By Nick Maylor
Due to the constant stream of new films released each year and the general progression of life, this list could be entirely different if I were to write it six months, 5 years or 2 days from now.
Amongst the countless honourable mentions are films like Batman (1989), Batman Begins (2005), Iron Man (2008), Deadpool (2016), Logan (2017), and a slew of other films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
No film featuring Superman appears here. There’s more to that story…
10. THE INCREDIBLES (2004)
The first family of comic books (at least at Marvel) has always been considered to be the Fantastic Four. Despite several attempts, there hasn’t been a successful film adaptation of the characters to date. The Incredibles (2004) is the closest thing that exists and it is a phenomenal G-Rated Watchmen-esque caper through the prism of Disney/Pixar. The Simpsons veteran and The Iron Giant (1999) director Brad Bird delivered one of the best entries in the genre; one that is often overlooked for being outside of the usual DC/Marvel umbrellas.
9. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
Ogah Chucka Ogah Ogah Ogah Chucka.
The awesome mixtape, Chris Pratt in all of his glorious Chris Prattiness. This movie was Indiana Jones meets Star Wars meets the Breakfast Club, filtered through the prism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as interpreted by James Gunn. A group of intergalactic misfits who become a family. The introduction of Rocket and Groot was a milestone for the genre. No character would ever be considered too silly or unrealistic for the big screen again. Marvel knew they had a winner here. They were so confident that they slapped HOWARD THE DUCK in the post-credits scene even with the promise of a sequel. They knew they’d have us clamoring for more… and we went back in droves!
We. Are. Groot.
8. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
There have been eight installments of the X-Men film series. This does not include any spinoff films such as the three Wolverine movies or the Deadpool franchise. While predominantly featuring Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as a through-line for the narrative, after the prequels came around, the main thing that glued the entire series together was the relationship between Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnnsher (Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender). All four of the actors have delivered amazing performances in the roles and this seventh (and best) installment features all four actors in two separate timelines. It encapsulates all of the xenophobic and socio-political themes that is the hallmark of the franchise and features a wonderful performance by Peter Dinklage as the film’s villain Bolivar Trask. The opening battle sequence was also a return to form for director Bryan Singer after returning to the franchise from DC; having directed the gorgeous but tedious, ill-advised and insufferably boring Superman Returns (2006).
7. WONDER WOMAN (2017)
The fact that it took until 2017 to make a movie is shameful; but boy, did they get it right?
I took my mother to see this. It only seemed right. She loved it. Director Patty Jenkins delivered everything that Diana of Themyscira deserved in a big screen film. Independent, powerful and pure of heart, Diana exploded on the big screen via Gal Gadot in this masterful World War One period-piece. They say it is no man’s land because no man can cross it, but these phenomenal women crossed it with vigor and style. The battlefield sequence instantly became legendary.
Girl Power FOR THE WIN
6. WATCHMEN (2009)
To mention comic-book films without mentioning Zack Snyder is to do a disservice to both. He is contentious for many and his films harshly divide people. I fall overwhelmingly on the pro-Snyder team. His adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen has been released in three version and the longer the cut, the better the film as far as I’m concerned. The movie also has one of the coolest soundtracks, with a ton of amazing songs from Bob Dylan, Nat King Cole, Jimi Hendrix, and the list goes on.
I’ve read the book. I’m not the kind of guy to nit-pick about how faithful things are to their source material. Does it work? Did it deliver on its promise?
Yes. And then some.
5. BLACK PANTHER (2018)
Sometimes you can just tell within the first 10 minutes that you’re in for something special. Assembling an extraordinary cast with a visionary director, Marvel Studios and Ryan Coogler delivered what might be the first superhero film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Chadwick Boseman is sublime as the titular warrior-king T’Challa. Forrest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’O, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, John Kani, and Winstone Duke are all brilliant, providing a strong support net for Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan. Black Panther (2018) was the third collaboration between Jordan and director/writer Ryan Coogler. In the film, Jordan’s Erik Killmonger is a wrecking ball of intimidation and strategic mayhem; ruthless and driven. Killmonger rises to become one of the great supervillain performances. It’s like The Dark Knight (2008) meets The Lion King (1994). It’s Shakespearean. It’s phenomenal.
