The past decade has seen the rise of the big-budget comic-book movie. This summer alone features four blockbuster superhero flicks: “Thor,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Green Lantern” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
Let’s takes a look at the best that the genre has to offer.
1. The Incredibles (2004)
A suburban satire, a family comedy, a superhero flick and a thrilling action film—“The Incredibles” does many things, and it does them all near perfectly. It feels more real than every other superhero movie, is more exciting than every other superhero movie, is more fun to look at, listen to and experience than every other superhero movie. It’s the perfect superhero film.
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
Director Christopher Nolan kidnapped the everyday superhero flick and handed it back to us ravaged and bloodied, helped in large part by Heath Ledger’s unforgettable portrayal of the Joker. Despite the Maggie Gyllenhaal–for–Katie Holmes switcheroo, and perhaps fueled by the death of Ledger, “The Dark Knight” seemed to transcend the superhero label, eschewing camp for something bleak and brilliant.
3. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
You’ve heard about how the appeal of Spider-Man is due to his everyman quality. And yes, that’s a big part of what makes this sequel, which is funny and romantic and scary, so great. But “Spider-Man 2” is also one of the only superhero movies that dares give equal weight to the people around the superhero. There’s a sense of history and family and friendship that increases the stakes for everything that happens in the film.
4. Superman II (1980)
What makes a superhero movie good? The expected super abilities, an appropriately noble moniker and dashing looks, among other things. But greatness, that’s reserved for the likes of a few. Like “Superman II.” With a cheekier, sexier, more urgent plot than its predecessor, the series finally gave us a worthy opponent in General Zod, a man just as powerful as Superman. Though it may not boast the depth of “The Dark Knight” or the wit of “Iron Man,” the emotional pyrotechnics of “Superman II” will leave you properly dazzled.
5. Iron Man (2008)
When Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t flying beside military fighter jets as Iron Man, he was zinging his co-stars. It was one of the year’s best comedic performances, hidden inside a superhero movie that contained the perfect mix of banter and kick-ass action sequences, great for fans who had tired of clichéd “I’ll save you!” hero rhetoric. “Iron Man” remains a charmingly written origin story of one of Marvel's most beloved comic characters.
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