The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is truly a cinematic marvel. Never before has the film industry witnessed a universe shared by so many characters, storylines, and consistent record-breaking box office successes. It’s been a huge year for Marvel Studios due to the achievements of “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” But it’s also been a sad one due to the passing of Marvel patriarch and creator Stan Lee. Still, the Marvel train shows no signs of slowing; and we may have only seen the beginning of what MCU can do with a slate of new films and some new characters in the near future. So in honor of the new “Captain Marvel” trailer, “Black Panther’s” groundbreaking Golden Globes nomination, and the much-anticipated “Avengers: Endgame” trailer, here’s my top 5 favorite Marvel Movies (so far…)

Disclaimer (& Invitation!): If you’re a fan, I know you have ranked the Marvel movies too. That’s part of the fun of being a fan! This is my personal list based on my own thoughts and critiques, but I want to hear yours. Maybe you can persuade me to change mine? Comment with your own top 5 favorite list and let’s discuss!

5. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)

Directed by the Russo Brothers, “Captain America: Winter Soldier” is my favorite Captain America film. Yes, I like it even more than “Captain America: Civil War”. Change my mind. Anyway, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is struggling with how to live in our current day and with the new direction of S.H.I.E.L.D. But when the past presents new threats, Rogers and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have to go on the run to uncover a conspiracy.

Why It’s Great: Sequels are challenging. However, “Winter Soldier” manages to build upon “Captain America: The First Avenger” without repeating it. It also serves to further enhance the character of Captain America, as well as remind the audience why he truly is a hero worth believing in. The style of “Winter Soldier” is different as well. It’s more realistic at times than the comic book, with fantastic stunt choreography that’s a lot more believable. Finally, I appreciate the twists and mostly unexpected surprises, but I’m even more a fan of its theme of freedom versus security. In a genre where they could’ve gotten by with simply good guy versus bad guy, “Winter Soldier” tackled a complex and incredibly relevant issue.

4. Black Panther (2018)

Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” tells the story of how T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) takes the throne as the new king of Wakanda and must decide whether to keep the kingdom a secret or use its technology to help others around the world. This dilemma becomes personal and impossible to ignore in the form of Erik Killmonger, who’s determined to take the throne and mantle of Black Panther and to do what the kings of the past have not.

Why It’s Great: The cast! Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Shuri (Letitia Wright), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) are arguably the most compelling characters on screen. They’re brilliant, entertaining, and each has their own unique stories and motivations. They illustrate how female characters should be depicted without screaming at the audience that they’re relevant and progressive. Also, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is one of the best villains in the MCU. He’s a legitimate threat, ruthless, yet the audience can’t help but relate and sympathize with him.

While T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) had a lot of competition on screen, his story is the centerpiece of the film. Our hero is wrestling with the fact his own hero, his father, has made mistakes which he now must handle. Only when he makes decisions for Wakanda based on what he believes is right is when he truly becomes king. Finally, it’s the worldbuilding! Wakanda managed to balance a futuristic look with history and culture. You don’t just believe it existed, you want to go there yourself. Wakanda forever!

Lastly, “Black Panther” recently received Marvel’s first nomination for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, hopefully paving the way for future nominations of superhero films.

3. The Avengers (2012)

Joss Whedon had the challenge of bringing all the heroes together in one film for the first time. Ironically, that’s exactly what the movie was about: the individual heroes learning to come together. The threat is Loki, Thor’s brother, and the Tesseract which will continue to play a role in the Marvel Universe.

Why It’s Great: It’s so fun without being too lazy. It’s all about relationships and interactions, which is why you care despite the unbelievable circumstances of the film. “The Avengers” also does a great job highlighting each of the characters. If you’re a fan of only one of the Avengers, you’ll still enjoy the film. Basically, this is the comic book movie you’ve always wanted and paved the way for where we are now in the MCU.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” throws you off from the start; but once you recover, you’ll realize you’re loving the ride. “Guardians of the Galaxy” leaves Earth to the Avengers and takes the action to outer space. Here, a gang of misfits become their own sort of family to save the galaxy from yet another mysterious object which will play a significant role in the Marvel Universe.

Why It’s Great: It’s hilarious, it’s irreverent, yet it has so much heart. The casting is spectacular; and yes, while there is a plot, this film is about the characters first and foremost. One of the most unique aspects of “Guardians of the Galaxy” is its soundtrack. It’s tied to main character Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) story, and it both influences and reflects other moments in the film while offering that dash of nostalgic, oddball flavor. Lastly, a dance-off saved the universe. Yep, it’s true.

1. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

The Russo Brothers’ “Avengers: Infinity War” is the culmination and climax of ten years of MCU films. Thanos is bent on collecting the Infinity Stones and using them to eliminate half of the universe. Fortunately, he doesn’t have them all yet; and all of our Marvel heroes are being called upon to stop him.

Why It’s Great: This film has a massive cast. I’m talking seventy plus characters here, each with their own storylines and motivations. Somehow, the Russo Brothers made it work seamlessly. Plus, it’s a blast seeing so many of your favorite characters interacting with one another. Basically, “Infinity War” is a cinematic symphony where each character has their own moment which contributes to the overall story without ever losing steam and with the highest of stakes.

The film is also a huge payoff for fans of the MCU, as details and plot points from films past are addressed without losing or confusing casual fans or even those seeing a Marvel film for the first time. “Infinity War” also took bold risks and managed to surprise audiences in a time where spoilers, leaks, and fan theories are a part of the landscape. Finally, “Infinity War” is a stand-alone film with an ending. Yes, we always knew there would be a sequel, which we now know is “Avengers: Endgame”. But “Infinity War” didn’t take the easy way out, cheaply cutting to black at the climax only to generate ticket sales for the next film. In a time where franchises are shamelessly stretched into multiple films for box office wins, “Infinity War” doesn’t beg.

So that’s my top 5 favorite Marvel movies so far, but I want to know yours! What’s your top 5 favorite Marvel movies? Did any of mine make your list? Let us know!

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