Also, Andy Serkis is ALWAYS a good thing.
4. SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)
Let me be on record as stating that the current incarnation of Peter Parker played by Tom Holland in the MCU is the best cinematic Spider-Man. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) was in consideration for an appearance here but ultimately didn’t make the cut. Sam Rami’s sophomoric picture with everyone’s favourite web-slinger saw an intricate and thoughtful character exploration of what it means to be a hero; the story itself becoming the embodiment of Uncle Ben’s wise words: “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Alfred Molina is delightful and empathetic as Dr. Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus and J.K. Simmons is perfect as J. Jonah Jameson.
3. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)
Mission report: December 16, 1991.
To destroy an empire, one must take it apart from within. Even after Ultron, Loki, Hydra and a barrage of formidable villains, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) managed to take the Avengers down with some videotape and some serious patience (also murder and terrorism). Zemo doesn’t get into fisticuffs with any of the heroes but he managed to fracture the team in two. Steve Rogers’ and Tony Stark’s respective factions of the Avengers both have strong motivating factors, making the conflict that much more engrossing. Despite introducing both Black Panther and Spider-Man into the universe within a film already crammed with heroes, their characters feel inert to the plot and world, never feeling shoehorned in.
Spider-Man had been in limbo over at Sony ever since the wrong-headed reboot The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). Seeing him enter the world of the Avengers was seeing the rookie sit down at the big kids’ table. Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Kevin Feige, and the Russo Brothers gave us the Spider-Man we always wanted and we knew it when Peter talks to Tony Stark in his room; before we even saw him in costume.
Indeed, the best moments of the film are built upon the relationships and characters. Tony Stark and Peter Parker, Tony and Cap, Wanda and Vision, etc. Truly great moments
Not to say there isn’t plenty of eye candy. The airport battle is the living manifestation of every child’s mind’s eye when we think about loving superheroes as kids (and still).
2. THE AVENGERS (2012)
Ever since we saw that first post-credits scene in Iron Man (2008), this was the endgame. This was what lit the fire inside all of us fanboys and girls. Putting the team together after introducing them in individual films had not been done in any superhero picture before. Joss Whedon put together the ultimate superhero movie experience. Do you want an awesome superhero movie? No question that this hits every mark. Seeing the Avengers all clashing heads, not getting along; made their assembly that much more satisfying. Tom Hiddleston became everybody’s favourite bad guy we can’t help but like.
“Call it, Captain.”
This scene made my inner ten-year-old come out and live until the credits rolled and the shawarma had been served.
1. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Was there any doubt? Deserving of the Best Picture win, how was Christopher Nolan’s epic not even nominated? Why so oblivious?
Why so serious?
This film (as our site’s namesake world say) showed that comic-book/superhero movies could be art.
Since his first came to life in the artwork of Detective Comics in 1939, the Batman climbed the mountain and proved his most formidable in this masterfully executed picture.
Described by Kevin Smith as The Godfather Part II of comic-book movies, The Dark Knight surpassed its exceptional predecessor Batman Begins to become the gold standard that all others are compared to.
Heath Ledger’s performance delivered the most sensational villain in cinema since Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter.
Sublimely written, acted, directed and processed, it remains to be dethroned.
Nick is an actor/writer/comedian/musician from Hamilton, ON Canada. Having been a film nut since the early days of his life, Nick has had an obsession with cinema and popular entertainment. Nick has written for thecinemaholic.com and is the current Foote & Friends “expert” on all things geek/superhero/comic-book related. Nick is the host/producer of the official Foote & Friends On Film podcast. Nick met John when studying acting at the Toronto Film School, for which John H. Foote was director and Film History professor. The two have been arguing ever since.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickMaylor