X-Men at 20: A Look Back

Twenty years ago today, Bryan Singer’s X-Men arrived in theaters and it’s not hyperbole to call it one of the most influential pictures of the 21st century. The 20th Century Fox release found the comic book genre at a rather low point at the end of that said century. While Blade was a nice size hit in 1998, the years prior found at a lot to be desired with the quality of the genre. 1995 brought us Judge Dredd and 1997 saw the release of Batman and Robin, which found the Caped Crusader with Bat nipples and bad reviews.

X-Men, though it’s hard to remember now, was released at a time where the idea of superhero tales was an uncertain box office prospect. This is two years before Spider-Man broke all kinds of financial records. This is five years prior to Christopher Nolan reinvigorating the Bat franchise with his Dark Knight trilogy. And this was eight years before Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man, officially kicking off the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In the summer of 2000, X-Men was by no means a guaranteed hit. It did, however, have credibility with the behind the scenes talent and cast. Bryan Singer was known for his heralded The Usual Suspects. Acclaimed actors Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen (fresh off an Oscar nod for Gods and Monsters), Anna Paquin, and Halle Berry were among the onscreen players. And it was another casting decision that provided its most enduring legacy. Russell Crowe, who headlined that summer’s Oscar winner Gladiator, originally turned down the part of Wolverine. Dougray Scott was then cast in the role, but had to drop out when his role as the villain in Mission: Impossible II (also out that summer) prevented him from filming. So it was the unknown Hugh Jackman who donned the claws. He would go on to make it his signature role as he played Logan/Wolverine in numerous sequels and spin-offs (including three stand-alone projects of wildly divergent qualities).

Let’s back up. Before the 2000 release, X-Men was in development for over a decade and a half. At one point, James Cameron was slated to produce with his then wife Kathryn Bigelow attached to direct. Later on, Robert Rodriguez turned the project down. A gander at the pic’s Wikipedia page is an entertaining read (Mariah Carey was in the mix for Storm at one juncture and Angela Bassett was first choice). X-Men was rushed to make its summer release date 20 years ago today after it was originally intended for Christmas 2000.

That rushed feeling does show on up on screen a little, but the overall end result speaks for itself. What occurred two decades ago is a major mark in the comic book movie renaissance that continues to this day. The franchise has certainly had its ups and downs. X2: X-Men United was the first sequel in 2003 and it is generally considered a high point. Three years later, Brett Ratner took over directorial reigns with The Last Stand and (while a huge hit) the quality took a dip. Matthew Vaughn would reestablish critical kudos in rebooting the series in 2011 with First Class (bringing Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence to the screen playing younger counterparts to key characters). Jackman’s first spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine faced deserved backlash while 2017’s Logan was lauded and landed an Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. And a cheeky and R rated offshoot called Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds would dazzle audiences and critics alike. Last summer’s Dark Phoenix didn’t do any dazzling and was another low ebb in the series. Spin-off The New Mutants has seen release date changes that began in 2018 and it’s pretty much a running joke as to whether it will ever come out.

That long road began in 2000 and has shaped the cinematic universe since. And if you had to mark a spot for the comic book landscape today as it stands now on the screen, it started that day.

Solo: A Star Wars Letdown

There aren’t a whole lot of films that could open to over $100 million at the box office and legitimately be considered a major disappointment. Those pictures generally belong in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or other massive franchises. For instance, if next month’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom only makes that figure, that would be bad news for Universal Pictures and the series long-term viability.

Of course, there is no franchise bigger than that of Star Wars. Spanning over four decades and now on its 10th feature, there had yet to be a true example of an entry coming in well below expectations. Until now. Solo: A Star Wars Story, just a week ago or so, was projected to set the Memorial Day weekend record by outpacing the $139 million earned in 2007 by another Disney property, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

It didn’t. Like… at all. The current four-day estimate (final numbers tomorrow) puts Solo at $103 million. I had pegged it at $151 million. Oops. That actually puts it at just #7 as far as the holiday goes. That’s not only behind Pirates, but after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, XMen: The Last Stand, Fast & Furious 6, XMen: Days of Future Past, and even The Hangover Part II. Ouch.

So the natural question… why? Predicting where the money earned by moviegoers at the box office is a tricky proposition… I try to estimate it every week. Sometimes I’m great at it and sometimes not (this would obviously be a case of the latter). Solo is the second stand-alone effort in the franchise behind 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While they’re not expected to make the coin that the official episodes take in, Rogue debuted to $155 million in three days just a year and a half ago.

This latest entry focuses on an iconic character that has more name recognition than all the people (with a notable exception or two) in Rogue One put together. Sure there’s backlash about an actor other than Harrison Ford playing him, but that wasn’t expected to spark a hugely worrisome backlash as far as box office numbers.

