The 50 best superhero movies ever made, according to our team of experts

Tom Percival
Spider-Man, Batman, Hit Girl and Black panther represent our picks for the best superhero movies of all time.

Stories of heroes in colorful costumes battling evil-doers have taken over Hollywood in recent years, but what are the best superhero movies ever made?

Like the Westerns of yesteryear, the superhero genre has dominated multiplexes for nearly two decades now. The heroes from the MCU and DCU, as well as the more independent supes (we’re looking at you, Spawn), have legions of fans around the world, and thousands turn out annually to see their favorite comic characters make the leap from the page to the silver screen.

Still, this has led to a minor problem; there are hundreds of films about brave souls in spandex risking their lives to save the day from vile villains scheming to take over the world, so where should you start? Well, don’t worry; we’ve heard your cries for help and sprung into action.

Our team of movie experts has assembled to put together a comprehensive list of the best superhero movies ever made for you to enjoy. We’ve got everything from comedies to action and even a little drama. So what are you waiting for? A radioactive spider bite? It’s time to jump in!

50. Mystery Men (1999)

The cast of Mystery men

What it’s about: Local heroes, played by the likes of Ben Stiller, William H Macy, and Janeane Garofalo, suddenly hit the big time while battling a supervillain who’s way out of their league. Somehow, they don’t blow it.

What we think: Coming at the tail end of the ’90s superhero boom, where Hollywood favored edgier properties — leading to The Mask, Men In Black, and The Crow, among others — Mystery Men was part of that trend going out with a whimper. A real pity because Stiller, Macy, Hank Azaria, and the rest of the cast are on top form, while Tom Waits keeps them kitted out as an eccentric inventor. It’s weird, wacky, and could’ve been a small hit a decade later. We should talk more about Mystery Men.

Where to stream: On-demand

Words by Anthony McGlynn

49. Turbo Kid (2015)

The Kid from Turbo Kid

What it’s about: Imagine the Mad Max movies with bicycles, and you’re pretty close to what Turbo Kid has to offer. A post-apocalyptic future filled with acid rain, ancient weapons, and maniacal villains is the backdrop for The Kid, a young scavenger determined to save the girl of his dreams and be the hero the wasteland needs.

What we think: Turbo Kid proves you don’t need billion-dollar budgets and masses of CGI to make an effective superhero movie. You just need heart, creativity, and be willing to have a lot of fun when telling a story. This underseen gem is the perfect homage to genre classics while also bringing a unique spirit and identity to the game.

Where to stream: Prime Video

Words by Jakob Barnes

48. Megamind (2010)

Megamind

What it’s about: After the supervillain Megamind defeats his long-term rival Metro Man, he finds himself lost and without purpose. Desperate for another fight, he creates a new hero to battle, the terrifying Titan. When it turns out Titan can’t be controlled, Megamind must find the hero within to save his home. 

What we think: Megamind proves that a lack of originality isn’t a bar to success. Yes, a lot of its elements are recycled from other films and comics, but that doesn’t make this goofy hidden gem any less enjoyable. Will Ferrell’s easily the film’s MVP, delivering a bizarre but brilliantly high-energy performance that’s as engaging as it is funny. 

Where to stream: Tubi (with ads)

47. The Suicide Squad (2021)

Rick Flag shotgun suicide squad
Rick Flag’s shotgun has become an iconic image for fans of the DC character.

What it’s about: When the US government needs to infiltrate the island of Corto Maltese, they send in the world’s greatest supervillain group — Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker, King Shark, and others — in order to stop the threat and save the world.

What we think: James Gunn’s Suicide Squad is a major improvement on David Ayer’s original Suicide Squad, which was panned by both critics and fans. Though the movies follow the same story of villains becoming heroes, Gunn’s vision allowed the squad to feel like a real team and his villain — Starro — to feel like a bigger, more threatening presence juxtaposed to Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress.

Where it’s streaming: Max

Words by Kayla Harrington

46. Birds of Prey (2020)

The cast of the DCEU movie Birds of Prey

What it’s about: Fresh from her breakup with the Joker, Harley Quinn is ready to make a name for herself in the villain world… if she doesn’t get murdered by her many enemies first. When a bounty falls on a teenage girl’s head after a large diamond theft, Harley tries to score the money for herself but quickly finds that everything isn’t what it seems as an evil conspiracy keeps pulling her from her goal.

What we think: While a lot of people complain that there are no real girls-only superhero movies, they often overlook how Birds of Prey fills that void. True, Harley is not a traditional hero, but her character arc in this movie proves that she’s more than just Joker’s girlfriend. She’s smart, cunning, charismatic, and abides by her own morals, even when they oppose her villainous goals. This movie deserved so much more love because it managed to give audiences a traditional girl hero group while also making each member a complex, unique character who you can’t help but root for.

Where it’s streaming: Max

Words by Kayla Harrington

45. Blade 2 (2002)

Wesley Snipes in Blade 2

What it’s about: Won’t somebody think of the vampires? In Blade 2, Wesley Snipes’ sword-slashing Daywalker teams up with his enemies for a greater good: eradicating the Reapers, a new mutated breed of super-vampire that preys on their own kind — and they’re hellbent on destroying the human race.

