12. Doctor Strange (2016)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg
Scott Derrickson’s visually stunning and creatively imagined entry Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a super-surgeon turned magic-wielding superhero is number 12 on our list. The movie wasn’t without its controversy, including claims of white-washing through the casting of Tilda Swinton in a role that would have been better suited to an actor of East Asian heritage, yet its reception was generally positive. Its world-bending visuals, likened favourably to Christopher Nolan’s Inception, were given the most attention and praise, working to distinguish this particular Marvel property from the rest. White-washing aside, the cast was probably one of the most credible in Marvel’s history, and was largely made up of actors more often associated with high-art, award-winning movies than your typical superhero outing, from lead (and stage actor) Benedict Cumberbatch, to BAFTA winner Chiwetel Ejiofor, through to Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen. Doctor Strange is certainly not perfect, but its fresh visual take remains of importance to the Avengers universe Marvel have assembled, and it remains a memorable release.
11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone
Capitalising on his incredible surprise success (if there is such a thing regarding Marvel movies) was easy for James Gunn. All he had to do was put more of what he loves on the screen, and that he did. Introducing some of his idols, notably Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone, Gunn once again orchestrated a must-watch entry into the MCU. Visually, the film was all-but flawless, putting many of the universe’s films to shame in terms of colour and the use of CG. As was the case with the original, the dialogue was also some of the best around, again tapping into the quick-witted nature of its stars and playing them off some of the best deadpan characters around – notably Drax (Bautista). It is, however, rated lower than its predecessor because of an easy to predict story arc and the way it embraced more typical Marvelisms than its rebellious sibling. Even so, Guardians 2 remains a fantastic superhero film; one worthy of many a top 10 on its day. Today is (only just) not one of those days.
10. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Director: Jon Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori
Who could have seen this coming?
A third reboot for the Spider-Man franchise was met with yawns, even with the anticipation that Marvel would do a much better job than Sony had done in the character’s 2 previous silver screen iterations. Cleverly, Marvel Studios introduced the character as a part of Captain America: Civil War the previous year, allowing audiences a taste of a new version of the beloved, interesting and funny character before their first Spidey film (co-produced with Sony) would be released. It quickly squashed the negative anticipation and instead created a huge wave of momentum that the film would ultimately ride to a staggering box office of $880million and almost universally positive reviews. Make no mistakes about it, Homecoming was a superhero-filled high-school comedy, not your typical action fare; it even came complete with believable characters and good performances, most notably from Holland as Parker/Spidey and Michael Keaton as his nemesis. Like Guardians 2, the film suffered a little from its predictable story arc, but remained a very good Marvel release. We’ve placed Spidey a spot higher than Guardians 2 because of how important it was for the character to receive such a positively reviewed reboot, not to mention how huge it is for the MCU to gain the addition of a young, charismatic Spider-Man moving forward.
9. Thor (2011)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba
When Thor was initially released, it was the first real off-planet adventure for the MCU. Previously, the universe had visited Iron Man, the story of a very human billionaire using his money for good in much the same way as the popular Dark Knight Trilogy was in the midst of presenting Batman as doing, and it had given us a taste of Hulk, the most recognisable of all Marvel characters and the tale of an ordinary man who became subject to a scientific accident that caused him to have extraordinary powers. Contrast this with the off-planet home of an alien being we’ve historically referenced as a God and it becomes clear as to why Thor was one of the lowest grossing of all of Marvel’s films. All of this was likely compounded when the cast was announced, leaving many a mainstream box office audience scratching their heads as to who any of the actors were besides Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. In a way, this freed director Kenneth Branagh from the pressures of expectation however, and the experienced filmmaker used this to develop a unique perspective on the Avengers universe from a planet far away, through a character naive to the troubles of our world. As such, the relatively unknown cast were able to truly personify their characters, with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki becoming one of the more beloved in the entire MCU despite being a villain, and the film was able to present the idea of superherodom in a more tongue-in-cheek way than we had previously seen. Thor is perhaps best remembered for its funny moments, but the efficiency through which the film introduced Thor’s planet Asgard was certainly commendable and the story’s building of anticipation regarding Loki possibly turning good or evil, as well as the presence of other Avengers – notably Hawkeye for the first time – having an effect on Thor’s Earth-bound journey, made for a less predictable outing for Marvel; one with quite a lot of heart, too.