The superhero movie genre has become one of the largest and most profitable genres in Hollywood. Therefore, it’s understandable that superhero movies have become more and more prominent over the past several years. Here, we’re going to look at the greatest superhero movies of all time, narrowing it down to a top 10 list.
Before we get started, a note to keep in mind is that this list is opinion based, so your list might vary with this one. With all that being said, here are some honourable mentions.
The Avengers (2012)
Directed by Joss Whedon
The Avenges (2012) is a classic. This movie did something that was never done before, it connected multiple different movie franchises by bringing together all the protagonists into a singular motion picture. Essentially, The Avengers paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to truly flourish into what it is today. It provided memorable moments, great action, and a great villain, what else would you want from a superhero movie?
Directed by Christopher Nolan
The first of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was a great foundation for the rest of the trilogy to build on. The movie itself, differentiated from previous versions of the character, focusing on a more realistic version. Nolan’s directorial style and writing allowed the true compelling nature of Bruce Wayne to burst through, allowing for a great origin story. Great storytelling, perfect story structure, and great casting allowed this Batman movie to be considered amongst the best superhero origin movies of all time.
Directed by Brad Bird
The first animated superhero movie is one of the best ever. The family-friendly superhero adventure allows for enjoyment across all ages, from classic comedic moments to great action, to a great plot. The movie itself is predominantly character-driven, instead of focusing entirely on the plot. This way, it allows the superhero nature to be a sub-plot of the main plot-line, the importance of family. It’s a great take on the superhero genre and one that resonates with moviegoers.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Directed by James Gunn
This masterpiece was a fresh instalment within the MCU. Introducing a quirky range of characters that were somewhat unknown, the movie became an instant hit with the likability of each character. With great storytelling and great performances from all the actors, the movie stands out amongst the best of Marvel’s wide range of movies. Although it was a risk, the risk paid off, paving the way for more comedically inspired movies, like Thor: Ragnarok.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Directed by Bryan Singer
Arguably the best X-Men movie to date, X-Men: Days of Future Past allowed the franchise to reboot itself, but in a way that was extremely enjoyable. It was a passing of the torch moment between the old cast and the new one. The movie allowed for further character development, and relationship development between Professor X and Magneto. The movie has now iconic action sequences, especially the Quicksilver one, and is a great superhero movie all around.
That should be enough honourable mentions, right?
Well, let’s get into the top 10 list itself.
10. Wonder Woman
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Starting off at the number 10 spot is none other than Wonder Woman. Whilst the rest of the MCU may be struggling to find its place in what would be considered ‘good’ superhero movies, Wonder Woman had no trouble. The charming Gal Gadot, along with the charismatic Chris Pine, gave the DC extended universe it’s first great superhero movie. Coming off of Batman Vs. Superman, the dark tone was unapparent in this movie, instead, having a lighter tone and wider colour range, allowing for a higher appeal.
Wonder Woman broke the lock on the male-dominant superhero genre. Having a female lead role, as well as a female director, it allowed the most iconic female superhero to be brought onto the big screen. The movie was a major success, not only in terms of critical acclaim but also box office. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot are both returning in the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984.
9. Spider-Man 2
Directed by Sam Raimi
Spider-Man 2 took everything good from the first one, and implemented here, but on a greater scale. The movie grounds Peter Parker into just a regular guy who so happens to have super-strength and web-slinging abilities. Spider-Man 2 introduces realistic problems and conflicts for Peter, from deciding whether to continue being Spider-Man, to dealing with relationship problems. Spider-Man 2 incorporates great action sequences (train battle), great storytelling and much more into a superhero movie at a time where superhero movies weren’t nearly as influential as they are now.
8. Avengers: Endgame
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
The culmination of the last 10 or so years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe came together on a grand scale and didn’t disappoint. Arguably the most anticipated movie ever, next to Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame provided the ending chapter to a 21 movie long interconnected movie universe. Much like The Avengers (2012), Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War made history in what it was able to achieve; not only in terms of the number of characters but also all the woven storylines.
Generating $2.7 billion at the box office shows the scale of the movie, and with critical acclaim, Avengers: Endgame will go down in history as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. The movie concluded the first three phases, something that hadn’t been done before in a Marvel movie. It provided emotional moments, as well as comedic ones, and an adventure across all the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, all the way back to Iron Man (2008).
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best Marvel movies to date. It may not be this high up on other lists, but the espionage and thriller tones help to create an intriguing movie all the way through. It has one of the most recognisable action sequences (elevator battle) in the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With great character development moments for not only Steve Rodgers, but also Natasha Romanoff and Nick Fury, it is an excellently directed and written superhero movie. The transpiring events in this movie played an influential role that rippled throughout the entire MCU. It led to the events of Civil War, which had massive implications on Infinity War and Endgame.
This movie also introduced Joe and Anthony Russo to the MCU, which led to follow up movies; Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame. Any other director would’ve had difficulties with crafting a movie around such a large cast, but the Russo brothers were right for the job, becoming the most influential directors within the MCU. Overall, the movie itself, with the action, story and so forth, along with it’s influence on the MCU, was a great entry within the genre.
