Top 10 Greatest Superhero Films Of All Time

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In honor of the release of “Kick Ass 2” this weekend, I felt like doing something special for it. I was writing my reviews for a few other films when I took a break and watched “Thor” (2011) and it just got my head filled with superheroes on the brain. So I decided I was going to make my top 10 greatest superhero films of all time list. But first let’s go over some guidelines on how this list was created.

First off let me say that I had no bias when I made this list. No I am not taking sides in the long and tiring bloody battle between Marvel and DC fanboys that is just completely out of hand nowadays. We live in a world that we can like both and I’m not going to take sides, and if anyone accuses me of that, well it simply isn’t true. No matter how I make this list I have a feeling I would be accused of one side or the other anyways. Also this list is purely my opinion, some of this might be popular, and some of it might not be. Great thing is all film is subjective, and I would love to hear your list in the comment section.

Another guideline I went by is judging the film as a film. There is a difference between important superhero films and the best superhero films. For insistence the first “X-Men” (2000) is one of the most important superhero films of all time and could possibly rank in the top 5, however this isn’t a list of most important superhero films, this is of the best. For that reason “X-Men” (2000) doesn’t quite make the cut. Also “Superman: The Movie” (1978) would rank near the top of the list if it was ranked that way, however it isn’t. Importance can play a role but here isn’t the only role, and so the shuffle of the list is different than some would expect.
Also these have to be theatrical release films. No direct to Blu-Ray films like “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” (2013) will be included. Also I do cheat a little with a few ties here and there, but come on cut me some slack it’s a tough list to make. First off let me start off with some honorable mentions that just missed the cut.

-Iron Man (2008)
-Batman (1989)
-Unbreakable (2000)
-X-Men (2000)
-Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

All these films are great films in the genre but they just missed out in the list of top 10 greatest superhero films of all time. There is also a difference between my favorite and the best. My top 10 favorite ones will be included in a short list below with slightly different results. So here it is the top 10 greatest superhero films of all time.

#10
“Superman: The Movie” (1978)/ “Man of Steel” (2013)

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I start off this list with the two Superman films that define the character from two different eras. Both equally great in their own right, “Superman: The Movie” is the first superhero film to actually get anything right. Great script, good acting and maybe doesn’t have the best plot, it still never loses focus on the hero. “Man of Steel” brings the character back to life and tells the story in a far different way, which allows us to really see all different sides of the character. It contains arguably the greatest actions sequences in any superhero film that do at times become overly indulgent; these are two great films that define the character and thus make number 10 on the list.

#9
“The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012)

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An unpopular choice for some, this is easily one of the best superhero origin stories ever told. It spends a great long time on Peter Parker getting to know him before he gains powers. This is an effective way to tell the story that gets emotionally involving and has some really good action. The film can stumble at times with some plot connivances and some “silly” moments but this is every bit better than Sam Raimi’s first attempt at the character.

#8
“X-Men: First Class” (2011)

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The X-Men franchise was starting to look like a dead horse. “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) ranks among the worst superhero films and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009) wasn’t much better.”Kick Ass” director Matthew Vaughn came back and brought a level of quality not seen for a number of years. A great attention is given to the characters and their relationship to one another especially Xavier’s relationship with Eric Lensherr (aka Magneto), combining that with the thrilling action and great historical time period, make this X-Men easily one of the best in the series.

#7
“X2: X-Men United” (2003)

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One of the best sequels in the genre, X2 begins with a brilliant action set piece in which Nightcrawler attacks the White House and the film doesn’t let up from there. The film features topical themes, great attention to character, and also has some incredible conflict between them, and the action doesn’t let up and never gets boring. This only gets a slight edge of “First Class” for having a far more compelling villain, but still not by much.

#6
“Kick Ass” (2010)

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This was such a huge surprise for me. I got so wrapped up in the story and the characters, like instantly. It was a perfect satire to the superhero genre and was easily self aware, sort of like the “Scream” of this genre is probably the best way I can describe this movie. Amazingly fun, and funny, yet it is also capable of being dramatic. Matthew Vaughn balances everything out, in every single department and never overlaps each other. Such an entertaining movie that I could watch anytime, anywhere.

