To date, more than $2.6 billion has been spent on Avengers: Endgame. Many millions have seen the movie and extolled its greatness as the most amazing culmination in the history of nerddom (quite possibly, in film).
That said, where does it rank as a movie on its own?
Marvel made 23 movies before the publisher’s cosmos was defined into a galactic universe. Are any of those movies any good? There was no infrastructure connecting them to a greater story. They were one-off movies–each with a beginning, an end, and a feeling of what could be.
You know, like DC is now doing. (Okay. Okay. Sorry. Kinda.)
Since 1939, Marvel Comics has imagined, designed, written, and published more than 32,000 comics. All those stories. Countless heroes and heroines. Plot lines and plot holes. However, only 57 movies–some by Marvel Studios, others by FOX. And some of those are sequels and reboots.
So, where do they rank (at least with this cinephile and first-class geek? Let’s find out in this easy read. See what you think.
57. Captain America (1990)
56. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
What they did to Deadpool should be a criminal act. Punishable by…well, make the creators pay to watch that crap every day for the next decade.
55. The Punisher (1989)
So, Drago enters An Officer and A Gentleman and breaks into an NRA convention. Sounds confusing? Now, watch this movie (since it was released direct to video). Awful.
54. Elektra (2005)
Yeah. Who cares if that was Jennifer Garner. This wasn’t Alias. It just needed one.
53. Howard the Duck (1986)
George Lucas directed this. Tim Robbins was in this. Neither mattered. I have two words to describe what was critically one of the worst movies in the 1980s: “Duck Boobs.”
52. Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
So, was that the reject stunt double guy who should have been in Terminator 2? Horrendous.
51. The Punisher (2004)
This was a reboot. Thomas Jane was much better than his predecessor as he carries the movie into an almost believable one man hell-bent on vengeance. Only, it still sucked a little. And he wasn’t that better.
50. Daredevil (2003)
It’s a good thing our leading man was blind because even he would have stuck a fork in his eye watching this mess.
49. Fant4stic (2015)
It was to be a promising reboot. Instead, the fans got a boot in the ass and a version of Dr. Doom that Howard the Duck could have destroyed. (He’s coming, don’t worry.)
48. Ghost Rider (2007)
So much potential. So little delivery. A great story torched by an abysmal script. And yes, that pun could have made it into the movie.
47. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Let’s just say, it almost was the last stand for the X-Men catalog. This movie was just that bad.
46. Fantastic Four (2005)
There are two things in common with this and the reboot: Both gave us an unforgettable character in MCU who both played the Human Torch. And most would rather be a substitute teacher in a kindergarten classroom than watch either of these again.
45. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
Although Marvel Studios co-produced this, apparently their team were still working their internships. The potential of a PG-13 comic meets the problem of an illiterate script-writing team who loved fireworks.
44. Hulk (2003)
Ang Lee made this, so high hopes was in store. Eric Bana starred as Bruce Banner, which is a push. We have more character development and far less developed storytelling. CGI wasn’t what it is today (clearly), but this movie is better than people have heard…but then you see it today, and go back to Edward Norton.
43. Blade: Trinity (2004)
It was like a great comic team got together and said, “How can we just ramp this up to that difficult to reach ‘The hell just happened’ phase?” And then, add Ryan Reynolds in a pre-Deadpool snark role. Or Pikachu. (Oh, and add Triple H for kicks.)
42. X-Men (2000)
The one that started the mutant franchise doesn’t hold the test of time. Watch it again and tell me it doesn’t look like an 1990s sci-fi classic to be seen on Shout TV someday.
41. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The film? Shot outside during a tornado. The villain? Malekith looked like he forgot the Star Trek franchise was on another set. But we got more Loki, so it’s a wash. Marvel should have left this one in the dark.
40. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Emo Peter Parker meets Sandman. And a Wal-Mart version of Venom. Oh, and his friend, the “new” Green Goblin. All in one film competing for attention. Just a complete mess.
39. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The only redeeming thing about this film is that the downward spiral this part of the franchise was headed flushed away with Jamie Foxx’s version of Electro.
