Best Superhero Films Of All Time
Here is our list of the best superheroes movies ever!
Honorable Mention: The Incredible Hulk
This tale of a man on the run is one of the most underrated films Marvel Studios has released thus far. The Incredible Hulk finds Bruce Banner as a fugitive from the U.S. Army, specifically his former girlfriend's father. It's got some of the best action sequences of the MCU, incredible performances from Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and William Hurt, as well as a poignant story about love, loss, and keeping our inner demons at bay. This is a thrill-a-minute actioner with plenty of emotional and psychological depth. You should definitely check it out if you haven't already or give it another viewing.
20. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Bringing together the original cast of X-Men movie characters with the new cast from the prequels was a difficult task, but it's one that director Bryan Singer pulls off here. Hugh Jackman gives one of his best performances as Wolverine who's sent back in time to help Professor X and Magneto reunite to change the apocalyptic future. He faces plenty of challenges along the way, but it's the role reversal of him now leading Professor X that makes this one emotional and intense. It's also got both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender at the top of their acting game along with vets Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart doing some of their best work as well. This one's an epic storyline with stunning action, but one that never loses sight of it's main characters.
19. Guardians of the Galaxy
A unique and original film in the genre, the space-set Guardians of the Galaxy is James Gunn's weird and wonderful ode to zany 70s and 80s sci-fi adventures. It's got a killer soundtrack which actually helps tell the story of these misfits who join forces to stop evil. The cast is fantastic as this makeshift, dysfunctional family. The action is cool, the humor is on point, and the visuals are totally awesome. It's a blast to watch from it's heartbreaking beginning to it's hilarious ending, all because of this strangely lovable cast of characters.
18. X2: X-Men United
Focusing in on Wolverine was a stroke of genius for the second film in the X-Men series as Hugh Jackman clearly had all the charisma needed to lead a big blockbuster after the original movie. This one brought his tortured past to the forefront and brought back a mysterious figure from his past in the form Colonel Stryker played to menacing perfection by Brian Cox. The rest of the cast have bigger and better roles here too and new characters are a delight including Aaron Standford as Pyro and Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler. The action scenes are cranked up to 11 this time and none of them disappoint. There's a clear message of tolerance and peace being put forth which works well in this genre with these characters.
17. Spider-Man 2
Following up his 2002 origin story, Sam Raimi got to shake things up with this 2004 sequel Spider-Man 2. This film shows the struggles of being a superhero better than any film in history as Peter Parker can't keep a job, can't keep up with his school work, or maintain the relationships he has with those closest to him. So, he gives up being a hero and New York City suffers the consequences as Alfred Molina's villainous Doctor Octopus shows up to wreck havoc. It's a brilliant script and features some spectacular performances by Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, and Rosemary Harris. Everything about the action is bigger and better in this one too. This is how you do superhero sequels.
16. X-Men: First Class
Taking the X-Men back to the 1960s in a prequel seemed like a bad idea, but it wasn't at all as Matthew Vaughn was able to craft a character-centric story around Professor X and Magneto that helped us better understand who they were, how they became friends, and what tore them apart. It's got a couple of masterclass performances from Michael Fassbender as a young Magneto who learns he's not alone in the world after finding James McAvoy's Professor X. This film features amazing visuals and excellent action too. This film is personal and intimate while also delivering spectacle, representing what the X-series does best.
15. Captain America: Civil War
Bringing any trilogy to an end is difficult, but the Russo brothers managed to resolve the story which began in The First Avenger and continued in The Winter Soldier, perfectly. The action in this film is both intense and fun. Each kinetic sequence has a sense of breathtaking urgency which lends itself to the manhunt plot. The huge ensemble cast is amazing in each of their roles and all of get time to shine without distracting us from the through line which focuses on Steve and Bucky's relationship. It's a blast watching our heroes duke it out at the airport, but that emotional finale in Siberia is also heartbreaking.
14. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
One of the best Batman movies is this 1993 classic from Warner Bros. Animation. Bruce Timm and the creative minds at WB's animation division were hot off the success of Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, as well as their own animated TV series which this movie is based on, when they released Mask of the Phantasm into theaters. It's a testament to the film that most critics like this one better than Burton's 1992 sequel or even his original 1989 film. The story is a hard-boiled, noirish detective drama with plenty of action and intrigue, but it's filled with a surprising amount of pathos too. Also, the voice cast including the best Batman and Joker, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, is outstanding. This is the best version of Batman's origin story we've ever seen onscreen.
