20. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Yes, I know, I’m going to get some heat for this one. To be honest, if there’s one movie I wish I liked more than I do its Spider-Man: Homecoming, as so many people like it so much that I feel as though I’m missing something. But, nope, sorry, I still don’t think it’s that good. I’m too far removed from the gossipy high-school aesthetic to care about that kind of ****, and when you divorce the movie from that aspect it’s really not much more than a fairly generic comedic actioner – albeit one bolstered by a really charismatic leading performance from Tom Holland, who is justification for not having skipped over Peter Parker and gone straight to Miles Morales for the MCU’s web-slinging duties.
19. The Defenders
The Defenders got lots of small things wrong, but the big thing that held it back was its peculiar choice to focus on all the leftover magic-ninja death cult stuff from Iron Fist and Daredevil. The novelty of these characters coming together for the first time was still enough to sustain the season, especially because Marvel and Netflix had the good sense to trim it down to only eight episodes, and some shoddy writing notwithstanding I liked it well enough. It just didn’t feel like a just reward for putting up with two years and 65 episodes of often-lackluster television.
I’ll always have a soft spot for how ably it used fish-out-of-water comedy to introduce viewers to the more outlandish cosmic side of the MCU, and Chris Hemsworth was kind of a revelation here. Having said that, Thor has tumbled down my rankings a little in recent years for feeling a bit too… let’s see, compromised, I guess, in how it devotes a lot of time to relatable “Earth stuff” that it would eventually abandon completely just to not seem overwhelming in its weirdness. Yeah, the MCU did Natalie Portman dirty and I’d have very much liked to see Kat Dennings return to this universe in one form or another, but in truth, I’d have preferred these movies not to bother with either of them at all.
17. Doctor Strange
Even though structurally and thematically it’s basically a reiteration of the first Iron Man in that an arrogant rich dude is humbled, forced to expand his thinking and embrace a new, more altruistic responsibility for other people and in this case the universe itself, Doctor Strange is a fun, pacey movie that plays like Inception on steroids and knows to really lean into that to paper over the cracks. Not the most culturally meaningful or emotionally resonant Marvel movie, I’ll grant you, but its trippy LSD-charged aesthetic is a winner with me.
I really don’t think I’ll ever understand the antipathy towards Ant-Man. Yeah, sure, it would have been amazing to see what Edgar Wright did with the material and it’s easily the least-consequential movie in the MCU as far as the broader continuity is concerned, but it’s also a legitimately smart and funny flick with great pacing, extremely likable characters and top-shelf perspective-skewing action beats. It’s right up there with Doctor Strange as far as visual inventiveness goes, but it has a lot more charisma and energy and he can talk to ants. Seriously, what more do you want?
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.