My Ten Favorite Super Hero Movies


I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, so my superhero movies were, shall we say, limiting. The technical ability to showcase superheroes and their villains on the big screen really didn’t hit their stride until the X-Men and Spider-Man movies. Although, an argument can be made regarding Superman: The Movie and Tim Burton’s Batman films.

My list of favorite superhero movies has a focus on the blockbusters of the last twenty years or so. Mostly because my favorites have been from that time. I have a soft spot for Superman: The Movie, but it is not better than most of the films of the last ten years.

Of course, my list will be different from your list. It’s always fun to debate the greatest and worst films with others. However, this is my list. I doubt I’ll change it anytime soon, but you never know. My opinion isn’t more valid than yours. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. I will ignore any attempt to tell me I’m wrong.

As you can read from the title, this is a list of only superhero movies, not comic book movies. Hence, movies like 300, Road to Perdition, Men in Black, and Sin City would not be included.

10. Superman (1978)

The granddaddy of them all, this is the one that was the benchmark for so many superhero movies to come after. Most of the movie holds up pretty well, even the late 70s setting.

Christopher Reeve’s performance as both Clark Kent and Superman is still the definitive version. Looking back at the film, Reeve and Margot Kidder have screwball comedy chemistry especially at The Daily Planet and the mugger scene.

As much as Reeve is iconic, the score by John Williams can’t be beaten.

9. The Incredibles (2004)

Still the best cinematic Fantastic Four movie, The Incredibles is family superheroes at its best and only rivaled by another animated movie closer to the top. The bits about capes and monologuing are biting satire and funny.

The voice cast is superb with Jason Lee as Syndrome, especially good. The action pieces are first class and contrast with the office life scenes. The music from Michael Giacchino nicely nods to the classic John Barry James Bond scores.

8. Spider-Man (2002)

The tagline of the Christopher Reeve Superman movie was “You will believe a man can fly.” The cutting-edge special effects made it happen. Around the same time, there was a ridiculously bad Spider-Man TV show that simply could not match the comic book. Finally, SFX caught up enough to give movie audiences a proper web-slinger whipping around Manhattan.

Tobey Maguire embodied both the nerdy Peter Parker and the heroic Spider-Man. The rest of the cast is excellent (Willem Dafoe chews a lot of scenery though). The story is simple, but it lacks the excellent action scenes featured in the sequel. Also, the Danny Elfman score sounds a bit too Burton Batman for my taste.

7. X-Men: First Class (2011)

All the X-Men movies have great action sequences, but First Class has the best story and an excellent cast. Setting the movie in the 1960s is a welcome change and the action scenes flow.

I’m a big fan of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, and Kevin Bacon in this film, but Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique is the breakout star.

6. Wonder Woman (2017)

Obviously, Gal Gadot stole the show in her extended cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. So, seeing her as Wonder Woman in her own film was a no-brainer. Also a period piece, the World War I setting is perfect and aligns with her comic book origins.

It’s great fun watching Chris Pine play second fiddle to Gadot and both leads have tons of chemistry. I wasn’t particularly fooled by David Thewlis’s turn as Ares and the finale is mostly dumb SFX (but not as dumb as flying at super-speed counter to the Earth’s rotation and somehow reversing the flow of time).

Few films on this list have a scene as striking as Wonder Woman climbing out of the trenches into no man’s land.

5. Iron Man (2008)

Dipping their toe into the murky world of movies, Marvel Studios took a chance on several fronts and came up with a real winner of a movie and the start of the multi-billions generating MCU. At the same time, Christopher Nolan was seeing tremendous success with The Dark Knight and I remember moviegoers at the time comparing the two flicks. While The Dark Knight is the better film, Iron Man is a straight-up popcorn movie.

Robert Downey Jr. is by far the best casting choice in the entire MCU. Without him, we don’t get any of the other MCU movies.

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Even though you have to watch the first Captain America movie to have a clear understanding of what’s going on, it is clearly the best Captain America film with its Three Days of the Condor-like spycraft and incredible action sequences. The elevator scene alone is one of the best fight scenes in the MCU.

Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie are outstanding here with plenty of great performances from lesser-known actors like Frank Grillo, Toby Jones, and Georges St-Pierre. Of course, you get Robert Redford having a blast playing against type in a Marvel movie.

3. The Dark Knight (2008)

Just like Winter Soldier needs First Avenger, The Dark Knight needs Batman Begins for audiences to be able to follow along. However, it really does stand out as the best of the Nolan trilogy. Heath Ledger won an Oscar for playing the Joker. As a reminder, ain’t nobody winning any acting Oscars in the MCU. Everything is top-notch here from the screenplay, visual effects, score, cinematography, action sequences, and direction.

While I don’t quite think Christian Bale is going to be remembered as the definitive Batman/Bruce Wayne, it is definitely up there in quality. I think the Joker’s “magic trick” scene is one of the greatest scenes in superhero movies (Hey, that’s a good idea for an essay…)

2. Black Panther (2018)

I was blown away by Black Panther when I first saw it. There is not a moment in the script or the acting or the special effects that are lacking at any point. It is tight, expansive, and cast beautifully. This was not just a movie, it was a cultural event and awakening.

The late Chadwick Boseman is perfectly cast and it pains me still that he will not be around to continue. Michael B Jordan goes toe to toe with Boseman as the villain-you-sympathize-with in Kilmonger.

This is the one movie that when I see it on TV, that I stop and watch.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

After seeing this movie in the theater, I told everyone I knew that this was the best superhero movie I’d ever seen. It has an excellent story with groundbreaking animation.

Miles Morales isn’t my Spider-Man, but he’s definitely a lot of kid’s first choice and his origin story pulls at the heartstrings. However, I am a sucker for parallel universe stories and with the animation, we get some truly incredible Spider-people (and one Spider-Ham).

There is so much going on in every frame of the flick, it demands repeated viewings.

As I wrote above, you will likely disagree and that’s okay. I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks.

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