Iron Man was far from the first comic book movie, but it doubtlessly set the tone for where we are now with the ever-expanding MCU and the push by competing studios to try and capture Marvel‘s secret formula of sustained and immense success. And that is to say nothing about the explosion of superhero TV and the generation of fans that have embraced decades-old comic book characters that are now ubiquitous in pop culture. But while Iron Man may also be the most important (or one of the most important) Marvel movies, is it anywhere near the best? We asked two of our writers to take a look back through the MCU all the way up to Spider-Man: Far From Home, to rank how these films stack up against each other.
23. Thor: The Dark World (Amazon)
There’s truth in labeling with this dense and heavy sequel that mostly failed to match the popcorn feel of the first Asgardian adventure and the resplendent Ragnarok as Thor bounces through portals warring with a dark elf king (a poorly utilized Christopher Eccleston), who is on a quest to extinguish life in the nine realms. If nothing else, the film stands out as a contrast to Ragnarok, perhaps inspiring its looser and zanier approach as much as the success of Guardians Of The Galaxy did.
22. Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Amazon)
There are a lot of moving parts in Age of Ultron, but what keeps it grounded is Ultron himself. As voiced by James Spader, he’s a disarmingly charming monster, a robot who’s convinced himself that humanity is a virus that needs to be stomped out. He’s the calm center of a storm of frazzled heroes who are busy doing anything and everything to ensure he fails.
21. Iron Man 2 (Amazon)
In a lot of ways, Iron Man 2 is a classic sequel: It’s definitely bigger than the first, and it commits a very old school problem of having too many characters. Because of this, Iron Man 2 feels overstuffed and disorganized. Still, there are a lot of pleasures to be had, chief among them Mickey Rourke’s vengeful villain Ivan Vanko, who seems like he’s in a very different film than his co-villain, Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell). Every time Rourke appears on-screen, he inspires a sense of danger, giving the film a sinister edge.
20. The Incredible Hulk (Amazon)
Do people remember that there was an Incredible Hulk standalone entry in the MCU that preceded Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner? Not the Ang Lee one that starred an over-broody Eric Bana. And it stars a semi-broody Edward Norton! And Liv Tyler! This movie really happened! It’s not bad, either.