Home Movies Movie Lists

Superhero Worship: Top 40 Marvel Movie Ideas, Ranked

From smart casting choices to Spidey and X-Men reboots, we rank the decisions that have shaped Marvel’s superhero universe, from worst to best

To date, movies based on Marvel Comics characters and titles — some 33 films in all — have grossed nearly $6.18 billion at the U.S. box office, and more than double that worldwide. Marvel Studios, the in-house company set up by the comic book publisher (now a part of Disney) has taken in $2.6 billion alone, courtesy of the nine pictures (The Avengers, as well as the Iron Man, Thor and Captain America films) released under their banner. Meanwhile, studios like Sony and Fox also milk the brand with their respective properties, e.g. Spider-Man and the X-Men — both of which, coincidentally (or not), are gracing theaters with new entries this month.

How Spider-Man Conquered the World

But Marvel hasn't always been a commercial juggernaut, and for every good choice made regarding a movie based on a Marvel Comic, you can bet that a wrong-headed one was executed as well. Aside from one lone Captain America serial in 1944, the history of Marvel Comics on the big screen encompasses only the last 28 years — and those nearly three decades have had their share of highs, lows, hits and misses. So on the eve of X-Men: Days of Future Past taking over multiplexes around the world, we invite you to follow along as we look back through 40 decisions that shaped the Marvel movies — the very worst, the very best, and all those that could have gone either way. After all, as any Marvel fan will tell you, superheroes aren't perfect. By Don Kaye

Howard the Duck

©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

40

‘Howard the Duck’

This 1986 effort — the first theatrical Marvel film aside from that Captain America serial 42 years earlier — was a creative and commercial disaster that not even producer George Lucas could save. The problem was that it was supposed to be animated, but contractual obligations forced it to become a live-action movie — specifically, an unfunny, effects-driven, story-deprived live-action film about a talking duck. Not a good way to start a multi-billion-dollar brand.

Courtesy Everett Collection

39

Giving Roger Corman the Rights to the Fantastic Four

Marvel Comics sold off the film rights to a lot of its characters over the years — to its undying regret — but giving the famously thrifty king of the B-movies one of the publisher's most iconic titles was easily one of its most foolish moves. Made at the last minute solely to keep the option from expiring, Corman's threadbare, amateurish 1994 film was never released, and deservedly so. (Stan Lee later said that it was never intended for public consumption in the first place; bootleg copies of this cinematic Hindenburg, however, have been circulating for years.) The Four would eventually get the studio-blockbuster treatment — and would fare only marginally better than they did here.

Ghost Rider

Columbia Pictures

38

Greenlighting a Second ‘Ghost Rider’ Movie

Yes, the first Ghost Rider, released in 2007, earned a respectable $110 million at the U.S. box office — but let's face it, it wasn't exactly the Citizen Kane of Flaming-Skull Biker Superhero movies. Still, Sony Pictures doubled down for a sequel, one blessed with the straight-to-VOD-ish title Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance; the notion of hiring the poster children of attention-deficit-cinema, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank), to direct was not going to improve the situation. The results were somehow even worse the first go-round, and although the rights have quietly reverted back to Marvel, we doubt you'll be seeing that hot-headed undead hero onscreen again anytime soon.

Ghost Rider

Columbia Pictures

37

Casting Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider

Not only is former-motorcycle-stunt-rider-turned-vengeful-hellspawn Johnny Blaze a bad choice for the big-screen treatment, but Cage — who for years has badly wanted to play a superhero, any superhero — was just beginning to fully embrace his Kabuki-like, inhibition-free "crazy" phase to the exclusion of all else when he got the role. The result? A bad movie featuring a talented actor giving in to his worst instincts. Talk about flaming out….

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

Copyright 20th Century Fox Film Corp/Courtesy Everett Collection

36

Wasting the Character of Deadpool

The wisecracking, fourth-wall-breaking mercenary and antihero who first appeared in the New Mutants comics has a certain cool factor that's always endeared him to many readers. So what a way to ruin the character with an appearance in the lousy X-Men spinoff film, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. To wit: The plan was to introduce him in the form of an extended cameo by Ryan Reynolds, then warp him into another actor entirely for his climactic return as a half-assed mutant hybrid? Both Reynolds and producer Lauren Shuler Donner have recently been saying a solo Deadpool film is in the works, but if the intention is simply to repeat the same mistakes and mishandle the fan favorite, they should let the "Dead" rest in peace.

Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

35

Jamming Venom Into ‘Spider-Man 3’

Sam Raimi set out to make Spider-Man 3 (2007) with Sandman as the main antagonist, but Sony Pictures and producer Avi Arad insisted on shoehorning another, even more popular nemesis into the movie — specifically, a parasitic alien goo that possesses its host and turns them into a grotesque parody of Spidey named Venom. (Naturally, this vicious villian would be played by…That '70s Show's Topher Grace?!?) The result was an overstuffed and incoherent film, as well as blowing the chance to bring a fan-favorite bad guy to the big screen. Worse, the decision caused a rift between the filmmaker and the studio that never really healed, leading to the cancellation of a Raimi-helmed Spider-Man 4.

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, Doug Jones, 2007

20thCentFox/courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

34

Mishandling the Big-Budget ‘Fantastic Four’ and its Silver Surfer-ed Sequel

Granted, it wasn't as bad as the 1994 Roger Corman-produced version (see No.49). But almost nothing worked about 20th Century Fox's big-budget 2005 version of the landmark Marvel comic book — the scope, the tone, the casting (except for future Captain America star Chris Evans as Johnny Storm) and the script were all disappointing. Its 2007 sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, wasn't much of an improvement; the iconic title character — played by Doug Jones and vocalized by Laurence Fishburne — actually came across reasonably faithfully, but not even that could save it. Thankfully, the franchise is set for a reboot (see No. 23).

0th Century Fox Films

33

Making That ‘Elektra’ Movie

While we'd like to see more female protagonists in comic-book movies as a whole, this 2005 misfire was not the way to go. The perky Jennifer Garner is insanely miscast as the Greek assassin/lover-enemy of Daredevil, and since the 2003 Ben Affleck star vehicle (see No. 28) that introduced the character wasn't so well received, why build a whole movie about the blind hero's girlfriend? Given the hand that fate deals her in that earlier film, the producers had to go to great lengths in order to bring the character back. They needn't have bothered.

20th Century Fox Films

32

Blowing the ‘Dark Phoenix’ Storyline

The saga of Jean Grey and her transformation into the Dark Phoenix is one of the most, if not the most, significant story arcs in the long-running history of the X-Men — that it needed to be included in the films at some point was a given. Which is why the seriously short shrift the storyline gets in this third X-Men chapter — directed not by Bryan Singer, but by the guy who made the Rush Hour movies (see No. 29) — feels like such an epic missed opportunity. This powerful tale didn't deserve to be treated like just another piece in a movie that already felt like it was constructed on an assembly line. The disservice  made no one happy — least of all the X-fans.

Alan Markfield

31

‘Killing off’ Cyclops and Professor X

It's not that X-Men: The Last Stand is a bad movie (because in many ways, it's not); it's just fatally indifferent to so many foundations of the X-Men canon — including these two beloved characters. At least Xavier (Patrick Stewart) got a somewhat epic death scene; poor Cyclops is killed off-screen five minutes into the movie. (Yes, James Marsden was committed to Superman Returns, but there's this thing called recasting….) We've always heard that then-Fox CEO Tom Rothman wanted to kill the franchise with this film. Ultimately, he didn't (nor did he permanently off Professor X, per the post-credits sequence and Patrick Stewart's presence in the new X-Men: Days of Future Past), but it sure seems like he tried his hardest to put a stake through its heart.

Iron Man 2

Paramount Pictures

30

Turning ‘Iron Man 2’ Into a Coming-Soon Commercial

The first Iron Man was sleek, effective and remarkably well cast (see No. 1). Its sequel, on the other hand, felt like little more than a hodgepodge of superhero-film conventions, and gave the impression of a project made by committee. Part of the problem was that Marvel hadn't figured out how to effectively weave its Marelverse together yet, so huge chunks of Iron Man 2 came across as sneak previews for other movies. (Here's Cap's shield! Here's Black Widow for no apparent reason!) It would take another film or two before Marvel Studios got its M.O. down.

