Over the past half decade plus, Marvel Studios has churned out eight films. While not all overwhelming successes with critics or the general public, each has contributed to a layered and textured universe that is now far more valuable than any one single film. Through careful planning, extreme competence and a whole lot of love, the fine people over at Marvel have created a world that can be incessantly argued over in the most loving and passionate ways possible, and for a studio that launched from the world of comics, that’s the most wonderful compliment anyone could ever bestow.
At least once a week here at Cinema Blend, an argument breaks out about something related to Marvel. Sometimes it’s over which films were best executed. Sometimes it’s over which characters work the most or which actors turned in the best performances. They often get heated, but they’re a whole lot of fun. So, in honor of Thor: The Dark World, which makes its own little contribution to the larger universe, we decided to formalize many of our disagreements. What’s the best movie? Who is the best supporting character? Through bitter threats and vicious emails, we hammered out five nominees in each of six Marvel-related categories. Then we voted.
What follows are the categories, the nominees we selected and a paragraph on which actor, movie or character the most writers voted for. If you agree, take to the comment section to pat us on the back. If you don’t, tell us why we’re wrong, preferably in a manner that’s free of hate speech.
Best Movie: The AvengersWith 8 out of 10 of us ranking it as #1, the clear winner of best Marvel movie was The Avengers. And of course it was! Its recipe for success brought together every element the Marvel movie universe had going for it, and then topped it off with big, fat helpings of geeky goodiness that bubbled over into a total nerdgasm.
Take everyone's favorite genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Add in the best villain Marvel Entertainment has yet to unveil. Mix with the jaw-dropping fight skills of Black Widow, the smirking appeal of Hawkeye, the Shakespearean grandeur of Thor, and the earnest heroics of Captain America. It's a concoction so overloaded it should have been a mess. And yet Joss Whedon, god among nerds, forged a film that was satisfying to long-time comic lovers and mainstream movie fans alike. It even made The Hulk, who flopped in not one but two live-action adventures, a freshly viable and fascinating character!
The Avengers not only had to merge all the disparate threads of the movies that led up to it, but also had to top them. And it did with humor and electric panache. No wonder it was almost universally embraced by critics, and pulled in more than $1.5 billion, making it the third highest grossing film of all time , coming in behind Avatar and Titanic. Can Avengers: Age of Ultron possibly top it? We're dying to find out.
The Nominees: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World
Best Acting Performance: Tom HiddlestonLike the residents of Stuttgart, we’re all a bunch of mewling quim who kneel before the great and powerful Hiddleston. Even Marvel realized in 2011’s Thor that they held something special in their stable, so Loki became the focal point of The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World and, likely, a third Thor movie (if and when that happens). Read the reviews of Alan Taylor’s sequel. Almost all admit that the movie finally takes flight once Hiddleston’s character is freed from prison and able to banter with Hemsworth’s stoic hero. Their chemistry has been invaluable to the Thor franchise, though Hiddleston’s innate ability to connect on screen with each member of the Avengers in individual scenes helped make Loki such a compelling villain. The joy of Hiddleston’s performance is that he humanizes a god, selling the unpredictability of a double-crossing deity and giving Marvel a stable base of evil on which to build. All other Marvel villains moving forward will be based on the dark charismas and evil charms Hiddleston brings to Loki. Imagine how gloomy, stoic and deathly serious the Marvel Cinematic Universe would look without him.
The Nominees: Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Evans
Best Supporting Character: Agent CoulsonWhen Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson first showed up in Jon Favreau's Iron Man back in 2008 there really wasn't much to the character. While he was very businesslike and friendly, his basic purpose in the movie was to establish the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D. and help Pepper Potts during her first encounter with Obidiah Stane's Iron Monger. But boy has the character grown in the years since, not only becoming a fully fleshed-out presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also our favorite supporting character in the eight movies we've seen so far.
