With the fourth Avengers movie debuting this weekend, the closing chapter of a 22-film series, I have decided to start a discussion over which installments in the series have been the best, which are weaker, and why.

My 9 Favorites in Order:

1. The Avengers

Back in 2013 I wrote one of my most epic list posts of all time: 10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film. I explained the occult and esoteric themes that could be drawn from the first film bringing together the heroes introduced in the original films of the series, how each had symbolic purposes and including them all together equated to a balance of diverse elements.

2. Black Panther

The inventiveness and fun of Black Panther make it arguably the most creative and original of the films in the series.

3. Iron Man

4. Iron Man 2

I’ll never forget the joy of seeing the first MCU film in theaters and realizing what it foretold of the future. Robert Downey, Jr. was born to play this character and it is endlessly fun as he built and developed the Iron Man suit. And the second one just carried on the successful formula of the first, minus the time needed for the origin story.

UPDATE: National Review’s Kyle Smith – Generation X’s best film critic – has a fantastic piece about Iron Man 2 today that I agree with:

So I guess those four are really my only “A”-level film picks for what I’ve seen in the series. These next five are more in the B or B+ range: glad to have seen them, enjoyable pictures, but not landing quite as strong a punch as the four above.

5. Captain America: The First Avenger

6. Doctor Strange

7. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Just watched this one last night on Netflix and found it fun and entertaining, albeit a little too long and generally lightweight.

8. Spider-Man Homecoming

9. Thor

10. The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk is sort of the black sheep of the MCU family, but it shouldn’t be — it’s certainly at least a B level entertainment. Perhaps it especially shines since it’s so much better than the Ang Lee-directed version which came out in 2003.

Regardless, I think any films based around the character should be cut some slack. The Hulk is a really difficult character and unusual origin story, not at all the standard superhero narrative. The Ed Norton version of the character is good enough and his replacement Mark Ruffalo is fine.

4 I Didn’t Care for:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy

2. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

3. Thor: The Dark World

4. Captain America: Civil War

These would all be at basically “C”-level for me. Not terrible, but I sort of knew going in that I probably wasn’t going to be all that impressed. The Guardians movies basically live and die on one factor alone: how much do you enjoy the characters? I don’t very much. They’re just not all that interesting, some even annoying, and the degree that the films aim for pop culture-soaked comedy means they don’t hit much of an emotional resonance.

Regarding Thor 2, while the first film was fine, though hardly amazing, this one was just less interesting. And part of that I think is due to the nature of the character. It’s hard to get too emotionally connected to a character who is quite literally a god.

On Captain America 3 (or perhaps Avengers 2.5 is more accurate), I had no interest going in because a) I was familiar with the basics of the comic book story it’s based on and was not interested in seeing its leftist politics rehashed, and b) I’m never particularly interested in seeing characters that I like being put into some misunderstanding where they have to fight each other. It’s a curious coincidence that 2016 also saw another superheroes vs each other film that I also wasn’t very interested in going in and wasn’t blown away by once I saw it: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

3 Unseen in addition to Avengers: Endgame that I do want to see:

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2. Captain Marvel

3. Iron Man 3

I passed on Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3 because of the leftist political themes swirling around both. But Winter Soldier has been praised enough, particularly as the years have passed, that I really should give it the time – same with Iron Man 3.

From what I’ve read, it sounds like Ant-Man and the Wasp and Captain Marvel are better to have seen before going into Endgame. The former will be easier to do since it’s streaming on Netflix. (Updated: while it’s good to see Ant-Man and the Wasp for its mid-credits sequence which puts the film into the context of Infinity War, it’s not an absolute necessity to see before Endgame.)

 

4 I Need to Watch Again and/or finish watching

1. Ant-Man

2. Avengers: Age of Ultron

3. Thor: Ragnarok

4. Avengers: Infinity War

I’m pretty sure that I saw Ant-Man at some point. It’s hard for me to recall if it was more in B-range or C-range. (That I do not recall inclines me to lean toward the latter, but I do think it perhaps warrants a second viewing. That I am interested in seeing the sequel must mean that the first film couldn’t have been bad!)

Age of Ultron and Ragnarok I’m pretty I’ve only seen parts of. However my Thor bias remains, perhaps the partial reason why Ragnarok remains sitting in the Netflix queue, unfinished.

And then Infinity War… I suppose it’s sort of the Empire Strikes Back in the series? And Endgame is akin to Return of the Jedi, minus ewoks? That’s a rather polite way of admitting that Infinity War is not exactly the most fun movie to watch since it’s such a losing fight… But it’s also available streaming on Netflix, so it will probably get a rewatch in the art studio before April and I make it to the theatre for Endgame.

So what do you think of my picks? How do you rank the films? Which ones have you avoid seeing and why?