All the way from 1978's Superman: The Movie to 2022's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, superhero movies have dominated cinema. They've slowly risen in power over the decades eventually reaching the point where we have an amazing comic book movie every couple of months and there's probably been at least 100 notable movies from Marvel and DC, so as someone who loves superheroes I have dug dozens of them.
However, there are some superhero films that as soon as I saw them they earned a place near the top of my list. In this blog post, I will be listing those films in ascending order and going through why I love them so much, the lasting power they've had and the influence they had on future superhero films to come.
12 - SHAZAM! (2019)
For me, this is, always has been and always will be the best film in the DC Extended Universe. I was eleven years old when this came out and my expectations for this were extremely low, having just been disappointed with Aquaman and failing to find excitement in any of SHAZAM!'s trailers. I thought it was gonna be just a stupid kid's movie of a superhero film with cringey jokes trying to appeal to Gen-Zs to the point where it's just sad. Boy, was I wrong.
Being an eleven-year-old kid seeing a movie where there were these kids not much older than I was doing what all the adult superheroes did really taught me that anyone could be a hero. This movie was extremely relatable; I felt like I was Freddy Freeman and I was Billy Batson, which is kind of what Shazam/Captain Marvel was about back when he was created in 1940. This movie did a great job retelling the story of a classic character in a more modern setting.
It has good themes of finding family, being responsible and sticking by your bros that I relate to a bunch and at it's core it reminds me of a combination of a Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie the '80s classic Big with Tom Hanks. SHAZAM! is so awesome, it truly rekindled my faith in DC movies as a whole and introduced me to the world of such a great classic character in a film full of awesome jokes, great fight scenes and brilliant heart.
11 - The Dark Knight (2008)
Second to only the birth of yours truly and the dawn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Dark Knight was probably the best thing that happened in the year 2008. It's aged phenomenally and has topped the majority of superhero movies that've come out in the fourteen years since then. This film is more than just an on-screen embodiment of Batman and the Joker, it's a cinematic masterpiece making a strong comment on the problems of the real world that will go down in history as one of the greatest films ever made.
There are a lot of good dark and mature themes gotten into in this movie with the Two-Face character's arc representing the tragedy of greed and corruption and the Joker character being a horrific, unpredictable monster of society who embodies themes of anarchy. It has all these amazing deeper themes and it reimagines Batman as a sort of pulp vigilante in the real world all while staying true to what Batman and the Joker represent. Batman represents that there's good in everyone and that anyone can be a hero, and the Joker is a crazy anarchist who's philosophy is opposite to that.
The performances in this movie are simply phenomenal. Heath Ledger's Joker is an amazing, uncanny and complex character who was the best villain in comic book movie history and has failed to be topped since then, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman reached his peak in this movie and my personal favorite part of this movie is honestly Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face. The way the film's structure is split in two with all these themes of duality after Harvey Dent's Two-Face incident was awesome, and I just love how he went from the most righteous man in all of Gotham to a cold-blooded killer. The Dark Knight is more than just a Batman movie, it's a work of art that changed my life.
10 - Superman II (1980)
This is probably the most underrated film on this list, and a lot of people may wonder why it's up here. I get the film was released forty-two years ago and doesn't get talked about as much due to it's predecessor being so iconic, but I feel like this was the first time in superhero movie history that a character was given a weakness and existential crisis to overcome in order to stop the bad guy, who was actually a challenge for the hero to fight. In this movie, Superman willingly gives up his powers so he can be with Lois but he's forced to get them back in order to stop General Zod. At the end though, he finds a way to have both his powers and Lois, which is a great arc that was sort of copied in a lot of future superhero films and doesn't get the recognition it deserves.
To me Christopher Reeve is and always will be to Superman as Robert Downey Jr. is to Iron Man or as Hugh Jackman is to Wolverine: the most comic accurate casting possible that's influenced the character positively and become their definitive voice. I feel like it's in Superman II that he undergoes the best arc and I just love all the visuals, chemistry and fight scenes of his rivalry with Zod who was portrayed amazingly by Terence Stamp.
This was the first time I remember truly loving a superhero movie and it's majority of the reason I love the Superman character as much as I do. It also introduced me to Richard Lester as a movie director and I've grown to be a fan of his work as my brother's recently been getting me into the Beatles films like Help! and A Hard Day's Night which he both directed amazingly, and every time someone mentions Niagara Falls I can't help but chuckle remembering that classic scene where Clark accidentally drops his glasses and Lois realizes he's Superman. It's just so awesome!
