What is the best superhero movie of all time? [updated with Logan and The Lego Batman Movie!]
It’s a question that has troubled man since the dawn of time (or at least since the early 2000s): what is the best superhero movie of all time?
Well, thanks to science and maths, we have the answer.
We took 82 superhero movies, took their Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes critics’ scores and worked out an average. The top 30 scores then progressed to the next stage. Movies we lost at this stage included Dredd (by just 0.5%!), V for Vendetta, Man of Steel, Watchmen, Iron Man 2 and Thor.
Then, we added in the audience scores from IMDB, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, worked out an overall average and knocked our list down to 20. Films lost at this point included Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3, Chronicle, Captain America: The First Avenger and, controversially, Tim Burton’s Batman.
As a new superhero movie is released pretty much every week, we’ll update this post regularly to account for new flicks. The Lego Batman Movie and Logan are the newest entries, pushing Ant-Man and Kick-Ass off the list.
Finally, we had the top 20 superhero movies of all time according to the internet. Starting with…
#20: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Ron Perlman is a wise-cracking devil who fights the mystical forces of evil while smoking a big cigar. Guillermo Del Toro directs. What’s not to love?
Although X-Men saved the superhero genre, Sam Raimi’s upbeat and lively Spider-Man reignited it for a new audience. It also features one of the most iconic screen kisses of all time and James Franco before he went super weird.
#18: X-Men: First Class
The reboot-that-isn’t-technically a reboot breathed new life into the X-Men franchise, which was in a bit of a rut after that whole Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut kerfuffle.
Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy take on the roles of young Magneto and Charles Xavier as they establish their mutant team, with Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and the always-welcome Kevin Bacon rounding out one of the stronger superhero movie casts ever.
#17: Superman II
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the most overused intro into a paragraph about Superman ever (and Christopher Reeve’s second appearance as the Man of Steel)!
This time, big Supes takes on both Lex Luthor and General Zod, with Krypton’s evilest ranking official landing on Earth to cause all kinds of trouble.
Remarkably, Superman II has the second highest critic score of all the movies in this list but the 2nd worst audience score in the top 30. Only Superman Returns fared worse.
#16: X2: X-Men United
Hugh ‘I’m going to play Wolverine until the end of time (2017 edit: until Logan at least)’ Jackman returns to break necks and cash cheques, with the mutant world threatened by no less than the US government after a mutant assassination attempt on the President.
X2 is bigger and better than the original, with some pretty heavy themes running underneath the mutant action.
#15: The Lego Batman Movie
Batman has been in a weird place since the conclusion of the Dark Knight trilogy. While Ben Affleck’s performances under the cowl have been good, the character has somehow become too dark.
Thank goodness for The Lego Batman Movie, then. It’s a near-perfect parody of the Dark Knight, pushing his loneliness, grumpiness and penchant for the dark side of life to hilarious overblown levels.
However, Lego Batman is eventually forced to consider having friends and *gasp* lightening up a bit when Gotham is attacked by his arch-nemesis, the Joker.
The Lego Batman Movie is easily the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight Rises, and hopefully we get a sequel to balance the grimness of Lego Batman’s more serious on-screen counterpart.
#14: The Crow
In The Crow, a dead rock star comes back to life to punish his murderers and play the odd sweet guitar solo on a rooftop (years before Brian May, we might add). It’s no surprise people love it so much, because it has the coolest premise of any movie ever.
The Crow’s influence can still be felt today, with millions of teenagers choosing to adopt Eric Draven’s unique sense of style while hanging around outside McDonald’s. It’s not quite revenge-and-guitar-solos, but we’ll allow it.
Deadpool was a massive box office hit across the globe, which surprised a lot of people because a) Deadpool is a pretty obscure character and b) it has a metric ton of swearing and violence in it.
Nevertheless, the completely irreverent humour (which tore superhero movies to shreds) and Ryan Reynold’s hilarious performance made this one of the biggest films of 2016, and gave it a place on our top 20 list.
Amazingly, Deadpool has the 4th highest audience approval score in this post: only Batman Begins , Logan and The Dark Knight scored higher.
#12: Avengers Assemble
The 5th biggest film of all time scrapes in at #12, which is more of a testament to the films coming up than a slight against The Avengers.
