5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)
Comics are built upon the never-ending conflict between good guys and villains. But what happens when a pair of heroes find themselves so irrevocably at odds that the only solution is fisticuffs? The answer lies in Captain America: Civil War.
With Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel laid the groundwork for a story about the real-world implications of super-beings; here, those ideas come rushing to the fore as Cap and Tony Stark find themselves on opposite sides of an ideological divide drawn when the world�s governments seek to impose regulations reining in the growing population of �enhanced� individuals. Naturally, there�s a lot of weighty sociopolitical subtext inherent in its themes, but this is still a Marvel movie, with all the action and quippy one-liners that implies � and a darn good one, according to the vast majority of critics, who deemed it one of the better efforts to come out of an increasingly complex cinematic universe. �With Civil War,� wrote Barry Hertz of the Globe and Mail, �Marvel Studios has proven, once again, that the world�s heroes remain in good hands.�
4. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
It took a long time � and a lot of box-office receipts � before Marvel was finally able to eradicate the old notion that there was only one kind of �superhero movie,� and it needed to be based around immediately recognizable characters who fit a simple mold.
Over and over again, pundits doubted that audiences were interested in seeing the big-screen adventures of characters perceived as either outdated (Captain America), silly (Thor), or second-tier (Iron Man) � but with 2014�s Guardians of the Galaxy, the studio may have erased those doubts permanently. After all, if you can score a hit with an adaptation of a comic about a team of do-gooders whose ranks include aliens that look like a tree and a raccoon, you can do anything, right? Of course, it didn�t hurt that director James Gunn took a suitably irreverent approach to the material, or that he rounded up an outstanding ensemble led by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel (those last two providing, respectively, the voices of the raccoon and tree). Like most Marvel movies, Guardians came packed with laughs and action, but this tale of intergalactic derring-do also boasted surprisingly poignant moments.
3. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)
Getting lightning to strike with one movie is hard enough, let alone an entire franchise � so when Sony�s plans for the first Spider-Man reboot fizzled after a pair of films, it wasn�t hard to understand why the studio turned to Marvel for a series-steadying hand. Sharing the creative reins turned out to be exactly what the web-slinger needed. After hiring Tom Holland to play Spidey, Marvel introduced his version of the character in Captain America: Civil War, which turned out to be a mighty effective teaser for the main event � Spider-Man: Homecoming marked a rebound for the flagging franchise while sending our hero back to his high school roots. Part superhero adventure, part coming-of-age story, it delivered the action comics fans craved � but the quieter moments in between the battles might have been its strongest. �It delivers eye-popping spectacle in spades,� wrote the Tribune News Service�s Katie Walsh, �but it�s the characters that make it count.�
2. MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS (2012)
s one thing to turn a slew of comics characters into successful film franchises. But to fit them � and the actors bringing them to life � into a single movie? That takes moxie, not to mention millions of dollars. Fortunately, director Joss Whedon had both resources at his disposal when he wrangled the cast of the MCU�s Phase One into Marvel�s The Avengers, somehow managing to guideex his overstuffed assemblage of heroes and villains in an all-star bonanza. The movie�s 140-minute length suggested lumbering overkill, but even with a CGI-enhanced battle for the fate of humanity in the final act, Whedon�s Avengers remained light on its feet, balancing high-stakes action against an intoxicatingly zippy plot that gave each of its many characters at least a few moments to shine (not to mention a laugh-out-loud one-liner or two). �Audiences have been eagerly anticipating this first all-hero extravaganza for years,� wrote USA Today�s Claudia Puig. �The wait was worth it.�
1. IRON MAN (2008)
All these billions of dollars in box-office grosses later, it�s easy to forget how many people thought the idea of an Iron Man movie was a little silly � as well as the not-unpopular notion that Marvel was taking a major risk by handing a superhero franchise to Robert Downey, Jr. Needless to say, those doubters were quickly silenced when Iron Man arrived in theaters in 2008, proving a comics character didn�t need Superman levels of name-brand recognition in order to send filmgoers flocking. With Downey in rare form as a quip-dispensing playboy/action hero and Jeff Bridges chomping cigars while exuding oily villainy, Iron Man hit all the requisite origin-story beats while establishing the first cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe � and offered plenty of blockbuster action in the bargain.