Because this debate is already well-worn territory, we at The Ringer set out to develop a ranking that goes beyond personal opinions—to try to synthesize the overall goals and spirit of these films in order to identify the ideal superhero movies. In order to do that, we took into account four factors—Critical Success, Box Office Performance, Rewatchability, and Timelessness—and ran them through a fancy formula to come up with an overall score. (In an effort to streamline this list, animated movies were not considered.) Here’s how each of those factors were quantified:
- Critical Success (RT): This one is the simplest—we used each movie’s score on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Box Office Performance (ABOR): As much as you might like to think otherwise, one of the primary goals of a superhero movie is to make money; that’s why it was given equal weight in this process. Now, because we didn’t just want to throw in a movie’s total gross into a formula— those numbers are in the millions and that’d look unruly—and because it wouldn’t be fair to equate the box office performance of 1978’s Superman with 2013’s Man of Steel, we devised a little statistic called Adjusted Box Office Rating. ABOR is calculated by adjusting each movie’s domestic total gross to 2017’s standards, and then reverse ranking those adjusted totals, so that the highest total gets the highest score, and the lowest gets the lowest score. We know, this is deranged, but it’s worth it so just stick with us.
- Rewatchability (RWA): For both Rewatchability and Timelessness, a select group of Ringer superhero experts were asked to fill out a survey containing two questions for each movie that was in consideration. The first question was, “On a scale of 1-10 (1 being ‘absolutely no’ and 10 being ‘absolutely yes’), would you rewatch this movie?” The group’s answers were then averaged to achieve the RWA score.
- Timelessness (RNA): The second question was “On a scale of 1-10 (1 being ‘absolutely yes’ and 10 being ‘absolutely no’), could this movie be improved by being remade?” This question hopes to determine how close to perfection each movie came—the more it could use a remake, the argument goes, the less perfect it is. Like RWA, the group’s answers were then averaged to achieve the RNA score.
After getting those stats, each movie’s numbers were run through the following formula: RT + ABOR + RWA + RNA. Each film was then ranked from highest to lowest score. All of that is to say, the higher the score a superhero movie has, the better it is. So without further ado—I swear we can stop talking about math now—here’s how everything shook out. —Andrew Gruttadaro
- No501994Total Score 125The Crow1994
No superhero film has more built-in lore around it, and deservedly so. The Crow is a wrenching, compelling send-up.
What is The Crow’s most iconic moment? That it even exists at all. Eight days before the movie was set to wrap, its star, Brandon Lee, was accidentally mortally wounded while filming one of the scenes. (He got shot with a gun that was supposed to not have bullets in it. He was taken to the hospital but died hours later.) They rewrote parts of it and then shot the final scenes using a stunt double and CGI. It's honestly incredible to think about.
Who is The Crow’s breakout star? Movie Lore is the movie's breakout star. Consider these things: (1) The Crow is about a man who is murdered and comes back from the dead to avenge his death (and the rape and murder of his fiancée). (2) Brandon Lee was the son of Bruce Lee, who also died while filming a movie. (3) Brandon died shortly before the release of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, which celebrated the life of Bruce Lee and also asserted that Lee was haunted by a demon samurai that was intent on killing him. In the movie, Lee appears to kill the samurai, but when he ended up dying later it was implied that the samurai had not been defeated, and that it eventually killed Lee. When Brandon died, it became a thing where the demon samurai was said to have killed him too (in the movie, the child version of Brandon gets to see the demon samurai fighting his father). The whole thing is wild.No501994No 50The Crow 1994Rotten Tomatoes 82%Box Office $50.7MAdjusted Box Office $83.3MRemake Necessity 5.89Rewatchability 6.25Total Score 125
- No491995Total Score 130Batman Forever1995
Batman Forever is better than at LEAST two-thirds of the Nolan Batman movies.
Who is Batman Forever’s breakout star? The Riddler’s onesie is my most honest answer, but a firm second place is Tommy Lee Jones, who famously hated being there, but who—being a pro—looks like he’s having the time of his life. Whereas comparing Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s Jokers still gives you a satisfying sense of superhero movie weirdness, comparing Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face with Aaron Eckhart’s gives you a sense of what these movies have lost. You can sort of summarize it in one word—camp—but Jones’s performance is almost too begrudgingly off-putting for that. Somehow, it works.
What is Batman Forever’s most iconic moment? Dr. Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) pulling the bat signal to get laid is one the most iconic moments in any superhero movie—period. Let me explain. First: the gall! Like, sis, people are being murdered out here and you’ve essentially done the Gotham City equivalent of dialing 911 to get your rocks off. It’s bold, selfish—and completely fabulous. When’s the last time a superhero movie stopped to remember that superheroes are sex symbols?
Superhero movies are inherently fantasies, yet a sense of shared cultural fantasy is precisely what the product nowadays is missing. Chase Meridian putting on negligee and pulling the bat signal is just a ploy to get Nicole Kidman in a sexy outfit—let’s be honest—but it’s significant because it’s one of the few times someone from the broader public reacted to these men in tights and black rubber with complete honesty.No491995No 49Batman Forever 1995Rotten Tomatoes 41%Box Office $184MAdjusted Box Office $295MRemake Necessity 7.60Rewatchability 5.82Total Score 130
- No482008Total Score 134Hellboy II: The Golden Army2008
Guillermo del Toro still had a franchise to babysit while in the midst of a Pan’s Labyrinth high-fantasy hangover. The result is a weird piece of IP we don’t talk about nearly enough.
What is Hellboy II’s most iconic moment? THERE ARE ELVES!!!!!!!!
How did Hellboy II influence the superhero movies that followed? It didn’t, sadly. Hellboy is getting rebooted once more, and it appears this David Harbour–starring version will hew much closer to the paranormal noir of the first. Del Toro’s pair of Hellboy movies also slightly predate our current, MCU-dominated era of interconnected franchises; as such, it’s both ahead of its time (Del Toro was putting a personal stamp on his blockbuster way before Taika Waititi was) and old-fashioned in its relatively modest ambitions. There’s no way we’d get a hard-left turn into Tolkien-meets-steampunk mythology in one of today’s tightly controlled corporate properties.No482008No 48Hellboy II: The Golden Army 2008Rotten Tomatoes 85%Box Office $76MAdjusted Box Office $87MRemake Necessity 7.22Rewatchability 7.00Total Score 134
- No472013Total Score 134Thor: The Dark World2013
Loki is good.
Who is the breakout star of Dark World? This is pre-Swift Hiddleston at the height of his powers. Remember how much people loved Tom Hiddleston in 2013?