9 - Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Everyone who saw Endgame in theaters remembers it as a magical experience. It's been three years but it's still hard for me to process that Captain America really lifted Thor's hammer and Iron Man really used the Infinity Stones. I remember sitting in the second row on opening night for Endgame right in the middle of my vacation to Washington DC, joining in on all the screaming and applause during the big portal scene where all my favorite characters I spent a whole year thinking were dead returned and showed Thanos who was boss.
The film did time travel in a really original way that didn't complicate things and it managed to hit all the right plot points, like Thor seeing his mom again, Cap feeling conflict about Peggy and Tony finally being able to tell his dad how he really felt about him. Black Widow's death always hits you like a train, and Clint Barton/Hawkeye/Ronin truly had his best arc in this movie that continued to get gradually better in his solo series.
Truly the best part of this movie is how full circle the arcs of Chris Evans' Captain America and Robert Downey Junior's Iron Man came at their conclusion. Tony Stark had gone from being a selfish, weapons-dealing billionaire to a hero and a father that gave his life to save the universe in one of the most beautiful arcs in all of fiction and Cap proved he was more than just a lab experiment when he was worthy of Mjiolnir and finally got to live a life of his own in the time he belonged with Peggy Carter. Every time I re-watch this movie, I can't help but feel my heart break when Tony and Nat die but cry tears of happiness for Cap and get the chills during all the Ronin stuff so in my eyes it'll always be one of the best movies the MCU has to offer.
8 - X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Fox's X-Men franchise may have been a bit choppy here and there. The first few movies were pretty hit or miss and the series ended on a low note, but they definitely put out some great movies and Days of Future Past is one of those films that I feel is perfect when I watch it. It had a unique and realistic approach to time travel and all these great themes on whether or not to help humanity if they'll just be jerks, which is what the X-Men are all about.
Not only does this movie have so many great themes involving second chances, finding hope in the middle of pain and people always fearing what they don't understand but it totally hits hard emotionally, too. When James McAvoy's Charles Xavier says to Logan "I don't want your pain! I don't want your future!" it's such a good moment for both their character arcs and when Patrick Stewart's Professor X shows his younger self all the good that he's gonna put into the world it makes me cry every time. I totally love the quote "just because somebody stumbles and loses their way that doesn't mean they're lost forever" and when Patrick Stewart said it in The Multiverse of Madness I went crazy.
Hugh Jackman's Wolverine performance is pretty close to it's best in this movie, Magneto was absolutely amazing, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique reached her peak in this film and I honestly feel like Evan Peters might be the best part. The kitchen scene is just so awesome and I'll die defending the argument that he's the best live action super speedster of all time. Days of Future Past is my single favorite X-Men film ever and without a doubt in my top ten.
7 - Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Let's face it, with Infinity War there was a lot that could've gone wrong. You have a massive plot spanning across an entire universe with a bad guy that's going to kill half the universe, and the only people who can stop him are around fifty different superheroes from eighteen previous movies that've never met before. It's a big complicated plot that could've easily collapsed on itself, but the Russo Brothers pulled it off. The movie wasn't overwhelmingly complex, every story thread tied together perfectly and while the good guys didn't win in the end, all their actors gave some of the best performances they've ever done.
While we all may have gone to see Infinity War because it was a big crossover between Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange, the part of the movie everyone was talking about that entire Summer was the villain, Thanos. Josh Brolin's Thanos was an enigmatic character who had suffered the universe's problems first hand but had extreme methods on fixing them. Infinity War was full of all these deep philosophical themes and the big appeal with Thanos was that he wasn't really the bad guy, he was doing what he thought was right to save the universe and that's why the conflict was so engaging to watch.
All the fight scenes of everybody vs. Thanos are amazing. The Battle of Wakanda is one of the most visually appealing and well arranged war scenes in all movies, that epic scene of Iron Man, Spidey, Dr. Strange and the Guardians all taking on Thanos was awesome and I just love all the unlikely team-ups that this movie made possible. It's just such an amazing movie, I love the Alan Silvestri score and I'd argue it's his best work so for a number of reasons Infinity War definitely lands in my top ten.
