8. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Taika Waititi
Thor: Ragnarok is the most out-and-out comedy of the Marvel bunch, and what a comedy it is. Introducing New Zealand born filmmaker Taika Waititi to a wider audience was something that brought a lot of excitement from those in the know, mostly due to his presentation of innocent comedy and the genuine heartfelt touch that the likes of Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows each had. With Ragnarok, the MCU took a turn in a slightly different direction, reclaiming the story from the ill-received 2nd Thor movie and partnering the Asgardian God with Hulk in what seems to be the closest thing to a Hulk movie we’re ever going to see. Notably, new planets and species were introduced to build the lore of the Marvel universe, and some of the secondary character interactions are among the best Marvel has yet put to film. Ragnarok sitting solidly inside this red hot top 10 is indicative of this film’s power to create joy and make people laugh. The reality is that sometimes such positives can overcome slight irks about the plot or some of the CG.
7. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl
There comes a point when the idea of teaming heroes together to save the world from a faceless force of evil that just so happens to have appeared from out of nowhere gets stale, and that’s part of the genius of the timing of Captain America: Civil War. This 2016 movie marked the first time our beloved heroes had fought one another in such numbers, and the way in which the movie reflected society’s growing divisiveness as regards ideologies was fitting, timely, and altogether engaging. A film-stealing sequence involving revelations about Tony Stark’s parents was one of the biggest moments of character and story coming together to enact a pay off that we have ever seen from the MCU, so when this was coupled with some of the most realistic and brutal looking fight sequences in the cinematic universe and a clear objective to ensure that each character was treated in conjunction with their already established personalities, Civil War became an undeniable comic book movie classic.
6. Iron Man (2008)
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bibb, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau
After 15 years of sitting on the shelves in various big-money studio office blocks, Marvel risked it all in 2006 when they bought back their Iron Man character and went about making their first ever fully self-financed movie, a decision that would have bankrupted the famous comic book company were it not a success. The rest, as they say, is history…
Iron Man was a fantastic film, and truly the birthplace of the modern superhero movie. Favreau, whose previous success had come at the helm of smaller, independent movies and Christmas breakout hit Elf (2003), used the platform – under the guidance of executive producer Kevin Feige – to display his fantastic appreciation of solid characterisations and his talented manipulation of developing CG (a tool that was able to so convincingly bring the Iron Man to the screen in a way that would never have been possible previously). But Iron Man wasn’t so much Favreau’s movie as it was Robert Downey, Jr’s. The actor, whose personal life had spiralled in the 2000s following substance abuse issues, had been labelled tough to work with, so his dedication to the role came as somewhat of a surprise even to some of those responsible for hiring him. It was as if Downey Jr saw Tony Stark as himself in many ways – leading to the close distinctions between the actor and character that exist to this day – and as such he led the Stark character through the movie with such a convincing narcissistic charm that the story’s redemption arc became entirely fitting of the performer; a true case of art imitating life. Alongside the Iron Man crew, Downey Jr was able to create one of the best, most true, and most honest superhero portrayals in history and as such became the spearhead to an entire generation’s worth of superhero films and an empire worth close over $17billion. What’s more is that this entire movie still holds up.
5. Black Panther (2018)
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett
Black Panther was a cultural phenomenon as big as, if not bigger than, every Marvel movie ever released. The film, set in a fictional African country and starring one of the very best casts of Black American male and female actors, inspired fashion trends, was used as inspiration for political marches, encouraged inclusion and questioned the so-called “American way”, all the while racking up the MCU’s highest North American box office total in history: $700million.
On screen Black Panther was a character study wrapped in the superhero realm; a tale of two hugely similar men beginning to question their heritage and responsibilities but pursuing answers in completely different and ultimately opposing ways, with Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger being perhaps the most identifiable villain in MCU history. Director Ryan Coogler also managed to masterfully integrate an almost entirely new cast of characters into the wider scope of Marvel’s talent roster, creating a space in which side characters like Shuri, Okoye, Nakia and M’Baku could truly shine and effectively contribute to the movie’s narrative; creating a well rounded piece of cinematic storytelling that just so happened to be a superhero movie.