What we think: It’s a Blade movie directed by Guillermo del Toro; what else is there to say? It’s the Matrix Reloaded of the franchise; bigger, bloodier, more action-packed, and brought to life with dazzling visual flair and glorious, grimace-worthy (emphasis on the grim) creature effects. To borrow Snipes’ words, you’re “out of your damn mind” if you can’t have fun with it.

Where to stream:

Words by Cameron Frew

44. Joker (2019)

The Joker dances in a bathroom

What it’s about: Struggling comedian and failed clown Arthur Fleck gets a shot at the big time after his murder of two businessmen inspires riots in Gotham City. Adopting the identity of the Joker, Arthur becomes the unintentional leader of the rioters and puts on a deadly show that Gothamites will never forget.

What we think: Regarded at the time of its release as incendiary incel fodder or a clarion call to the underrepresented Joker, like its central character, is a film open to interpretation. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle if we’re being honest, but what’s undeniable is the spell this cinema cast over cinemagoers who were enraptured by the dark and realistic reinvention of Batman’s most famous nemesis. Central to that success was Phoenix’s electric and unhinged performance, which brought a surprisingly anxious energy to a character often presented as implacable. Let’s hope Joke 2 doesn’t put a frown on fan’s faces. 

Where to stream: Netflix and Max

Words by Tom Percival

43. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) 

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pose with their weapons in Mut6ant Mayhem/

What it’s about: Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael are a group of teenage mutant turtles living in the sewers of New York, where their father, Splinter ( a mutated rat), teaches them various ninja skills. When a mysterious criminal organization made up of various other mutants starts promising mutant liberation, the boys must decide between the human world that’s rejected them and the promise of freedom. 

What we think: A touching and heartfelt film about the power of family and acceptance, this was one of the best animated movies of 2023 and arguably ever. It’s funny and clever, and the decision to make the turtles actual teenagers is a masterstroke that I’m surprised no one has done before. The animation won’t be for everyone; however, if you’re a fan of old-school Klasky Csupo-style cartoons, you’ll get a kick out of this delightful movie. 

Where to stream: Paramount+ and Prime Video

42. The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Lego Batman and Robin talk.

What it’s about: After taking down all the villains in Gotham, Batman must deal with his most dangerous enemy yet, crippling loneliness! Thankfully the enthusiastic orphan Dick Grayson will be by Bruce’s side to lend a hand, which is just as well considering the Joker’s recruiting an army of interdimensional ne’er-do-wells to take over Gotham.

What we think: An unexpectedly mature movie, LEGO Batman takes a fascinating look at the Dark Knight’s propensity to isolate himself from others as well as his relationship with the Joker. Honestly, despite looking like someone threw up a kid’s toy box, this film gives us what may be the most comic book-accurate takes on the pair’s bizarre connection. That aside, LEGO Batman is also seriously funny, and Will Arnett might be the most underrated Batman actor in cinematic history… well, after Val Kilmer. 

Where to stream: Prime Video and Max

Words by Tom Percival

41. Batman Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Batman leaps from a building in Mask of the Phantasm.

What it’s about: When a new deadly vigilante known as the Phantasm starts stalking the streets of Gotham, Batman starts to investigate. But with the sudden return of his former fiance, Andrea Beaumont, the Dark Knight finds himself questioning his commitment to his one-man war on crime. 

What we think: Beautifully animated, Mask of the Phantasm offers a mature and layered look at Batman’s broken psyche. While it ultimately becomes an exciting punch-up between the Caped Crusader and Phantasm (with a bit og Joker thrown in for good measure), this film is arguably at its best when it’s exploring the man behind the mask and looking at what drove him to become a creature of the night. 

Where to stream: On-demand

Words by Tom Percival

40. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018)

The Teen Titans look at Deathstroke dismissively

What it’s about: The Teen Titans go to the movies. What? You want more than that? OK, then. The Teen Titans go to the movies and get annoyed that they haven’t had their own film yet. Heading to Hollywood to make their dreams of starring in a blockbuster come true, the gang uncovers a nefarious truth about the world’s most popular film gene.

What we think: As wild and irreverent as the Tthe Teen Titans Go! TV show, this frantic film pokes fun at all the cliches and tropes that have come to define superhero movies with reckless abandon. Of course, the real reason to watch the film is so you can see Robin sing My Superhero movie, the greatest song in the history of the genre which gave us Robin’s sweet and ominous catchphrase, “Crack an egg on it, ca-caw!”

Where to stream: Hulu and Max

Words by Tom Percival

39. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

The Guadians of the Galaxy Vol 2 poster featuring Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, Nebula, and Drax

What it’s about: After the events of the first Guardians movie, our titular scoundrels find themselves dealing with Peter Quill’s long-lost dad, Ego. What should be a beautiful reunion, however, turns sinister when Gamora discovers Ego has sinister plants for his progeny and the rest of the galaxy. 

What we think: James Gunn doesn’t miss, and while this might be the weakest Guardians movie, it’s still in the upper echelons of MCU films. Like all of Gunn’s work, there’s a charming cheekiness to the proceedings and a wild inventiveness to the visuals, which keeps things interesting. Kurt Russell is also an engaging foil to the beloved Guardians playing against type as the cold and callous living planet. Still, that’s not what anyone remembers this movie for, is it? No, we remember it for Yondu’s final moving sacrifice. He was indeed Mary Poppin’s y’all. 