13. Black Panther
A revolutionary take on the superhero genre and the character of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler's geo-political action thriller is one of the best offerings from the MCU and maybe the most director-driven, timely, and important. It's full of traditional African culture, tribal music, and socially relevant themes. This one's full of excellent action sequences and all of them are driven by these excellent characters. The cast is superb as Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, and Lupita Nyong'o inhabit their roles flawlessly, and Michael B. Jordan delivers the best MCU villain yet as the swaggering, sympathetic, and seditious Killmonger. The movie is well-paced, well-shot, and has some unique production and costume deigns that helps it stand out from the rest along with it's thought-provoking story and meaningful message.
Crafting this psychological thriller, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan brings his signature dark, moody style to the superhero genre. In the lead roles, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson turn in some of the best work of their careers here. Rounding out the cast are Robin Wright and Specer Treat Clark who inject realism and pathos into the story as the wife and son of David Dunn, a security guard who realizes he has superhuman abilities after surviving a train wreck which killed every other passenger on board. It's filled with shocking twists, genuine humor, and remains one of the most different entries in the genre.
11. The Avengers
The ultimate wish fulfillment for comic book fans everywhere, The Avengers is the brainchild of Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon who managed to bring together a group of characters from across five films and have them all work together in a believable way. It's a movie filled with epic action sequences at every turn, however, there are still plenty of quiet moments where our heroes just stand around talking to each other which are the high points of the movie. We already cared about these character, but now we want to see them work together, and it takes a while to get there as their personalities clash throughout the story. When they come together, though, it's a joy to behold them battling aliens all over New York City. This one's got everything Marvel balances so well: comedy, action, and most of all, heart.
10. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This extremely realistic look at superheroes, Zack Snyder's masterpiece of filmmaking is a dark, gritty, neo-noir, as well as an epic action film. The cast is phenomenal and the visuals are astonishing. Every action sequence is a brilliantly choreographed work of art and every frame is a gorgeous painting. It's mesmerizing in the best possible way with not a single moment going to waste. The storyline is complex and twisted teaching us that power usually corrupts. You won't soon forget this movie after watching it.
9. Man of Steel
Rebooting the Superman franchised had failed multiple times because no one could crack a modern retelling of his origin story until Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer did it. The key was telling a character-driven, emotional, first-contact story about a man trying to find his place in the world. Henry Cavill gives a subdued, weighty performance while also bringing joy and hope to the character of Superman. Casting is amazing with Amy Adams Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, and Michael Shannon playing important and unique versions of their mythic characters. It's got outstanding visual effects, gigantic action set pieces, and an emotional, sweeping score from Hans Zimmer. This is an amazing achievement in superhero cinema because every aspect of the filmmaking is nothing short of awe-inspiring and it all works together to tell an important and impactful story.
8. The Incredibles
A family film that deals with real issues about family dynamics is welcome in a genre that doesn't do that too often. Pixar delivers one of the best movies ever with The Incredibles. Brad Bird came up with this original idea that is able to draw from all of the best comic books without being based on any of them. These characters are so relatable and likable you root for them from beginning to end and want to see them get along and work together. It's a very emotional, surprisingly real take on the world of superheroes from a family's point of view. There are tons of fun action beats, lots of comedy, and a great score my Michael Giacchino as well, but the film works mainly because of it's spy movie sensibilities, dramatic tension, and moving story.
7. Avengers: Infinity War
The latest Avengers film is a true epic in scope and scale from it's amazing action sequences to it the sheer amount of characters involved in this battle against the intergalactic tyrant Thanos. Played brilliantly by Josh Brolin, Thanos is the most powerful and well-developed villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because we clearly understand his motives, connect with him emotionally, and find out that he's more than just some evil alien. It's by far the most challenging and ambitious film Marvel Studios has made to date, but writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, along with directors Joe and Anthony Russo, handle the material with care and poise by fleshing out the characters while keeping each of the multiple storylines focused without letting things get too confusing. Each and every one of the actors in this film do a wonderful job bringing their characters to life, and help make each of their interactions a joy to watch. However, it's the gusty decision to focus the story on the villain, and the shocking ending, that help make this one of the most important, impactful, and impeccable superhero films ever made.
6. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan has proven time and again that he's one of the best directors working today. His grounded take on the character of Batman is nothing short of brilliant. The actors in this film deliver Oscar-worthy portrayals with Christian Bale's intense and tortured Bruce Wayne/Batman, Heath Ledger's creepy and crazy Joker, Aaron Eckheart's prideful and angry Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and Gary Oldman's worn-out and dedicated Commissioner Jim Gordon. The screenplay for this film is absolutely genius as is the editing with each moment ratcheting up the tension. It's a film that will be studied for years to come and is a major highlight in the superhero genre proving that these movies can defy genre as this blends a crime plot into the story of a comic book character.
5. Iron Man
Before 2008's Iron Man, the idea of having multiple superheroes crossover in each other's movies and team up in a big event film was unheard of. All of that changed when Robert Downey Jr. starred in the role he was born to play: Tony Stark. A genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, Stark builds a high-tech suit of armor to fight bad guys after being captured by terrorists and finding out the weapons he built are being used by the enemy. It's a movie with a lot of heart thanks to the terrific cast and direction from Jon Favreau. Now, Iron Man is a household name, but before this movie came out only major comic book fans knew who he was. This movie is so well balanced between action, humor, and drama. Visually it's rockin' and emotionally it grabs you, making you care about the characters and want to see more of them.
4. Wonder Woman
After 75 years on the pages of comic books and television screens, Wonder Woman finally made her theatrical debut in Patty Jenkins' smart, funny, hopeful origin story for the character. It's a genius plot choice to set the superhero in World War I making her bright costume and optimistic attitude stand out even more amidst the horrors of some of the worst battles in history. Playing Wonder Woman effortlessly is Gal Gadot who's flawless in the role of the warrior princess. Also, Chris Pine delivers a great performance as the witty American spy Steve Trevor who shows her the ropes in the real world away from her homeland of Themyscira. This is the movie audiences needed in 2017.
Hugh Jackman's final performance as Wolverine on screen is in Logan. He's played the role for 17 years and he wanted to go out on his own terms, so he and writer/director James Mangold created a story in the same vein as Unforgiven and Shane giving the character the send off he deserves. It's a heartbreaking story and at times can be difficult to watch. Through this tale the filmmakers are able to say something about what it means to get older and whether or not a life and violence can be redeemed. It's a family story, too, as Logan's relationship with his father figure Professor X is tested as he meets his surrogate daughter Laura. Both Patrick Stewart and Daphne Keen are superb in their roles bringing emotional weight to the film, but Jackman is still the central focus and he gives the performance of his career here. The action is brutal and intense, the dialogue is powerful and meaningful, and the entire film has a neo-western feel that fits the character perfectly. This is the finale this anti-hero needed.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The best film Marvel Studio has produced so far is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It's a taut political thriller featuring a twisty story and the best action sequences ever filmed for a MCU movie. At the center of the film is Cap's relationship with his best friend Bucky Barnes who's been brainwashed by HYDRA to become the world's deadliest assassin. The fact that Cap never gives up on his buddy is what makes him a great hero. Even when the odds are against him and his closest allies are telling him he's wrong, he'll still do what he believes is right. Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow gets some major character development here as she starts off with major trust issues, but becomes a friend of Cap's by the end. Also, Anthony Mackie is a great addition as hilarious, empathetic high-flying hero Sam Wilson/Falcon, Robert Redford is both likable and sinister Alexander Pierce, and Samuel L. Jackson is at his best as badass super-spy Nick Fury. It's another example of the Russo brothers handling a large cast and big action while keeping the story focused and engaging.
1. Superman: The Movie
The best superhero film is the one that started it all. Never has there been a more unabashedly romantic take on the superhero genre than Superman: The Movie. The performances by Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder are a delight as they play their parts with all of the verisimilitude they can muster and pull it off in a way most other actors could not. It's the story of an immigrant who falls in love and chooses to protect his adopted home and those he loves at all costs. Gene Hakman is having a blast playing criminal mastermind Lex Luthor, who's still one of the best onscreen villains of all time. Richard Donner delivered an epic film, through a simple story with superb dialogue by The Godfather writer Mario Puzo, with the the original superhero movie all the way back in 1978, and it still holds up thanks to it's groundbreaking effects, iconic score, and brilliant performances. This is the ultimate in cinematic entertainment.