The 12 best modern Marvel superhero movies

Marvel has taken over the box office

Over 20 movies
Ever since "Iron Man" was released in 2008 and kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel has taken over the box office.

In the past eight years, Marvel Studios has put out well over 20 movies that span multiple studios — from Disney to 20th Century Fox. "Deadpool," which came out on February 12, has been shattering records since its opening weekend. It has grossed over $679.1 million worldwide.

In anticipation of the upcoming "Captain America: Civil War" and "X-Men: Apocalypse," we ranked the 12 best Marvel movies we've seen since Robert Downey Jr.'s era-defining "Iron Man."

12. "The Wolverine" (2013)

The hugely entertaining "The Wolverine" stays true to the characters' roots while telling an unconventional superhero story that involves Yakuza gangsters. There's a lot of great action here, such as a train chase that is as memorable as it is implausible. What really makes this stand out is Hugh Jackman, who has committed to this character for so long. He's a hero who is immortal and haunted by the prospect of death.

11. "The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012)

Spider-Man didn't need to be rebooted, but Sony really didn't want to lose this franchise. While nothing can top what Sam Raimi created — even if "Spider-Man 3" didn't do anybody any favors — the first reboot had a lot of great stuff to offer. It has a whole new Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) who's less of a geek. And Parker created the web blasters this time, making it just slightly more faithful to the comics.

10. "Ant-Man" (2015)

With Edgar Wright originally onboard, "Ant-Man" was looking to be one of Marvel's best. Indeed, Joss Whedon even called it Marvel's best script yet. But when Wright and the studio couldn't see eye to eye, the director dropped out. Replacement director Peyton Reed had high expectations to live up to. He crafted a superhero story that goes through the standard motions of an origin story while also managing to be a fun heist movie with great performances by Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. We will never know what Edgar Wright's "Ant-Man" would have looked like, but the version we ended up with isn't so bad.

9. "The Incredible Hulk" (2008)

The second time is the charm. This semi-sequel, semi-reboot of 2003's dismal "Hulk" gets a lot right in that it's fun and filled with action from the start. At times, it also treats Bruce Banner's (Edward Norton) transformation like a horror movie. While a standalone Hulk movie with Mark Ruffalo doesn't seem to be happening in the near future, at least we have one good "Hulk" movie to enjoy.

8. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014)

Like any good sequel, "Winter Soldier" completely ups the ante. It adds a new hero along with a surprising villain. If you aren't a hardcore Marvel fan, it's easy to get lost among the endless tie-ins. But you don't have to be a voracious comic reader to appreciate some top-notch action. And the directors, the Russo brothers, know how to put on a show.

7. "Deadpool" (2015)

"Deadpool" is the rare R-rated superhero movie. Between the excessive violence and liberal use of the F-bomb, it certainly earns its rating. It helps that Ryan Reynolds, who plays the masked hero, had been trying to get the film made for 10 years. His enthusiasm for the role is infectious. With its somewhat stale fourth-wall breaking, "Deadpool" isn't quite as edgy as it thinks it is, but it's more than fun enough. Most importantly, it does what many other Marvel movies couldn't: seamlessly tie itself in with a larger universe. The union of Deadpool with X-Men here just feels natural.

6. "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011)

Before Captain America (Chris Evans) joined up with The Avengers, he was given this blast of an adventure movie. Set during World War II, "The First Avenger" feels like a throwback to "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

5. "Iron Man" (2008)

This is when the game changed. "Iron Man" touched a nerve by setting much of its action in a war ripped from the headlines (Afghanistan). Most importantly, it reintroduced Robert Downey Jr. to the world as a movie star. He transforms Iron Man into a superhero worthy of the big screen like no other: a wise-cracking egomaniac who cares as much about saving the world as he does about letting everybody know that he's actually Tony Stark.

4. "The Avengers" (2012)

The first "Avengers" movie was a big gamble. It was the first time the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor would share a screen together. Ultimately, the gamble paid off hugely. Joss Whedon brought this epic to life in a sincere and tongue-in-cheek manner. It says a lot when your post-credits scene is mainly your heroes sitting around a table eating shawarma. But what every great superhero movie needs is a great villain. While it is cathartic to watch Bruce Banner declare, "I'm always angry," the real reason to stick around is for Tom Hiddleston's sadistically charming Loki.

3. "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)

"Days of Future Past" is a sequel to a mediocre reboot that also happens to be the best X-Men movie yet. The time-travel behind it works because the stakes are so high that it never seems convoluted. Come for the amazing Quicksilver scene, stay for the lessons on civil rights.

2. "Iron Man 3" (2013)

After a disastrous second outing, the "Iron Man" series rebounded with this fantastic closing to the trilogy. This time, the legendary Shane Black was hired to write and direct. In his third entry, Tony Stark loses his legendary suit for a long time and has to fight with nothing but his wits. That, and an interesting villain, make for one of the most unique superhero movies ever made.

1. "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014)

Let's be clear: "Guardians of the Galaxy" is not a superhero movie. Its own director has said so. This is what makes it the best Marvel movie there is. It doesn't get bogged down in an origin story or an explanation of powers. In the midst of the Cinematic Universe, this is a movie that connects with hardcore fans and casual viewers alike. "Guardians" proved that Chris Pratt is a movie star and that Vin Diesel could bring tears to your eyes while playing a talking tree. The whole thing has a sharp sense of humor and self-awareness that never borders on self-hatred. Here is a comic-book movie that defies all the rules of comic-book movies, but at the same time, loves the fact that it is one.


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