The finale of our Marvel Movie Rankings is finally here, and this last section is full of some of the best superhero films ever made.
We’ve moved our way through the modern Marvel movies, and have examined some truly terrible films, but finally we have the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the cliche of all cliches. Marvel Studios features heavily in this last section of the list, but Fox and Sony hold their own with their tentpole Marvel franchises as well. It’s also interesting to note that a couple of the best entries in this finale are the most recent films we’ve seen released, which makes us hope that the future of Marvel films will continue to get better and better.
You can check out the previous Marvel Movie Rankings, or jump right into the best of them!
6. X2: X-Men United (2003)
X2 single handedly sold x-fans on the idea that Bryan Singer was made for this mantle. It may not have been the perfect X-film, but it’s packed with more than enough to make your innards burst. The introduction of Nightcrawler is arguably one of the most thrilling and well executed fight scenes in comic book film history. Couple that with the multi-tornado Storm X-Jet chase, and the Lady Deathstrike/Wolverine beatdown, and you’ve got a top tier mutant flick vying for comic book movie glory. Action and mutant powers aside, the story holds its own as we see a God Love, Man Kills adaptation, with William Stryker as the movie’s main antagonist.
This is also the first time we see Magneto and his brotherhood align with the X-Men for a common cause on-screen, and the results are hilariously effective. The scene where Magneto cooes “I love what you’ve done to your hair” to Rogue is brilliant. Singer effectively displays what it means to be an X-Man, compliments of Iceman’s “coming out” scene with his parents. But this may be the first time in the X-franchise where we see these characters as fleshed out as their comic book counterparts. A tormented Wolverine searching for answers, a quirky one-liner Kurt Wagner, and an evolutionary Jean. All who had necessary respective parts in the film building on what we love about the comics and the 90′s animated series – a big ol’ gang of mutants simply trying to save the world. - A. Reese
5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
While the movies below might poke holes in this proclamation, I believe that Spider-Man 2 is the quintessential comic book movie. It’s damn near perfect in execution on how to satisfy both the comic book lovers and the casual moviegoer. Getting to the core of what makes Spider-Man so appealing to everyone – his vulnerability and everyman saga – Sam Raimi makes sure nothing is neglected in terms of story, pacing and character for this superior sequel. He also manages to create one of the coolest reveals of a villain wreaking havoc in the Doc Ock surgery scene that plays like a horror film (of course, the obligatory nod to the Evil Dead with the chainsaw bit helps too).
That scene, along with others, shows the mastery of Sam Raimi in the first and second Spider-Man movies. His ability to weave in and out of action set pieces, emotional scenes, comedy bits and other genres seamlessly makes for one damn enjoyable movie. Tobey Maguire worked perfectly as Peter Parker struggled to juggle his superhero life with his personal life. Watching his search to find his identity and rise to the challenge in the end provided a great character arc. Alfred Molina as Doc Ock was also terrific, as he navigates the silliness of communicating with metallic arms with a steely determination to succeed in his city wrecking experiment without being cheesy or comical. The train sequence will go down as one of my favorite comic book action set pieces of all time, even if this started the awful trend of Spidey’s constant unmasking in the rest of this movie. Regardless, Spider-Man 2 is not only ranked highly on this list, but earned a place in the comic book movie hall of fame as well. - C. Tansuche
4. Iron Man (2008)
With many superhero movies, all you get is the surface of the illusion, but Iron Man was the first entry in the MCU to delve a little deeper. Under the eye of producer Kevin Feige, this was the first in a long-line of Avengers-related films. With strong and energetic direction from Jon Favreau and incredible chemistry between Downey, Paltrow and Bridges, this was a movie that had relationships, not ‘motions – a film that felt fully-realized, lived-in, and resilient enough to last an entire movie rather than a collection of moments.
