2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 perhaps went slightly under the radar in 2017 due to the overwhelming quality on offer in that year’s class of comic book adaptations – Wonder Woman, Logan, Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming each being mega-hits for a number of reasons – but the quality on offer in this unexpected sequel to Marvel’s most surprising box office smash was still very high.
Perhaps the standout aspect of this universe-trotting tale was its remarkable visuals and unique colour palette, both of which distinguished this from the other films in the MCU and made for one of the most visually resplendent offerings Marvel Studios have produced to this day.
While the central narrative was somewhat divisive among audiences, there’s no doubting that it provided the movie with some stunning emotional beats to match Gunn’s trademark comedic timing, all the while never losing touch of what made the original so great: the dynamic between its central group of characters.
With side narratives worthy of a teary eye and planet-spanning battles between familiar but spectacular creatures, vehicles and so on, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ticked all the fantasy-action boxes, though it was missing just that little something special that was on offer in James Gunn’s very best film… our number one.
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1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
What James Gunn achieved with Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 has gone down in history as a special moment for Marvel Studios and fans of the MCU alike, the relatively inexperienced but passionate filmmaker putting together a group of rag-tag next-to-nobodies to create one of the most immersive, hearty and spectacular comic book movie adaptations of all time.
With moments as deeply moving as the death of Groot, as uplifting as the team defeating the bad guy hand-in-hand in the climactic battle, and as funny as the genre-busting dance-off presented just moments before that battle, Guardians of the Galaxy was a plethora of not only memorable moments, but moments that felt intrinsic to the very fabric of the project.
Where this film surpassed its sequel was in the handling of said moments, and how naturally they came to pass, as well as how characters like Drax the Destroyer were given the scope to not only be incredibly funny but also believably threatening.
This was a movie in the comic book universe that felt natural, like the decisions of the characters were understandable, and it acted as a breakout moment that both the MCU and James Gunn needed (though for vastly different reasons), Gunn being propelled to superstardom as a result, Guardians 1 setting the benchmark for the rest of his career.
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With Suicide Squad 2 in the works and a return to Guardians of the Galaxy reportedly set for immediately afterwards, Gunn’s presence at the top of Hollywood seems likely to grow exponentially in the years to come. But what of his work thus far? Do you agree with our order? Which James Gunn film do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below, and in the meantime make sure to follow us on Twitter.