Thanksgiving hangover? Marvel has got you covered. Over the last 13 years, Marvel Studios has strung a large web of movies (and recently television shows) that have made more than $20 billion dollars and garnered a massive amount of new Marvel fans — creating a new generation with a vested interest in this new universe. Now that we are at the forefront of a new phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, let’s take a look back and rank some of the Marvel movie and television content that has released in the past 13 years.
15. Thor: The Dark World
This is not a popular opinion, I know. I’d like to think of this as my guilty pleasure when it comes to MCU films. Let me just say — I am a Loki apologist. While Loki was an absolute maniac in 2012’s The Avengers, we got to see a different side of him in Thor: The Dark World. When next to the abysmal parent that is Odin, you can start to see the origins of Loki’s need for validation through power and rule.
No excuse whatsoever for murdering people, but you can’t help but feel for him and his story in this film. I’d like to think this is his hero origin story, versus the widely used “villain origin story”.
14. Captain America: Civil War
While I didn’t particularly enjoy the entirety of any the Avengers movies, Captain America: Civil War brought together a solid group of heroes. Pair those heroes with the fact that the supposed “good guys” are fighting one another over a moral quandary? *chefs kiss* We had already seen Captain America start to question the flag that he represented (love that for him) just two years prior in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the disagreement over the Sokovia Accords was the absolute tipping point for our boy Steve Rogers.
Also worth mentioning, I am a James “Bucky” Barnes/Winter Soldier apologist too, and this was the perfect movie to see the OG Bucky apologist, Steve Rogers, hard at work.
13. Iron Man
What kind of person would I be if I left out the movie that started it all? Iron Man set the tone for all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies that followed and really set the bar high for superhero media across all franchises. I think we can all agree — Robert Downey Jr. is a Tony Stark variant. I have to really force myself to think about the other work he’s done in the past because he is forever ingrained in my mind as Tony Stark, American billionaire playboy and arms dealer.
The reason it is so low on the list though is because I was not a huge fan of how he treated Pepper Potts and while Obadiah Stane was truly a well-played villain, he gave me the creeps.
12. Black Widow
I’ll be honest here — I watched this mostly because I heard Florence Pugh crushed it as Yelena Belova. I only knew about Florence Pugh through the lens of films like Midsommar (2019) and Little Women (2019), so to hear about her being in a Marvel film sounded super interesting to me. She played the character to perfection and was the perfect counterpart to Scarlett Johansson’s starpower.
I particularly enjoyed the commentary on the policing and control over women’s bodies and livelihood because up until this point, the Black Widow was so heavily sexualized and not given the space to prove she was more than her body. Unfortunately, while I loved the message, it lacked a lot of the action that I’m used to seeing in a Marvel film.
11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This film was not only our first introduction to the Winter Solider, the HYDRA agent that James “Bucky” Barnes became after his deadly fall in Captain America: The First Avenger, but Steve Rogers/Captain America’s first glance at the corruption of the American government and the agencies that align with it. You got to love someone’s radicalization moment — it’s like a personal milestone.
10. Captain America: The First Avenger
I don’t know why, but being a Bucky apologist makes me a Captain America stan too. This movie was one of the first of its kind in that it was a period piece and a superhero origin film. We got to see the skinny and scrawny Steve Rogers from Brooklyn transform into Captain America right before our eyes.
You’ll notice that all the Captain America films are towards the bottom half of the list — that’s because I’m not a fan of the American military having funded Iron Man and Captain America. While they are entertaining, it’s still important to be critical.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
You can’t help but feel happy about the first MCU introduction to Spider-Man. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is my favorite because Peter Parker/Spider-Man was always supposed to be a teenager and the past two iterations of Spider-Man were not that. While many were not fans on Parker’s emotional reliance on Tony Stark, it was the only way we could get Spider-Man in the MCU.
A similar situation that Marvel had with the X-Men, Sony Entertainment still owns the rights to Spider-Man and all characters involved with Spider-Man (that includes all villains and Venom) and the deal that was struck between the two production companies was that in order to have Spider-Man be a part of the MCU, another MCU character would need to be present in the film (which is why Doctor Strange is in Spider-Man: No Way Home).
8. Thor: Ragnarok
Say what you will about this movie, but this movie is just a fun ride. The sets, the music, the characters, and the quippy dialogue — all just tons of fun. Director Taika Waititi (who also plays the gentle giant revolutionary Korg) says that this movie was an ode to the former Marvel writer/editor/animator Jack Kirby. The set designs and costumes were almost exactly as Kirby animated it in the comics — with geometric shapes and bold colors.
