Edited March 18th 2016
Which Avengers film is the best? In this special edition of Ranked, I aim to answer that question by ranking each of the Iron Man movies, the Thor movies, and the Captain America movies alongside the Avengers films, to produce the ultimate list ahead of this summer’s huge release of Captain America: Civil War. And, no, The Incredible Hulk (2008) will not be included on this list. So, let’s get to it!
9. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 had an excellent premise. In fact, the Mandarin could have been one of the greatest villains of all time. He was motivated, and his reasons for such evils towards Iron Man seemed reasonable. He was even played by Sir Ben Kingsley! Then, for whatever reason, they threw that story away half way through the script to reveal a much less interesting and much more typical story of ugly nerd turned hot and successful bad guy whose bitter jealousy over a girl – in this case Pepper – had motivated him to murder millions. How original. This meant that the film that was once a promising investigation of having a real-life superhero outed and living among us, became a fight over ‘ownership’ (in their minds at least, I suppose) of a girl. Sigh. No amount of RDJ quip or sarcasm could save this disappointing addition to the mini-franchise, not that audiences cared. In its lifetime at the box office, Iron Man 3 earned $1.2Billion. Incredible. (Source: BoxOfficeMojo)
8. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America 1 was probably the least well received movie of the first ‘generation’ of Avengers films included on this list, but that’s not a knock on the Joe Johnston directed feature. In fact, Captain America: The First Avenger was an entertaining super-hero origins story that helped to develop the character played by Chris Evans into one of the most endearing of all of the characters in the Avengers series. The casting of Hugo Weaving as the villain was also somewhat inspired, with the film also being the birthplace of the Bucky Barnes fandom. Tough an entertaining action film in its own right, Captain America 1 will be remembered as a necessary addition to the Avengers franchise rather than the great stand-alone that some of the other films on this list are.
7. Iron Man 2
Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko were probably some of the best acted villains that have appeared in the Avengers series, but their dual opposition to the much loved Tony Stark/Iron Man felt more like overkill and the saturation of two much sought after actors than any great threat to our hero or an awesome spectacle. Being the second picture of the series directed by Jon Favreau, Iron Man 2 had the same quip as the original which made it an incredibly successful sequel that lived up to expectations even if it may not have surpassed them. Let’s not even get started on how awesome it was to finally see Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow!
6. Thor 2: The Dark World
Thor 1, but in London (as well as Asgard, duh). Alan Taylor had taken the reins of the project from Kenneth Branagh for this 2013 picture, and the director best known for his work on television for shows like The West Wing and Game Of Thrones managed to keep the same ‘out of his own world’ hilarity that Thor experienced in the first film running through this one. In addition, he managed to highlight Kat Dennings’ small role in such a way that she excelled, and even managed to do Loki right; something a lot of people had feared wouldn’t happen. In fact, it was the role of Tom Hiddleston’s character that really made Thor 2 a success, with a lot of focus on the anti-hero/villain throughout leading to some of the better exchanges of dialogue (and playing out of circumstances) throughout any of the films on this list. Throw a villainous Christopher Eccleston in there, and you’ve got a really solid film that makes number 6 on this list.
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Age of Ultron is not without its critics. Both its themes and its story left a lot to be desired in comparison to the more successful (and better) movies that had come in the few years before, but there is no denying that as an action movie, Age of Ultron had a lot going for it. It ticked the majority of boxes any blockbuster sequel must tick: It was more action packed with larger set pieces, it utilised the dialogue better than the original, and it was a story that sought even more investment than Avengers 1. No longer was it necessary to build each character’s relationship to one another and this made Avengers 2 feel more refined with every piece of dialogue, and a lot of the movie’s scenes therefore became necessary to the over-arching plot, leading to a more enjoyable experience in many ways. It wasn’t the mind-blowing experience that some of the movies ranked higher were, but it was a worthwhile piece of the puzzle that did a good job in filling the gap between Avengers and Infinity War.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
What the Russo brothers did with the Captain America franchise was incredible because they took the worst film of the Avengers’ first generation and made the best film of the second generation. It was action packed, featured a huge twist (that I shan’t spoil here), and ultimately entertained the masses. With Hydra infiltrating even the most senior positions within Shield, Captain America was sought by Nick Fury to fix the problem in a story that made the perfect use of Black Widow and Falcon to name but a few, and successfully added to how identifiable Cap is without diluting his backstory or contradicting messages put across in Captain America 1. The Russo brothers did so well with it, that they’ve been signed to direct Avengers: Infinity War (the next film after Age Of Ultron). Do you really need more proof than that?!
Thor (2011) may not have been the most financially successful outing of the Avengers franchise but it had two incredibly important things going for it. The first was director Kenneth Branagh, whose work managed to establish the world of Asgard with such efficiency that it was almost seemless. The second was its villain: Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Loki was so good that they cast him as the main antagonist of the actual Avengers film, and that’s all the proof you need with regard to his portrayal. These elements, as well as the fantastically comedic ‘welcome to earth’ moments for Thor himself made for an incredibly entertaining introduction to the character and an excellent stand alone film that makes number 3 in this particular edition of Ranked.
2. Iron Man
What Jon Favreau proved with Iron Man is that superhero films can be fun like Spider-Man (2002-2007), without being dumb or largely disposable. This was in no small part down to the fantastic casting of Robert Downey, Jr. whose excellence in the role may well be the greatest performance of any superhero ever on film. Much like the other 1st generation films in this list, Iron Man established how Tony Stark became the superhero we know him to be but did so with such a sense of humour and a genuinely interesting character driven plot that it became the undisputed best film of the first generation and the number 2 Avengers film of all time (so far).
1. The Avengers
Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble/The Avengers made over $1.5billion worldwide in the box office in 2012, making it one of the biggest selling movies of all time (BoxOfficeMojo). But, even more impressive than that was the true quality of the picture that lived up to the bill in almost every conceivable way and brought about one of the greatest action movies of any era. The build-up to finally seeing Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Widow, Cap and Hawkeye come together was a long one, but man was it worth it! The dialogue alone was enough to make any Marvel comic book or MCU fan giddy with excitement and the action set pieces made for one of the most impressive and entertaining spectacle movies of all time. The Avengers was the culmination of everything that had come before it and was masterfully put together by its visionary co-writer and director, making it by far the greatest Avengers film in the franchise and number one on this list.