The greatest opening scenes in superhero movies

Even with incredible strength and extraordinary powers, superheroes have to work hard to make a grand entrance—and with multiple superhero movies coming out every year, each new one has to grab the audience's attention in the first couple of minutes. Whether it's introducing an iconic character, creating a mind-blowing battle, or surprising fans with a bit of comedy, horror, or a clever musical number, first impressions are key to a successful superhero cinematic universe. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the genre's greatest opening scenes.

Batman (1989)

Batman is everywhere these days, but in 1989, comic book fans were still waiting to see the Dark Knight take over the silver screen. Sure, Adam West made for a perfectly campy Caped Crusader in 1966, but Batfans were ready for something darker—a movie that felt more like the comics written by Alan Moore and Frank Miller.

Needless to say, fans were psyched to hear that Tim Burton was directing a Batman movie. But with all the hype—plus the Michael Keaton casting controversyBatman had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, from the first scene, Burton impressed even the most diehard fanboys with his Gothic take on Gotham City—a world crawling with crooks and hookers and a town cloaked in darkness, where the buildings looked like they'd been designed by a drunken Fritz Lang.

The best moment comes when Batman appears for the first time. After mugging an unlucky family, two thugs are busy counting their cash when we see him descend from the sky, cape spread wide. The punks try to put him down, but bullets can't stop the Batman—he keeps coming like something from a nightmare, throwing kicks and Batarangs before dangling a bad guy off the side of a roof. And when the terrified crook asks, "What are you?" we finally get to hear the most iconic superhero line of all time as an intimidating Michael Keaton growls, "I'm Batman." Just like that, a cinematic hero was born.

Blade (1998)

Long before Iron Man or The Avengers, even before Spider-Man or X-Men, there was Blade. The first successful Marvel movie, the Stephen Norrington-directed action thriller set the stage for the modern-day superhero boom—and wasted no time sucking audiences into its blood-soaked world. Critics have described the opening fight scene as "one of the all-time greats" and "the best set piece in comic book history," and whether or not you're a fan of the film, we can all agree those first few minutes are a grisly good time.

Blade opens on the world's nastiest nightclub, a place that would've been shut down years ago if the patrons hadn't eaten the health inspector. We see a man lured inside by a girl way out of his league—and witness his revulsion as he realizes the ceiling is rigged with blood-spurting sprinklers. Soon, the writhing crowd is drenched in red, and that's when they start baring fangs. Yep, instead of dancing, this poor sap is about to become dinner.

But before the feast begins, the main course is rescued by a sword-wielding superhero: the half-man, half-vampire Blade (Wesley Snipes). Determined to kill every bloodsucker in sight, he stakes creatures in the chest, cuts fools with his katana, and blasts beasts with his silver-bullet shotgun. He even takes out a room full of vampires with a razor-bladed boomerang before giving audiences a grin. The opening of Blade grabs your attention right off the (vampire) bat.

The Incredibles (2004)

Try as they might, Marvel and DC will never create a movie as incredible as…well…The Incredibles. This Pixar film works as both a brilliant satire and a loving tribute to the superhero genre, all while delving into some pretty heavy themes for a kids' movie, like ordinariness vs. exceptionalism and family vs. self-fulfillment. Most impressive of all? Many of the movie's big ideas are summed up in the first 90 seconds.

Set 15 years before the main events of the movie, the opening is done documentary style, with our three heroes—younger, stronger, sexier—giving their thoughts on what it takes to be a Super. When we glimpse Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) struggling with his microphone, we immediately realize that despite their powers, these muscle-bound heroes a lot like everyone else—they're stressed out by their jobs, they go shopping, and they have relationship problems, just like any ordinary citizen.

At one point, a frustrated Mr. Incredible even jokes, "No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved!" And the interview session wraps up with Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) discussing whether or not they'll have a family one day. It's the perfect segue into the film proper, where our heroes get hitched, have kids, and battle the combined forces of mediocrity and giant robots.

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man has always been unique among comic book characters because underneath the costume, he isn't a space alien or a billionaire playboy—he's just an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. When he isn't battling multi-armed mad scientists, he's struggling with school, trying to hold down a job, and hoping to impress the love of his life. It's a big part of what makes Spider-Man is so relatable—and why the Spider-Man 2 intro is one of the very best the genre has to offer.

