Like a few other of my posts, this idea came from a debate on twitter. I asked a question a twitter that turned into a larger conversation.
This led to some interesting responses and side conversations.
Then I began to ponder…what is the absolute greatest superhero movie of all time. It was hard thinking of one. Even forming a list proved to be harder than anticipated. That’s why we had to form criteria for consideration.
- Must be a Superhero based on a comic.
- This rules out movies such as The Rocketeer (technically), Hancock (it sucked anyway), and the modern classic Blank Man. Yes, don’t knock Blank Man.
- In addition to being based on a comic, it must have a hero. Now hero is a definition I defined loosely. I figured here would be a protagonist with some sort of extraordinary abilities. These abilities don’t necessarily have to be super powers.
- ex: Tony Stark uses his intelligence to create the Iron Man suit.
- Excluded: Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Road to Perdition (which is probably THE BEST comic movie).
- Can be any movie in a series. This means if one likes Amazing Spiderman 2 over the original, that could be ranked without ranking the other.
Now let’s start the list. Please send any hateful tweets to @Aj_Phx
AJ’s list is on the top. Ron’s is on the bottom.
10. Batman (1989)
I will admit, this is more so a legacy pick than anything but, it’s still a good movie. Keaton is probably the second best actor to throw on the cowl behind Affleck (not to mention, he wore Jordans while scaling rooftops). Nicholson’s Joker was great for its time & this film was instrumental in bringing us Batman: The Animated Series.
9. Iron Man
Some might consider this a legacy pick (& even if it was, that alone warrants it being here) but it is here on its own merit. Yes, it is the birth of the modern era of comic-book films. For starters, RDJ is perfect in his role as Tony Stark & while the villain left much to be desired (it’s the MCU) the movie showed you could make a great comic book movie without being cheesy or unnecessarily dark to overcompensate. Not to mention the trend it set for an interconnected universe. Ya know, like they do in the comics
8. Spider-Man 2
The crown jewel of Sam Raimi’s trilogy, this film stands out as the best of a series that included an ok origin story & an over hyped close out (you’ll see this later in the list). Tobey McGuire wasn’t the greatest Spider-Man nor was…hell, Jameson was the only real standout character in this series, but that doesn’t stop this film from being in the top 10.
For all the anticipation of Black Panther’s impending release, people tend to forget Blade was not only among the vanguard of superhero movies, but it was also one of the first mainstream superhero films with a black lead (Spawn just beats it out). & Although the sequels weren’t quite as good as the original, the film. Still, holds up to this day.
6. The Watchmen
I know, I know, this should be higher (according to y’all) but, it’s not in my book. The film is among all time greats, but it has its flaws. Flaws that were also present in BvS & MoS, but that’s neither here nor there. But besides those flaws, this film owes its greatness mostly to the great source material. Even a director obsessed with moments over scenes can make a great film by following the source material for the most part. (Also far too many phallic references & shots in the film for my taste).
5. The Dark Knight
[Ron’s note: Some people just want to see the world burn; AJ is one of those people]
“WHAT? HOW IS THIS NOT NUMBER 1?! CHRISTOPHER NOLAN MADE THE GREATEST SUPERHERO FILM OF ALL TIME! rabble rabble rabble!” Well, if you feel that way, then YOU type up your own list. Look, the only reason this film is this high on the list is because Ledger gave one of the greatest performances we’ve seen in any comic book movie. Christian Bale is only not the worst modern Batman because George Cooney put on a bat suit with nipples. If you remove Ledger from this movie, it’s shit. Every time I watch this movie, I spend all the time Joker isn’t on-screen, waiting for his next scene. Also, I REALLY don’t care about anybody who loves this film because it’s “dark.” Nolan admitted he never looked into the origin stories of most of the supporting characters nor read most of the comics involved. Ledger’s performance was so good, people overrate 2 films he wasn’t in as a result.
For the longest time, I had this film as my top Superhero movie. The last 20 minutes alone is perfection. It was the culmination of 5 years of work & something that was unheard of when Nick Fury came sauntering in to speak with Tony Stark at the end of Iron Man. It is both a great comic book adaptation AND movie. Which is how I ranked these.
