The MCU has taken the world by storm, becoming with some ease the biggest franchise in movie history. But the MCU wasn’t the birthplace of Marvel movies, you know, there were already some chilling classics that existed before the MCU came along and took all the credit. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for these non-MCU movies, as some are less memorable to say the least. We’re Watching You, howard the duck, and we shake our heads in shame. It got us thinking, though, what the best non-MCU Marvel movies are, because there have been several as well. This list also takes into account all recent inclusions, so, unfortunately, Sam Raimi Spider Man the films (well, the first two at least) will not be included as they were on previous lists.
10. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
It’s a controversial choice because, admittedly, this non-MCU movie isn’t liked by many of you. However, the The Rise of the Silver Surfer was a big improvement over its predecessor and consisted of a few interesting qualities. Released in 2007, the hype around this movie was pretty subdued due to the mediocre standard set by the first movie, but the acquisition of an interesting and quite memorable villain allowed this movie to rise a bit higher and a little bit faster. The Silver Surfer is a mysterious but extremely cool character, constantly floating between the line of obeying Galactus’ orders and his own moral dilemmas. The movie’s character action scenes were also the most exciting, and while this Marvel movie does feel a little wet at times, its inclusion in this list hopes to at least create something to talk about.
9. The Incredible Hulk
Another movie that was a huge improvement over the previous one was The Incredible Hulk which came out in 2003. With Edward Norton now as the troubled Bruce Banner, this movie aimed in a new direction, and it certainly did. Released in 2008 – the year the MCU was born with Iron Man – The Incredible Hulk also introduced one of the Hulk’s greatest enemies, Abomination, played by Tim Roth (who continued the character in the recent Shang Chi, but we won’t go into that now). Norton brought a new spin to Marvel’s version of Jekyll and Hyde, exploring a more humanistic trait of the green-skinned monster, as well as portraying Banner as a morally confused and hopeless man. Norton did such a good job that his omission from future MCU films seemed unwarranted, but at least we have this film to look back on.
The first X-Men film on this non-MCU mutant-heavy list is the original from 2000, the first Marvel-focused film made up of one of the many team-ups to litter this comic universe. Twenty-two years ago, this film was a blockbuster anomaly; the special effects (which look a little dated now), the amazing cast, all these powerful characters working seamlessly with each other. Due to its impressive cast, this movie created the high potential that Marvel movies have now, comic book movies were becoming mainstream and attracting many actors guild personalities, which led to the biggest names in the industry to grumble desperately to get a role just so they can be involved. x-men paved the way for a seven-film franchise (not all connected, of course) based on this team of mutants, with director Bryan Singer being the mastermind behind most sequels and reboots, with varying degrees of success.
The original of that new wave of Marvel character-based movies that hit the world in the late 90s and early 2000s, and what a movie it was. This 1998 non-MCU movie featured everyone’s favorite half-human, half-vampire hybrid and delivered on everything that made the character so likable in the comics. Wesley Snipes was born for the role and masterfully stamped a legacy that has followed the character ever since, rivaling Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine or even Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. the original Blade brought some much-needed darkness to potential Marvel films – something it has always lacked – and paved the way for these themes to appear more often in future movies. It’s still a little rough around the edges, but some style has been implemented that has made it a much-loved fan favorite to this day.
6. X-Men: First Class
The movie that rebooted the X-Men franchise meant business; it took what had already been established but deviated in a slightly different direction with great ease. First class featured an exciting all-new cast, with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender leading the way with their portrayals of already so memorable characters. With the MCU now firmly established with a few movies under its belt, it’s been difficult for breakaway Marvel films to move into the spotlight, but X-Men: First Class came on the scene in 2011. With a whole host of undiscovered mutants, engaging and tragic stories, and an equally diabolical cast of villains led by Kevin Bacon, First class opened up the Marvel movie competition, successfully rivaling those MCU movies at the same time.
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Yes First class put non-MCU movies back in the running during this new era of MCU movies, then X-Men: Days of Future Past sprinted in the lead faster than Quicksilver himself. Two years later The Avengers catapulted the MCU into a new stratosphere, days of future past matched it all the way and even surpassed that Avengers origin movie. With Bryan Singer now back in the hot seat after only producing First class, he could use the foundations of this film to create something bold, experimental and completely captivating. Time travel and interdimensional travel might seem like the norm now, but days of future past used this technique first, as the film oscillated between past, present and future with a certain electricity. It was also the last of the big X-Men movies (let’s forget about those two sequels as soon as possible), which made it all the more enjoyable.
The X-Men spinoff we all wanted and didn’t disappoint for a second. Ryan Reynolds first played a version of the character in the Very Forgetful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a movie that slaughtered a few characters, and Deadpool was almost one of them. Under the new guise of Tim Miller in his directional debut, dead Pool became a major hit in 2016 as it focused on a more accurate comic book adaptation that allowed Ryan Reynolds to fully invest in the character, letting him do what he does best. What begins as a tragic origin story quickly becomes a hilarious and thoroughly brilliant Marvel movie, often breaking the fourth wall like the character has always loved to do. It feels so much more engaging and accurate to its original source material than many other films. Its success led to its own small franchise, with a third film in talks soon on the way.
The latest film in the Wolverine series is a beautifully fitting ending to the tragic but beloved character. Directed by James Mangold in 2017, having first worked on The glutton in 2013 (a film that was neither here nor there), but what the second lacked, this one easily made up for. Focusing on the Marvel “Old Man Logan” story, Logan sees Hugh Jackman as a withered, ramshackle chauffeur who is soon thrust back into a world where he must protect those he loves. Its R rating was key to the film’s success, allowing a more violent and pure story to evolve from within – the way a Wolverine story should be told. Often considered one of the greatest marvel movies of all time, this non-MCU film is a juggernaut of the superhero genre; filled with emotion, love, superb acting, and a gripping story that delivers a beautiful send off for two of the greatest X-Men of all time.
The sequel to the 2000s original is considered a flawless film, the culmination of the original trilogy, and the best X-Men film to date. X2 has it all: great characters that include a power-hungry villain superbly played by the enigmatic Brian Cox, an exciting and moving storyline, and stunning special effects that eclipse those of its predecessor. With Singer at the helm again (the man knows how to hold his own in an X-Men story), X2 is now considered by some to be the best and most authentic X-Men movie of all time. An influx of New Mutants has been added to its sequel, making it an exciting watch; trying to blend all of these powerful characters into multiple scenarios is a tricky little task, and Singer very easily could have been wrong (which he discovered to be true with Last Stand). But fortunately, X2 hit the spot, and it still holds up after 20 years as one of the great Marvel movies.
1. Blade 2
A controversial choice for the top spot, but saying no one ever doubted the qualities of this non-MCU movie. What makes this film so iconic is the fact that it’s so unique – even compared to the first film – and it’s all thanks to the work of Guillermo Del Toro, who uses his masterful knowledge of the weird and wonderful. Blade 2 is dynamic, consists of a morality-stricken script, and adds to the expert qualities of Wesley Snipes with a superb supporting cast. The fight choreography is majestic, the music is cool and enigmatic, the humor is dark but enjoyable, but what really makes this movie so memorable is the fact that it’s so distinctive and individual. There was no movie like this then (the original included), and there hasn’t been anything quite like it since, and nowadays that’s a tough task. With the news that Blade’s character will enter the MCU in the future, they will surely have to do a lot to live up to it. Blade 2.