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

Century Fox Film Corp

29

Replacing Bryan Singer With Brett Ratner on ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’

One more jab at The Last Stand and then we'll leave it alone. When Singer went off to revive/reboot the Superman franchise, Fox hired "The Rat" (as fanboys call him) to make their release date for a third X-Men movie. Ratner knows how to shoot a movie, though you could argue that almost everything he does lacks any kind of real heart or substance. That's why this follow-up to two stellar superhero films feels so rushed and inconsequential — even when it's killing no less than three major characters!

Mary Evans/Marvel Enterprises/New Regency Pictures/Ronald Grant/Everett Collectiom

28

Putting the ‘Daredevil’ Mask on Ben Affleck

 Affleck actually isn't that bad as the Man Without Fear (though the actor himself has taken to trashing his performance and the film in recent interviews), but everything from the script to the ridiculous actions scenes in Mark Steven Johnson's 2003 misfire does nothing to support him. (One imagines that everything swirling around him off the set — including his tabloid-fodder relationship with Jennifer Lopez and a string of other high-profile flops — proved quite a distraction as well). There's a longer director's cut of Daredevil that works better, but the movie will never be able to escape the context of its release. It's best seen as a cautionary tale, though clearly it did not put Affleck off from the notion of getting involved with high-profile superhero films.

Justin Lubin/ABC

27

Ignoring ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

Marvel's first major foray into network TV since The Incredible Hulk has been a bit of a disappointment, but the show is supposed to co-exist with and expand upon the movies — which have treated it like that odd cousin that no one really wants to acknowledge at family dinners. A cameo or two from Samuel L. Jackson doesn't cut it; perhaps Agent Coulson and most of his crew could show up in a future film instead. Either way, "big" Marvel could give a helping hand to its small-screen offspring, especially with an Agent Carter series coming to ABC and four additional spin-offs on the way from Netflix.

Rhythm & Hues

26

Letting Ang Lee Make an Art-House ‘Hulk’

Marvel Studios proper has been known for its offbeat directing choices, but this early experiment with acclaimed director Ang Lee (Life of Pi) didn't pass muster. Lee actually tried to make his Hulk film look like a comic book, with the screen breaking into panels, psychedelic flourishes of color and so on. But in the end, just making a comic-book movie resemble the source material wasn't enough; neither, for that matter, was trying to turn a Hulk origin story into a psychological character study. Add in some wildly inconsistent performances from Eric Bana and Nick Nolte, and you get a movie that, while laudable in some ways, was far from incredible.

Niko Tavernise

25

Approving the Script for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’

The sequel to the 2012 Spider-Man reboot suffers from the same problem as so many superhero films: too many villains and not enough good writing. With a few tweaks, you could have taken Electro (Jamie Foxx) out of the movie with little or no consequences — a major problem when you're talking about your primary bad guy. And let's not even talk about introducing Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) in the second act and turning him into the Green Goblin 20 minutes later. Essentially, any part of the film that isn't just Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone trading screwball banter (see No. 24) is D.O.A. All this courtesy of screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the same gents who sent fanboys into a tizzy with Star Trek Into Darkness.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

24

Rebooting the Spider-Man Franchise

There are definitely pros and cons to this choice: Andrew Garfield has been strong in the role, and he and Emma Stone have had solid chemistry in their two films together. There are also some individual sequences in both Amazing Spider-Man entries that really shine (the you-are-there webslinging scenes around New York; Spidey saving Time Square tourists from Electro's singular brand of shock treatment in Amazing Spider-Man 2). But retelling his origin story was a poor choice, the handling of the villains have been lackluster at best and trying to build out a whole new universe (with four films coming in the next five or six years, including a possible Sinister Six spin-off) seems like a real stretch. We're not sure this is headed in a good direction.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Jason Merritt/Getty Images for MTV

23

Giving the Fantastic Four Yet Another Chance

The third iteration of the Fantastic Four story, which is now filming, has a lot going for it: an interesting director (Josh Trank, writer-director of the clever teen-superpowers film Chronicle), some strong casting (Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic, Toby Kebbell as Doctor Doom) and a fresh approach. But the question remains: Will the approach be too fresh? The film's origin story will be based more on the Ultimate Fantastic Four series, a point of controversy for fans. And can a story about a stretchy guy, a man made out of rock, a kid who turns into fire and an invisible woman be told in a "grounded, gritty way" as the producers have hinted?

