Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: David Koepp
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Synopsis: When bitten by a genetically modified spider, a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student gains spider-like abilities that he eventually must use to fight evil as a superhero after tragedy befalls his family.
Quick Take: Again we come to another movie that took the comic book genre to a new level. They went from hit to super blockbuster and never looked back. I know a lot of people take issue with the look of Green Goblin, and yes he does look like a rejected Power Ranger. The performance is still there, and Spider-Man is one of the few origins stories that works. Well paced with good character development and the right bit of comedy. Tobey Maguire has become yesterday’s news since Andrew Garfield came around, which is somewhat unfair because contrary to the new popular opinion he does make a good Spider-Man.
9. Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Written By: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely,
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, and Samuel L. Jackson
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Synopsis: Captain America: The First Avenger will focus on the early days of the Marvel Universe when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America. As Captain America, Rogers joins forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving.)
Quick Take: Captain America is one of my all-time favorite characters. Some people say he is nothing more than Marvel’s version of Super-Man just with no powers. Truth is he is much more than a brainless patriotic boy scout. At his core he is a good man and the team of Captain America: The First Avenger understood that. A lot of people questioned the casting of Chris Evans. Obviously he proved the doubters wrong as no one asks those questions anyone. Most of Marvel’s films are stylistically challenged. Director Joe Johnston was able to put his fingerprints on this and give it that classic serial style.
8. Iron Man 3
Directed By: Shane Black
Written By: Drew Pearce and Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Synopsis: When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
Quick Take: Similar to Captain America: The First Avenger this was one of the few Marvel studio films that allowed the director to inject his style into the film. Shane Black is notorious for his work in some of the best 1980’s buddy cop Dramas, and the highly underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He took that and placed it into an Iron Man story giving it a much needed fresh taste. I know many have issues with the big ‘twist’, but I personally loved the choice. Very rarely does Marvel take actual risks, and this was a risk that worked. They took an outdated character that was based on racial stereotypes and made him interesting. No matter what crazed fanboys have to say.
7. X2: X-Men United
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Written By: Zak Penn, David Hayter, and Bryan Singer
Starring: atrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Brian Cox
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Synopsis: The X-Men band together to find a mutant assassin who has made an attempt on the President’s life, while the Mutant Academy is attacked by military forces.
Quick Take: For a very long time this was my personal favorite comic book movie. X-Men got the ball rolling, but X2 took that ball into an entirely different ballpark. Huge upgrades with action, special effects, and the story was far more expansive. The one factor that goes criminally under looked is the performance of Brian Cox. When people talk about best performances by a comic book villain he is never brought up, but he should be. The script spells out his motivations and gives him time to be more than a mouthpiece. He is fully formed character and Cox gives the performance to back it up.
6. Iron Man
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Written By: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Synopsis: When wealthy industrialist Tony Stark is forced to build an armored suit after a life-threatening incident, he ultimately decides to use its technology to fight against evil.
Quick Take: Another movie that had great impact, however for a different reason. Marvel Studios’ first feature was a calculated risk. Taking, who was at the time a B list character at best, and using him to start a brand new franchise was not a guaranteed success. In one two-hour period Robert Downey Jr. helped turn Iron Man into one of the biggest superheroes worldwide. Some complain about the lack of satisfying action, and that is a legit complaint. Still, it says a lot about a movie when the action may be lacking but the fun is not.
5. The Avengers
Directed By: Joss Whedon
Written By: Joss Whedon and Zak Penn
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Synopsis: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles a team of superheroes to save the planet from Loki and his army.
Quick Take: I know many will gripe at the placement of this movie. They will argue it should be higher, and some even claim it’s the best comic book movie period. I hear those complaints but obviously I think differently. The Avengers is the epitome of popcorn fun. Humor, heart, and tons of gigantic action set pieces. There are moments that truly feel like a comic book movie come to life. With that said it’s also a very thin movie, partially by design. It has plenty of entertainment, but not much more than that. The narrative is straight forward, character development is null, and it is not very cinematically alluring. It met nearly impossible expectations, but to be on the top of the top for me you need to be more than hallow entertainment.
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Written By: Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Synopsis: The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.
Quick Take: I typically do not like placing movies that just came out in lists like this. It feels like an unfair advantage when you rate something that was just released compared to something that was out fourteen years ago. Time has a way of making us look at things differently. Sometimes they appear better and sometimes they appear worse. With that said things like building characters and allowing for strong performances are timeless qualities. X-Men: Days of Future Past has both of those. Unlike The Avengers there is something to this story beyond just entertainment. There is a weight behind every decision, and the actors are given the opportunity to make that weight mean something.
3. Captain America: The Winter Solider
Directed By: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Written By: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
Synopsis: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.
Quick Take: Two movies from this year back to back. I am not going to lie. I feel weird placing them in this order, but if I did it differently I would be lying to you as well as myself. I am an X-Men fan, but Captain America is personally my favorite character. I can now point to this movie to show why I feel that way. You don’t make Captain America a more interesting character by changing his moral compass, instead you place him in a situation where there is no distinct direction for his moral compass to point. This did just that, and added in some amazing action just to sweeten the pot. Directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo indicating when they were making the movie they were shooting for something the level of Three Days to the Condor. Many scoffed at that notion, myself included, but they proved the doubters wrong by constructing the best Marvel Studio film to date.
2. Spider-Man 2
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Written By: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon, and Alvin Sargent
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Synopsis: Peter Parker is beset with troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius.
Quick Take: I feel like I feel asleep one day, woke up, and then everyone hated this movie. Suddenly when the newer model comes to town the old guy becomes yesterday’s news. For me Tobey Maguire does work as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Spider-Man 2 astoundingly succeeds where The Amazing Spider-Man 2 horrifically fails. Alfred Molina as Doc Oct gives us a character that is well rounded with intrinsic motivations. It is that age old conflict of man failing due to his own hubris. Allowing the pursuit of power to override ones responsibility to control that power. Doc Oct works as the opposing end to the philosophical debate that Spider-Man was built on. He becomes the living embodiment of power void of responsibility, which makes his conflict with a Spider-Man, who is questioning his own fate, all the more interesting. You have all that, one of my all-time favorite action set pieces, and Sam Raimi’s trademark goofiness to lighten the mood when needed.
1. X-Men: First Class
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Written By: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, and Bryan Singer
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Synopsis: In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of Mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start world war III.
Quick Take: Well it all comes down to this. Honestly, I am not sure how well this choice will go over. The more and more I think about it the more sure I am that X-Men: First Class is my all-time favorite Marvel movie. Is it perfect? No. Are there issues? Yes. However, the issues are minute compared to what works. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender give two of the best performances of any Marvel movie. Their acting prowess alone dwarfs any other Marvel movie by a long shot. Also love Matthew Vaughn’s direction. He adds a James Bond like slickness to everything. Taking the world of the X-Men, adding in a James Bond style, and then backing it up with a real life issues like the Cuban Missile Crisis made it unlike any other comic book movie. X-Men: First Class does everything a comic book movie should do as it has exciting action, colorful characters, and a plot that keeps you interested. It also does everything that a serious drama should do with motivations built through internal struggles, relationships that are complicated and meaningful, and a score that matches the grandiose of each moment. Put it all together and for me you have Marvel’s best movie.