You know the drill by now: the world’s greatest superheroes (not including Batman, obviously) team up to take on Loki and a horde of flying alien types who want to rule the world and start, like all good intergalactic villains do, with New York.
It’s also the first film to do The Hulk justice by allowing him to do what he does best: smash loads of stuff.
#11: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Let’s be honest: Captain America is rubbish. He doesn’t have a cool suit like Iron Man. He isn’t a god like Thor. He can’t turn green and smash stuff like the Hulk. He’s just a bloke, frozen in time, who likes America a lot.
So it surprised us all when he starred in of one of Marvel’s best films, The Winter Soldier. Taking the form of a spy thriller, The Winter Soldier sees the Cap and Black Widow digging into a conspiracy that goes right to the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It’s so good that directors the Russo Brothers have signed up to direct the next two Avengers films.
#10: Batman Begins
After the absolute travesty that was Batman and Robin, the Dark Knight’s film career looked to be over. No-one recovers from that many ice puns.
Enter Christopher Nolan. Then best known for the mind-bending Memento, Nolan went back to basics and rooted Bruce Wayne back in the real world with nary a Bat credit card in sight. The result was one of the best superhero movies in years and inadvertently kicked off the ‘gritty reboot’ trend.
#9: Spider-Man 2
Many critics consider Spider-Man 2 the best superhero movie of all time, combining rip-roaring action with a mature plot and a surprisingly sympathetic villain in Doc Ock. It’s like the best of Marvel combined with the best of Nolan’s Batman films.
Audiences seem to disagree, however. Spider-Man 2’s relatively low audience score – the lowest in the top 12 – drags it down to #9 on our list.
#8: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Days of Future Past takes everything that’s good about the X-Men series and throws it all together in an ultra ambitious tale of time travel, mutants and Wolverine kicking seven bells out of people. Unsurprisingly, it’s amazing.
#7: The Dark Knight Rises
Making a follow-up to The Dark Knight was always going to be difficult, so Christopher Nolan didn’t bother. Instead, he threw everything 8 years in the future and made a utterly bonkers movie about nuclear weapons, desert prisons and an odd bloke in a mask. It’s a flawed but brilliant end to possibly the best superhero series ever.
#6: Captain America: Civil War
Marvel’s clash of the titans proves that it is possible to chuck every superhero imaginable into one film and still make it good (yes, we are talking about you Batman v Superman).
The Cap and Iron Man clash over a new law requiring superheroes to register, each bringing their own gang of superheroes to the party.
There’s also the first appearance of Spider-Man in a Marvel movie, an occurrence that seemed about as likely as Elvis Presley coming back to life on the back of the Loch Ness Monster or Leicester City winning the Premier League. What a time to be alive, eh?
The original superhero movie got the highest score from critics but only hit 15th in audience’s eyes. We would suggest time hasn’t been kind to Superman, but that’s not true: this still stands up to this day, even if it is cheesy compared to today’s gritty heroes.
#4: Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t the most obvious of hits: it was based on an obscure comic hardly anyone had heard, starred the funny bloke from Parks and Recreation and involved a talking racoon travelling through space.
But here it is: the third best superhero movie of all time. It’s fun, silly and epic: pretty much everything you could ask for from a good superhero. Great soundtrack, too.
#3: Iron Man
Iron Man is the film that set Marvel on their path to world domination, and they have one man to thank for it: Robert Downey Jr.
Without him, this would be a pretty decent superhero flick about yet another rich bloke with a fancy suit. With him, though, Iron Man hits a whole new level of brilliance. No wonder he gets paid so much!
A surprise new entry into our chart, Logan is the Wolverine movie everyone wanted; a bleak adventure into the tortured soul of the man behind the claws.
Logan sees Wolverine in hiding with Professor X in a future hostile to mutants. However, Logan is forced to come out fighting when he meets a young mutant being pursued by dark forces.
Logan is dark, violent and powerful, and a fitting send off to both Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart.
#1: The Dark Knight
The internet has spoken: The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero movie of all time. And it deserves to be too: with complex themes from government surveillance to the morality of man, it’s much weightier than your average superhero film but doesn’t get so weighed down that it forgets to be exciting.
Of course, the real star of the show is Heath Ledger, whose Oscar-winning performance as the Joker has set the standard for movie villains. Jared Leto has huge shoes to fill.
Which is your favourite superhero movie? Let us know in the comments.
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