MCU Movies – The First 10 Years Ranked
16. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Dominic Cooper, Richard Armitage, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Samuel L. Jackson
Captain America: The First Avenger wasn’t met with levels of excitement even comparable to that of Iron Man a few years earlier and seemed to uncomfortably seat itself in the shadow of the upcoming Avengers (2012) movie, an unfortunate circumstance which had a somewhat negative effect on its reception. The movie itself wasn’t actually all that bad, and was inclusive of some of the better and more creative aspects of superhero filmmaking, including one of the more identifiable superhero origin stories in the MCU and the beginning of a decades long bond between Cap and the would-be Winter Soldier. Credit must be given to the creative minds at the centre of the film for also being brave enough to take the genre to new ground, the past – World War II – as it was a decision that has gifted this particular Marvel entry a lasting, if not growing, appeal. However, the reality of just how interesting the film went on to be is debatable at best. The First Avenger is largely forgettable, mostly due to its archetypal villains and generic calls to action, making the film much more interesting as a concept than it probably was when put into action. That’s not to claim that Captain America is by any means a bad movie, just that it’s not quite up to scratch with some of the better films that would follow it, both within its own franchise and that of the overarching Avengers timeline.
15. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Bobby Cannavale, David Dastmalchian, Walton Goggins, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, T.I.
Suffering somewhat from being entirely detached from the two huge box office successes Marvel had released in the same year – Black Panther; Infinity War – Ant-Man and the Wasp seemed like more of a typical sequel than many of the MCU’s line-up in recent years, specifically in that it seemed dead-set on replaying moments and arcs from the original without ever offering something entirely new, or from a new angle, and thus failing to heed the precedence set by the production company’s great recent sequels Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok. Even so, Ant-Man 2 remained a fun movie with heavier leanings to out and out comedy than some of its MCU brethren and certainly wasn’t a bad entry into the catalogue, placing it here… just under this divisive release…
14. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie
Age of Ultron is probably best remembered for being the only disappointing superhero team-up movie Marvel have produced, and with good reason. The picture was problematic for one, facing a backlash from fans who disliked the handling of the universe’s second female superhero Scarlet Witch (Olsen) whom they perceived to be a weak character, and the film could never really get over some of its more unimaginative aspects including yet another villain who seemed all too unconvincing to truly offer a threat to the heroes of what were 4 separate franchises by this point. The film felt like a constant battle for screen time between existing characters, new characters and fight scenes or explosions, disappointing eager audiences in terms of its delivery of its villain (particularly how the “age of Ultron” only lasted around 4 days). Even so, there were positives to be had, many of which were overlooked in the midst of the movie’s controversy and indifferent reception, with the introduction of Mutants (or “inhumans”) being a particular positive that seemed to unlock the door to a future X-Men crossover, as well as a few perfect fan service moments including hints towards the coming introduction of Black Panther, some excellent dream sequences in which characters from individual franchises were afforded cameos, and Hulk versus the Hulkbuster. Looking back, Age of Ultron was more of a special movie than most seem to remember, but its bad moments really were poor, knocking it out of the top 10 in this particular list.
13. Ant-Man (2015)
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, T.I.
Ant-Man went through a lot of production issues to get to the screen, the most noteworthy of which was the late departure of original director, and the man behind the vision of the film, Edgar Wright. The would-be Baby Driver director was so influential that even Marvel couldn’t wipe his name from their credits, with the Cornetto Trilogy filmmaker receiving screenplay and producer credits for his role. The remnants of Wright’s style remain in Ant-Man, and most likely to its benefit, as the Paul Rudd starring film was the first outright comedy of the universe; the presentation of a character Marvel could utilise as a test subject for finding out if audiences would buy into their new, more genre-ised direction. It was far from the most financially successful of all of the Avengers movies (fifth bottom of the list in terms of worldwide grosses – $519million – out-grossing only Captain America 1, Thor, The Incredible Hulk and sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp), but it was popular enough for executive producer Kevin Feige to pull the trigger on the heavy comedy that would come in Spider-Man: Homecoming and particularly Thor: Ragnarok. Perhaps slightly more forgettable visually than some of the other late Marvel films – including the next movie on this list – but generally a sensational save by all involved, as this could’ve easily crumbled under the weight its own production troubles. Luckily for Marvel, and us, Ant-Man turned out to be a pleasant, fun film that set the groundwork for some of what was to come.