Some people don’t like the dominance displayed by the Marvel Cinematic Universe in recent years, as it seemingly blocks out all of the other great cinema on display at the movie theater and at home. Still, there’s no denying the pop culture influence and the mainstream adulation towards the superheroes that make up these 32 films in the MCU. With almost 15 years of movies to choose from, most have been a hit, but several also didn’t live up to expectations. We’re here to help you watch the 10 best Marvel movies, from the Avengers movies to all of the niche MCU movies that make the universe stick and come together in special unison. You can watch nearly all of these movies on Disney Plus!
There is a glaring lack of Asian representation in the superhero genre, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings helps to fill that void with excellent storytelling and choreography. The film honors the cultural traditions it’s trying to uphold while entertaining with spectacular action sequences. Simu Liu and Awkwafina are amongst a talented cast of actors.
You know that saying, “the calm before the storm”? Captain America: Civil War is the great antithesis of this blanket statement. The film serves as a sort of explosive precursor to the events that are about to take place in the upcoming The Avengers movies, and it also solidly continues the story of Captain America (Chris Evans). Tom Holland got his first screen time as Peter Parker in this film.
While not one of the MCU’s most famous protagonists, Ant-Man is a lovable and relatable hero who has garnered significant popularity in recent years in due no small part to the awesome everyman effect of Paul Rudd. The prolific comedic actor showed off his dramatic chops in a movie that felt more like a heist than a hero flick, but it stands out as one of the most unique entries in the MCU.
The first film in The Avengers series seems small in comparison to its sequels, but that doesn’t mean it had any less of an impact on fans of the MCU. This movie helped to bring all of the straggling plot threads in the previous Marvel movies together into one thrilling story line, and it spawned many references throughout other forms of media to the power of creating an all-star team that cannot be beat. The chemistry of Marvel’s bedrock actors such as Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans was a pleasure to see blossom for the first time.
Many of Marvel’s movies are about one hero. From Peter Parker and Steve Rogers to Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, trying to become evil’s bane is often a solo act, and it can become a little repetitive from an audience’s perspective. Enter the Guardians of the Galaxy. With Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and several other big names in the cast, this film showed the world that superhero antics could be a team effort. The iconic pop music and cultural references that fill the movie make it even more beloved.
Spider-Man is arguably the most popular hero in the Marvel universe. Peter Parker is almost the company’s version of Clark Kent. Therefore, finding the right actor to embody the character in his debut outing in the MCU was vital. With this great power comes great responsibility (I had to do it!). Tom Holland turned out to be everything fans of the comics could ever dream of and more. His ability to turn on the charming boyish naïveté while simultaneously battling the villainous Vulture (Michael Keaton), resulted in an incredibly fun summer blockbuster.
A big difference between Marvel films and their competition (like, say, the DC Extended Universe) is the willingness to laugh at yourself. Remember, superheroes are typically grown-ups running around in their underwear exhibiting powers that simply don’t exist in our real world. Thor: Ragnarok is the funniest movie in the MCU, and it’s accompanied with an excellent storyboard and a laundry list of great actors. Chris Hemsworth shows off an extension of his acting chops as the God of Thunder, and Tom Hiddleston turns in another great supporting performance as Thor’s brother, Loki.
The entire MCU would have never existed without the greatness of Iron Man. Showing Tony Stark’s evolution from grade-A jackass into a semi-heroic badass, director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. had to have known they were cooking up an exquisite alchemic medley of comic book creativity. This was the first film in the MCU, and it catapulted Downey Jr.’s star-status back into hyper overdrive. He helped to serve as a de-facto mascot for the franchise henceforth.
It’s rare for a Marvel film to feel like it’s making a grander thematic statement in the canon of film history, but this Ryan Coogler-directed smash hit was certainly just that. Demonstrating the power of Black superheroes in all of their glory, Black Panther captured the minds and imaginations of kids and adults all over the world. Beyond the social progressivism that makes the movie iconic, the story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and his rivalry with Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is a fascinating and well-acted plot all on its own merit.
The culmination of over a decade of MCU material, Avengers: Endgame felt like much more than just a movie. The penultimate film in Phase 3 was an event that got everyone talking worldwide. Even folks who had never seen a Marvel flick flocked to the theater to see what all the hubbub was about. Unfortunately for casuals, you definitely need a knowledge of what’s happened so far to get enjoyment out of director Kevin Feige’s work. This is the last film with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America.
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