It’s Marvel Cinematic Universe week at SBNation! The MCU is one of the most popular, highest grossing, and culturally important franchises of the last 20 years. To celebrate it, SBNation is taking this week to discuss highlights, favorites, and the best moments from the franchise.
Everyone has had discussions similar to the following question at some point over the last 15 years:
“What’s your favorite MCU movie?”
We all have opinions, discussions, arguments. Let’s air those out here! Below are some of our favorites and the reasons why.
So I’ll be the lame one that doesn’t really see many movies and my knowledge — lack thereof — on Marvel reflects this.
I saw Avengers in 2012 and Deadpool in 2016 and they were pretty good. Colby Smoulders from How I Met Your Mother was in Avengers so that was cool.
If I was going to watch any other Marvel movies, I guess I’d continue with the Avengers theme (2018, 2019) and then maybe Captain America? Idk. The last one reminds me of the guy behind Tortorella at Blue Jackets games.
1. Thor Ragnarok
It’s funny, the action is great, and it’s a visual treat with all the colors on Sakaar. Hemsworth and Hiddleston get to flex their comic muscles, Jeff Goldblum goes Full Goldblum, and Cate Blanchett - a multiple Oscar winner - looks like she’s having the time of her life hamming it up as the villain, Hela.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
It’s a special film that makes you cry in the first 5 minutes with the death of a child’s mother, then makes you laugh in the next scene, as the grown-up child dances to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” while pulling off an Indiana Jones-style heist.
3. Black Panther
My one complaint about this was the last act dragging, but upon rewatch this week, I take that back. It’s not just a great comic book movie, it’s a great movie, period. It deserved the Best Picture nomination it received. Writer/Director Ryan Coogler managed to make Wakanda feel like a very lived-in setting. I appreciate how much he borrowed from various African cultures for the language, dress, and customs.
4. Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame
It’s two movies but they’re so connected I’m taking them as one. It’s a remarkable achievement by producer Kevin Feige to pull together so many characters and storylines over 20 previous films into one coherent narrative. The story is spread over many planets (in Infinity War) and timelines (in Endgame) and yet it all fits. The time spent with the characters in previous movies makes their defeat and loss hit so hard. That emotional blow then makes the eventual triumph that much more satisfying.
5. Iron Man
I don’t know that it’s anyone’s favorite or best, but it’s worth recognizing how important the success of this movie was. Director Jon Favreau’s was still more recognized as a supporting actor, whose most successful directing effort was...Elf? Robert Downey Jr. was still a major liability due to his past legal and substance abuse issues. Throw in that Iron Man was a less popular Marvel character and this looked like a massive risk for a fledgling studio to launch a series around. If this flopped, the MCU never would have grown to what it is now. Instead, Downey delivered an iconic performance and Favreau established a tone which the subsequent directors would follow. In contrast to Christopher Nolan’s uberserious Batman trilogy (The Dark Knight came out two months later), Iron Man shows how a comic book movie can be fun (SHOULD be fun) without being frivolous.
Honorable Mention/Toughest Cut: Black Panther
Black Panther Is one of the best movies Marvel has made. It is certainly the most beautiful. Nominated for Best Picture, Ryan Coogler borrowed from various aspects of African culture to create a beautiful film. Frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan shines as Erik Killmonger, an American CIA operative with so much more backstory.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
The introduction to the misfits that end up saving the universe via dance off is a gloriously fun time. Writer and director James Gunn seamlessly weaves humor, tragedy, and one of the best soundtracks in the MCU. It’s not a deep film, but it is one of the most fun movies the Marvel machine has to over. The villain might be weak, but that doesn’t really matter. The film is all about bringing the Guardians together to a kick ass soundtrack, and in that respect, the movie excels.