Could it be the reviews? That might be a bit of it. Solo stands at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s low for this franchise. Yet that rating isn’t terrible or anything. My own review used the word ambivalent for my overall reaction to it:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/27/solo-a-star-wars-story-movie-review/

And therein could lie the true key. Looking over the lengthy history of the series, Star Wars films have truly been Event Pictures. Ones that are breathlessly awaited and spawn endless speculation prior to their releases. The original trilogy saw three-year gaps between releases. It was then 16 years before the second and considerably less regarded trilogy arrived and they also saw three-year waits between servings. Those like me that remember the buildup to 1999’s The Phantom Menace (no matter how much it disappointed upon release) would argue it rivaled and probably exceeded that of The Force Awakens in 2015.

Since Disney took over the release reigns, we have been guaranteed a Star Wars pic a year. That tremendously dilutes the Event Picture status. Rogue One had the benefit of arriving a year after Force Awakens set every box office record. The Last Jedi didn’t match the grosses of Awakens… to the tune of $316 million less. That said, its $620 million haul is nothing to be too worried about.

Solo arriving only five months later and with so-so buzz left it as the least anticipated Star Wars experience to date. The barely nine figure gross out of the gate showed that audiences were a bit ambivalent about it.

Will that cause the Mouse Factory to rethink the release date pattern? It’s probably a good thing that Episode IX won’t be out until December 2019. The official episodes, by the way, will always have an anticipation factor that the stand-alone variety will not. And Disney might want to consider making those side projects feel a little more special or that ambivalence might continue to grow.

Ranking the Superhero Summers

We’re past the midway point of the 2017 summer box office and one thing is clear: it’s been a rather terrific season for the superhero flick genre. In fact, there’s a very good chance the summer’s top 3 earners will belong in that classification. That’s not the first time this has happened (more on that later), but it’s still pretty remarkable.

This got me thinking – what have been the greatest and worst superhero summers of this 21st century? After all, it was the summer of 2000 that got the superhero genre alive and kicking again and it’s never let up. 17 summers ago, it was the release of X-Men that helped revive a genre that had hit a low point three summers earlier with Batman & Robin. In 2002, it would be Spider-Man that would set the opening weekend record and ensure that no summer following would be missing some comic book character headlining. **2001 is the only summer of this century in which there’s no superhero pic.

This leads to my newest list: ranking the superhero summers with explanations provided below. We’re talking 17 summers, so I’m counting down from the worst to the best in my humble opinion.

17. 2009

The Movie: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Just one flick in this particular summer. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had just kicked off the year before, so there was no follow-up ready. Instead, we got Wolverine’s first spin-off and it’s the worst of the whole bunch by a significant margin.

16. 2007

The Movies: Spider-Man 3, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

The third Spidey entry closed the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire on a very weak note and the Four sequel was none too impressive either (to be expected after a middling at best predecessor).

15. 2010

The Movie: Iron Man 2

Tony Stark’s return to the screen after 2008’s juggernaut suffered from being overstuffed with two many villains, etc… One of the lesser MCU entries.

14. 2006

The Movies: X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman Returns

Two pics that failed to meet expectations – The Last Stand suffered a big quality drop-off after the second X and Superman Returns (the first Supes flick in nearly 20 years) couldn’t live up to the hype.

13. 2015

The Movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four

Disappointing as it featured two of the weaker MCU entries and a seriously misguided Fantastic Four reboot.

12. 2013

The Movies: Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The Wolverine

IM3 was an improvement over part 2, The Wolverine was an improvement over Origins. Man of Steel? A letdown in many respects, just like Superman Returns.

11. 2004

The Movies: Spider-Man 2, Catwoman

Would probably rank higher because Spidey 2 is arguably the best of the bunch, but loses points due to the catastrophe that is Halle Berry as Catwoman.

10. 2016

The Movies: Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse 

A mixed bag. Civil War is one of the finer MCU pics, Squad is that mixed bag, and Apocalypse was a major disappointment.

9. 2003

The Movies: X2: X-Men United, Hulk

X2 is perhaps the strongest X entry, but Ang Lee’s Hulk (while having its moments) was often a pretentious bore.

8. 2000

The Movie: X-Men

Only X-Men in this summer, but it deserves props for kicking off the genre in a major way once again.

7. 2002

The Movie: Spider-Man

Even more than X-Men, Sam Raimi’s first Spidey ensured a heaping of genre entries for years to come.

6. 2014

The Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Guardians was pure joy, Past was a solid X pic. Loses points for the mess of a Spidey sequel.

5. 2005

The Movies: Batman Begins, Fantastic Four

OK, so Fantastic Four was not so good. Yet this is in my top 5 because Batman Begins not only kicked off the heralded Nolan trilogy, but it’s my personal fave superhero pic of the century.