Alan Markfield

22

Hiring Top-Shelf Actors for Key Roles

Although various Marvel-based productions can sometimes skew towards being effects-heavy thrill rides (and Marvel Studios itself is known for frugality), the movies have attracted a shining roster of talent that only expands with each new entry. Did you ever think you'd say the words "Robert Redford" and Captain America in the same sentence? Bringing the likes of Redford, Ian McKellen (X-Men), Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk), Anthony Hopkins (Thor) and Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) into the Marvel realm has elevated the productions and made the industry take them much more seriously.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel 2014

21

Taking a Big Risk With ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

The bedrock of Marvel Studios are established crowd-pleasers like The Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America. But rather than merely churn out sequels, the studio is also moving forward with riskier material. Even a lot of diehard fans had to refresh their memories about the obscure Guardians of the Galaxy, and the general public is not exactly beating down the door for an Ant-Man movie. But this proves that the compnay is not resting on its laurels, or relying on nothing but its cash cows. Potential films like Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel may push the studio even further outside its comfort zone — a good place to go if it wants to stay fresh.

Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

20

Having Lou Ferrigno Voice the Hulk in ‘The Avengers’

That may be Mark Ruffalo playing Bruce Banner and doing the motion capture for his alter ego in The Avengers, but the voice of the big green guy is delivered by the man who played him first. Ferrigno's portrayal of the Hulk for five seasons on CBS back in the late Seventies and early Eighties is still beloved by many, and it's a nice nod to his contributions — and to the character's history — to get Ferrigno involved in the current films as well. He's a smash.

Iron Man 3

Film Frame

19

The Mandarin Twist in ‘Iron Man 3’

Not only was it one of the best-kept secrets of the year — not easy in an age of spoiler-hungry fanboy websites — but the revelation that the film's super-villain Ben Kingsley's Mandarin was not a master terrorist but [stop reading now if you want to avoid a spoiler] a drug-addled, unemployable British actor named Trevor Slattery was a genuinely jolting and delightful surprise in writer-director Shane Black's clever contribution to the series. Some fans were disgruntled that they didn't get the "real" Mandarin — he is, after all, Iron Man's greatest enemy in the comics — but it arguably made for a better movie.

X-MEN, FIRST CLASS, Lucas Till,

20th Century Fox Film

18

Rebooting the X-Men Franchose With ‘First Class’

After the twin disappointments of The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the franchise was at a tipping point. A prequel chronicling the early years of Magneto, Professor Xavier and the young X-Men didn't sound very appealing at first, but director Matthew Vaughn surprised everyone with a funny, sexy and thoroughly satisfying reboot — helped immensely by terrific central performances from Michael Fassbender as Magneto and James McAvoy as the professor. X-Men: Days of Future Past looks set to build on that foundation, and hopefully, puts the mutants squarely back on track.

Niko Tavernise

17

Casting Actors With Screen Chemistry

Marvel films were shaky on this at first — Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst? — but things have markedly improved in the last few years. We already mentioned how well Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone work (see No. 24), but watch how Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow generate sparks in the Iron Man movies, and the relationship between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in The Winter Soldier — they grow to care for each other without sex ever entering the equation — wouldn't work half as well without those particular actors. It may seem like a little detail amongst the sturm und drang of a superhero movie, but in terms of humanizing these Marvel films and making us care about the characters, the chemistry makes a huge difference.

The Avengers

Film Frame

16

Making the Hulk a Team Player

Neither of the two standalone movies starring Marvel's favorite super-monster —Hulk, starring Eric Bana, and The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton — was a satisfying experience. But while writing The Avengers, Joss Whedon realized that the not-so-jolly green giant worked much better as part of an ensemble — the character generated a lot more tension when you thought he could turn on his friends as well as his enemies. There are rumors about a new solo Hulk film to follow the next Avengers installment, but we kind of like him right where he is.

