My top 10 Superhero movies
Now I know that many movie blogs end the year with a big top 10 list, and I’m no different. I also ask everyone who I have on this site the same question: “What’s your favorite superhero movie?” and from the beginning, I’ve dodged answering that question myself. My go to answer is “the next one”. But now that I’ve watched 100 superhero movies, and this site has technically passed its one year registration date even though I didn’t have my first real post for a couple weeks, I figured it’s time to narrow them down and give you a list of my top 10 favorite superhero movies. I know that movies are a highly subjective art form, no matter what movie it is there’s someone out there who likes it, so I’m not claiming that these are the all time best superhero movies, but they are my own personal favorites. I have also cheated a little bit and added some “runner up”s that have some connection with each entry, but shouldn’t be looked at as a possible replacement for that spot in the top ten, but more like a movie contending for spot #11. So without further ado, let’s get to the list.
This is a recent watch for me, and I thought it kept all the stuff I enjoyed the most from the theatrical cut, left out many of the things I didn’t like, and added in a few nice scenes for good measure. While Superman: The Movie has a lot of great things in it, it’s really not until the sequel happens before he actually gets to fight something. And the three Kryptonian villains are great foes for Superman, matching him in power without his human compassion. And without this movie, there wouldn’t be the famous quote “Kneel before Zod!”. The only weak point in this movie is due to the fact that the ending wasn’t able to be filmed, so they re-used the ending from the first movie. But I still think it’s a hair better than the amnesia kiss ending.
Classic runner up: Batman: The Movie. The Adam West Batman is so much different from what we’re used to seeing in Christopher Nolan’s universe, but it’s still a ton of fun.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of animated movies, and there are a ton of animated superhero movies out on DVD from Marvel, DC, and even Dark Horse comics. I think DC holds the edge over the other two by a narrow margin in terms of quality in both the animation as well as the voice cast. I’ve seen many of these offerings and by far the best one is Under the Red Hood, which takes a look at Batman’s moral code when a more violent vigilante comes into town and questions Batman’s methods. Not only that, but it brings out a character from Batman’s past. There are a lot of great moments in this movie, and it lives up to the PG-13 rating that I think helps give the edge to DC over Marvel in terms of their animated movies.
Animated runner up: Planet Hulk. The only movie on this list I haven’t reviewed yet, it was such a different version of Hulk than I’m used to in a story that feels very familiar, and yet it’s still a great story and worth a watch.
This movie really feels almost like a love letter to superhero origin stories. There’s few fights, the pacing is extremely slow on purpose, there’s a lot of just talking about superheroes, and yet it all works to create a believable ultra-realistic take on how superheroes could really exist outside of movieland. This movie reminds us of when M. Night Shymalan still had talent as a visually impressive filmmaker. There are some amazing looking scenes in this movie all done with simple camera moves and unique framing. And even though the twist at the end has become something of a forced cliché in M. Night’s earlier movies, this was back when it still worked.
Non-standard runner up: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along blog. This is Joss Whedon’s musical internet short film that focuses on the villain rather than the hero. It was something different than ever seen before, but it is fantastic on every level.
One of the earliest of the modern superhero movies, X-Men helped lead the way for where we are now. It was one of the first superhero movies to treat the characters like real people with real relationships and real drama before they even get into their super powers. There may be code names, but there are no secret identities, being a mutant isn’t always a blessing, it’s often a curse. And this was the first movie to introduce the world to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, who next to Tony Stark is the best embodiment of a comic book character. Many people like X2 above the original, but there’s just too much stuff packed into X2 for me, I like the simpler story and the character dynamics in the first movie better.
X-Men runner up: X-Men First Class. The new movie was a great semi-reboot/prequel, I love how they made an effort to tie it into the original trilogy with the cameos and I’m really excited for Days of Future Past.
Now we’re getting to the point in the list where my favorites of the favorites are. These movies could easily be switched around with little complaint from me, they are all so great and I enjoy them all for different reasons. Spider-Man 2 was easily the best of the Sam Raimi trilogy. Some people may think it was a little too cheesy, but I loved the scene on the subway where he gives everything he has and more to save the people in the train, is stripped down to his secret identity, and the people help him in every way possible. Doc Ock is also one of the best tragic villains, he’s visually amazing, and the way he used his intelligence as well as his physical strength was a combination that worked in the best way. The fights in this movie are really something special, and the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane was the best in this movie compared to the other two.
Spider-Man runner up: The Amazing Spider-Man. I really loved Spider-Man’s personality in this movie, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy was perfect, and I was surprised by how much I liked this version of Uncle Ben and Aunt May, again I have high hopes for the sequel.
