Dir. Joe Johnston ($370.5 million)
Joe Johnston took a unique approach with a period super hero picture. Marvel made the decision to keep Steve Rogers a veteran of World War II and to specifically not modernize the character like their other heroes, although Thor is rather timeless. So how does Captain America wind up in 2008? Enter the need for The First Avenger. Several of Hollywood’s leading, young actors tried out for the part, but in the end, Chris Evans won out as he had more experience portraying a super hero than his hopeful peers from his role as the Human Torch/ Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four and its sequel. Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit trilogies) proved to be one of our heroes’ worthiest adversaries as a power-hungry maniac working in the Third Reich with crimson skin, The Red Skull. Even Toby Jones’ (Infamous, “The Girl”) Dr. Zola managed one Marvel’s creepiest on-screen personas with limited screen time. Some of the movies on this list can’t produce a convincing bad guy, but this one produces two.
Unfortunately, the film’s most exciting, interesting scenes get crammed into a montage of clandestine missions while the predictable third act milks Cap’s plunge into the ice as long as possible. This says one clear statement: setting Captain America up to join the Avengers in the future is more important than making the best movie possible for the character. However, Captain America: The First Avenger learned from Iron Man 2 and made its tie-ins to The Avengers through more plot-oriented devices. For example: the film begins with The Red Skull finding the long-lost Tesseract, an infinity stone directly tying into The Avengers’ plot. HYDRA experiments with the Cosmic Cube for a while, trying to make a weapon out of it—perhaps that was the first clue of SHIELD being a ruse as Cap discovers in The Avengers that SHIELD, too, has tried to make dangerous use of the infinity stone. The finished product of The First Avenger is mostly missed opportunities swept under the rug in order to make ready for the last piece of The Avengers puzzle. At least it had that unique World War II setting.