The Best of the Decade pt. 3: Marvel & DC
And it’s finally time to finish off this giant best of the decade list with the biggest superhero movies to come out over the past ten years. The blockbuster live action movies from DC, Marvel, and the connected Marvel Cinematic Universe. And hopefully after this, I’ll get back to watching some more movies including the movie that won the Patreon poll so be on the lookout for that review coming up soon, plus the new releases will be starting very soon kicking things off with Birds of Prey, the sequel/spin-off for Suicide Squad. It’s been a great decade for Marvel, DC has been much more hit and miss with a strong finish. So, let’s get to the lists!
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Even though the MCU started with Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk in 2008, the MCU has primarily been encapsulated over the past ten years. Every single one of their movies has been a success. There have been a few movies that grossed less than maybe expected, but they’ve all been either big successes, or the biggest successes ever, with three of the Avengers movies in the top 10 grossing films of all time, and 3 more in the top 20. It’s been an incredible ride for superhero movies and it’s largely due to the success of the MCU. There have been plenty of movies to make a top ten and they’re similar enough to each other to warrant a list separate from the rest.
This was one of the first movies during the middle of the MCU run where critics thought that they might have hit their first road bump. After parting ways with Edgar Wright, they went with a less well known director Peyton Reed. But despite those road bumps, they still managed to put together a great film that’s one of the funniest entries in the MCU and a great addition to the team with Paul Rudd’s reformed criminal Scott Lang. Plus, it has some of the most amazing shrinking effects.
9: Spider-Man: Far From Home
Spider-Man has been a bit of a sore thumb as far as the MCU has been concerned. It is by far Marvel’s most popular character and yet it was one of the few characters whose rights are still tied up with another film company. But there have been deals worked out so that the two companies can split profits and one of the best versions of Peter Parker is able to rub shoulders with the rest of the MCU. They also managed to have one of the most visually striking sequences with the Mysterio nightmare sequence. Plus it had a pretty significant shocker at the end of the movie which really puts this version of Spider-Man apart from the rest of them.
8: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
After James Gunn introduced the world to one of the least known teams within Marvel, he had a high bar to clear to make a sequel. But he brought in Kurt Russell in a major role as Star Lord’s father and had significant themes of family, specifically how you choose your family rather than just the family tied together by blood. And through it all, he still managed to bring the cuteness that was Baby Groot (years before Baby Yoda) and keep it all just as funny as the first.
7: Avengers: Infinity War
Every iteration of the Avengers after the first one just kept getting bigger and bigger, always with the threat of Thanos in the background. But this was finally the one where we got to see what kind of serious threat Thanos really was. Not only that, but this is pretty much the only movie within the MCU where the heroes don’t actually win. We got to see a lot of the new heroes and teams split up and work with each other in different, fun, and interesting ways, and it was great.
6: Thor: Ragnarok
Thor has always been slightly separate from the rest of the MCU with the majority of his previous two films taking place on Asgard in a similar way as the Guardians of the Galaxy, only with a generally smaller connection to Thanos. After two movies, Ragnarok really amped up the comedy to a high degree. There’s still action, but comedy permeates this film through and through and really helped change Thor into a different character than he had been.
5: Guardians of the Galaxy
Before Ant-Man, this was seemingly MCU’s biggest risk. At the time James Gunn had come from the low budget Troma studios and wrote for some big named properties like the live action Scooby-Doo movie. He made a rag-tag group of misfits, included a talking tree and a talking raccoon and made you care about them while still laughing the entire way through the runtime. It’s still a fantastic movie and one of the best teams in the MCU.
4: Black Panther
This was never thought to be a big gamble, but it also felt like it took a long time for Marvel to get around to this superhero. What was a surprise was seeing this film become the highest grossing solo superhero movie ever, grossing just under Age of Ultron and currently sitting at #12 in the top grossing films of all time. But more than that, it’s a great movie that also brings in ties to Black urban culture as well as African tribal culture in a way that’s respectful and also accessible for all audiences, not just those with a personal connection to the backgrounds of the characters.
3: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This was one of the first superhero movies that helped prove that a superhero movie is not a genre in and of itself. It brought strong overtones of a spy thriller with the superheroes spending more of their time undercover and less of their time acting like stereotypical superheroes. It had a lot of political undertones and great performances all around while still helping to tie the movies together in new and interesting ways while making a major shake-up to the SHIELD organization in the movies and their TV series (despite it being essentially swept under the rug a couple years later).
2: Avengers: Endgame
This was the movie that supposedly the entire MCU was leading up to for the past 12 years and so many movies. It has everything, time travel, character deaths, a massive battle bringing together nearly every Marvel superhero seen in these movies to date, and it still manages to be a cohesive and entertaining movie. It continues to help evolve some of the characters that we’ve grown to know and love and it revisits the past movies in interesting ways.
1: The Avengers
And while I might be in the minority, there’s still nothing that’s completely topped the first time that the Marvel superheroes from several different previous movies came together for the first time to fight a threat bigger than any single one of them could handle on their own. It’s the real start of the MCU aside from the first Iron Man and it’s still an amazing feat that literally changed the way that Hollywood made movies. It was the start of the “connected universe” that was attempted by several different properties despite never gaining the success of this one.