6 - Spider-Man 2 (2004)
In today's era of MCU and DCEU films, you'll notice there's this type of formula that goes into making superhero movies awesome. The hero having to overcome large stakes both internally and externally combined with a meaningful message, a well motivated villain and unique fight scenes make up the recipe for the perfect superhero movie that's made this modern era so definitive for superhero films. I feel like the movie that really started this new kind of storytelling was Spider-Man 2, which took what Superman II did to the next level by being an amazing combination of so many things.
Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker was a relatable character who struggled to have what he wanted and made mistakes, so his arc of becoming ready to give up the things he loves to do what's right but in the end learning he can have both is super inspiring. This film also did a good job showing the struggles he went through of balancing his Peter Parker life with his Spider-Man life, which perfectly embodies the heart of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's creation. The point of Spider-Man's character and all he stands for is perfectly represented in this movie's scene where he gives everything to stop the train and all the people see he's a normal person just like they are, excellently representing him as both a hero people can relate to and look up to.
Alfred Molina's Doc Ock is easily one of the top bad guys in comic book movies, being one of the best performances in all of the Spider-Man films. His story was an excellent tragedy about a good scientist that goes crazy after he loses everything but had a beautiful redemption and all the Universal Monsters elements Raimi put in here sort of continuing from his work in Darkman were awesome. Octavius was a truly enigmatic and well motivated antagonist, and all of his inner monologues about his "life's work being destroyed" were wildly entertaining to watch. There is just so much to love about Spider-Man 2, every scene is rich and well woven and whenever I re-watch it I catch myself saying "oh, it's so good!" every five minutes.
5 - Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
When this movie came out eight years ago, it blew everybody's expectations out of the water. Nobody knew who the Guardians were, those were all D-list characters at best but now they've grown to be some of the most iconic superheroes of modern times. What James Gunn did by taking a bunch of obscure superheroes only the hard core comic collectors knew about and made audiences invest in their adventures and cry for them in all their hardships was really one-in-a-million and it became one of the greatest comic book movies ever made.
To me Guardians will always be the perfect story of a bunch of outcasts and criminals out of a cold-hearted corner of a grand space opera finding family together, becoming the greatest unlikely heroes of all and saving the universe, so there's really no story that has the same type of power. While different from the comic versions all the characters were super unique and well developed, and had some amazing chemistry that made for a beautiful saga. I mean, c'mon, Quill literally saves the universe by being strong enough to take his dying mother's hand. Try looking me in the eyes after you watch this movie and tell me comic book films aren't cinema. Come at me, Martin Scorsese.
The humor, action, cinematography and soundtrack have all grown iconic to this film and whenever I hear Come and Get Your Love, Go All the Way or Escape (The Pina-Colada Song) I can't help but think of any of the scenes those songs were in Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie truly is an out-of-this-world creative, genre-bending masterpiece that is by far one of the single greatest movies ever made, period.
4 - The LEGO Batman Movie (2016)
When I was in third grade, The LEGO Batman Movie was my whole world. The entire soundtrack was on all my Spotify playlists, I re-watched the movie constantly and I played with all the LEGO sets I owned of it non-stop. It was just the bomb, and ever since then The LEGO Batman movie has always been an important part of my life.
Everything Batman stood for was well represented in this movie in a way that none of the live action Batman films ever dreamed of. This film understood that Batman and the Joker were polar opposites who hated each other but were best friends at the same time where one couldn't live without the other, it also got how Alfred was like a father figure to Batman after his parents died and the importance of Robin in Bruce's adult life. However, not only did it respect and celebrate the lore of Batman but it built off of it with a great and original story.
In this movie, Batman has to face something greater than any villain he's ever took on, and that's his greatest fear of letting people back into his life. Him becoming best friends with Barbara Gordon, accidentally adopting Robin and realizing that Alfred was basically his dad taught him the message that "Losing people is part of life, but that doesn't mean you have to be afraid to let them back in", and combined with his understandably immature personality he's the most relatable iteration of Batman. This film had a great balanced tone between dark peril and light humor along with phenomenal visuals, a killer soundtrack and an amazing cast, so it's always been one of my top five favorite superhero movies.
3 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
I know, I know, I'm crazy for putting it above the first one but I simply find it more entertaining, enjoyable and re-watchable to the point where I could seriously watch it every week and it would never get old. It's just so perfect! Every scene the dialogue is relentlessly hilarious, every character has an amazing and heartfelt arc and the world building from the first film get's even richer here. Star-Lord had a really exemplary arc of trying to find a father figure the whole time, when all along he realized the perfect father figure (Yondu) was right in front of him all along.