38. Punisher: War Zone (2008)
When you have this much blood and fighting, bullets and death, who cares if it’s not connected to MCU (or comic canon, for that matter). This was good for entertainment, no question. Ray Stevenson is a badass as Frank Castle. You’ll see there is a reason Bernthal looked to this movie to help mold his role.
37. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Many forget this was an actual MCU development. All due respect to the great Edward Norton (who wasn’t given a chance) and the also great Tim Roth (who was better as Blonsky than Abomination), there are many reasons why this is forgotten.
But, we did get “Hulk Smash,” so there’s that.
36. X2: X-Men United (2003)
We got Nightcrawler here, and it was wonderful. If only this had been an origin movie about Kurt, we wouldn’t cringe or fall asleep thinking about the rest of it.
35. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
It’s been the Achilles Heel with this franchise — character development. We don’t learn about anyone much, and this was the overwhelming Exhibit A to that argument. Fun movie. Bad film. Make sense?
34. Big Hero 6 (2014)
Yes, this is a Marvel movie by Disney Animation Studios. And whether you went for the nerd content or the kid-friendly stuff, this movie was a nice investment of time and appreciation for story telling and animation of superheroes (more on that much later).
33. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
What should have been. Andrew Garfield really was a good replacement for Tobey Maguire, but that script though. So much potential. So much invention. So little imagination.
32. Thor (2011)
Kenneth Branagh is a classically trained actor of Shakespearean legend. And that’s what he brought to Asgard and tried to sex it up with Padma. Great to see Thor but this didn’t work as well as it should.
31. Blade (1998)
We wouldn’t have R-rated CBMs without Wesley Snipes. Come to think of it, we wouldn’t have heroes of color without him either. This is a historic project for nerds and Marvel, just not a great movie experience for the rest of folks.
30. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Whiplash. Oh man, my stomach still hurts. Was he involved in the Russian hacking to get Donald Trump in office? It’s hard to tell when you watch this movie. It’s really good for action movies, but not so much for MCU movie standards.
29. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
You ever done those yarn games like Jacob’s Ladder and then it ends up in knots around your fingers, so you just throw it away? That’s this movie with its plot strings. Too many to count distracting us from what should have been a much better MCU movie.
28. Blade 2 (2002)
Three words: Guillermo. Del. Toro. This sequel throttled its progenitor giving us more of everything — blood, gore, death, vampires, fighting, and even storylines. Superb where they took this character. If only someone thought it was time for a reboot… oh wait.
27. Ant-Man (2015)
Who knew the place this character would have in ultimately defeating Thanos, because you wouldn’t see that in this movie. Paul Rudd is perfect, namely in Avengers’ training, but it seemed small compared to what it could have been (pun, maybe intended).
26. Spider-Man (2002)
Sam Raimi made a prototypical CBM – true to canon, full of action, and light on backstory. It set up the future of Spidey in film, which hasn’t always been good. And speaking of not always good, we have Spider-Man in this middle of the pack.
25. The Wolverine (2013)
After Origins, Marvel needed to do quite a bit of movie making and story telling to regain our confidence in this subset of the franchise. It worked in a big way, even the gaming motif of good guy v. bad guy at the end of the movie.
24. Captain Marvel (2018)
C’mon. Admit it. The movie fell short of where fans wanted it to land. It was great seeing the origin of Carol Danvers, but a Super Skrull…as a nice guy? What the what?! The twist worked and gave a powerful moment, but other MCU and Marvel-based movies are just more convincing.
23. Captain America: The First Avenger (2014)
Easily, one of the most believable movies in the MCU franchise because it was part love story (excellent for canon), part old-school war story, and part nerd story. And all of them were good. It had everything for everyone.
22. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
This isn’t to say this wasn’t a good movie. James Spader as Ultron was brilliant, but Marvel was learning how to connect the many dots and build up to the purple people eater. Several fart-and-fall-down moments, but a good time.
21. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Folk want to argue about time travel in Endgame like it’s a real thing. Maybe start your argument here and then get back to us later down the list. This proved Marvel can make an ensemble cast work anywhere, regardless of what year you’re stuck in.
20. Venom (2018)
Inching up to the top 20 is a movie no one gave a chance to be there. More than $855 million later, we learned that Fox can still make a good Marvel movie, with or without the Webhead.