4. 2011

The Movies: Thor, Captain America: First Avenger, X-Men: First Class

Though not of these flicks are great, they’re all solid in my view. Thor and Captain helped usher in the MCU era as we know it and First Class rebooted its franchise in a pleasing way.

3. 2012

The Movies: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man

Avengers is the granddaddy of MCU, Rises ended up the trilogy in a mostly satisfactory manner while Spidey was a slight letdown (though miles better than its sequel). As referenced earlier, these 3 pictures would mark the highest 3 earners of that season.

2. 2017

The Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming

Three highly entertaining and well-done entries that marked the first super-heroine success.

1. 2008

The Movies: The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II: The Golden Army

The Dark Knight is considered by many to be the genre’s artistic peak and Iron Man was a fine start to a franchise that just keeps charging along. Incredible was a more satisfying (though still flawed) Hulk pic than five years earlier and Guillermo del Toro brought his visual splendor and humor once again to the Hellboy series. A rather easy pick for #1.

Or is it? What are your thoughts on the superhero summers?

Logan Box Office Prediction

After nearly 17 years playing the most popular cinematic character in the X-Men universe, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine for reportedly the final time in Logan, out next weekend. This is the third stand-alone feature focused on Jackman’s character following 2009’s XMen Origins: Wolverine and 2013’s The Wolverine. Like the 2013 entry, it’s directed by James Mangold. Patrick Stewart appears here as Professor X and other supporting players include Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant.

One thing is for certain: Logan is receiving easily the best reviews of the trio and it currently sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a considerable upgrade of the 38% of Origins and 69% of The Wolverine. On the flip side, the franchise as a whole suffered a minor setback when last summer’s XMen: Apocalypse was the second lowest grosser of the six X pics, with only XMen: First Class earning less.

Let us take a further trip down stand-alone lane, shall we? Origins made $85 million for its start in summer ’09 with an overall $179M haul. Four years later, The Wolverine managed a $53 million opening weekend with $132M overall.

So where does Logan land? The solid reviews should help (something Apocalypse didn’t have). So should the report that it’s Jackman’s swan song. It should land higher than The Wolverine, but not achieve what Origins accomplished (it was the first X flick to open after franchise highest grosser The Last Stand).

I suspect mid to high 60s is the result.

Logan opening weekend prediction: $68.6 million

For my The Shack prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/24/the-shack-box-office-prediction/

For my Before I Fall prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/25/before-i-fall-box-office-prediction/

Summer 2006: The Top Ten Hits and More

Last week, I brought you top ten summer movies – along with other notable pics and flops – of 1996. Now it’s time to recount what was before our collective eyeballs 10 summers ago in 2006.

As I do with these lists, we’ll count down the top ten and then mention some others that made their mark, both positively and negatively.

10. The Devil Wears Prada

Domestic Gross: $124 million

Meryl Streep received her 267th Oscar nomination (or something like that) for this hit comedy which also helped break Anne Hathaway out of Princess Diaries mode.

9. Mission: Impossible III

Domestic Gross: $134 million

It may be in the top ten, but part 3 of this franchise that has now five entries is by far the lowest grosser (making $81 million less than part 2). This did give J.J. Abrams his first big directorial break and, as you may know, he’s moved forward with some other well-known franchises.

8. Click

Domestic Gross: $137 million

10 years later, he may be relegated to Netflix territory, but the critically drubbed Click gave us Adam Sandler when he still had no problem reaching the century club and then some.

7. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Domestic Gross: $148 million

Of the five Will Ferrell/Adam McKay collaborations, Ricky still stands as the highest grosser of them all. It’s first, not last.

6. Over the Hedge

Domestic Gross: $155 million

Dreamworks animated raccoon tale was a nice hit, even if it didn’t approach Shrek territory.

5. Superman Returns

Domestic Gross: $200 million

Coming nearly 20 years after the latest Supes flick, Superman Returns was Bryan Singer’s eagerly awaited reboot of the franchise. Yet its $200 million domestic gross was definitely on the lower end of expectations and critics and audiences were a bit disappointed. Seven years later, it would be rebooted once again with Man of Steel.

4. The Da Vinci Code

Domestic Gross: $217 million

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard teamed up for this adaptation of Dan Brown’s mega-selling novel and box office returns were heavenly, even if critics were quite mixed. Two sequels – 2011’s Angels & Demons and this fall’s Inferno – followed.

3. X-Men: The Last Stand

Domestic Gross: $234 million

Brett Ratner took over this franchise from Bryan Singer (busy with Superman) for film #3. Its reputation now is in tatters and is widely considered a mediocre experience at best. That said, it’s the highest grossing X pic domestically of all time – a full $1 million ahead of 2014’s Days of Future Past.