What is Dark World’s most iconic moment? There’s a nice 90-second scene when Loki taunts Thor by turning into Captain America. Most continuity crossovers are dumb, but Chris Evans is handsome, so this works out for everyone.No472013No 47Thor: The Dark World 2013Rotten Tomatoes 66%Box Office $206MAdjusted Box Office $219MRemake Necessity 3.00Rewatchability 4.45Total Score 134
- No462013Total Score 139Man of Steel2013
A reboot mirroring the tone and look of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, what could go wrong?! Welp, just about everything, other than the great visuals and the patented Zack Snyder Lens Flare.
How did Man of Steel influence the superhero movies that followed? In theory, this movie should have helped superhero movies progress by allowing them to be more artistic and visually creative. Instead, it caused DC to pigeonhole itself into this darker tone, which led to the disappointing flop of Batman v Superman.
What is the best random anecdote about Man of Steel? This is an interesting question to answer because the city of “Metropolis” is supposed to be in Delaware, but they used good ol’ Chicago for the practical shots in the film. It’s a fake city meant to look as real as possible. None of that matters, though, because during the final battle scene, the entire city gets destroyed and turned into rubble. Superman essentially caused enough destruction to put a “real” city in decades of debt.No462013No 46Man of Steel 2013Rotten Tomatoes 55%Box Office $291MAdjusted Box Office $309MRemake Necessity 2.80Rewatchability 3.91Total Score 139
- No452011Total Score 142Thor2011
Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are the perfect choices to play Thor and Loki in a movie that’s packed with beautiful visuals. Unfortunately, those are the only highlights.
Who is the breakout star of Thor? While most will cite Hiddleston’s performance as Loki, I believe Hemsworth is the one true answer to this question. Playing Thor catapulted him toward stardom and allowed him to join the Chris Wars.
How did Thor influence the superhero movies that followed? This movie was crucial for the future of the MCU because it allowed the superheroes to go beyond Earth into the many galaxies in the universe. Without Thor, there could be no Guardians of the Galaxy, which became one of Marvel’s biggest, most unexpected hits.No452011No 45Thor 2011Rotten Tomatoes 77%Box Office $181MAdjusted Box Office $199MRemake Necessity 3.80Rewatchability 5.09Total Score 142
- No442019Total Score 143Shazam!2019
Shazam! is another win for the DCEU, eschewing the dark, gritty, doom and gloom the property had become known for in favor of fun. While Billy Batson’s journey is familiar, Shazam! understands what makes these stories work, and uses its own to deliver a surprisingly nice and empathetic message about family.
How did Shazam! influence the superhero movies that followed? It’s another point scored for DC in the IP wars. A 91 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and a $365 million box office return on a budget estimated between $90 and $100 million is exactly what DC execs love to see, and while it’s their most recent film, _Shazam!’_s success is another indicator that the Zack Snyder–y, blue filter–y look and feel of the DCEU is likely a thing of the past.
What is Shazam!’s most iconic moment? Deadpool’s superhero metajokes are becoming increasingly stale, but Shazam! has a good one. In the movie’s climactic battle, hero Billy and bad guy Doctor Sivana (played by a perfectly slimy Mark Strong) float above downtown Philly, preparing for a final showdown. Sivana launches into a well-practiced evil diatribe, but Billy is literally a mile away and can only barely hear mumbles over the sounds of traffic and the bustle of the city. It’s a good bit—and we appreciate good bits—that’s perfectly played by both actors.No442019No 44Shazam! 2019Rotten Tomatoes 91%Box Office $140.4MAdjusted Box Office $140.4MRemake Necessity 4.50Rewatchability 4.00Total Score 143
- No432006Total Score 144X-Men: The Last Stand2006
In the worst film of the original X-Men trilogy, directed by the odious Brett Ratner, an omega-level Jean Grey poses an existential threat to the world. The suckiness of this movie is like a black hole that not even an atom of goodness can escape.
What is the The Last Stand’s most iconic moment? Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, is killed offscreen in the first 30 minutes of the film. It is the audience’s first clue that this film will be well and truly bewilderingly shitty.
What is the best use of a real-life location in The Last Stand? Magneto flexing on the Golden Gate Bridge.No432006No 43X-Men: The Last Stand 2006Rotten Tomatoes 58%Box Office $234MAdjusted Box Office $286MRemake Necessity 7.86Rewatchability 4.70Total Score 144
- No422015Total Score 150Ant-Man2015
It doesn’t make sense that a movie about a human ant starring Paul Rudd would be any good, but it absolutely is.
Who is the breakout star of Ant-Man? Michael Peña, who has a fairly small role in Ant-Man, is fantastic in it. He has no wasted motion, no wasted lines. He has this very Peñaesque energy—this sort of happy-to-be-there, endearingly sweet vibe—that he turns on as soon as he shows up in the movie (when he picks up Rudd from prison and Rudd asks him about his girlfriend and he responds, “Oh, she left me. ... Yeah, my mom died, too. ... And my dad got deported. ... But I got the van!" is so fucking funny) and leans on all the way until the film’s final scene. (A running gag in the movie is that Peña tells way-too-long stories as a way to answer questions, andthe movie ends with Peña doing exactly that.) He's the most memorable part of a memorable movie, which is no small feat.
What is the best use of a real-life location in Ant-Man? There’s a scene at the end of the movie where Ant-Man has to fight the Wasp, and when they fight they’re both the tiny versions of themselves and they end up having this massive, deadly battle on a Thomas the Tank Engine train table in a little girl’s room. It’s smart and fun and funny.No422015No 42Ant-Man 2015Rotten Tomatoes 82%Box Office $180MAdjusted Box Office $183MRemake Necessity 9.22Rewatchability 7.00Total Score 150
- No412012Total Score 151The Amazing Spider-Man2012
The Sony Spider-Mans are sandwiched between a successful 2000s franchise that didn’t need to be rebooted and a successful subsequent franchise-to-be. It’s not that The Amazing Spider-Man won’t be remembered kindly; it’s that it won’t be remembered at all.
What is your tweet-length review of The Amazing Spider-Man? This is not what any of us wanted for Andrew Garfield, including Andrew Garfield.
What is the best random anecdote about The Amazing Spider-Man? It brought together Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, a celebrity couple that was excellent while they lasted and who, after breaking up, have appeared to remain friends like civilized adults.No412012No 41The Amazing Spider-Man 2012Rotten Tomatoes 72%Box Office $262MAdjusted Box Office $282MRemake Necessity 3.30Rewatchability 4.36Total Score 151
- No402011Total Score 151Captain America: The First Avenger2011
Glorious bastard. Perhaps the best Marvel movie, precisely because it feels so different than the rest—a richly colorful, historical fantasy with an earnest heroism that the later superhero movies treat as an anachronism.
