Movies & TV / Columns

The 411 Movies Top 5 12.07.12: Week 351 – Top 5 Superhero Movies

December 7, 2012 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos

Welcome to Week 351 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world. With this week’s DVD and Blu-ray release of The Dark Knight Rises, there has been a ton of news from Christopher Nolan’s world, from the original idea to have Heath Ledger play Batman to the ending with John Blake set up from the first movie, Batman Begins. In celebration of that big release, this week we look at the best superhero movies.

The 411mania writers were given only one rule: “These can be comic book adaptations or original movies, as long as they involve superheroes (and it does include non-traditional superheroes like James Gunn’s “Super” and Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable”).”

And for that one commenter who likes to complain that you have to have super powers to be a superhero, that’s not the case. These are superhero movies, not super-powered hero movies. With that out of the way, let’s get into it.

This week’s writers:
Bryan Kristopowitz, author of The Gratuitous B-Movie Column
Michael Weyer, author of Shining a Spotlight
Ben Piper, author of the 411 Movies Fact & Fiction
Chad Webb, the Big Kahuna, who runs the monthly 411 Movies Roundtable
Jeremy Wilson, author of The Hush-Hush News Report
John “D-Rock” Dotson, no longer just a guest writer, soon to be a new contributor to 411 Movies
Shawn S. Lealos, author of Alternate Takes


Bryan Kristopowitz

5. Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Directed by Lexi Alexander, Punisher: War Zone is not only one of the greatest B-movies of all time and one of the best movies of the 2000’s, it is also the best movie made yet about the comic book character Frank Castle aka The Punisher. Brilliantly played by Ray Stevenson, The Punisher is a vigilante hell bent on mowing down every criminal scumbag in New York City. And when I say “mow down” I mean mow the hell down. It’s gore galore. Heads explode on screen, chairs go through faces, fists go through faces, and a guy gets thrown into a glass recycling machine (among other nasty things). I doubt anyone is going to have the guts to make a superhero movie as badass and down and dirty as this one, at least anytime soon.

Punisher: War Zone. Fuck yeah!

4. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Sam Raimi’s sequel to his wildly successful Spider-Man is a non-stop action fest featuring Tobey Maguire as the web slinger taking on the deranged scientist Doc Ock, brilliantly played by Alfred Molina. The special effects are insanely cool, the battles between Spider-Man and Doc Ock are about as good as you’re likely to see in any superhero movie, and the relationship between Spidey and his love Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) advances from the first one. I’m still in awe of the train scene. Easily the best of the three Spider-Man movies Raimi made.

3. Superman II (1980)

I’ve seen the much ballyhooed “Richard Donner Cut” of Superman II, and while it’s a good movie it just doesn’t have the overall punch that the Richard Lester original had. The Donner version also doesn’t have the humor that made Lester’s movie so great. And while it’s true that a large chunk of Superman II was directed by Donner while doing the first Superman movie, the end result doesn’t feel like a Donner movie. Someone else is clearly in charge. You can’t also discount Terrence Stamp as the main villain General Zod. It’s a brilliant performance (all of the bad guys are brilliant in this movie). A better Superman movie has yet to be made, and, at the moment, I seriously doubt that the upcoming Man of Steel will surpass Superman II. I just don’t see it happening.

2. The Avengers (2012)

The ultimate team-up movie, featuring characters from different movies joining forces to battle one grand enemy, The Avengers could have failed spectacularly if it didn’t have a director like Joss Whedon at the helm. Of course, the people who did the movies leading up to The Avengers deserve serious credit as they helped set the stage to make the team-up movie a reality. I mean, if Jon Favreau’s Iron Man failed, would The Avengers have happened? Would Marvel have been able to convince anyone, from Paramount to Disney, to go ahead and make a movie that had never been tried before? Doubtful. The Avengers is going to have a long shelf life. Will the eventual sequel be able to match the first flick in terms of scope and quality? It all depends on what comes before it, right? There are several individual sequels yet to be seen.