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Tom Percival

38. Superman 2 (1980)

Superman crushes Zod's hand

What it’s about: Following the events of Superman, the evil General Zod and his thuggish companions are freed from the Phantom Zone and decide to conquer Earth. If anything, it looks like a job for Superman; it’s alien invaders, but the Man of Steel has his own problems to deal with after Lois Lane finally works out her bumbling colleague Clark Kent’s big secret. 

What we think: If the first Superman taught the world to believe a man can fly, then Superman 2 taught us to love him. Lighter in tone than its predecessor, despite the existential threat Zod poses, Superman 2 manages to be an awkward rom-com and a superhero movie at the same time. This mish-mash of tones would probably be a bit jarring in the hands of a lesser cast, but Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, and Margot Kidder all walk the tightrope with the grace of a veteran circus performer. Just don’t ask us what that cellophane S Clark threw at Zod’s henchman was. We still don’t know. 

Where to stream: Max

Words by Tom Percival

37. Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool looks shocked while Colossus looks disapproving.

What it’s about: When mercenary Wade Wilson agrees to undergo an experimental medical procedure to cure his cancer, he’s left hideously disfigured but blessed with an incredible healing ability. Too ashamed to return to the love of his life, Wade becomes Deadpool a maniac with one mission: to hunt down the man who mutilated his beautiful face and force (preferably at gunpoint) him to fix it.

What we think: Deliberately puerile and delightfully inane, Deadpool is a wildly entertaining superhero romp that’s about as family-friendly as a trip to the adults-only section of a video shop. Violence and profanity aside, though, this is the role Ryan Reynolds was born to play, effortlessly channeling the cartoonish buffoonery and insolence Wade’s known for in the comics. Sure, it’s about as deep as a cat’s dish, but who cares when you’re having this much fun? 

Where to stream: Disney+ and Max

Words by Tom Percival

36. Batman Begins (2005)

Batman looks on moodily

What it’s about: On a one-man mission to rid Gotham City of crime, Bruce Wayne finds himself training with the legendary League of Shadows. Disturbed by their violent methods, however, Bruce turns on the League and returns to his home, ready to embrace the night and become the vigilante Batman. Still, the League has plans for Gotham, and they won’t let its new Dark Knight stand in their way.

What we think: The oft-forgotten film in Nolan’s iconic Batman trilogy Batman Begins is an underrated gem that attempts to humanize the legendary hero by showing us what makes him tick. It’s not all training montages, though; there’s still plenty of action, including an impressive set piece atop an elevated train. With all that in mind, however, there’s one thing this film does better than either Dark Knight or Rises: it gives Gotham a character beyond simply being a renamed Chicago. 

Where to stream: Max

Words by Tom Percival

35. Dredd (2012)

Judge Dredd grimaces as he points his gun.

What it’s about: Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the lawless Mega City One has given its police force the power of judge, jury, and executioner to try and halt the rising tide of crime. We follow Judge Dredd, an experienced super cop, and his rookie partner, Judge Anderson, as they try to make it to the top of a 200-story skyscraper to arrest a drug lord mowing down anyone who stands in their way.

What we think: Similar in execution to The Raid (although not quite as good), Dredd is an impressive action movie that revels in violence and carnage. Still, like the source material that inspired it, there’s a razor-sharp satirical edge to the film that elevates it beyond other gritty comic adaptations. Urban does a wonderful job as the judge, delivering his wry one-liners with a knowingness that belies Dredd’s taciturn exterior. Also, isn’t it nice he didn’t take off the helmet? Yes, this is a dig at you, Stallone. 

Where to stream: Peacock and AMC+

Words by Tom Percival

34. V For Vendetta (2006)

A man in a Guy Fakes Mask know as V stares ominously at a police man.

What it’s about: Set in a fascist Britain, a young woman named Evey Hammond is rescued from government thugs by a mysterious masked anarchist who goes by the codename V. With V set to bring down the totalitarian government, Evey must decide whether her rescuer is a freedom fighter or a dangerous terrorist.

What we think: While the film adaptation of V for Vendetta loses some of the moral ambiguity of Alan Moore’s original text, it would be churlish to deny that this is a sharp and entertaining action thriller. After all, there’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing a fascist get a bump on the nose from a superpowered Guy Fawkes. In all seriousness, there’s a cathartic joy in witnessing V dismantle a government that initially seems all-powerful, and it all ends in one of the most exciting climaxes in all of superhero cinema.

Where to stream: On-demand

Words by Tom Percival

33. MHA World Heroes’ Mission (2021)

Deku, Bakugo and Todiroki from My hero Academia.

What it’s about: World Heroes’ Mission pits Deku against an apocalyptic cult led by Flect Turn, a powerful villain that can deflect almost any attack. Shoto and Dynamight have to help from afar since Deku is framed for terrorism, and they get a new pal, Rody Soul.

What we think: You’d be hard-pressed to find a superhero franchise more joyful and uplifting than My Hero Academia. It’s like they found a way to harness how Superman feels about planet Earth and wrote a whole story around it. The show itself is consistently rewarding, and this colorful, bombastic movie is no different. 

