Marvel Films Ranked From ‘Iron Man’ to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

By August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy opens today and it looks like it might break some records. I got a chance to see a screening a few weeks back and it absolutely blew my mind. A friend described it this way: Imagine if Ivan Reitman directed The Avengers in 1984. I think it holds up. I’ve spent weeks debating the correct ranking of the Marvel Studio movies with my buddies, so I’m bringing the discussion here. This is obviously my opinion and I’d really love to hear all of yours. Check out the list below and sound off in the comments or on Twitter.

Thor DW 4

10. Thor: The Dark World

As gorgeous as the costumes and settings were for this one, and as much as I’m happy to see Tom Hiddleston do anything, this is definitely at the bottom of my list. In fact, Hiddleston seemed to be in a different film. I’d totally watch the one he was in. Natalie Portman looked bored out of her mind. Jaimie Alexander’s Sif was barely even shown, and when she was, it was just to moon over Thor. Seriously, you have a kick-ass chick who can fight and an actress who loves the comics and this is what you give her to do? The elf makeup was just awful and didn’t allow any emotion at all. There are so many logic problems that I can’t even begin to tackle them. Sure, the film was pretty and shiny, but it completely lacked substance – and this is coming from a fan of the character. Hey Marvel, want to take that female Thor thing into the film world?

Iron Man 3 image

9. Iron Man 3

I’ll state for the record that I never had a problem with the Mandarin storyline here. Not at all. I said it as I walked out of the theater, and the short that followed backed this up, but I don’t believe it was ever the endgame. If it had been, I wouldn’t have liked it at all. The Mandarin, the way he is written in the comics, would be laughable and offensive on the big screen. Now that that is out of the way…my issues with this film are in the storytelling. All those suits and they only show up at the end? Where are the other Avengers? No one thinks to maybe check out Tony Stark and see if he’s having PTSD? I mean, there were aliens! I don’t buy that a man as smart as Tony Stark – PTSD and an extra helping of bravado or no – would announce his address to the bad guys, especially since Pepper is there. I mean, you spend the first part of the film telling us that she’s the most important thing in the world to him, and then spend the second half proving that to be false. Pepper is falling into fire and it barely registers on Tony’s face. Then you have this woman he loves spend the end of the movie shaming him for saving the world and telling him to give up the thing that makes him, him. That is crappy, stereotypical woman-as-plot-device storytelling and it took me right out of it. Totally goes against the character they established for her.

Iron Man 2

8. Iron Man 2

Considering where the first Iron Man is on this list, it’s sad that the other two are so far down. It’s not that I didn’t like this one. I just didn’t love it as much as some of the others. Don Cheadle was perfect and it was great to see Black Widow introduced, but Mickey Rourke was just a mess. I love the man and all his birds (that bird really does belong to Mickey), but the casting was very odd.


7. Thor

I loved this one. I’m a huge mythology buff, so unlike many other comic book fans, his presence in the universe never bothered me. I loved the fish-out-of-water story, and Kat Dennings’ reaction to seeing the Norse god still makes me giggle when I think about it. I think it was a fantastic introduction and well cast, with the exception of Natalie Portman. Also – Loki, you guys. Tom Hiddleston absolutely steals this film.

Incredible Hulk movie 2008

6. The Incredible Hulk

Though I absolutely adore Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk, Edward Norton did a fantastic job as the man who can’t control his anger. To be honest, I’ve loved every iteration of the big green guy. I’m not always the biggest fan of origin stories. This one, however, sucked me in and made me fall in love with him again. Also, having Lou Ferrigno voice the Hulk and cameo was icing on the cake.

Captain America: The First Avenger

5. Captain America: The First Avenger

I wasn’t sure if I should list this one before or after Thor, but the clever way they worked the comic book-y costume of our hero Cap into the film pushed it forward. So did the incredible CGI that transformed Steve Rogers from a 98-pound weakling into Captain America. Tommy Lee Jones’ dry comic delivery is still one of my favorite of his performances.

Cap 2 4

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I whooped in the theater when I saw this one. Whooped! We’re firmly entrenched in this universe now, and they actors have completely relaxed into their roles. Sebastian Stan nailed it as Bucky returned as a weapon. The story was fantastic, Falcon was incredible and Scarlett…well, maybe we should have called this film Black Widow? Oh, right. Then we’d have a female-fronted comic book film and we can’t have that. You know people won’t see a lady film. (Ahem, Hunger Games, Frozen, Lucy.)

Avengers teamup

3. The Avengers

A blast from start to finish, but really, it’s all about my childhood fantasy of seeing all of the Avengers on the screen together. This combined with Joss Whedon’s clever dialogue and ability to give each of the huge group of characters screen time and a story that works made this one of my favorites.

Iron Man

2. Iron Man

I was lucky enough to chat with director Jon Favreau about the film before it was on most people’s radar, so to say I’ve been an Iron Man fan from the beginning is an understatement. This is the film that started it all and the fact that it was done for so little says something pretty profound about what fan love can do for a film. It’s impossible to imagine anyone but Robert Downey Jr. in the role now, and this film re-started his career. Though the next two lost some of the charm of the original, the character the filmmakers and actor created is an indelible part of pop culture now.

GOTG Prison

1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Okay, I’m not giving anything away here, so no need to worry about spoilers. I’ll just say this: I love Groot and Rocket more than I can tell you. I cannot believe I went through this entire movie and never thought once about the fact that what I was seeing on screen wasn’t really there. James Gunn knocked this one out of the park! The tone is perfect. The humor is perfect. The characters have more depth than you’d think from the promos. It was a daunting task to take characters that most people aren’t familiar with, head into space (which is problematic for many comic book fans), and two completely CGI characters and make them beloved before the film is actually released. If this is what’s coming, Marvel, I’m totally on board.

What’s your own personal ranking of the Marvel films? Tell us in the comments below!

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Jenna Busch
Jenna Busch is the co-host of 'Cocktails With Stan' with the legendary Stan Lee. She's a host and writer who's passionate about Star Wars, fantasy and geek culture. Jenna is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and a board member of the Broadcast Television Critics Association (BTJA). She has appeared on G4's "Attack of the Show," and "Fresh Ink," as well as appearing with Wil Wheaton on the premiere episode of "Tabletop." She's got two stories published in the comic anthology "Womanthology" and has done a series of terrifyingly perky voice overs. She also owns far too many swords and lightsabers.
  • Brian M Shackleford

    GREAT list! Good job…My only critique would be The Incredible Hulk. I think if we ever get another Hulk stand-alone, it will be Joss’ version that hits the mark. Loved Hulk in The Avengers.

  • Nick Francis

    Probably the most oddly placed list I have seen to date regarding the MCU. Can’t say I agree AT ALL! But, it is all opinion so who cares 🙂 As long as Iron Man 3 is at the bottom (or near as possible) I can agree somewhat (y)

  • Arvin Pelias

    Mine is..
    3. Avengers
    2. Guardians – just a little over Avengers.. very little like .04
    1. Winter Soldier

  • Michael Wasserman

    Really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy!

  • Ditolus

    to put guardians at the number 1 spot 2 days after it came out is a little premature.

  • Brennon

    +I agree pretty much 100%, except I’d put Avengers 2, and Cap 2 at 3 moving Iron Man to 4, but 1-4 are all heads above the rest, and could really be put in any order.