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Monday, July 18, 2005
Superhero Movies
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:51 pm

My very short review of Batman Begins stated that it was “the best Batman movie ever made?—which is indisputable, methinks, but also that it was “one of the top superhero films of all time?—which begat a comment from TPGBTM that I oughtn’t “get crazy.? That comment, plus a phone convo with the selfsame PGBTM got me thinking about what I meant. So, here’s my list of the best and worst superhero movies of all time, with some middling types as well along with some brief commentary.

The Best Superhero Movies of All Time

An exact ranking is difficult here, as the space separating the following is quite small, in my opinion.

1T. The Incredibles (2004)
1T. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

It is really hard to choose, and if push came to shove, I’d probably go with The Incredibles, although that may be because I have seen it more times.

3. X2 (2003)

One of those rare case where the sequel was quite superior to the original.

4. Spider-Man (2002)

Note the dates of the top 4: all of them are of recent vintage: it seems we are in the Golden Age of Superhero movies (and superhero TV for that matter, but that’s for another post).

I would put Batman Begins (2005) fifth. The question becomes, it would seem to me, as to whether the cut-off for “best of all time? is between 4 and 5, or 5 and 6. TPGB would put Batman Begins in the next tier, I think.

BTW-Scott Nokes has a great review of Batman Begin that I have meant to link to, but hadn’t gotten around to yet (I was planning a longer BB review myself, but that may or may not happen).

Good (but Perhaps not Great) Superhero Flicks

6. X-Men (2000)

X-Men was quite good—far better than I feared it would be, to be honest, but it still had too many pedantic moments to put it in the top 5.

7. Batman (1989)

At times too surreal, but Jack Nicholson was quite a Joker and Michael Keaton was a far, far, far better Batman (and Bruce Wayne) than expected.

8. Superman II (1980)

My personal favorite of the Reeves’ Superman flicks. Although the whole “fall in love with an earthwoman/lose your powers thing? never has worked for me. The three Kryptonian bad guys from the Phanton Zone, however: quite cool.

9. Superman (1978)

A little slow at times, but overall a good film. And ya gotta love the music.

10. The Mask of Zorro (1998)

Perhaps a stretch as a true superhero flick, but I really liked this movie and was disappointed that there never was a sequel.

11. Batman (1966/I)

I loved Adam West’s Batman when I was a kid, and as adult, I actually still have a warm spot in my heart for it, plus I actually find it amusing .

Tolerable Superhero Movies

Quite a drop-off here—and not really rank-worthy.

Batman Returns (1992)

This is when the franchise started to expire (which is quite quickly). I knew it wasn’t as good as the first one when the Batmobile had gatling guns. And the Penguin made no sense.

Why, oh why, did these movies have to have so many characters?

Batman Forever (1995)

Wasted Two-Face and I thought the whole “I am giving up being Batman? to be rather lame.

The Flash (1990) (TV)

Not bad for TV. Indeed, probably better than most of the aforementioned Batman flicks.

Hero at Large (1980)

Hardly a classic (indeed, you may never have heard of it), but I recall it as being fairly decent and when I saw part of it on tv recently I still thought it such.

The Basement

(No rankings: these films don’t deserve them)

Superman III (1983)

Come on: Richard Pryor in a Superman movie? Whose bright idea was that? And gee whiz, read this plot summary:

Synthetic kryptonite laced with tobacco tar splits Superman in two: good Clark Kent and bad Man of Steel.

tobacco tar?!?. Great Caesar’s Ghost!

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

One word: ugh.

One more word: lame.

Swamp Thing (1982)

I have only seen parts of it, but it looked like a real stinker.

Batman & Robin (1997)

I haven’t actually seen it, but take TPBG’s word on its lameness.

Note: there are some notable ones I haven’t seen, such as Daredevil, Elektra, The Hulk, or the Fantastic Four but none strikes me as a likely classic.

Filed under: Pop Culture, Movies | |Send TrackBack


  1. 10. The Mask of Zorro (1998)

    Perhaps a stretch as a true superhero flick, but I really liked this movie and was disappointed that there never was a sequel.
    I was in the theater a few weeks ago, and saw a poster for a new Zorro movie. Granted, it was just a picture of Zorro with no tagline or other information, no clue as to whether Banderas is still playing him, but the date at the bottom said summer 2006.

    Comment by Aaron Pollock — Monday, July 18, 2005 @ 11:02 pm

  2. I saw the trailer for the Zorro movie last week or the week before. Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (hubba hubba) are both in it.

    Comment by ATM — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 12:37 am

  3. Also I agree Batman Begins was a good movie. I think it was partly because it was a prequel which allowed for character development and flashbacks explaining why there is a Batman.

    The only problem is that I thought the Joker killed Bruce Waynes parents in the Keaton flick.

    Comment by ATM — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 12:41 am

  4. Also I greatly prefer the seriousness and darkness of Batman Begins to the campy worlds of the previous Batman flicks and movies like Dick Tracy. I think seriousness is a reason why the Spider-Man’s and X-men’s have been good.

    Comment by ATM — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 12:43 am

  5. ATM,

    BB actually follows the comic history of Batman, where a guy named Joe Chill killed the Waynes. The 1989 Batman took liberties with the story by having the pre-Joker Jack kill the parents.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 7:56 am

  6. And good deal about a new Zorro with Banderas.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 7:57 am

  7. The Incredibles is really hyped up. I’ve never seen it because it seems like a kid’s movie.

    Comment by Bamacrat — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 8:20 am

  8. Well, it is rated G, and the primary target was kids, but then again, we are talking superheroes here.

    Actually, it is clever and well written and, unless one has a prejudice against animated features, worth a viewing.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 8:26 am

  9. Daredevil was, to not coin a phrase, a decroded piece of crap. The only thing good about this abomination was the soundtrack. Why exactly does Ben Affleck have a career?

    Comment by Matt — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 10:18 am

  10. “And ya gotta love the music.”

    When I got to that line, the music from Superman had been running through my head for most of the post!

    Comment by Jay — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 11:56 am

  11. Consider it the soundtrack to the post ;)

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, July 19, 2005 @ 12:05 pm

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