1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This isn’t just my top Marvel movie, this is one of my top 5 movie movies. It makes my very short list of “perfect” movies that I have seen. I’ll write about those another day. This is the one movie poster that I own, and I’m proud of that fact.
Everything about this movie is perfect. The character introductions and reveals. Seriously, Steve giving Sam Wilson “on your left” is the best character introduction ever. The pacing. The horror of realizing what is actually happening. The road trip Steve and Nat take. The combat sequences (oooh, so perfectly choreographed and executed). The jaw-dropping moments (Fury’s car chase, elevator scene, fighting the Winter Solider on the highway!!!). This movie just makes you tingle from head to toe!
This movie features my favorite 3 Avengers: Steve, Nat, and Sam, and has the political thriller genre running strongly in its veins. The build-up and payoff are satisfying on every level possible. The quiet moments of reflection and resolve perfectly complement the big moments of sudden horror and “eat your failure” moments that get shoved in the villains’ faces.
But the best part is how this movie enables even the little guys to be the hero. That’s a big part of who Steve Rogers is, he believes in the little guy. He never sees himself as above someone else, and he’s all about using his gifts and strengths to lift others up. That’s true leadership, and his leadership brings Hydra to its knees. I love the throwing off of false morality and heroism, call crap what crap is and truth what truth is.
This movie is brilliant, unapologetic, heroic, and full of normal people doing amazing things because they believe in doing what’s right no matter the cost. It’s a movie of revelation, friendship, humor, glorious action sequences, and an extremely strong character heartbeat that keeps everything grounded.
I never get tired of this one. The feeling I have when I watch it is something I haven’t felt so much with the more recent superhero movies. Things were simpler at this time, clearer, more fun.
And dang, if this movie isn’t just the most fun. Unlike DC (really? Justice League before the origin stories?) Marvel took the time required to properly develop a superhero team-up worth our while. We knew everyone, already loved them and wanted to see what would happen when we threw our favorite characters into the blender together.
Half of this movie is spent with everyone showing their worst side. They clash, misunderstand each other, or have their most vulnerable spots rubbed. It’s a hot mess. A beautiful hot mess. A hilarious hot mess. A delightful hot mess. I love this hot mess, and so does Agent Coulson.
Coulson. Y’all, Phil Coulson is enough of a reason to fall in love with this movie all on his own.
The hot mess almost completely falls apart (except Nat, she’s surprisingly put together minus that slight Hulk panic attack, but that’s Nat.). And then they come together with such a great show of humility, respect, and teamwork. It’s inspiring.
The pure glory and unabashed superhero swagger of this movie are unparalleled. From the soundtrack to the superhero poses and power moves, it’s just delicious. Absolutely delicious. And The Battle of New York is something I never tire of. Never ever. Never.
Even though it’s one giant glamor scene to the next, this movie still never sacrifices character development and interpersonal growth. Some of the best friendships, pairings, character clashes, and important Marvel moments are birthed in this movie.
And shawarma. Have you ever wondered how much shawarma sales spiked after this movie came out?
3. Ant-Man and the Wasp
If you just did a double-take, I ask that you rewatch this movie. See if you don’t finish your day feeling happier, fuller, and inspired to be a little bit more “out there”.
How can anyone spend time in the company of Paul Rudd for a few hours without coming out feeling happier? I’m also quite fond of Evangeline Lily and would like to see a LOT more of her. There’s not a single actor in this movie that I do not enjoy.
This movie arrived at a time in my life when I didn’t have as much to laugh about. It was a heavy time. This movie came right into the middle of my heavy, pulled me out of it, and gave me the gift of laughter that was grounded with heart. I literally felt like I’d gone through some healing for the 2+ hours I sat in the theater and laughed.
Scott Lang is one of my favorite characters. He’s an everyman. He’s us. He’s cool, but not so cool that he’s not also totally in awe of anything cool that comes his way. He wants to brag about knowing “Cap”. He’s going to learn online close-up magic sing karaoke and play a fake drumset.
Ahem, this is where I pause and I point out that Scott Lang lives in San Francisco and sings karaoke and is a cool dude. And Shang-Chi ALSO lives in San Francisco sings karaoke and is a cool dude. If these two don’t meet and team up I’m going to riot. I don’t care if people are worried that the combination of Luis and Katy might create a nuclear explosion, it’s worth it.
Infinity War (one of the 3 Marvel offerings in 2018) was a miserable watch. It had nice moments but mostly it was just echoing the heaviness and grief I was already dealing with in my own life. And while Black Panther was an absolute masterpiece, it was an extremely intense movie to watch. I wanted a break. I wanted to feel grounded again. Ant-Man movies are always more grounded (literally) and single-minded than other Marvel movies. Scott isn’t always trying to solve a whole world problem, sometimes he’s just trying to save one person. Hope and Hank just wanted to save their Janet. Bill Foster just wants to save Ava. Scott just wants to get his life together and to stop letting his loved ones down. Luis just wants their business to succeed and is willing to buy oatmeal packets to make it happen. Jimmy Woo just wants to be as cool as Scott (just wait a few years, Jimmy, then you’ll be cool all on your own).
