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The 30 best superhero movies ranked

Superheroes have been a part of cinema since the early days of serials. And now, caped crusaders and awesome avengers are everywhere you look. Some people complain about "superhero fatigue," but honestly, how can you get tired of these superpowered guys and gals when their movies are so amazing? Sure, the genre has seen its fair share of bombs (CatwomanDaredevil, Josh Trank's Fantastic Four). But for every Green Lantern, there's a crowd-pleasing blockbuster that takes the format to new heights. And in some cases, these movies are truly action-packed masterpieces that will stand the test of time. Really, the best thing about these flicks is that they take all shapes and sizes. Some are created by industry giants like Marvel and DC. Others are animated flicks and indie hits. Some deconstruct the genre while others revel in their comic book origins, but they've all changed the game in one way or another. From '70s classics to modern-day epics, these are the 30 best superhero movies ever made.

30. Kick-Ass

This R-rated 2010 film based on Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s comics series of the same name is not your typical superhero story—and that's exactly what makes it so great. It's bone-cracking and profane, with over-the-top action and a ton of heart—the story of a kid who really has no business being a hero, but does it anyway. Kick-Ass proved to be a breakout project for young Aaron Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz, and even gave veteran action star Nicolas Cage an opportunity to play a superhero role that made up for Ghost Rider (though admittedly, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance hit the screen two years after Kick-Ass, so the lesson here is that Nic Cage will never learn).

29. Chronicle

Director Josh Trank's Chronicle gives the superhero genre the Blair Witch Project/Cloverfield found footage treatment, telling the story of three teenagers who stumble upon a mysterious extraterrestrial object that grants them seemingly limitless superpowers. Of course, being a teen is hard enough, but being a teen with abilities like telekinesis? Well, that's too much of a burden to bear, and this superhero origin story quickly becomes a supervillain origin story. A surprise hit, the movie resonated with critics and fans alike; as Empire put it, "[It's a] stunning superhero/sci-fi that has appeared out of nowhere to demand your immediate attention." Sure, there are moments when you'll wonder why the cameras are still rolling as psychic high school students battle it out in the sky, but the movie is such a tense thrill ride that you'll quickly forget those nitpicks as the movie heads towards its inevitable and horrific showdown. (Plus, it's a lot of fun watching future Green Goblin hanging out with future Erik Killmonger.)

28. Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 marks the turning point where Disney out-Pixared Pixar. This loose adaptation of a quirky, Z-list Marvel comic was one of the best films to see wide release in 2014—animated, superhero, or otherwise. It follows a kid whose brother is tragically killed in a fire, and how he moves on from that loss by making friends with his brother's robot and the friends he left behind. When they realize there might've been more to the fire than it seemed, they suit up as superheroes to get justice—but not even the film's villain is as cut and dried as it might appear. The visuals are great, the tone is pitch perfect, and there's even a Stan Lee cameo.

27. Darkman

Liam Neeson has a special set of skills. He's very good at playing dudes you just don't mess with. But before he exacted bloody vengeance upon human traffickers, wolves, in-flight texting terrorists, rival gangsters, and LEGO lawbreakers, he was Darkman. This Sam Raimi flick finds Neeson playing a scientist-turned-scarred monster-turned reluctant superhero Peyton Westlake with a maniacal glint in his eye. Beneath layers of creepy monster makeup and gauze, Neeson strikes the perfect balance of madness, righteous anger, and pathos. The exact same can be said for the film itself. Notable for its bad-trippy rage sequences, clever practical effects, and campy tone, this 1990 Sam Raimi flick feels a crazed mash-up of BatmanEvil Dead II, and The Phantom of the Opera. In other words, it's a showcase for the director's offbeat style and its star's charisma. If you're tired of the familiar old trappings of Marvel or DC, then you'll definitely want to check out this insane little film as it goes weird and wacky places most superhero movies would never dare.

26. Hellboy

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Hellboy is a 2004 film loosely based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name and follows the titular demon (memorably played by Ron Perlman) as he helps humanity take on all sorts of supernatural threats. Del Toro's visual style was perfectly suited to this story, which follows Hellboy as he faces the most human of trials: trying to figure out what type of man he is (while also battling all sorts of baddies along the way, too). In addition to the story, the makeup work on Hellboy and Abe Sapien is out of this world, and the design of villains like Karl Ruprect Kroenen is totally terrifying. And if you're hungering for more hellish fun, The Golden Army is also great. But as the failed Neil Jordan reboot so strongly demonstrated, it takes a special kind of magic to get Hellboy right. Fortunately for fans, del Toro and Perlman possess exactly what it takes to give us a devilishly good movie.

25. Deadpool

It's an absolute miracle this blood-soaked, F-bomb drenched film ever made it out of development hell, but aren't we all glad it did? A Deadpool movie kicked around in script form for years, but it took the leak of a concept reel to finally jumpstart momentum to get it made. The results are quick, filthy and fun—and Ryan Reynolds was arguably born to play the part. The Merc With A Mouth now holds the record for the highest-grossing X-Men film (though it's barely part of the franchise from a creative standpoint, ironically enough) and the highest-grossing R-rated film in history. Not bad for a B-list comic character with a foul mouth.