#5
“The Avengers” (2012)

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Maybe a bit lower on the list than some might expect, that doesn’t take away for what an incredible feat this film was. Pulling together 6 superheroes and giving them an equal part in the film was absolutely smart writing. The film features incredible action sequences, and some of the most fun you’ll ever have watching a movie. This film was made to entertain and it did its job perfectly, a milestone with superhero films.

#4
“Spider-Man 2” (2004)

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This is how you make a superhero sequel. It takes everything from the first one and completely improves upon it. With the exception of Kirsten Dunst, everyone develops their characters and acting ability. The film features a much deeper emotional storyline, which stays focused on Peter Parker and his struggles trying to be the hero. It has the best villain in the whole series and also features some incredible action sequences. This is easily better than any of the other films in the trilogy and still better than most superhero films.

#3
“The Incredibles” (2005)

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It’s Pixar, need I say more? “The Incredibles” is extremely entertaining, heartfelt, funny and exciting. This is one of Pixar’s best films; it injects some adult themes into a family movie and works perfectly for people of all ages. It has a great villain, likeable characters, and a wonderful throwback to the golden age of superhero comic books. Also the characters are well developed and defined, and a film that is easily re-watchable.

#2

“Watchmen” (2009)

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One of the greatest graphic novels of all time makes it to one of the best comic book films of all time. It seems people either love it or hate it, personally I loved it. It takes a graphic novel that was once thought un-filmable and translates it perfectly on screen. The acting is incredible, the characters are memorable, the action is heart stopping, and the ending is just plain and simply unforgettable. If you have yet to see this film, the short version is go out and see it

#1
“The Dark Knight Trilogy”

The Dark Knight Trilogy

Okay maybe this is cheating pretty badly but if I actually put these films out in the rest of the list, a good portion of the list would be Batman and I wanted to include other films in this list. Also since “The Dark Knight Trilogy” is really one story with a beginning middle and end, it can be view as one single great, epic film. This is truly a masterpiece trilogy that takes superhero filmmaking to a whole new level. “Batman Begins” (2005), which “Watchmen” has just a slight edge on, is what a superhero origin should strive for. It goes deep into the character of Bruce Wayne and really explores him and takes it’s time before he finally becomes Batman. It’s origin storytelling at its finest. “The Dark Knight” (2008) is the greatest superhero film of all time and even transcends that into masterpiece filmmaking with a performance of evil not seen since Hannibal Lecter, Heath Ledger as The Joker. The finale “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) is a perfect ending to a perfect trilogy. It fully tells the story of Bruce Wayne/Batman from beginning to end and now the book is now shut. Christopher Nolan did a masterful job at this series and evaluated himself to one of the top directors in Hollywood. The acting is pitched perfect, the themes are dramatic and the music can only be described in one word, epic. This is THE superhero experience that has set the bar so high and has shown just what a superhero film can do.

There you have my top 10 greatest (and favorite) superhero films of all time. I would love to hear your list and see how it differs from mine. Once again there was no bias when making this list, and what superhero film would you like to see me review? The one that gets the most requests I will review next. Leave your comments and enjoy the discussion.

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Greatest Superhero Films Of All Time

  1. Superhero film never gets old! Even if its a trilogy or 4 or 5 books more.. I get excited every time a new film will be released, I always look forward to the new villains and the plot. I’ve seen a lot of superhero lists, but this one here http://www.exploretalent.com/articles/top-10-most-expensive-superhero-films/ , seems to encourage me that this films are a must-watch for it is produced with quite an amount of money. But does an extravagant film gets an assurance of a successful release?

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    1. No, I would say an extravagant film never guaranties success (as a couple of the movies in that list proved that). It can be a factor, like great marketing or hype. Just coming off a successful and well loved previous film can also be a factor (and a few of those were doing just that), there are so many factors that I couldn’t list in just post, (perhaps an article in the future?) Great question though!

      -Michael Colan

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