This is the Golden Age of superhero movies. It is flat-out ridiculous to think that not only has so many of these type of movies been made, but they have grossed tons of money. They aren’t a joke, but actually movies that non-comic book people will go see.
So we’re a couple of weeks past Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s release and a couple of weeks before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (though I must admit I’m a bit worried about that one), so it feels like a good time to post my rankings of the various Marvel movies. Note that I have not seen Punisher: War Zone, Elektra, Blade Trinity, and both Ghost Rider films (I’m guessing from most people’s thoughts that I haven’t missed anything.
26. Wolverine: Origins – I didn’t see this one in the theater, so when I finally sat down to watch it I knew that it was supposed to be “bad”. Then the first five minutes of this movie went by and we saw Wolverine throughout the 20th Century and I thought that was all sorts of awesome. Sadly that is the only highlight of a movie whose big way to not invalidate the X-Men movies was a memory erasing bullet. Seriously. And Professor X didn’t notice the metal lodged in Wolverine’s brain… really?
25. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – My one take-away from watching this movie was: “Was that actually an hour and a half?” If ever there was an example of doing a movie “just because” this may be it within the confines of the Marvel Universe. I would say more bad things about it but I honestly can’t remember much about it. Ranked higher than Wolverine only because the Silver Surfer looked cool.
24. X-Men 3 – I can sum up my dislike of this movie in one way: they killed Cyclops off-screen. I was watching the movie and about 40 minutes after the non-scene I realized what exactly had happened. And I still was shocked that is how they managed to do it. I know X-Men: Days of Future’s Past is tying these movies with the First Class movie, but they could forget about X-Men 3 and be better off for it.
23. Daredevil – I liked this one more on the first viewing than on subsequent viewings, but regardless of all of that I think that people have maligned this movie more than it really deserved. Bullseye’s battle with Elektra on the roof was nice. Michael Clark Duncan, while not the Kingpin from the comics, worked perfectly in the role. Yes, there is bad in there, but it isn’t all bad.
It isn’t all good either.
22. The Hulk – This is the first one, with the radioactive dogs. This is a solid movie for the first 2/3 of the flick, and then everything falls apart in the last act. Completely. I also think this one suffers from trying to be something different. It’s not a superhero movie, it is a 1950s style monster movie with a bit of 24’s multiple cameras thrown in. But, yeah, the Absorbing Man stuff at the end was shoehorned in horribly.
And radioactive “Hulk” dogs… that’s not a good idea ever.
21. The Incredible Hulk – More along the lines of the old tv show and the second of the Marvel Universe movies… something was just not 100% on this one, and I can’t put my finger on it. I love Ed Norton. I love Liv Tyler. It had the Abomination in it. It even set the Leader up for a future movie.
And somehow it is just ok. A head scratcher.
20. Fantastic Four – I’m saddened by this and its sequel mostly because after Spider-Man and The Avengers, I have more Fantastic Four comics in my collection than any other Marvel titles. The good – The Human Torch. Chris Evans nailed Johnny Storm… 1000%. As to the rest, it’s more blah than outright bad to me (they saved all the true suck for the second movie). In fact, this movie does what it set out to do, but it suffers from probably the worst thing: being boring. Regardless, this could never be ranked very high on my list since they completely screwed up Doctor Doom.
19. Spider-Man 3 – I like the emo Peter Parker. I like the goofy dance. I think Venom is an excellent character (and story)… from the comics. This one suffers from the oldest problem in the Superhero movie bible: too many villains. Venom, Sandman, and Green Goblin is at least 1 villain too many. I know part of the issue was the studio wanted Venom and Rami did not, but this one just gets too cluttered at too many times. And really Gwen Stacy is wasted in this movie.
18. Iron Man 2 – Another one that kinda falls apart at the end. I don’t know what Whiplash’s “plan” really is, and I really don’t care. Let’s be honest, we were just watching for another 2 hours of RDJ playing Tony Stark, right? That’s what I thought.
17. The Punisher – I know that tons of people hate this one. I don’t read the Punisher comics. I don’t like the character of the Punisher in the comics. Just never understood why he was so popular. But this movie gave me exactly what I wanted from a Punisher movie – 80s action flick. I dig this one if only for his last interaction with Travolta. “You killed my son.” An explosion goes off in the distance and Punisher says, “Both of them.” Come on! That’s some Clint Eastwood badassness!
16. The Wolverine – I needed this movie to be good. It needed to get the taste of the first Wolverine and X3 to a lesser extent, out of my mouth. So for that, it worked really well. It also showed that Wolverine didn’t need tons of other characters running around to make a movie… he’s the only focus the audience needs.
15. The Amazing Spider-Man – Loved the quips from Spider-Man in this one. Loved his interaction with Gwen Stacy. Loved that some of his movements in costume were very “spider-like”. I liked the Lizard’s look. I liked that they chose to focus on his parents some (at least in a background way, and more than anything they did in the Rami movies). Still, I didn’t need the origin again. I’m not sure the Lizard battle at the end holds up to any of the other Spider-Man movie fights. I wonder if the Rami movies didn’t exist would I like it more.
Too bad for it that the Rami movies do exist.
