My (UPDATED) Top 15 Favorite Superhero Movies

Two years ago, I posted a list of my Top 15 Favorite Superhero films. With movies in the genre coming out left and right, that list is passed due for a revamp. A quick reminder on the criteria of being considered a “Superhero movie” in my eyes:  A) The movie must have a costumed hero 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. There are also movies based on comics that I left off of this list, because I consider them a different genre (Guardians of the Galaxy is more Star Wars/Star Trek sci-fi than superhero film). Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, here’s my (emphasis on my) list of the Best Superhero movies of all time…

15. Batman (1989)

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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?”

14. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

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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.

13. Batman Returns (1992)

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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.

12. Watchmen (2009)

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Zach Snyder may be hit or miss with some of you, but I loved him here. 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.

11. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

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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 (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) while on the Hellicarrier.

10. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

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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.

9. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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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.

8. V for Vendetta (2006)

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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.

7. X-Men: First Class (2011)

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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.

6. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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Bryan Singer (X-Men 1 & 2) blessed us with a return to the X-Men film franchise he helped create. Singer managed to mold the great tone that Matthew Vaughn established in First Class with the amazing visuals and storytelling that he perfected with X2: X-Men United. The result was a brilliant adaptation of one of X-Men’s greatest storylines that helped solidify a new X-Men film universe while subsequently paying homage to the original cast.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Anything involving Blink (Fan Bing Bing) is visually amazing, but nothing beats Quicksilver (Evan Peters) helping Magneto (Fassbender), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) execute a daring prison break using his super speed.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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Captain America’s second big-screen adaptation was far more exhilarating than what was already a great first film. It also managed to solidify Chris Evans as a lead action star. With a story that molds elements of a political thriller with eye-popping action sequences, Winter Soldier manages to feel like much more than a superhero flick. It’s easily my favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2.

FAVORITE MOMENT: A street action sequence that features Hydra attempting to take out Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Cap. The ensuing fight between the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and Captain America has some of the best fight choreography I’ve ever seen in a superhero film.

4. The Dark Knight (2008)

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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 I can’t help but be underwhelmed by Two-Face’s untimely demise 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)

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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)

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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 (Hugh Jackman) going berserk on soldiers in the mansion.

3) Magneto (Ian McKellen)’s escape from an all plastic prison.

4) Pyro (Aaron Stanford) fighting off the police.

5) Storm (Halle Berry) creating tornadoes while also piloting the X-Jet.

6)  Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) flipping Stryker (Brian Cox) the bird while sneaking into his underground facility.

7) The fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike (Kelly Hu).

8) The ending that sees Jena Grey (Famke Janssen) “sacrifice herself” to save the team.

1. Batman Begins (2005)

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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: X-Men (2000), Man of Steel (2013), Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Blade (1998), The Wolverine (2013), Dredd (2012), Kick Ass (2010), Thor (2011), Ant-Man (2015)

Ok, that’s my list that I will undoubtedly be changing in another 2 years after the hoard of superhero movies that arrives in 2016. Check out my disgruntled list of the Top 15 worst superhero movies and feel free to comment or follow me on Facebook.

My (UPDATED) Top 15 Favorite Superhero Movies

Trainwreck Review

Trainwreck_posterLike it or not, Amy Schumer is on the rise. After hosting the 2015 MTV Movie Awards and landing a successful sketch comedy show, it’s hard to ignore the potty mouthed comedian. For me, Schumer’s brand of mostly sexual humor is hit or miss. But with a hefty cast and seasoned director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), I had high expectations for Schumer’s first venture onto the big screen.

Schumer stars as Amy, seemingly a caricature of herself in her stand-up routines. Amy spends her days working for her shallow boss (Tilda Swinton like you’ve never seen her before) at a raunchy magazine and her nights being a promiscuous alcoholic. Her conservative sister (Brie Larson) frowns upon her behavior and her foul mouthed father is a direct negative influence (Colin Quinn). In true romantic comedy fashion, her life takes a turn when she begins to fall for a dinky, yet charming athletic surgeon (Bill Hader) who just happens to be bff’s with NBA superstar Lebron James.

Schumer wrote the film. And like with her stand-up and her sketch comedy, her jokes are often hit and/or miss depending on who you are. Sometimes she’s awkwardly hilarious and other times her gags feel redundant or misplaced. But for the most part, Schumer shines in her writing. The story feels refreshing even though we’ve seen this Hitch routine before. And her characters are all relatively likable or entertaining even if their actually lousy people (Swinton and Quinn’s characters in particular). The cast, from charismatic comedian Bill Hader to a surprisingly funny Lebron James, all shine throughout and help make the movie feel less like the predictable rom-com, even if it is relatively formulaic.

