Comic book superhero films make some of the biggest box office bucks in today’s movie industry. There are so many of these films that they can be classified as a genre of their own. But I feel to be classified as one, a live action comic book superhero film must be based off of this criteria.
1. Be based off of a comic book.
2. Feature a protagonist who fights for a cause or what they believe is right.
3. Don a disguise, an outfit, or a getup to either conceal their identity or represent themselves.
There are many great animated comic book films, films based off of comic books that don’t feature superheroes, and films that are heavily inspired by superhero comics. Therefore, as much as I love films like Road to Perdition, Chronicle, Unbreakable, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, A History of Violence, and Akira, I want to focus solely on live action comic book adaptations featuring superheroes.
With the ground rules established, I want to say that I know many people out there are pretty adamant about their superhero films. I want to remind people that this is an opinion based list, which means these films are most likely going to be ranked differently than your personal opinion. Now let’s get to it!
25. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2 is subject to much unfair scrutiny. Yes, the film is weaker than the previous Iron Man, the film’s second act is particularly boring, and the villains are bland. But, the film also has a good amount of positives to it that everyone seems to over look.
All of the first film’s charm and hard hitting action scenes are still there. Downey Jr.’s performance is as great as always. I feel that the film’s final action sequence is a really exhilarating scene complimented by smooth editing and intense action. The dark color palette during the Japanese Garden makes for some great imagery. But, most people are going to overlook the good things and always focus in on the bad.
The issues with this film is that it just doesn’t have great material to work with. It also feels slow during the uninteresting parts and picks up pace too quickly during the film’s most exciting moments. For all its problems, it is better than most superhero blockbusters.
24. The Wolverine (2013)
James Mangold directs a Wolverine story based off of one of my favorite comic book arcs, the 80’s Frank Miller/Chris Claremont miniseries simply titled Wolverine. While this film puts a twist on that samurai-esque tale, many standout elements from the comic can be seen within this film.
We get a story where Logan is compared to a ronin, a masterless samurai. We are also treated to some brutal action scenes that make this the grittiest of Wolverine’s outings. Fans of samurai cinema should gravitate to this film for these reasons. The film suffers from a weak villain, a slow second act, and a truly unfitting finale. The tone of the film is steady up until its final action scene where things suddenly become CGI-heavy. But, we still get Hugh Jackman in top form and a small character story.
Both Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel were huge summer blockbusters that told massive stories that encompassed many characters. Small films like The Wolverine tend to be more my cup of tea. I highly anticipate this film’s director’s cut which I hope will restore the film’s originally intended R-rating.
23. X-Men: First Class (2011)
The X-Men franchise took a hit with X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Origins (films that will not be making this list). In steps Matthew Vaughn to provide us with a prequel film for the ages. First Class is a good prequel film that packs in some interesting backstory to some of our favorite mutants.
The film’s standout performance can be seen in Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto. Also, X-Men: First Class‘s exceptionally great score should be pointed out. I don’t have too much to say about this film other than that it just a solid superhero film. It doesn’t do anything truly amazing but it is important for rebooting the X-Men franchise and setting up the upcoming X-Men film in 2014.
22. Thor (2011)
Kenneth Branagh’s Shakesperian-esque superhero flick is just a solid piece of action entertainment. Thor takes elements from Michael J. Straczynski’s 2007 comic book run in which Thor gets grounded in a small town out in the middle of nowhere. This film takes that story and strips Thor of his powers in such a setting.
Unfortunately, this film is at its weakest when we have to deal with Thor’s human problems. I understand that he has to mature and become a real man, but the film is much more interesting in its exciting first and third acts. The second act will probably grow on me and I feel that I will come to enjoy this film more and more with each viewing. All of the performances are fine too, no problems there. I think that Chris Hemsworth has more than earned the right to hold mighty Mjolnir.
21. X-Men 2 (2003)
X-Men 2 is pretty important for comic book films in general. Besides Superman 2, Batman Returns, and Blade 2, this was probably the biggest and best superhero sequel ever made at the time. It made the X-Men mythology deeper, it expanded on all of its characters, had a bigger plot, and solidified Hugh Jackman’s acting career with a great turn as Wolverine.
All of the acting is top notch in this film. We get amazing performances from Brian Cox, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and even Alan Cummings as the fan favorite Nightcrawler. It’s a shame he didn’t do another X-Men film, as everyone loved the crap out of Cummings in this flick.
The film also has some dark flashbacks concerning Wolverine, beautiful photography, great action, and a little bit of humor. It’s definitely Bryan Singer’s best film, and is a strong reminder that X-Men: Days of Future Past is going to blow all of our balls off.