More than any other franchise in the MCU, the three Captain America flicks can each be said to belong to a distinctly different subgenre. The First Avenger is a rollicking wartime action-adventure, Winter Soldier is a political thriller, and Captain America: Civil War is, at its heart, a straight-up drama, concerned with how families can be ripped apart from forces both external and internal. All three are sterling examples of their respective subgenres, and First Avenger basically pulls triple-duty by serving as one of the best origin stories ever put to film.
Even before his super soldier transformation, Evans (assisted by a startlingly effective visual effect) gives the skin-and-bones “Skinny Steve” a soulfulness and moral authority that allows us to immediately envision this scrawny twerp as a bona fide hero. Pitch-perfect supporting performances by Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips, Hayley Atwell as Strategic Scientific Reserve agent Peggy Carter, Sebastian Stan as Steve’s pal Bucky Barnes, Hugo Weaving as Johann “Red Skull” Schmidt, and the great Stanley Tucci as super soldier serum creator Abraham Erskine all help elevate the film — but it’s Evans’ show, and he immediately silenced any fans questioning whether Cap could work on the big screen.
Arriving a year after 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Civil War saw Rogers come into conflict with Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) over the Sokovia Accords, which would regulate the activities of superpowered individuals. Sure, the flick told a compelling story, but it also gave us the first MCU appearances of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (the late, great Chadwick Boseman), not to mention a 20-minute blast of pure joy in the form of the second-act-anchoring airport brawl in which virtually every MCU hero (minus Thor and the Hulk) threw down, a sequence which literally played like a comic book come to life.