Where to stream: On-demand

Words by Anthony McGlynn

32. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

What it’s about: Earth is vulnerable following Superman’s death in Batman v Superman, and a new threat looms on the horizon. Batman gathers a team of metahumans — Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg — to defend against the coming invasion by the tyrant Darkseid and his lieutenant, Steppenwolf.

What we think: Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League holds its heroes close and understands the draw of the awe-inspiring mythology from DC comics. Stirring, heavily stylized, and dripping in slow motion, it’s an uncompromised, flawed, and hefty vision that blows the 2017 version out of the water and across the universe to Apokolips.

Where to stream: Max

Words by Trudie Graham

31. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Professor X, Beast, and Wolverine in X-Men: Days of Future Past

What it’s about: In a dystopian future, mutants face extinction as Sentinels hunt them. In a frantic attempt to change their fate, the surviving X-Men and Magneto send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to the 1970s. There, he must unite the younger versions of Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr to stop the events that trigger the Sentinel program.

What we think: Days of Future Past is the culmination of decades of in-universe lore, smashing past and future together by letting the 2000s X-Men hang with the new cast. The stakes in the dystopian future are nail-biting, offering up cruel deaths for some of our favorite characters and awesome displays of power while the past nurtures a story that remains coherent despite the time-travel complexity. Packed with meaningful themes all X-Men stories should have, it strikes a brilliant balance between fun fan service and creative adaptation.

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Trudie Graham

30. Watchmen (2009)

Dr Manhattan from Watchmen

What it’s about: Someone is killing superheroes, and with the Watchmen team losing numbers rapidly, the wily Rorschach and reluctant Night-Owl team up to track down the assailant. Based on Alan Moore’s iconic graphic novel, Watchmen is a violent and gritty adaptation that takes us from street-level violence to the battlefields of Vietnam to the brink of all-out, global destruction.

What we think: Zack Snyder turned an unfilmable comic book into one of the most visually striking, thematically rich, and downright entertaining superhero movies ever. Watchmen is a miracle of a film. From the rip-roaring opening credits sequence to the birth of Dr Manhattan and the incredible reveal of the story’s true villain, it’s a masterclass in large-scale storytelling.

Where to stream: Max

Words by Jakob Barnes

29. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Steve Rogers and Bucky in The First Avenger

What it’s about: After being rejected from the army, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is transformed into a Nazi-fighting super-soldier with the help of a secret experiment. As the symbol of American fights the good fight during World War II, Captain Rogers discovers a much more alien force at play.

What we think: It’s easy to forget where the MCU all started, given how complicated the chronology of Marvel movies has gotten. Captain America’s origin is one of the more effective in the entire franchise, thanks to a strong characterization and a great ending. The period setting and introduction of several key supporting characters make this a must-watch in your superhero binge. Ultimately, heroes are vessels for justice and humanity, and none embody that better than Steve Rogers. 

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Jessica Cullen

28. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

Miles Morales stares at his hands in Across the Spider-Verse.

What it’s about: Following the events of Into the Spider-Verse, Miles has settled into his role as the ultimate Spider-Man, although he misses his friends. So when he gets the opportunity to reunite with Spider-Gwen and the rest of his pals, he jumps at the chance to help them deal with the villainous Spot. Unfortunately, Miles quickly learns there’s a reason the reason the Spider-Society hadn’t come to recruit him.

What we think: A broiling pot of energy and imagination Across the Spider-Verse is a treat from beginning to end. While the story isn’t quite as tight as the first film, it more than delivers on its promise to show us the Spider-Verse, taking us to multiple different worlds, all of which are beautifully realized. It’s not all style over substance, though. 

There’s a meaty ethical dilemma at the heart of the film, and the villain of the piece, played by Oscar Isaac, is more complex than an unsolved Rubick’s Cube. Seriously, if other superhero films showed half the creativity of the Spider-Verse movies, we wouldn’t be talking about superhero fatigue. We don’t know when Beyond the Spider-Verse will swing into theaters, but we do know we can’t wait to see how Miles’s story ends.  

Where to stream: Netflix

Words by Tom Percival

27. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2002)

The Joker from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

What it’s about: Set in the not-so-far future, Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) has trained a new Batman to protect Gotham from cowardly and superstitious criminals. However, when Bruce’s old nemesis, the Joker (Mark Hamill), somehow returns from the dead, Bruce worries that his young protege is no match for the Clown Prince of Crime. 

What we think: Darker than the Batcave at night, Return of the Joker is a fiendishly fun and frightening film that highlights Bruce’s unnerving decision to recruit children to his war on crime. It’s grim and gritty but also wildly camp and darkly funny at times, while boasting what may be the best vocal performance Hamill ever gave as the Joker. Of all the Batman movies this is one of the most underrated.

Where to stream: Max

Words by Tom Percival

26. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

What it’s about: Six years after the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 sees Star-Lord and his team facing a formidable foe in Sovereign warrior Adam Warlock. Along the way, as Rocket’s tragic past is revealed, so too are the horrifying intentions of the High Evolutionary, a scientist hellbent on creating the perfect species.