4. Avengers: Infinity War
Pound for pound, probably the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After 20 movies, Thanos puts his grand plan into action, marching from world to world seeking the Infinity Stones and killing beloved characters along the way. The movie centers around Thanos, the overarching villain of the MCU, telling the story from his perspective in a powerful performance from Josh Brolin. The Mad Titan’s quest to balance the universe, “as all things should be,” soars.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
It’s not as funny as the first one, but it still has humorous moments. Baby Groot is a treasure every time he is on the screen. Where this movie truly shines, though, is the character development and growth. The movie centers around family, and how the family you choose can be more important than the family you are born into. Rocket, Yondu, Peter, and Gamora shine as they learn more about themselves and one another. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that it features one of the most fun mass murder montages I’ve ever seen.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A throwback to the classic 70s political thriller, The Winter Soldier tackles themes of government surveillance, freedoms, and how those impact our star spangled hero. The world is more complicated than Cap might want to admit, but he’s still going to drag us kicking and screaming to a better place. The film also features some incredible set pieces, particularly the highway fight scene between Cap and the titular Winter Soldier. As an aside, seeing Robert Redford is always a delight and he appropriately dials it up as Alexander Pierce, Director of SHIELD. Scarlett Johansen shines as Black Widow.
1. Thor Ragnarok
“Thor, son of Odin.”
“Surtur, son of ... a bitch, you’re still alive!”
From the opening scene, we know we’re in for a different Thor movie than the Shakespearean pieces that came before. Writer and director Taika Waititi finally realized that Chris Hemsworth has a sense of humor and decided to make a movie suited to his comedic timing. The end result? The most joyous, uproarious, laugh out loud film the MCU has to offer. Some may not like the quippiness of the MCU, but this movie shows what that tone can be like at its very best. Waititi also stars in the film as newcomer Korg, a dry humor pile of rocks that Thor meets on Sakaar, a planet ruled by million of years old Jeff Goldblum. Thor even has a gladiator fight with a friend from work. Tessa Thompson makes her MCU debut as Valkyrie and crushes it.
It’s just a fantastic film, and my absolute favorite MCU entry.
I have seen every Marvel movie but don’t know the ins and outs of the MCU like most people at the site. So, my top five are in no particular order but let’s just say I’ve watched Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 multiple times and listen to both soundtracks every day. I’m not going to defend my choices
- Guardians of the Galaxay 1/2
- All the Iron Man movies
- Spiderman Homecoming
- Thor Ragnarok because Jeff Goldblum is a dime.
- Black Panther
#1: The Avengers (2012)
I have to be true to myself and recognize this film as my favorite Marvel movie, simply for the way it sucked me into the entire universe - not only did I eagerly anticipate every movie release afterwards, but it also made me watch every movie that I hadn’t seen prior to the Avengers release. I’m a sucker for a multi-lane crossover featuring a star-studded cast and a plot that seamlessly weaves together multiple storylines that were years in the making - ugh, the planning! I don’t even know what I’m having for lunch today. Anyways, yes. Favorite.
#2: Black Panther (2018)
I believe this is the only movie I’ve ever seen twice in theaters, and I just watched it again last week to refresh my memory - still love it, can confirm. There are so many things that make it great - the representation, the soundtrack, the cast, the cultural and ethical factors at play on top of the standard Marvel “right vs. wrong” themes. However, my favorite facet of this film are the strong women that surround T’Challa. Let me just say I would follow Lupita Nyong’o to the ends of this universe if that’s what she asked of me. Perhaps the most goosebump-inducing moment for me in any Marvel movie is when Okoye and W’Kabi face off at the end of the battle in Wakanda; he asks if she would kill him and she responds, “For Wakanda? Without question.” A warrior goddess with her priorities straight? I have no choice but to stan.
#3: Avengers: Endgame (2019)
I mean, I don’t even feel like this one needs explaining. A satisfying culmination to years and years of storylines. Love it; totally worth the heartbreak.
#4: Dr. Strange (2016)
This might seem like a strange (ha) choice for my top five, and I can’t even really explain why I like it, except for that I’m always down for a good Benedict Cumberbatch movie mindf**k - plus I thought the visual effects were really freaking cool. Also worth noting: Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton. That is all.
#5: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
This particular movie is the textbook definition of comedic relief, which is why I love it. God, I live for a bizarre Jeff Goldblum character moment, and I really enjoy the intimate dynamic between Thor and Hulk in this movie. Tessa Thompson is just the perfect cherry on top!
Not Top 5:
You might have noticed I don’t mention a Guardians of the Galaxy movie on here - I discussed this apparently unpopular opinion of mine on this week’s podcast, but I really just wasn’t blown away by the standalone movies. Here’s the thing: the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are to the Marvel Universe as melon and cantaloupe are to a fruit salad - I appreciate the flavor these elements lend to the overall dish but you’ll never catch me cutting up a melon to eat by itself.
What are your favorite films? Let us know below!