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Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe

by Dustin Smothers (@SmoHawk)

As we’ve discussed on several podcasts over the last month, the No-Coast Nerd is going to be a section of the website where you’ll find our musings on topics other than professional wrestling.  It’s an ambitious direction, but one that I hope you all enjoy.

Soon we will also launch The No-Coast Nerd Podcast with myself, Darnell Mitchell & Chris DePetrillo.  I know we are planning on recording later this month after we’ve all had an opportunity to see Thor: Ragnarok and The Justice League.  I’m sure we will also through some Stranger Things, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and other stuff into the discussion as well.  I however, couldn’t wait until we recorded.  I needed to write something.

As some of you may be aware I recently went on hiatus from the Network and from social media.  It gave me a lot of needed free time, but one of those evenings while playing South Park: The Fractured But Whole, I found myself thinking what movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the best.  Now with the recent release of the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War and the upcoming release of Black Panther I figured it was a brilliant time to have this discussion. So without further ado, allow me to present to you what I consider to be my ranking from worst to best of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

For the purposes of this list I will only be considering the film adaptations that are part of the franchise, on another rainy day we can look at the television installments.  Needless to say, this list is rife with spoilers for all things Marvel Cinematic Universe, so if you haven’t seen all 17 entries into the Universe, you may want to back out now.

17. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

If you are a fan of this movie, well I am sorry for what I am about to say, this movie is a pile of shit.  One of the biggest problems that plagues the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the villains.  For every Loki or Hela, there are several underdevelopment antagonists and in this particular installment we get the worst of them all, Malekith. I am also not a fan of the damsel in distress quality of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster in this movie, and the only thing saving it was another masterful performance by Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief, Loki.  Honorable mention to Kat Dennings performance as Darcy Lewis, while I know many are not a fan of her character I feel she brings a certain levity to the grandiose proceedings at times.

16. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

This isn’t last place, simply because it is the only decent Hulk film made in the last fifteen years.  Anyone who says Ang Lee’s Hulk was good can kindly take a seat.  This was in the early stages of what would become the MCU and I am thankful every day that Edward Norton decided to walk away from this.  Mark Ruffalo is immensely better than Norton, and if Norton’s uninspired performance in this movie wan any indicator he knew he was out before this came out in theaters.  This movie does still hold some relevance in the MCU today, as the Abomination is still lurking out there somewhere and it would be a thrill to see the one good thing about this movie back in play, and that was Tim Roth.

15. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Honestly, this isn’t a horrible movie.  If you were to judge just the first two-thirds of this film, it might be ranked in the top five.  However, this film takes an absolute face plant in the third act when Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin is revealed to be a fake.  Until the reveal, Kingsley was making a run at Loki for best villain, but of course we learn the actual Mandarin is Aldrich Killain, who is played by Guy Pearce.  Not that I dislike Guy Pearce, but come the fuck on.  This guy isn’t The Mandarin! For those who followed the Marvel One Shots, we do know that the real Mandarin is out there somewhere, and the Ten Rings are still active should we ever get Iron Man 4.

14. Thor (2011)

This ends up here out of default.  When I originally saw the movie I wasn’t not a big fan of Thor or the Asgardian mythology.  I still to this day tend to overlook this movie when thinking about the MCU as a whole.  What I can say is that it has aged well.  I recently re-watched it and it’s mind blowing how young Hemsworth and Hiddleston were in this film.  Loki is the absolute star of this film, and in my opinion the Thor series.  Without Tom Hiddleston’s villainy would we be even talking about ranking these films?

13. Ant-Man (2015)

Ant-Man is a peculiar entry into the MCU for me.  It’s the only MCU film I walked out of the theater hating.  I know, I know…I can’t quite explain how I got to that point either.  Perhaps I had become accustomed to the larger than life, grand scale of the MCU at this point and a return to a smaller (literally and figuratively) scale jarred the system.  Upon re-watching this film since that day I have come to love it.  Michael Pena is without a doubt the saving grace of this film, and the way the casually drop a line about Peter Parker into this movie still gets me excited! I can’t wait for Ant-Man and the Wasp!

12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

The placement of this film on my list may surprise a lot of you.  This movie is great, don’t get me wrong…but it still falls a little flat for me.  Reason being is we watched the Guardians come together in the first movie….just to watch them splinter apart again and come back together in the sequel.  Take a bit of the wind out of the sails if you ask me.  I love the addition of The Sovereign in this film, and the tease of what’s to come in the post credits scene has me ready for more Guardians however!

11. Avengers: Age of Ulton (2015)

When The Avengers was released in 2012, it was praised as one of the best super-hero movies of all time! It was always going to be hard for the sequel to live up to the original and while I think it did it’s best, there are many flaws in this film.  Much of that stems from a burnt out Joss Whedon and a sense that this film was more of a placeholder than a new installment.  Watching this film back it feels like a lame story sandwiched between what happened and what is to come.  With that said, Ultron was awesome.  Casting James Spader to voice Ultron was a brilliant move, and having him do the mo-cap really set it off.

10. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

This movie was great, and by most standards it should be higher on the list – but when you consider how amazing the sequels for this film were, well…you’ve got to give love to a few other franchises instead.  Being one of the only period pieces in the MCU helps make this film stand out from the rest.  This movie also gave us Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, introduced us to Howard Stark and gave us Red Skull (who I hope returns one day).  All-in-all, that’s a win.

9. Doctor Strange (2016)

Remember everyone being worried about if Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be “too far out” for viewers, or how everyone was worried if it would be the first MCU movie to bomb? Yeah, that was silly – so were any of the reservations people had in regards to this film before it’s release.  Bringing in Scott Derrickson to direct was the perfect choice as he brought the horror elements from his previous directorial outings to this movie that really helped sell the difference in the world Doctor Strange is capable of inhabiting.  Seeing Dormammu realized on screen was a trip for me, as was the beautiful homage paid to the amazing Steve Ditko artwork of the 1960s comic.

8. Iron Man 2 (2013)

I’ll probably catch a lot of heat for putting this movie in the top ten.  I get why people don’t like it – -but I do! The addition of Don Cheadle, who replaced Terrance Howard as War Machine/James Rhodes was good enough, but this movie introduced us to Black Widow, expanded Nick Fury’s role in the universe, as well as gave us some great stuff with Agent Coulson.  If that wasn’t enough – Mickey Rourke is in this movie. That alone puts it in the top ten.

7. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

I’ll say it. This is the best Spider-Man adaptation to date.  You can have Tobey back…don’t even get me started on Andrew, Tom Holland was born to play Peter Parker.  For the first time we actually had a Peter Parker who felt like he was actually in high school.  Choosing Michael Keaton to play Vulture was an excellent touch – and there were so many little easter eggs in this movie about what the future could hold, I could go on for days….I’ll just say this: Miles Morales does exist in the MCU…get excited.

6. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

This may be my favorite movie in the MCU, but it is not the best.  It is my favorite for one reason, and one reason alone.  Airport scene.  If seeing Iron Man battle Captain America didn’t flip every nerd switch you have, I would like to check your pulse.  Add to that, a very intriguing take on Baron Zemo, the addition of Spider-man and Black Panther and this was a wild ride.

5. Iron Man (2008)

The movie that started it all.  Iron Man came out in 2008, as an independent film basically, and who would have thought we’d be sitting here ten years later, 17 movies later, talking about the MCU which has changed Hollywood forever.  Jon Favreau directed this and the sequel, and I can’t say enough wonderful things about him as a director.  Casting RDJ as Tony Stark may be the best casting decision in the history of  Hollywood as well.  Who can forget the way the hair stood up on your arm when Nick Fury mentions the Avengers Initiative in the post-credits scene? Also, this movie is the reason we all sit and watch the credits now.

4. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Holy cow, this movie was a lot of fun.  I’ve heard many people claim it is the best MCU movie to date.  I can absolutely see that being the case for some, I however need to see it a few more times before I’m willing to make that leap.  Taika Waititi directed his ass off here, and got the best performance out of Hemsworth we’ve seen yet.  Plus, the including of Korg and Miek was a wonderful nod to the Planet Hulk story much of this was based on.  Hiddleston continues to be the best thing in the MCU here, Blanchett chews up all here scenery and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie was amazing!

3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Who would have thought that a talking racoon, a giant tree, the dude from Parks & Rec, Batista and that one Nav’i lady wold kill it like this.  This movie may be one of the most fun theater experiences I’ve ever had to date.  The soundtrack, the on-screen chemistry, the surprising performances, plus Benicio Del Toro as The Collector all made this movie non-stop fun.  Also – bless you Michael Rooker.

2. The Avengers (2012)

That moment when all The Avengers converge together, and the camera wraps around them during the Battle of New York will live on as one of the coolest moments in cinematic history for myself.  The feeling of a childhood dream come to life can never be replicated like this again.  Seeing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on screen together, tearing shit up was a monumental moment in movie history.  This movie was as close to perfect as one can get.

1. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)

This is, in my eyes, the most complete entry into the MCU to date.  It marked a significant turn for the MCU, as S.H.I.E.L.D. as we knew it was gone forever.  HYDRA rises back to power and what makes this movie so awesome is it subverted the super hero genre and gave us a political thriller set in the MCU.  This is the  best of the MCU so far, The Russo Brothers directed this and Civil War and in just a few months they will give us Infinity War.  Where do you think that will rank? What about Black Panther? Sound off in the comments section and let me know how right or wrong you think my list is! As always, stay tuned True Believers! Excelsior!

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