I had recently remarked that Avengers Infinity War was almost but not quite my new number one superhero film. Which naturally provoked the question of, what are my top five superhero movies?
This arbitrary list is made up of the superhero films that I feel, "moved things to the next level." Perhaps not the biggest money makers of all time but they set the bar for various reasons.
And lets get this one out of the way now. No. I did not include Tim Burton's Batman on the grounds that it was not a Batman film or a superhero film, it was a Tim Burton film. Far from moving things to the next level it ended up retarding the entire genre for a decade.
I will start with my number one
1, The Dark Knight (2008)
This one is still the reigning champ. It was easily the best movie of 2008 and of course it didn't even get nominated, which is par for the course with the Academy. Heath Ledger did get a well deserved Oscar nod for his portrayal of Joker but he literally had to die to get it.
Regardless, this film remains the summit that all other superhero films must surpass if they want to be number one.
The characters and their motivations were established in Batman Begins, this picture was where Batman's story really begins. Bruce Wayne goes through genuine loss and suffering on his hunt for a prey that enjoys being hunted and won't be defeated by a mere physical beat down from the Dark Knight.
2. Avengers Infinity War
This one came close to beating out Dark Knight but it had one major stumbling block. When Rachal Dawes dies in Dark Knight you absolutely know for certain that she is staying dead. There will be no walking that one back.
Where as you also know damn good and well that all of the of the Marvel heroes, probably to include Loki will rise from the dead at the end of the next movie.
Not a happy film to be certain but a good one none the less and a proper send off for Hugh Jackman's iteration. Sure Wolverine is going to be back but it will never be Jackman playing him again.
4. X-Men (2000)
This is the one that in my opinion started the superhero cycle in earnest. After the disaster of the Batman cycle in the 1990s superheroes were either comic camp (Batman and Robin) or supernatural monsters (Blade, Spawn).
The X-Men were actually heroic heroes with super villains for opponents. But they were well structured villains. It was hard not to sympathize with Magento. You could get where he was coming from.
But here's the thing. This movie did set the bar and set it pretty high. It created the standard for all of the superhero movies that followed it.
5. Superman (1978)
This was genesis. The first superhero movie (do not even consider mentioning Batman (1966). I admit freely that it hasn't aged well but it is still pretty watchable. It was the first movie to approach the subject matter in a (more or less) serious manner. Superman was made as an epic and it worked as one. John Williams scores has stood the test of time.
The let down was the enemy. Lex Luthor was too catoonish as a villain to take seriously, however, it should be noted that Zod was always meant to be the main villain and that Superman I and II were originally meant to be one film. It decided by the producers to make it two films and then they removed Richard Donner for that hack Lester in mid production of Superman II. There is now a "Richard Donner Cut" available which I have not seen.
Regardless. Little Cataline never quite believed a man could fly but he almost could. Christopher Reeve remains the Superman gold standard. His portrayal is still the one that everyone knows is the best Man of Steel.