Directed by Sam Raimi, Spider-Man 2 finds Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) stuck in a major slump. He spends his time daydreaming about Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), and he's fed up with the pressure of being the neighborhood crimefighter, especially since it's turned his life into an absolute shambles. He's so stressed out that he's on the verge of losing his job at the local pizza restaurant—so with only seven and a half minutes to make a career-saving delivery, Peter switches into his Spidey suit and swing across Manhattan, pizza in hand.

Of course, Spider-Man's job is never done, and he loses some precious seconds when he swoops down and rescues some kids from an oncoming truck. He saves their lives, but he loses his job when he delivers the pizzas a few minutes late. It's the perfect encapsulation of the whole "blessing and a curse" conundrum—in one scene, we realize that being super isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when you're broke, lonely, and tired of saving everyone except yourself.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The beginning of The Dark Knight isn't just one of the best superhero openings; it's one of the all-time greats, up there with Star Wars and The Godfather. Filmed on 70mm IMAX, this Christopher Nolan masterpiece opens with the Bat-symbol on fire, and things only get crazier from there. We cut to a Gotham skyline, and while it seems like an ordinary day, that creeping score warns us something's up.

And that's when a skyscraper window shatters and a grappling gun fires across the street, kicking off an elaborate heist involving a bunch of thugs wearing clown masks. As they break into a mob-controlled bank, the crooks banter about the Joker, their enigmatic boss with a penchant for war paint. And as they tick their way down their to-do list—deactivate the phones, open the safe, kill the bus driver—they pick each other off, one by one, until there's only one thug standing.

But before the final clown can get away with his ill-gotten gains, he's distracted by an angry mob enforcer. Shot to pieces, the wounded Mafioso asks the robber what he believes in. Honesty? Respect? And that's when the clown pulls off his mask to reveal the horrific face of the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime has been there the whole time, pulling the strings and putting bullets in people. As he prepares to make his getaway, he delivers his chilling credo: "I believe that whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you…stranger."

Watchmen (2009)

Say what you want about the movie as a whole, but there's no denying that the opening to Watchmen perfectly captures the bloody beat-down from Alan Moore's graphic novel. This Zack Snyder-directed adaptation opens on the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a "superhero" who's done more dirty deeds than derring-do. The grizzled nihilist is sitting alone in his apartment, smoking a cigar and contemplating life's many sick jokes. He's been sticking his nose where it didn't belong, and when his front door busts open, the Comedian knows the gig is over.

A mysterious opponent storms into the room, and while he lacks the heft of the Comedian, he more than makes up for it with his martial arts prowess. The unknown foe can seemingly anticipate his target's every move, dodging punches and catching blades midair with his bare hands. And as the shadowy assassin beats the Comedian into oblivion, Snyder employs his trademark slow-mo, a move that works incredibly well here. Better still, the entire fist fight is accompanied by Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable You," and as the Comedian is tossed out the window and his blood-stained smiley face pin tumbles to the street below, we're left with an opening no superhero fan will ever forget.

Deadpool (2016)

We all know Deadpool is a bit of a rebel, an iconoclast. The guy doesn't play by the rules, and neither does the opening scene of his R-rated blockbuster. Who would've suspected that a movie about a deformed mutant assassin would open with Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning"? As the '80s pop song plays on the soundtrack, the camera winds its way through a suspended tableau of death and destruction. Bad guys are frozen mid-scream, bullets and cigarette lighters float in the air, and the hilariously clever credits tell us to watch out for "God's Perfect Idiot," a "Hot Chick," and a "British Villain."

