In case you missed it, I got all of my negative vibes out of the way with my 15 Worst Superhero movies list earlier this month. Now it’s time to recognize the good stuff. The movies on this list are not only great superhero movies, but great movies in general. In case you don’t know my definition of a “Superhero movie”, here are the parameters once again… A) The movie must have a superhero or heroine lead … B) be based off of a TV show, graphic novel, or comic… no video games movies or teen novels… and C) Need to have been watched at least 50% of the way through. As always, the movies that didn’t quite make the cut are listed as honorable mentions. Let’s get started shall we…
15. X-Men (2000)
A movie that changed the game for superhero films. Made on a modest budget compared to films of the genre today, the movie manages to bring the beloved comic series to life with a great plot and an even better cast. Had to deduct some points for little stuff (The complete altering of Rogue’s character from the comics and Halle Berry’s terrible accent for instance). But overall, this movie is a classic and a solid adaption of my favorite Marvel comic series.
Favorite Moment: After being attacked by The Brotherhood, Cyclops (James Marsden) doesn’t know if Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is himself or the shapeshifting Mystique (Rebecca Romijn). When Cyclops asks him to prove he’s the real Logan, Wolverine replies “You’re a dick.” “Ok,” Cyclops convincingly nods.
14. Batman (1989)
Long before Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, and Heath Ledger came along, it was Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, and Jack Nicholson who made the Dark Knight cool and dark again. Nicholson’s performance as Joker is just as memorable as any film villain and Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is still arguably one of the best.
Favorite Moment: As Batman saves Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) and uses a series of gadgets to escape, Joker replies “Where does he get those wonderful toys.”
13. Man of Steel (2013)
Superman is probably my least favorite major superhero. Mainly because he’s just too powerful and thus lacks intrigue. That being said, Christopher Nolan and Zach Snyder did a magnificent job making Clark Kent a character we actually find interesting for two hours. Although the movie has its dull moments and the supporting roles after Russell Crowe and Amy Adams do next to nothing, the film makes up for it in action sequences and Hans Zimmer’s wonderful soundtrack.
Favorite Moment: The Dragonball Z-esque throwdown in the heart of Smallville between Superman (Henry Cavill), Faora (Antje Traue), and the Kryptonian version of Shaquille O’Neal .
12. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
The amount of people that don’t like this film is stunning to me. Yes, I know it takes a while to get into the action scenes, but I enjoyed every minute of the set up. Chris Evans does a great job of making us forget about that other Marvel superhero he played by giving us a fine portrayal of the scrawny good guy turned muscled hero. Hayley Atwell and Tommy Lee Jones are equally good in their supporting roles. My only gripe is how little Hugo Weaving was able to bring to the role of the Red Skull.
Favorite Moment: After the rest of the platoon struggles to crawl up a flag pole to retrieve a flag, the crafty Steve Rogers simply unscrews the entire pole. Brain > Brawn.
11. Batman Returns (1992)
Much respect to Anne Hathway, but the best portrayal of Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman is in this movie. Michele Pfeiffer’s hauntingly sexy performance is the cornerstone for this film. Danny DeVito also strikes the perfect chord between charismatic and creepy as The Penguin.This was one of the first movies I ever saw in theaters. How it didn’t give me nightmares is a mystery to me.
Favorite Moment: I know I just talked about how great Catwoman is, but it’s Penguin’s takeover of the Batmobile and using a kiddie-ride to remote control it that I can’t help but love.
10. Watchmen (2009)
Zach Snyder strikes again. I was only vaguely familiar with the critically acclaimed graphic novel, about a darker take on superheroes, before I saw the first trailer for this film. That trailer, complete with a rendition of Smashing Pumpkins’ The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning, was so good that it prompted me to read the source material. I immediately realized why it was so lauded. The film version is perfect, matching some frames from the comic shot for shot while also managing to make the necessary tweaks to make the source material a bit more believable.
Favorite Moment: The noir inspired beginning in which Rorshach (Jackie Earl Haley at his best) investigates the death of his fallen comrade.
9. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Unlike most people, I didn’t care much for the first Spider-man. I wasn’t a fan of Toby Maguire as Peter Parker and William Dafoe was just too cartoony as Green Goblin. Part 2, however, completely changed my outlook on this series (Too bad Part 3 brought it crashing down again). The reason for the upswing was undoubtedly Frank Langella as Doc Ock. The charisma and heart that he brought to the role set the tempo for the movie and the rest of the cast managed to follow suit with their best performances of the original trilogy.
Favorite Moment: Spidey and Doc Ock’s fight scene atop a moving train is still one of the best on-screen brawls to date.
8. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
The plot of this movie sounds like it was written by a 10 year-old fan boy. Nevertheless, Joss Whedon deserves major props for actually pulling this movie off. What it lacks in story, it easily makes up for in action and humor. Not to mention the fact that it revolutionized the genre by bringing together heroes from multiple superhero films.
Favorite Moment: Anyone who grew up loving comics and cartoons has to get goosebumps when the camera first pans around all six heroes, but I specifically love the throw down between Thor and Hulk while on the Hellicarrier.
7. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The third installment in Christopher Nolan’s Bat-Trilogy has its flaws from a storytelling standpoint, but few can argue that it’s the best Part Three of any movie in the superhero genre. This is due less to the story and execution and more to the villains. Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway are both scene stealers as Bane and Selina Kyle.
Favorite Moment: Several to choose from. I love the opening highjacking scene as well as Bruce Wayne’s first pursuit of Bane’s henchmen on the Batpod, but the best scene has to go to the first showdown between Bane and Batman that ends in the Dark Knight’s back being broken.
6. V for Vendetta (2006)
Few actually realize that this movie is based on a 1982 DC Comics graphic novel (written by the same genius who wrote Watchmen). The theatrical version is nothing short of brilliant from its action sequences to its cast led by Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman. Produced by the same team that developed The Matrix, Vendetta is certainly one of the most thought provoking films in the genre.
FAVORITE MOMENT: Before taking out some thugs, V gives an introductory monologue using seemingly every word in the dictionary that starts with the letter V.
5. X-Men: First Class (2011)
X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine nearly killed the X-Men franchise. Luckily, Director Matthew Vaughn came along to bring us a well-acted, James Bond-like prequel/reboot to rejuvenate one of the best series’ in the genre. The story, which mingles the usual mutant drama with the Cuban missile crisis, is good but even better is the chemistry between James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence.
FAVORITE MOMENT: Michael Fassbender’s young Magneto uses a small knife and a gun that is never actually in his possession to kill a few former Nazis in a bar. Bad. Ass.
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
Surprised that it isn’t in the Top 2? This is a fantastic movie, but it does get a little long in the tooth around the two boats with detonators part. And (SPOILER ALERT) I can’t help but be underwhelmed by Two-Face’s death at the end. That being said, this movie is still an absolute classic… and we all know why. Heath Ledger’s incredible performance as the Joker is the best portrayal of a villain in any movie… ever. Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent is no slouch either.
FAVORITE MOMENT: The vehicle chase seen with Joker in a truck and Batman in the Batpod is good, but the scene where Joker walks in on a meeting between mobsters is better. “Want to see a magic trick?”
3. Iron Man (2008)
Kudos to Robert Downey Jr. for making Tony Stark as much of a household name as Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. In the movie that started the Marvel Cinematic revolution, Downey Jr. is at his snarky best. His chemistry with Gwenyth Paltrow also gives us one of the best hero/girlfriend relationships ever on screen. All of that aside, it’s the groundbreaking special effects that help this movie’s cool factor exceed almost anything we’ve ever seen. Still waiting on Iron Man to have another solo outing as good as this one.
FAVORITE MOMENT: Iron Man shoots a small missile at a tank, then walks away as it explodes… like a boss.
2. X2: X-Men United (2003)
One of the most re-watchable movies of all time. It’s got a better plot than nearly every movie on this list and also manages to bring together a deep cast of characters and give each one their moment to shine. I have a hard time believing there will ever be an X-Men movie better than this one. The opening scene with Nightcrawler (Allen Cumming) in the White House is still the best opening to a superhero movie ever.
FAVORITE MOMENT: Too many to choose from… so I’ll just give them all. 1) The aforementioned opening scene. 2) Wolverine going berserk on soldiers in the mansion. 3) Magneto’s escape from an all plastic prison. 4) Pyro fighting off the police. 5) Storm creating tornadoes while also piloting the X-Jet. 6) Mystique flipping Stryker the bird while sneaking into his underground facility. 7) The fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike. 8) The ending that sees Jena Grey “sacrifice herself” to save the team.
1. Batman Begins (2005)
Can you tell who my favorite superhero is? Not only did this movie manage to make Batman cool again after Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin nearly ruined him, but it also brings a more realistic flare to superhero films. Christopher Nolan does a magnificent job using non-linear filmmaking to tell the ultimate superhero origin story while Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Cilian Murphy are perfect as Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and The Scarecrow. The two sequels may get more attention, but both posses more flaws then this movie, which in my opinion has none. Some might dislike the fact that the Batman himself doesn’t make an appearance until an hour in, but I argue that the scenes where Bruce receives his training from Liam Neeson are just as good if not better. The plot twist that involved Liam Neeson’s Henri Dukard actually being the mastermind main-villain, Ra’s al Guhl, is still arguably the best in the genre.
FAVORITE MOMENT: Batman makes his first appearance in the film, roughing up some mobsters while scaring the pure Hell out of them at the same time. The ending exchange between Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman is a close second…
Gordon: “I never got a chance to thank you.”
Batman: “And you’ll never have to.”
… Cue Fan boys tears and applause.
HONORABLE MENTION: Thor (2011), Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Blade (1998), The Wolverine (2013), Dredd (2012), Kick Ass (2010), Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Ok, that’s my list. Here’s hoping Captain America: Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be able to make it on this list in 2014. What are your favorite superhero flicks? Got an idea for another list? Comment below or follow me on twitter or Facebook.