While Coulson gained popularity with his appearances in Iron Man 2, Thor, and a pair of Marvel One Shot short films, it really wasn't until Joss Whedon took a spin with the character in The Avengers that he became the man that we all know and love. Exposed as a total Captain America fanboy, and seen palling around with Tony Stark, Coulson not only gained a third dimension but also in many ways became a surrogate for the audience, living the dream of any comic book fan who has ever wished that they could just spend their days hanging out with superheroes. His "death" in the film made us all realize just how much we love the character and he continues to be the best thing about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. At the end of the day we can't get enough of Agent Coulson.
The Nominees: Darcy Lewis, Agent Coulson, Nick Fury, Pepper Potts, and Peggy Carter
Best Scene: The Avengers New York City FightIt only takes a single shot for The Avengers final fight sequence to become the best scene in all of Marvel movie history. In one sweeping, completely thrilling shot, we see every single one of our heroes at work-- Black Widow fights a Chtauri on a flying motorbike, Iron Man cruises by to fire lasers that eventually bounce off Captain America's shield, Hawkeye keeps watch on the roof, Hulk and Thor smash a giant flying monster to bits, and the whole thing ends with the spectacular destruction of Grand Central Station. The big New York City fight in The Avengers could have easily been the same numbing chaos that ends so many other big-budget action movies, but it's the way that Joss Whedon allows all the heroes to operate together that makes it work. The sequence has heart-stopping moments of well choreographed action and giant explosions, but the tiniest moments-- Hulk pushing over Thor, Black Widow getting a lift from Cap, Tony Stark telling Loki "we have a Hulk"-- make it emotional and alive. The Avengers is a movie about building a team, and it's almost miraculous that, the first time we see the full team in action, it's in a scene that's worthy of them.
The Nominees: Avengers climax, Hulk vs Thor fight in Avengers, Red Skull lab raid from Captain America, Iron Man 3 climax, Thor: The Dark World climax.
Best Villain: LokiThere were a few categories that were really close. There were a few categories that were basically runaways. This, however, was the only one in which every single voter picked the same winner. Loki breeze his way through the field with his trademark smirk, and considering actor Tom Hiddleston also won Best Acting Performance, the rout probably shouldn’t surprise anyone. Loki is head and shoulders above all of his fellow villains on this list, and in all honesty, he’s head and shoulders above most of the villains we’ve seen in comic book adaptations, whether they’ve involved Marvel or not.
A great villain has a certain flair to him. He captivates and infuriates so much that you don’t ever really want him to lose. You want him to get his comeuppance but still find a way to come back, and that’s what Loki continues to do. He stirs the pot, steals scenes and leaves you wanting more down the road. He’s like an ace in the hole, and if all goes according to plan, Mavel will continue to pick the right spots to play him moving forward.
The Nominees: Loki, Red Skull, The Mandarin, Obadiah Stane and Emil Blonsky
Best Superhero: Iron ManYou probably don’t need me to tell you why Iron Man is the greatest superhero Marvel films have given us, since Iron Man has been telling us for three films why he’s the greatest. Though his "born of a genius millionaire" status already gave Tony Stark a leg up over most heroes, he reached his apex through being smart, having ingenuity and most of all, being blindly confident in everything he does. Feasibly anyone could build themselves an army of smart-suits with world-saving capabilities, but it takes someone with guts as big as mountains to get inside the suits, ready to battle all kinds of awful baddies, from Obidiah Stane to intergalactic cyborgs to the bloated Iron Man 2. Not to mention alcoholism, since the movies barely did.
While the three standalone Iron Man movies don’t quite add up to the marvelousness of The Avengers, they cement the metallic hero as a hilariously witty, enigmatic and explosive badass who doesn’t even have to spend part of a movie trying to get the beautiful barefoot girl; she’s already his. As Captain America and the Guardians of the Galaxy will surely wow us with their next films, just as Thor did, they’ll never have what truly makes Iron Man the greatest cinematic Marvel hero: Robert Downey Jr.
The Nominees: Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Captain America and Black Widow