1. Batman (1989)

Tim Burton’s Batman is basically the reason we have all of the major comic book movies we have today. Back in 1989, if his dark vision featuring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the psychopathic Joker had failed at the box office I doubt any studio would have been interested in making a similar movie in the future. It’s still a great movie twenty-three years later, even if it didn’t exactly line up exactly with the Batman mythology (Batman killing people? Since when?). I love every second of this movie, and, while I may be in the minority on this, I think this version of Batman will still matter in another twenty years, maybe even more than the Nolan trilogy. It still works.

Michael Weyer

5. Scott Pilgrim vs the World

In terms of faithfulness, it’s possibly the best comic book adaptation ever. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic series was brought to the screen by Edgar Wright better than anyone could have dreamed. He kept the panel settings, the sound effects, dialogue boxes and more importantly, the off-the-wall quirky humor of the comic. The fights may have seemed more video game than comic but still wild as Michael Cera’s title character battles the seven evil exes of girlfriend Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in wild fashion with great humor and nice touches like Anna Kendrick’s sister seemingly the only person who thinks it’s insane all this stuff goes on. Mixing love of geek stuff with funny lines and sending up movie conventions, it was a great ride that deserved a much better box office take but hopefully finds its niche with fans who love a good time, which is what comic books are all about.

4. Superman

What gets you about this movie is how well it stands up today. Richard Donner took his time with it, letting you get a good sense of Krypton before it’s destroyed and detailing the frustration of young Clark Kent growing up with such power before learning his origins. Marlon Brando proved his price as Jor-El and Gene Hackman gave Lex Luthor a quirky but still fun element to remind you why he’s the Man of Steel’s greatest foe. The set pieces amaze such as the simple way they make him look like he’s really flying and catching a helicopter one-handed alongside John Williams score, which never fails to make your heart race. But what pulls it together and makes it shine still today is Christopher Reeve. No one has ever matched his portrayl of Superman, the way he carries his strength and presence but also a Midwestern vibe to put people at ease with him. Also, his Clark Kent is utterly amazing, the stammering, the bumbling, the slouch, he makes it all so natural that for the first time, you can buy people not looking past the glasses to see the truth. In today’s world of CGI and in-your-face stuff, it’s Reeve’s quiet sincerity that makes this still the best version of Superman ever that reminds you why he’s the greatest hero of them all.

3. The Dark Knight Rises

Some will insist the second film of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy was the better due to Heath Ledger’s Joker. And the tragedy of the Colorado shooting continues to cast a pall on this. But there can be no denying that Nolan nailed the ending of his saga in a daring way. Pulling in elements of several classic Batman tales (From “No Man’s Land” to “Dark Knight Returns”), Nolan gave the Caped Crusader a great finish that made perfect sense. Seeing him return only to be broken and forced to rebuild was powerful thanks to Christian Bale’s performance. Nolan also avoided the old curse of “too many villans” as Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was sexy but also strong and smart and Thomas Hardy made Bane a joke no more, not just a muscleman but brilliant tactician as well with his takeover of Gotham. The story points like Alfred quitting and the twist of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cop were terrific and made you watch not just the battle scenes but also the nods to the past films and the first-rate supporting cast (especially Marion Cottilard). The ending was somber yet moving as fitting Batman, promising a new dawn while also showing the eclipse of the greatest adaptation of the Dark Knight ever that deserves to live a long time for fans.

2. X2

The first X-Men film was fair but felt a bit lacking. The sequel, however, was everything fans wanted it to be as Bryan Singer kept the flavor of the comics with the team tangling with Ronny Cox’s Stryker out to wipe them all out with chilling ease. The opening was right off the comic book page of Nightcrawler teleporting around the White House to take down Secret Service agents and attack the President. The idea of the X-Men and Magneto working together was realized well with the still-brilliant scene of Magneto tempting troubled Pyro (“You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you different.”) And Hugh Jackman proved himself as Wolverine with the scene of him tearing through soldiers in a full-on berserker rage and tangling with Deathstrike. Plus, a heart-wrenching ending that promised a third film that sadly never paid off that promise. But then, would have been hard for anyone to top a picture that perfectly showcased Marvel’s mutants in their glory and also the elements that made them such a success in the first place.