19. Iron Man (2008)
The one that started the entire MCU. Marvel obviously made better movies because they learned how since this, but none in the MCU will hold a candle in terms of importance. And RDJ as Tony Stark was the best in nerd casting. Period.
18. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
Yes, this movie tried too hard. Yes, the original was much better. But yes, this movie was still great. And if you didn’t “Awwwww” when you saw Baby Groot, you’re not a good person inside.
17. Iron Man 3 (2013)
This movie just worked. Shane Black learned from the haphazard first sequel and got back to what worked — Tony Stark. Robert Downey, Jr. led this entire film, the best of the trilogy.
16. Deadpool (2016)
Everyone knew this movie would be different, but no one knew how much. Speaking of perfect casting, once Ryan Reynolds was allowed to forget the first couple of times he did this, Marvel got it so right. What a refreshing CBM this was…and continues to be.
15. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Imagine being Matthew Vaughn, challenged with essentially making two Marvel pictures. So, he put the peanut butter on the 1960s Cold War version of the mutants and smashed it together with the storyline of where they go from here today. What a delicious sandwich it was.
14. The Avengers (2012)
This was the first Marvel film distributed by Disney and it shows. I mean, that quintessential shot of all of them assembling. What has been more wonderful than that in a CBM. Short. Simple. A statement. That was the entire movie.
13. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Cable. Deadpool. And that firestarter chunky kid, Russell. Wade Wilson is even better in this version and the chemistry between Reynolds and the man who would be Thanos (Josh Brolin) is nothing short of brilliant. Speaking of, that marketing? Never duplicated again. Ever.
12. Black Panther (2018)
The movie was more than (only) entertaining to learn about origin and Wakanda; it was important for so many people. It was made at the right time, with the right people, and by the right person.
11. Doctor Strange (2016)
Visually, this comic book movie has few equals. It was like Scott Derrickson put his movie into a Kaleidoscope, took 400 energy drinks, and shook it up. Bewildering, and he still managed to tell a great story too.
10. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The classic soundtrack. The new characters. The awesome villain. And Korg, voiced by director Taika Waititi. This movie saved Thor and ensured he wasn’t Hulk–smash or nerd. Either one in a stand-alone wouldn’t be so great. This was.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
One of the most historic and important Marvel figures deserved another attempt at the big screen after previous attempts. Tom Holland is great, but the movie thief is Michael Keaton as Vulture. One of the best MCU villains ever.
8. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Sam Raimi’s classic of his trilogy. He checked every box — we learned about Peter behind the mask, discovered jealousy in Doc Ock, and how those two paths converge is a trick of beauty.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 (2014)
Who knew this movie with those characters was going to be that good? Anyone? Show of hands? No one? Okay. That’s why it gets in the Top 10. We really are Groot!
6. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
When you think about it, this was a precursor payoff, an appetizer for what we were about to expect with a collision with Thanos, only a bit darker because Cap and Tony fighting really didn’t make anyone that happy.
5. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Once you are done with your Endgame hangover, you’ll realize the same thing we have — this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A payoff that took 11 masterful years to produce. The experience was without blemish; the movie however… some minor issues.
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse (2019)
Remember Big Hero 6 (Number 27)? Marvel Studios whet its appetite at animation and did a great job. Then came this majestic production setting the bar for any animation film moving forward. It wasn’t only a powerful hero movie; it was a movie just that powerful.
3. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Five minutes was all it took to suck you in for this roller coaster ride of emotion. Even if you didn’t keep up with the 20 movies before it, the storytelling was so wrought with feeling that it holds up…and then Thor came back to Wakanda. #ButtPuckered
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is no equal (so far) in terms of telling a story, building a character, unveiling a plot, and delivering all the emotion. And that elevator scene? Child, please!
1. Logan (2017)
This is the gold standard for storytelling in comic book movies. Period. Remove the film from the saga and it still stands tall on its own above the rest. Masterful movie making led by arguably two of the best men for their characters in CBM history (due respect to RDJ and Chris Evans). If a CBM wanted to grow up, this would be its idol — or should be.