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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The 25 Best Superhero Movies of All Time: 10-1

Welcome back to the Top 25 Superhero Movies of All Time! Today, we count you down from 10 to 1 - as voted by you. You can see yesterday's list by clicking here, and at the bottom of the page, a small group of people we wanted to thank for helping us put all this together. Enjoy!

10. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
dir. Joe & Anthony Russo

This movie should have been a mess. It should have proved that yes, you can have too many superheroes in one movie. It should have clumsily introduced Spider-Man and Black Panther to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it should have had the same world ending, giant ship crashing ending that every other MCU movie before it had. Luckily for us, the Russo Bros, hot off the success of their first Captain America film, managed to somehow avoid all those pitfalls and create perhaps the most fun superhero beat-em-up thus far. The action is exciting and well executed, and the central conflict is one that is understandable and interesting, and doesn't rely on a cosmic-level villain to do so. I certainly left the theater feeling like a kid again, unable to contain my excitement and inexplicable need to purchase action figures!

9. The Incredibles (2004)
dir. Brad Bird

The Iron Giant is Brad Bird's masterpiece, but I think it's fair to say that The Incredibles is the film that put him on the map, a big, warm, family-oriented superhero film about a mid-life crisis writ large. Some of the themes of the film, particularly those that hew towards objectivism, are subjects of controversy to this day, but for many, they don't impact what is Pixar's most thrilling action film -- and one that smartly re-purposes the childhood power fantasy of comics history into something that speaks powerfully to adults and kids alike, on different levels. The Incredibles is, in a very real way, the best Fantastic Four movie we've ever received.

8. The Avengers (2012)
dir. Joss Whedon

This was it. Would this entire, ambitious project that Marvel had put together work? It's almost hard to believe today, but at the time, people genuinely weren't sure if this would work. A supermovie bringing together the casts of four disparate franchises into one massive blockbuster, given to a TV director who hadn't had a hit in some time? But The Avengers wasn't just big; it was colossal, a massive success that put Marvel Studios on the map. As the superfranchise expanded, the threats and the teams have gotten bigger, but in many ways, The Avengers remains one of Marvel's most enduring treats, a big, bold action movie that is both endlessly quotable and filled with entertaining setpieces. This set the template for what a superteam movie should be, and gave Marvel the go-ahead they wanted to enact a nearly decade-long plan to try and repeat the surprising impact of this movie.

7. Wonder Woman (2017)
dir. Patty Jenkins

After critics and fans tore apart Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, it became clear that Warner Bros and DC were in need of a critical hit. So, yes, leave it to the woman to clean up the mess of other men. Both director Patty Jenkins and actress Gal Gadot made Wonder Woman a massive hit, grossing more than $800 million world-wide and, more critically, gaining accolades from the public to earn back just a slight bit of trust from fans who were quickly losing faith in the studio. Wonder Woman dropped the grim-dark tone and steely demeanor of the studio's previous efforts, giving some of the best character development we've seen in a superhero film in some time. Jenkins is already set to direct the sequel, and her payday for the sequel has made her the highest paid female director in Hollywood.  

6. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
dir. James Gunn

When Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy as a film, it seemed like an underdog in the studio's line-up of films (Kevin Feige referred to the source material as an "obscure title" at the announcement). It's hard to think of director James Gunn or actor Chris Pratt as less-known quantities, but this is the film that shot both of them to the level of fame they have now. When he was selected to direct Guardians, Gunn had directed only a few well-known feature films, including Super and Slither. Pratt was a fan favorite on Parks and Recreation as the goofy Andy, but had only made a few serious appearances on the big screen in smaller roles (Zero Dark Thirty, Her). Gunn's creative use of color, music, and the way he made Guardians of the Galaxy stand out from the Marvel Cinematic Universe films we'd received before earned Guardians recognition as an iconic superhero film and has launched 2 more films in the same franchise.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
dir. Joe & Anthony Russo 

Of Marvel's line-up, the Cap films seem to be some of the most consistent and solid franchise offerings, but The Winter Soldier was widely regarded as a step up from the franchise's first offering, The First Avenger. Part of the success was due to the genre imitation worked into the film - rather than feeling like another blockbuster CGI action fest, The Winter Soldier inhabited the thriller/espionage realm of film, relying more on practical effects and hand-to-hand combat than large set pieces. Script writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely cite Ed Brubaker and conspiracy fiction films like Three Days of the Condor as heavy influences on the film, and these strong influences help guide the narrative in a way that feels appropriate for Cap's return to the modern day world. Not to mention, it's probably the closest thing we'll ever get to a Black Widow film.