Who is the breakout star of The First Avenger? Chris Evans, though he’s now struggling to break out of the very role that made him a star. This was his second shot at playing a superhero (the first being Johnny Storm in Fox’s meh Fantastic Four franchise), and arguably his last shot at being a top-line movie star. Of all the Marvel heroes, Captain America might be the toughest to pull off. It’s a corny, anachronistically wholesome part, at a time when most heroes are either Difficult or self-referential ad-lib machines. Evans pulls it off, but he might be stuck behind the shield: Nothing he’s done outside of the MCU (a series of dramedies, rom-coms, and Snowpiercer) has popped off enough to suggest he can carry his Cap popularity into other projects.
What is The First Avenger’s most iconic movie? I like to imagine the train scene as a prequel to Snowpiercer, but the real answer is the Spielbergian hopefulness of the Camp Lehigh training scenes.No402011No 40Captain America: The First Avenger 2011Rotten Tomatoes 80%Box Office $176MAdjusted Box Office $194MRemake Necessity 8.44Rewatchability 7.45Total Score 151
- No392006Total Score 152Superman Returns2006
Superman Returns is inert, puffed-up, and unnecessary. Fly away.
What about Superman Returns didn’t age well? By desiring to be a classical evocation of the Superman myth that had grown outmoded and ill-fitting, Bryan Singer made a turgid, old-fashioned vanity project. It’s a distortion of Richard Donner’s original vision.
Did Superman Returns transcend its source material? No. It’s meant to be a kind of spiritual successor/continuation of Donner’s first two films in the series, but it is both more polished and less fun than the originals.No392006No 39Superman Returns 2006Rotten Tomatoes 76%Box Office $234MAdjusted Box Office $286MRemake Necessity 5.18Rewatchability 3.91Total Score 152
- No382011Total Score 154X-Men: First Class2011
It’s Inglourious Basterds, but with yellow superhero safety vests. I accept.
Who is the breakout star of First Class? Here’s a list of 2011 movies featuring Michael Fassbender: First Class, Cary Fukunaga’s devastating (in a good way) Jane Eyre, David Cronenberg’s Jung-and-Freud buddy movie A Dangerous Method, and the infamous Shame. Time and/or the film industry has not necessarily borne out the predictions we made at the time, but six years ago, Michael Fassbender was on the cusp of global movie stardom, and X-Men: First Class was the movie that marketed him to the masses. Also, those turtlenecks are immaculate.
What is the best random anecdote about First Class? Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence met on the set of X-Men: First Class, which led to this photograph.No382011No 38X-Men: First Class 2011Rotten Tomatoes 86%Box Office $146MAdjusted Box Office $161MRemake Necessity 9.78Rewatchability 9.09Total Score 154
- No372000Total Score 157X-Men2000
X-Men is a really thrilling all-star ensemble superhero movie that set up a continuing story, back before we realized every movie of the 21st century would be something like this.
What is X-Men’s most iconic moment? I still can’t get over the train station scene—the image of Magneto slowly letting the bullet press against a cop’s forehead was mind-blowing in 2000\. But not only that, it’s another distillation of the movie’s central theme: Magneto’s whole motivation is that he doesn’t want the government to register one class of people as different and necessary to control, because as a Holocaust survivor he’s seen firsthand how badly that can go wrong. Even in the pre-war-on-terror America to which this movie was introduced, I still walked away from it wondering how, exactly, Magneto was the bad guy. In some kinder, more just universe, all our superhero movies would be so critical of the state’s security apparatus.
How did X-Men influence the superhero movies that followed? This was the first modern serialized superhero movie—five years before the Nolan Batman trilogy, eight years before the MCU, 13 years before Zack Snyder’s blue-washed DC hellscape. [Extremely Professor X voice: “Hollywood … what have you done?”]No372000No 37X-Men 2000Rotten Tomatoes 81%Box Office $157MAdjusted Box Office $223MRemake Necessity 6.30Rewatchability 7.40Total Score 157
- No362018Total Score 157Ant-Man and the Wasp2018
Getting viewers to care about a small-stakes superhero film in the footsteps of Infinity War was a near impossible task, but Paul Rudd’s resolute charm and chemistry with Evangeline Lilly in Ant-Man and the Wasp did the trick. Plus, a little Michelle Pfeiffer never hurts.
What is the movie’s most iconic moment? There’s a scene toward the end in which Janet Van Dyne takes over Scott Lang’s body in order to communicate with her long-lost husband and daughter, and it results in Paul Rudd as Scott Lang doing an impression of Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne. It’s a great showcase for what the Ant-Man movies do best, inserting humor into tense, action-packed set pieces without feeling forced or contrived.
Who is the movie’s breakout star, and why? It’s Michael Peña—again! His incoherent, dramatic storytelling from the first movie is translated to the second via a truth serum, and the result is, dare I say, even funnier.No362018No 36Ant-Man and the Wasp 2018Rotten Tomatoes 88%Box Office $217MAdjusted Box Office $217MRemake Necessity 5.40Rewatchability 3.80Total Score 157
- No352018Total Score 159Aquaman2018
For an extremely dumb movie, Aquaman displays a thorough knowledge of what actually works in superhero movies. Instead of giving us an emotional, logical plot, Aquaman is just a main line to the dome of what we actually came to the movies to see: in this case, wild shit.
Did the movie transcend its source material? I have all the respect in the world for everyone ever responsible for creating Aquaman comics and cartoons. That said, I actively blocked his presence whenever I encountered him in the past. His powers, suit, and overall constitution just exuded cheesiness. Aquaman, though, really embraces that shtick—making costumes even wackier, giving creatures more teeth and lasers, adding more heavy guitar beneath slo-mo shots—and makes it into an absolute blast. So to answer the question: yes.
What is the movie’s most iconic moment? One-hundred percent, it’s when our intrepid heroes, Arthur and Mera, emerge, glistening, from the beautiful blue ocean onto a random beach in Africa, in crystal-clear IMAX, looking like Baywatch extras while a hip-hop cover of Toto’s “Africa” by Pitbull blares. It’s a baffling, straight-up wacky moment that against all odds just works—a microcosm of the film as a whole.No352018No 35Aquaman 2018Rotten Tomatoes 64%Box Office $335MAdjusted Box Office $335MRemake Necessity 5.00Rewatchability 6.50Total Score 159
- No342007Total Score 159Spider-Man 32007
So this is how you torpedo a franchise!
What is Spider-Man 3’s most iconic moment? It is without a doubt the scene in the jazz club, when Tobey Maguire inexplicably dances around for two minutes. Put this scene in the Good Bad Hall of Fame.
What is the best random anecdote about Spider-Man 3? Spider-Man 3 coscreenwriter Alvin Sargent considered splitting the film into two separate parts, but the plan fell through because he and director Sam Raimi couldn’t find a “satisfying intermediate climax.” It’s a microcosm of a cluttered movie, so incoherent it killed the franchise for Sony—until Andrew Garfield killed it again and Marvel took over with Tom Holland.No342007No 34Spider-Man 3 2007Rotten Tomatoes 63%Box Office $336MAdjusted Box Office $399MRemake Necessity 2.40Rewatchability 4.09Total Score 159
- No332016Total Score 166Doctor Strange2016
It’s hard to tell which is more disorienting: the trippy (but cool) visuals or Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent.