1. The Avengers

Anyone who says “it would have worked no matter who made it” is full of crap. There are a hundred ways this could have gone wrong, from casting to playing it as camp to giving one character more prominence then the others. But Joss Whedon nailed it perfectly, balancing the action with humor and the FX with character moments. Thor and Captain America actually came off better here then in their own movies and they finally got how to do the Hulk right for a film. Samuel L. Jackson was a bad-ass Fury, we had a wonderful foe in Loki, the mix of characters bouncing off each other wonderfully, all leading to a fantastic final act where Earth’s Mightiest Heroes come together against a huge threat in gorgeous style. You can watch it a hundred times on Blu-Ray and still be awed at how well the dream project became a reality and proved the worth of super-heroes for the entire movie world.

Ben Piper

Honorable Mentions: V for Vendetta, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Sin City, Batman Begins .

5. Watchmen

To say that this project was long deemed unfilmable due to both the size and constraints of the story as well is a bit of an understatement. Over the years several high-profile directors were at one time or another attached to try to bring the project to the big screen. (including at one point, Michael Bay. *Shudders*)

However, Zach Snyder managed to bring a (mostly) faithful adaption of the original graphic novel successfully to the big screen. Does it hit all its marks it was aiming for? Um, no not really. Part of this has to due with the fact that it’s been over 20 years since the story was first released and the deconstruction of the superhero myth that Alan Moore created has been tapped more times than a female Kardashian in other incarnations. But the fact that Snyder faithfully attempted to bring Moore’s vision to the big screen, and that it turned out as good as it did? It gets my vote here.

Add in great performances by Jackie Earle Haley as the iconic Rorschach, Billy Crudup as the formerly human Dr. Manhattan, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan owning The Comedian? Yeah, I’m sold…

4. X2: X-Men United

First off, Marvel fanboy here. So to see a kickass X-Men movie done right was kind of fantastic. While the origin movie Bryan Singer presented was serviceable enough in regards to introducing the characters and conflicts in this universe, Singer and his cast and crew greatly upped the game when it came to the sequel. This was a fantastic follow-up, in that we got to see Wolverine in full-out berserker mode, all the various characters being given fuller depth from what was seen before, and a truly grand and heroic ending that unfortunately was squandered by the movie that followed.

3. Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man was my favorite comic book character when I was growing up, (Which is ironic, in that I’m a huge arachnophobe) and much like the entry that came before, I was perfectly satisfied with Sam Raimi’s origin movie for the character. But again, everyone on board for the sequel was up to the task of making the second installment just that much better. From a better, more realized villain (played with great effect by Alfred Molina) to the beats of the fact that while he is this high-flying super-hero, Peter Parker, the person is just getting beaten down by life to the point that he’d rather give up the personae entirely to make his life easier and happier, only to find that he cannot. It truly is his destiny, and the woman he loves realizes that as well by the end of the flick. Too bad that once again they screwed the pooch in what followed.

2. The Avengers

The movie that never should have worked. Too many high-profile characters that had up to this point been given their own movies to shine individually, now thrown together to work collectively for the common good for all mankind and the fate of Earth as we know it. For all intensive purposes, it was an ugly clusterfuck waiting to happen.

The massive success that resulted can be summed up by Marvel’s stunning five year plan to slowly set things up movie by movie, trusting each director hired to deliver the goods on their own individual basis, and linking the films and characters ingeniously via post-credit scenes.

But the true secret weapon turned out to be fanboy geek God Joss Whedon, who was used to juggling large casts in his previous works (Buffy, Firefly, etc) and also had legitimate comic book cred, as the writer of several comic books in his own right. He was the right guy for the job, and hoo, boy did he ever deliver. Sure, it’s not a big movie in terms of character development or plot points. It’s just a flat out fun action ride to enjoy, and in that aspect, it delivers in spades.

1. The Dark Knight

Yes, I’m a Marvel fan. But even still you have to respect The Bat, not only as a character, or a personae, but as an idea.

