What is the best film based on a Marvel comic?

Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Shuri (Letitia Wright)..Photo: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Shuri (Letitia Wright)..Photo: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

Black Panther has hit cinemas and we love it. To celebrate, we’ve revisited all 18 Marvel films to date to give our definitive ranking.


1. Thor: Ragnarok

Our top choice goes to the Marvel movie that gets everything right. New Zealand director Taika Waititi brings a dry, irreverent and frequently daft humour that somehow makes its far-out tale of hyper colour aliens seem more human than anything that has gone before. Chris Hemsworth thrives from being let off the leash, transforming Thor from Shakespearean wannabe to Aussie-as larrikin. As such, it’s the first film where Hemsworth’s Thor truly steps out from the shadow of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Check out our review.

2. Black Panther

The dust probably needs to settle on this one, but right now this underdog feels like it might end up being top cat. Brilliantly cast, Black Panther offers the most vividly realised comic book world to date, with a history, society and politics as engaging and nuanced as anything Game of Thrones has to offer. The action sequences are inventive, breathless and frenetic but never incoherent, with clear stakes that actually matter.


3. Iron Man 2

Chasing the success of 2008’s Iron Man, this sequel sees the franchise fired up with a new confidence. With its large cast of top flight actors (Scarlett Johansson makes her debut as Black Widow, while Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke play the villains), snappy banter and outrageous action, the film refines the template that has served basically every Marvel film since.


4. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Although there’s a lot to enjoy in Sam Raimi’s Spidey trilogy, the web-slinger’s first entry proper into the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets everything right. Tom Holland is spot on as Peter Parker, just nerdy enough to still seem like one of us. The high school setting is surprisingly three dimensional, the plot makes sense and Michael Keaton is an ace, empathetic villain. Check out our review.



5. The Avengers

All your favourite heroes in one film! Except the ones licensed to other studios! Written and directed by Buffy legend Joss Whedon! Expectations were huge, but The Avengers delivered. It’s fast, funny, clever, with dialogue that truly makes the most of putting all the stars in one room.


6. Guardians of the Galaxy

Bringing the comedy to the comic book film, this garish and (cautiously) anarchic ensemble film felt like the first in the franchise to explore the genre’s extreme possibilities. So here we have a gun-toting racoon, a talking tree and a green woman. This innovation is thickly coated with nostalgia, for the pulpy comics of the 50s and the music of the 80s. Terrific fun.


 7. Iron Man

The first film in the franchise remains the template for most of what faollowed. The tone – gritty enough to be real, flighty enough to be fun – is spot on, but it’s the casting that makes it. Robert Downey Jr seemed a gamble at the time, but his dark past (Marvel were against the idea of putting him in the title role) gives “likeable a**hole” Tony Stark a convincing depth. He was inspired, allegedly, by Elon Musk.



8. Ant-Man

Packed with wit and invention, Ant-Man makes a virtue out of staying small. It’s a contained character piece and more of a heist movie than an all-out action apocalypse. Paul Rudd is an engaging everyman lead (a kind of anti-Tony Stark) and there are flashes of the madcap ideas director Edgar Wright had for the project (before stepping down just before production started). Check out our review.



9. Thor

There’s an appealing 1980s vibe to this debut for the Asgardian, directed by Kenneth Branagh. Thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) falls to earth, where he meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). There’s a lot of fun to be had in Thor coming to terms with life on our planet (recalling E.T. and, yes, the disastrous Masters of the Universe film), but we all know the real star here is Tom Hiddleston as the villainous Loki.



10. Captain America: Civil War

Cap’s third outing puts a spin on the Avengers team up by pitting him against former ally Tony Stark. The action sequences are great – involving new recruits Ant-Man and Spidey going head-to-head – and the character dynamics unusually potent.


11. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Second time isn’t quite a charm for Chris Pratt and chums. Maybe the daft thrills of the original have worn off a little, or maybe it’s that the plot seems to have been borrowed from one of the lesser Star Trek movies. A great A-Side, but a disappointing Side B.


12. Captain America: The First Avenger

There’s a great weakling-to-superhero origin story here, even if the template is starting to creak a bit. The World War II stuff looks good on paper, promising Indiana Jones-style pulpish adventure, but it somehow all feels a bit samey.


13. Doctor Strange

Leaving aside the accusations of whitewashing, this attempt to make the MCU a little weirder (bringing in ideas of multiple worlds and Jedi-like magic) feels a little half-hearted. It doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the franchise, but doesn’t feel bold enough to strike out on its own. Might have worked better as a standalone.



14. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

There’s nothing particularly wrong with this film. The story is fine, the acting is fine, the action is OK. There’s some important character development for four-square Cap (Chris Evans), as an old friend is resurrected for evil purposes. Maybe we’d been spoiled for comic book films by this point, because this one felt more like a mid-season episode of a long running show than the latest big screen blockbuster.


15. Thor: The Dark World

Phase Two of the MCU got off to a rocky start with this and the film immediately below it in our ranking. After the apocalyptic supergroup excitement of The Avengers there was a definite sense of anticlimax. Thor’s second headline gig was an overlong, listless affair in which none of the characters (particularly Natalie Portman as love interest and Christopher Eccleston as villain) are used to full effect. Even the cataclysmic climax felt a bit passe.


16. Iron Man 3

Fun, forgettable and deeply silly probably sums up this third outing for Iron Man 3. There’s a great twist around main baddy The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), but the emotional grunt around Tony Stark deciding to bow out from the franchise is kind of undermined by the fact that, well, he didn’t.



17. The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton stars in this second crack at making Hulk a big screen star. At the time it was overshadowed by Iron Man, released two months earlier. Norton was soon ditched in favour of Mark Ruffalo, but shows promise here, even if the film lacks the humour and spark of later efforts.


18. Avengers: Age of Ultron

If The Avengers was a feast of riches, this feels very much like too many cooks reheating leftovers into an unconvincing stew. The CG baddy is pretty unconvincing, while the script is Whedon as his worst, with our oddly unlikeable heroes spending most of the film standing around in a room bickering and making smug wisecracks.


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