Ant-Man and The Wasp takes a group of very sincere people who are flawed, sometimes dysfunctional, and throws them into a scenario that is both lighthearted, serious, and beautiful. It’s just about people loving people. There isn’t even a truly big “human” villain in this movie, the biggest battle is against Time. I love that even Ghost is redeemed.
This movie literally healed places inside of me and was salve on a very sad soul. I love it. I can watch it without feeling dragged down by larger Marvel events, it’s just perfect. The weight and enormity of the MCU has become a heavy burden at times, but Ant-Man and The Wasp never feels that way.
And who doesn’t need to see a hot wheels-sized car chase through the streets of San Francisco that also includes a larger-than-life Pez dispenser being hurled at the bad guy’s car? We all do, that’s who.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
I am not someone who likes or supports crass humor. I do not personally support every statement/joke/or attitude expressed in these movies. And I don’t recommend them for children. Morally gray characters are a line I think you have to walk very carefully and can easily take too far. But when they are done well they end up teaching you a lot.
The Guardians are definitely a mixed bag, but I learn a lot from watching them. Yondu is not someone I would hold up as a role model, neither would I hold Peter Quill up as a role model (Chris Pratt is another matter. Love him.) These people are desperately flawed, often annoying, and they know how to push each other’s buttons. They are not the crew you would invite to an elegant gathering or your child’s preschool show-and-tell.
Here’s the thing about the Guardians though, for how little sense they make, for how awkward and messy they are, I just love them. I saw Volume 1 and I was like…What. Is. Happening…oh crabapples! Suddenly I’m crying and have a huge lump in my throat. And that dang, that raccoon on screen worming his way past my emotional guard is in reality just a puppet. A PUPPET!
I kid you not, the characters most guaranteed to make me cry are the Guardians. I could see that special moment that was coming, the hand-holding that reminded Peter of his mom that was going to contain the Power Stone that followed the dance-off that was going to save Xandar! The fact that the previous sentence is the actual plot is really a thing of beauty.
But Vol. 2. Volume 2. Wow.
For the first 2/3s of the movie, I was like, “What are we doing here? Nothing means anything. Everyone is losing their mind, being a jerk, or all over the place. Sylvester Stallone is definitely still a knockout, but beyond that, why am I here?”
And then I hit the last 45 minutes, and it all came together and I saw it and was mindblown. Oh, wait! This whole movie has been all about meaning! It’s been about love, forgiveness, and healing. It’s been about friendship, sisterhood, fatherhood, giving yourself permission to love and be loved. Letting go of the things that keep people from getting close to you. It’s about loving people with their flaws and through their painful, vulnerable times. It’s about understanding what truly matters in life! It’s ordinary people loving each other, and that love creates an extraordinary strength that defeats the inflated, twisted agendas of those who think real meaning is about power and self.
Ego with his sick, twisted expansion missed the true meaning of everything that was right in front of his eyes. He could have stayed with Peter’s mom. They could have loved each other. He could have enjoyed being a dad. But he was blind to the meaning of anything, and he went so far as to destroy the beauty that did exist. He killed his children. He killed Peter’s mom. So Peter is gonna smash that perverted creep in the face with a giant Pac Man and doggone! I’m going to enjoy watching it!
I think the clincher moment for me in this movie was watching Peter mourn Yondu. I do not like Yondu. I still don’t “like” him. Yondu is unpleasant to me, but there are a lot of Yondu’s out there, and they are worth something and they need to be told so. They need to be seen and loved too. When Peter was grieving Yondu, I heard something in his voice. “I had a pretty cool dad.” I don’t think Chris Pratt was just being Peter Quill at that moment, I think he was being Chris Pratt. Chris lost his father far too soon, and I think at this moment he was being given the gift of feeling his own loss and love on screen. That was a very intimate moment that I felt lent gravity to the movie, and I felt honored that he was willing to share that with us.
I love the Guardians because on paper they make no sense, they are so messy, and yet they love so hard and they don’t quit. I can respect that. I learn so much from them that I don’t from other characters. I know the love they are learning to have comes less easy for them than it does for other characters. I was highly displeased with the Guardians’ portrayal in both Infinity War and a lot in (only Nebula and Rocket were handled well) Endgame. I felt they were not treated with the respect and growth their characters had earned. I’m hoping Vol 3 can fix some of these problems.
But yeah, I like my Guardians. I like them a lot.
It does not hurt that this was the first movie I’d seen in theaters since Far From Home in the summer of 2019. You know, a thousand years ago before the Dark Ages of Covid and everything else that has happened since. I didn’t mean to stay away from the theater so long, it just happened that way.