2. Cars

Domestic Gross: $244 million

It isn’t considered one of the greatest Pixar pics, but it still managed to pace second in summer 2006. The Paul Newman voiced effort would spawn two sequels – one in 2011 and the next coming in summer 2017.

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Domestic Gross: $423 million

This summer features a Johnny Depp sequel flop (Alice Through the Looking Glass), but 10 years ago – he was the king of the summer with this follow-up to 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl. It easily blew all competition away.

And now for some other notable movies of the season:

Little Miss Sunshine

Domestic Gross: $59 million

This little indie comedy/drama became a critics darling and struck a chord with audiences and Oscar voters. It was nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Abigail Breslin), and gave Alan Arkin a win in Supporting Actor.

An Inconvenient Truth

Domestic Gross: $24 million

Former Vice-President Al Gore’s feature-length slideshow on global warming was a massive hit as documentaries go (it currently stands at 10th all-time).

And now for the flops of summer ’06:

Miami Vice

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Based on the iconic 80s cop show and directed by its creator Michael Mann, Miami Vice suffered from a reported troubled production and grossed less than half of its $135 million budget.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Domestic Gross: $62 million

This is the one and only example of a Furious flick being listed as a flop as the series would majorly rebound when Paul Walker and Vin Diesel returned for part 4 a few years later.

Poseidon

Domestic Gross: $60 million

Audiences didn’t get on board for director Wolfgang Peterson’s remake of 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure, grossing just $60 million domestically compared to its $160 million budget.

Lady in the Water

Domestic Gross: $42 million

This is when it really started to go downhill for M. Night Shyamalan. Critics ridiculed it and it broke his streak of four hits in a row (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village).

Snakes on a Plane

Domestic Gross: $34 million

The trailer got all kinds of publicity with Samuel L. Jackson expressing his displeasure at what was going on in the title. That buzz didn’t end up translating into much, however.

The Wicker Man

Domestic Gross: $23 million

OK, it’s another Nic Cage bomb, but it would gain notoriety later for this gem of a clip…

And that’ll do it for now, my friends! Next summer, you can be sure I’ll be bringing you a recap of summers 1997 and 2007!

Top 25 Highest Grossing Actresses of All Time (25-21)

Hey all – a couple of years back, I wrote a series counting down the top 25 highest grossing actors at the domestic box office of all time. At that time in August 2014, there were four women among the 25. Now there’s just two.

This led me to think – who are the top 25 actresses in box office history? Well, wonder no more, friends! This five-part series will count down the women who have made the greatest impact financially at the multiplex. As with my previous list, I’ll list their career earnings, franchises they’ve been part of (which helps one to make this list, as you’ll see), their highest and lowest grossing pictures, and the number of $100M plus entries they have appeared in. I’ll also tell you where they rank on the overall list of biggest grossing performers when you factor the fellas in.

Before we dive into the actual list, here’s some women I figured might have been here, but didn’t make the cut. Despite that whole Titanic being one of the hugest blockbusters ever and multiple Oscar nominations thing, no Kate Winslet. No Drew Barrymore or Nicole Kidman or Charlize Theron. Same goes for Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Melissa McCarthy. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise wasn’t enough to vault Keira Knightley on here.

Enough of who didn’t make the list. Who did? Let’s get to it with numbers 25-21, shall we?

25. Kristen Stewart

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: Twilight

Highest Grossing Picture: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) – $300 million

Number of $100M+ Earners: 6 (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Twilight, Snow White and the Huntsman)

Lowest Grosser: Camp X-Ray (2014) – $13,000

Overall Rank: 116

24. Gwyneth Paltrow

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Highest Grossing Picture: The Avengers (2012) – $623 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 6 (Iron Man 3, The Avengers, Iron Man 2, Iron Man, Shakespeare in Love, Seven)

Lowest Grosser: The Good Night (2007) – $22,000

Overall Rank: 111

23. Halle Berry

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: X-Men

Highest Grossing Picture: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – $234 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 7 (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X2: X-Men United, Die Another Day, X-Men, The Flintstones, Robots)

Lowest Grosser: Frankie & Alice (2011) – $706,000

Overall Rank: 106

22. Queen Latifah

Career Earnings: $1.8 billion

Franchises: Ice Age

Highest Grossing Picture: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) – $196 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 7 (Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Chicago, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Bringing Down the House, Hairspray, Valentine’s Day)

Lowest Grosser: The Perfect Holiday (2007) – $5.8 million

Overall Rank: 104

21. Julianne Moore

Career Earnings: $1.9 billion

Franchises: The Hunger Games

Highest Grossing Picture: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) – $337 million

Numbers of $100M+ Earners: 5 (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Hannibal, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Fugitive)

Lowest Grosser: World Traveler (2002) – $103,000

Overall Rank: 97

And that’ll do it for today! I’ll be bringing you numbers 20-16 tomorrow…

Top Ten Superhero Movies

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.