In general, Marvel has been pretty good at quality control. There are no outright disasters in the MCU canon, and even slight disappointments like Eternals and Thor: The Dark World have their champions. Unfortunately, though, there are plenty of titles that fall into a murky middle: They work, but they’re not exactly great.
There have been times, though, over the course of Marvel’s long history, where the studio has managed to make movies that felt like more than just the latest movie in a long line of assembly-like products. These are the movies that hit the high bar of excellence audiences expect from Marvel, and rise to the top of the MCU.
Yes, this is a controversial choice, but hear us out on this one. One of the most idiosyncratic movies in the MCU, Iron Man 3 is also the furthest any Marvel movie has gone towards suggesting that being an Avenger has some psychological consequences. The movie’s fake-out villain is certainly controversial, but part of the movie’s fun is that it’s really not about the villains anyway. This is a movie about Tony Stark’s struggle to be the hero he wants to be, and his inability to see a path forward for himself. It’s telling that this was the last Iron Man movie; when Iron Man 3 is over, Tony’s arc as a solo character was essentially complete.
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