What we think: James Gunn has proven time and again that he knows what the people want when it comes to superhero movies, and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is no exception. It’s deliciously dark, genuinely funny, a visual feast for the eyes — and despite being out-of-this-world (literally), the Guardian’s swansong is tear-jerkingly emotional. It’s so good that even the harshest of critics gave it a thumbs up (PETA, we’re looking at you). Read our full Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 review here.

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Daisy Phillipson

25. Batman (1989)

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman 89

What it’s about: Billionaire Bruce Wayne is haunted by his past, having witnessed his parents’ murder as a young boy. Driven to rid Gotham of crime and keep villains at bay, he becomes Batman. When a new villain in town called The Joker seizes control of the criminal underworld, it’s up to Batman to stop him — all the while protecting his love interest, Vicki Vale. 

What we think: Batman is a classic that revitalized the superhero genre. Tim Burton’s Gotham aesthetic paired well with Michael Keaton’s incredible ability to showcase Bruce’s complex inner turmoil. Jack Nicholson’s Joker brought a perfect balance of menace and charisma to the character, cementing him as one of the best Joker actors of all time. Batman is a staple of the superhero genre that die-hard and newer generations of Bat-fans can enjoy. 

Where to stream: Prime Video and Max

Words by Gaby Silva

24. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

spider-man-swoops-and-iron-man-soars-in-spider-man-homecoming
Spidey gets help from Iron Man in Homecoming.

What it’s about: Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker is trying to adjust to normal neighborhood superhero life, but when a new threat named the Vulture starts to terrorize the city of New York, Peter quickly learns that it’s not easy juggling hero and teen life.

What we think: Homecoming is our first time seeing Tom Holland as Spider-Man in his own domain and is probably cited as the moment that made many people, including myself, fall in love with his version of the character. Holland plays perfectly into Peter’s teenage awkwardness while also donning a great hero persona when the mask is on. Plus, the twist with the Vulture is done so perfectly that it makes me lose my breath every time I watch the movie.

Where it’s streaming: Disney+

Words by Kayla Harrington

23. Chronicle (2012)

The cast of Chronicle

What it’s about: Three friends stumble across a hole in the ground and get incredible telekinetic powers. What starts as a dream come true, though, quickly becomes a nightmare when one of the boys begins to use his abilities to get revenge on a world that wronged him.

What we think: Chronicle is definitive proof that you don’t need a budget that would make Scrooge McDuck check his bank balance to shoot a decent superhero movie. A whip-smart found footage film, Chronicle eschews high-octane spectacle and focuses on its charming lead characters who you can’t help but empathize with… even when one is telekinetically pulling out his bully’s fillings. 

Where to stream: On-demand

Words by Tom Percival

22. Hellboy (2004)

The Hellboy (2004) cast.

What it’s about: Hellboy is summoned by the Nazis in 1944 but adopted by the Allies after Hitler’s regime was defeated. Decades later, he’s a sort of supernatural cop in the BPRD and has to stop a resurrected Rasputin from taking over the world. 

What we think: Guillermo del Toro adapting the dark whimsy of Mike Mignola was always going to be a match made in Hell. Throw in Ron Perlman as the eponymous, wisecracking hellspawn, and you have a masterpiece on your hands. Come for the ever-escalating premise; stay for del Toro’s clockwork practical effects.

Where to stream: Hulu and Hoopla

Words by Anthony McGlynn

21. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

the-avengers-do-battle-in-captain-america-civil-war-during-phase-3-of-the-cinematic-universe
Avengers doing battle in Civil War.

What it’s about: While the Avengers have proved themselves to be Earth’s mightiest heroes, the US government thinks they need more oversight, which leads to the team having to sign the Sokovia Accords — strict new rules that regulate superhero activity. With the Avengers split on the morality of the accords, things quickly break down. The team fractures into two sides: Team Captain America and Team Iron Man. Team Cap represents the heroes who don’t want to be tied down by government control, while Team Iron wants to play by the rules even if it means sacrificing their own integrity. Because of this divide, the two groups find themselves at odds with those they consider friends.

What we think: Captain America has always been seen as a goody-two-shoes guy who always did what he was told, but Civil War allowed us to see that he’ll always stand by his convictions, even if it’s at odds with his superiors. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Iron Man has always been seen as a rebel, but he quickly found himself falling under the thumb of a big government due to his own past failures. The movie is a fantastic example of how two iconic characters can continue to grow in their own ways. But the main selling point has to be the fantastic airport scene, which gives every character on each side a chance to shine. From Spider-Man being powerful yet playful to Hawkeye facing off against Black Panther, the scene has something for everyone.

Where it’s streaming: Disney+

Words by Kayla Harrington

20. X2 (2004)

Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Mystique and Nightcrawler pose on the poster of X2.

What it’s about: After a mutant attempts to assassinate the President, the radical Colonel William Stryker seizes the opportunity to launch an attack on Charles Xavier’s school, capturing Professor X and his mutant-tracking machine Cerebro. With mutantkind on the brink of extinction, the remaining X-Men must team up with Magento and his brotherhood of evil mutants to help save the day. 

What we think: An impressive action flick and an effective meditation of what it means to be an outsider in the face of prejudice, X2 is the X-Men movie, and other X-Men movies wish they were. Let’s be honest, though the real reason we’ve put it on this list is for its breathless opening, which sees the teleporting Nightcrawler ‘bamfing’ his way through the White House, cutting through Secret Service agent like a letter opener through… well you get the picture.

