It’s finally here, the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of shared universe movies as AVENGERS: ENDGAME finishes the story that began in 2008’s IRON MAN!

ENDGAME is the 22nd Marvel Cinematic Universe film, divided into three phases. Of the 21 movies that have come before, I’ve seen 14 of them. As I count down the hours and minutes until I go see ENDGAME for myself, let’s take a look at my 5 favorite MCU films, in chronological order of their release.

All of these films come from the third – and final – phase of the Avengers story. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since Marvel Studios had clearly figured out how to deliver some top-notch storytelling with their roster of comic book heroes.

Yes, there are some great movies in the first and second phases, but I think that by the time we got to the most recent grouping, the studio was firing on all cylinders.

Captain America: Civil War

CIVIL WAR really kicked off the conflicts that have driven the final phase of the MCU Avengers story, with the rift between Iron Man Tony Stark and Captain America Steve Rogers dwarfing the Grand Canyon. While the plot is similar (and similarly silly) to the much-derided DC Comics film BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, released just a month before this film, the battle between the heroes comes after 8 years and 12 movies, so the investment in the characters had been built with a lot of care.

The battle royal at the German airport gets most of the attention, since it gave us our first appearance of Peter Parker in his Spider-Man outfit, but the final fight between Cap, Iron Man and Bucky is an emotional brawl between friends who feel betrayed in one way or another. CIVIL WAR has its flaws, but the good parts of the movie make it shine.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

I always figured the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man movies from the early 2000s, specifically Spider-Man 2, were going to be the best web-slinger we were going to get, but HOMECOMING tops them in every single way. Tom Holland was an inspired choice to play the friendly-neighborhood wall-crawler. Even better, the movie skipped most of the usual origins for Peter Parker – the death of his uncle, getting his powers – and went into his being a hero, since we already got him in costume in CIVIL WAR.

Throw in Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and Michael Keaton – one of my favorite actors – as the villainous Vulture, and HOMECOMING is a nearly pitch-perfect modern take on the classic hard-luck hero.

Thor: Ragnarok

The third film starring Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder completely changed the tone and tenor of the Thor films. It was a needed change, bringing a level of fun that’s nearly unmatched in the rest of the MCU up to this point.

With Odin gone and Asgard now under the control of his sister Hela, Thor ends up on the planet Sakaar where he finds the Hulk battling in the planet’s Contest of Champions, in an adaptation of the PLANET HULK comic book story arc. RAGNAROK managed to show off Hemsworth’s comedic side in a way that just never happened in the other films. RAGNAROK is an important lead-in to Infinity War and you can watch the films back to back and it would feel pretty seamless.

Black Panther

Another character introduced in CIVIL WAR that led to a visually stunning film about a young prince who must take the role of king and defend his country’s honor from an evil relative who wants the power of the throne for his own nefarious needs. It’s basically the live-action adaptation of Disney’s THE LION KING steeped in superhero lore.

It was clear during CIVIL WAR that Chadwick Boseman’s turn as BLACK PANTHER was going to be epic, and director Ryan Coogler made sure that the predictions of success were all right. With Michael B. Jordan carrying his weight as Killmonger, the movie has an emotional resonance that kept people coming back.

Avengers: Infinity War

When AVENGERS: ENDGAME makes all the money and shatters box office records – because it would honestly be shocking if it doesn’t – it’s going to be because of how well INFINITY WAR set it up last year. Sure, the movie ends on a cliffhanger – and a bit of downer – as half of all creation was snapped out of existence by the Mad Titan Thanos, but watching our heroes, divided and conquered, desperately fight back against an inevitable tide was inspiring, even if they eventually came up short.

Hemsworth had another great appearance as Thor, becoming the standout in a FILM that featured pretty much every hero from the previous 10 years (except Hawkeye). When the Thunder God enters the field of battle in Wakanda, it’s enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Every moment in the film builds on history and when it’s over, the anticipation for ENDGAME is off the charts. Thankfully, they only made us wait a year.

What are your favorite MCU movies? Let us know in the comments. And come back soon for a review of ENDGAME!