Top 5 Greatest Superhero Movies of All-Time

One fan's case for these five exceptional films - films that either epitomize the genre, or changed it altogether.

Editorial Opinion

TOP 5 Superhero Movies of All-Time

1.) Superman (1978)
Adjusted for inflation, Richard Donner’s Superman would have made one billion dollars worldwide if released today. Put simply, this film was a sensation in its time and both signalled and legitimized the arrival of the comic book movie on the wider cultural landscape. Even today, the film stands up reasonably well due to its sense of fun and high romance. Christopher Reeve’s charisma made for a career-making performance. The epic Williams score is still a monumental achievement in soundtrack history. Donner’s film also laid down a workable formula for the origin story that has been replicated ever since.

2.) The Dark Knight (2008)
This set the new standard for comic book movies. Intelligent, gripping, and unapologetically self-serious, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” combines all of the best elements of the detective and crime genres with the twists and turns of a compelling political thriller. Gotham City and its power structures are the subject of the film as much as Batman is. And as such, the threads of post 9/11 paranoia that reverberate in Heath Ledger’s Joker, played as a schizophrenic terrorist, function with great – and terrifying – effect. The film’s poetic conclusion is amongst the very best of climactic film endings. In all, “The Dark Knight” is nothing less than an operatic epic whose unique ambition and execution have indelibly changed the comic book movie genre.

3.) Spider-man (2002)
One of the first movies of the renovated “superhero craze” of the 2000s, Spider-man took the reins of the formulaic origin story and translated it into a well-conceived cinematic adaption of America’s favorite web-slinger. But whereas the recent “Captain America” and “Thor” have done the same thing, Sam Raimi did it first, and better. Spider-man is sufficiently epic in its action sequences, but its strength lies in the convincing drama that plays out amongst the principal characters. As Peter Parker avers, the whole story is “about a girl.” It is this focus that makes the film resonate in a way that the later films in the franchise did not, despite their escalation of action. Also, Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin = genius. Holy frightening.

4.) Watchmen (2009)
I am sure that this might be an unpopular choice, but hear me out. Watchmen was thought to be an impossible graphic novel to film. Zach Snyder’s incarnation, if it does still fall short of the ineffably rich source material, gives life to Alan Moore’s story of nuclear eschaton and cold-war madness in a rigorous and visually arresting way. Billy Crudrup is truly excellent as Dr. Manhattan, and his section of the film is as awesome as it is heartbreaking. Rorschach is altogether harrowing. The film’s opening sequence, done over Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Chang’n” is an introduction that masterfully pays homage to the source material while introducing new fans to the story’s premise; it is also a sequence that does credit to Snyder’s creativity in a film that otherwise devoutly follows the graphic novel. And unlike most of its kind, this is a comic book movie about ideas. Like “The Dark Knight”, Snyder’s “Watchmen” confirms that comic book movies can be more than mindless romps. The film was a gamble, and one worth taking.

5.) Ironman (2008)

More than any other film, Ironman verified that the age of the comic book movie hard arrived. It took a hero of the second-tier – in terms of widespread popularity – and cast him into a blockbuster. More importantly, the film was fun! The filmmakers aptly mixed humor with seriousness and the result was a great time for audiences. Even if you didn’t care much for Ironman as a character from the comics, it was hard not to be drawn into. And no matter where you saw this, it is likely that just about everyone left the Cineplex smiling. Robert Downey Jr. more than excelled in the title role and managed to make us care for/about a multimillionaire arms dealer who begins to question himself, even if he never sheds his insouciance or arrogance. The press conference sequence at the end of film is both funny and bad-ass, something that seems to well describe the feel of the whole movie.

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