Last week in preparation for the glut of superhero movies heading our way, I brought you the top 10 worst and this week I’m bringing you the top 10 best superhero movies ever made. So bear in mind that these 10 are the best ever made, in my humble opinion, and are in no real order.
1.) Superman and Superman II (The Donner Cut): Back in 1977 Richard Donner (of Lethal Weapon fame…) brought the story of Superman to the big screen in a way that had never been done before. This was the first huge budget, modern day special effects bonanza that gave the world Christopher Reeve (who is no relation whatsoever to George Reeves who played Superman some 20+ years prior on television…) using the catch phrase that ‘you’ll believe a man can fly…’ Reeves for all his acting skill (having been trained at the Julliard school for acting alongside Robin Williams…) was the Superman for an entire generation of children and when you hear the stirring cords of John Williams Superman theme, it’s as recognizable as ‘The lonely man’ theme from the Incredible Hulk. Donner’s original intent was to make one giant 4 hour Superman epic with the two movies being one full story, the Salkind’s decided to split the movies up and when Superman I was a success, they fired Richard Donner who was about eighty percent done and brought on a new director to reshoot a huge chunk of the movie. Flash forward almost thirty years later and Warner Brother’s allowed Richard Donner to finish his version of Superman II, which is far superior to the original.
2.) Chris Nolan Batman Trilogy: Dark and brooding, that’s how Batman should be, a touch of detective work and a little bit of the ‘ultra-violence’ thrown in to make people remember that he’s Batman. These three movies are an interlocking story of Bruce Wayne’s rebirth and eventual ‘demise’ as Batman. No less than 9 established Batman villains make the rounds in these movies, along with all the back ground characters that we’ve come to love and know. This is the movie series that made Gary (Commissioner Gordon) Oldman say “I’ve played all sorts of scum, drug dealers and the worst of humanity, but this is by far the most generous and humane character I’ve ever played and I’m blessed to have been in these movies.”
3.) Ironman: If anyone needed a comeback role, it was Robert Downey Jr., once upon a time his career was in such a shambles that you looked for him to show up in the tabloids more than you did Lindsey Lohan. I can remember hearing that he had been cast as Tony (Ironman) Stark and I knew that Marvel had made the smartest choice that they could. This isn’t some fly-by-night ‘movie star’, this was an actor. Marvel was blessed to get him and have him in their movies for as long as they have and he made Ironman (a character more famously known for having inspired a Black Sabbath song…) a household name, putting Marvel studios on the map.
4.) The Rocketeer: This is a movie that came out 20 years ahead of its time, inspired by pulp comics and Saturday morning cinema, Dave Stevens created the Rocketeer and with only a handful of comic appearances to his name made the character popular enough that Hollywood wanted to make a movie out of it. The movie is the spitting image of the comics and sadly there just wasn’t an audience for the movie when it came out all those years ago. This is one that if you have to the time and just want some old fashioned fun, like the original Indiana Jones movies, go find this one and invite the kids in to watch it with you.
5.) The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Before there was a cartoon version of these characters, there was a black and white comic series that inspired them. The comic version wasn’t something that you could have handed your average eight year old as it was violent and often times the heroes were only marginally better than the villains that they killed. This movie is closer in tone to the original comic series in that it is very violent has a level of ‘neo-realism’, but does maintain some of the humor from the cartoon series.
6.) The Shadow: I can’t tell you how many times when asked where I’ve purchased something I quoted this movie and replied ‘Brooks Brothers, mid-town’. This movie has Alec Baldwin as the title character, set in the 1930s the movie explores the crime-fighting efforts of Lamont Cranston who is taught to use powers that turn him invisible, except for the one thing he can’t hide…his own Shadow. Based on the famous pulp fiction character of the 30s and 40s, this movie was a fantastic adaption of the character that partially inspired Batman.
7.) Avengers: This movie ties into Ironman 1 and 2, Captain America, Thor and the Incredible Hulk movies taking all of those characters and putting them in one movie together. This was the first time that a movie studio has had the ability to take characters from separate films and put them all in one place. Amazingly Warner Brothers (who owns DC Comics…) hasn’t done this yet and as of yet we’ve yet to get a Justice League of America movie, despite the fact that Marvel has gotten Avengers off the ground and running at full speed.
8.) X-Men 2: Having gotten the origin story out of the way with the first X-Men movie, this one hits the ground running and never stops by adapting a storyline from the Marvel Comics graphic novel “God loves, Man kills…” This movie has a fantastic cast; plenty of action and a gripping ending that gets screwed up by the next movie in the X-Men film saga.
9.) The Watchmen: Zack Snyder is my hero for taking a comic mini-series long thought to be unfilmable and reducing it down to its core storyline to make it an epic 3 hour movie. This movie is not Spider-man with its light natured storylines, it is a brutal assault on your senses and a serious look at what people dressed up in costumes might actually be like if they were running around in the real world with all of their idiosyncratic behavior and psychological hang-ups. Rorschach is often times a fan-favorite, try to figure out which cast member from the original ‘Bad News Bears’ plays Rorschach…
10.) Captain America, the First Avenger: Other than a couple of minor changes from the comic book (Be becomes Captain America just before Pearl Harbor and his sidekick Bucky was much younger…) this movie manages to adapt one of the most beloved characters of all time. People have long since forgotten that once upon a time Captain America outsold Superman during World War 2, filmed by Ken Johnson (who worked on the Indiana Jones movies…) this movie has the feel and look of the 40s. The hero is heroic, the girl beautiful and the villain dastardly and evil incarnate…
And there you have the 10 best Superhero movies ever made…Honorable mentions go out to The Incredible Hulk television series, Spider-Man 2, Blade, J-Men Forever and select episodes of ‘Smallville’.
Keith Kilburn and his wife, Dawn, live in Leesburg with two cats and dog named Godzilla. He’s written for Herorealm.com before they were bought out by corporate interests and has written a novel that he’s working on publishing. It’s rumored that he’s seen more movies than Blockbuster rents in a year and knows more about comic books than Stan Lee himself!