Fourteen years after breaking through the zeitgeist, there are still many entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I’ve never seen. Now that I have a brand new 65-inch UHD television in my living room, I thought it might be time to change that.

The fourth entry into the MCU takes us to Asgard for some Norse god-family drama.

Thor (2011) 
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne 
Story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich
Release Date: May 6, 2011 

It’s an interesting decision, while introducing the world at large to the Avengers through blockbuster films, to follow IRON MAN with the God of Thunder. But I really like the strategy here. We’ve had two good films about Tony Stark and a lackluster INCREDIBLE HULK film so far, the MCU has been heavy on action and quips. Bringing director Kenneth Branagh in for Thor gives the fourth entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe a different feel. From here on out, each hero’s films have their own identity, separate from just big budget action flicks where massive fights happen.

Of course, we get those, too.

I initially thought Thor would be a tough sell. Involving the legends of Asgard and bringing the battle to Earth means splitting the focus of the origin tale and introducing A LOT of new characters into the mix. Thor does a wonderful job of splitting the film into segments, though, and making sure the story focus doesn’t stray.

And it’s a pretty critical part of the first phase of Marvel movies. Thor establishes the man who would become the larger threat to the universe at large. Not only does the movie establish the fraught relationship between Thor and his brother, Loki, but it gives Loki his motivations to look beyond the confines of Asgard in his attempts to rule. It could be a tough needle to thread, but it’s handled well here and leads into the first few phases of the MCU.

Once again, the perfect casting helps. Chris Hemsworth is the embodiment of the Thunder God, and I can’t imagine anyone else picking up Mjolnir and throwing it across the battlefield (well, maybe ONE other person… but we’ll get there). The rest of the Asgardians are also well-cast, with Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Tom Hiddleston as trickster brother Loki and a great ensemble that includes Jaimie Alexander, Idris freaking Elba, Josh Dallas and Rene Russo. Throw in Natalie Portman, who I’ve had a crush on since the early-2000s, as Thor’s on-Earth love interest, and there are very few superhero flicks that have a better all-around cast.

While I really enjoyed Thor, in the end, it just misses the top spot in these rankings because the introduction of Tony Stark was just too perfect. It doesn’t miss by much, though. Let’s take a look.

Ranking the MCU

  1. Iron Man
  2. Thor
  3. IRON MAN 2 
  4. The Incredible Hulk

In our next entry, we will finally round out our first Top 5 when we are introduced to THE FIRST AVENGER. Stay tuned!