Top Ten: Marvel Cinematic Universe

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For the last six years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a blockbuster staple in the film calendar.  Since 2008’s Iron Man, the franchise has gone from strength to strength and, in becoming the second highest-grossing film franchise behind the Harry Potter series, it has recaptured the hearts of comic book fans around the world, not to mention created new fans in younger generations.

As the studio prepares to close the second phase of films with its recent release Guardians of the Galaxy (main image) and next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, it is time to rank the films that have been released so far.

#1 Marvel’s Avengers Assemble/The Avengers (2012)

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Four years of character development and origin films culminated into this mega-blockbuster directed by fan favourite Joss Whedon.  Amid the fears of clashing egos, uneven screen time and the general dread that the famous comic book superhero team just wouldn’t come together on-screen, killer comedic moments and the welcome addition of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner v.3.0 meant that Marvel’s gamble paid off with more than $1bn in the bank.

#2 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The first non-Avengers film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man, it brings back the nostalgic fun of a space adventure.  Featuring a new group of heroes trying to save the galaxy from a new villain, a killer soundtrack, a banter-filled script and memorable performances make this one of the most entertaining Marvel films to date.  2017 cannot come quick enough.

#3 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Probably the strongest origins sequel of the series so far, Captain America: The Winter Soldier introduces the darker side of S.H.I.E.L.D, as well as terrorist organisation Hydra into the franchise.  With more of an emotional depth in comparison to the other films in Phase Two, The Winter Soldier perfectly encapsulates the heart and moral dilemmas of being a good guy, while teasing us with what Phase Three can bring to the big screen.

#4 Iron Man (2008)

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The film that kicked off everything.  A film adaptation had been in production since 1990 until Marvel acquired the rights in 2006.  Despite his initial plans to hire a newcomer, director Jon Favreau took a chance in hiring troubled actor Robert Downey Jr in the eponymous role.  However, his endeavour in establishing a major player in the Avengers earned him, and his starring man, critical acclaim and box office success, much to the delight of expectant fans everywhere.

#5 Thor: The Dark World (2013)

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Thor’s origins sequel witnessed a long spell in production and various directorial changes, but Chris Hemsworth’s noble hero Thor returned to fight against Malekith The Accursed (Chris Eccleston) while dealing with his troubled relationship with adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  Overall, the somewhat underwhelming supporting performances and uneven direction are generally brushed aside by the authentic brotherly chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston and the film’s effective promotion of the UK as a film location.

#6 Thor (2011)

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Contrary to the general opinion, Thor was, for me, a strong origins story.  The themes of redemption and realisation, as well as the idea of ‘not being alone in this galaxy’, were the key points behind Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation.  Dramatic in story and special effects, Hemsworth brings on the charm and the muscle to a character who slowly understands how to be worthy of a large magic hammer while then-newcomer Hiddleston stole the show.

#7 Iron Man 3 (2013)

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As the first film of Marvel’s Phase Two, not to mention the first solo story following the events of the Avengers, there was extra pressure to deliver the goods.  In comparison to the previous two Iron Man films, it took a more serious approach as it dealt with the emotional toll of ‘The Battle of New York’ but the involvement of Lethal Weapon director Shane Black and No Heroics screenwriter Drew Pearce meant the entertainment side was not totally absent.

#8 The Incredible Hulk (2008)

As far as origin stories go, there is a long-running debate between this and Ang Lee’s 2003 adaptation, which received a mixed reception upon release.  Rather than focus on the dramatics like its predecessor, Louis Leterrier’s take on the Hulk adopted a more action-packed story and took inspiration from the 1970’s TV series starring Lou Ferigno and the late Bill Bixby that popularised the character.  As a possible sequel is not on the cards since Mark Ruffalo took over the eponymous role, it might be a while to see whether the Hulk will make a return in a solo film.

#9 Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

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In comparison to the other origin films, the wow factor wasn’t really there for Chris Evan’s debut as Captain America.  The 1940’s set pieces and Evans’ strong performance, especially considering that he was previously known as the Human Torch from the lukewarm Fantastic Four films, did very little to lift the simplistic story and match the calibre of its fellow origin films.

#10 Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Due to the high level of expectation set by its predecessor, the second outing for Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man somewhat fell flat on its face.  Unconvincing villains, a weirdly construed plot and a lack of emphasis on supporting characters Black Widow and James ‘War Machine’ Rhodes put this at the bottom of the pile.

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