In true Judd Apatow fashion, the movie feels a bit long. It also seems a bit odd that a film written by a woman who frequently professes no shame in a crazy, bachelorette lifestyle, would spend an hour and a half virtually shaming the behavior. It kind of seemed like a missed opportunity to address the double standards in the behaviors of single men and women. But anywho… a raunchy romantic comedy is what Schumer wrote, and a raunchy romantic comedy is what you get; filled with all of the laughs and endearing moments that a watchable film in the genre should have, but without anything truly unique.

FINAL GRADE: B

Trainwreck Review

Minions Quick Review

Minions_posterBack in 2010, Despicable Me became a hit among children and adults. And with that, the minions became an overnight sensation. The little yellow, gibberish spouting, characters weren’t the heart and soul of the film or its 2013 sequel, but they certainly were the biggest form of comic relief. So it only made sense for Illumination Pictures to cash in on their popularity with a spinoff/prequel adventure about those spunky critters.

Minions takes place in the 1960’s, as the titular characters search the world for a master to give their henchmen-like lifestyle purpose. Three of them; leader Kevin, goofball Stuart, and childish Bob, head to a Villain convention where they are united with super villainess Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and her husband, Herb (Jon Hamm). Together, they plot to steal the crown jewels from London.

If you’ve always found the antics of the minions to be cute and silly then you’ll feel no different watching this film. But, don’t expect a story that is coherent or even as heartfelt as the plots of the two Despicable Me films. With characters like Steve Carell’s Gru relegated to cameos and even Sandra Bullock’s Scarlett Overkill only appearing for about half of the movie, the slapstick goofiness of the minions gets old pretty quickly. Children will enjoy every second of this movie, but adults who were enamored with the quality storytelling of Despicable Me might find themselves nodding off every now and then.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Minions Quick Review

Marvel’s Ant-Man (Full Review)

Never judge a book by its cover. In a world that is oversaturated with superhero films, it’s easy to write off a movie titled Ant-Man. It’s obscure, unintimidating, and seemingly unintriguing. But there’s a reason why the Marvel Cinematic Universe reigns supreme. It’s because the studio knows how to shake convention, and more than any other producer of comic book films, they know how to entertain.

Ant-Man_posterBased on one of the original comic book Avengers, Ant-Man follows former ex-con, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), as he is recruited by scientist and former superhero, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Along with Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), they plot a mission to break into Pym’s former Tech headquarters and prevent Pym’s former protégé and current company CEO, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), from replicating dangerous shrinking technology and selling it to the military. To pull off the mission, they’ll need the use of Pym’s super suit that allows its wearer to shrink down to the size of, and communicate with, ants.

Such an obscure premise needs precise execution to not come off hokey and to be refreshing. After all, we’ve seen superhero origin stories done to death. But Marvel manages to pull Ant-Man off by creating not so much a superhero film, but moreso a science fiction heist film. From the start, when we are introduced to Scott Lang’s comedic crew of thieves (Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, and David Dastmalchian), the movie doesn’t really feel like the normal superhero flick.

Instead of big CGI-filled fight scenes and over-the-top set explosions, we actually get great character building. And the cast is spot on, from the headliners to the supporting roles. Paul Rudd is endearing and charismatic as a divorced father willing to do anything to reconnect with his young daughter. The father-daughter redemption theme is represented even stronger in captivating performances by Douglas and Lilly. The one weak link is Corey Stoll as the villain, Yellow Jacket. Stoll doesn’t do a poor job, but he can do little to escape the scripted cliché of a cackling megalomaniac villain that has unfortunately become a staple in nearly every MCU movie.

Even though humor and character drive the film, it’s still a Marvel movie, and with that come some impressive visuals. It almost feels reminiscent of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. And just because there aren’t as many super powered fight scenes as there may be in Avengers movies, doesn’t mean the movie is void of action. The stunning shrinking sequences, which are all absolutely made for 3D viewing, are each breathtaking even before punches are thrown, but rest assure the scarce fight scenes always deliver.

Like with most movies in the MCU, Ant-Man connects well to the other films thanks to a few well placed references and some unexpected cameos (and of course, post-credits scenes). But unlike other Marvel films (*cough* Thor: The Dark World) the film would easily be enjoyable without the connection to the vast superhero world that the studio has created. You may be disappointed if you’re looking for the usual punch throwing, damsel in distress, superhero flick that we’re all accustomed to. But if you’re looking for a witty, visually stunning, adventure with just enough heart to keep you emotionally invested, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how entertaining Ant-Man is.

