The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an unstoppable train. Not only have we had 27 movies so far, we’ve also seen a handful of Marvel TV shows on Disney+ (and not to mention all the others on Netflix, some of which are now undoubtedly canon after all!).
And while we’ve already had the epic Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) this year, we can also expect three more MCU entries — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022).
But now, it’s worth stopping to take a breath and look back at the best movies the MCU has given us before we lose count! They’re not all perfect — in fact, a handful aren’t that great at all. But the 27-film strong franchise has also given us some of the greatest superhero movies ever.
So here are the five best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (so far)…
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man (2008) was the first MCU movie, although this wasn’t known until the post-credits scene in which S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) pays Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) a visit to discuss the “Avenger Initiative”. But despite being the one that started it all, Iron Man stands on its own two legs as a superhero movie with a ton of attitude.
There are some great moments throughout, from Tony’s make-shift armor when he escapes the Ten Rings, to Iron Man’s explosive arrival in Afghanistan where he lays waste to several terrorists. And it isn’t just the costume itself that shines — Robert Downey Jr is electrifying to watch as the semi-dysfunctional billionaire genius whose moral dilemma leads him to discover his true calling.
Iron Man also stars Terence Howard (James Rhodes), Jeff Bridges (Obadiah Stane), and Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts).
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
It’s fair to say that Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was a pretty big risk for the MCU, in that not only was it based on a then-obscure series of comic books, but it’s also one of the most stylistic movies in the franchise (it has since inspired the likes of Thor: Ragnarok). But as we know, it paid off, and its characters have become almost as iconic as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
James Gunn’s movie isn’t just an excellent addition to the MCU — it’s easily one of the best superhero movies out there (even if it doesn’t necessarily feel like one, which is in no way a crime). This vibrant, color-drenched space opera has it all — an ensemble of unique characters, creative set-pieces, an incredible soundtrack, and buckets of laugh-out-loud humor.
Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Vin Diesel (Groot), and Dave Bautista (Drax).
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Following the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), the Russo brothers returned to helm the trilogy-topping Captain America: Civil War (2016). This hugely-anticipated sequel sees the Avengers split down the middle, with some agreeing that superheroes should be held accountable for their actions, and others wanting to protect their civil liberties.
While it’s heart-breaking to watch them fight each other, it’s hugely entertaining (especially the Ant-Man scene). It’s also thrilling to see Spider-Man (Tom Holland) finally introduced into the MCU, as well as Black Panther (the late Chadwick Boseman). To no surprise, the Russo brothers would be given the keys to Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Civil War stars Chris Evans (Steve Rogers), Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark), Paul Rudd (Scott Lang), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes), and Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes).
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
With the proven success of the outlandish Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel saw fit to let director Taika Waititi apply his own flavor to the third film in the Thor trilogy, with Thor: Ragnarok (2017). While Thor (2011) isn’t a bad movie, its sequel Thor: The Dark World (2013) didn’t exactly wow moviegoers, so the time was ripe to give Asgard one big overhaul.
Gone are the golden locks, the Shakespearean-esque dialect, and virtually the entire tone of the first two movies (which Ragnarok even mocks in a dramatization!). Enter a freshly-cut Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner), side-splitting gags, and a new look all round, and you have a Thor sequel that feels so fresh, it may as well be a straight-up reboot!
Thor: Ragnarok also stars Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Karl Urban (Executioner), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Jeff Goldblum (The Grandmaster), and director Taika Waititi himself (Korg).
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Patience is a virtue, and this couldn’t be more true than in the case of the movie event of a generation, Avengers: Endgame. This is where 10 years’ worth of well-structured storytelling can lead (take note, Disney and Lucasfilm) — a film that earns every cameo, every Easter egg, and every single reference to previous movies.
Endgame had a lot on its shoulders, which is plain to see from its enormous roster of characters alone. But it also had to tie up 10 years’ worth of movies, subplots, and character arcs, while also delivering a solid movie in its own right. Beautiful, tragic, thrilling, awe-inspiring, Endgame is a cinematic spectacle and the perfect end to “The Infinity Saga”.
What are your favorite MCU movies?