Since I built this list a few months back, I had a hard debate between these two films as which one I would put at #2 and #3. On one hand, I believe that one film is very well-made film that might be one of the most relevant Marvel films ever made. The other film is a setup to the biggest Marvel film as of this point in time. While I think both films are great, I could not decide on which film is more relevant to fans and the story. So, because of my respect for both films along with my indecisiveness, I decided to talk about both films at #2.
When it comes to Captain America: Winter Soldier, you have to respect this film for what it started inside the comic book genre and that is adapting other genres of film. Before Winter Soldier, many comic book films were just that, comic book movies. With the massive explosion of the genre in cinema, Marvel understood that comic book films needed to become more than just super-hero films and the writers behind Winter Solider decided that their film could be just that. While Winter Solider is still a super-hero film on the outside, the core story shares the tropes of a political thriller straight from the 60s and 70s. The success of this genre blend lead to future Marvel films doing the same thing. Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera, Ant-Man is a heist film, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a teen comedy, and Black Panther is a James Bond film.
I believe that this and Black Panther are the two most culturally relevant films in the MCU. Who would have thought that a comic book film about Russians infiltrating our government to spy on ourselves and influence the outcome of our lives would be so relatable in today's world. While I enjoyed Winter Soldier when it was released a few years back, the film has aged incredibly well due to the political climate that the world is in now and might make this MCU film one of the few that truly stands the test of time.
As for Captain America: Civil War, my love for this film started when it was announced that Marvel was going to adapt one of their famous event comics. Civil War was a comic that I read back when I was in high school and I loved the social dynamics that story placed on heroes and how they would react to the government getting involved with their business. While Captain America: Civil War doesn't fully adapt the Civil War comic story arch (primarily because they do not have the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises), the perfectly translated the core beliefs of characters inside that comic book story arc to the big screen.
Captain America: Civil War also is one of the most successful set-up films I've ever witnessed. While the film is fun and entertaining just on its own, Civil War successfully sets up the events leading into Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. Making a successful film is already a difficult task to pull off. Trying to make a successful film that sets up a future franchise is a whole different monster to achieve that very few succeed in (look how poorly Power Rangers & The Mummy set their future up). Captain America: Civil War is not only a great film but a textbook example of how well-oiled of a machine Marvel is with their film universe.
While I find both of these films very entertaining, both films do have a problem. When it comes to Winter Solider, one of the major plot points that happen in the film is (SPOILER ALER) the fall of SHIELD, the government agency that represents the Avengers. While this massive event that happens in the franchise does show some lasting damage, I feel like this event hasn't been represented enough in future films. One of the biggest arms in the United States government branch has been corrupted and controlled by an outside government and yet, there is no other government agencies or public outcry over the new formation of the Avengers in later films. I guess you could consider the Sokovia Accords in Civil War as the final straw, but the film doesn't mention the fall of SHIELD as the first reason why the accords are written.
Civil War also has a tendency to place comedic moments inside some really tense areas within the film. I understand that Marvel is the "family friendly" comic book franchise that everyone loves including me but at the same time, I wish they would lean back on their comedy sometimes. There are moments within this film where friends are having tense exchanges with one another, yet they still find time to drop some one-liner or exchange that is only there to generate a laugh from the audience. I understand that this is just a staple of Marvel films that works for many people but sometime soon, Marvel needs to pull your punches when it comes to their humor.
I wished that I could have given a definitive #2 and #3 to this list. While one film is a film that's one of the most important films inside the MCU, another film might be the best film they've ever made. It amazes me how many fans of the MCU latch on to characters like Star-Lord, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and even the Hulk, yet, the most successful hero in this franchise hands-down is Captain America. While few heroes that have been given a trilogy up to this point, Captain America is the only one that truly has three-successful films. Say what you will about Captain America: The First Avenger but that film is much more enjoyable than Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World. Even if Infinity War succeeds as well as many believe it can, the Captain America series might even surpass that trilogy of films.
Speaking of The Avengers...