Blade

New Line Cinema/courtesy Everett Collection

15

Making ‘Blade’

The modern age of superhero movies really took off in 2000, when X-Men came out of nowhere and proved Marvel could be every bit a big-screen player as its rival, D.C. Comics. But the groundwork had been laid two years earlier with this action/horror hybrid, starring Wesley Snipes as a half-vampire/half-human who hunts down other bloodsuckers. It was the first Marvel-based movie since Howard the Duck to actually get a wide release; more importantly, it was also a hit, generating $70 million at the U.S. box office alone and proving that a well-made movie based on a Marvel comic book property could get butts in seats. Blade paved the way for the deluge that followed.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Jay Maidment/©Walt Disney Studio

14

Embracing the Mythical Nuttiness of ‘Thor’

After the huge success of The Dark Knight, studios suddenly wanted all their superhero movies to be dark, gritty and realistic. But how do you do that with a tale of superior beings who live on a different plane of reality and are inspired by the legends of the Norse gods? Answer: You don't. Rather than try and hide the wilder (or sillier, if you prefer) aspects of the Thor comics, Marvel Studios embraced them fully. Frost Giants, Asgard, the Rainbow Bridge, the Nine Realms — they're all present and accounted for, in eye-popping living color. The two movies haven't been great, but they've never tried to hide the garish, far-out fantasies that they are.

Francois Duhamel

13

Creating Strong Female Characters

Allowing for mistakes like Elektra (see No. 33) and the fact that a woman has yet to play the lead role in any Marvel film, these movies don't get nearly the respect they deserve for bringing strong women into a universe thoroughly dominated by men. Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts, Jaimie Alexander's Lady Sif in Thor, Halle Berry's Storm and Famke Janssen's Jean Gray in the X-Men films, Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter in Captain America and, of course, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow have all held their own with the boys in the capes. (Soon to be onboard: Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch in the Avengers sequel.) There's more work to be done, but these ladies have nothing to be ashamed of.

Zade Rosenthal

12

Turning ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Into a Political Thriller

Until now, the Marvel Studios movies had been entertaining and thrilling, but largely without any underlying theme or subtext. That changed with Captain America's second outing, which thrust the patriotic warhorse directly into the heart of a vast government conspiracy that involved surveillance and the highly unconstitutional targeting of citizens. The premise could have been ripped from headlines about the NSA and unmanned drones, giving the movie a resonance and immediacy that helped propel it to the top tier of Marvel films.

Zade Rosenthal

11

Casting Tom Hiddleston as Loki

Hiddleston was a little-known British actor who had tried out for the lead in Thor. He didn't get the role, but the studio thought he might work as Loki, Thor's half-brother and nemesis. Boy, were they right: Marvel movies generally lacked strong villains until the Asgardian trickster came along. Hiddleston's complex, humorous and fierce performances in both Thor movies and The Avengers established him as a force to be reckoned with, and a bad guy whose sinister veneer hid a deeply conflicted and wounded individual.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

10

Allowing Bryan Singer to Fully Explore ‘X-Men’s Metaphors

Let's just pretend, for a moment, that the current unpleasantness surrounding Singer doesn't exist (it's tough, we know), so we can appreciate the job he's done directing three of the seven X-Men films. The first two, X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003), fully embraced the metaphor of the mutants as people different from other humans and shunned from society — a direct comparison to the gay experience in America. The subtext made these superhero films richer and more powerful, just as the comics were when they first came out in the Civil Rights era.

Columbia Pictures

9

Everything about ‘Spider-Man 2’

All right, maybe not everything — we can still complain about Kirsten Dunst being (mis)cast as Mary Jane. But otherwise all the moving parts in Sam Raimi's second Spidey film works beautifully. Tobey Maguire is comfortable in the role, the effects and action are better, and Doc Octopus (Alfred Molina) remains the best of Spider-Man's cinematic bad guys. It's colorful, energetic, moving and exhilarating, which is just about everything we would want out of a Spider-Man movie. Giving Raimi free rein resulted in what is, to this day, still one of the best superhero movies ever.

