Since the beginning of this century in particular, the superhero film genre has exploded with nearly all major comic book stars getting their movie… or in several cases, movies. Every summer now brings us 2 or 3 tentpole titles with superheroes as the headliner. The 2013 summer frame is no different. This Friday, we’ll see the eagerly awaited Iron Man 3. In June, the Superman franchise gets restarted with Man of Steel. In July, Hugh Jackman is back as The Wolverine. This November – a Thor sequel. Next summer, we see new entries in the Spider-Man, Captain America and X-Men franchises.
With all the talk in the movie world focusing on Mr. Tony Stark this week, I felt it was time to reveal my personal list of Top Ten Superhero Movies. I will start by saying this – I’m not a comic book guy. Nothing against them (far from it) but I simply never got into reading them. So my judgments are in no way based on faithfulness to the source material – a factor that fanboys understandably often use.
And with that said, here we go:
10. X-Men: First Class (2011)
After the disappointing 2006 X-Men: The Last Stand and underwhelming X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009, many including I were skeptical about X-Men: First Class in the summer of 2011. Those fears were quickly alleviated. Matthew Vaughn’s restart of the franchise has a cool 1960s vibe and terrific performances from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles Xavier and Magneto. The sequel out next summer, which brings in the characters of the original trilogy with the new cast, sounds promising.
9. Watchmen (2009)
Based on Alan Moore’s beloved graphic novel, Watchmen is a dark and challenging experience that is a fascinating spin on the superhero genre. Director Zack Snyder gives us a visual feast and the fact that he’s directing this summer’s Man of Steel is reason enough to be excited.
8. Batman (1989)
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the first Batman from director Tim Burton. Yes, the later Chris Nolan entries would be an improvement, but 1989’s original is a lot of fun with Jack Nicholson hamming it up gloriously as The Joker. Batman would change the way movies were marketed forever and is in many ways responsible for opening the door for the flood of superhero flicks to follow.
7. Iron Man (2008)
No one was really sure how this picture would perform when it kicked off the 2008 summer movie season. We quickly discovered how flat out awesome Robert Downey Jr. would be as Iron Man/Tony Stark. The rest is history. It’s hindered a bit by a disappointing last half hour, but otherwise the first Iron Man is a triumph.
6. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Sam Raimi’s Spidey trilogy got off to a strong start with the 2002 original, but it’s the sequel where Raimi was free to employ his trademark style. Spider-Man 2 is a blast as Spidey battles Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. I was never a huge fan of Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, but the second installment in the franchise is a winner.
5. X2 (2003)
Just like with the Spidey franchise, the X-Men franchise saved the best for second. I’m a big admirer of the original as well, but it’s X2 that excels. Bryan Singer would leave the franchise after this one, leaving Brett Ratner to helm the just OK third installment. Singer would go on to direct his own disappointing superhero movie, Superman Returns. He’ll return to the X-Men franchise to try and redeem himself with the First Class sequel, out next summer.
4. Superman (1978)
Richard Donner’s event pic is the true O.G. superhero flick, with Christopher Reeve well-cast as Superman/Clark Kent and Gene Hackman having a blast as Lex Luthor. The sequel is very good, too. However, the third and fourth installments were pretty bad.
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
Yes, I know it’d be #1 on many lists. We all know how awesome Heath Ledger is as The Joker and how exciting and tense the movie is. There just happens to be two others I’d put a little higher.
2. The Avengers (2012)
Bringing together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, and Scarlett Johansson in that leather outfit turned out to be a masterstroke. Joss Whedon is now a God among fanboys because The Avengers delivered on every level, including having the largest box office opening of all time. The climactic battle sequence (Cleveland rocks!) is deliriously fun.
1. Batman Begins (2005)
As time has gone by, I’ve found myself partial to Chris Nolan’s first crack at the Batman legend. Don’t get me wrong – The Dark Knight is great and The Dark Knight Rises is solid, too (it almost made the list). Batman Begins gets my personal top spot because Nolan brilliantly reshaped the franchise with Christian Bale perfectly cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne.
And there you have it! Quibble away with my choices if you must. And let’s see if Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, or The Wolverine join the top ten when they debut over the next couple of months.