6. Iron Man (2008)
Directed by Jon Favreau
This movie was what started it. Iron Man was a risk taken by Marvel Studios, and it paid off heavily. It kicked off the MCU with Samuel L. Jackson showing up after the post-credits. What this movie was able to do so brilliantly was develop the character of Tony Stark, from a billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist, to a genuine superhero that cares more about others than himself. Some of the most enjoyable moments throughout the movie were the initial assembling of the Iron Man suit.
The perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark sparked the $20 billion dollar Marvel franchise, with Robert himself becoming the Godfather of the MCU. The movie, like Batman Begins, was a perfectly constructed origin story, which in turn allowed it to become the origin of the MCU. Despite being the first movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it certainly is one of the best.
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Directed by Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman
Some might think that Spider-Man: Homecoming or Spider-Man 2 is the definitive Spider-Man movie, but it can be argued that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse if the best Spider-Man movie ever made. This movie is a great mixture of what makes Spider-Man, any version of Spider-Man, great. It deals with everyday life problems whilst giving us, the audience, enough things that make Spider-Man who he is. One of the best things about this movie is the mixture of different Spider-inspired characters, from Miles Morales to Peter Parker to Gwen Stacy and much more.
The story throughout is filled with humour and heart and is a coming of age tale of someone who has to become who they were meant to be, whilst dealing with family and social conflicts. Mixed in with the amazing animation style and music, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse is the best Spider-Man movie to date.
4. Black Panther
Directed by Ryan Coogler
Black Panther was a movie juggernaut when it was first released in 2018. It was the first movie within the superhero genre to feature an all black-cast and director. The movie deals with current social and political problems, whilst also providing a great storyline on the difficulties of being a good man and a good king. Black Panther also introduced Michael B. Jordan’s antagonist, Killmonger; one of the best villains within any genre. Whilst the rest of the MCU may lack from the presence of a great antagonist, Black Panther revels, bringing forward one of the best.
What sets Black Panther apart is the motivation behind every character; each one established on the foundation of something that is genuine. Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger challenges Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, developing the character into a better protagonist. Mixed in with the futuristic settings and great score composition, Black Panther is one of the finest superhero movies to date.
Directed by James Mangold
Like The Dark Knight, Mangold’s Logan is a movie within the genre that stands at the top with the best of the best. The darker and more gritty tone works wonders for the nature and complexity of the hero we follow throughout the narrative. This movie is more than just great action set-pieces; it builds on themes like redemption and, family. Logan, the final chapter of Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of the hero, is a sombre conclusion and a farewell to the character we’ve grown to love over the years.
What sets Logan apart from the rest of the X-Men movies was the narrative itself. It was the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2018. Mixed in with the great performance given by Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and the rest of the cast, Logan is a movie that will stand atop the genre for years to come, as well as being considered the best on-screen version of Wolverine.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
The most anticipated movie of the last decade, and perhaps ever, Avengers: Infinity War didn’t disappoint. The culmination of 10 years of interconnected movies and over several dozen characters, the Russo brothers managed to merge it all together in a blockbuster for the ages. The three different on-going storylines within the movie provided everything, from great comedy to great action, and concluded in one of the biggest cliff hangers ever – the snap.
Avengers: Infinity War was building up to the formal introduction of Thanos to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Prior to the Infinity War, Thanos was subjected to cameos; however, within this movie, the Russo brothers introduced the best villain within the MCU, and one of the best villains to ever appear on the big screen. Thanos was a perfectly written villain, from his motivations to his decisions and actions. We’re not stating that Thanos was right in the way he went about his goal, but the way he was written allowed the audience to resonate with the antagonist. Undoubtedly, Infinity War is the best MCU movie to date.
1. The Dark Knight
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Could it have been anything else? When it comes to a superhero movie, The Dark Knight checks off every box possible and more. It consists of the best on-screen antagonist ever in Heath Ledger’s Joker, who challenges Christian Bale’s Batman to the extent never seen before on screen. The Dark Knight isn’t without its great action, having one of the best opening sequences of all time. But what sets The Dark Knight apart from the rest of the movies on this list is the movie does everything flawlessly. The Dark Knight isn’t truly considered by some to be a superhero movie, but instead, a crime drama, and one of the best of all time.
The characters within the movie each serve a purpose, and each purpose is explored extensively by Christopher Nolan in an attempt to further explore the notions of good and bad. Nolan’s masterful interpretation of Batman earned universal praise and is considered the 4th best movie ever made – in the HISTORY OF CINEMA. The Dark Knight was eventually nominated for 8 Oscars, with the only negative being that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. Heath Ledger won the academy award for Best Supporting Actor after his exceptional portrayal of the Joker.
The Dark Knight has become the gold standard for superhero movies, to the extent that it’s reached a status that is unlikely to be surpassed. Whenever a great superhero movie comes out, people often respond to it by stating that it was good, but it wasn’t as good as The Dark Knight. It’s this belief that allows this movie to stand the test of time as the greatest superhero movie ever made.
What are your thoughts? What movies should be in the top 10? Comment below!