15. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Upon its release, The First Avenger was seen as one of a number of less than stellar offerings from the burgeoning Marvel Studios as they struggled to find their feet in the fantasy-action realm. But, with more franchise entries referencing the lore of this film as the years pass, Captain America 1 seems to be increasing in importance and rewatchability with each new MCU entry.
Offering more jarring fantastical elements than the many MCU movies since, The First Avenger seemed to struggle tonally with the gravitas of being a war movie and the levity of being a comic book fantasy-action hybrid, creating a combination of shifting dynamics that lend the picture to criticisms across the board.
While very much a key part of the central MCU canon (something that can’t be said of every movie we’ve listed so far), The First Avenger remains a film best remembered in moments than in its entirety – a film with strong ideas and a brave perspective that ultimately didn’t resonate like those we have left to come.
14. Ant-Man (2015)
A much welcomed break from the serious and action-heavy catalog of MCU films released until this point, Ant-Man proved that sometimes fantastic ideas with bags of potential for visual and conceptual gags can make for films as entertaining and enjoyable as the most finance-intensive, star-powered content, and can do so while helping to navigate a brand from a very narrow fantasy-action spectrum into something slightly different.
Ant-Man was by no means the MCU’s first comedy, but it was certainly its first human comedy, the likes of Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy leaning into their comedic elements in an attempt to remove logic from fantastical landscapes of magic and far-reaching science fiction. Ant-Man starred everyone’s favourite not-superhero-looking comedy actor Paul Rudd, was based on a Marvel character even Marvel fans didn’t really care about, and seemed to have few expectations placed onto it by the studio, allowing it to fly relatively free of the usual confines of MCU films of the time, thus creating something distinct and interesting, not to mention hugely (and surprisingly) entertaining.
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13. Doctor Strange (2016)
Although Doctor Strange seemed to pass by at the time of release without the mountainous fanfare that you might associate with a modern Marvel Studios film, in retrospect it offered a great deal in terms of lore-building and characterisation as well as in terms of iconography, providing an inspired aesthetic that made it a standout visual feature with more than enough behind the facade to keep your attention.
While at the time seeming insignificant to the wider MCU, Doctor Strange has also benefited from the passing of time, the actions in this movie being granted extra weight by the films that have followed it, inching it up to around the half-way mark in this Ranked list.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was a whole heap of fun that didn’t fail to deliver on stakes or try its hardest to make you cry, a superhero blockbuster that ticked all of the boxes despite never quite hitting the heights of its sub-franchise’s extraordinary and surprising debut.
From the first minute, Guardians 2 sought to separate itself from the central canon of MCU films with vivid colours and fresh CG worlds, but while it looked arguably better than any MCU film for the most part, it did suffer from falling more into line with the tried and tested formula of the studio in almost every other respect, screenwriter-director James Gunn being reined in somewhat now that Marvel had got wind of how much money they could make with these previously unknown characters. Here, Drax was reduced to his bare bones as a quip-machine, the mythology of Groot seemingly relegated at the expense of laughs, the self-conscious superhero-ness of the team largely forgotten about, and as such the revolutionary edge of the first movie was lost to a much more corporate offering – though certainly one of the best corporate offerings Marvel Studios have ever made.
11. Thor (2011)
A classic tale of unruly monarchs battling for the thrown, only with world-hopping potential and a whole heap of colourful CGI, Thor did a quite remarkable (and significantly underrated) job of bringing together its mountains of previously unknown information into an entertaining 2 hour film, its introduction of new characters, worlds, universes, mythology and lore being nothing short of astounding when looking back on a comically edged, Scandinavian-God inspired tale of mutiny and destiny.
While received relatively poorly at the time – certainly in terms of box office receipts ($181million) – this film has survived a poor sequel and a whole heap of other films attempting its version of world-building to remain one of the most rewatchable and enjoyable MCU entries to date; Thor being a great character and sub-franchise debut.
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