Marvel movies have held us in a collective chokehold for more than a decade. (The first Iron Man came out in 2008.) Marvel has released so many superhero movies over the last 15 years that they split the eras into phases. I know loving a big corporation like Disney is controversial, but they have kept my nerd heart very happy for over half my life. However they might release some great content, but they have also released some dog water movies. So I will rank all of the Marvel movies in their respective phases and then eventually rank the phases. So without further ado, here is my ranking of phase 1 Marvel movies.
6. Thor (2011)
I don’t think putting the first Thor at the bottom of this list is a controversial pick. Is it a horror movie? No, it’s not as bad as the second Thor movie, but it’s also not as good as the others on this list. The casting is the biggest case Thor has for being higher on this list. Chris Hemsworth is Thor, and Tom Hiddleston IS Loki. They have been such cornerstones of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we forgive how bad the first two movies are. Can you honestly remember the plot of the first Thor movie? I remember the general plot of every other Phase 1 movie, but for the life of me cannot remember Thor. I only remember Thor, Loki, and Jane Foster; that’s it.
5. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
The Incredible Hulk is the best Hulk movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How sad is it that the only Hulk movie we have doesn’t even have the actor who plays the Hulk in anything after this movie? Don’t get me wrong; Ed Norton killed this role. I genuinely love this movie more than I should. We didn’t get some Disney-friendly version of the Hulk. Hulk was taking names and kicking butt in this movie. He was angry. Hulk was a monster, and Bruce Banner was navigating the consequences of Hulk’s outbursts. It was awesome. The fight between Hulk and The Abomination felt like an old-school Godzilla Kaiju fight. It was two beasts going all out. I’m a simple guy. I want to see giant monsters fighting it out to see who is the best.
With all that said, give Mark Ruffalo his own movie or TV show. Hulk has some interesting stories I would like to see, and Ruffalo deserves his own story, please, and thank you.
4. Iron Man 2 (2010)
I don’t remember much from Iron Man 2 besides the villain, Whiplash. It is the first time we see Tony Stark make improvements to the Iron Man suit and make it more streamlined to wear. The progression from the first movie to the nanotechnology suit in Infinity War is such cool unspoken character development. Tony is always learning from mistakes and improving so those mistakes never happen again, and his suit is a perfect example.
I don’t remember much of the plot other than the bad guy was a Russian physicist who stole the arc reactor technology to make whips. What I remember the most is how delicious the Whiplash Whopper from Burger King was. Why don’t we still do movie promotional foods anymore? I’m not the biggest fan of Burger King, but I still think about the pepper jack cheese, crispy peppers, and spicy mayo masterpiece that was the Whiplash Whopper. My dad got me one every day after school for a week straight. (In hindsight, this clearly showed my ADHD fixation on food habits.)
3. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America has the most solid line-up when it comes to Marvel characters and their respective individual movies. (Captain America: Winter Soldier is the single strongest stand-alone movie in the whole MCU.) I loved watching puny Steve Rogers become Captain America. There are so many great moments throughout this movie that immediately pop into my head, like the grenade scene or the flagpole one. Red Skull looked terrifying, and it’s so easy to root against Nazis that watching Hydra lose is always a blast. Captain America would be higher on this list if the last two movies were so iconic and monumental in creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
2. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
I cannot, for the life of me, remember a cinematic moment with as much build-up as this before 2012. Over the course of four years and five movies, Marvel has been leading us to this moment. Most film franchises follow a titular character, i.e., Jason Bourne, for a few movies and explore their life and story. Marvel’s The Avengers built up most of the characters in their movies so that we didn’t need any exposition when they inevitably teamed up with each other. By all rights, it was freaking epic. Again, we see Loki (the best villain in the MCU) doing Loki things. The only thing that made me feel as hyped as bringing together a group of people was Power Rangers Megaforce: Legendary Battle. (Yes, I’m a dork. I know.)
Besides superheroes forming a team like it’s an Ocean’s Eleven movies, The Avengers did one of the best things in the MCU. It set up the Infinity Saga. We got hints and teases, but seeing Thanos in the post-credit scene was amazing. Who knew a tiny little clip of a purple titan could propel us to a dozen connecting movies that only got bigger in scale?
I wonder if The Avengers was a cool and validating experience for anyone who grew up getting bullied for reading comics back in the day?
1.) Iron Man (2008)
There is no Marvel Cinematic Universe without Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. This movie kickstarted 15 years of movie magic. We’d had others try to make Marvel superhero movies. Reimi’s Spider-Man trilogy holds a special place in my heart. Andrew Garfield was a great Spider-Man in his movies. Fantastic Four wasn’t great, especially the Silver Surfer. There was a perfect mix of Jon Favreau’s epic nerdiness and want for a spectacular Marvel hero movie, and it all came crashing into Iron Man. This film is one of the most iconic films of the 2000s. It is the first step in an overwhelming amount of Marvel movies. It was just violent enough for dads but still pretty kid friendly. The CGI didn’t look like crap, and the music choice was spot on. It all culminated in a great movie. RDJ had rent due, and he delivered.
And if you are curious about some of the better movies from a different phase, Shang-Chi is the best from Phase 4 so far.