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Captain America Is Marvel’s Best MCU Movie Trilogy | Screen Rant

Thor and Iron Man have trilogies and the Avengers have 4 films, but the 3 Captain America films together are the most cohesive and best MCU trilogy.

The Captain America films are the best trilogy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios' superhero shared universe kicked off with Iron Man in 2008 and currently comprises three Phases made up of 23 films, with the next entry, Black Widow, planned to kick off Phase 4 in November 2020. But of the dozens of superhero characters in the MCU, only Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man have received full trilogies (Thor will get a fourth movie, Thor: Love and Thunder in 2022) while The Avengers franchise has spanned four films. From those three solo trilogies starring the core Avengers heroes, Captain America stands tall as the finest of them all.

Captain America was originally considered a dicey proposition to star in an MCU superhero movie. When Marvel Studios was in its earliest stages back in the mid-2000s, it was thought that the red, white, and blue-clad Steve Rogers, who epitomized America, wouldn't play well in the rest of the post-9/11 world. Iron Man, about flawed but charming billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), was picked to launch the MCU - and Iron Man's massive success kicked open the door for Marvel Studios' grand plans to come to fruition. The Incredible Hulk (a proven movie property) followed in 2008 before 2010's Iron Man 2 laid the groundwork for the MCU's transition into the Avengers crossover event film. In 2011, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) came next, introducing Asgardian mythology into the MCU, and finally, it was Captain America's turn, rocketing the story of the MCU back to World War II in the prequel, Captain America: The First Avenger.

Related: Why Captain America Doesn't Say "Avengers Assemble!" Until Endgame

But the Iron Man and Thor trilogies faltered with creative mishaps in their middle films, while the Captain America movies only grew stronger. The high quality of the Captain America movies can be attributed to their reliably talented creative team: the screenwriting duo of Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus wrote all three Captain America movies while directors Joe and Anthony Russo picked up the baton from Joe Johnston, who helmed The First Avenger. The Russo brothers directed the sensational next two installments, 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and 2016's Captain America: Civil War. In fact, the team of the Russos, Markus, and McFeely were so successful, they were entrusted with the crown jewel franchise of the MCU and guided Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the saga's greatest successes.

All throughout, Captain America, nobly portrayed by Chris Evans, joined Iron Man as the centerpiece characters of the evolving MCU. Steve Rogers was the yin to Tony Stark's yang, yet both heroes remained beloved by fans despite their differences, which came to blows and fractured the Avengers in Civil War. But for all of Iron Man's deserved clout as the hero who kicked off the MCU, and the many good qualities of Iron Man and Thor's trilogies, Captain America's movies, on the whole, are just better.

Compared to Iron Man and Thor, there's no weak film in Captain America's trilogy. Iron Man 2 is the low point of Robert Downey Jr.'s run since it spent too much time setting up the rest of the MCU to build towards The Avengers. In addition, Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) and Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) didn't emerge as credible threats to Iron Man or Tony Stark, respectively. Meanwhile, 2013's Thor: The Dark World is considered one of the MCU's worst. It was beset with production issues (original director Patty Jenkins left and was replaced with Alan Taylor) that amounted to the second chapter of Thor's story pleasing few plans. The Dark World was so underwhelming and took so little advantage of Chris Hemsworth's charisma that Taika Waititi later completely reinvented the God of Thunder as a witty hero in the wildly successful Thor: Ragnarok.

By contrast, Captain America: The First Avenger doesn't rank among the MCU's best films but it was a solid introduction to the shield-throwing superhero that only faltered in the third act because the movie rocketed through Steve Rogers' World War II adventures in a montage in order to connect the dots and place Cap under the ice so he could be revived in 2012. And yet, The First Avenger's 1940s period tale was an intriguing departure from what was already proving to be the MCU formula. The First Avenger not only forged the MCU's history, but its success also opened the door for an even greater and more triumphant experiment in tone and style: Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Related: Worst MCU Movie? Why Marvel Has Never Made A Bad Film

