10 Superhero Movies You Must Watch!
10 Superhero Movies You Must Watch
The popularity of superheroes in modern cinema has expanded exponentially since 2000’s X-Men.
Remember when ‘superhero’ wasn’t an entire genre?
I’m struggling to.
Superheroes have been on-screen since the early days of cinema. Batman, Superman, Captain America and Captain Marvel (the Shazam version, not Marvel’s female one) all featured in serials in the 40s.
1966 gave us the campy Batman: The Movie, and Superman and its sequels dominated the 80s. It wasn’t until X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2002 that comic book adaptations really started gathering pace though. Since then, we’ve seen Marvel Comics open their own film studios, purely to produce their own comic conversions. DC of course, are hot on their tail, launching the DC movie universe, beginning with Man of Steel (2013).
An enormous amount of heroes and villains, down to the relatively obscure, have been covered in an extremely short amount of time, and we’ve still only scratched the surface. Out of all these adventures I’ve narrowed down the 10 that are an absolute must-see.
10) Spider-Man (2002)
Wolverine was scripted to make a cameo but the Spider-Man crew couldn’t get hold of his outfit from X-Men (2000).
A modern classic, and arguably the best live-action representation of Spider-Man ever.
Depicting the origin of Spider-Man and his nemesis the Green Goblin, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was a box office smash. The concept sat in development hell for decades, but when eventually released, it was the first film to land $100m in its opening weekend.
Spawning sequels that featured villains Dr. Octopus, Venom, the Sandman, and the second Green Goblin, Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of Peter Parker remains the definitive on-screen Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield took over the role for The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), but both were poorly received. Tom Holland has since been re-introduced as a young Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, but much is left to prove.
9) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The words “I am Groot” were recorded over a thousand times by voice actor Vin Diesel.
Its funny, quirky, and it came out of nowhere - Guardians was an unexpected instant classic.
I’ll happily admit to knowing next-to-nothing about the comic version of the Guardians before the film came out. I don’t think many who saw it did. However, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy was an underdog hit, with a witty cast and an awesome soundtrack. Properties like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk bring a whole load of baggage with them. Certain accepted canon is expected to be retained, and you’re likely to be criticized for going too dark with the tone, or conversely, too family-friendly.
For Guardians, relative obscurity was an advantage. The grand majority of viewers entered the cinema with no idea what to expect. What they received, was a superhero movie deeply entangled with Marvel lore, yet with no requirement to take itself as seriously as The Avengers. This movie doesn’t need to justify why aliens, or magic, or super-powered humans, are roaming the streets of real cities. It simply focuses on being amusing, touching and relatable. The colourful and extra-terrestrial subject matter is all window dressing, for a great story about a team of misfits.
8) Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
The Red Hood is a disguise utilized several times throughout Gotham City’s history by various criminals. Most famously it was used by The Joker, which is why the murdered and reborn Robin decides to adopt it.
Our only animated entrant, Under the Red Hood managed to knock the long-acclaimed Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero off the Rotten Tomatoes top-spot.
Sub-Zero had been the most beloved and respected Batman animated feature since it was released in 1998. That may sound like quite a niche accolade, but Mystery of the Batwoman, Return of the Joker, The Dark Knight Returns, Gotham Knight, Batman vs. Robin and Year One (all animated) beat out every single live-action adaptation of Batman on Rotten Tomatoes. The exception being The Dark Knight, but several even beat that.
The grand prize goes to Under the Red Hood with one-hundred-freakin’-percent though. That beats every Star Wars too.
The plot is centred on the resurrection of Jason Todd, the second Robin who was murdered by The Joker. Returning to Gotham as the ‘Red Hood’ he slaughters criminals before Batman can arrest them, and takes the fight to his former mentor. A heart-breaking tale of a father figure, the proxy son he failed, and a complete madman, that pushes Batman to the absolute limits of his moral code.
7) The Avengers (2012)
Mark Ruffalo was considered for Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk (2008) before Edward Norton took the role, only to pull out of a follow-up. Ruffalo would eventually become the jolly green giant after all in The Avengers (2012).
The long-awaited alliance of Marvel’s finest was a box office juggernaut.
You can’t fault Marvel for playing the long game with Avengers. It was way back in 2008’s Iron Man that Samuel L. Jackson first appeared in the end-credits and spoke of the ‘Avengers initiative’.
Back in the days of Blade, X-Men and Hulk, a project like The Avengers seemed a distant dream, and, I suppose, it did take another decade. This film was the pay-off from four years of end-credit vignettes featuring Sam Jackson as S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury, gathering the best and brightest in Marvel-land for the defence of the planet. Avengers marked a new dawn for superheroes on screen. Credit for the modern surge in comic-converted movies also lies in the lap of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and Sony and FOX’s Marvel-based efforts. The Avengers, though, was built for Marvel, by Marvel, and truly made “superhero” a genre in and of itself.
6) Justice League (2017)
The elephant in the room continues to be “who – and where – is the Green Lantern?”
I know it’s not out yet, but I’m convinced it’s gonna be great.
So, the DCEU has been a bit of a slow-starter. Man of Steel was okay, Dawn of Justice was good but probably didn’t meet the hype, and Suicide Squad was a lot of fun, but struggled in it’s organisation. My glass, however, remains very much half-full. Despite not being out-of-the-park home runs, everything DC has presented so far has been at least good. Faith in Batfleck is growing, the Wonder Woman trailers look great, GOT’s Jason Momoa is hauling Aquaman out of Family Guy cut-scene hell, and on-set insiders suggest The Flash and Cyborg have a good chemistry.
