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100 Essential Superhero Movies: 2016 Edition

100 Essential Superhero Movies: 2016 Edition

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated my 100 Essential Superhero Movies. I initially made the list in 2014, and then I updated and ranked them to include the previous year’s movies in 2015 with the intention of updating the list each year; adding the most important and/or best movies of the year and removing some of the movies that only just barely made the list, or ones that have been eclipsed by newer movies for one reason or another. So here I am to update this list of the 100 superhero movies that I think are essential to understanding superhero movie history. These aren’t the 100 best superhero movies, each one is included because it contributes in some way to superhero movie history.

The Removals

The Return of Captain Invincible

Return of Captain InvincibleI decided to remove this film for a few reasons. One is that it is an Australian production and I felt like I needed to do one of two things: either include examples of superhero movies from other countries, or focus this list on American releases and I went with the second option. But besides that, this is a slow, obscure film that I mostly included because of my own personal interest in it rather than any cultural impact it might have.

Return of Swamp Thing

This is a film that I only barely included in the initial list of 100 based on a poll added to the site where it got a small handful of votes. This is a poor sequel to the Wes Craven Swamp Thing movie that brought in Heather Locklear. Aside from a few nice creature effects, this doesn’t really contribute anything to superhero movies.

Super Inframan

This is another film that I’m removing as a result of my decision to focus on strictly American superhero movies. Despite the fact that this is the first Chinese superhero movie, I don’t believe it made much of an impact in the US aside from it’s overall influence in the Sentai genre that inspired Power Rangers.

Gantz

GantzAnd this is the third film that I’m removing as a result of focusing on American releases. And also partly because of my own personal influence as it was initially an anime series that I enjoyed and a fun movie on its own, but again not really that important or influential in the grand scheme of things.

Mr. Freedom

And for the last foreign film that I’m removing is this odd French film that I initially included as it was part of the Criterion Collection. In fact it is the only superhero film included in the Criterion Collection, but it is included as part of its Eclipse series focusing on more experimental directors.

Justice League: Doom

This is a film that I’m removing to make room for another DC Animated movie. While this film is considered one of the better DC Animated films, it’s not quite one of the best and it’s not based on a particularly important comic book story either. And on top of that, I am specifically removing this DC Animated Movie to include a newer DC Animated movie released last year.

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3One of the more difficult things about making this list is deciding what to include from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With two to three movies coming out each year, including every single one of them would end up completely dominating this list. And while this film is notable for the controversy surrounding the Mandarin twist, it feels like the impact of that controversy has greatly lessened over the past few years and those who enjoyed this film have moved on to more recent MCU films. Not to mention that this film felt like it was trying to end Iron Man as a character, but that has been completely ignored by his continued presence in more recent movies.

The Additions

Ant-Man 2015

Ant-ManAs with many years since starting the MCU there were two films that came out in 2015 along with one other non-MCU Marvel property. And while Age of Ultron was the second Avengers movie, it was a big step down from the first Avengers movie and aside from introducing Scarlet Witch and Vision it doesn’t really make any big changes to the MCU in general and is considered very mid-range in terms of quality. While Ant-Man is also considered a mid-range Marvel movie, it brings something different to the table by being more of a heist movie as well as all the behind the scenes drama with the removal of Edgar Wright. It’s a fun movie that generally favors comedy over action and is the best version of shrinking done in cinema to date. For these rankings, I’m placing it at #37 just below the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Fant4stic 2015

Fantastic FourFantastic Four has an incredibly bizarre cinematic history and this film from 2015 is no exception. This is another case where the story behind the movie and how it may ultimately impact the future of the Fantastic Four in film. This film was a disappointment in many ways, from the amateur and unprepared director Josh Trank who came off his surprising success with Chronicle, to the studio who ultimately disagreed with his vision and turned it into something they thought would be more commercial. The quality and box office of this movie was a failure, but still not enough for Fox to give up the rights to the characters just yet and a potential sequel or possibly another reboot is apparently still on the table, though in my opinion it wouldn’t be surprising if it takes until 2025 before it gets off the ground. And as for it’s ranking, I’m placing it at #89 right in between Batman Forever and Ryan Reynolds’s Green Lantern.

The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?! 2015

The Death of Superman Lives What HappenedI considered leaving this film off the list in favor of the better version of this concept from 2016 Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four but I decided that while this documentary may suffer in quality, the story it tells is just slightly more interesting. This is a documentary about the Nicolas Cage and Tim Burton Superman movie that failed to launch. It was made through a successful Kickstarter campaign that allowed it to recreate scenes from the scripts in animation and had interviews with nearly everyone involved in this production minus Nicolas Cage himself, though he is still very present in archival footage. It’s a fascinating story marred only by the filmmaker’s incessant inclusion of himself into the story that he had nothing to do with. And for the rankings, it will place at #70 putting it right between two other indie superhero movies All Superheroes Must Die and Defendor.