Non-MCU Marvel & DC
While the MCU flourished, Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros had a lot more ups and downs. Sony got two shots at Spider-Man and started a spin-off universe, Fox continued to juggle two different X-Men casts before eventually being bought out by Disney, and DC tried to copy Marvel’s Avengers model only to completely scrap it in favor of something different just last year or so.
10: The Amazing Spider-Man
Spider-Man has had some of the quickest reboots out of any superhero franchise out there. Just five years after Spider-Man 3, they tried bringing it back with a younger Peter Parker, and an origin that promised to be the story you hadn’t seen before. But while the chemistry was great between Peter and Gwen, a failed sequel brought yet another reboot just three years after the Amazing Spider-Man 2. But all things said and done, I do still enjoy this reboot for the most part.
9: Man of Steel
Superman has been a difficult property for DC to get right in a live action movie after Christopher Reeve embodied the character so perfectly in his first two movies. And while many people had either loved it or hated this version of Superman, there is a lot of positive that can be said about it. It did take things in a different direction, the cinematography was gorgeous, and the cast was fantastic. Many people had a problem that it wasn’t what they expected to see from Superman, but I thought it was a fascinating take that was enjoyable to watch and still one of my favorites from the DCEU.
Out of all of the X-Men franchise, this might have been one of the biggest surprises. Ryan Reynolds really brought the character into live action in a big way and in the right way. When many other superhero properties were taking liberties with costumes and making things more realistic, this movie really captured the heart of what makes Deadpool Deadpool and brought it to life on screen. The attitude was great and the costume looked just like the comics, something that hadn’t really been done aside from maybe Iron Man. It’s violent, dirty, and yet still hilarious.
After the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, DC tried to go dark and serious with their movies until just recently when they started to bring things around and embrace the fun of superheroes. Aquaman is a character that was incredibly difficult to do in this day and age when he had become the joke of the DC Universe for anyone not reading comics. But this film managed to capture the fun, but also the action and badassness of Aquaman and bring it to life on screen with all the color and life that hadn’t been seen much in the DC movies to this point.
6: X-Men: Days of Future Past
After a disappointing turn with the third X-Men movie and a modestly successful reboot, Fox hedged their bets and brought the most popular of the casts of both movies and came up with this crossover slash hand-off that brought time travel together with some absolutely amazing action sequences. It was one of the first movies to really retcon some of the bad movies in a film’s past, something that has been done more than once since.
This could have been a big gamble for DC. Right after releasing several movies that more or less continued their connected universe, they announced this movie followed by another non-connected Batman movie and Suicide Squad semi-reboot. This is a very different take on Joker through the lens of a 70’s slow burn psychological thriller. Many people criticize it for not having deep enough themes, but while it may have been surface level for cinephiles, it not only connected with general audiences, becoming the highest grossing R-rated movie. But it also received 9 Oscar nominations including Best Picture. It’s just a damn good movie.
Some of the most interesting superhero movies have come from directors who originally came from a horror background and Shazam! is no different. Before taking on Shazam! David F Sandberg directed Lights Out and an Annabelle movie. He brought some of that horror mindset that came out in a few scenes, especially with the Seven Deadly Sins but still managed to capture the humor and joy of superheroes from the eyes of a child. It was wish fulfillment in the best of ways and a joy to watch.
3: Deadpool 2
Comedy sequels tend to be hit or miss, it’s often difficult to capture the je ne sais quoi of the original. Deadpool 2 managed to bring in a new set of characters and ramp things up by focusing on the the action that comes with a superhero sequel but also brings in the heart of some of the characters. He gets a kid sidekick in a way, actually in a very Deadpool way. It builds a team and then kills all but one of them right after the team building montage.
2: Wonder Woman
It was a tall order to be the first female led superhero movie in over a decade, and honestly the first good one. And it was excellent. People had their doubts about this movie, but it had some amazing sequences, and in a way it brought about a trend that’s continuing by shifting from the previous focus on World War II in movies and instead this film takes place during World War I. The visual style is amazing, the No Man’s Land action sequence is one of the best of all time, and even the romance that’s often shoehorned into superhero movies is done well here.
This list would be remiss without mentioning the mainstay of the previous twenty years that was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. This took the concept of a modern movie with touches of a western before everyone fell in love with the Mandalorian and “baby Yoda”. This film showed us the toll that a superhero life takes on a person, even one with supernatural healing abilities. It’s Old Man Logan in the best way possible with some absolutely gut-wrenching moments alongside the most badass little girl since Hit Girl. It was a glorious swan song for nearly twenty years of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and a worthy number one.
And that wraps up my look back at this decade. For many people, superhero movies have hit their saturation point and they’re still not going anywhere. I’m someone who has dived into the deep end and I still am able to find joy in the depths of what I’ve found despite some hiccoughs along the way. I’m still looking forward to what I’m able to find and watch, both from the big budget studios as well as the occasionally incoherent and occasionally brilliant indies. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.