Where to stream: Disney+ and Hulu

Words by Tom Percival

19. Unbreakable (2000)

Bruce Willis in Unbreakable

What it’s about: David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is the sole survivor of a train crash; is it luck… or something more? In the eyes of Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a cane-walking comic book obsessive, he may possess incredible strength and invulnerability — but with great power comes great responsibility, and what’s the price of superpowers in the real world? 

What we think: Unbreakable isn’t just M. Night Shyamalan’s greatest film; it’s a quiet, no-less breathtaking twist on the superhero mythos that deconstructed the genre’s tropes on the precipice of its pop culture-redefining boom. Willis and Jackson turn in dazzling, emotionally fraught performances, every shot of Eduardo Serra’s cinematography is like a photograph, and James Newton Howard’s spine-tingling theme is one for the ages. Its legacy is in the title. 

Where to stream: Max

Words by Cameron Frew

18. Wonder Woman (2017)

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman draws her sword in Wonder Woman.

What it’s about: A prequel to the events of Man of Steel and Batman V Superman, this movie sees the Princess of the Amazons, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), leave Themyscira to battle the evil God of War (no, not that one) Ares, after an American pilot and spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), washes up on her island’s shores and reveals the world is at war!

What we think: Eschewing the grim and gritty tone of other DC movies, Wonder Woman is an uplifting story about empathy and understanding in the face of war. It’s also here that Gadot finds the heart of the character, tempering Wonder Woman’s warrior spirit with a compassion that belies her Amazonian heritage. Arguably, though, the film’s best remembered for the iconic No Man’s Land scene, which genuinely made my jaw fall open the first time I saw it.

Where to stream: Max

Words by Tom Percival

17. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The Guardians escape from prison in Guardian of the Galaxy

What it’s about: Guardians of the Galaxy concerns the assembly of the MCU’s motliest and funniest crew. Peter Quill – aka Star-Lord – is the human face of the Guardians; Groot is their walking (and kind-of talking) tree; Rocket is a sharp-shooting raccoon; Gamora, the gang’s deadly alien assassin; and Drax is a muscle-bound destroyer. 

They hate each other at first, as is the way with comic book team-ups, but a prison break forces them to collaborate, and soon the Guardians realize they are better together, especially when battling fanatical Kree villain Ronan the Accuser.  

What we think: I visited the set of Guardians of the Galaxy, and nothing I saw or heard made much sense. Still, it was obvious that writer-director James Gunn had a very clear and specific vision for the movie, one that could send the Marvel Cinematic Universe spinning in an interesting new direction or end in total disaster. 

Mercifully, the result was a resounding success. Guardians was a dramatic space opera with multi-dimensional characters, ingenious action sequences, and a rocking soundtrack thanks to Pete’s Awesome Mix-Tape. It also had the best jokes in any superhero movie up to that point. Ronan is the weak link – a forgettable villain who poses little threat to our heroes. But that misstep is easily forgiven in a relentlessly entertaining movie that’s filled with both heart and soul.

Where to stream: Disney+.

Words by Chris Tilly

16. The Avengers (2012)

Thor and Black Widow in The Avengers

What it’s about: Earth faces an unprecedented threat when Thor’s brother Loki heads an alien invasion. In response, Nick Fury assembles a team of extraordinary individuals: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they must work together to become Earth’s mightiest heroes.

What we think: The Avengers was made when Marvel movies weren’t entirely comprised of blue screens, and you can tell. It has a charming rubbery texture, tactility, and an exciting glint in its eye that would go on to change modern Hollywood. Witty, character-driven, and hammy in the right places, The Avengers doesn’t just stand up to the mammoth team-up movies that followed; it’s still one of the very best.

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Trudie Graham

15. The Batman (2022)

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in The Batman

What it’s about: When the Riddler starts terrorizing Gotham City with horrific and brutal murders, Bruce Wayne must come to terms with his family’s past as he attempts to keep the line drawn between his public persona and his masked alter-ego. 

What we think: A Zodiac Killer-style Riddler? Robert Pattinson playing an emo, makeup-caked Bruce Wayne? Sign us up all over again, please. Batman’s tale has been told many times over the years, but Matt Reeves’ grungy, shadow-laden version of Gotham is the most refreshing take on the Caped Crusader to date. If you don’t find Pattinson’s moody Bruce appealing, then at least come for an unrecognizable Colin Farrell in his portrayal of The Penguin. Let’s just hope The Batman 2 can live up to its predecessor.

Where to stream: Max and Tubi

Words by Jessica Cullen

14. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)

captain-america-the-winter-soldier

What it’s about: Captain America faces his greatest threat yet as he’s pulled into a world of government conspiracy and realizes the people he once thought as friends aren’t what they seem. On top of that, he must contend with the past when a mysterious, deadly figure emerges to take him and his team down.

What we think: Captain America: Winter Soldier was the first movie in the MCU to feel like it had real-world stakes, and that can be credited to how the movie used other genres to elevate the otherwise run-of-the-mill superhero story. Winter Soldier is a spy thriller, action flick, and reunion picture all rolled into one red, white, and blue superhero movie. Plus, the movie brought back the bromance between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, truly one of the greatest and most complex relationships within the MCU.

