type of character – misogynistic and charming at the same time, full of brash outbursts and strong-arm tactics. I mean, he’s a viking basically. So, when I first saw Thor appear in the MCU – I was vastly disappointed to find that Marvel had decided to turn him into a Superman clone, devoid of most of his personality defects and interesting character quirks. Then, when he returned in Thor: The Dark World – it was even worse, and he was actually sort of unlikable. Luckily, Marvel came to their senses and kept Taika Waititi on board and as a result – Thor actually became interesting. Granted, he had to lose everything first – including his brother, his father, his hammer, and even his eye. Yet now, he’s one of the best characters in the franchise and that’s really saying something. With the quirky direction, the tongue-in-cheek approach to the character, and the Guardians of the Galaxy sort of flavor – Thor: Ragnarok is easily my second favorite Marvel film to date. Plus, we actually get to see Hulk kick ass for once, making Ragnarok also the best Hulk film we’ve got and are probably ever going to get, especially since the Russo Brothers have said that Hulk’s arm damage from Endgame is permanent.
01. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL. II (2017)
PLOT: When the Guardians of the Galaxy settle back to their former ways after saving the galaxy from Ronan (Lee Pace) – they begin to experience family drama amongst themselves, especially once Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is sought out by his father, Ego (Kurt Russell). However, with tensions on the rise within the group, they must join together as the Guardians of the Galaxy once again to battle against what could be their biggest challenge yet.
WHY I LOVE IT: What don’t I love about this film? First of all, in the same vein as the original Guardians of the Galaxy – this franchise and this movie is just all-out fun. From the soundtrack to the character interactions to the actors themselves and to Gunn’s brilliant direction – there’s nothing not to like. Kurt Russell was probably the only choice to play Ego, and he’s very good at it. The emotional beats in the story are very poignant, at least to me – although I think almost everyone can relate to Peter Quill’s plight in this film. Not to mention Yondu’s character arc and how well he’s played by Michael Rooker. This film was so good, in fact, that it felt strange to see Peter Quill in Infinity War and Endgame because he’d already sort of been through the ringer in the first two Guardians of the Galaxy films, which sort of makes his breakdown in Infinity War make a bit of sense when you look at it in the context of the bigger picture. This film is endlessly rewatchable for me, which is why it’s high up on my list. I love to see Kurt Russell perform, I love the “Guardians Inferno” disco track that David Hasselhoff was on board for the film which plays during the end credits, and in general I just can’t say enough good things about this movie, so I’ll stop here and eventually I’ll just write an entire blog post on Guardians of the Galaxy. Suffice it to say, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 has a lot to live up to.
Okay, folks – so there you have it…my Top Ten Favorite MCU films. I hope you’ve enjoyed the discussion, and if you have a different list, feel free to share in the comments. Like I said, mine will likely change as new Marvel films are released and old ones begin to show their age.