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Captain’s orders: Ranking Marvel Studios’ Captain America films

With “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” series now streaming on Disney+, Interstellar Intersection decided it’s time to determine which Captain American film featuring Chris Evans is the best.

Chris Evans as Captain America is now regarded for sporting America’s ass, thanks to Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man in “Avengers: Endgame.” But when “Captain America: The First Avenger” premiered in theaters in 2011, Evans’ character was called upon to help usher in the era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). At the time, Disney had recently acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, Paramount Pictures was still Marvel Studios’ primary distributing partner, and Evans was a controversial pick to play Captain America because…wait for it…he had previously played The Human Torch in a couple of mediocre Fantastic Four movies for 20th Century Fox in the 2000s.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

With mega-budget miniseries “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” now streaming on Disney+, the time has come to revisit Evans’ renowned tenure as Steve Rogers. Overall, Evans portrayed America’s favorite super soldier eight times total (excluding a handful of very brief cameos) before hanging up his shield — thrice in movies carrying his name, plus four Avengers team movies, and he had a small role in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

This list ranks just the three Captain America films. Without further ado, here they are, starting with the best.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Top to bottom, this is the best-made Marvel Studios film to date.

This 2014 spy adventure, the ninth installment in the MCU, introduced filmmaking brothers Anthony and Joe Russo to comic book fans. Hiring the directors, who were then best known for directing the comedy film “You, Me and Dupree” was a bold step, and one that’s paid dividends, as the duo went on to direct “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” following the success of this superpowered feature.

Not only does “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” introduce viewers to the Russos, it’s also the first time Steve Rogers gets a support group to assist him in the 21st Century that’s not Avengers-based, as he partners with Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, and Sam Wilson, a.k.a. The Falcon, portrayed by Anthony Mackie. Throw in good-guy spies Nick Fury, Maria Hill and Sharon Carter, played by Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders and Emily VanCamp, respectively, and this movie is packed with heart and some exceptional cloak-and-dagger action, courtesy of a tight script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who penned each screenplay in the trilogy together.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” challenges the foundation of S.H.I.E.L.D., and its story line is so expansive it's tied into early episodes of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV series on ABC. The movie also plays around with Hydra as a Boogeyman organization that seems far-reaching, going so far it brings Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce character into the fold. If we weren’t sure the MCU was legitimate before this movie was made, we must have realized it was the real deal once Redford agreed to join the play group, right?

Perhaps what’s most important, however, is the movie returns Cap’s best pal, Bucky Barnes. But this time, Sebastian Stan, who played Bucky in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” is introduced to cinemagoers as The Winter Soldier, one of the most intriguing characters to be added to the Marvel Universe in the last 30 years. Though Bucky was co-created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941, it’s Ed Brubaker’s contemporary Winter Soldier that really allows Bucky to become not just a contributor, but a heavy-hitter in Marvel’s stable of super soldiers.

“Captain America: The First Avenger”

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Deciding whether “Captain America: The First Avenger” or “Captain America: Civil War” is the better movie wasn’t an easy decision. They’re both good films, but the former edged out the final film in the trilogy on this list for a handful of reasons.

As seen from the stockpile of tentpole superhero films being released to cinemas the last two decades, there aren’t many quality superhero period movies that seem to get it right. By this author’s calculations, the list is topped by “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Wonder Woman” from Warner Bros. One could argue “X-Men: First Class” should also be in the running, but after those three the drop off is severe.

Directed by Joe Johnson, who made his directorial debut with 1989’s “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” Evans’ first turn as Steve Rogers takes place almost entirely with World War II as the movie’s backdrop. This is the film to watch if you want to see Captain America punching Nazis in the face, and it’s got a terrific supporting cast which features Stan, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Neal McDonough and Stanley Tucci, who gets to try out a German accent.

Atwell, who plays Peggy Carter, has instant chemistry with Evans, and the two go on to have what’s essentially the greatest love story in the MCU canon. Atwell’s portrayal of Carter became so popular with fans that the actor was recruited to return for a 2013 short film, which led to a two-season TV series titled “Agent Carter,” which aired on ABC from 2015-16.

“Captain America: Civil War”

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

This movie is gigantic, and it, along with “Thor: Ragnarok,” is what leads into to the biggest two-part event in cinema history: “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” But at its core, it’s still an exceptional Captain America movie. It just also happens to feature a platoon’s worth of Avengers, including new MCU arrivals Spider-Man and Black Panther, played by Tom Holland and the late Chadwick Boseman, respectively.

Released in 2016, “Captain America: Civil War” is the 13th movie in the MCU canon, and it’s a loose adaptation of the 2006-07 Marvel comic book event titled “Civil War,” written by Mark Millar with art by Steven McNiven and Dexter Vines. This film adaptation was so colossal it had a reported shooting budget of about $250 million. Want to know where all that money went? More than a pittance must have gone into supersizing Ant-Man for one fight scene.

In the movie, U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross pits Avengers teammates against each other following the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” For members of the team, seeing Captain America and Iron Man fight each other is probably a lot like watching mommy and daddy argue over who gets the kids and the family dog in divorce proceedings.

With the exception of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, who are both off world during the events of this movie, the bulk of the Marvel heroes are present and each one gets at least a moment to shine, along with villain Helmut Zemo, played by Daniel Brühl. As members of the Avengers fight and debate the fate of The Winter Soldier, and the merits of whether they should be regulated by government officials, Cap’s supporting cast is finally solidified as he learns he can always rely on his two best friends, Bucky and Sam Wilson.



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