Warning: This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home. Please proceed with caution if you have not yet seen the film and don’t want anything spoiled for you.
Culture Crave has sparked a site-wide debate with one of its latest tweets. It turned to Twitter and asked Marvel fans to rank their top 5 MCU films, which quickly gained thousands of eager replies. After sifting through the many rankings, there are some standout agreements as to the MCU’s most unforgettable and enjoyable spectacles thus far in the franchise. Here are the clear favorites based on majority opinion.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Just two weeks after its theatrical release, Spider-Man: No Way Home has topped the charts as one of the MCU’s best movies since Phase One began back in 2008. With its nostalgic revisiting of Tobey Maguire’s 2002 Spider-Man and Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man, Jon Watts’ No Way Home reintroduced some familiar faces, both friends and foes alike. Besides its stunning visuals, flawless screenplay, and clever integration of multiple co-existing timelines, Spider-Man: No Way Home has been named by many as the MCU’s best heroic feat yet.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
With its initial release in 2019, Avengers: Endgame seems so long ago in comparison to the MCU’s latest endeavors. However, Endgame has still firmly planted its roots as an unmissable, unforgettable, and immoveable exhibition of the very best that Marvel Studios has to offer. Although it broke the hearts of Marvel fans everywhere, Endgame proved to be a pivotal turning point for many heroes, especially in the aftermath of Tony Stark’s untimely sacrifice. Its monumental battle between Thanos and the Avengers will go down in history as one of Marvel’s best fight sequences. (Nothing is more satisfying than the Avengers’ theme song playing with surround sound definition as portals open left and right to welcome the entire slate of MCU heroes thus far for an epic showdown.)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Taking a trip down memory lane to Phase Two of the MCU, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has made a long-lasting impact on Marvel fans for its impressive storytelling and execution. Not only did Captain America share the spotlight in The Winter Soldier with the likes of Black Widow and Bucky Barnes, but its complicated yet thorough plot provided an in-depth look at the backstory behind Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes’ friendship, as first seen in Captain America: The First Avenger. For many Marvel fans, that “bromance” remains one of the strongest and most unmatched displays of unrelenting companionship within the MCU.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Like its successor, Avengers: Infinity War was a huge hit amongst Marvel fans. In particular, Infinity War struck gold for its multiple culminating battles, which found nearly every MCU hero we’d met thus far in the franchise pitted against Thanos and his army. Moreover, the suspense that Infinity War left for its audience was unbearable, especially with the year-long hiatus between Infinity War and Endgame, previously known as Infinity War Part 2. Fans will never forget the film’s final moments, nor will a future surprise ending ever have such an unsettling impact.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Last, but by no means least, Captain America: Civil War was another standout contender for third or fourth place on many ranked lists. Similarly to Infinity War, there were many heroes that either met for the first time or had the opportunity to fight side-by-side in Civil War. Consider the likes of Spider-Man, a fan-favorite Marvel character since he debuted in 2002, teaming up with Captain America to fight Iron Man. There might never be a more satisfying threesome in Marvel history. Civil War was a cherished addition to the MCU, not just for its overlapping character arcs, but for the way it divided the fandom into sides — families and friends torn apart by the prospect of Team Iron Man against Team Captain America. Civil War can owe a lot of its marketing success to the fans themselves.
Here are some honorable mentions that snuck into several lists among the top contenders as listed above.
Black Panther (2018)
Especially for spreading the positive message to unite people of color, Black Panther changed the lives of many African American viewers, as well as non-white audience members around the world. For many, Black Panther provided the representation for people of color in mainstream media that has been lacking for years. A studio as massive as Marvel promoting that positive representation was a huge step forward for ethnic equality. As such, Black Panther is considered by some to be one of the MCU’s best movies so far.
Iron Man (2008)
Without a doubt, Iron Man will always have a special place at the forefront of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark will always be remembered and cherished as the first on-screen Marvel performance and Iron Man will always be the 2008 release that sparked a multi-phase saga of superhero flicks. Many Marvel fans believe that the first will always be the best for many reasons.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
Similar to Black Panther, the Asian-led Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings provided the positive Asian representation that has also been severely lacking in mainstream media. For Marvel Studios to spearhead the Shang-Chi movie with an Asian lead meant more to Asian Marvel fans than can ever be expressed. When the movie released, flocks of Marvel fans took to social media and shared their gratitude for Marvel integrating Asian culture into its universe for uneducated audiences to experience and respect. Like Black Panther, Shang-Chi will forever be remembered as one of the first Marvel movies to place people of color at its helm.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Many heartstrings were tugged with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, especially for Yondu fans, but we won’t relive that awful memory. As the sequel to the 2014 release, Vol. 2 had some massive shoes to fill — and it filled them splendidly. Marvel fans were delighted by the continuation and raved about its heartbreak all over the internet. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 provided some interesting insight into Peter Quill’s history and set up the conflict between Gamora and her half-sister, Nebula, in preparation for Thanos to appear in Avengers: Infinity War. Some fans have considered Vol. 2 to be one of the greatest Marvel films thus far, and rightly so.