Where it’s streaming: Disney+

Words by Kayla Harrington

13. Logan (2017)

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in Logan

What it’s about: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hideout on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to retreat from the world and his past are upended when a young mutant arrives, hunted. As Logan reluctantly sets out with Charles and the girl, he’s forced to confront his inner demons.

What we think: Logan is a poignant ode to a character many of us grew up with. Casting a more real light on the mutant, James Mangold strips back the healing factor, claws, and gruff attitude to find a rich well of legacy and hope. With slick R-rated action, a small-scale narrative, and an incredibly moving farewell to him, Logan is one of the finest superhero films of the 2010s. Let’s hope Deadpool 3 can do this film justice.

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Trudie Graham

12. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Spider-Man and Tony Stark in Avengers: Infinity War

What it’s about: If Thanos gets his gold-gauntlet fingers on all of the Infinity Stones, he’s vowed to “balance the universe” — in other words, he’ll snap away half of all life in existence. Whether they’re on Earth or lightyears away in the cosmos, the Avengers team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop the titan and (hopefully) save the world.

What we think: Infinity War is the peak of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an exhilarating, lightspeed culmination of a decade’s worth of superhero stories and an unforgettable introduction to Thanos, the baddie to beat all baddies. Endgame may have remedied its heartbreak, but that was the easy bit: its devastating, brilliant ending forced us to reckon with the unimaginable. Some people have moved on, but not us. 

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Cameron Frew

11. Black Panther (2018)

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa in Black Panther (2018)

What it’s about: Following decades of isolation, the newly crowned King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), aka the Black Panther, wrestles with his kingdom’s place in the world in the face of a new enemy, the deadly Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who has his own plans for Wakanda. 

What we think: While it’s genuinely a boundary-pushing film, Black Panther is, first and foremost, an exciting and gripping action movie that will have even the most superhero-skeptical movie fan punching the air in delight. Director Ryan Coogler does an incredible job of realizing the nation of Wakanda, turning it into an Afro-futuristic paradise unlike anything seen in Marvel before. 

Yet, while the production design, casting, and music are all wonderful, the real reason for its being on this list is the two stars at the center of it, Boseman and Jordan. Both are incredible as two men who should have been as close as brothers but are torn apart by old-fashioned ideologies and hatred. Boseman, in particular, is astounding as the dignified yet charismatic king.

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Tom Percival

10. Superman (1978)

Christopher Reeve takes flight in Superman.

What it’s about: With Planet Krypton on the brink of destruction, Kal-El’s parents send their young son to Earth, where the boy is discovered by the Kents, who adopt him as their own. More powerful than any human, a grown-up Clark Kent moves to the big city where he becomes a reporter at the Daily Planet, as well as Earth’s alien protector, Superman. A role that sees him saving lives while wearing red and blue spandex and going toe-to-toe with the “greatest criminal mind of our time,” Lex Luthor.

What we think: The comic book films and shows that came before Superman were cheap, silly, and very much aimed at kids. Then, Richard Donner’s movie changed the game. “You’ll believe a man can fly” was the tagline, and Donner did just that using cutting-edge special effects. But Superman’s most dazzling detail was the casting of Christoper Reeve as Clark Kent, an inspired choice for the dual role, with the actor effortlessly switching between lovable klutz and stoic hero, sometimes in the blink of an eye. 

The pace is slow, especially when compared to today’s high-octane blockbusters, but that gives characters time to breathe and relationships space to develop, so by the time Pa Kent dies or Clark falls for Lois, you really believe what’s happening onscreen. This lends the film real resonance and depth, making Superman the first grown-up superhero movie and still one of the very best. We’ve got our fingers crossed that James Gunn’s Superman lives up to Donner’s legacy.

Where to stream: Max

Words by Chris Tilly

9. The Crow (1994)

Brandon Lee in The Crow.

What it’s about: On a dark Devil’s Night, a gang of thugs murder Eric Draven and his fiancée. A year later, Eric is resurrected with several new supernatural abilities and given one night to take his revenge. 

What we think: The Crow is a unique addition to this list and breaks from what most people would categorize as a traditional “superhero” movie. There are no capes, showy superpowers, or sidekicks — just cathartic and stylish violence. The Crow should be praised for its dark and gritty tone and impressive cinematography, both of which perfectly capture the original comic book’s gothic story. Above all, The Crow gets to the heart of what a superhero is — someone driven by revenge and a desire to change the world. 

Where to stream: Paramount+

Words by Gaby Silva

8. Spider-Man (2002)

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man (2002)

What it’s about: When Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider on a field trip, he develops superhuman abilities that turn him into the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. But juggling teen life, love, and family while trying to battle the Green Goblin is no small feat, and Peter soon learns that with great power comes great responsibility. 

What we think: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man is the one that started it all. Igniting a taste for superheroes in mainstream audiences, which would never be shaken, he introduced the concept of a teen hero with style. Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin is a supervillain for the ages, and the big-scale conflict tore through New York in a way that raised the bar for every subsequent superhero movie that came after.

Where to stream: Disney+ and Peacock

Words by Jessica Cullen

7. Batman Returns (1992)

The Penguin and Catwoman share a moment in Batman Returns

What it’s about: Gotham City faces a new threat as the Penguin uses industrialist Max Shreck to challenge Batman, complicating his mission to protect the city. As the conflict intensifies, Catwoman emerges with an agenda of her own.

