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In assembling this ranking, we made a call to keep all the X-Men movies together given Days of Future Past essentially fixed and linked back to X3. Both sets of films have had inconsistencies, starting strong but battling weakness in the third iterations. Rolling Stone said of X-Men: The Last Stand that “the third and weakest chapter in the X-Men series is a blatant attempt to prove there is still life in the franchise. Even X3’s writer Simon Kinberg told ScreenCrush in 2014 that “there are a lot of things about ‘X3’ that I love and there are a lot of things that I regret.” In any case, the later movies tried to clean up some of the messiness the earlier ones left behind. And yes, we did also make allowances here for the size of the franchise”.
The Merc with a Mouth garnered attention when it came out in 2016, R-rating and all. Dripping in smart-assery and digs at the other inhabitants of its genre, Deadpool was just the counter-programming we needed to balance out the glossy and at times over-earnest MCU. Deadpool also gets a tip of the hat for consistency — Deadpool 2 was just about as joke-packed and irreverent as the first.
3. Iron Man
Back in 2008, Iron Man was first in a long line of MCU movies. This franchise helped establish a strong foundation for all MCU offerings that followed. It also gave us Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, who is narcissistic, vexing, funny and kind of an ass, but a character you can’t help but like. Iron Man also helped clue the MCU in on how to balance tone and stakes, pushing Stark’s humor even while chaos is unfolding.
Let’s get something out of the way: Spider-Man 3 was terrible. In fact, it was almost awful enough to tarnish the legacy of the Sam Raimi trilogy, because now when you think of Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, you think of ill-advised guyliner… and that cringe-worthy dance number.
However, we’re focused on the impact of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 — evidence that you can make fun, satisfying, heartfelt comic book movies capable of burrowing into our pop culture psyche.
Ensembles movies can easily sprawl into unwieldy, disjointed disasters. Somehow, the Avengers have avoided all that. And after four years of movies leading up to the first Avengers installment of the MCU, there was a lot riding on this first point of culmination for the franchise that brought together the likes of Captain America, Iron Man and the rest of the high-powered crew.
Since 2012, we’ve been all about waiting for that next team-up, curious how the various relationships will play out, inching our way toward the highest stakes we’ve seen yet with Endgame, out April 26. From the original to Age of Ultron, to Infinity War, it would be an understatement to say audiences were excited. Just consider that seven years after Joss Whedon’s original entry, tickets for the upcoming Avengers: Endgame broke Fandango’s presale record in just six hours.