Who is the breakout star of Doctor Strange? [Chris Ryan voice] PANGBOOOOOOOOOOOOOORN!!!!!!
What about Doctor Strange hasn’t aged well? Technically this news preceded the movie, but whitewashing a Tibetan (sorry, “Celtic”) mystic was never going to be received well.No332016No 33Doctor Strange 2016Rotten Tomatoes 89%Box Office $233MAdjusted Box Office $233MRemake Necessity 6.78Rewatchability 5.00Total Score 166
- No321992Total Score 168Batman Returns1992
The campiest, kinkiest, wildest, and most fun superhero movie ever made about a vigilante, a literal cat burglar, and a politically aspirant penguin-man.
How did this movie influence the superhero movies that followed? Well, radically, but not in the way some of us may have hoped—Batman Returns is so twisted, gothic, bilious, and distrusting of humanity that the producers shifted the tone, stars, and director of the franchise for 1995’s cartoonish Batman Forever. Seriously, this movie was strange. Just look at Danny DeVito’s performance in this scene.
Who is the movie’s breakout star, and why? DeVito is deeply committed to his waddling villain, but Michelle Pfeiffer gives a world-historical performance as Catwoman. It’s the kind of role that we know could be disastrous if handled poorly. But somehow Pfeiffer’s purring, mad-eyed Selina Kyle—killed and killed again by boorish, evil men—still feels like one of the most modern female characters in superhero—hell, all—movie history. She’s not bad, exactly, just drawn that way.No321992No 32Batman Returns 1992Rotten Tomatoes 81%Box Office $163MAdjusted Box Office $283MRemake Necessity 8.50Rewatchability 6.80Total Score 168
- No312005Total Score 169Batman Begins2005
Batman Begins is an admirable start to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, featuring an extremely fun villain (Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow), an elite training montage, and by far the most messed up depiction of the deaths of Bruce Wayne’s parents.
How did Batman Begins influence the superhero movies that followed? Begins is part one of what would become the road map to how you make a superhero movie a massive (and massively profitable) cultural phenomenon. The movie took itself seriously and demanded that its audience treat it as more than just a frivolous comic book adaptation. That shift in perception planted the seeds from which superhero movies grew into this generation’s most definitive genre.
What about Batman Begins didn’t age well? Considering how Katie Holmes was recast immediately after Batman Begins came out, it’s fair to say that her performance as Rachel is a bit humorous to witness now.No312005No 31Batman Begins 2005Rotten Tomatoes 84%Box Office $207MAdjusted Box Office $256MRemake Necessity 8.73Rewatchability 8.00Total Score 169
- No302014Total Score 170X-Men: Days of Future Past2014
If the complexities of time travel wear on you, take heart: Movie-star laden ensembles captivate even when you need to consider causality.
What is Days of Future Past’s most iconic moment? When Wolverine, Quicksilver, and Yung Charles attempt to spring Yung Erik from his plastic prison under the Pentagon, visual bliss ensues, with Quicksilver speeding his way through the impending carnage, rearranging bullets, blades, and body parts—along with the audience’s expectations for what these new character groupings might bring.
What is the best use of a real-life location in Days of Future Past? Magneto’s decision to drop RFK Stadium onto the White House lawn surely plays differently in 2017, as tensions between our current administration and the NFL rise. But if anything, that heightens the impact of a set piece that read as equal parts grand and absurd when the film came out in 2014\. Sometimes, the spectacle of an X-Men film can obscure the fundamental point of the story: that being different is a gift, even if those in power occasionally need help remembering so.No302014No 30X-Men: Days of Future Past 2014Rotten Tomatoes 90%Box Office $234MAdjusted Box Office $244MRemake Necessity 7.78Rewatchability 6.09Total Score 170
- No292018Total Score 170Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse2018
Not only was Into the Spider-Verse forward-thinking in terms of its storytelling, visual style, and approach to representation—it genuinely changed my day for the better. Also: I want those Jordans.
What is the movie’s most iconic moment? It’s a toss-up between the introduction of Miles Morales (whose first order of business is singing Swae Lee’s verse on “Sunflower” badly) and the scene where his Uncle Aaron teaches him how to holler at Gwen Stacy, who Miles doesn’t yet know is Gwen Stacy. Taken together—I mean, along with other stuff, like his untied shoes being a conscious choice—they render Spider-Man more relatable and human than he’s ever been.
Who is the movie’s breakout star, and why? Shameik Moore as Miles is phenomenal, but Jake Johnson as Sweatpants Spider-Man is transcendent. His turn as “third-choice, tragicomic father figure” is Bill Murray–like. I laughed so hard my head hurt a little.No292018No 29Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2018Rotten Tomatoes 97%Box Office $190MAdjusted Box Office $190MRemake Necessity 10.0Rewatchability 10.0Total Score 170
- No281981Total Score 170Superman II1981
“Is there no one on this planet to even challenge me?” The imperious utterance of Terence Stamp’s General Zod, and also Warner Bros. upon release.
What is the Superman II’s most iconic moment? “Kneel before Zod!”
What is the best random anecdote about this movie? The version of this film that you’ll find now in the iTunes store and elsewhere is labeled “The Richard Donner Cut” and has emerged as the commonly accepted version of the movie over credited director Richard Lester’s theatrical cut. Donner’s footage was discovered, re-edited, and the movie’s story significantly altered in the new version, which was released in 2006 hooked to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. Donner initially set out to film both Superman films in succession, but was forced to postpone completing II to finish the first movie. When filming resumed on the sequel, Donner was replaced over a disagreement about Marlon Brando’s role. Lester came in to finish the job, several of Donner’s colleagues left in protest, and one of the most valuable movie properties of all time was nearly scuttled. The Donner–Christopher Reeve iteration of the Superman franchise never recovered; episodes III and IV were considerably less successful sequels.No281981No 28Superman II 1981Rotten Tomatoes 87%Box Office $108MAdjusted Box Office $290MRemake Necessity 4.00Rewatchability 4.33Total Score 170
- No262010Total Score 172Iron Man 22010
Iron Man is at his best when he’s the most fun—i.e., either at a playboy peak like in the first movie or cowritten by Shane Black, like in the third. This is neither, but it’s fine.
What about Iron Man 2 didn’t age well? Mickey Rourke’s Russian accent. Another thing that didn’t age well: Mickey Rourke’s post–The Wrestler heat check in general.
What is Iron Man 2’s most iconic moment? Ivan Vanko sawing Tony Stark’s car in half at the Monaco Grand Prix.
