For those who are behind, here are the earlier parts of the list: MARVEL MOVIE RANKINGS
We are starting to head towards the home stretch of our series, as we delve into the fourth of our five part series, ranking the best Marvel Movies released in the last two decades.
We have now gotten through the garbage and mediocrity and are able to get into the heart and soul of Marvel and the MCU. Ranging from Blade, the first Marvel flick that turned heads in terms of quality, to a couple of our favorite MCU heroes, these movies represent important parts of Marvel movie history. No longer were Marvel movies immediately discredited or thrown to the garbage pile, these films garnered respect amongst the masses and set the stage for Marvel in the years to come.
12. Blade (1998)
Blade holds a unique position on this list. While the next film we discuss might be considered the movie that brought the superhero film back to theaters, Blade can be considered the film that brought the comic book film back to theaters. When Blade was first advertised it barely registered as a comic film to non-fans, and instead relied on a powerful actor with an interesting supernatural character that appealed to both horror and action lovers. It also brought the dark comic book film to a new level, with an 18+ rating which would be a hard sell for a ‘superhero’ movie these days. The extreme gore and violence was an instant draw for the macabre character, as was Wesley Snipes’ martial arts skills.
The film also introduced us to a new and revamped version of the Deacon Frost character, played menacingly by Steven Dorff. The brief glimpses of the vampire mythology clashed well with Frost’s rebellious plans, and his scenes with Wesley Snipes stand out from the rest of the trilogy for their authenticity and enjoyability. Blade can at times be a little cheesy, but this action-packed examination of what a dark superhero movie truly could accomplish paved the way for a number of comic adaptations to follow. Blade is the best of the trilogy, and more than earns the high ranking on this list. - S. Fraser
11. X-Men (2000)
Bryan Singer’s X-Men is arguably one of, if not the most paramount film in this tier of our round up. After a nasty wave of 80s and 90s hero flicks like Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever (fear not, we’re brewing a DC list just for you), the comic book movie genre became a convoluted ball of cheesy caricatures. X-Men heralded the triumphant return of the comic book movie. It was gritty, realistic and modern – making a splash in the genre before directors like Nolan came on board. X-Men was by no means perfect, but it was exactly what was necessary to kickstart the offspring of comic movie titans in its wake.
There are three pillars in X-Men: Ian McKellen’s Magneto, Patrick Stewart’s Xavier and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Obviously Wolverine’s a cacophony of mysteries and experiments gone wrong, but he’s our eyes and the audiences commentary into the movie. Wolverine’s hilariously appropriate response to Xavier’s explanation of the X-Men’s code names is part of the reason Hugh is such an asset to the X-franchise. Only he’s capable of glowing more than Stewart’s and McKellen’s intense performances. Rogue is also a doorway into this X-verse, experiencing mutant social graces and academics as a student, played by Anna Paquin. While X-Men did a lot of things right, there were problems. Storm in general was a disappointment. The awful South African accent, her wig, and the most ridiculed line heard around the world (you know the one). That awful scene where Toad wreaked havoc on Scott, Jean and Storm (which would never happen). But Mystique was a controversial delight, as Magneto’s right hand woman as well as the Scott/Jean/Logan trifecta. Say what you will about X-Men, but the progression of all comic books movies are owed to this film. -A. Reese
10. Thor (2011)
Thor was a big gamble for Marvel. No one knew who Chris Hemsworth was (unless you counted, playing the ill-fated father of James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot or Australian soap operas), and he had to anchor a stand-alone movie about the god of thunder that combined science and magic with a Shakespearean plot of family and the lust for power. However, Marvel and the Thor team pulled it off and more, creating a great movie that not only dazzled with great performances and special effects, but provided the blueprint on how to correctly do a villain with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.