Hellboy is often an overlooked superhero, but for those that have seen it they typically love it. Guillermo del Toro is an amazing visual filmmaker and the Golden Army really showcases his imagination more than most of his other movies. There are so many amazing creatures in this movie, and they’re not there just for the spectacle of them, they actually fit into the story in an important way. I also have a thing for tragic villains, and Prince Nuada is no exception. He’s one of the last of a dying race being pushed aside by the human race and has reached his limit to where he feels the need to fight back. Hellboy himself is such an interesting character as well, destined to bring the world to destruction but has been conditioned to be a hero. This movie also explores the public opinion of a demonic looking superhero. And the cast does such an amazing job bringing these fantastic characters to life, Ron Perlman is absolutely the embodiment of Hellboy, and Doug Jones is just as impressive as Andy Serkis without all the recognition for his portrayal of Abe Sapien as well as two other minor characters. It’s just such a fantastic movie altogether.
Hellboy runner up: Blood & Iron. Take Hellboy, vampires, witches, a hint of Greek mythology, animate it, and you get this great little gem of a movie.
In the same way that Ron Perlman is the embodiment of Hellboy, Robert Downey Jr. is the embodiment of Tony Stark. If he ever leaves the role, he will leave some giant iron shoes to fill, and I doubt that anyone will ever bring such a perfect portrayal to the role in the future. The movie itself is one of the best origin stories. If you couldn’t already tell, most of this list is made up of sequels. I’ve found that often in superhero movies, the origin story is not only played out, but it also spends half of the movie with a superhero that’s not a superhero yet. But this movie makes it work in the best way. From the opening sequence setting up Tony Stark’s personality and then throwing in the action out of nowhere, to the right amount of humor during the learning process of creating the Iron Man suit, it’s just a nearly perfect origin story. Pepper Potts also brings the right amount of strength and support to Tony Stark without being a generic love interest. On top of that, the combination of villains, especially with the turn towards the end, no matter whether or not you’re able to predict it, works as a fitting foil for Iron Man.
Marvel Studios runner up: Thor. A lot of people don’t like this movie either, but I enjoy the almost sci-fi Shakespearean take on a superhero. The relationship between Thor and Loki and how it evolved through the movie was the best part of it.
It may be surprising to see this movie sit at number 3, as it is most often quoted as the favorite superhero movie of the people I ask for this site. Christopher Nolan brings an extremely gritty realism to the Superhero genre while still managing to bring a level of spectacle fitting for the genre. This is the role that Heath Ledger will be known for and for good reason. He managed to completely erase the memory of Jack Nicholson’s iconic Joker portrayal in the original Tim Burton Batman movie and create a character that is now almost the version of the Joker in the Batman universe. I think it’s starting to get to the point where superhero movies are so good, and Heath Ledger’s tragic death is far enough away that flaws can start to be seen in this movie. I think the biggest one is that while the Joker’s personality is pitch perfect, his actions and planning and overall masterminding is not really fitting to the Joker’s character. But it’s still pretty close to a perfect Batman movie.
Batman runner up: Batman Returns. Of the two Burton movies, Batman Returns really works to his sensibilities in the best way. It has the right amount of gothic, beauty, and action. I just think there should have been a little less comedy, or at least less silly comedy.
The Incredibles is very close to a perfect superhero movie. It has the right mix of action, comedy, and drama, and all of it works in the right ways. The comedy is hilarious, the action is thrilling, and the drama is touching. Every character in this movie has a fully fledged personality with proper motivations that actually make sense. Often a villain is a villain just to be the bad guy. Syndrome has a plan that actually makes sense, he’s in it to make money, but he’s also been disillusioned to his heroes while still looking up to them in the back of his mind in such a way that he still wants to be one. Mr. Incredible is in a unique position to be having a mid life crisis for superheroes. And while there’s children in the mix, they are in there in the right way. They are an emotional center to their superhero parents, but they also bring the childlike innocence to the idea of being a superhero, and at the same time they are told the reality of what being a superhero means. Every character has a strong arc in this movie and they are woven together in a nearly perfect way.
Animated runner up: Megamind. It’s a superhero movie with such a unique premise, it’s such an in depth look into the mind of a supervillain and his ultimate redemption. And it’s filled with a lot of great comedy.
This year brought a bunch of the heavy hitters in the superhero genre, and the biggest one was arguably The Avengers. It really is the first of its kind, but I’m sure it won’t be the last, especially since they’ve already announced The Avengers 2 as well as The Justice League. It’s a movie that’s been built up to and planned for several years and many movies hinted and led up to it and when it finally hit, it delivered. Joss Whedon finally got to showcase his talent on a big budget movie with widely known characters. There may have easily been as many plot holes as there were in the Dark Knight Rises, which is notably absent from this list, but since this movie had not only so much action, but the fact that it didn’t take itself so seriously that certain flaws in logic and other stretches are much more acceptable. Iron Man launched the Marvel studios brand, and the Avengers clinched it. It has a huge cast, and yet none of the characters except for maybe Hawkeye who no one cares about anyway get their place in the sun. Not only that, but they are all a treat to watch do their stuff. The Avengers totally deserves its spot on the top of this list and hopefully it will be one of the pictures that raises the bar so that this list will be much different five years from now.
Runner up: There is nothing that comes close to a runner up for The Avengers, at least not yet. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.