Christopher Nolan clearly does. As such, he crafted a trilogy in which after we bore witness to much neon campiness, gratuitous ass shots, and Bat-Nipples galore, he managed to not only give this much loved character his balls back, but his dignity as well.

While I loved Batman Begins for being the first true theatrical origin story told on the big screen, with a sense of a lived in gritty realism, a hero is only as good as his villain. And Heath Ledger’s Joker is an iconic one for the ages. He’s always one step ahead, and he’s unwilling to let off of the throttle.

Not to mention, the bad guy actually wins. But the Bat and Gordon conspire to cover that fact up. Hence Dark Knight Rises.

This movie had critics and cynics alike debating if comic book movies could be considered true art. The Dark Knight and Nolan’s efforts in making this movie makes an argument for that fact. One I would tend to agree with.

Chad Webb

Honorable Mentions: X2, The Avengers, Iron Man, Sin City, Kick-Ass

5. Superman II (1980)

I have always maintained that the Superman character is better served on the small screen. He is tailor made for episodic adventures. Trying to pack everything about the mythos and his background into a standard film is not easy, but the first two Christopher Reeve efforts accomplished that. The first was enjoyable, but the sequel (not the Richard Donner cut) was better. This was a bit before my time and yes it is dated in some aspects, but this is a tight, well-made picture with solid acting and an energetic, enthralling pace. Terence Stamp gives one of the more memorable villain portrayals as General Zod, but the whole cast is above average. The action sequences were competently choreographed, the humor was welcomed, and the score is iconic.

4. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (2009)

The theatrical cut is good, as is the director’s cut, but the mammoth 215 minute ultimate cut is the way to go. In my mind it is the best possible adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel. They incorporate the Tales from the Black Freighter animated story brilliantly and even changed a key component of the ending as they needed to. Zack Snyder’s emphasis on special effects got him into trouble with Sucker Punch, but luckily the material was already there for him in Watchmen so he could concentrate on his strongest areas. The casting was perfect here. Everyone gives terrific performances: Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Carla Gugino, Malin Ackerman, and more. I love watching this. It has everything from vivid visuals and exhilarating action to slick pacing and catchy tunes. It also feels like a complete version.

3. The Incredibles (2004)

Many might not immediately think of the Pixar effort for a list like this, but The Incredibles is easily one of the most entertaining superhero flicks out there. Most of the Pixar canon benefits from being so watchable, but Brad Bird’s Parr family adventure gets so much better with each viewing. The CGI is detailed, colorful, and generally pretty flawless. The voice casting is sensational from top to bottom with the likes of Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Holly Hunter, and Jason Lee all fitting their roles splendidly. The universe is laid out with such intelligence, humor, and fun and apart from the Toy Story franchise, this is the Pixar title I find myself revisiting the most. It’s also one that deserves a damn sequel!

2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Honestly, if it were up to me, I would have just looped the entire trilogy into onto pick, but we don’t usually do that at 411, so I’ll just praise the middle installment which is the best anyway. Batman is a superhero character that just ends up better on the big screen than every one of his costumed compatriots. The dark nature of Bruce Wayne’s persona, the tragic past, and the overall style of Gotham City was just meant for a movie theater. Imagining him as a weekly TV series seems silly. Christopher Nolan worked wonders with the property. He transformed it from the laughable, cartoonish entries Joel Schumacher pumped out and created a universe that was more complex, grounded, and fascinating. Although Christian Bale’s gruff voice was an issue, he was fabulous as both the Caped Crusader and Bruce Wayne. Of course The Dark Knight was improved by the performances of Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart as The Joker and Harvey Dent respectively. Seeing this was a memorable moviegoing event. The action was spectacular, the special effects were capably integrated, the score was lingering, and the story was engrossing.