For all this movie’s other faults, I have to respect any film that puts a big action set piece at the Monaco Grand Prix; that’s some high-class sports.No262010No 26Iron Man 2 2010Rotten Tomatoes 73%Box Office $312MAdjusted Box Office $353MRemake Necessity 8.00Rewatchability 5.64Total Score 172
- No252018Total Score 172Deadpool 22018
More Ryan Reynolds! More meta-jokes! More low-rent X-Men characters! This time with Josh Brolin in his second-highest-profile supervillain role of 2018!
What is the movie’s most iconic moment? The assembly, and immediate destruction, of X-Force—a pitch-perfect, subversive, distinctly Deadpool-esque joke highlighted by the electrocution of Vanisher, which left viewers wondering, “Holy shit, was that really Brad Pitt?”
Who is the movie’s breakout star, and why? Though she had already technically broken out on Atlanta, Zazie Beetz delivered a performance as Domino in Deadpool 2 that confirmed a creeping suspicion that the actress ought to be cast in literally everything.No252018No 25Deadpool 2 2018Rotten Tomatoes 83%Box Office $325MAdjusted Box Office $325MRemake Necessity 4.80Rewatchability 5.20Total Score 172
- No242017Total Score 174Logan2017
Maybe you think it’s weird to describe a movie with this many eviscerations as the ultimate act of fan service, but in that case you really haven’t read enough Wolverine comics.
What is the most iconic moment in Logan? The first time we see Laura with her claws out, and the entire El Paso escape scene.
Who is the breakout star of Logan? My head says Dafne Keen, but my heart says NARCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOS! Your mileage may vary on Boyd Holbrook hamming it up as Donald Pierce, but I am driving a Prius for him.No242017No 24Logan 2017Rotten Tomatoes 93%Box Office $226MAdjusted Box Office $226MRemake Necessity 9.10Rewatchability 9.27Total Score 174
- No232019Total Score 176Captain Marvel2019
Captain Marvel gave us a ripped Brie Larson, alien Ben Mendelsohn, evil Jude Law, and a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson, yet all anyone remembers is that damn cat. (Yes, I know it’s technically a Flerken. Whatever.)
What is Captain Marvel’s most iconic moment? In the emotional climax of the film, Carol Danvers flashes back through her previously repressed memories in order to unlock the full extent of her power. It’s the sequence that was in every trailer—she gets back up from a beatdown as a child, teenager, Air Force cadet, and so on—but if you didn’t feel something during that montage, I have nothing to say to you.
Who is the breakout star of Captain Marvel? With respect to Goose the Flerken, this movie took Brie Larson from quirky Oscar winner to quirky blockbuster movie star—not to mention upgrading her to relatable it-girl status offscreen, to boot. Her performance as Captain Marvel may not be winning any awards, but that video of her pushing a Jeep really should.No232019No 23Captain Marvel 2019Rotten Tomatoes 78%Box Office $427MAdjusted Box Office $427MRemake Necessity 2.25Rewatchability 2.50Total Score 176
- No222014Total Score 176Captain America: The Winter Soldier2014
Chris Evans is perfectly fine in The First Avenger, but The Winter Soldier cemented him as a top superhero. His Steve Rogers is an unabashedly wholesome hero, convinced he can get through to his best friend from the 1940s by means of bromantic anecdotes and take down an entire Hydra operation that festered within S.H.I.E.L.D.
What is your tweet-length review of The Winter Soldier? Will Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes just make out already?
What is the most iconic moment in The Winter Soldier? The MCU isn’t particularly praised for its fight scenes, but the DC showdown between Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) might be Marvel’s finest on the big screen. There’s no pontificating from the villain—it’s just a killing machine deftly and ruthlessly trying to take out Black Widow and Rogers with every weapon in his arsenal (AK-47, machine gun, pistol, grenades, knives, that insanely badass metal arm), as both heroes desperately try to survive. Watch it again, it’s the best three minutes you’ll spend today.No222014No 22Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014Rotten Tomatoes 89%Box Office $260MAdjusted Box Office $271MRemake Necessity 9.33Rewatchability 7.70Total Score 176
- No212015Total Score 180Avengers: Age of Ultron2015
The MCU’s first gigantic misfire, Age of Ultron is a mess of a movie with too many characters and not enough emotional thrust (or coherence). It did make a boatload of money, though.
What is Age of Ultron’s best use of a real-life location? This movie is noteworthy for being a total overreaction to those who criticized the first Avengers for featuring too much collateral damage to real-life cities. Therefore, Ultron’s climactic set piece takes place in the made-up city of Sokovia—and the movie goes to great lengths to make it clear that no innocent bystanders have perished due to the Avengers. Yay, everyone’s happy!
What is the best random anecdote about Age of Ultron? Director Joss Whedon planned on including both Spider-Man and Captain Marvel in this movie, but Marvel Studios hadn’t yet made a deal with Sony for the rights to Spidey, and Brie Larson hadn’t yet been cast as Captain Marvel. Honestly though, it’s probably for the better that business dealings robbed Age of Ultron of two more superheroes.No212015No 21Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015Rotten Tomatoes 75%Box Office $459MAdjusted Box Office $467MRemake Necessity 5.11Rewatchability 5.18Total Score 180
- No202017Total Score 183Thor: Ragnarok2017
If you didn’t like the first two Thor movies, fear not: Ragnarok is not those.
Who is the breakout star of Ragnarok? Chris Hemsworth. Don’t get me wrong, he makes the God of Thunder quite likable in previous Marvel movies, they just don’t give him a lot to do. Ragnarok unburdens Hemsworth from Thor’s flowing locks, Shakespearean undertones, and his precious hammer, and lets the actor coast on his comedic talents—which, if you watched Ghostbusters, you already knew he had.
What is the best random anecdote about Ragnarok? Arguably the best line from Ragnarok comes when Thor discovers that his opponent in Sakaar’s gladiator battle is the Hulk and can’t contain his excitement: “We know each other! He’s a friend from work!” According to Chris Hemsworth, the line was suggested by a kid visiting the set as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That’s incredible.No202017No 20Thor: Ragnarok 2017Rotten Tomatoes 93%Box Office $315MAdjusted Box Office $315MRemake Necessity 4.88Rewatchability 7.50Total Score 183
- No192017Total Score 186Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 22017
All the banter and ’70s cues of the first movie—now with more CGI and Kurt Russell.
Did Guardians Vol. 2 transcend its source material? It's hard to improve on a surprise breakout hit, but Vol. 2 guided Guardians from scrappy underdog to mega-franchise smoothly enough.
Who is the breakout star of Guardians Vol. 2? The best part of a sequel is its franchise doubling down on what worked. James Gunn realized what he had in Dave Bautista and amped up the tone-deaf, extremely literal one-liners accordingly; Bautista is incredible in Vol. 2.No192017No 19Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 2017Rotten Tomatoes 82%Box Office $389MAdjusted Box Office $389MRemake Necessity 8.33Rewatchability 6.82Total Score 186
- No181989Total Score 186Batman1989
Batman is the only superhero movie worthy of its own Prince album.
