I love making lists and I have a lot of time on my hands, as most of us do, so I thought I'd make another list. I thought about making a 100 favorite movies list, but that requires deep dives and research that I just don't want to commit to now. Then I decided I may just keep the lists of 25 going. It's a decent number and I will really have to wheedle it down and pick the best of the best. So, I decided superhero movies would be the next easiest option, we've all seen about 100 of them now, almost all of those within the last 20 years. Here is the list with a little comment on each one.
25. Batman (1989)
You never forget your first. Though, I will say, it terrified me the first few times I saw it (Thanks for the nightmares about smiling killers, Tim Burton.), but on several rewatches I've seen the majesty in Jack Nicholson's performance and the excellent, stoic mastery of Michael Keaton. What came after is a bit muddy, but this first film is a delight of cat and mouse as all great hero and villain stories are.
24. Spider-Man (2002)
A bit campy, ridiculously weird in spots (Hello, Willem Dafoe!), but such a wonderful introduction to the character. I feel it's still a great representation of who Peter Parker is and what he stands for even with all the reboots that come after. This one's still my definitive Peter Parker origin story (from this universe).
23. Kick-Ass (2010)
We would likely have no Deadpool without the previous success of Kick-Ass. An irreverent superhero film as an antidote to the saccharine, sentimental nature of the medium. The pure joy of Kick-Ass is not only in its discovery of fresh talents (Mark Strong and Chloe Grace Moretz are just stellar), but in its willingness to show how brutal this life can be to real people despite what mass media conveys.
22. Super (2011)
And speaking of brutally irreverent satire about the genre, Super is pretty gonzo as well. I love the dark and seediness of the story here. Its performances give it a power that makes you feel for these tired, broken people just trying to feel powerful after so much time being powerless. (It's also one of two "supervillain" roles for Kevin Bacon in 2011. This one's a little better.)
21. Batman Begins (2005)
"What would it look like to become Batman in a practical sense?" That's what Christopher Nolan's first foray into the Dark Knight mythos attempts to answer. He succeeds into making the unwavering symbol of justice into a very human figure with faults, challenges, and emotions. Also, I love/am scared of Scarecrow from the old animated show, so I loved seeing him come to life and just as frightening.
20. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
I was a little tepid about this film until Captain America does his USO show at the front. When it's obvious that the soldiers don't respect him or what he's trying to do because he's a clown in their eyes. That scene transforms the film from a little campy to one that makes a bigger statement about soldiers, leaders and heroism. That's a thread that continues throughout Steve Rogers story lines and is very nicely set up here.
19. Constantine (2005)
I don't care that it's not anything like a comic I didn't read or that Gavin Rossdale makes me cringe every time I watch it. I love this tale of redemption and battling the forces of evil. Its casting and story is perfect (Except of course, Mr. Rossdale) despite the sometimes stilted dialogue and the often forced romantic subplot.
18. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Bringing Batman into a more practical world means dealing with more practical problems like labelling supervillains as terrorists and by adapting to fit the current mood about billionaires and how the greed of the few will lead to the destruction of the many. There's a little silliness when someone from the Al Ghul family tricks Bruce again, but other than that, the new additions add sizzle and life to the final chapter of the Dark Knight trilogy.
17. Iron Man (2008)
It's strange to think of a multibillion dollar grossing, universe creating, 20+ film epic starting with a C-list superhero and an actor on his last round at a second chance. Yet, this Iron Man still holds up. It's still lightyears from most that came before it and even if there wasn't anything after it, it would still be a gold standard superhero film.
16. Incredibles 2 (2018)
Fourteen years is a long time to wait for a sequel to any movie, but this one didn't disappoint. It takes place right after the first one and adapts to the current world in swimming fashion. Though, it loses points because I saw the twist coming as soon as the character was introduced. Have to love Elastigirl's wonderful storyline, though becoming the "breadwinner."
15. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
While the final part of this two parter, Endgame has some satisfying conclusions, Infinity War still has my heart for its audacity and hopelessness at its conclusion. That snap is one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. I've never been more surprised by an ending and it works... mostly. We can't blame this film for the poor marketing decision to announce future projects so far in advance, to absolutely upset the greatness of that ending. Can you imagine what it would have been like to think this could be the complete dissolution of all that Marvel had built? That would have been something to think about.
14. Deadpool (2016)
I never knew how much I wanted to see a mainstream studio try and tackle an R-rated superhero film until I saw the first trailer for Deadpool. Absolute perfect casting, incredible story and characters. It makes how much I'm annoyed at the ubiquitous nature of Deadpool in comics null and void because I'm having too much fun watching him have fun.
