The Dark Knight Still Reigns As The Greatest Superhero Movie Of All Time
To proclaim superhero movies as the entertainment genre capturing the zeitgeist of our time would be to state the obvious. Their pervasiveness at movie theatres is unlike anything we’ve seen before, with each new franchise seemingly trying to outdo the other with bigger budgets, bigger talent, and bigger box-office crowds. The hype surrounding them is warranted, given that they tend to permeate any and every conversation. Such is the case that the world is now divided into two classes of people: those that have seen Avengers and those that have not. For the latter, it’s a relatively minuscule collective and something they would do well not to disclose to others.
As the New York Times reported back in 2018, 11 of the top-grossing films for 2017 were superhero movies whose protagonists were first introduced in comic books. At the time, they described it as “Hollywood’s Comic Book Age”, one representing a “global obsession” where if “heroes are idealised humans, then today’s reflect an exaggerated Cult of Self.”
It doesn’t make for particularly easy reading, much unlike the films of which they describe, but the publication does make a strong point. In any society, we elect our heroes. Even while we bemoan the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, it’s our celebrity-obsessed and aesthetically-oriented culture that’s allowed their fame to flourish.
Likewise, what we derive from superhero movies can’t be underestimated. Technological advancements and our increasingly hyper-connected digital lives mean attention spans are at an all-time low. It’s hard to imagine a Hollywood classic like All The President’s Men being as well-received by audiences today, with it’s drawn out shots and careful attention to dialogue. Today, ours is a mind that requires big explosion after big explosion, loud noises, action sequences aplenty and, if possible, some kind of costume.
It’s not surprising then, that superhero movies are our entertainment genre of choice. Special effects are getting more and more advanced, and with production companies investing exorbitant amounts of money into the films, the superhero movie has turned from somewhat of a niche audience pleaser to franchises adored on an international level.
But all of this is to say that with so many superhero movies out there, and with the genre showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, we’ve become hyper-critical, superhero snobs. We won’t just throw our popcorn-salted fingers in the air for any ole flick, we need it to be spectacular. So, what movies rank up there with the best?
According to IMDb, here are the 10 Greatest Superhero Movies of All-Time.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
IMDb Rating: 9 / Metascore: 84
The Dark Knight has since become an iconic film, and also one that established the late Heath Ledger as a remarkable actor possessing a true gift for the craft. Christopher Nolan reinvented the Batman story with the confrontation between Joker and the caped crusader, but it was Ledger who stole the show as the infamous villain. With his weird amalgamation of tics, kinks, quirks and twitches, he brought new life to the role and made it one that was far more sinister and dark than previously seen before.
2. Superman (1978)
IMDb Rating: 7.4 / Metascore: 80
The film opens on the planet Krypton and is somewhat slow to introduce the superhero – Superman himself. In fact, nearly an hour elapses before audiences even get to see the man in his iconic red, blue and yellow uniform. This did little to diminish audience satisfaction however, and instead made the film one that is considered one of the best origin stories for any superhero.
3. The Incredibles (2004)
IMDb Rating: 8 / Metascore: 90
Pixar Studios were onto a winner with The Incredibles. It might seem a little odd for an animated film to have cracked the Top 10, but make no mistake – this is a certified classic of the genre. What made the film such a success was its ability to poke fun at the superhero film, as it is equal parts gripping action and a satire of suburban life.
4. The Avengers (2012)
IMDb Rating: 8.1 / Metascore: 69
The Avengers have since gone on to become the most successful superhero franchise in history. Need we remind you of all the records it’s broken with its final instalment alone? No – we don’t have the word count for that, folks. Nevertheless, the first film was a fun, satisfying entry into the world of now iconic heroes. It was quick-witted, nuanced and provided some edge-of-your-seat worthy action scenes.
5. Logan (2017)
IMDb Rating: 8.1 / Metascore: 77
Proving that our golden child Hugh Jackman is more than just some buff biceps and rippling abs, his portrayal of Wolverine in Logan impressed audiences and critics alike. It was gritty, realistic and as many have been quick to note, even if the central characters didn’t have super powers, it still has a message as the script works as an allegory for America’s ongoing struggle against racism.
6. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
IMDb Rating: 8.5 / Metascore: 87
Again with another animated flick! Into The Spider-Verse was an incredibly captivating superhero film for both adults and kids alike. A little whacky and frequently surprising, the film roused audiences with its hilarious dialogue, teachable moments, and astonishing cinematic effects.
7. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
IMDb Rating: 7.8 / Metascore: 75
After a botched operation, the Avengers go rogue in this flick that tinkers with the question of whether the team of superheroes should be nationalised. As is Marvel tradition, the film proves surreal, engaging and funny, with a number of twists suggesting even within the Avengers’ ranks there can be room for duplicity and betrayal.
8. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
IMDb Rating: 7.3 / Metascore: 83
Spider-Man 2 presents an incredible story of love, loss, adventure, and courage. Two years on from the first film, Peter Parker finds himself having problems dealing with his feelings for Mary Jane. As the saying goes, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
9. Iron Man (2008)
IMDb Rating: 7.9 / Metascore: 79
Robert Downey Jr. made a comeback thanks to the Iron Man suit, that armored robotic suit that would later become every kid’s favourite costume and send parents into a head spin merely trying to locate one. The special effects were incredibly well crafted, but more importantly this fast-paced, action-packed adventure kept things light and allowed Downey Jr. to showcase his comedic talents, too.
10. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
IMDb Rating: 8.1 / Metascore: 76
Leave it to Chris Pratt to turn a slightly whacky story into comedic gold. Guardians Of The Galaxy proved to be an origin story, but also a satire of the origin story. With his charisma, Pratt played a blissed-out space cowboy and the movie, with its characters and incredibly well curated seventies music soundtrack proved to be absolutely magical.