Did Batman transcend its source material? I don’t know about “transcend,” but what the movie did is translate comic book iconography into something strange, gothic, and distinctly cinematic. (Remember when Tim Burton was great?) In the grand scheme of all the Batman movies, this is the one that walks the finest balance between seriousness and camp, straightforward thrills and the inherent silliness of the entire endeavor. Very few superhero movies can say the same.
What is the most iconic moment in Batman? I mean, it has to be the museum scene, right?No181989No 18Batman 1989Rotten Tomatoes 72%Box Office $251MAdjusted Box Office $493MRemake Necessity 8.80Rewatchability 7.50Total Score 186
- No172016Total Score 187Deadpool2016
We finally figured out what to do with Ryan Reynolds.
How did Deadpool influence the superhero movies that followed? Mostly, Deadpool seemed to make it OK for superhero movies to be darkly funny, and if not that then at least raunchy. (There was a whole thing after Deadpool came out and was very successful about how they were reshooting parts of Suicide Squad to make it more like Deadpool.) (David Ayer, Suicide Squad’s director, said the rumors were false, which, he must’ve been telling the truth because Suicide Squad wasn't nearly as funny or as good as Deadpool.)
Who is the breakout star of Deadpool? This is going to sound strange, given that he was billed as the movie's star so how could he even be considered for the Breakout Star vote, but the movie’s breakout star was Ryan Reynolds, who, prior to Deadpool, was never a fit in action movies. He was always good (or serviceable, probably) when he could lean solely on his quips (Waiting... remains his best-ever work in that capacity). And he even showed glimpses of actual great acting in movies, too (his final scene in Smokin’ Aces where he breaks down while he kills the guy in the hospital bed is honestly moving; and he's fantastic in all of Buried). And he was strong in romantic comedies (The Proposal is fun, and Just Friends is even more fun). But he had his feet swept out from under him in each of his action movies prior to Deadpool. He wasn't allowed to be funny in Safe House, or allowed to be cool in R.I.P.D., or allowed to be anything more than a shirtless torso in Blade: Trinity. But in Deadpool, he gets to be all of those things, all at once, in a role pitched exactly for him. He was great. It was great.No172016No 17Deadpool 2016Rotten Tomatoes 84%Box Office $363MAdjusted Box Office $363MRemake Necessity 9.50Rewatchability 7.36Total Score 187
- No162013Total Score 187Iron Man 32013
The movie where all the Iron Mans fight each other!
How did Iron Man 3 influence the superhero movies that followed? It establishes the MCU’s Third Movie Rule, which holds as follows: the third movie in a series (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America) will always be better than the second movie in the series. This usually has more to do with the poor quality of the second film than the remarkable quality of the third, but let’s go with it.
Who is the breakout star of Iron Man 3? Gwyneth Paltrow saves the day!No162013No 16Iron Man 3 2013Rotten Tomatoes 79%Box Office $409MAdjusted Box Office $434MRemake Necessity 7.56Rewatchability 6.91Total Score 187
- No152019Total Score 189Spider-Man: Far From Home2019
Far From Home doubles down on the unmatched charisma of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and takes it abroad. But most importantly, it brings Jake Frickin’ Gyllenhaal into the MCU as Mysterio, one of the most fully realized villains the franchise has ever seen—with one of the highest degrees of difficulty to boot, but one that the movie clears nonetheless.
What is Far From Home’s best use of a real-life location? The climax of the movie turns London into its playground, as Spider-Man and Mysterio wage battle around and in the Tower Bridge while drones hunt down Peter Parker’s friends inside the Tower of London. It’s spectacle—and tourist porn—at its best.
What about Far From Home didn’t age well? By no fault of its own, Far From Home will forever be remembered as the last time Spider-Man crossed over with the MCU (this version of it, anyway). Less than two months after the film’s premiere, Sony and Disney were unable to strike a new deal, officially separating Spidey from the franchise he’d so recently and triumphantly been integrated into. So, even though Far From Home came out in 2019, it’s already an artifact of a different time.No152019No 15Spider-Man: Far From Home 2019Rotten Tomatoes 90%Box Office $373MAdjusted Box Office $373MRemake Necessity 4.20Rewatchability 7.00Total Score 189
- No142017Total Score 191Spider-Man: Homecoming2017
After two completely unnecessary Spider-Man reboots, Homecoming had its work cut out for it. Fortunately, it’s a bright, easygoing origin story with an age-appropriate Peter Parker, a handful of incredible supporting characters—from Zendaya to Donald Glover to Hannibal Buress—and a genuinely stunning twist.
How did Homecoming influence the superhero movies that followed? Homecoming was just released last summer, so we’re yet to see this bear fruit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie’s breezy attitude, casting strategy, and targeting of more youthful audiences became a larger trend in the superhero genre.
Who is the breakout star of Homecoming? I mean, duh, obviously Tom Holland, a young actor with twice as much charisma as the previous two Peter Parkers—Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield—combined.No142017No 14Spider-Man: Homecoming 2017Rotten Tomatoes 92%Box Office $333MAdjusted Box Office $333MRemake Necessity 9.30Rewatchability 7.45Total Score 191
- No132014Total Score 192Guardians of the Galaxy2014
The heroes may not be as familiar, but the classic rock sure is, and the Skittles-bright palette and crackling banter will suck you in.
Who is the breakout star of Guardians? Chris Pratt’s abs are certainly in the running, but no one and nothing can compare to Groot, the catchphrase- and branch-slinging tree-being who stole something far more valuable than an infinity stone: our hearts.
How did Guardians influence the superhero movies that followed? Guardians taught us a lot—namely about the nostalgic value of a novelty Walkman, but also that superhero blockbusters can be fun. This film, which featured a dance off in the middle of its climax, essentially cast the“Why So Serious” meme over the entire genre, reminding audiences and filmmakers alike that comic book adaptations don’t always have to be drab to be dope.No132014No 13Guardians of the Galaxy 2014Rotten Tomatoes 91%Box Office $333MAdjusted Box Office $348MRemake Necessity 9.56Rewatchability 7.55Total Score 192
- No122012Total Score 193The Dark Knight Rises2012
Me, hoarse: There are always people you care about, you just don’t realize how much until they’re gone. The idea was to be a symbol.
Starbucks barista: Sir, you have to buy something or leave.
Who is the breakout star of The Dark Knight Rises? Ben Mendelsohn for officially cornering the market on flustered and vaguely villainous middle managers. Shouts to Director Krennic.
