There are a ton of movies directed and produces that revolve around the world of Marvel and DC. But when it comes to the top 10 superhero movies, these are my picks. Some of you might differ from what the rankings are (please don’t kill me over it), but hey, everybody has their own fandom.
Let’s start, shall we? From the bottom…
Top 10 Superhero Movies
10. Batman Returns (1992)
Arguably one of the top 10 superhero Christmas movies of all time, Batman Returns is a Tim Burton classic. Michael Keaton’s swaggering style as a returning Batman, Michelle Pfieffer lifts every scene as Catwoman, and Danny De Vito’s dadaist Penguin makes for one of the largest comic book brutes ever put to screen. All three actors are at the top of their powers, operating in tandem with one of the unique visionaries of the 20th Century—pure heroic paradise.
Often neglected when it comes to ranking Bats’ best onscreen efforts, Batman Returns is dark without being gloomy, brave without being begrimed. What’s not to like?
Best superhero moment: When the Bat-Signal brightens up Wayne Manor, with Bruce Wayne regarding on. He is Batman.
9. X2 (2003)
With everyone so despairing for the mutants to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans often overlook just how great those early X-Men movies are. X2 surely takes the top spot. The eponymous heroes are going up upon Magneto (playing with extraordinary villainy by Ian McKellen) and Brian Cox’s Stryker. Combined with a quasi-origins tale for Wolverine (Hugh Jackman at his excellence) and some very distressing exhibitions in Stryker’s base, you have superhero power right here.
Did we also notice the AMAZEBALLS cast? As well as the aforementioned titles, there’s Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, James Marsden, and Famke Janssen, resembling as the definite movie variants of Professor X, Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey.
Best superhero moment: Before Quicksilver removed scenes in the X-Men license, there was Nightcrawler. And seeing the demon making his way through the White House continues a terrifying stand out time.
8. The Avengers – Assemble (2012)
Take Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, and Hawkeye, toss them together, and what do you perceive? The Avengers and a gigantic blockbuster established Marvel Studios as a genuine powerhouse. While team-ups had been appearing in the comics for years, cinema eventually caught up in 2012. While nobody anticipated The Avengers to work, Joss Whedon confirmed critics wrong, bringing the superheroes unitedly in a seemingly simple style.
No Avenger feels clunky or irrelevant to the story, and the action series fly by. The Avengers wick into a slick machine ready to administer justice like no other onscreen team back, and the result is breathtaking.
Best superhero moment: Cap and Thor are clasped in battle, but that doesn’t hold Tony from delivering an exceptional one-liner: “Doth your mother know you stole her drapes?”
7. KickAss (2010)
Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar’s collaboration created discussion when initially published. Not merely because of the abundance of blood-splattered violence and bad language, but because 12-year old Chloe Moretz was spraying out both. Kick-Ass is rebellious to the point of making you flinch.
The movie sees Aaron-Taylor Johnson’s teenager encompass his love of comics by enhancing the real-life superhero Kick-Ass. Going up against a rich enemy who defeats him time and time again, the vigilante ends up combining forces with Hit-Girl (Moretz) and Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy. And when Cage’s quirkiness is the basic batshit thing onscreen, you know you’re onto a leading movie.
Best superhero moment: Kick-Ass tours Rasul, a low-life drug seller who’s been despoiling the girl he likes and kicks ass. With a tiny help from Hit-Girl, of course.
6. Wonder Woman (2017)
We know what you’re thinking: another origin story? Really? Yet, despite Wonder Woman being such a well-known character, Patty Jenkins’ movie makes for a wonderfully fresh take on the hero’s royal beginnings.
Growing up on the Amazonian island of Themyscira, Princess Diana’s monotonous life is interrupted by an American pilot, Steve Trevor, who crashes offshore. After learning about the horrors of the First World War, and believing Zeus’s son Ares responsible for the conflict, Diana takes it upon herself to resolve the fight. Wonder Woman delivers a hope-charged blast of purely enjoyable entertainment, with delicious chemistry bubbling between Gal Gadot’s Diana and Chris Pine’s Steve.