Kenneth Branagh helmed the feature and established immediate credibility in the storytelling and relationship between the brothers and their father. Having Hiddleston and Sir Anthony Hopkins lend their acting prowess to this project made their relationship and chemistry with Hemsworth pop on the screen. The addition of Natalie Portman helps as their banter establishes some great chemistry between the scientist and the Asgardian. More importantly, this movie came after the success of Iron Man and the apathy of The Incredible Hulk, and was able to further establish a high quality in MCU films from here on out. And of course, we got Loki, probably the best villain to come out of the MCU at this point. - C.Tansuche
9. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
While in recent years he hadn’t elicited as much attention as Spider-Man and Wolverine, Captain America is still one of Marvel’s most iconic properties – and he’s the one that has been the best handled of their film properties thus far. 2011 marked Cap’s first solo feature in this era of comic book movies, and while not everyone was blown away by it, they didn’t embarrass themselves with it either. It did a good job of setting up not only The Avengers and its own sequel, but laid some groundwork for Agents of SHIELD as well.
The WWII backdrop was a welcome change to the world of Tony Stark they had so strongly established at this point, and the film introduced HYDRA and set up a slew of characters and lineages to come into play later. This film admirably balances the responsibility of laying Marvel Studios groundwork for future films, while at the same time showing the ability to stand on its own – something that the Iron Man and Spider-Man franchises have both struggled with. Chris Evans also proves to be a near perfect casting, despite the plethora of Human Torch jokes and doubt that surrounded the announcement of his hiring. If nothing else, this movie did something many of the aforementioned films on this list didn’t, it fully embraced the character and rather than giving us a gritty badass, they showed us someone you can’t help but root for. - B. Kronner
8. Spider-Man (2002)
Along with X-Men in 2000, Spider-Man was really the first major Marvel character to show that superheroes had a place once again on the silver screen. Directed by B-movie master Sam Raimi, the film cast Tobey Maguire as the lovable geek-turned-hero and immortalized the words “with great power comes great responsibility”. Spider-Man was produced before Christopher Nolan turned the superhero flick into a dark character study, and while Raimi’s final product certainly didn’t turn out as ludicrous as it may have in other hands, the movie succeeded because it somewhat embraced Spidey’s silly side.
Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is, in hindsight, an incredibly goofy villain for a multi-million dollar production, but it works because Raimi’s colorful interpretation of the Spider-Man universe allows for that kind of playfulness. Throughout the movie, Osborn/Gobby laughs at himself in a mirror, screams like a woman in a burning building and forces Aunt May to recite bible verses before putting her in the hospital, and despite all that he’s still one of only two villains in both Spider-Man film franchises that anyone can remember fondly, if at all. We’ve since learned that Maguire’s Peter Parker is dated and a little toothless, and Kirsten Dunst remains a blemish on the legacy of Mary Jane Watson, but Spider-Man made the superhero story larger than any of its parts, and that’s why it’s arguably responsible for the current state of superhero movie mania. Not to mention the introduction of J.K. Simmons’s absolutely perfect J. Jonah Jameson. - D. Woizinski
7. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Think on this – it’s the aftermath of the Brett Ratner debacle and the Fox franchise has been critically torn apart due to the ineptitude of X-Men: The Last Stand. Granted, they made a ton of money with the film (the highest grossing entry at that point in time), it was hard to capitalize on it when fanboys and critics trashed the shallow spectacle, especially when they killed or wrapped up the storyline of every important character in the franchise. There had to be a way to reignite the fire that was later doused with cold water by X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Enter Matthew Vaughn.
Fresh off of Kick-Ass, his familiarity with the comic book fan mentality and what appeals to them was extended to the X-franchise. Having Bryan Singer back as a producer helped as well. This team was able to delve into the relationship of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender, the best part of this movie) and how they formed and split off into different factions. Having the decade of the 1960s play in the background with Cold War history acting as the impetus provided a unique storytelling device that captivated audiences with the Bay of Pigs encounter acting as the climax. This reinvigorated the franchise, reestablished the credibility and brought the masses back, and would later lead to the sequel that appears later on the list. We also get Jennifer Lawrence just before she hit superstar status, so I think we all win in this case. - C. Tansuche
With that, we are now down to the final six of our list. The cream of the crop and the jewels of the Marvel Movie universe. Get ready for a lot of geeking out and a ton of praise coming from us as we approach the favorites on our list. Start blasting “The Final Countdown” because the last batch will deliver the best of the best.
Images: Marvel Studios, New Line Cinema, 20th Century Fox, Sony