What can be said about the now iconic partnership of character and actor? Robert Downey Jr. merged the cocky, playboy nature of the comic-book character and amalgamated his own sardonic persona so successfully it’s almost impossible to think of one without the other. The great Jeff Bridges brought a weight and severity to Obadiah Stane but balanced the heart and drive of the jealous father-figure. Couple a solid script written by four, count ‘em, four different writers (a red-flag for any other live-action film), with spectacular CG effects from ILM, and you easily have one of the best Marvel films to date. One which laid the groundwork to an all-encompassing MCU franchise that dominates our screens around the world. - M. Corner
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
After the box office success known as X-Men: First Class, fanboys were ready to accept prodigal son Bryan Singer (who produced First Class) back into the franchise with open arms – which meant the reintroduction of the original franchise cast back on the big screen. There’s several things to marvel at with the X-prequel/post trilogy installment, mainly being the amount of clever retcon used to heal the wounds of the X-franchise (We’ll never forget Ratner, never) bringing the franchise to what some would consider its most paramount place in the canon.
Days of Future Past truly embodies the spirit of the X-Men, even more than X2. It’s the perfect culmination of humor, action and a grounded emotional core. In short, DoFP was a roller coaster we never wanted to stop. The Sentinels proved their worth as epic adversaries causing action induced panic attacks for fear of our heroes getting annihilated. The upside to having such an unstoppable opponent around was seeing how well the future team worked together. Blink opening up a portal to transport Iceman and his cool ice slide, or Storm and Sunspot serving as energy sources for a gun-wielding Bishop. This is what fanboys live to see. Quicksilver was the pleasant dark horse of the film, offering one of the most light hearted, and mind blowing action sequences in the entire franchise, compliments of highly underestimated Evan Peters. And yet one of the most profound highlights of the film was the emotional depth of Xavier, Magneto and Mystique, adding visceral and realistic vantage points to characters we thought we were familiar with. We’re still on an X-high from this one, and things can only go up with the next installment, X- Men:Apocalypse. - A. Reese
2. The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers deserves a spot on this list even before looking critically at the movie itself: From all angles, it should never have reached production. A team-up movie of this scale had never been done before, and films with much smaller ensemble casts have fallen apart due to clashing egos, but somehow all the stars aligned to allow four separate movie franchises to successfully bridge together into something spectacular. It’s only more impressive that director Joss Whedon was able to take Marvel Studios’ technical achievement and turn it into a wildly enjoyable blockbuster. How do you raise the stakes on a series of movies that has threatened the destruction of major cities and/or the entire planet time and time again? The answer is not necessarily with a more iconic villain or a larger threat – All you need is a deft hand at storytelling.
Whedon is one of the industry’s best at writing characters, and here he manages to take established ones and breathe new life into them. Tony Stark’s penchant for winking mischief is brought up to eleven, Captain America’s fish out of water status is both funny and touching, and in a movie that offers very little screen time, we found the best interpretation of Bruce Banner/Hulk in recent years. Leave it to one of the biggest and most expensive superhero movies of all time to make explosive action take a backseat to five characters eating shawarma in silence. The Avengers needed to convince audiences not only that they could maintain an expansive cinematic universe that grows and merges in on itself year after year, but also that all characters within that world, big or small, would have a part to play. In 2012 it achieved all that and more, with one of our favorite Marvel movies, period. - D. Woizinski
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The most recent Marvel Studios film stands out from the rest of the list for a number of reasons. The Winter Soldier not only brought a wonderfully interesting adaptation of a fan favorite run by Ed Brubaker to the big screen, it provided one of the most complete movie-going experiences we’ve seen in theaters in a while. The taut political thriller was full of well-paced action that meshed expertly within the film’s superhero sensibilities, while effectively changing the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the foreseeable future. Of course, this movie would never have worked without the talent behind the characters.
Chris Evans delivered his best Steve Rogers to date, and his interactions with Sebastian Stan as Bucky/Winter Soldier drive the emotional core of the film. New additions to the franchise include Anthony Mackie’s enjoyable debut as the Falcon, and Robert Redford’s screen stealing presence as Agent Pearce only add to a film which could have easily become polluted with too many characters, especially with the return of longtime MCU characters Black Widow and Nick Fury. A number of fantastically integrated villains, a compelling story and standout performances makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier not only the best film of the MCU, but of the entire Marvel Movie catalog. – S. Fraser
That brings us to the end of our Marvel Geek Round Table, but no need to worry, we’ll be back to take a look at the Distinguished Competition as we examine the DC slate of films. What did you think of our top rankings? Which modern marvel film would top your list? Let us know in the comments section below or join the discussion at the GEEK Facebook page!