1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Though it calls itself a Captain America movie, Civil War feels more like an Avengers film bringing together (and then tearing apart) a whole roster of characters from the MCU. This was the film that introduced Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Chadwick’s Boseman’s Black Panther.
It had an unusual baddie, too, in Daniel Brühl’s Zemo, a villain with no superpowers, who isn’t an evil genius, nor is he driven by some bizarre plan for world domination – instead, he’s just a broken human who wants revenge. Though the superhero line-up is massive, the movie is incredibly personal and emotional, with the fallout within the super-team posing intellectual questions as well as creating real tension and peril.
Thrilling, spectacular, moving and yes, still funny at times, it’s an absolute lesson in how to make an intelligent superhero movie with something to say.
2. Black Panther (2018)
The most serious and politically charged Marvel movie so far, Black Panther fits nicely into the MCU while offering much more than comic-book thrills. Michael B Jordan as Erik Killmonger is a damaged, tragic, convincing live wire – he’s the best villain in the MCU yet, while Black Panther also boasts an exceptional supporting cast in Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright.
3. The Avengers (2012)
Back in 2012 there were doubts about whether teaming up that many heroes from different backgrounds, many of whom had already had their own origin stories, would work (post-Infinity War, and teaming up six heroes seems like nothing).
We were joyfully wrong. The Avengers (also known as Avengers Assemble) brought us heart and humour, as well as scale and peril and the first time we got to hang out with all of the Avengers together was a joy. Plus, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki was back as the main big bad – even more charismatic, despicable and endlessly quotable than before.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
As with Iron Man, not many people really knew who the Guardians actually were, so the movie was a potential risk. Fortunately Marvel put its trust in director James Gunn, whose background was in crazy comedy horror (he worked for Troma for a while).
Guardians introduced a new gang who were far more morally fluid and far less serious than the Avengers, including a talking raccoon and a tree who only says “I Am Groot”. It was pacey, funny, fresh and different, and the ’80s soundtrack rocked.
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The first of the MCU movies to be directed by the Russo brothers, who before that were best known for TV shows Arrested Development and Community and the comedy You, Me and Dupree – which just goes to show Marvel aren’t afraid to take a risk and often it pays off.
Winter Soldier was a political thriller and gritty actioner as much as it was a superhero movie, with huge reveals that sent out waves across the whole of the MCU (andAgents of SHIELD) as well as kicking off the trajectory which will lead us to Avengers 4and the end of phase 3 of the MCU.