13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
There's a lot of hate about this sequel, but I can't understand it. It has as much heart and joy as the last film. It even has a strengthening of the core group through adversity and Peter learning that the father figure you choose is often better than the father who supplied the seed to produce you. Plus, come on, Baby Groot? The original most adorable small creature we fell in love with? Guys?
12. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The X-Men universe of films is as fragmented and odd as the original two Spider-Man universes, but this was an excellent way to tie it all together. You take a classic comic story line, update it to include your marquee character and presto, you've got something exciting, heart wrenching and spectacular to look at. And I don't care what anyone says, Peter Dinklage was the perfect casting as Sentinel Program chief Bolivar Trask.
11. The Avengers (2012)
Admit it, in the spring of 2012, we all were hesitant about this film. No one expected these guys to pull it off. There were five solid movies ahead of its release, but no one could pull that many storylines together and make it coherent and serve every character, but they did. They pulled it off and it is a really great movie besides. To see this meant we were on board for whatever they may throw at us because we knew what came before.
10. Mystery Men (1999)
I love a world that comes fully formed. It is just accepted that there are superheroes here and that most of them are garbage except for the ones that get the sponsorship deals and the publicity. A movie in which the characters are serious, but the film doesn't take itself seriously is the best kind of movies. Especially when you have the delicious character of Casanova Frankenstein played by Geoffrey Rush, simply the best.
9. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
If the first film introduced us to the concept of Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 is the perfect continuation of the perils of getting too comfortable as Spider-Man and what that could mean for the person behind the mask. It also introduces a great sympathetic villain in Doctor Octopus that's also a really great page to screen adaptation of the character.
8. X2: X-Men United (2003)
The mutants have always been saviors of a world that hates and fears them. This is the quintessential example of that conflict as they are torn away from the safety of the school and have to fight alongside each other to try and stop someone who will destroy them all if given the chance. Mutant common cause makes for more interesting story telling than these are the bad ones, these are the good ones. It's far more complex than that. The saddest part of this film is the completely botched potential of the ending that showed the Phoenix reflection on the lake.
7. Unbreakable (2000)
Suspense is an excellent addition to any superhero fiction, but when it is a superhero film in the guise of a suspense film, it's even better. The muted colors and the cold aesthetic strip away the sheen of the superhero fable and return it to the streets where they were born. It's a really tactfully done story and the twist of Mr. Glass gets me every single time I watch the film.
6. Black Panther (2018)
This could have been a straight superhero story where Black Panther and Wakanda are introduced to the MCU, but director Ryan Coogler put a special stamp on it. Coogler was able to make the story bigger, make it encompass more of the ideas of privilege, wealth, and race in ways most superheroes never touch. It helps that it has an incredibly watchable (and understandable) "villain" in Erik Killmonger as well.
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The hardest thing for Steve Rogers coming out of deep freeze was to catch up, to try and understand the things he missed, but also who he missed. Yes, I love this movie for its throwback nature of '70s spy thrillers, but also because I yearn for a firm establishment of Steve and Bucky as a romantic pair. Peggy's fine and Sharon's wonderful and capable, but who could resist the pull of those luscious chestnut locks and that strong left arm to squeeze you.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
I always love a story of found family. Especially one in which all of the people are oddballs and "losers." The charm of Guardians of the Galaxy is in its characters. It immediately brings in five of the most interesting characters the MCU has ever come up with and built a story that's cosmic, raucous, and incredibly heartfelt. We are Groot (It's sincerely the role Vin Diesel was born to play, his being called "wooden" here is a compliment.).
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
From start to finish, this movie is simply incredible. The cast is beyond phenomenal and that performance by Heath Ledger is simply superb and an incredible example of an agent of chaos completely routing every attempt to bring sanity to his antics. I love the film for the moral questions it raises and for once again bringing in the real life parallels of the Patriot Act and what lengths are we able to go to stop terrorism. I know I'm in the minority here, too, but I really do prefer the recast of Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel.
2. The Incredibles (2004)
Whether the film is a secret propaganda tool for Ayn Rand's philosophies aside, The Incredibles is of a rare breed of superhero film that understands every one of its tropes and then uses them to its advantage. There's humor and suspense, there's great action scenes and so much originality in story and design. I will never not love the interaction between Bob and Lucius in the car as they listen to the police scanner. It's a world I want to return to again and again.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse (2018)
There is no substitute for animation when it comes to superhero storytelling (seriously, my top two are both animated.). This film is as close to a living comic book as we're going to get. It's ridiculously funny, incredibly heartfelt and breaths much needed new life into the story of Spider-Man and the whole mythos that surrounds the characters who have taken on that mantle. The world of superheroes is becoming almost as diverse as the world of people who watch them and it's so amazing to know and see a film that embraces the idea it could be (and should be) anyone under the mask.