Big budgets, big-name casts, and big action – there’s no denying that we’re in the golden age of superhero movies. So, in celebration of that, we pay tribute to the best movies out there that gave our spandexed and superpowered idols their moments on the big-screen.
The Dark Knight (2008)
There’s no denying that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was a triumph and genre-defining leap for superhero movies. While all three films were impressive entries unto their own, the second movie, The Dark Knight, still stands as the pinnacle of the franchise.
The theme of chaos and how to deal with pure evil is explored excellently thanks to captivating performances from Heath Ledger as the Joker and Christian Bale as Batman / Bruce Wayne. The action sequences are undeniably satisfying, but it’s the more subtle moments of characterisation (such as the incredible interrogation scene) that make The Dark Knight a brilliant piece of filmmaking.
Man of Steel (2013)
While Warner Bros. had some great success with a grittier reboot of Batman with the Dark Knight trilogy, no one was sure that they could recreate that feel with DC’s most popular and colourful character, Superman.
But with a team including producer Christopher Nolan, writer David S. Goyer, and director Zack Snyder, this Kal-El origin story successfully balances compelling character drama with exhilarating action never seen before in a Superman film. The film does a great job at showcasing Clark’s inner turmoil as he struggles with being a child of two worlds and prepares for his destiny of being a savior of the people.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
While Spider-Man is to be rebooted yet again via Marvel’s own in-house creatives into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s not to say that everyone’s favourite webhead didn’t have his moments on the big-screen. There’s no question that the second of Sam Raimi’s films, released in 2004, was the sweet spot. Raimi’s love of the character shines through brightest in Spider-Man 2, with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst keeping the story grounded, while in Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus produced a frightening yet complex villain. Some of Spidey’s best action sequences and developmental moments out of the mask exist within Spider-Man 2.
The Avengers (2012)
Of course, the ultimate superhero mash-up movie has to make the list. When Joss Whedon announced that he would direct an Avengers film, no one believed it would even happen, let alone be any good. Whedon proved everyone wrong and produced a film that gave each unique hero a significant role, pushed the Marvel Cinematic Universe to new heights, and delivered a magical movie moment by putting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes all together on the big screen for the first time. Funny, action-packed, and memorable for decades to come.
In retrospect, the first X-Men film is an incredible feat. It took one of the biggest and most fantastical comic-book teams to the big-screen in an age when comic-book and superhero movies were dead letter in Hollywood. Director Bryan Singer took a massive chance and threw together an undervalued cast who clicked together excellently for a campy, yet entertaining movie experience.
Iron Man (2008)
No one expected the first foray from Marvel into the world of filmmaking to be as good as it was. Iron Man was the film and character who would ignite some big things to come. Great CGI, an admirable origin story, and Robert Downey Jr.’s undeniable charm made Iron Man a smash-hit and forged the tone of what was to come from Marvel going forward.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Arguably the most bizarre and unlikely comic-book to get a film adaptation was Guardians of the Galaxy, but given the success of The Avengers, Marvel had the scope and vision to take some risks. Director James Gunn brought the misfit band of intergalactic heroes with great casting and breathtaking CGI, not to mention a hilarious tone that underpins the entire film. Guardians of the Galaxy also cemented Chris Pratt as a leading man, who acts as the heart of the film alongside some lovable and impudent supporting characters.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
The second Hellboy is even better than the first, and the reasons are simple: Guillermo del Toro looked at the first Hellboy and gave us more of what made it great and less of what didn’t. Hellboy’s rough charm, along with some more steampunk gadgets and supernatural locales made the sequel a great step-up. It also didn’t hurt at all that Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and Jeffrey Tambor have a electric amount of chemistry together.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War‘s premise explores the difficulties in coming to terms with doing what’s right, rather than what’s best. But beneath the ideological dichotomy, is a film that looks at how past actions can have dire consequences on the present – creating demons, both figurative and literal. With Civil War, directors Anthony and Joe Russo managed to raise the bar of what to expect from a Marvel superhero film (which was already pretty high), crafting something that is as thought-provoking as it is explosively entertaining to watch. It’s no easy task to put together something with such a large cast and massive scope, but the film-making brothers nailed it.
Which superhero movies do you think are the best of the bunch? Let us know in the comments below and tweet us @MenStuffZA!