Dir. Joe & Anthony Russo ($713.2 million)
Marvel experimented a bit with timing and chose release their Captain America sequel in early April. A gamble, sure, but it certainly would’ve had a rougher time competing with Spider-Man and the X-Men this summer. Fortunately, April worked flawlessly as the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier certainly amped the hype and expectation for Guardians of the Galaxy. Like Thor: The Dark World, Marvel looked to television for a director and hired The Russo Brothers (“Community,” “Arrested Development”). Despite their sitcom background, the directors made their splash on the Marvel scene and made their film uniquely-inspired by seventies espionage thrillers. The Winter Soldier created ripple effects all across the MCU, even on to the television series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. One of the plot twists wasn’t necessarily a nod to any other Avengers—it directly affects them whether or not they like it. Captain America just happened to be the first on the scene.
Unlike Iron Man 2, The Winter Solder utilized Black Widow in a terrific capacity. Instead of worrying about an Avengers plug every couple of minutes, the ninth MCU picture shows the super spy in true form instead of an undercover role spying on Stark. She’s an intellectual superior to Captain America and equally world-weary. Both leads are globe-traveled and it comes out in their dialogue. The MCU proved to have entered a new tier of cinematic class when Hollywood legend Robert Redford (The Sting, All is Lost) walked onscreen. Oscar-nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Pulp Fiction) finally got his first chance to give Nick Fury a second note outside of the tough-as-nails authority figure we saw in Iron Man and ThorT’s post-credits, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger cameo, The Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Few complaints came out of The Winter Soldier, which landed on IMDb.com’s well-known “Top 250” with fellow MCU entry, The Avengers.