What is the most The Dark Knight Rises’ most iconic moment? A good answer here is “any scene in which Tom Hardy does the moleman talk thing,” but the correct has to be the first fight with Batman in the sewers.No122012No 12The Dark Knight Rises 2012Rotten Tomatoes 87%Box Office $448MAdjusted Box Office $482MRemake Necessity 3.40Rewatchability 6.91Total Score 193
- No112016Total Score 196Captain America: Civil War2016
Civil War is probably the best Captain America movie there is, and probably the best Iron Man movie there is, too.
What about Civil War hasn’t aged well? The central conflict in Civil War is that the government wants to create the Sokovia Accords, which is essentially a government-run oversight committee that the world’s superheroes would have to answer to. It’s almost a registry of sorts, and so, if you squint enough, you can draw a parallel between that and between the travel ban that President Donald Trump tried to institute. (This might mean that this part of the movie actually aged the best, not the worst. I’m not so sure.)
What is the most iconic moment in Civil War? No question: the mega superhero fight that happens on the tarmac at an airport after Captain America (who is anti–superhero regulation) and Iron Man (who, surprisingly, is pro–superhero regulation) have recruited the other superheroes to their respective sides. It’s of course great to watch Black Panther and Winter Soldier and War Machine and Spider-Man and Vision all fight each other, but what really makes the scene special is that they douse it with just enough tiny tricks and jabs that it never feels like anything more than sibling rivalry. (Contrast that with, say, Batman v Superman where Batman literally rips a guy’s face off with a Batmobile tire.) My favorite part is when Hawkeye uses an arrow to get tiny Ant-Man into Iron Man’s suit, except Ant-Man is fairly new to the superhero world and so he doesn’t know Hawkeye’s name, so he calls him “Arrow Guy.”No112016No 11Captain America: Civil War 2016Rotten Tomatoes 90%Box Office $408MAdjusted Box Office $408MRemake Necessity 7.78Rewatchability 7.55Total Score 196
- No102008Total Score 197Iron Man2008
Marvel’s Book of Genesis is actually a self-effacing, self-aware surprise: a burnout actor becomes a movie star, and a guy in a metal suit becomes the brightest star in a galaxy of heroes.
How did Iron Man influence the superhero movies that followed? There’s a great Warren Beatty quote from back when he was making Reds. His editor and producer, Dede Allen, complimented his performance, and the director-star said, “Dede, this is not Warren Beatty as John Reed, this is John Reed as Warren Beatty. That’s what being a movie star is.” In 2008, we found out that Robert Downey Jr. is a movie star.
Up to that point, being a superhero had a certain stink to it. Best-case scenario, an actor did such a good job they were associated with the role for the rest of their lives (Christopher Reeve), which also had its downsides. Worst case, if the movie or performance was a failure, it could threaten to derail their careers (Val Kilmer, George Clooney). Downey showed that actors needn’t be intimidated by playing a superhero, that they could use it as a source of industrial power. No one wants to be locked into the same role for more than a decade, but Downey turned the success of Iron Man into a career opportunity: He became the shadow creative director of the Marvel Universe, tutoring and mentoring his younger costars, and making his wise-cracking, meta persona a de facto house acting style for the proceeding movies.
What about Iron Man didn’t age well? It’s dope how everything was cool and nothing mattered in 2008\. Would a movie about a playboy arms dealer who got rich off of the War on Terror even get past the pitch process at this point?No102008No 10Iron Man 2008Rotten Tomatoes 94%Box Office $318MAdjusted Box Office $364MRemake Necessity 8.56Rewatchability 7.82Total Score 197
- No92018Total Score 198Avengers: Infinity War2018
Apparently, the most ambitious crossover event in history is the Marvel Cinematic Universe and … The Leftovers?!
What is Infinity War’s most iconic moment? The ending—for better or worse. You probably heard at least one exasperated moviegoer say some variance of “what the fuck?” at the end of Infinity War, when Thanos successfully wiped out half of the universe’s populus—and the Avengers—with the snap of his fingers. It’s unforgettable, but also plausibly reversible for the movie’s 2019 sequel, stripping away the moment’s emotional weight and narrative stakes. At least it’s provided us with good memes, though.
Who is the breakout star of Infinity War? Thanos, who, despite being hyped to death ever since The Avengers’ post-credits scene in 2012 and physically resembling both Barney the Dinosaur and Guy Fieri, lived up to the billing as one of the MCU’s most compelling villains ever.No92018No 9Avengers: Infinity War 2018Rotten Tomatoes 84%Box Office $679MAdjusted Box Office $679MRemake Necessity 3.33Rewatchability 8.0Total Score 198
- No82017Total Score 201Wonder Woman2017
God bless Patty Jenkins.
What is the most iconic moment in Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman finally storming the World War I battlefield is electric; every single scene involving the screwball Chris Pine–Gal Gadot banter is delightful. But the first 20 minutes, set on the magical, Mediterranean-inspired, man-free island of Themyscira, are probably the decade’s greatest challenge to what a superhero movie can or should be. Robin Wright gets it.
Who is the breakout star of Wonder Woman? Gal Gadot is plain dazzling; give her 800 more movies worthy of her charm. (And stop making her be in Justice League.)No82017No 8Wonder Woman 2017Rotten Tomatoes 92%Box Office $412MAdjusted Box Office $412MRemake Necessity 8.60Rewatchability 8.00Total Score 201
- No72004Total Score 201Spider-Man 22004
In a very good movie, James Franco frowns, and Alfred Molina destroys things with his robot arms.
Who is the breakout star of Spider-Man 2? Your man James Franco. Spider-Man 2 is around the inflection point of Franco’s asymptotic rise to stardom, where he’s not only a pretty face, but also a pretty decent actor. So after nailing Spider-Man 2, he does the vapid Annapolis and Tristan + Isolde, but also eventually slides into the prestigious films Milk and 127 Hours.
What is the best random anecdote about Spider-Man 2? The soundtrack was nailed to Dashboard Confessional’s “Vindicated,” which I think warrants some discussion. First of all, what a time, when a plucky South Florida emo outfit could headline the soundtrack to a major summer blockbuster. Second, and I think this gets lost in the larger Dashboard conversation, “Vindicated” bangs. Anyone born between 1985 and 1992 who says they haven’t cry-shouted the chorus at a kegger is either soulless, a liar, or both.No72004No 7Spider-Man 2 2004Rotten Tomatoes 94%Box Office $373MAdjusted Box Office $483MRemake Necessity 4.50Rewatchability 5.91Total Score 201
- No62002Total Score 205Spider-Man2002
[in tune] Spider-Man, Spider-Man / Does whatever current Marvel can’t …
What is the best use of a real-life location in Spider-Man? This movie came out in May 2002\. The summer before, Sony had started running a teaser trailer in which Spider-Man catches a group of bank robbers by spinning a giant web between the Twin Towers. After 9/11, the studio scrambled to pull the trailer and digitally erase the towers from the actual movie. I can’t speak for anyone living beyond the New York metro area at that time, but for me, despite all of this, Spider-Man still played like a soaring, heroic tribute to the city we all needed. And digitally scrubbed skyline or no, I was grateful for it.