Shang-Chi was a treat that I got to go see with my mom as a celebration for my 25th birthday. I’d had a really good feeling about it going in, but wow. Wow, was I ever right!
This movie is amazing. I mean, AMAZING! It’s been a while since we’ve seen a completely new character with no prior introduction in the MCU make their debut. Shang-Chi did it and did it so well I’m still amazed. Nothing about this story was wasted. Every aspect of the movie, from the script to the humor to the costuming to the martial arts was all working in harmony to tell a very fantastical, very human story.
I loved the fantasy elements. I loved the bright colors. I loved how Chinese legends and otherworldly elements were seamlessly blended with some very American-tasting characters/conversations. I LOVED the characters. Shaun and Katy are what got me out of movie blog retirement.
This movie was powerful in its messaging, handled flashbacks with fine dexterity, and never lost the momentum. It used visual symbolism as well as honest dialogue extremely well. You could see the character growth portrayed in multiple ways. The story had deep moments of trauma and darkness, but they were well-integrated alongside moments of hope and humor.
Also, I just think Shaun is really cute. Like, REALLY cute.
I also like where he landed at the ending. His choice to stay true to the beauty and light inside of him, while also acknowledging the skills and history from both sides of his family was a more sustainable, mature approach to life. A lot of people think in terms of black and white and they don’t take the time to pick through the pieces of what’s worth keeping vs what you throw away. Living with extremes is usually an exhausting and dead-end way to live. It’s certainly NOT how you successfully woo the magical rings away from your father in a one-on-one battle.
It was nice to see a new origin story that felt like a Marvel movie, but more like the old ones used to feel. Exciting, fresh, making you hungry for more.
I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this yet or not, but I have some MCU fatigue. Endgame was a big movie, no one can deny that, but I was disappointed in many regards. The need for the story to keep getting bigger and bigger than the last thing has caused a lot of complications and overwhelm. Some things have been done that can’t be undone and I’m not happy about it. Often when a story grows to this point, it can get out of control. I am not enjoying the MCU the way I used to when things were simpler and more defined. Perhaps it’s naive or silly to expect/want it to feel the same way it did when I first started. I’m not the same person I was in my teenage years any more than the MCU is the same “world” it once was. I would say where I am now is I try to focus on individual chapters/characters more than just the world as a whole.
And that’s why I loved Shang-Chi, it was a fresh start with someone new that I have no baggage with. He was a character I was 100% happy to root for, and even his introduction to other big characters like Wong, Captain Marvel, and Bruce Banner was far more honest. They told him what he was in for right up front. “Your life has just changed and it’s never going back.” “Welcome to the roller coaster.” That’s exactly how I feel about life in multiple areas, so I could relate with those statements a lot. I have 0 martial arts skills and a very normal human origin story, but on an emotional level, I connected deeply with large parts of Shaun’s story.
Honorable Mentions: Spider-Man Homecoming and Far From Home
I haven’t seen No Way Home yet. I’m honestly very sad at some (not all) of the choices made for the movie, I don’t see how leaving Peter friendless and family-less is beneficial. One of those things I could swallow even if it tastes bad, especially the death part because it was an unexpected thing for Peter. But to leave his friends in the dark? To lose them not just as Spider-man, but also as Peter Parker? To do both? Why??? How does that make sense? Why is that “necessary”? Why should he have to lose Happy after he lost his mother and father, his uncle, Tony Stark, and now Aunt May????
What are we learning here? It’s “safer” or “nobler” to be on your own? What people don’t know can’t hurt them and it’s better that way? That’s crap and we know it. Marvel has proven it time and again, together is better. Family is better. Stick together, make it out the other side or die protecting each other. It’s worth it. #avengersassemble
The only reasonable thing I can think of that would justify causing Peter separation from everyone is Sony is hoping for another trilogy. Otherwise, I think it’s inexcusable.
But yeah, I love Peter Parker. I love his humility and his kindness. His stories are so easy to learn from and he’s so endearing. That’s why the Spider-Man movies get an honorable mention from me.
These are my top 5 Marvel movies. I chose them because they are movies I still want to watch more frequently. They are ones that still echo in my mind and I know I will enjoy them. I watched them and had a uniquely warm experience, or, they came at a very pivotal moment in my life and touched me more deeply than other chapters of the MCU.
These movies are not necessarily my most nostalgic Marvel movies (Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor have that honor). I like many installments in this series (Age of Ultron is a highly underrated Avengers film). And Captain America: Civil War has some of the best footage in the MCU. And the Marvel Disney+ series is a whole other ball of wax. But when I sat down and I thought about it, these were the 5 that rose to the top. I found my answers both expected and unexpected.
So, what are your top 5 Marvel movies? Why are they your top 5?