I wrote this list before Phase 4 of the MCU started because I was saving it for when I set up my new site schedule in April 2022. But I wanted to get a headstart, so I was making and starting lists several months ago.
That was dumb!
I had to edit it TWICE throughout Phase 4 to kick two movies off the bottom and add two more to the top FIVE (wow)!
I shouldn’t just assume things, and you know what? I have a bunch of other top tens I already listed and just haven’t written on yet. I hope I don’t pay for it again later.
Let’s dive in and see what movies came out in Phase Four that rocked this list to the core. And, you know, let’s see the other 8 stand-outs, too.
10. Spider-Man: Far From Home
I’m higher on this than most. I get it. But the end of this movie with the JK Simmons cameo and the reveal? That was ENORMOUS when it happened, and it had me waiting for No Way Home ever since. Jake Gyllenhal was great, even if we knew he was always going to be the bad guy. Zendaya and Holland’s chemistry. The illusion scene! THE SPIDER-SENSE SCENE!
People that are negative on this movie don’t appreciate Spider-Man or joy or both. I guess I can see the weakness in the overall story (I mean… it’s all about Tony Stark’s deus ex machina glasses), but the performances and the big moments are all stellar.
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming
GUYS, DID I MENTION I LIKE TOM HOLLAND SPIDER-MAN FLICKS?
He is such a damn great Spidey. He combines the relatable dorkiness of Peter Parker with the snarky wannabe-cool of Spider-Man. He really feels exactly like the Ultimate Universe Peter Parker brought to life.
Oh, and along the way, we just also have Michael Keaton turning in a top 5 MCU villain performance and Jacob Batalan absolutely nailing the MCU unpowered sidekick role that others have done so well (like Michael Pena and Awkwafina).
Sure it twists a lot of the Spider-Man story to make it fit the MCU, but I don’t mind that. The MCU is great, and if I want to read Spider-Man’s exact history, I’ll just re-read Amazing and Spectacular Spider-Man.
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Here we are at NUMBER EIGHT, and do you want to know a secret?
I have everything from here on up rated as 5 stars on Letterboxd.
So yeah… I like this franchise.
Winter Soldier is where the Marvel Cinematic Universe started really toying around with things. They weren’t JUST going to do superhero movies; they were going to do other genres AS superhero movies.
WS was “A Spy Thriller…. AS A SUPERHERO MOVIE”. This was so successful it would go on to inform much of what the MCU did in its wake.
It’s been way too long since I’ve watched this. I really need someone to draw it for my podcast…
7. Thor: Ragnarok
I just adore this flick. It’s so damn fun. If there’s one MCU flick I turn on constantly and just zip around to watch certain scenes, it’s this one. This movie brings me the most joy.
This isn’t the deepest or most purposeful flick in the franchise, but it IS the one with Taiki Waititi being brought on board and allowed to just fuck around. After Thor and Thor: The Dark World, there was no reason to believe we would end up with something as much fun as this. But this whole thing is a hoot, from Thor’s capture at the hands of Surtur through to Hulk not being allowed to fight the “big monster”.
It’s probably all empty calories, but sometimes those are the best kind.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
I know this is high–I KNOW you are questioning this. But I genuinely find this to be maybe THE most rewatchable MCU movie, with only Thor: Ragnarok in the discussion.
When I first saw this movie in theaters, I gave it a very middling grade. Like a 2.75/5. I considered it “Oh, just the first movie again, but sillier”. I have since watched it many more times, and I love it more each time. The Yondu redemption story. The Nebula/Gamora reconnection. Yondu’s bonding with Rocket. This has SO MUCH heart I didn’t give it credit for the first time when I was too busy thinking “they made Drax dumber”.
5. Shang-Chi: Legend Of The Ten Rings
I was FLOORED by this flick when it released. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The fighting scenes are impeccable. Simu Liu and Awkwafina are stars. Xu Wenwu is the best non-Thanos villain in the MCU for character development.
Even by the time the movie went full MCU in the third act–massive CGI spectacle, Earth-saving consequences–it was too late to hurt the movie. I had already been ENTHRALLED for 2 hours.
Phase 4 has been a very Hit-Or-Miss phase, but when it hit, it hit with the force of all ten rings.
And maybe of three different Spider-Men.
(More on that in a bit…)
4. Avengers: Infinity War
A lot of peoples’ #1, I’m sure. And with good reason; it’s great! It stars almost the entire MCU roster to the point in time in which it came out, and it did a fantastic job juggling all the stories in which they were all involved.
It made Thanos a layered and powerful threat. Outside of Loki, Marvel’s movies had long had something of a villain problem, but that was MORE than resolved here. The Mad Titan was somewhat relatable, tragic, imposing, and dangerous. He easily took out The Hulk in hand to hand combat, and he was ahead of everyone at every turn.
And the ending… what an ending! Even if almost every death was 100% going to be reversed, seeing it happen in theaters was stunning. We were all SO SURE going in that this would just be part 1 of Thanos collecting the stones. We never expected what we got!
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Nobody saw this coming.
When Guardians of the Galaxy came out, the MCU was huge, but they hadn’t completely evened out their consistency. They had as many great movies as mediocre ones. And the franchise was at a tipping point. Would ANYONE care about these B and C tier characters?
Well, with James Gunn at the helm, the response was a whooping “YES”. Gunn’s unrealistic ability to combine humor and action and adult themes and real, actual heart is just stupid. I kind of hate the guy for it. It’s unfair for one creator to be so good at so many things. I know talent is not a zero sum game, but I still feel like… leave something for everyone else, James!
2. Spider-Man: No Way Home
Why did they even bother to make this this good?
Once they signed Andrew and Tobey to make appearances through the entire back end of this flick, they could have just farted out a nothing story and let the money come in no matter what.
Instead, we got THIS, and it was beautiful.
I’ve gone into depth on this one, so I’ll be brief.
I loved it, guys. I expected it to be great, and it STILL blew me away.
1. Avengers: Endgame
Yeah, this movie is just perfect. I dunno what you want me to say.
It wrapped up 20-plus movies leading up to it, and paid off moments we never even knew we were waiting for.
Realistically, my choice for the greatest comic book movie of all time (which is kind of my specialty) is this, Into The Spider-Verse, or Scott Pilgrim.
(And The Hulk’s character arc that wraps up here is PERFECTION, and I won’t hear otherwise about how “Wah, he didn’t punch Thanos” or whatever)
Soooo… what about those two movies that fell off the edge of the Earth when No Way Home and Shang-Chi came out?
Actually, it was FOUR movies.
My original #9 was Avengers. It was tough losing that, but #11 is still a good spot. It’s the top Honorable Mention.
And my #10 was a cop-out three-way tie between Iron Man, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. I thought all three hit the same level of greatness in character introducin’ that I couldn’t parse them too far out.
Let’s hope that Multiverse of Madness doesn’t inspire this list to shift again.
Or, hell, let’s hope it DOES because I like getting great movies!
Until next time… take care!