Captain America boasts two of the absolute best MCU films: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. While fans' mileage may vary and the first Iron Man and Thor: Ragnarok are also excellent movies, The Winter Soldier and Civil War are benchmark events in the MCU's macro story while also simultaneously delivering fantastic, crowd-pleasing adventures. The Winter Soldier not only marked a seismic shift in the very fabric of the MCU with its reveal that Hydra was part of SHIELD's very inception, but it was also a Marvel movie unlike any other: a gritty, action yarn stepped in the paranoid conspiracy of a 1970s Cold War political thriller - and it worked like gangbusters. The Winter Soldier brought back the tragic Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and introduced Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) while simultaneously deepening the characters of Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), making them all flawed but admirable flesh-and-blood people.

Now that Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame delivered superhero spectacles unlike any that fans had ever seen, it's easy to forget how revolutionary Captain America: Civil War was back in 2016. While Civil War was essentially Avengers 2.5, it still never lost sight of Steve Rogers trying to save his oldest friend Bucky and what his devotion cost the entire MCU. Along with seamlessly introducing Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) into the MCU, Civil War's centerpiece Berlin airport fight was mind-boggling at the time. Further, Civil War split the Avengers apart - sparking Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man fan debates in real life - which altered the very fabric of the MCU for the next three years. The Winter Soldier and Civil War, together, truly forged Steve Rogers into a hero who fans could believe in, despite his doubts and mistakes, and they both rank among the finest superhero movies ever made.

There's no finer character arc in the MCU than Captain America's and not even Iron Man's growth from egotist to world savior holds quite the same impact as Steve Rogers' journey. Captain America: The First Avenger introduced Steve as a man weak of body but strong in fortitude and purity who was transformed into a paragon of human perfection yet remained. at his core, a good man. Steve was torn out of his own time and his hopes for a life with Peggy into the present day where he was a fish out of water fighting aliens as the ideal of "Captain America". The Winter Soldier forced Steve to connect with the people and world around him, forge friendships, and proved his absolute loyalty to Bucky even in the face of a global cataclysm.

Civil War positioned Steve as the head of the Avengers family whose choices broke that very family apart, yet he still earned the loyalty of many of the Avengers. However, Steve could still admit his mistakes, as the letter he sent to Tony Stark at the end of Civil War proved. While Steve Rogers' story concluded in Avengers: Endgame, his character was already fully defined by the time he chose to live a regular life with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) throughout the decades via time travel. But it was in his own trilogy where Steve Rogers' character was truly tested and developed into the MCU's single-best character arc so that by the final moments of Endgame, fans completely understood, empathized with, and respected Steve for choosing his own happy ending.

Related: Steve Rogers Was Worthy Of Mjolnir Long Before He Became Captain America

Both Iron Man and Thor's trilogies experienced radical shifts in tone, style, and direction in accordance with changing creative teams. Shane Black's Iron Man 3 was a very different kind of movie from Jon Favreau's Iron Man and Iron Man 2, while Thor's three movies are unlike each other; Taika Waititi's ribald style will finally give the Thor films stability from Ragnarok to Love and Thunder. The same can be said for the Avengers quadrilogy as the Russo Brothers' Infinity War and Endgame are, tonally, a stark contrast to Joss Whedon's by-the-comic-book The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron (which is the weakest of the saga).

However, even though Captain America: Civil War is very much a mini-Avengers team-up, it still perfectly builds upon the tone, story, and character development in The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier. Steve Rogers' character wasn't fundamentally adjusted in any way to compensate for poor fan reaction; rather, Cap evolved as a person and as a hero throughout his trilogy and the other Avengers like Black Widow, Falcon, and even Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) became better characters for sharing Steve Rogers' orbit. Viewed as a while, Captain America's trilogy not only delivers a compelling through-line for Steve Rogers' character but the three films gel together as a cohesive whole that both complements and enhances the Avengers movies they build towards - which is why Captain America is, without a doubt, the best MCU trilogy.

Next: Every Marvel Phase 4 Movie And TV Show Captain America Could Return In

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