What we think: As my first entry into the world of Batman, nothing gets my nostalgia going quite like Tim Burton’s vision of Gotham, its hyper-stylized sets and gothic trappings making the city a character of its own. This, coupled with a standout cast of Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, and Michael Keaton, make Batman Returns top of my list (in some ways, even more so than The Dark Knight — don’t @ me). 

Where to stream: Max

Words by Daisy Phillipson

6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

The Avengers walk through portals in Endgame

What it’s about: Following the events of Infinity War, the surviving Avengers embark on a time-traveling mission to undo the devastating effects of Thanos’ snap and restore balance to the universe, facing both personal and cosmic challenges along the way. 

What we think: Tying together more than a decade of blockbuster storytelling is no mean feat, but the Russo brothers surpassed all of our expectations with Avengers: Endgame. It stands as a monumental achievement in the superhero genre, not only for its epic scale and emotional depth but also for its profound impact on cinematic storytelling. So much so that we now consider the genre to be in its “post-Endgame era.”

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Daisy Phillipson

5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Peter B Parker and Miles Morales swing in Spider-Man: Into the Sppider-Verse

What it’s about: Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is just an average kid living in New York City until a chance encounter with a radioactive spider transforms him into the ultimate Spider-Man. Now Miles must master his new powers while also helping a team of Spider-People from across the multiverse find their way home. 

What we think: Colorful and bombastic, Into the Spider-Verse is rightfully praised as one of the most creative Spider-Man movies of the last decade, effortlessly interweaving a complicated tale about the infinite potential of reality with a coming-of-age story. Indeed, while the visuals and the madness of the multiverse help this film stand out from its live-action contemporaries, it’s in the quieter, more character-driven moments that Spider-Verse proves it’s got more substance than style. 

Where to stream: FX Now

Words by Tom Percival

4. The Incredibles (2004)

Mr Incredible from the Increidbles

What it’s about: A superpowered couple retires from crime fighting to raise a family, but Mister Incredible just can’t stay away and is lured back into the game by a deranged fan-turned-supervillain. The Incredibles ushered in a new era for Disney-Pixar collaborations and stands the test of time as not only one of the best animated movies ever made but a champion in the superhero genre.

What we think: The Incredibles is basically an amazing version of whatever Marvel has been trying to do with the Fantastic Four on the big screen for years. Charming animation, brilliant characters, and a genuinely captivating story are supplemented by big action set-pieces and clever comedy that caters to audiences young and old.

Where to stream: Disney+

Words by Jakob Barnes

3. Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl in the Kick-Ass movie

What it’s about: Dave Lizewski is a mild-mannered New York teen who decides to become a superhero. Crafting his costume from a scuba suit, Dave hits the streets and promptly gets his head kicked in. But after replacing his broken bones with metal, Dave starts successfully fighting crime. His efforts shift into high gear while using the name Kick-Ass and teaming up with the dynamic duo Big Daddy and Hit-Girl to take down local crime boss Frank D’Amico. 

What we think: Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass perfectly captures the anarchic spirit of Mark Millar’s comic, managing to be both an affectionate spoof of the genre and a wildly entertaining superhero movie in its own right. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a likable lead, and Nicolas Cage goes large as Big Daddy, delivering a hilarious and heartbreaking performance. 

The standout, though, is Chloe Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl. A kid shouldn’t say the things she says – or kill the way she kills – but she’s the star of the show and the focus of the best scenes in a film filled with great moments.

Where to stream: Peacock Premium

Words by Chris Tilly

2. The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger as the Joker in the Dark Knight

What it’s about: As the Joker (Heath Ledger) wreaks bloody, explosive havoc, Batman (Christian Bale) tries to stop him — but the emergence of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) as the city’s formidable DA makes him question what kind of hero Gotham deserves — and who it needs right now. 

What we think: The Dark Knight is one of the best superhero movies ever and a definite contender for the most iconic picture of the 21st century. Christopher Nolan dared to present audiences with a better class of comic book film, and its eye-popping, rousing power has yet to be matched (even with its sequel), not to mention it boasts the greatest performance of all time in Heath Ledger’s once-in-a-generation turn as the Joker.  

Where to stream: Max

Words by Cameron Frew

1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2

What it’s about: Two years after the events of Spider-Man (2002), Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) begins to lose his mojo as he struggles to find a balance between his personal life and his superheroic responsibilities. When a lab accident transforms Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) into the deadly Doc Ock, Peter’s forced to decide what’s more important: the spider or the man.

What we think: A love letter to the high-camp silver age stories of Lee and Ditko, Spider-Man 2 is as agile as its titular hero, confidently flipping between exciting action and heartbreaking melodrama with all the ease of a genetically engineered spider. 

Every element is pitch-perfect, from Molina’s immaculate casting to Sam Raimi’s confident and stylish direction, while Danny Elfman’s iconic music is uproariously uplifting. While I love everything about Spider-Man 2, the best scene is clearly the battle on the elevated train, which makes brilliantly creative use of Otto and Peter’s unique powersets. 

Where to stream: Disney+ and Peacock

Words by Tom Percival

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