1. Batman (1989)

Yes on certain levels Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman was superior than Tim Burton’s. I won’t argue that point, but I grew up with the 1989 film and it is that version that will always pop into my mind first when the character is mentioned. I think Michael Keaton is the best actor to play the part. He personified the role for me. There was a mystery to Keaton’s Batman that was extremely intriguing. You also had a showstopping performance from Jack Nicholson as the Joker. I’ve heard the complaints that Nicholson is just playing himself with the volume turned up and I disagree. But even if I didn’t and that was true, I don’t see how that’s a flaw. Stylistically, Burton’s gothic trademarks are all over the place and as a result his Gotham City is creepy and unforgettably designed. Kim Basinger, Jack Palance, Billy Dee Williams, Pat Hingle, Michael Gough are all fantastic. If I had to rate Nolan and Burton’s efforts side by side, they would be about equal, but I feel like because of Nolan’s approach people are forgetting that the 1989 Batman is a phenomenal flick. For sentimental reasons, it has to be #1 for me.

Jeremy Wilson

5. Superman: The Movie (1978)

It’s flawed. It’s overly long. It’s dated. And yet, Superman: The Movie still works. The film’s unabashed adoration of the Superman mythos and character, without irony or sarcasm is in stark contrast to many more recent products of the genre. The film has been praised as a “Norman Rockwell painting come to life” and Richard Donner’s wish for the film to have “verisimilitude” essentially birthed modern superhero movies (which, because of improvements in special effects due to 2001 and Star Wars was going to happen anyway). Christopher Reeve was not a great actor outside of the franchise, but remains a great Superman and the film collected a superb supporting cast including Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando. While the effects have certainly not aged well, they were obviously good for the time and audiences bought that Superman could fly (unlike in the earlier TV series which basically just cut away from it). And no discussion of Superman: The Movie – or superhero films in general – would be complete without mention John William’s score, which remains the single best superhero theme of all time and one of the great film scores as well.

4. V for Vendetta (2005)

Admittedly, I struggled with whether this should be accurately classified as a superhero movie. I’m still not totally sure. If anything it’s a super-antihero movie, showcasing a man with abilities most don’t have, whose chief stated aim is to return Britain back to the people. I can understand why Alan Moore and some fans of the original comic wouldn’t love how the story was changed. V for Vendetta was originally Alan Moore’s response to Thatcherism in Britain, focused more on the battle between opposing forces of fascism and anarchism. Alan Moore dissociated himself from the film because he felt the film had become less connected to his original work and was now more concerned with the modern American political battle between neo-conservatives and liberals. He’s right, but in my opinion, that actually enhances the movie. It’s one of the few post-9/11 films that touches on the highly sensitive issues that permeated much of the first decade of the 21st century. Yes, it bears a stronger connection to 21st century American politics, but those aren’t issues that are confined to The States. They are issues that the modern world faces and struggles with now on a daily basis: the line between terrorist and freedom fighter, security and liberty, democracy and dictatorial state. It was resonant then and I have a feeling it will age better than most other superhero films because they are themes that will always remain resonant.

3. The Avengers (2012)

It has been said that no director of a superhero movie has had the degree of difficulty that Joss Whedon had in trying to bring The Avengers to the big screen. They are likely right and like in diving, degree of difficulty gives it a higher score than it might otherwise get. It’s arguably the biggest superhero movie ever, featuring not one or two superheroes, but an entire cast of them. Joss Whedon was an inspired choice to direct and he brings a lightness and comedic touch to the proceedings that not only makes the material work better, it helps define and separate the Marvel Avengers brand from other superhero properties (read: Nolan’s Dark Knight films). It’s fast-paced, action-packed and almost non-stop fun from start to finish, perhaps the best pure popcorn blockbuster to hit theaters in quite some time. It also felt like a big enough conclusion to end Marvel’s Phase One and set the stakes and team dynamics for future installments to come. The fact that it works – and incredibly well at that – has to make it one of the best superhero movies ever.

2. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

I find it hilarious how the fanboys have turned on Sam Raimi in the years since Spider-Man 2 became the benchmark for modern superhero films (granted, that standing lasted until Christopher Nolan entered the genre). Once regarded as the clear-cut choice for “best superhero movie,” Spider-Man 2 now struggles to retain its place as “the best Spider-Man movie ever.” For some, they didn’t like how different it was from the source material. Others have criticized Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. And some have said the films – and its effects – haven’t aged well in the years since its release. Those folks are certainly entitled to their opinion, but I respectfully disagree. As opposed to the good vs. evil themes that run through both The Avengers and the…more serious…take of it in The Dark Knight, Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is a more personal story, revolving around identity and who we choose to be. It’s clearly the best Spidey film and features a superb, complex and haunting villain in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. It also had numerous iconic images and sequences and an incredibly poignant and satisfying ending that elevated the whole thing. I don’t know how it will age from here, but Spider-Man 2 was great at the time and – for my money – holds up remarkably well.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

It’s hard to write about a movie everyone knows and which most see as a modern pop masterpiece. It’s the Empire Strikes Back for superhero movies and boiled the genre down to its most singular essence: good versus evil. A ton of films revolve around the battle between good and evil, but few do it to the grandness that Nolan’s second Batman film did. Able to move beyond the origin story of Batman Begins (another strong movie in its own right), The Dark Knight is frankly the only one of Nolan’s films which has a villain on par with The Caped Crusader, one who made you doubt – even for a split second – that maybe this was the one who could defeat Batman and “good.” Heath Ledger’s Joker was instantly one of the great screen performances four years ago and it has only grown better in the years since the actor’s death (now that time has passed and that cloud has lifted, we’re better able to see it on its own merits). Rarely have the movies seen a character that seems like the perfect embodiment of derangement and chaos. It’s all the more striking since we actually don’t know anything about him; unlike Batman/Bruce Wayne, who we know a great deal about, Joker gets no origin story and you can’t trust anything out of his mouth minus his obvious appetite for mayhem and the game. It also doesn’t pander and raises interesting questions that are relevant. It’s operatic, ominous and feels like the perfect movie at the perfect time made by the perfect people. It’s the best superhero movie ever made, bar none.

John “D-Rock” Dotson

Honorable Mention: Super, Kick-Ass, The Crow, Hellboy, and Iron Man

5. X2:X Men United

X2 is not only one of the best superhero films but also a complete improvement in every way over the original. The franchise fully embraced the thematic elements which made the comics so powerful, including prejudice in cultures. One of the greatest elements that made X2 so damn good was the fact that this is the first movie in the X Men series where you see Wolverine truly be a badass. My audience uproared with applause when Wolverine unleashed hell against Stryker’s men at the school. X2:X Men United is an epic sequel that delivered what I always wanted from X-Men and setup significant promises for the future. Sadly, those promises left at the end of the film did not succeed with Brett Ratner’s follow up.

4. Unbreakable

Bringing up Unbreakable in a list of superhero films may spoil some of the story aspects if you haven’t seen the movie, but leaving it out would be a crime against everything it accomplished. Unbreakable is a highly under-appreciated entry in the genre that travels in story ideas never explored within the world of superheroes. This film is also the last M. Night experience I did not walk away angry after watching. I will not elaborate much further on this movie because the less you know, the greater viewing experience you will have. What I will say is regardless of how you feel about M. Night, Unbreakable is important as a film and as a statement on comic books.

3. The Avengers

The things that made this movie such a magnificent accomplishment can be stated with just two words… Joss Whedon. His career almost seemed like a training exercise leading up to handling the difficult task of making this film. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better person for handling the job. Whedon’s careful handling of every hero’s finest qualities is an achievement beyond measure. From the Hulk all the way down to the smaller players like Agent Coulson, every character involved is developed like a love letter to the property. Even the film’s action packed finale feels like you are sitting in the sandbox with Whedon playing with action figures. The Avengers is the best Marvel film ever and sets the bar high for Phase 2.

2. The Incredibles

Brad Bird’s The Incredibles is one of my all time favorite films delivered by Pixar. I love the idea of middle aged superheroes having a family and working dead end jobs. The execution of the concept was just so hilarious but at the same time, a great setup for an adventurous animated film. Whoever scripted the film must have a great sense of what it means to raise a family, because it is strongly felt through the writing. The terrific family elements blended fantastically with the prestigious world of superheroes, making The Incredibles one of the best superhero films ever made. Here is hoping Brad Bird finally decides to take on a sequel.