Of course, the awesomeness doesn't stop there. Immediately after the credits, we see the Merc with a Mouth perched on an overpass, jamming to "Shoop" and scribbling violent cartoons. Breaking the fourth wall, Deadpool says a quick hello the audience, cracks a joke about somebody whose name rhymes with "Pulverine," and then jumps onto the freeway below, crashing straight into an SUV full of villains. Deadpool starts to slaughter everyone in sight, and we get to watch as the slow-mo credits play out in real time. It's gory, hysterically over-the-top, and sets the perfect tone for the mercenary madness to follow.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

When your 2017 movie starts with a 1980s Kurt Russell, you know you're doing something right. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens in Missouri, with Ego the Living Planet (a gloriously coiffed Russell) and Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) cruising down back roads; as the couple runs into the woods, we get a glimpse of Ego's evil plan, but in the moment, we're just caught up in the romance of it all—not to mention the amazing digital work done on Russell's face.

But the lazy afternoon doesn't last long, as we blast 34 years into the future and find everybody's favorite a-holes preparing to battle an oversized space squid with an appetite for Anulax batteries. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a little insecure about Gamora's (Zoe Saldana) new gun, and the group spends a bit of time bickering about Rocket's (Bradley Cooper) sound system, but when the Abelisk comes tearing out of the sky, the Guardians get to work, with "Mr. Blue Sky" blasting over the stereo.

And as the battle rages in the background, Baby Groot is busy dancing to ELO, fighting alien space rats, and keeping us thoroughly entertained through the opening credits. It's possibly the most adorable scene in the entire MCU—one that took two whole years of planning—not to mention one of Marvel's sweetest, and slimiest, openings. Really, the only thing better than watching Baby Groot boogie is watching director James Gunn choreograph all the dance moves.

Split (2017)

Tonally speaking, Split is a horror movie. After all, this M. Night Shyamalan film is about a creep who kidnaps and cannibalizes teenage girls. But it also works as a supervillain origin story: the movie takes place in the same universe as Shyamalan's Unbreakable, and in fact, McAvoy's character(s) was originally supposed to appear in that movie.

Alone at a party, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) is offered a ride home by some sympathetic classmates and their well-meaning dad. Unfortunately, getting into that car proves to be the worst mistake of her young life. As she silently sits in the front seat, waiting for the dad to finish loading the trunk, she notices something happening outside. There are boxes scattered all over the ground…boxes her friend's father had been carrying just moments before. So when Casey hears someone climb into the driver's seat, she quickly realizes they're all about to take a very disturbing detour.

When Casey finally summons the courage to look, she sees the menacing Dennis (McAvoy), one of the many personalities trapped inside the body of Kevin Wendell Crumb. Unable to make a sound, Casey watches as Dennis dons a surgical mask, grabs a can of aerosol anesthesia, and knocks out the girls in the back seat. It all plays out like a scene lifted from your worst nightmare, with Casey absolutely paralyzed with fear. She's so quiet and submissive that Dennis doesn't even seem to notice her until she ever-so-slowly tries to open the car door. But when the door sensor goes off, he turns to his third and final victim, pulls out the can, and kicks off one of the creepiest films in superhero cinema.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor: Ragnarok could've stopped after the cold open and audiences would've gone home feeling like they'd watched the greatest fantasy movie since Return of the King. Directed by Taika Waititi, Ragnarok totally revamps the God of Thunder, giving him an actual personality and a much appreciated sense of humor. At the same time, Waititi mixes the comedy with sword-and-sorcery action, a healthy dollop of darkness, and a truly memorable score.

This brilliant blend of comedy, action, and fantasy all comes together perfectly in the first few minutes, when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself trapped in the underworld. Wrapped in chains and monologuing to himself, the blond Avenger is granted an unwelcome audience with Surtur, the fire demon who plans on bringing about the end of Asgard. Thor calls for his mighty hammer, bashes a bunch of demi-devils, and then goes toe-to-toe with Surtur, all while accompanied by the epic strains of "The Immigrant Song."

But after dispatching Surtur, Thor still has a massive dragon to deal with; unfortunately, nobody back home will open the Bifrost. Heimdall (Idris Elba) has gone on the run, and Skurge (Karl Urban) is entertaining lady friends with his toys from "Tex-As." So Thor is forced to fly with Mjolnir in the lead and a fiery reptile on his tail. With Mark Mothersbaugh's score building to a perfect '80s pitch, Skurge finally drops his machine guns and shake weights and opens up the Bifrost, kicking off a wild adventure involving ghouls, gladiators, and the goddess of death.