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The 10 best Marvel movies of all time

It took a superheroic effort, but here’s our deeply opinionated ranking of the top 10 Marvel movies to date

Technically speaking, the Marvel Cinematic Universe begins with 2008’s game-changing Iron Man, but plenty of movies before then had their origins in Marvel’s colorful pages. In ranking the 10 best Marvel movies, we couldn’t help but roam further afield—not all the way back to 1986’s gawdawful Howard the Duck (that would be lunacy) but to the whole of Marvel’s output. Fans of action movies, sci-fi thrillers and blockbuster summer movies already know these films intimately, but let’s weigh in with the rankings to date (with a zillion more Marvel installments on the horizon).

Best Marvel movies

10

Hulk (2003)

Fine, Ang Lee’s bizarre attempt at blockbustering isn’t perfect. But it’s got more individuality than most efforts of its kind, from Tim Squyres’s creative comic-panel editing scheme to its psychosexual desert showdown between green monster and military dad.

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9

Spider-Man (2002)

Making good on the promise of his earlier superhero flick Darkman, Sam Raimi does a bang-up job of bringing your friendly neighborhood web-slinger to life. In other words, you really believe that Tobey Maguire can catch thieves, just like flies!

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8

X-Men (2000)

The movie that kicked off the X-Men subfranchise is pulpy fun, dominated by Hugh Jackman’s loner Wolverine. It’s filled with memorable touches: a Magneto-proof plastic jail cell, or every appearance by the blue-skinned Mystique.

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7

Captain America: Civil War

A war over tactics and goals is waged between Chris Evans’s squarely patriotic Captain and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, but the unexpected emotional heft left pretenders like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in the dust.

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6

Spider-Man 2

It’s superior to the first movie for several reasons: an unusually soulful villain in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, some serious mission doubts from Tobey Maguire’s hero and a hilarious sequence set to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”

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5

X-Men 2

Once again, a Marvel sequel is a big improvement, deepening character, furthering the uneasy connection between “old friends” Magneto and Xavier, and doubling down on the subtext of social persecution (the essence of the X-Men saga).

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4

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This instalment delivers a heavy and welcome dose of political paranoia (courtesy of Robert Redford playing against lefty type as an ominous high-ranking official). Chris Evans’s superhero remains an enjoyable square peg in the round hole of the sleek Marvel universe.

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3

Iron Man

Paced swiftly by ex-Swinger Jon Favreau, the superhero movie is blessed by motormouthed Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire tech genius Tony Stark, an apolitical man with stripper poles on his private plane. Much was made of this “risky” casting, but it pays off beautifully.

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2

The Avengers

At long last, the Marvel Comics universe comes together in the common purpose of defeating evil alien snake monsters. In humanspeak, that means you’ve got a bunch of superheroes in a single movie. The cape-wearing savior here is director Joss Whedon, who remembers to keep things fun, flip and broadly entertaining.

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1

Guardians of the Galaxy

Some may find the film’s comic self-satisfaction a little grating—these lesser-known heroes date back to 1969—and there are moments when the sheer brain-melting relentlessness becomes wearying. But overall, this is giddy, ridiculous fun: a wonderfully generous gift of a film.

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