Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe Films (MCU): Phase One

Ten years ago a fantastic an unexpectedly great film, Iron Man dropped into theaters and launched the entire MCU into the stratosphere of American cinema lore. Marvel Studios has produced over the last decade arguably twenty-one of the best “action films.” With twenty-one films now among us, I wanted to rank them from my least favorite to my most favorite.

Here’s where I’m supposed to give a bunch of caveats about why I picked what I did and explain and justify myself and blah blah blah… all I’m going to say is that the worst Marvel films are exceptionally better than the best DC Universe film. Period. (Don’t @ me… I’m not talking about the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight films…).

Just as Marvel created “Phases” for the films' storylines, with the Avengers films as the pillar films between the phases, so I’ve broken up my rankings in three phases as well. Today, I’ll start with Phase One: The Netflix Nine. These films were good, but certainly not my favorites, nor the best of the MCU, and are worthy of a watch whenever they are on Netflix.


Phase One: The Netflix Nine

21 — Guardians of the Galaxy 2

This wasn’t a terrible film. It just wasn’t a great one either. I really can’t tell you the main plot too much and I’ve seen it a couple of times. But if I was stuck with a choice between this one and all other MCU films, I’d pick this one last.

20 — The Incredible Hulk

I actually really enjoyed this film. I still do. However, since it’s Edward Norton and not Mark Ruffalo the continuity lacks. Plus, this CGI Hulk here is a little… hmmm… how shall I say it? Ugly.

19 — Thor: Dark World

The twists in the second Thor film were good. But it’s still a bit too much fantasy land and otherworldly. The early Thor films were the least likely hits for the MCU. This one was the hardest to enjoy.

18 — Iron Man 2

Iron Man fights a man in a suit similar to his. Again. This time with electric sparks. He wins. Rhodes is different. Strange. The end.

17 — Avengers: Age of Ultron

Hard pick here. The Avenger films are big, fun, all-encompassing, dramatic, and expensive. This one was the weakest of the three. However, it did produce my favorite line of all the MCU films. “Language.”

16 — Thor

For the first of the “off-world” films, it was engaging and bold. We discovered Asgard and the lore of the Nine Realms. We discovered Loki’s magic and schemes. We learned how to pronounce Mjölnir. And wait, what?! Kenneth Branagh directed this thing!

15 — Guardians of the Galaxy

This was the light-hearted, shouldn’t be together but ended up so, alternative to the Avengers saving the cosmos. I really do love this film, mainly for Rocket and his attempts to get any prosthetic limb he can. And it’s the second film in the world that is resolved with a dance-off. “I am Groot.”

14 — Captain Marvel

WHAT! YOU PUT THAT HERE!?!! Yes, I did. It was good. Enjoyable even. Now I know how Fury got the eye-patch. Larson’s Carol Danvers was a bit flat, however, but the story connected dots and introduced a lesser-known character. Along the way it made me laugh and has become a welcome addition to the MCU.

13 — Captain America: The First Avenger

I struggle to put this one in the bottom set, but it’s aged, unlike the protagonist. A WWII time-piece film that explains the origins of how all this got started. Captain, Bucky, Agent Carter, Dum Dum Dugan…. I do love this film as an entry piece into the MCU. It’s the best of my “Phase One: Netflix Nine.”

Come back tomorrow for Phase Two: The Superior Six