FINAL GRADE: A-

Marvel’s Ant-Man (Full Review)

Terminator Genisys Review

Apparently the concept of redundancy is completely lost on the producers of Terminator movies. Seriously, how many times can a human looking robot be sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor? Better yet, how many action films does Arnie have left in him? But, this is the era of sequels, remakes, adaptations, and reboots. So here we go, for no real reason, with another Terminator film.

Terminator_GenisysIf you’ve seen any Terminator film before, then you know the gist. An artificial intelligence known as Skynet kills most of humanity in 1997 on “Judgment Day”. A freedom fighter named John Connor (played by Jason Clarke this time around) leads the human resistance that defeats them in the year 2029. To prevent their defeat, Skynet sends a humanoid robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to the past to kill Connor’s mother (Emilia Clarke) before she can give birth to him. In response, Connor sends back a soldier named Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to protect her.

It’s best to think of Terminator Genisys as its own entity and not a sequel or reboot. It borrows concepts from James Cameron’s original films, while completely ignoring the more recent incarnations (2009’s Terminator Salvation). The film starts off almost exactly like the original, with John sending Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect his mother. Many of the scenes are, in fact, shot-for-shot recreations. The twist is that this time when Kyle arrives, Sarah is not only a tough soldier in her own right, but she is also being protected by a reprogrammed Terminator she calls Pops (Schwarzenegger).

At this point, you’re probably expecting me to go on and on about why this movie shouldn’t exist and how it is a soulless cash grab that doesn’t come close to the original. Well, while that is true, it should be noted that there are plenty of things that Terminator Genisys does well. Things that actually make this movie worth seeing. For one, the villain is up to par. The T-3000, a human-robot hybrid, is as menacing and visually stunning as Arnie’s T-800 from the original 1984 film and Robert Patrick’s T-1000 from my favorite, 1991’s Terminator: Judgment Day. This helps create some awesome action sequences, which is inevitably what you come to see a Terminator movie for in the first place. The cast, while mediocre on the surface, isn’t half bad either. Emilia Clarke is certainly no Linda Hamilton, but she holds her own. And the actors seem to at least have a hint of noticeable chemistry even if the film’s romance feels nonexistent.

But don’t be mistaken into thinking Terminator Genisys is either inventive or necessary. The plot is overly convoluted, filled with tons of plot holes the minute you stop to think about it, and the ending is unfittingly meager. This film exists only to squeeze out every last drop of a franchise with few surprises left in it. But if you’re bored, or a few months down the line you want to rent something from Redbox, you can do much, much worse than Terminator Genisys.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Terminator Genisys Review

Ted 2 (Full Review)

2012’s Ted certainly had its moments, but if I were writing a review blog back then, it would’ve gotten a C+. Not that the movie was bad, but too many of the film’s best laughs were extended pieces from the trailers. Luckily for Family Guy and American Dad creator, Seth McFarlane, the movie made enough money to warrant an unnecessary sequel.

Ted_2_posterTed 2 continues the antics of Ted (voiced by Seth McFarlane), a foul mouthed teddy bear who was brought to life by his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) when he was a kid. Ted is now getting married to his Boston dimwit of a girlfriend (Jessica Barth) and John is getting over his divorce to Mila Kunis’ character in the first film. While John’s life spirals, Ted’s is beginning to take off. That is, until he finds out that he and his wife can’t adopt a child because Ted is legally considered property and not a human. With the help of a young, stoner lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) Ted and John must sue the government to gain Ted’s civil rights.

Like the first film… and like pretty much anything Seth McFarlane has ever made…. the plot is all over the place. But this is a comedy, and story and structure can take a backseat as long as you are making the audience laugh. And Ted 2 brings tons of laughter. The first half hour of the film is filled with tear inducing comedy from hilarious cameos, to physical gags, to quick zingers. And McFarlane and Wahlberg are at their comedic best throughout.

And then, as if hit with a subpoena that forces the film to try to make some sort of social commentary, the film just goes a long stretch without being funny. In fact, I’ve never actually seen a movie go from hilarious to dull so quickly. There are a few funny moments sprinkled in, but compared to the gut busting beginning of the movie, the final two-thirds is relatively weak. The climax, which is almost a rehash of the final act of the previous film, is completely forgettable with the exception of a few snickers here and there.

What the movie has working for it most is the chemistry of its leads. Wahlberg and McFarlane have undeniable chemistry and they often help make mediocre jokes still relatively funny. If the last portion of the movie leaves you with a bit of a stale feeling, it helps to reminisce on all of the funny parts at the beginning… then just be thankful that this movie was better than Ted and no where near as atrocious as McFarlane’s last feature film.

FINAL GRADE: B-

Ted 2 (Full Review)