3. V for Vendetta
I know y’all don’t consider this a superhero film (hell, I didn’t until Ron brought it up), but when you think about it, it is. Mask wearing vigilante with a tragic origin story fighting a fascist dictator, sounds like a superhero to me. Even before I considered this a superhero movie, it was always one of my favorites. The film was released during a time when our own Government was employing fear mongering as a tactic to enact laws & what not. What I loved about this movie was that it showed what happens when people lay down their freedom in the name of security.
2. Captain America: Winter Soldier
For a time, this film was ranked below Avengers for me, but I’ve since changed that ranking. I recognize that nostalgia played a large role in that thought. Winter Soldier is one of the few MCU films that doesn’t have a weak villain. Up until his “reveal” as Bucky, the Winter Soldier is equal parts menacing, ruthless & unstoppable. It’s even “dark” for all you who overrate shit for that quality. Looks @ number 5
1. Captain America: Civil War
I know, it’s technically a “Captain America” film but it’s honestly more of an MCU film. This film is a “comic book superhero movie” personified. It has the action, it has the plot, it has a picture perfect rendition of Spider-Man AND pretty much flipped the roles of Tony Stark & Captain America from that you expected. Tony was the sympathetic one while Cap was essentially the film’s villain. (Read why in our review of the film) The airport fight scene is probably as close to peeling a comic book panel off of the page & making it into a live-action scene
10. Batman (1989)
Slightly cheesy, time-sensitive, yet masterful. Tim Burton’s take was daring and removed the corny reputation given by Adam West’s version. That’s no knock on Adam West but cmon, you know it was corny. Michael Keaton seriously was my favorite Bruce Wayne/Batman combo until The Batfleck. This movie has Jack Nicholson as a frightening Joker and even a full Prince album as its soundtrack. What’s not to love?
9. Man of Steel
If you know me, you know how I feel about Superman. I think he’s one of the worst superheroes ever. His powers are literally everything. Although he’s nearly all-powerful, you can still give him work if you’re a skilled enough fighter who matches his power. And no one notices that Clark Kent looks exactly like him??? Regardless of my feelings, there hasn’t been a good Superman movie until Man of Steel. Sorry, Mr. Reeves, throwing a cellophane ‘S’ at a villain is quite ridiculous. In one of those Superman movies, he also flew around the planet so fast that it reversed time. Ummm, why couldn’t you do that in the first damn place?
Ok, I admittedly hate those old Superman movies because they were corny but they were good for their time.
But what Man of Steel managed to do is shift the image of Superman’s larger than life stature. This movie explored Superman’s greatest vulnerability: humanity. We saw a Clark Kent very much afraid of the world that was afraid of him. Attempting to assimilate although he was nothing like Earth’s inhabitants. For reasons unknown, this mythos wasn’t followed up and BvS was created but that’s irrelevant here.
8. V for Vendetta
I had a debate on whether or not V was a hero.
He has a mask. Check.
He has weapons. Check.
Superior fighting skills. Check.
Alliteration. Ummm, check?
Whether you consider V a true hero or anarchist, one thing is certain: his mission is clear. Take down a fascist government regime. And sure, this character wasn’t featured in an ongoing title but V is a comic book hero to me nonetheless.
7. Spiderman 2
Spiderman 3 bombing was a blessing in disguise. It made Sony scrap all plans for the Sam Raimi run of Spiderman and they focused on the Amazing Spiderman movies. These sucked more than their predecessors and ultimately the character was given back to Marvel, kinda.
I say all of that to say this, we forget how awesome those first two Spiderman movies were. Specifically, Spiderman 2. Even Marvel bigwig Kevin Feige lists it as one of the best superhero movies of all time.
This movie had great action and was visually stunning. This movie was released in 2004 but the CGI and fight scenes have stood the test of time.
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Sure, the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t materialize until The Avengers but Captain America: Civil War is the catalyst. This movie changed the landscape of the entire universe.