We also get introduced to Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson), explore the turbulent relationship Bruce Banner has with the Hulk, see Loki’s character change as he shifts allegiance to his brother Thor, and see Thor reclaim who he was always meant to be — the god of thunder.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1
In the same way that Iron Man defined the tone and style for the Marvel films that followed, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 added a little spice as a refresher to the already extremely popular franchise. Directed by James Gunn, his irreverent and anarchic tone really changed the comedic timing and placement for the Marvel films that we have been seeing recently. While the Thor films technically already took us to space, the Guardians of the Galaxy took us to the less gilded parts of space and showed us the lawlessness of intergalactic travel.
6. Spider-Man: Far from Home
Yeah, I play favorites. So what? It doesn’t help that I’m currently in a Spider-Man death grip until Spider-Man: No Way Home releases in theaters on December 17. This is the first time we have seen Peter Parker outside of New York City (don’t get sassy and mention his time in space and blipped — that’s his trauma you’re talking about).
I think the reason I loved this movie was because I knew Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio was the bad guy the entire time and just watching his plans unfold upon an unknowing Peter Parker was both exhilarating and gut-wrenching. The ending to this movie also sent me down a theory spiral which is the hand that will kill me, but I’m almost never upset by it.
5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
This one was for the culture, no question about it. A superhero movie that was spoken mostly in Mandarin and had well-thought out characters that looked like me and the people in my community? Yes, a million times yes. Not only was this a cultural milestone for the Asian American community, but it was just a fun movie to watch.
As I am with most Asian American representation and media these days, I was apprehensive going into a movie about a hero who initially only had the powers of a lethal assassin skilled in martial arts. It seemed like very murky territory, but I was blown away by the stunts and actions scenes in this film. Rarely does an action movie hit all the marks for me, but Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings inspired hope and hit them all.
4. Black Panther
Ooof, remember the feeling you had back in 2018 after you saw this movie in theaters? I’m still chasing that high. Here’s another movie that hit all the marks for me. It did what it sought out to do and then some. This has to be the first Marvel movie I had seen since 2008 that saved space for the women in the film and highlighted their sheer power.
You notice how the two Marvel films that have checked all the boxes are ones that are stories that revolved around non-white protagonists, accurately (and very respectfully) show the hero’s culture in a large focus manner (in that it’s not just awkwardly mentioned or gratuitously shoved in), and has female characters who are also heroes that are just as strong as their male counterparts. Also, this soundtrack still holds up and I play it at least once a week.
3. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
I knew that we were gonna get more Bucky and Sam buddy comedy content when they had their little back-and-forths in Captain America: Civil War. My favorite part about this series is that it’s a tale of two best friends (but they aren’t each others best friend — they’re both Steve Rogers’ best friends and Steve Rogers is now gone). There’s so much to love about this show.
We get to see Baron Zemo as an anti-hero ally with a goofy side (it’s nice to see his humanity when he’s not on his yoked up anti-hero grind murdering people), Sam Wilson/Falcon and his family dynamics in his hometown of New Orleans, the aftermath and period of reconciliation that Bucky experiences after his long and painful time as the Winter Soldier, serious commentary about the plight of Black Americans and the history of their pain through the lens of Isaiah Bradley (the first Black Super Solider) and a few surprise guests along the way.
If you haven’t watched this Emmy Award-winning series yet, I implore you to watch it immediately. There has never been a show like this before and as mentioned in the Marvel production documentary, Assembled, WandaVision take the theme of various decades (such as Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Malcolm in the Middle) with the added eeriness of The Twilight Zone. Take all of that and pack the classic movie-scale MCU production quality right on top of it.
WandaVision gives us a disturbingly telling look at the mental well-being of Wanda Maximoff after the traumatic events of Avengers: Endgame and really brings to head the trauma Maximoff has had to endure for the majority of her life after she and her (now deceased) brother Pietro were orphaned.
Again, I play favorites and I’m a ride-or-die Loki Laufeyson apologist until the end. This (along with WandaVision) is a near-perfect television series. The series follows Loki after the 2012 Battle of New York where he stole the tesseract (during Avengers: Endgame) and it transported him to the deserts of Mongolia. Shortly after his escape, the TVA (Time Variance Authority) apprehends him and brings him in front of a judge for his “crimes against the sacred timeline”.
Loki has an extremely well-written story, beautiful scenes, confirms Loki is bisexual (which, yes, is canon), gives us all the cool Loki variants that we have seen in the comics, introduces us to the new big bad villain in this new MCU phase, and above all else, showcases Loki in his purest form — as someone who just wants to be accepted and loved.
In other comic book news, here’s a rundown of Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and the Dark Avengers, Brendan Fraser has been cast in a new DCEU project, and Zoë Kravitz said that filming ‘The Batman’ felt like an indie movie.
Photo via Screen Rant