10. Iron Man 3
Jesus, you’re still annoyed about this one?
What are you annoyed about, exactly? Is it the well-observed and meaningful exploration of Tony Stark’s post-Avengers PTSD? Is it how his befriending and nurturing of that one kid was actually a metaphor for him coming to terms with his flaws and responsibilities and directly laid the foundations for his surrogate-fatherhood of Peter Parker that you ******* all love so much? Is it the balls-tighteningly fantastic third-act blowout that saw countless Iron Man suits detonated while Tony Stark himself saved the day in what may or may not have been a pretty perfect metaphor for the man being more important than the machine? Oh, it was the bait-and-switch with the Mandarin, wasn’t it? I mean, you do know that in his original incarnation he was a thoroughly racist caricature who wouldn’t really work in a contempora – you know what? Never mind.
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Whenever I think about it, I’m impressed and surprised all over again that not only did Marvel make the Captain America sequel an espionage action thriller about unsanctioned state-surveillance, but they also made it work better than anyone could possibly have imagined. It might lack a little of Captain America: The First Avenger’s charm and energy, but it’s a fine and thoughtful bit of filmmaking that makes hot-button political commentary palatable within the context of a superhero film, and still delivers one of the best superhero films ever made like it isn’t even trying.
8. Jessica Jones Season 1
It’s a good job Jessica Jones has super-strength, because a character being a metaphor for the survival of sexual assault and for whom being superpowered is largely an excuse to suffer greater indignities for longer periods of time is some seriously heavy ****. It wasn’t fun, per se, and I suspect Jessica herself would agree with you, but battling the literal personification of rape culture is as important a point as the MCU has ever made.
7. Captain America: The First Avenger
Yes, it’s above Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And no, I don’t care.
Look, I get that the general consensus skews way more towards the sequels, but in a lot of ways The First Avenger is the definitive Captain America movie. It has an exceptional screenplay that totally gets Steve Rogers as a conception without toppling over into macho nationalist bluster, it has the most understated supporting turn in the entire franchise in the form of Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter, it’s stuffed full of great character moments and Chris Evans sells them better than I think anyone in the past, present or future ever could, and it ties it all together in an exciting, pacey period adventure movie full of great action sequences and a villain who was thrown out of the Nazis for being too evil. Yeah, I know it’s clichéd to champion the underdog, but **** you – I can do this all day.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
Because on paper it was so unlikely to work, there’s a certain poeticism in quite how well Guardians of the Galaxy actually does work. It’s a comedic space adventure about a group of characters nobody outside of Marvel’s most die-hard fandom had ever heard of, yet it’s also the funniest and most emotionally-resonant movie in the entire MCU – besides its own sequel. A recurring theme in this ranking is that the movies which gave their makers the most significant amount of creative wiggle room tend to be the best ones, and James Gunn’s bizarre paw prints are all over Guardians of the Galaxy. It might stand out because of conceptual oddities like a giant tree that only communicates using the same three words, but it sticks with you because it only takes three words to make the movie’s entire thematic and emotional point. We are Groot, indeed.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.