Since the 2000’s, superhero films have been churned out by movie studios at a steady pace, with an even bigger uptick in the past decade. Marvel currently owns the market on superhero movies, with DC struggling to keep pace, and has really tapped into how to make a fun movie with people dressing up in costumes and fighting with special powers. However, many of the films now seem to follow the same formula, with a few notable exceptions, and unfortunately have gotten a little stale. Fear not though because if you’re struggling to find the best of the best, look no further than this list of movies that soar above the rest.
Spider-Man 2 has a soft spot in my heart for being the first movie I left the theater thinking “Now THAT was something.” As the years go by, the thrilling sequences of Spider-Man’s fights with Dr. Octopus on a skyscraper and a train lose some of their luster as the CGI looks more and more dated, but nothing can top that feeling of excitement that came from the first time I watched it. Superhero films had basically been regular movies with practical effects up to that point, and while it may not be the best that these movies rely on it more and more, the cutting-edge technology at the time elevated an already great movie into something unforgettable. Sorry Andrew Garfield and new kid Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire is the only Spider-Man for me.
This is the original Marvel movie that revitalized Robert Downey Jr.’s career and set off this explosion of extended universes. More than his superhero alter-ego, the character of Tony Stark is the real hero, and played perfectly by Downey Jr. A cocky, motor-mouthed genius, who is hilarious to boot? What’s not to like? Ironman has the benefit of being the first, and the one whose story formula has been copied with varying degrees of success. There’s something undeniably fresh about this movie that comes through no matter how many times you’ve seen it. So, even though it’s the original it may be the best as well.
Josh Trank’s low-key, found footage superhero film about teenagers suddenly gaining powers was a lot better received than his next movie, the terrible Fantastic Four reboot. That whole experience has inevitably taken away from Chronicle, which is a shame. Even though it combined two commonly used tropes, superheroes and found footage, it felt fresh and original, unpredictable yet spot-on. It seemed believable that this is how teenagers would react to newfound powers. On top of that the film featured great performances, specifically Dane DeHaan’s character Andrew, and a solid story that didn’t try to take itself too seriously.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Along with Dr. Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy brings the freshest take on the Marvel movie formula. Everything about the movie is just fun. The characters and their interactions with each other, the interesting worlds and galaxies, not to mention the great music all made up something which audiences had never quite seen before. It also launched Chris Pratt into leading man territory which I think we can all be thankful for. Along with Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, it’s a cast whose star-power is rivaled only by Captain America: Civil War, and James Gunn’s fantastic script made it impossible for anyone to take the movie too seriously. Well, that and the fact that two of the heroes are a raccoon and a monosyllabic tree.
The Dark Knight
The best superhero movie ever. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy took on a darker tone and unlike all of DC’s recent attempts to replicate that mood, it worked perfectly. It matches the gravitas brought on by Nolan’s direction and Heath Ledger’s immortal performance as The Joker to make something that doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. Even though it’s the second film in a trilogy, The Dark Knight stands on its own and far above any other movie in the genre. You may have others that you prefer but based on quality it’s not up for debate. The Dark Knight is simply better than the rest.