Top 10 Best Super Hero Movies – Follow-Up
Yesterday, I posted a Top Ten list. I rarely engage in lists because I am really bad at them. I always worry I will forget something important. And I find ordering things based on subjective reasoning to be extremely frustrating. I enjoy debating (and ripping apart) other people’s lists. But I hate making my own.
The response to this list was so positive, I may have to rethink my stance and start posting more Top Ten lists in the future. But for now, I thought I’d write a follow-up to yesterday’s list.
First of all, a number of readers were kind enough to post their own list. I thought I’d collect them all here for easy reading:
Here’s a link to my original list.
9. Superman 2
8. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
7. X-Men 2
4. The Incredibles
3. Iron Man
2. The Dark Knight
1. Spider-Man 2
10 Superman II
9 Hellboy II
8 Batman Begins
6 X-Men II
5 The Dark Knight
4 Iron Man
2 Spider-Man II
7. Superman Returns
6. Spiderman 2
5. The Dark Knight
4. Captain America
3. Iron Man
2. Batman Begins
1. Superman: The Movie
Honorable Mention: Kickass
(If anyone else feels like posting their lists, I’ll add them to the body of the text.)
All great lists, by the way. On another day, in another mood, with a different set of criteria, I could see myself making lists very much like these.
Based on the responses in the comments section and some of the responses my list got on Facebook, I thought I’d share a few observations.
On my original list, I decided to try to prioritize traditional super heroes over gritty deconstructions of super heroes. That’s why I left off Watchmen and Kick Ass. Both movies have their merits. But I don’t feel entirely comfortable with either of them. Especially Kick Ass which I think crosses a line into ugly territory at the end.
I haven’t read the comic book Kick Ass is based on. But I have that response to most of Mark Millar’s work. I thought the comic Wanted was based on was vile.
I really like Unbreakable, but I left it off my list in favor of movies I considered to be more fun like Captain America and Thor. Thor seemed to be a particularly decisive inclusion. Some people praised me for including it while others called for it to be cast out of Asgard.
I was also surprised by the love for Captain America with more than one person telling me it should rank higher than 9th. I expected people to be critical of me for including it at all. The reviews, while largely positive, were mixed. And the box office was respectable, but it came in under Thor. Apparently, those of us who enjoyed it are very enthusiastic.
The most common complaint about my list was the exclusion of the Burton Batman. A lot of people remember the 1989 Batman fondly. I know I do. In 1989, it was a really fun movie even if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
My problem is that everything that the Burton film got right, subsequent super hero movies have done better. Both of Nolan’s Batman films are better Batman movies. As great as Nicholson was as the Joker, he seems like Ceasar Romero when you put him up against Heath Ledger. These days, all you’re left with is Tim Burtons visuals (which are a feature of every Tim Burton movie), Danny Elfman’s score and a Batman with no peripheral vision. Long story short, I don’t think it holds up.
I respect the heck out of Batman Returns for taking so many chances. But only about half of them pay off. For the most part, if Michelle Pfeiffer or Christopher Walken aren’t chewing scenery, the movie is a mess. 10 years ago, it would have made the list. But with so many fun super hero movies out there to choose from, Batman Returns got squeezed out.
Which brings me to another point. I think we can all agree that CGI (for all its “evils”) has allowed for a golden age of super hero movies. Now that film-makers can depict Spider-man swinging over rooftops and Captain America launching his mighty shield, comic book heroes can be adapted to the big screen like never before. The only limitation seems to be the imagination of the film-makers.
But that technology doesn’t necessarily make for better super hero movies. No super hero movie has made more use of CGI than last summer’s Green Lantern. And that movie positively drowned in its CGI. It overpowered any human element the story might have had.
I was also heartened by the shared affection for Superman: The Movie. All of us “men of a certain age” remember it fondly. Superman 2 shared in some of that love. But many (myself included) feel it hasn’t aged as well as the first film.
Just for fun, I thought I’d end by running down my 5 least favorite super hero movies of all time:
(Having never seen Catwoman, it is not on my list. I’m sure it would be if I ever made myself endure it. I am also leaving off low-budget cheapies like Steel or the Roger Corman Fantastic Four. Those movies aren’t meant to be taken seriously.)
Supergirl – After the Salkinds basically killed the Superman franchise with Superman 3, they tried to spin off a Supergirl series. Helen Slater was perfectly cast as the Maid of Steel. But everything else about this movie is terrible!
Punisher – Any version. Take your pick. One, I just don’t care for the character. But two, Hollywood has never done a good job with him anyway.
The Spirit – Proof that Frank Miller has lost his mind. This movie is not competent in any way. It is easily the worst movie on the list. But since it is such a minor character, I don’t consider it a major crime. So I’ll rank it in the middle of the pack.
Batman and Robin – It’s probably not as bad as it’s reputation. But I’m still mad about seeing Batman whip out the Bat credit card. This movie made me groan in pain repeatedly. I have never endured a second viewing.
Superman 4: The Quest for Peace – Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Even Christopher Reeve can’t save his final Superman movie. If you thought it couldn’t get worse than Superman 3 (a Richard Pryor movie guest starring Superman) you were wrong. Superman 4 lowered the bar in every regard.