14. Iron Man 3 – I really need to rewatch this one because with more distance from it, I find my opinion of it lessens. It’s still a good movie. Again, any chance to see RDJ as Tony Stark is well worth the price of admission. I like the Mandarin swerve… did not see that one coming. But blowing up your armor, Tony? Really? You know there is another Avengers movie on the horizon, right? Let’s think this stuff through, ok?
13. X-Men – I didn’t see X-Men for a month or so after it initially came out. I was completely sure that it was going to be awful. There was no way any of it could work. So it wasn’t until my friends started talking it up that I finally broke down and saw it. I was stunned that somehow they’d made an X-Men movie that worked. The casting was just about perfect (even Hally Berry seems like she should be a decent Storm… seems). They were smart enough to focus on Wolverine and Rogue, to have them provide us our eyes into the world.
12. Captain America: The First Avenger – I liked the first Cap movie. They really nailed all the stuff I wanted to see in a WWII Captain America movie. If anything I think that the section where we delve into montages hurt this one more than anything else. They could have scrapped that and had a much tighter movie on their hands (and maybe use that time to get to know Bucky and the Howling Commandos? Just a thought). In light of The Winter Soldier, I do need to sit down and rewatch this one to see if my memory of the Bucky related stuff pays off in the second one the way I think it does.
If only… if only…
11. Blade 2 – I flip flop between the two Blade movies. Sometimes I think the first is better and other times I think the second one is superior. But I think it comes down to the second one is more “fun”. Blade having to work with his enemies to ward off a new type of vampire… I’m in.
10. Blade – There is no reason this movie should work. It just shouldn’t, but it does. It captures the spirit of the Blade comics while being a little bit frightening at times. Pitch perfect adaptation in my mind.
9. X-Men: First Class – I could watch young Magneto and young Xavier wander around recruiting mutants for 4 hours if they’d let me. The stuff with the actual “First Class” was alright, but what made this movie sing was the friendship of two men who were destined to be on opposing sides of the coming war.
8. Thor – How in the world were they going to get Thor to work? How would they managed to tie in the Asgard stuff into the Earth (Midgard)? Would they get the character of Loki? This may be the biggest surprise of any of these movies (maybe the first X-Men is a little more because it had never been done, but I digress). Somehow they managed to paint a portrait of Thor’s home that made it where the connection it had to Midgard and the people there… well, it worked. But more than that, I think that the overall storyline, exiling Thor to Earth, teaching him humility. I don’t know if he learned a full lesson, but I dug it.
7. Thor: The Dark World – Again the theme of heroes and villains teaming up shows itself. Thor not only needing Loki’s help, but the fact that Loki needs to help his brother. I think I’m going to be sad when I watch Avengers 2, just because Loki won’t be there.
6. Spider-Man – I walked out of the first Spider-Man and you would have had to use a jack hammer to get the smile off my face. I loved this movie so much. That said, it isn’t ranked higher because the middle portion of the movie drags a little bit on rewatches. That being said, I will still watch it anytime it comes on tv, so that little bit doesn’t bother me all that much.
5. X-Men 2 – This might be the most “perfect” superhero movie of any on this list. I don’t think I have any complaints about it. Loved the interaction between Cyclops and Wolverine. Loved the good guys having to work with the bad guys. Loved the initial sequence with Nightcrawler teleporting around the White House. Had they never made another X-Men movie, this would have been a fitting one to end on.
4. Spider-Man 2 – Though my wife doesn’t like this one as much as the first, I just love it when we don’t have to worry about spending 45 minutes on the superhero origin. We get to focus on the characters and their interactions. And while I don’t know if I agree with the idea that Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man’s greatest villain. It is not the most obvious thing, like the Joker to Batman. But given that the Green Goblin became a legacy more than just one guy in a mask trying to beat our hero up.. well, Otto’s got the longevity.
3. Iron Man – Inspired casting of RDJ as Iron Man. Wait, this is a character with addiction problems and you’re getting an actor who has addiction problems. I wonder if he can bring anything to the character? A friend of mine always says he thinks Iron Man has the best origin story of any of the heroes, and after watching (and rewatching) this one, I don’t get sick of it. The first of the Marvel Movies really set the stage for something special to come down the pipeline in the years to come.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I may be riding the wave on this one, but that was all sorts of crazy. Falcon = awesome. Black Widow = awesome. And Steve Rogers = awesome. This was the inheritor of the Avengers movie mantle more than any of the other Phase 2 films. I would say more, but to say much more might open the door to spoilers and I don’t want to ruin any moment of this one for anyone.
1. The Avengers – The pinnacle. Chad called me the moment he exited the theater and the message on my voicemail was simply. “Joss did it.” When this one was over I could only grin like an idiot. When you are 11 years old reading about these characters, you figure the best they might be able to do is a cartoon with them all in it. But a live-action version. Not in a million years. No, younger John, they just needed like 25 years. 25 years to make a movie that was both the beginning of a trilogy and the defacto sequel to 4 different franchises. Shouldn’t have worked, and yet it did.
Anyway, that’s my list, which will get at least 3 longer after this year and maybe more if I could bring myself to actually watch Ghost Rider. He’s a guy with a flaming skull on his head! How did they mess that one up?
John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.
His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week one of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.