I just finished watching Thor on Blue-Ray and I enjoyed it a lot. Who would have ever thought that a live-action Thor movie would ever be made. Especially if you had ever seen the Thor appearance in one of the Incredible Hulk TV movies years ago. The concept of Green Lantern is awesome but I never thought that a movie would be made. So while I’m waiting for a live-action version of the Legion of Super-Heroes I thought that I would mull over what I believe are the finest films in the ever-expanding genre of super-hero movies. I’ve limited myself to live-action films even though some of the animated stuff is really cool. I think it would be cheating to mix animated films with the live-action films. I’ve also limited the number of “best” films to 10 otherwise I quickly venture over into the realm of Return of the Swamp Thing and Steel. So here I go.
10. The Rocketeer (1991)
Any movie with Jennifer Connelly in it can’t be too bad unless that movie is Hulk. The Rocketeer perfectly captured the look and spirit of the Dave Stevens comic book. Super-Heroes and Nazi’s always go well together, like peanut butter and jelly.
9. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Not to be confused with “Hulk” which was mentioned above, this 2008 soft re-boot of the Hulk franchise is actually really good. While not a sequel this film moves forward without invalidating anything from the previous film. The movie explores the fragile psyche of Bruce Banner; evokes the best of the Bill Bixby television series and has incredible (no pun intended) fight scenes with the Abomination. Plus the love story with Betty Ross is kept to a minimum. What more can anyone ask for in a super-hero movie? The only thing I can think of would have been a been a cameo from Wolverine.
8. Blade (1998)
I didn’t know a lot about Blade when I saw this movie. I still don’t know a whole heck of a lot about Blade the comic book character but Blade the movie super hero is awesome. Martial arts, swords and vampires. So cool its scary.
7. Batman (1966)
Sure it’s campy; sure Adam West is a little pudgy; sure Cesar Romero would not shave his mustache but this movie is just fun. Has there ever been a better Penguin or Riddler as played by Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin respectively? For that matter Lee Meriwether is #2 on the list of best Catwomen behind Julie Newmar and above Michelle Pfeiffer. In this movie we of course see the classic Batmobile but also the Bat-Copter, Bat-Bike and Bat-Boat. We also learn that Batman carries anti-shark repellent in his utility belt. This movie would make the top ten list just for the scene with Batman running around the pier with a bomb in his hands.
6. Superman II (1980)
Fifteen minutes of this movie is probably the greatest super hero movie ever made. The fight with Superman versus General Zod, Ursa and Non over Metropolis still stands up to this day. If only Richard Donner had been allowed to finish the movie. We would have been spared much of the camp (this is bad camp unlike the good camp in the Batman movie) added by Richard Lester. The cellophane “S”; teleporting Kryptonians in the Fortress of Solitude and the mind-altering “super-kiss” at the end of the movie (as if Superman didn’t already have enough powers someone thought it was necessary to add a few more) unfortunately forces me to keep this movie out of my top five.
5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Simply a good movie. No longer bogged down by the requisite origin story Peter Parker can just go and fight crime as Spider-Man. The scene with the passengers on the monorail protecting Spider-Man chokes me up a bit inside. “Spider-Man” probably would have made this list but no matter how much I liked Willem DaFoe as Norman Osborn I really disliked the Green Goblin costume in that movie.
4. Iron Man (2008)
Robert Downey Jr. playing a narcissistic self-absorbed self-destrucive person with a substance abuse problem…awesome casting. In one movie Iron Man went from B-list hero whom nobody but a comic book geek had ever heard of to a true cultural icon and being featured prominently on every Marvel kid’s toy right next to Spider-Man. That’s the goal for all of these movies (see Green Lantern above). Iron Man not only accomplished it but it is a very good movie on top of it. The only drawback to the entire movie is the closing fight scene between Iron Man and Obadiah Stane. I feel like the hero has to fight a bigger, badder version of himself has been done to death. For example it was done in the same year in Marvel’s other film the Incredible Hulk. Ultimately, I thought the movie was more interesting when it focused on Tony Stark rather than Iron Man. It made for a good movie but I’m not sure if that is a great thing for a “super hero” movie so Iron Man only makes it to #4 on my list.
3. The Dark Knight (2008)
This movie made a bazillion dollars. Heath Ledger was awesome as the Joker. It’s a fantastic movie. It’s just so long (2 1/2 hours) and Christian Bale is screaming throughout the entire movie. I’ve always imagined Batman to have a stoic coolness…like Clint Eastwood. Any complaints I have about this movie, however, are quickly mitigated by a Batman and Robin flashback.
2. Captain America (2011)
What did I say before about super heroes and Nazis? Well it’s even more true when the super hero is dressed up in an American flag. The Nazis don’t stand a chance. I loved everything about this movie. Chris Evans was very convincing as Captain America and as Steve Rogers. Even the Red Skull didn’t seem cheesy. All this and the Cosmic Cube too, I loved this movie. Captain America: The First Avenger is a great movie and well deserving of my #2 spot. There is only one movie that could beat it out.
#1. Superman (1978)
This is it. The Grand-daddy of them all. It may not be the first super-hero movie but it is definitely the first movie that you think of when you think about a super hero movie. Where Chris Evans was convincing in the role of Steve Rogers/Captain America, Christopher Reeve IS Superman and at the same time he delivers the definitive portrayal of Clark Kent. Others have played the role before and after Reeve but none have worn the cape more convincingly or confidently. Christopher Reeve truly made me believe that if a man could fly it would be him.