4. Logan (2017)
dir. James Mangold

The point where they finally got one of these X-Men spin-offs truly right. As a film, it has every trapping you’d imagine Mangold is aiming for in this western-derived take on a retirement age's Wolverine's journey by way of a latter day Clint Eastwood vehicle: the tortured protagonist who must again take arms, the child who presents a new side of the hero, the wise old-timer that imparts moral support, the handsome blackhat rogue in pursuit, and multiple attempts at communal charity that lead to calamity. From that description you may think Logan lacks originality, but using these iconic tropes allows the filmmaker to pay homage not only some of the greatest motion picture visionaries to ever grace the screen, but also to the source material that embedded deep into Wolverine’s DNA. He’s had his Eastern in The Wolverine, also by Mangold, and with Logan, he got his Western. They made a real movie, you guys, and it's one of the best of 2017.

3. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
dir. Sam Raimi

Paired with the first Bryan Singer X-Men film, Sam Raimi's 2002 Spider-Man ushered in the modern era of superhero films. In classic Raimi Evil Dead fashion, he took everything that was great about Spider-Man, trimmed some of the fat, and dove into making one of the finest superhero films of all time in Spider-Man 2. Continuing to focus on Peter Parker trying to reconcile his dual identities, this film knocks both sides of the story out of the park. Maguire is earnest and believable in his struggles to deserve the love of Dunst's Mary Jane, and the conflict between selfishness and selflessness is about as central to the superhero mythos as you can get. Alfred Molina gives the performance of his career as the brilliant fallen scientist Doc Ock in one of the best villain turns on this list. Raimi's live action cartoon style combined with his clear love for the characters makes this the most memorable film about everyone's favorite wall-crawling web-slinger.

2. Superman (1978)
dir. Richard Donner

The movie that's inspired just about every other major superhero effort. It wasn't the first adaptation of a comics character to the big screen, far from it, but it was the first one that fit itself snugly into the post-Star Wars blockbuster landscape and paved the way for every other superhero film to come. There's a reason Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins and others have followed the origin template laid down here to a "t" and spoke in such glowing terms of Donner's efforts here. With three very distinct environments (an Elizabethan sci-fi Krypton, the Andrew Wyeth-esque Smallville, and a Metropolis ripped right out of the 70's comics), and a central performance from Christopher Reeve that is definition of iconic - it's hard to imagine this, but before Reeve, the idea that Superman and Clark Kent had distinctly different manners and physical stature was not exactly apparent in popular culture - Superman: The Movie is the blueprint for comic book fidelity, while also crafting a new status quo within its very source material's landscape. And its worth noting, the modern day MCU and its DC equivalent found its start through Donner's employ as both Kevin Feige and Geoff Johns got their start as his assistants. The seed from which all of this sprouts.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)
dir. Christopher Nolan

In the end, it wasn't even close. The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's landmark 2008 film that featured Heath Ledger's instantly iconic final complete performance as the Joker, is the best superhero movie of all time. The People have spoken. But if they had to pick a runaway winner, this was a good one to pick. It's not just Ledger's performance that makes The Dark Knight sing; Nolan's film is just that damn good. Praise the film's thematic heft, which finds Gotham City - and Batman - wrestling with morality of security and privacy. Praise its updated take on Harvey Dent's Two-Face, a brutal, tragic affair that forces Batman to make the ultimate sacrifice. Praise the surprisingly uplifting ending, which finds the Joker defeated by the goodness of the people of Gotham. The Dark Knight remains a fan favorite and a high water mark for superhero films.


And with that, the list concludes. If you want to see a complete list of every film nominated, with the number of votes received included, click here. We got a lot of contributors, not all of whom wanted to be recognized. So this is a short list of the people who helped us out. Check out their stuff!

Thank you to...

Heidi MacDonald, Comics Beat
George Foster, 1214a Design
Shane Perry, Geek Rex
Spencer Perry, Coming Soon
Arlo Wiley, Gobbledy Geek Podcast
Robby Bragdon, Robby Bragdon Fine Art
Phillipe Leblanc
James Dawsey, Vigilance Press
Salim Garami, Movie Motorbreath
Harper Harris, Geek Rex
Alex Lu, alexanderlu.com
Anthony Dorsey
Zack Clopton, Zack's Film Thoughts
JJ Masino
Guy Vollen, Medleyana
Finn Jones
George Carmona, Fist Full of Art
Monjoni Osso
Talya Kelly 
AJ Frost
Ryan Dice
Matt Miller
Stephen Milligan 
Jasef Wisener 
Peter LaCara
Jennie Law
Elessar, Football in Tuxedos 
Darius Washington 
Scott Garner
Troy Giles
Billy Snyder
Ty, The Bastards of the Universe Podcast
Jenn B.
Mike & Christy

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