Also, a note on the ratings/stars next to each entry. These ratings were assigned when the movie came out, and may not reflect my current feelings about that movie. In other words I was judging X-men Origins: Wolverine against Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, the other two superhero movies of that year. Since 2008 there have been a lot more superhero films, and getting three stars in 2018 is a lot harder than getting three stars in 2008.
Excellent! Had to see it twice!
Good movie with a few flaws.
Not bad, but not great.
I’d watch it once if I was bored enough.
So bad it’s kind of good.
After Batman Begins, this is the other movie that reinvigorated the genre. Where Batman Begins was dark, this one was funny. Where Batman is driven, Tony Stark is brilliantly conflicted. It is everything that Nolan's movie wasn't, and that's why it works.
22. The Incredible Hulk (2008) ***1/2
This movie was sidelined by the overwhelming success of Iron Man, but I loved it. I loved Edward Norton's take on the character, I loved the script he wrote for the film, and I loved the Greco-Roman take on The Hulk. My only complaint is that he let The Abomination live at the end. I found this hard to believe.
23. Punisher: War Zone (2008) *
A more violent take on Frank Castle. It's a solid film, but maybe a little too depressing for its own good. I consider it an improvement on the first.
24. X-men Origins: Wolverine (2009) *
This movie is standard popcorn fare, much along the lines of Ghost Rider. Hugh Jackman goes through the motions, an attempt to bring Deadpool and Gambit into the mix is handled badly, and by the end you're thankful that it's not as dreadful as X3.
25. Iron Man 2 (2010) ***
I liked this almost as much as the first one. Downey Jr. is given even better one-liners in this film, and Mickey Rourke characteristically chews the scenery. Sam Rockwell is also great as Justin Hammer, and my only complaint is that Don Cheadle isn't given enough to do.
26. Kick-Ass (2010) **
I have friends who love this movie. I don't. I think the first half is good, but after Big Daddy dies it just gets silly - especially the jet pack. A nice warm up for The Amazing Spider-Man, however.
27. Thor (2011) *
Considering how hard it must have been to adapt Thor to the big screen, I would consider this movie a success. Still, compared to other movies Marvel Studios has made, I think this is the weakest one. I've never been a big fan of Kenneth Branagh.
28. X-men: First Class (2011) ***
Michael Fassbender makes this movie. Forgive the pun, but he is positively magnetic as Magneto. I thought the end was weak, but it's still miles ahead of the first three films.
29. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) ***
Still one of my favorite Marvel movies. It might seem a bit slow for some people, but the mixture of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark really worked for me.
30. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
Ghost Rider journeys to Europe on an extremely low budget. The screenplay was probably good, but the direction is all over the place and Nicholas Cage overdoes the "manic" elements. The only good thing I can say about this film is that the actress who plays "the Devil's baby-momma" is extremely beautiful. Fun Fact: Idris Elba, who appeared in Thor the year before, is Johnny Blaze's sidekick.
31. The Avengers (2012) ***1/2
There are entire websites devoted to how awesome this movie is. It's a good film, but not one of the best. Considering how difficult it is to put characters as diverse as Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor into the same movie universe, this one is an unqualified triumph. I'm only sorry the Oscorp Tower didn't make an appearance.
32. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) ***
This is a good movie, and I'm looking forward to the sequel. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have some terrific chemistry, and it's a solid effort. The Lizard is a bit too Hulk-like for my taste, but this is a vast improvement over Spider-Man 3.
33. Iron Man 3 (2013) *
I was super excited about this movie, but walked away from it disappointed. It starts out well, but neither of the villains are very compelling, and the stunt work is too over the top. My biggest complaint is the ending, which gives us a Tony Stark who no longer has any reason to be Iron Man.
34. Kick-Ass 2 (2013) **
It's not a great movie, but it's not bad. There are some funny scenes in this one, but it could have been a lot better.
35. The Wolverine (2013) **1/2
I had high hopes for this one, but it wasn't all that good. It's certainly much better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine and all the other X-Men films, but that's not saying all that much.
36. Thor: The Dark World (2013) ***
This was a great movie. I didn't love the first Thor, but this one was a vast improvement. Reminded me a lot of the Walt Simonson run on the comic book. Hoping to see Beta Ray Bill in Thor 3!
37. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) ***1/2
Steve Rogers struggles with the modern world and his role in S.H.I.E.L.D. After encountering the Winter Soldier, he has even more reasons to doubt the nobility of certain causes. A very topical movie, with some great action sequences. Didn't like it as much as Thor: The Dark World, but it was well done.
By the way, if you liked this movie you'd probably also enjoy (and find a lot that's familiar in) the Robert Redford vehicle Three Days of the Condor.
38. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) **
Too much CGI, but some great performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. I liked this movie more than "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," though the action sequences in Cap were better. This film has more dramatic tension, better ensemble performances, and more heart. Looking forward to the third film!
39. X-men: Days of Future Past (2014) ***1/2
A surprisingly good movie. As mutantkind faces extinction, Wolverine journeys into the past to change the future. Excellent performances, and one of the most emotionally resonant superhero films to come along in quite a while. Fun Fact: Although played by a white midget (Peter Dinklage) in Days of Future Past, Bill Duke, a rather large black man, plays Bolivar Trask in the earlier X-Men: The Last Stand.
40. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) **
A good movie, though it features too many characters for its own good. Humor holds the film together, and makes some of the less plausible plot elements seem more plausible. As with many other recent films from Marvel Studios, seems less inspired than calculated. Maybe the second one will be better?
41. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)**1/2
I can't say it's flawless, but I did like it much better than Guardians of the Galaxy. It's less talky than the first Avengers, and the battle between Hulk and the Hulkbuster is truly awesome. Quicksilver seemed a bit underused, and I would have liked to see more of the Vision, but it's still a great movie.
42. Ant-Man (2015)***
Any great scenes in this movie involve a) Michael Pena, b) shrinking, or c) both. As for the rest of it? It starts off well enough, but it takes too long to get going. "The heist" at the end is a bit of a non-event, but the fight scenes between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket are good.
43. Fantastic Four (2015)*
This movie is not bad up until the four return from Planet Zero. After that point it's a mess. Once Reed escapes from the military facility the dialogue is awful, the characters do things that make no sense, and the movie somehow ends without building up any kind of dramatic tension. It feels like an hour of this film was removed before it hit theaters, and Dr. Doom looks like he escaped from another, much lower-budget film.
44. Deadpool (2016)***
The good news: as far as films within Fox's X-men universe go, this one is second best. It's not as riveting as X-men: Days of Future Past, but it's better than all the other ones. Compared to the Marvel Studios films, I'd rank it above lesser efforts like Iron Man 2 and 3, though it comes nowhere near their best. It's refreshingly profane, yet it struggles during most of the "serious" parts. A sequel to this movie would probably be much better than the original.
45. Captain America: Civil War (2016) **1/2
I liked it, but it was WAY to long and that fight at the airport seemed entirely unnecessary. The inclusion of both Black Panther and Spider-Man also did very little to advance the plot, though I was happy to finally see Marvel's approach to these characters. I think a smaller-scale movie, concentrating on the dynamic between Steve, Bucky, and Tony would have worked much better.
46. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) **
Continuity be damned! Never mind the fact that many of the events occurring in Apocalypse happened much later (or is it earlier?) in the first three X-men movies. Never mind the fact that many of the characters from First Class ought to be in their 50s by the 1980s. The biggest problem with this movie is the villain, and the fact that he's just not threatening. When you title a movie "Apocalypse" it ought to feel like the end of the world, and this movie just doesn't deliver on that promise.
47. Doctor Strange (2016)**1/2
A former neurosurgeon battles otherdimensional threats. Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor with an established reputation, is a credible Dr. Strange, though the plot is somewhat formulaic. The strength of this movie is its visuals, and these are something worth seeing.
48. Logan (2017)***1/2
A solid, dramatic film that may well prove Oscar-worthy. It's still early 2017, so it's hard to say whether or not the Academy will remember Jackman's performance or Mangold's direction come Oscar time. But Logan is a good (maybe great) movie that might just stand the test of time. The last act falters a bit, but the first two acts are excellent. Not as mind-blowing as The Dark Knight, not as paradigm-shifting as Deadpool, but nevertheless a well thought-out, well executed meditation on pain and loss.
49. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) **
If you're one of those people who LOVED the first Guardians of the Galaxy, you'll probably love this one, too. I wasn't a huge fan of the first installment, and this movie did nothing to change my mind. The humor in Vol. 2 seemed even more forced, and the characters spend SO much time explaining plot points that it took me right out of the movie.
50. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)****
Gotta say they nailed it. I can't think of a single bad thing to say about this movie. The acting, the directing, the special effects, the fight scenes - and they even made me love Iron Man all over again. I'll be seeing it again soon.
51. Thor: Ragnarok **1/2
Too jokey by far, even if the jokey bits are also the best parts of the movie. Hela might be one of the better developed Marvel villains, but the Thor and Loki seen in this movie are so watered down as to be unrecognizable. Who is Thor, really? What is his personality? What does he want? Even Marvel doesn't seem able to answer these questions - and thus the central flaw in their Thor trilogy. I'm still a big fan of Taika Waititi, and What We Do in the Shadows remains one of my favorite films, but his directorial style obscures what might have otherwise been a solid action movie.
52. The Black Panther (2017) ***1/2
My favorite thing about this movie is the world-building. As a piece of world-building Wakanda rivals Peter Jackson's Middle Earth, and Jackson built Middle Earth with the aid of Tolkein's novels. I've also read my share of Black Panther comics, and I can't think of many precedents for what Ryan Coogler and co. managed to get onscreen. Black Panther is a well put together movie, and my only reservation is that there isn't much tension leading up to the film's climax.
53. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) ***
Having Thanos as the main character was a bold choice. That ending was an even bolder choice. I think that after audiences get past their initial sense of dismay, they'll get behind this movie, though of course the extent of their support remains to be determined. The story's solid and Thanos is a compelling (if not entirely explained) villain, and the movie does an admirable job of juggling dozens of characters spread across several galaxies. My one complaint? The cgi isn't always necessary, and certain characters (Proxima Midnight) ought to have been performed by real, living people.
On the Way
Note: the Fox release schedule is to be treated with the utmost skepticism. Deadpool 2 is already in the can, but other releases are anybody's guess. Disney/Marvel has recently acquired the rights to the characters, and it may transpire that Marvel Studios "kills" both the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix and New Mutants films as a way of easing these properties into their cinematic universe.
54. Deadpool 2 (2018)
Ryan Reynolds reprises his role from the first movie, with Josh Brolin (yes, that Josh Brolin) costarring as Cable. I like what I've seen from the trailers, and I've been looking forward to it more than Infinity War.
55. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Ant-Man is still one of the more overlooked Marvel movies, even though it was, in my opinion, far better than Doctor Strange. Like almost everyone else, I'm curious to see how they work elements of Avengers: Infinity War into this movie.
57. Venom (2018)
The symbiote looks solid, though Eddy Brock resembles Peter Parker a little too closely. Is that Carnage in the trailer? The idea of Woody Harrelson playing Carnage has me more excited than Tom Hardy playing Venom.
56. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)
Fox gives it the old college try with yet another adaptation of the X-men's most iconic storyline. That actress playing Jean Grey does absolutely nothing for me, and I'm hoping Marvel prevents this from seeing the light of day. I'm also not optimistic about first time director Simon Kinberg.
58. Captain Marvel (2019)
A female superhero film - even if it will appear a TWO YEARS after DC's Wonder Woman. And Captain Marvel ain't no Wonder Woman! There are many production photos available online.
59. Avengers 4 (2019)
With a rumored budget of a BILLION dollars, this and Infinity War will, if nothing else, be something to talk about.
60. Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 (2019)
If it's half as good as the first one, it should be great!
61. The New Mutants (2019)
I am/was guardedly optimistic about this one, but they've pushed the date back and those reshoots seem like they're taking forever. Not a good sign.
62. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2020)
The last one made me sleepy. A third one? I don't know, if Adam Warlock is involved I might be more interested.
63. Gambit (2019)
Don't hold your breath. I list it here because it's supposed to be entering production soon, but who knows?
64. X-Force? Deadpool 3?
These films are also supposed to be entering production, but with the Marvel/Disney deal underway their future seems uncertain. I like the idea of both movies, but then again the idea of Deadpool popping up in a MARVEL movie beats the idea of both movies to death.
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