MCU Movies – The Definitive Ranking

(Revised 2019-07-06)

There are many lists of Marvel movies, but this one is mine. There’s no particular criteria for my rankings, though “rewatch-ability” is very important. Here is the Definitive Ranking of Marvel Cinematic Universe Films (in order starting from least favorite):

  • Thor: The Dark World — This movie just kind of a mess. It’s like a less-good remake of Thor (which itself wasn’t great.)
  • The Incredible Hulk — The forgotten MCU movie. This is the most optional of the films, so feel free to skip.
  • Thor — I think of it almost like two movies. The first movie is all of the “sword and board” action and royal politics. Most of these scenes are a snooze fest. The other movie takes place on Earth, and it is really fun. Sadly, there is too much of the former to overcome the latter.
  • Iron Man 2 — It’s Iron Man and it’s fun, but it’s the weakest of the trio.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron — This movie felt overly long and I never quite understood the motivations of the antagonist (voiced by the always great James Spader.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — A visual spectacle, but this movie has always seemed like one of the least necessary entries in the MCU. Other than advancing Quill’s daddy issues, I’m not sure what this film did other than set up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
  • Doctor Strange — Our introduction to the mystical side of Marvel, this was a fun film. Stephen Strange is an arrogant asshole, but his origin story was great.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger — It took me a couple of viewings to really appreciate this film. I think this is one film where having an understanding of the origin of Captain America really helps you understand why this movie was actually pretty good. Though if you don’t like it, you don’t like it.
  • Ant-Man — I did not expect to like this one as much as I did. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly were great.
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp — Low-stakes, lighthearted, and enjoyable. This was the first Marvel film with a female hero to receive top-billing. 
  • Avengers: Infinity War — Part 1 of the big payoff for all of these films. It’s still hard to believe that they managed to center this film around an entirely CGI character and make it work so well.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home — So much fun. They masterfully balanced the humor with the post-Endgame sadness. 
  • Captain America: Civil War — Almost an Avengers movie, there was conflict, politics, and solid action. This also introduced Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the MCU.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy — This was the point where Marvel really started flexing. Up to this point, their films had been headlined by relatively established characters. Guardians was something else. With it, they absolutely nailed the introduction of a new universe of characters who were virtually unknown to non-comics readers. The script was hilarious and the casting spot-on.
  • Iron Man 3 — A slight shift in tone and stakes from the other two entries, but a solid film. Ben Kingsley steals the show.
  • Thor: Ragnarok — Maybe the funniest MCU movie? This one made me want more Thor films.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming — I love this iteration of Spider-Man (long my favorite comic character) and what Tom Holland brings. So great.
  • Marvel’s The Avengers — The gang finally comes together. Fun action, though I still think helicarriers are dumb.
  • Captain Marvel — The first solo MCU movie with a female protagonist. Loved every minute of it.
  • Iron Man — The first film. This one set the stage and the tone for the MCU. Somehow they lucked into casting Robert Downey Jr. and the rest is cinema history.
  • Black Panther — This was the first MCU film that actually felt important. Black Panther had things to say about race, isolationism, oppression, and family. An incredible film that could stand on its own outside of the MCU.
  • Avengers: Endgame — What a ride. This movie pays off ten years with fan service delivered in a way that I wouldn’t have predicted that Marvel could pull off, but they did! 
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier — I loved everything about this film. I think it had the best action scenes of any MCU movie to date, and echoed some of my favorite thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and Marathon Man To me, this is the most re-watchable entry in the MCU, and that’s why it is at the top. 

Professional Sports and Social Media

As an avid fan of both the NFL and NBA I was noticing today the differences between their social media strategies. Both leagues are very active on Twitter — posting several times per hour with news and information about their respective leagues. This is not a complete survey and measurement of all of their content to date, so keep in mind the small sample size and my own biases. I was most struck by the differences in who and what they choose to highlight for their followers.

Here are the last four hours of Tweets from the NBA, starting with the most recent:

The content is very focused on the players, but not just their individual game highlights. We have:  

  • A human interest story about Anthony Davis
  • Pascal Siakam talking about his favorite restaurant in Toronto
  • The NBA clinic in London
  • A promo for the Knicks/Wizards game which highlights the shoes the players will be wearing

Now, contrast this content with the NFL: 

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So the NFL highlights a lot of personnel announcements (it’s the offseason for most of the teams in the league, so I guess this is understandable.) But they also do very little to highlight the players as individuals. No human interest-type content. If a player is mentioned, it is about stats or game highlights. It reads like a Twitter version of ESPN’s NFL coverage, with aggressive commentators yelling very important takes at me about sportsball. 

They also posted this: 

But it’s just a photo of the Q&A, no actual video of the discussion. 

This video from two days ago about the Bears addressing gun violence in Chicago was interesting, though definitely not originally produced with social media sharing in mind: 

It’s pretty clear that we are not supposed to care about most individual NFL players. The on-field product is the product. We should be rooting for the laundry. Quarterbacks or start performers get named, but again it’s only about the on field play or matchup. 

Other things I noticed: 

  • NFL video content is very heavily produced, or ripped straight from a television broadcast (either the NFL Network or one of their broadcast partners). NBA content contains more video captured from mobile devices, because it was spontaneous or because it was being created specifically for sharing social media. 
  • The social media for each NFL team does do a bit more in highlighting individual players, and their fans and communities. My Seahawks do like to have a bit of fun: 

 

What are the takeaways? Given how little time and thought I put into this, I’m not sure. It’s does seem clear that the two leagues have very different ideas of how to promote their products. At the league level, the NBA is perfectly comfortable highlighting their players as individuals, and having us get invested in the various league storylines. Not just showing us packaged segments of highlights, but what players eat, how they dress, and what they care about outside of basketball.

The NFL is decidedly less interested in their individual players, at least from the league office (the teams generally manage their own social media, employing a mixed bag of strategies.) The NFL is about game highlights, strategy, and stats — with mic’d up players yelling while they deal out some pain to an opponent.