I went into this movie with incredibly low expectations and left blown away. Captain America was reinvented as a modern-day government agent.Cap isn’t the corny member of the Avengers anymore, this movie made him bad-ass.
Kudos to Chris Evans for his ridiculous training regimen. That was really him giving them hands to Bucky. It gave the movie a real feeling.
Bet you didn’t see this coming, did you? Blade is often forgotten about and underappreciated. But nope, not by me. Blade is the OG comic movie. The first that was rated R to my knowledge and it really captured the character.
Who other than Wesley Snipes could’ve filled this role? No one.
Blade is an instant cult classic in my book
4. The Avengers
Confession: I wasn’t checking for this movie. Up until then, we only had two Iron Man movies, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and a Hulk reboot that I had 0 interest in. I watched this movie using a (totally legal) streaming site.
This movie began my love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I was totally caught off guard. There was a nice blend of comedy, the action was there, Loki was a great villain.
Instead of using cut scenes sewn together, this movie used fight scenes where every avenger was working together. It will forever be one of my favorite movies in this universe.
3. Captain America: The Civil War
Ask me how I feel about this one in another five years and I might have it higher but for right now, it’s at 3 which is still pretty high. No this isn’t the new flavor of the month pick or me being blinded by recency, it’s here because it’s a damn good movie. I’ve watched it three times already and I still feel the same way as I did the first time. There’s a huge gap between what they wanted to do with this movie and what they were given. What they wanted to do is have a Civil War storyline. What they were given was a stack of legal constraints like the absence of the word “mutant” and Marvel characters being split between multiple universes. But a great story was constructed using what they were given and what was already done.
This movie really is a modern masterpiece. Like AJ said (is about to say), the airport fight looks like the center of a comic opened up. It has a dark tone that’s balanced out with playful banter here and there. This movie works because the groundwork was laid out two movie ago so when the tension builds the stakes are high.
This movie changes the Marvel Universe forever.
2. The Watchmen
I admit, this movie is only here partially because the story is amazing. Nonetheless, Zack Snyder poured his heart and soul into this movie. This movie was stuck in production hell and was even labeled as being impossible to make once upon a time.
If you’re not familiar with this story, it might be a bit of a turn off for you. There’s a portion of the movie that deviates from any type of plot and Dr. Manhattan’s disinterest with everything (even this movie) can be off-putting but it’s still very interesting. Snyder does great montage work in this movie, the fight scenes are wonderful, and overall it just looks stunning.
This movie is so great that it earned Snyder a lifetime of goodwill. Watchmen is to Snyder what Sixth Sense is to M. Night Shyamalan.
If you’ve been avoiding this movie, please watch it. If you didn’t like it when it came out I urge you to try it again.
1. The Dark Knight
Now, this should come as no surprise. This movie told that world that superhero movies can be cinematic masterpieces. I too agree with AJ, Christian Bale isn’t the greatest Batman and this is a Batman movie after all.
BUT Heath Ledger’s joker is the single most interest character in any superhero movie ever. He’s given depth and is incredibly menacing without being physically imposing. This movie examines Batman and Jokers’s relationship but it also delves into the Joker’s “everybody is one bad day away…” philosophy. He turns the movie’s other hero, Harvey Dent, into a monster and his experiment with the passengers on the ships examined true human nature.
I think this movie is permanently fixed at #1 for me. This not only serves as a great Batman movie but it also has historical significance.
Now that we got out the way, here’s a few movies that barely missed the cut:
Ron’s Honorable Mention: Kick-Ass, Deadpool, X-Men: First Class, Spiderman (2002), Big Hero 6, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.
AJ’s Honorable Mention: Kick Ass, Ant-Man, Superman (1978), Big Hero 6, Deadpool.
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? We’d like to hear your feedback. Please share your list.
Ps. Since people are in the business of rebooting any and every property these days, someone please make a reboot of The Shadow. It was such a shitty movie but it holds a dear place in my heart. Tell me a 1930’s noir superhero flick wouldn’t work! Tell me! I dare you! (I know I’m not selling anyone on this)