The DCEU takes a lot of flak from critics, but count the Marvel mediocrities when they were at this stage of the game. We still don’t know who the Green Lantern is, or even what version of Lantern it will be, but if he isn’t at least hinted at in Justice League, I’ll be shocked.
5) X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Evan Peters (American Horror Story) played Magneto’s son Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, but the character would be used again, with a different actor, and alongside his sister Scarlet Witch, in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Magneto’s children are within a small handful of characters that both 20th Century FOX, and Marvel Studios, have the right to use.
The best of a good bunch.
The most lucrative X-Men movie until Deadpool swaggered onto the scene, Days of Future Past was far superior to the more recent X-Men: Apocalypse. Hopping through time, DOFP brought together the original Xavier and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) and the newer, younger (yet chronologically older) versions (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender). X-Men and X2 were great for their time, but dated quickly, and Last Stand threw in too many new characters at the last minute.
Of all 9 X-attached movies (Logan will make 10), the only real competitors for Days of Future Past’s claim of ‘best’ are First Class and Deadpool, and DOFP encompasses a huge mutant cast. If you’re new to X-Men, think of Days of Future Past as the mutant Empire Strikes Back.
4) Suicide Squad (2016)
Tom Hardy (Bane in The Dark Knight Rises), was originally set to play Rick Flagg, but opted to act opposite Leo DiCaprio in The Revenant instead.
Suicide Squad transcends anti-heroism. It addresses the fact that many of us unashamedly support the villains.
Task Force X is one of the most original and enduring concepts in DC history. Supervillain lifers, most of which are awaiting death row, are let loose to complete government black ops missions, on the sole basis that they are expendable. The reward? Time off their sentences. However, if they veer even slightly from the plan, the explosives implanted in their necks are detonated. The great thing about Suicide Squad comics, is that the line-up is ever rotating, and mostly C-List at best. You truly don’t know who will be killed off. Even to the real-life DC executives, these guys are cannon fodder.
The movie had a lot of great scenes, and brought limelight upon long over-looked characters. Plot, and corporate editing, were clearly an issue though. A few characters seemed under-explored and fleeting, in favour of a nameless CGI baddy. A sequel looks likely, however, and if nothing else, upcoming Batman and Harley Quinn-centric features are confirmed. There’s still plenty of time to improve upon the mistakes of Suicide Squad’s first installation.
Watchmen is the crown jewel of Alan Moore’s unprecedented graphic novel work. Moore is the man behind V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Batman: The Killing Joke, John Constantine, and From Hell.
Watchmen is less a superhero movie, and more a critical commentary on vigilantism, geo-politics, and the world’s perception of justice.
Watchmen is a superhero tale for people sceptical of superheroes. It’s over-arching narrative explores the negatives of street justice from all perspectives. It shows the flaws in those who look messianic on the surface, and casts light upon their mundane lives behind the scenes.
Adapted from a 1985 graphic novel that is widely considered the best in its genre, Zack Snyder’s (Man of Steel, BvS: Dawn of Justice) Ultimate Cut of Watchmen even includes the Black Freighter side-story - A sub-plot of loss and vengeance in the time of piracy, that reflects and highlights the main story.
2) Deadpool (2016)
Marvel’s Wade ‘Deadpool’ Wilson is a brazen and direct parody of DC’s Slade ‘Deathstroke’ Wilson.
He’s not the hero we deserve, or the one we need right now. In fact, he’s barely a hero.
Deadpool was a roll of the dice that came up double-sixes. Not only is the property lacking the name-value of most super-flicks, but Deadpool’s entire existence is a sly nod to the competition.
Sometimes the direction, casting, script and soundtrack of a movie create an inexplicable smoothie of epic-ness though. Deadpool was one of those smoothies. After failed efforts in Blade: Trinity, Green Lantern and, in fact, as Deadpool, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds defied all odds and made Deadpool the comic-conversion of the day.
Funny enough to hold its own in the comedy genre beyond the world of super-humans, Deadpool is a triumph in the same vein as Guardians of the Galaxy, but with more blood and sex toys.
1) The Dark Knight (2008)
The scene where Joker must repeatedly hit the faulty detonator button to blow up the hospital, was all ad-libbed. They only had one shot at the scene, and it didn’t go to plan. Luckily Heath Ledger’s improvisation made it a cinematic stand-out.
“When the chips are down, these civilized people…they’ll eat each other.”
Call it a far-cry from the comics if you’d like, but Heath Ledger’s Joker is a cultural icon. Like Malcolm McDowell’s Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, Ledger’s portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime was unique, and aggressively of its time.
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises deserve to make this list as well, but I thought dedicating nearly a third of the list to them would be somewhat redundant. The Joker’s schemes in Dark Knight are inspired and sadistic social experiments, putting everything concocted in the Saw films to shame. You don’t need to care about Batman, or the wider metahuman-populated world to enjoy Dark Knight. If there was ever an entry point for casual fans who just don’t get what all this Joker hype is about, Christopher Nolan’s second Bat-flick is it.
There are many other strong contenders for the list, but I tried to bring together 10 films that bring something of their own to the table. Disagree with my picks, or want to add your own? Head over to the comments section and have your say!