Best superhero moment: Wonder Woman charging across No Man’s Land, deflecting bullets with her shield. Few images are quite as powerful.
5. Superman (1978)
Richard Donner’s Superman might not have been the primary feature to bring Krypton’s favorite son to the big screen, but it gives the best despite Zac Snyder’s best effort. While Superman may be a source story, the movie does not completely explain Kal-El’s past. It preferably tells a thrilling story about a heroic man who falls in love and protects the day from a terrifying scoundrel (Gene Hackman on a wonderfully camp style).
Christopher Reeve brings hope and humanity to Superman, making some of Donner’s movie’s cheesier elements slightly easier to stomach. There has not been a greater Clark Kent since.
Best superhero moment: As majestic today as it was in 1978, Superman takes his first flight.
4. Avengers – Infinity War (2018)
Infinity War records the climactic end to 18 movies worth of storytelling. Dozens of Marvel heroes finally unite together for a thrilling finale that miraculously feels like an ending (despite a sequel being a known extension of the story upon release). The Russo Brothers cram the running time with stunning fights, conflicts, and team-ups, all while giving the villain Thanos a thoroughly convincing back story. And the Purple Titan’s the real star, bringing all the loose plot strands together. Josh Brolin offers a laudable performance as the CGI being, helping create a truly terrifying character.
Elsewhere, both the script and the cast do an admirable job of managing an incredible headcount, as almost the entire MCU tries to stop Thanos. The scale and ambition of Infinity War is a daring achievement, and that ending… oh, that ending haunted Marvel fans for an entire year before Endgame finally landed.
Best superhero moment: “You should have gone for the head” *Snap*
3. Avenger – Endgame (2019)
If Avengers: Infinity War was Marvel’s Empire Strikes Back, then Avengers: Endgame makes for the studio’s Return of the Jedi: not quite as serious as the movie that came before, but covers up identifiable faults with jaw-dropping action and a sense of fun. It is definitely one of the top 10 superhero movies.
Endgame’s stuffed three-hour runtime somehow feels breezy, with the movie being a mixture of both intimate and epic. The writers are deviously clever, paying homage to the other MCU movies while never losing sight of what’s at stake. While some Marvel fans may not be best pleased by how the adventure ends following the almost unconquerable climax of Infinity War, there’s one thing that’s certain; we’ll be talking about Endgame for years to come.
Best superhero moment: Captain America to Falcon: “Try it on.”
2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy rewrote the rules of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Turns out, superhero movies can be silly and irreverent. From the opening scene right up until the final moments, writer-director James Gunn’s love for the material is on brazen display, every frame oozing with soul.
And the cast. Chris Pratt’s turn as the hilarious Star-Lord was a revelation, the actor only really being known for Parks and Recreation pre-Guardians. Then there’s Zoe Saldana as the moody Gamora, Dave Bautista as the excellent Drax, and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket. Every member of the eponymous group of misfits works. Plus, there’s the throwback soundtrack and just enough fan service to make this a must-watch installment in the MCU.
Best superhero moment: “Dance off, bro!”
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Forget everything you know about comic book movies: the Dark Knight takes the formula and smashed it to smithereens, being one of the top 10 superhero movies. The middle installment in Nolan’s trilogy changed everything.
Splitting screen time between day and night, The Dark Knight focuses as much – if not more – on Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, who must grapple with the decidedly chewy morals of fighting crime and doing what’s acceptable when saving the day. Gotham, meanwhile, is presented as a dark nightmare city with a festering underbelly of crime-lords and a general public aching for a hero.
Of course, any good superhero must have a super-villain to match them. Enter Heath Ledger’s Joker. A controversial casting at the time, Ledger makes for the perfect manic, unnerving murderer. With garish makeup and enigmatic platitudes, Joker steals the show. When he was awarded a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor, few were surprised.
There have been several attempts to faithfully recreate Batman’s story since Dark Knight, but never has it been achieved with such brazen disregard for the rules. Every superhero movie since 2008 owes a debt to The Dark Knight, and none have surpassed its glory.
Best superhero moment: Batman’s decision to save The Joker at the last second with his grappling hook, and then going on to take the blame for Two-Face’s crimes. A true hero.