When it comes to blockbuster movie franchises, three always seems to be the magic number. Probably because of Star Wars, every studio wants the next great trilogy, whether it’s Back to the Future or The Lord of the Rings. Star Wars has even had two trilogies since the original.
Strictly speaking, the biggest franchise now hasn’t abided by this practice. Marvel Studios doesn’t seem interested in trilogies per se so much as in telling long stories. Only three Avengers have had trilogies so far, and fans generally agree that Captain America had the best of the lot.
The Iron Man trilogy
Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man started it all, and the consensus there seems to be the trilogy is solid, if not spectacular. Iron Man was a huge hit right out of the box office, kicking off the MCU in grand style with $318 million in the bank and a 7.9 rating on IMDb.
Then came Iron Man 2, which opened extremely well because people loved the first movie, but its grosses dipped slightly with a final US tally of $312 million at the box office. It has a 7 score on IMDb, but that movie tends to rank near the bottom of most MCU lists. It’s mainly remembered today for introducing Black Widow and not much else.
Then there was Iron Man 3, which came in for heavy fan criticism at the time because the villain was supposed to the comics favorite the Mandarin, and that Mandarin turned out to be an imposter.
Still, even with reservations, the movie was seen as an improvement on its predecessor, as it has a 7.2 on IMDb and its box office in the US improved to $408 million, making it the highest-grossing of the trilogy. The movie has been reevaluated by fans now that there is some distance from the Mandarin controversy.
The Thor trilogy
In some circles, the Thor trilogy seems like the Rodney Dangerfield of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that it gets no respect. The first movie did better than some may remember, grossing $181 million in 2011 — that was actually better than Captain America’s first movie. Thor has a 7 rating on IMDb.
On the other hand, Thor: The Dark World followed two years later. Like Iron Man 2, it tends to rank in the bottom third of MCU movies. It rates 6.9 on IMDB, and the final US gross was $206 million — an improvement on the first, but not a significant one. It especially pales in comparison to what followed.
That was Thor: Ragnarok, which grossed $315 million in the US and has a 7.9 rating on IMDb. That movie went over so well that Thor will become the first MCU hero to get four standalone movies when Thor: Love and Thunder comes out in early 2022.
The Captain America trilogy
Finally, there was Cap. His initial movie, The First Avenger, started with a rather soft gross of $176 million and a rating of 6.9 on IMDb. Winter Soldier was a significant improvement, with a 7.7 IMDb rating and a gross of $259 million. Best of all was Civil War, which was no doubt helped by having most of the Avengers in it. It made $408 million here, with a 7.8 rating on IMDb.
One fan on Reddit said, “I think Captain America is the best superhero trilogy since The Dark Knight. The First Avenger was an entertaining origin story with a classic underdog with a heart of gold and pecs of steel.
The Winter Soldier was a spy drama with heavy homoerotic themes and an end-of-the-world plot that blurred the lines between the good guys and the bad. Civil War took the over-the-top, enormous ensemble idea of The Avengers but scaled down the conflict to a deeply personal level.
Another fan said future Marvel films would do well to follow in this trilogy’s footsteps: “Hands down — best complete story and individual movie in the MCU. I know people are speculating that Black Widow could have the same vibe, but I’d like Black Panther 2 or Spider-Man 3 to challenge Winter Soldier for this seat.”