Since 2008 the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has developed into a carefully constructed and delicately linked cash-cow that's expanded masterfully over the span of 14 films. And with the universe's 15th installment, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, slated to dominate the box office on May 5th, I'm devoting April's Movie List of the Month to the best of Marvel's expansive series (March's list). Full disclosure, I'm not a comic book fanatic who's examining the universe from such a nerd-centric standpoint. Instead, I'm detailing the MCUs most entertaining films.
Honorable Mention: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Iron Man 2 and Thor
#5. Ant-Man (2015)
I've always had a soft spot for Paul Rudd and the comedic actor's venture into the superhero genre felt effortless with Peyton Reed's Ant-Man. Rudd stars as cat burglar Scott Lang who's recruited by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to assume the identity of Ant-Man, a special suit that gives its wearer the unique ability to shrink in size but increase in strength. While Ant-Man doesn't feel all that essential to the MCU, the film's laugh-out-loud humor and strong supporting performances from Michael Pena and Corey Stoll help solidify the effort.
#4. Iron Man (2008)
Before the MCU reached the enormity which it now possesses, it began as a vision that hinged heavily on its pioneer endeavor, Iron Man. Leading star Robert Downey Jr. immersed himself in the role of billionaire tycoon, Tony Stark, and the rest is history. With Iron Man, it became abundantly clear that the MCU formulaic approach would consist of comedy and action, both in heavy doses. Tony Stark's arrogant and snarky attitude is a natural fit for Downey Jr. who introduces audiences to the amazing armored suit that helps lead to the creation of The Avengers.
#3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Some of the MCU's finest moments come from ambitious storylines that were executed exceptionally. One such moment occurs in the pivotal third isntallment of the Captain America saga, Civil War. Following the devastating effects of Ultron from the second Avengers film, two sides form pitting superhero against superhero in an unforgettable showdown. Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Downey Jr.) battle over the mystery surrounding Steve Rogers' old friend, Bucky Barnes all while a new foe emerges. Civil War stands as a climactic entry in the MCU and one that doesn't fail to impress.
#2. Marvel's The Avengers (2012)
A handful of years ago, it was a daring attempt for the MCU to bring together a wide collection of superhero's in Joss Weedon's The Avengers. This final installment of the well-chronicled "Phase One" takes shape as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) heads an international peace-keeping agency that requires the assistance of Earth's greatest superhero's when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his alien combatants threaten our planet's existence. The Avengers was a bold film that Weedon and company handled with extreme care, and it's overwhelming success shattered barriers that sent the MCU on an unbounded upward trajectory.
#1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
If you're wondering what separates James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy from the rest of the MCU, there's no simple answer. Personally, I felt that the film's quirky humor was unlike anything else the MCU offered. Chris Pratt's portrayal of Peter Quill is wonderfully complemented by his misfit collection of sidekicks who form an unlikely bond to become the Guardians of the Galaxy. Ronan makes for a compelling villain, something that the MCU often struggles to develop, as James Gunn takes the audience on an entertaining thrill ride with a fantastic soundtrack. Guardians of the Galaxy separated itself as a step above the rest which makes its upcoming sequel one of my most anticipated films of the year.