With a pair of #1 seeds from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and others lurking not much lower, an MCU championship seemed inevitable. And indeed, it came down to two of the MCU’s finest: Black Panther, the overall #1 seed, against #3 seed Captain America: The Winter Soldier

And while Black Panther had been a juggernaut throughout, it fell just short of the first Avenger’s second go-round — with The Winter Soldier winning by a final count of 64 to 48. 

Given early exits for its region’s top two seeds (the 2017 remake of Beauty & the Beast and Furious 7), The Winter Soldier seemed a favorite to cruise into the Final Four. Indeed, it dropped The Upside like a Helicarrier into the Potomac. But it got an early second-round challenge against the great Get Out and barely advanced. From there, Kong: Skull Island and Shazam! were easy wins. And while Deadpool put up a good fight in the Final Four, America’s ass won out over the merc with a mouth.

Meanwhile, like a lot of overall #1 seeds, Black Panther didn’t run into any serious competition until the championship round, knocking out Gnomeo & Juliet, 21 Jump Street, A Quiet Place and The LEGO Movie before setting up a dueling Lupita Nyong’o matchup in dispatching Us from the tournament. 

So this would seem to be the end of the tournaments, right? Think again. Seasons and decades were merely the beginning. Besides, what better place for a comeback story than Hollywood?

Tournament season isn’t over until we decide it is, so we’re going through the rest of the summer with a pair of big-boss tournaments that will bring back the 128 heaviest hitters we’ve featured among the nearly 500 (!) we’ve cycled through this brutal gauntlet.

Here’s what we’re doing:


June 7-July 14

At Midwest Film Journal, we believe that if a movie got as far as the Elite Eight, it deserves a second shot at glory. So we’ve taken all of the movies from all seasons and decades that only made it that far, seeded them by total votes in previous tournaments, and put them into a fresh field.

The way the math works out, that’s 60 films that bowed out after the Elite Eight. What are the other four? The highest-grossing Sweet 16 finalists from the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, respectively, from any seasonal tournament. (It’s probably the only scenario where Star Wars and Indiana Jones films would essentially be play-in candidates.)

In case you’re wondering, the #1 seeds here are all from the extremely contentious 1990s Endless Summer Blockbuster Tournament: Independence Day, Men in Black, A League of Their Own and Twister.

The four films that make it to this tournament’s Final Four will then become the #16 seeds in the …


July 19-Aug. 29

Means what it says: The 60 top finishers from Final Fours and championships ranked by total votes, plus the four Cinderellas, duking it out for all the marbles. Every decade, every season, every choice likely to fall between two very beloved classics.

It’s Midwest Film Journal at its most diabolical. How so? The Godfather looks like an #8 seed. The Godfather Part II will likely be a #10 seed. Making you sweat is an offer we couldn’t refuse.

To give you a further taste of this cutthroat madness, the #1 seeds are Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, The Lion King (1994) and The Empire Strikes Back. (Boy, when you see what’s happening in that last regional … oof.)

We started these tournaments to bring you some lighthearted fun during some tough times. As we’re coming out of that, we wanted to close with the biggest bang we could. Stick with us through the summer and let’s see who stands tallest at the end of all this! 

Until the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boom tournament begins next week, here are some notes on the 2010s Winter / Spring Tournament, with a final bracket embedded at the bottom.

Some eminently forgettable films from this particular corner of time, as nearly one-fourth of the full field garnered 10 or fewer votes in the first round. This tournament’s unceremonious exits:

Superhero cinema generally dominated the field for the largest margin of victory. As you might have guessed: Hop only getting one vote means it was on the shortest end of this stick (or is it a carrot?). In the first round, #3 The LEGO Movie took 98% of the vote against it. After that, #2 seed and Final Four contender Deadpool ran the show, taking 91% of the vote against #10 Ready Player One in Round Two and then 97% of the vote against #3 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in the Sweet Sixteen. Then, in the Elite Eight, the eventual champion The Winter Soldier took 84% of the vote against Shazam!

Meanwhile, animated films factored into many of the tournament’s closest matches through the Elite Eight. In the first round, #9 Rio edged out the #8 Clash of the Titans remake by a score of 31 to 27. A couple of squeakers followed in Round Two, with both #5 A Quiet Place topping #4 How to Train Your Dragon and #3 Alice in Wonderland (2010) knocking out #6 The Croods both by 36 to 34. In the Sweet Sixteen, #9 Shazam! advanced by just one vote over #12 Rango, 30 to 29. And to make it to the Final Four, #7 Us sent #1 seed The Hunger Games packing by 39 to 27.

Far fewer first-round upsets this time, albeit with a few surprises that included a spastic chameleon taking down a classic princess and Leonardo DiCaprio sending a beloved LEGO film home:

  • #12 Rango over #5 Cinderella (2015)
  • #11 Shutter Island over #6 The LEGO Batman Movie
  • #10 Identity Thief over #7 Fifty Shades of Grey
  • #10 Ready Player One over #7 The Boss Baby
  • #9 21 Jump Street over #8 Divergent
  • #9 Kung Fu Panda 3 over #8 The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
  • #9 Shazam! over #8 How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

The year with the most contenders in the field? 2014, which had a total of eight, including eventual champion Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as 300: Rise of an Empire, Divergent, The LEGO Movie, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Noah, Ride Along and Rio 2. Yielding only four films, the lowest total of any individual year, was 2013, with The Croods, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Identity Thief and Oz the Great and Powerful.