What is the best random anecdote about Spider-Man? This question is probably asking for, like, stories from the set or whatever, but I’m going to get personal: My first kiss was the “Spider-Man kiss,” and it was exceptionally stupid.
It was only a year or two before most reasonable people realized that the Spider-Man kiss was completely unfeasible and utterly lacking in romance, but anyway, four years later, there I was, with one of us sitting on a park bench and the other on the ground. Guy on the park bench was craning down really stupidly to mime being upside down, guy on the ground (me) was craning upward, yadda yadda yadda. I basically had to go full-blown Exorcist, contorting my neck to make it work. I can’t say I enjoyed it. I mean: If you’re not Spider-Man, what excuse do you have for hanging upside down like that? And who attempts superhero acrobatics for their first kiss? The whole thing was a scam.No62002No 6Spider-Man 2002Rotten Tomatoes 89%Box Office $403MAdjusted Box Office $550MRemake Necessity 8.91Rewatchability 7.27Total Score 205
- No51978Total Score 206Superman1978
It’s odd to think of a superhero movie as a light and deft piece of filmmaking. But before Sokovia crumbled like a cookie, before Heinz Field fell, before every Avenger punched each other in the face, Richard Donner’s Superman made heroism look simple.
How did Superman influence the superhero movies that followed? In many ways it didn’t, because it took nearly 25 years for a film to attempt its combination of romance, humor, and gee-willikers superpowers. Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man harkened back to the wide-eyed, hopeful approach Donner took—but just three years later, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins came along and reset the standard.
What about Superman didn’t age well? Well, we’ve come a long way in visual flying technology.No51978No 5Superman 1978Rotten Tomatoes 93%Box Office $134MAdjusted Box Office $502MRemake Necessity 8.80Rewatchability 5.67Total Score 206
- No42012Total Score 210The Avengers2012
Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk join forces to make the world safe for shared-universe IP.
Who is the breakout star of The Avengers? Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk. He gets the best line, his character arc is the emotional center of the movie, he gets the best fight scene (versus Thor on the Helicarrier), and he gets to finish off Loki.
How did The Avengers influence the superhero movies that followed? Once upon a time, the members of the Avengers were considered the B- and C-team of Marvel Comics, then dominated by the X-Men franchise. In 2008, Zack Snyder said, “The Marvel universe has gone nuts; we’re going to have a fricking Captain America movie if we’re not careful. Thor, too! We’re on our second Hulk movie. And Iron Man—$300 million domestic box office on a second-tier superhero!” As easy as it is to drag Snyder for these comments, the fact is, he wasn’t wrong. At the time, Marvel’s most popular and culturally relevant franchise was the X-Men, as it had been since the 1970s and the revolutionary run of writer Chris Claremont.
The Avengers’ rollicking chemistry and set-piece action scenes, and, of course, its $1.5 billion international box office take, changed the paradigm. Setting up the big-crossover team movie years in advance is now the norm. Post-credit stingers, which the MCU pioneered, are now the standard method for teasing the next film in the IP. And superheros now rule the box office.No42012No 4The Avengers 2012Rotten Tomatoes 92%Box Office $623MAdjusted Box Office $671MRemake Necessity 8.30Rewatchability 7.36Total Score 210
- No32019Total Score 212Avengers: Endgame2019
Eleven years, three phases, 21 movies—it all led to this. The epic conclusion to the Infinity War saga united nearly every MCU character on one screen, made a record-setting amount of money, and, despite its massive scale, never lost the ability to tell a coherent, breezy, enjoyable story. It’s the biggest, most impressive flex in superhero movie history.
What is Endgame’s most iconic moment? The climactic battle, in which the universe ripped open and every Marvel character walked through portals to join the core Avengers in the fight against Thanos. Have you ever heard a theater erupt so loudly?
What is the best random anecdote about Endgame? Gwyneth Paltrow had no idea who she was making this movie with.No32019No 3Avengers: Endgame 2019Rotten Tomatoes 94%Box Office $858MAdjusted Box Office $858MRemake Necessity 5.67Rewatchability 7.50Total Score 212
- No22018Total Score 213Black Panther2018
Listen, the best way I can describe Black Panther is by making you listen to this song.
What is Black Panther’s most iconic moment? There are many: Okoye using her wig as a weapon; Michael B. Jordan’s menacing and accidentally sultry “Hey, auntie”; literally everything that Shuri says, even her dated “What Are Thoooooose?” joke. But the most iconic moment is by far M’Baku barking Everett Ross into submission in the Jabari throne room.
What about Black Panther didn’t age well? The final fight scene on the train track between Killmonger and T’Challa, for two reasons. First, there’s nothing all that special about it. What I desperately wanted, at some point, was a tracking shot fight à la the one in Creed, which would’ve been groundbreaking—though I concede that desire was greedy and unreasonable for a superhero film involving this much CGI. Second, it was so much less climactic than the final fight scenes in Civil War and Winter Soldier, which I guess is what happens when you go with tricking—which is something like an amalgam of free-running and capoeira—instead of MMA for fight choreography.No22018No 2Black Panther 2018Rotten Tomatoes 96%Box Office $700MAdjusted Box Office $700MRemake Necessity 3.40Rewatchability 9.60Total Score 213
- No12008Total Score 214The Dark Knight2008
Heat with capes; the best superhero movie ever made because it’s not a superhero movie. Nolan used Batman as a Trojan horse to bring an epic, urban crime drama into the multiplex. It also helps that it features the single best performance found in any superhero movie.
How did The Dark Knight influence the superhero movies that followed? The Dark Knight showed that there was a huge audience for a serious superhero film that explored the shades of gray between good and evil. Unfortunately, many of the films since have gambled away that interest by mistaking dreariness for seriousness. Also, way too many superhero movies feel like the third act of The Dark Knight and not the first.
Who is the breakout star of The Dark Knight? Heath Ledger’s performance has actually become underrated, despite the posthumous Oscar. Rewatching it, he transcends villainy. His Joker has more in common with Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange or Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy than it does Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman. Ledger gives a hall of fame Fractured Outsider performance.
What is the most iconic moment of The Dark Knight? Action-wise, it’s the bank heist or the truck flip or the hospital explosion or the money fire. … Man, this movie is good. The real answer, though, is Ledger’s meeting with the mob bosses—one of the great “what is happening here?” moments in recent movie history.No12008No 1The Dark Knight 2008Rotten Tomatoes 94%Box Office $535MAdjusted Box Office $612MRemake Necessity 9.73Rewatchability 9.27Total Score 214
*Please note that this is a ranking of the Chrises’ performances as superheroes only. To see a more thorough assessment of the Chris Wars, click here.
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