1. The Dark Knight Trilogy

I know I’m cheating by grouping the trilogy together but I wanted to make room to mention other favorites. Besides, the entire trilogy itself is a fully realized cohesive vision and story. Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is the reason why the superhero genre is now seen as something to be taken serious. The Academy Award nominations the franchise has been given is profound, this includes a well deserved win for the disappearing performance Heath Ledger gives as the Joker. The immersive nature Chris Nolan used with the IMAX technology was definitely a game changer and an experience I will probably never forget. We should be grateful that we were given a team this powerful to take on such a beloved property, and only time will tell if Batman will ever be this good again.

Shawn S. Lealos

My goal was one movie per franchise on this list, otherwise it would be full of Dark Knight and Marvel Universe movies. I’ll list those extras in the honorable mention list.

Honorable Mention: Batman Returns, Iron Man, Thor, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredibles, Watchmen

5. Spider-Man 2

I absolutely loved The Amazing Spider-Man, the recent rebooting of the Spider-Man franchise. However, I can’t deny how great Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man movie was. I’m an old-school Raimi fan from the Evil Dead days and I feel that, with the first movie under his belt, he could just cut loose with this film. The entire hospital scene with Doc Ock was straight out of an Evil Dead movie and was proof that this movie, above the other two, was all about Raimi’s mindset. The bad guy was the best of the trilogy, the action was top notch everything just clicked perfectly. As much as I love the new direction of the Spider-Man franchise, I loved this movie most.

4. X2: X-Men United

The first X-Men movie was good, but this second effort by Bryan Singer just seemed to be the better story, and at the time, was the best comic book adaptation out there. While the first movie was more of an origin story for the joining of Wolverine and Rogue to the team, this one just let them go out and fight Magneto and the evil William Stryker. The opening with Nightcrawler bamfing into the White House and wrecking havoc was an awesome start, and it never let up. The fact that Jean Grey sacrificed herself set up the Dark Phoenix Saga, which was all kinds of awesome … until they made the next movie and ruined everything. However, as a standalone film, X2 remains one of the best in the genre.

3. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

Richard Donner created the first two Superman movies, and while a lot of people like the first one the best, I feel that is more nostalgia. Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor didn’t do anything for me and the story was just kind of weak in my eyes. However, the second movie brought General Zod and his partners and suddenly Superman had someone who could beat him man-to-man. The subplot of Superman giving up his powers to be with Lois Lane was great and the ending was pretty sad, all things considered, when he sacrificed his happiness to save the world. The Donner cut brings back Marlon Brando as Jor-El and that alone makes it better than the original theatrical version.

Kneel before Zod!

2. The Dark Knight

The second movie in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy remains the best film of all the superhero adaptations. While I don’t like it quite as much as my No. 1 choice, that is because of the difference between a quality movie and a really fun, kickass movie. The Dark Knight is a kickass movie, but it never set out to be a fun, thrill ride. This is honestly Heat, with men in costumes. Heath Ledger was magnificent as The Joker, Christian Bale really turned it up as Batman in this movie, the action was amazing and Nolan grew by leaps and bounds as an action director here, the story was great, and it features one of the greatest villains in comic book movie history with Harvey Dent. The entire tragedy of this movie was that you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain. Batman saw Dent as the best choice for saving Gotham City, but Joker destroyed the man and Batman watched as Dent became the villain. This movie proves that comic book movies can reach the same level as dramas when it comes to cinema masterpieces.

1. The Avengers

If I told you what I wanted to see in a comic book adaptation when I was a kid, it would look a lot like The Avengers. Yes, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy transcended comic book movies, but The Avengers is everything a comic book movie should strive to be – fun, action packed, funny and thrilling. Joss Whedon, the king of the geeks, knows what fans want and he gave it to them. The action, the dramatic moments, the comedy, the geek-out moments and the characterization is all there. This is not a cinematic masterpiece, but might be the greatest comic book movie ever made. It is easily the most fun.

What is your favorite superhero movie? Chime in below…


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Shawn S. Lealos

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