The films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are the most consistently entertaining films of any movie studio in Hollywood. Perhaps Pixar is the only one that rivals its level of quality. Anyone can watch these films and find value in them, even if you are not a comic book fan. Lucky for me, I was a huge Marvel fan before the first MCU film Iron Man was even released.

Like the MCU, my relationship with Marvel comes in three phases. Three decades representing three different stages of evolution:

  • The 1990s: The Awareness Phase
  • The 2000s: The Discovery Phase
  • The 2010s: The Immersion Phase

The Awareness Phase

Growing up in west Oakland like a young Killmonger, most of my childhood was spent watching cartoons, the majority of which being comprised of NickToons, Looney Tunes and Disney films. I was not into superheroes but I was certainly aware of characters like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, The X-Men and others. I just didn’t watch those shows because I preferred the cartoonier offerings.

The Discovery Phase

Even though I was not into comic books or superheroes, I was a huge fan of science fiction. Ever since my life got changed watching Star Wars for the first time, sci-fi took over my life and soon my love for genre filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams came to light.

My love of genre films eventually led to Sam Raimi’s 2002 film Spider-Man, the first Marvel film I had ever seen.

I loved that movie so much that for the first time I started reading Marvel comics, the first one I read being Ultimate Spider-Man, a perfect place to start because it was an origin story.

At the start of the new millennium, Marvel began creating modern reboots of all its most famous characters under the “Ultimate” banner, with many changes (for example, Nick Fury was originally white before the “Ultimate” label was born).

So Ultimate Spider-Man led to Ultimate X-Men, which I also loved, and Ultimate X-Men led to my discovery of the outstanding X-Men films of Bryan Singer.

Now with two different series captivating me, my affinity for Marvel had been cemented.

Around this time I was also becoming a DC fan. I started reading my brother’s Batman comics and fell in love with all things Gotham, even watching every single episode of the Batman animated series that I missed as a kid on DVD. My evolution as a DC fan is similar to my evolution as a Marvel fan: Batman: The Animated Series led to Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and Teen Titans, and my love for these shows led to my love for DC comics, which made me into a fan of characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, etc.

The Marvel characters felt different though. They awakened a higher level of enthusiasm within me. DC was classy opera but Marvel was rock and roll. My life in the 2000s were dominated by Marvel comics, and with them the discovery of characters like Captain America, Thor, Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Iron Man, Daredevil, The Punisher, Deadpool, Howard the Duck and others. I loved these characters so much that by the time Jon Favreau directed Iron Man, I was prepared to see these characters make the jump to the big screen.

The Immersion Phase

Kevin Feige, who was a Marvel fan way before he became president of Marvel Studios, started out as an assistant to executive producer Lauren Shuler Donner on the movies Volcano, You’ve Got Mail and X-Men.

Due to Feige’s Marvel knowledge, Donner made Feige an associate producer on X-Men, which led to the founder of Marvel Studios Avi Arad hiring Feige as his second-in-command, before Feige became president of production in 2007 and started producing every single MCU film, beginning with Iron Man, which was chosen as the first MCU film due to the film rights to all of Marvel’s most popular characters being held by Fox and Sony, but the film did an excellent job making us fall in love with Iron Man just as much as the previous Marvel films had made us fall in love with Spider-Man and the X-Men.

While Iron Man was a good film with a good story, the jaw dropper came post-credits when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up to tell Tony Stark about something called the Avengers Initiative. This kind of crossover was common in the Marvel comics, but there was something exciting about seeing it in a movie. This was not a set-up to a sequel. This was the first set-up to a universe.

Over the years I have read less and less Marvel comics and began focusing on the movies exclusively, which is how I like it. The comics have become too convoluted for me to enjoy. The film medium has always been my first love, and it was the language I preferred anyway. It is just as well because the movies are at the level of quality of many of the best Marvel comics I read in my early twenties, a few of which were adapted into MCU films. Films I enjoyed just as much as the comic books, if not more so.

My MCU Film Rankings

Phase One:

  • The Avengers
  • Iron Man
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Thor
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2

Phase Two:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Ant-Man
  • Iron Man 3
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Thor: The Dark World

Phase Three:

  • Black Panther
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Doctor Strange
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Eli’s Top Ten MCU Films

  1. Black Panther
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. Thor: Ragnarok
  5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  6. The Avengers
  7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  8. Iron Man
  9. Ant-Man
  10. Captain America: The First Avenger