5. Thor: Ragnarok
Whenever I see someone insist that the point of Thor: Ragnarok is to be funny and lighthearted, I want to be sick in my lap. Is it funny? Yeah, sure, it’s hysterical. And it’s colourful and it has a jokey Polynesian rock-man voiced by the writer-director and hey, look, there’s Jeff Goldblum in a silly outfit! But it’s also a pretty explicit condemnation of colonialism and it features the ceremonial detonation of its polluted legacy as a thematic endpoint, so one can hardly say jokes are the only thing it contributes. Plus the rainbow-bridge scene with newly-electrified Thor slapping dudes around is easily a top-5 action beat in the entire MCU, and I waited for seventeen movies to see it.
4. Avengers Assemble
You just can’t overstate what this movie means both to the MCU as a thing and the contemporary moviemaking landscape. It holds up far better than it has any right to considering it was basically Marvel going all-in on the shared universe concept for the first time, and it’s so packed with iconic moments and terrific sequences that each re-watch is like going back in time to when you really couldn’t believe they’d pulled this off in quite this way. It’s a true classic of the superhero genre in every sense of the word and one of those rare movies that you can talk about entirely without irony in terms of how it changed movies forever. That’s one hell of an achievement.
3. Captain America: Civil War
I still persist that Captain America: Civil War is a better Avengers movie that any of the actual Avengers movies – and yes, that includes Infinity War, and in a few months when you re-watch it on Blu-ray you’ll realise I’m right. But more so than that, and as I said in my review at the time, Captain America: Civil War is the very best justification for Marvel’s entire shared-universe experiment. It works as a continuation of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It builds a dramatic conflict atop twelve prior movies that is complex enough that it wouldn’t work without that history, clear enough to not need any reiterative exposition and focused enough that it never feels muddled or diluted. It introduces two new heroes organically, making them both a core part of Captain America: Civil War’s story while also laying the groundwork for their own individual movies. It has a really cool and interesting villain. And, let’s face it, that airport scene is the best **** ever.
2. Black Panther
It’s not an overstatement to suggest that Black Panther has not only completely redefined superhero moviemaking but also changed the world a little bit. And that sounds hyperbolic, but when you factor in certain inescapable realities like it being the first movie to play in Saudi Arabia after a 35-year cinema ban it’s kind of tough to disagree. And it accomplished all that with a politically-charged afro-futurist action-fantasy superhero narrative set almost entirely in Africa and featuring an almost entirely black cast. Every cent that Black Panther has made thus far, every kid’s day it has made and every barrier it has broken, it all feels like long-awaited just reward for centuries of systematic marginalization of black people, black culture, black identity and black representation. That it’s an incredibly well-made movie is a bonus, but it’s also somewhat beside the point.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
I know you disagree. I know as you’ve scrolled through this giant ranking you’ve been wondering the whole time where this movie was going to show up, and as you’ve gotten closer and closer to the end you’ve gradually realised that, yep, he ******* put Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as the best film in the MCU. Bet it was like watching Floyd Mayweather beat Manny Pacquiao all over again.
Still, here we are. The middle children (Thor: The Dark World; Iron Man 2) tend not to play all that well with their siblings, but here’s a film that took the awkwardness of not having an origin story to tell but also being stuck in place until the next major crossover event and essentially weaponized it. The character dynamics were expanded on, personalities and relationships were fleshed out in interesting ways, the action got bigger conceptually but tighter thematically, the jokes were better, the soundtrack was… a bit worse, actually, but still great, and the emotional payoffs were absolutely ******* peerless. I’m immediately suspicious of anyone who says this was an inferior sequel and perfectly willing to declare it the best that the MCU has to offer.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a masterpiece. There, I said it. Now go and insult me in the comments.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.