Thor and Hulk make a dynamic duo in the best Thor solo film (and funniest Marvel project), and anything with the two of them is magic. It's just too bad the larger narrative featuring a hostile takeover by goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett) takes a backseat to the various shenanigans.
The heist comedy with a super-shrinking dude was a bigger risk than Guardians of the Galaxy. Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly are great together, though, and Marvel gave us something we hadn’t seen yet: a hero who’s also an ex-con dad.
Fantastic tunes, a strange cast of characters that inexplicably works, and a story where you’re hooked on a bunch of feelings, from the emotions of young Peter Quill crying over his dying mother to the hilarity of grown-up Peter (Chris Pratt) explaining Footloose to new pal Gamora (Zoe Saldana). We are Groot, indeed.
Personal and political stakes are at play as Cap chooses his best friend (and brainwashed assassin) over Iron Man, blowing up the Avengers dynamic. Plus, the best superhero battle of them all and memorable intros for Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Holland).
Whedon’s jam-packed ensemble completely lived up to its giant-size expectations. While the heroes-batting-each-other trope is starting to get played out, the excitement is palpable and fanboy hearts melt when hammers and shield fly as Iron Man, Cap and Thor meet.
They had us at “Kurt Russell plays a living planet.” The gravy is everything else: adorable Baby Groot dancing in the middle of a space battle, Dave Bautista’s Drax being the buff, oddball voice of reason, and Michael Rooker’s space outlaw Yondu stealing the show.
Marvel nailed the origin story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the little guy whose heart was bigger than his biceps until a super-soldier serum pumped him up. It offered a great World War II aesthetic, two-fisted adventure and a moral code that created an intriguing thread for his next two movies.
The beginning, the kickoff, the OG. A crew of Avengers was probably still a pipe dream for fans and most of Hollywood when Downey first put on the Iron Man suit, but from the start, the signature swagger, attitude and swig of humility he gave Stark set the tone for everything that was to come.
Benedict Cumberbatch gets a fantastically weird and trippy introduction to the MCU as a sorcerer supreme who goes from rich jerk to humbled hero. It’s a magical version of Iron Man’s origin and some gags are overly goofy, yet the filmmaking wizardry and effects are second to none.
Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can — and when you're the new version of the teen web slinger played by Tom Holland, you also deal with balancing extracurriculars, getting a date for the big homecoming dance, trying to impress Tony Stark and fighting the Vulture in an epic young-adult adventure.
Bursting with a packed ensemble, it’s lacking the superteam mojo of the first Avengers. Only when we see Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and his secret home life do we get that great Joss Whedon touch. Also: Bless James Spader’s heart for being the world’s snarkiest killer robot.
Not Marvel’s greatest solo movie, but certainly one that takes some admirable swings. A quasi-family drama that boots Thor from the realm of Asgard to Earth in fish-out-of-water fashion so he can be worthy of his mystical hammer Mjolnir.
Chris Hemsworth’s thunder god has a sequel that’s a blender of familiar fantasy tropes as Thor and love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) have to deal with a dark elf with an Infinity Stone. Tom Hiddleston’s iconic trickster Loki is in fine form and the film’s highlight in every way.
The results are only so-so as Stark tussles with PTSD, criminally underused antagonist Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and yawn-worthy villain Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). The threequel also proved that, yes, too many armored suits are a bad thing — heck, even Gwyneth Paltrow gets one.
Before ultimately being replaced in other movies by Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton starred as scientist Bruce Banner in this odd duck from the nascent MCU. This mostly forgettable affair exists to serve as a reminder that we still deserve a good solo Hulk film one day.
Let’s accentuate the positive: The sequel gave us Scarlett Johansson’s sleek secret agent Black Widow and put Don Cheadle in the War Machine armor. Everything else was a scattershot mess with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) taking on the wholly underwhelming villain Whiplash (Mickey Rourke).
More political thriller than superhero blockbuster, Captain America’s second solo film — and the best Marvel jam of them all — taps into timely themes of privacy concerns, an enemy growing from within, and military might used in ethically questionable ways. Come for the timeliness, stay for Cap wrecking a bunch of guys in an elevator.