Entertainment Pictures

8

Putting Jon Favreau in the ‘Iron Man’ Director’s Chair

Favreau had just three features under his belt as a director when he got the Iron Man assignment, and none of them were a big-budget superhero action movie. But he brought a sly sense of humor and fun to the story of Tony Stark, the billionaire with the bad heart and the weapons-grade supersuit — both of which set the tone for the rest of the Marvelverse moives (as the films from Marvel Studios proper are known) while providing a lighter counterpart to the summer of '08's other big superhero film, the grim The Dark Knight. Favreau didn't stick around after the troubled Iron Man 2, but he created a successful template that all of the in-house films have followed since.

Zade Rosenthal

7

Casting Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

So much of what works in these movies is based on casting, and making Samuel L. Jackson the head of the world's biggest covert defense agency, S.H.I.E.L.D., was a masterstroke. Who else but one of the screen's best bad-asses could tackle such a role? Fury has been one of the linchpins of the Marvelverse, graduating to full co-lead in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier while evolving as a character as well. Even death, or something close to it, can't stop Nick Fury — and we're all the better for it.

Entertainment Pictures

6

Plucking Hugh Jackman Out of Obscurity to Play Wolverine

Jackman had picked up TV, stage and film credits in his native Australia and England, but he was virtually unknown in the U.S. when Bryan Singer cast him as Wolverine in the first X-Men, replacing original choice Dougray Scott. Not only did Jackman begin one of the most successful runs as a single character since Sean Connery played James Bond; the films have allowed him to become a bona fide A-list movie star. Jackman remains committed to Wolverine for at least another two films — and still brings his A-game every time.

Courtesy Marvel

5

Taking Advantage of Post-Credits Scenes

Little bonus scenes at the end of films had certainly been around before this, but Marvel Studios elevated them into an art form all their own. Starting with the end of Iron Man, where Nick Fury shows up to introduce Tony Stark to the "Avengers Initiative," fans have eagerly stuck around until the lights come up for those little teasers that point the way to the next big chapter in the Marvel saga. And they're rarely disappointed.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

4

Putting Kevin Feige in Charge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

There's an old saying about success having many fathers, and while many people did indeed create the circumstances for Marvel Studios to launch in 2008, studio president Kevin Feige has been the face and ringmaster of the groundbreaking move. He is, above all, a fan, and his knowledge of the vast Marvel canon gives him the ability to orchestrate the movies with dexterity and passion. Feige know the stories and his audience, and has found a way to be faithful to and respectful of both while continuing to make good movies. It's quite the hat trick.

Zade Rosenthal

3

Launching Marvel Studios

Sure, Fox had made some good X-Men movies and Sony had done the same with Spider-Man. But the brain trust at Marvel Comics finally decided to take control of the destiny of their multitudes of other characters in 2006, securing a $500 million nest egg to begin making their own films on their own terms. The results — a string of nine (and counting) interconnected movies spanning an entire fictional universe, not to mention a purchase by Disney — speak for themselves. Now every other studio wants its own version of the Marvelverse…a feat that will be hard to replicate.

Zade Rosenthal

2

Hiring Joss Whedon to Write and Direct ‘The Avengers’

Like Jon Favreau (see No. 8), Whedon was untested as a tentpole director when he was handed the biggest gamble in Marvel Studios' short history. But the creator of one of TV's most acclaimed shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was also an excellent writer and a walking encyclopedia of comic-book lore. His strengths as a writer of ensemble stories, combined with his deep knowledge and ability to find a core of humanity in even the most fantastic stories, were huge components of what made The Avengers work. Plus you can feel his giddy delight — "Holy shit, I can't believe I'm filming this!" — in almost every frame of the movie. As far as we're concerned, The Avengers: Age of Ultron can't come soon enough.

Zade Rosenthal

1

Casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

Downey Jr. was struggling to return from a long spiral of drugs, arrests and shaky career choices when he landed the role of the billionaire weapons manufacturer who turns into an armored defender of the world. Since then, he and Tony Stark have been almost interchangeable: It's hard to think of another role in recent movie history that's become so closely associated with one actor (good luck trying to recast the character after The Avengers 3). Downey's charisma, cockiness and brilliant timing helped turn Iron Man an instant classic, kickstarting the Marvel Cinematic Universe and making him the superstar he was always supposed to be. The Age of Marvel really, truly starts here —and with him.

In This Article: X-Men

Show Comments