Batman: The Killing Joke 2016

Batman the Killing JokerSeveral years ago I wrote about how Warner Bros should make this movie, make it rated R, and release it in theaters. And when I finally watched it, it wasn’t quite what I expected. It’s problematic, but it’s still one of the most popular and iconic Batman comic books ever made. It had a limited theatrical release that was the most successful Fathom Events release ever so that they added an extra day just to accommodate the demand. Regardless of the quality of the film itself, all of that is worthy of this film being added to my list. And it will join the rankings at #47 just slightly above Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Deadpool 2016

DeadpoolThere’s no way that I couldn’t include Deadpool on this list. This was such a surprise hit for most people when it came out and outgrossed every other X-Men movie despite being rated R. It’s almost a parody of a superhero movie except that it is somehow simultaneously a superhero origin that follows the outline in a serious way. Ryan Reynolds was able to make up for his role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and bring to life a character in a way that fans of the character could get behind, and get behind it they did. And in my rankings, it gets the top spot at #11 just barely missing the top 10.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 2016

Batman v Superman Dawn of JusticeLove it or hate it, there has been so much discussion about this film that there was no way I could not include this film. This is the first appearance of Ben Affleck’s Batman, and the like him or hate him Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. It’s also the first live action film appearance of Wonder Woman and for better or worse is the first real building block in the DC Extended Universe as Man of Steel was really just a Superman movie. It’s bloated, it has plenty of critics but also plenty of fans. Personally, I enjoyed it minus Lex Luthor but I do think it could have been much better than it was. And for the rankings, I’m placing it smack dab in the middle at #50.

Captain America: Civil War 2016

Captain America Civil WarAnd finally, the last film I’m adding to this list is the big MCU film for 2016 that often got referred to as a mini-Avengers movie as it included so many Marvel characters and had many working parts to it. It also was part of the bandwagon of that year to include heroes fighting each other just like Batman v Superman before it. I wasn’t as impressed with the airport battle, but it did also introduce the MCU version of the third cinematic Spider-Man in Tom Holland. It also closed out the Captain America trilogy, though time will tell if this really is the end of the Captain America trilogy or just the third chapter in the Captain America series. And for its spot in the rankings I’m putting it at #19 right in between Big Hero 6 and Batman Returns.

And there you have it, below is the full list, complete with my updated rankings. I’d love to hear what you think, if my inclusions are valid, as well as my removals, and if there’s anything that you think I missed from the past two years. Hopefully I will be back again next year to update this list with the 2017 movies which have already gotten off to a strong start. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.

#100 – The Wild World of Batwoman
#99 – Supergirl
#98 – Batman & Robin
#97 – The Death of the Incredible Hulk
#96 – Superman III
#95 – Catwoman
#94 – The Punisher
#93 – Fantastic FourFantastic Four
#92 – Howard the Duck
#91 – The Meteor Man
#90 – Batman Forever
#89 – Fant4stic
#88 – Green Lantern
#87 – Spawn
#86 – Swamp Thing
#85 – Hulk
#84 – Ghost Rider
#83 – The Fantastic Four
#82 – Ultimate Avengers
#81 – The Toxic Avenger
#80 – Superman and the Mole Men
#79 – The Shadow
#78 – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
#77 – Flash Gordon
#76 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze
#75 – Constantine
#74 – Mystery Men
#73 – Daredevil
#72 – Planet Hulk
#71 – All Superheroes Must Die
#70 – The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?
#69 – Defendor
#68 – Superman/Doomsday
#67 – Darkman
#66 – Batman: Gotham Knight
#65 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
#64 – Sky High
#63 – The Rocketeerrocketeer
#62 – Hellboy: Blood + Iron
#61 – The Punisher
#60 – TMNT
#59 – Batman: The Movie
#58 – The Wolverine
#57 – Super
#56 – Hancock
#55 – Green Lantern: First Flight
#54 – The Mask
#53 – Superman Returns
#52 – Iron Man 2
#51 – The Dark Knight Rises
#50 – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
#49 – The Amazing Spider-Man
#48 – Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
#47 – Batman: The Killing Joke
#46 – Doctor Strange
#45 – The Crow
#44 – HellboyHellboy
#43 – Captain America: The First Avenger
#42 – The Incredible Hulk
#41 – Men in Black
#40 – Megamind
#39 – Thor
#38 – Wonder Woman
#37 – Ant-Man
#36 – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
#35 – Robocop
#34 – X-Men: First Class
#33 – Spider-Man
#32 – Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
#31 – Kick-Ass
#30 – Blade
#29 – Chronicle
#28 – Man of Steel
#27 – Blade II
#26 – The Dark Knight Returns pt 1 & 2
#25 – Legends of the Knight
#24 – Dredd
#23 – Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
#22 – BatmanBatman
#21 – X-Men
#20 – Big Hero 6
#19 – Captain America: Civil War
#18 – Batman Returns
#17 – Watchmen
#16 – Batman Begins
#15 – X-Men Days of Future Past
#14 – Superman
#13 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
#12 – Unbreakable
#11 – Deadpool
#10 – Batman: Under the Red Hood
#9 – X-2: X-Men United
#8 – Superman II
#7 – Hellboy II: The Golden Army
#6 – Guardians of the Galaxy
#5 – Spider-Man 2
#4 – Iron Man
#3 – The Incredibles
#2 – The Dark Knight
#1 – The Avengers

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About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 300 superhero and comic book movies in the past four years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on May 7, 2017, in Lists and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Maria T. Kelly

    I adored Dr. Strange, but the only thing that bothered me was Benedict Cumberbatch’s American Accent. It sounded EXACTLY like Hugh Laurie’s American accent. I kept expecting Hugh to show up in Dr. House mode, telling Benedict that he wanted his American accent back and kept hitting him on his head with House’s cane until Benedict did.

  1. Pingback: 100 Essential Superhero Movies: 2016 Edition | Fantasy Sources: Art, Gifts, Ideas, Article Resources, News

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