Rocket and Yondu are one of my favorite unlikely friendships in fiction and the awesome scene where Yondu says "I know exactly who you are boy, because you're me" is giving me the chills just writing about it. Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana had better chemistry in this film than any other couple in the MCU franchise and Drax, Groot, Kraglin, Stakar and Mantis all had good arcs too. Kurt Russel as Ego was amazing and as of right now he's my third favorite MCU villain following Thanos and Green Goblin.
There's just so much to love about this movie, the whole end sequence where Star-Lord realizes Yondu was his Hasslehoff as he introduces Groot to Cat Stevens, makes things right with Gamora and watches the fireworks the Ravagers made when they realized that Yondu truly was a Ravager hero makes me cry every time and that combined with the whole "everyone is special" speech from The LEGO Movie are the primary reasons Chris Pratt is my single favorite actor. I love the Tyler Bates score and all the action sequences, so Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has always been one of my favorite movies ever.
2 - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
2018's Into the Spider-Verse is more than a movie - it's a work of art, and a masterpiece nonetheless. Lord & Miller are probably my favorite movie directors of all time and what they did with their animation and art team where they took the visual style of classic comics, blended it with the bright colors of hip hop graffiti and made it a fastly-fluid, eye-popping collage of an animated movie revolutionized animation history in a one-of-a-kind manner. They also pulled off blending that style with that of anime, old school cartoons and black and white making it a style-mashing masterpiece with a great story, too.
Every major character in this movie had a phenomenal arc - Miles built confidence to fight for those he loves and be the hero he always knew he could be, Peter B. was a flawed mentor who learned to redeem himself and get back together with MJ and Gwen kinda underwent an arc similar to Will Arnett's Batman in his solo movie of letting people back into your life after you lose those close to you. It had so many perfect dynamics involving friendship, family and mentorship that all underwent good arcs and Liev Schreiber's Kingpin is one of the best villains in animated movies.
There are so many positive messages in this film as well. This movie teaches audiences that anyone can be a hero, to always take the leap of faith even if you don't know whether or not you'll screw up, we're all gonna lose people but we need to stay strong, no matter what you're going through there's always someone who get's it and, of course, with great power comes great responsibility. Not to mention the awesome Stan Lee quote "That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, or because it is the right thing to do is in fact without a doubt a real superhero" that I used as the main message in my eight grade graduation speech. So for countless reasons, Into the Spider-Verse is simply one of the best movies ever made and easily in my top five favorite comic book movies.
1 - Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
There are some movies where I watch them and I feel like they're perfect. Since there's a lot of stuff they do in the plot and performances that make me say "Oh my God, that's so amazing", every second of those movies is an experience to be celebrated. However, to say that the global phenomenon Spider-Man: No Way Home is that kind of perfect would be the understatement of the eon, because words cannot describe how amazing this movie is. I've seen it six times since it came out and it still hasn't lost its magic.
It's a fantastic coming of age story that perfectly concludes Jon Watts' spectacular trilogy that combined the John Hughes teenage comedies of the 1980s with the fast-paced storytelling of the MCU, and the emotional buildup through that grand trilogy paid off here and hit you harder than Sandman's fist when he leveled the Statue of Liberty. The scene where Tom Holland's Peter has to say goodbye to Ned and MJ, these characters who he's had this relationship with you've really grown to care about, makes me cry every time and the fact that them not knowing who Peter is is what's safer for them perfectly embodies the tragedy of Spider-Man's character. The Aunt May death scene as well where she delivered the iconic line helped teach the message of great power coming with great responsibility in the most impactful way possible.
This movie also introduced the multiverse to live action Marvel in a non-overwhelming way that brought back classic characters better than Jurassic World: Dominion, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and even the mighty Ghostbusters: Afterlife, because it improved the story. All the old villains and past Spider-Men redeeming themselves created an excellent tale of second chances, and because Jon Watts gave the actors more freedom over their roles pretty much every villain in No Way Home was at their best in No Way Home. Tobey and Andrew being big brothers to Tom was amazing and when both their arcs came full circle by doing the things they failed to do in their solo movies it was phenomenal. Seeing the Spider-trio swing together was like eating a Fettuccine Alfredo with my eyes, so I really feel like Spider-Man: No Way Home topped every movie on this list as the best superhero film of all time and I still can't believe it didn't get nominated for best picture.
What are your all time favorite superhero movies? Let me know in the comments below! Thank you all for reading and I hope you have a good rest of your week.