24. X2: X-Men United

A magnificent allegorical conflict between Sir Patrick Stewart's Professor X and Sir Ian McKellan's Magneto, Bryan Singer's 2003 movie X2: X-Men United is considered by many to be the best of the PG-13 X-Men movies. Electrified by post-9/11 righteousness—damn right, we're united!X2 couldn't be made today. That energy, that fierceness, for better or for worse, has dispersed from popular imagination, replaced by the comic pessimism of Deadpool and the grim, unbridled rage of Logan. Doing justice to its source material, Chris Claremont's 1982 masterpiece X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, this film is required viewing.

23. Batman

With 1989's Batman, director Tim Burton managed to take a character best known for Adam West's "ZAPs!" and "POWs!" and turn him into a serious hero that comics fans could recognize. With the franchise's staying power fading fast in the late 1970s (a Batman in Outer Space film was even being floated, no pun intended), it took more than a decade to finally get a new adaptation mounted. Originally, Batman was supposed to focus on the origin of Batman and Robin, though Burton scrapped elements from that script when he was hired. Many fans flew into an uproar over Michael Keaton's casting in the title role (some things never change), but one look at the final film made all those worries melt away. Burton treated the canon seriously, and though he didn't follow it note for note, he paid tribute to it and built a living, breathing version of Gotham City.

22. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Combining the worlds of the original X-Men trilogy with the prequel-sequel series X-Men: First Class was a tall order, but Bryan Singer pulled it off in spades with his return to the franchise after taking a break for two films. It managed to deftly weave together a story spanning decades, with two separate casts (with many playing the same characters at different ages), and still keep all those narrative threads tight enough so even someone who's never seen an X-Men film can still follow along. It also stealthily retconned out the atrocious X-Men: The Last Stand, making all things right within the cinematic X-universe. Not bad, right?

21. Batman Returns

Batman Returns demands to be seen, though the title is misleading. It's actually a movie about an "enchantingly mixed-up Catwoman," as The New York Times described Michelle Pfeiffer's Selina Kyle. It happens to feature Michael Keaton as Batman and Danny DeVito as a hideous version of the Penguin, a part screenwriter Daniel Waters wrote "for DeVito." (His army of heavily armed sewer-dwelling penguins is as awesome as it is implausible.) The Penguin's frightening appearance sparked a controversy over its McDonald's Happy Meal toy tie-ins.

Before Halle Berry walked into a bar and ordered some milk, before Anne Hathaway broke into Wayne Manor, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt brought Catwoman to life in the 1960s—but never like this. With Pfeiffer in the catsuit, Tim Burton at the height of his directorial powers, Christopher Walken in the role of crooked billionaire Max Schreck, and Keaton's willingness to let his smug yet charming Bruce Wayne share the spotlight with two formidable foes, this sequel earned praise from critics and became a box office hit.

20. Shazam!

The DC Extended Universe was in a really weird place in 2019. Ben Affleck had just hung up the Bat-cape. Henry Cavill's involvement as Superman was up in the air. Aquaman had just made a ton of clams, but critics weren't sure if this fishy tale was worth keeping. Warner Bros. needed a hero to save its franchise, and that's when Shazam! arrived to electrify audiences.

Directed by David F. Sandberg, Shazam! tells the tale of foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who's granted superpowers by an aging wizard (Djimon Hounsou). Whenever Billy shouts the magical phrase "Shazam," he morphs into an adult-sized hero, although he still has the mind of a 14-year-old. Together with his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy begins testing out his powers and living every kid's greatest fantasy: becoming a superhero.

Shazam! strips away all the DC darkness and gives us a film that's both sweet and fun. The scenes when Billy and Freddy experiment with Shazam's powers are an absolute delight, and the final showdown when Billy's new siblings help save the day is a heartwarming triumph. It's a movie about the importance of family and finding your place in the world, which is a lot nicer than watching the Caped Crusader murdering people left and right.

On top of all that, Shazam! has the right amount of weirdness to make it stand out from the superhero pack. After all, this is a Christmas flick in which a magical man-child fights flesh-hungry demons that represent the Seven Deadly Sins. A talking caterpillar even shows up at one point. Shazam! isn't afraid to embrace its oddball comic book origins, and the result is an absolute blast. And ultimately, that's kind of the point of the film — that it's really fun to be a superhero.

19. Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy earns its spot by being a galactic joy to behold. Chris Pratt's Star-Lord proves '70s arena rock songs belong in outer space — and so do Marvel superheroes. Zoe Saldana enchants as the green-skinned Gamora. Bradley Cooper shows his impressive range as the voice of Rocket Raccoon, and Vin Diesel's Groot makes three words speak volumes. Dave Bautista's Drax the Destroyer steals every scene with his inability to grasp idiomatic expressions.

And all these years after it arrived in theaters, it's easy to forget how crazy this film seemed at the time. Going into Guardians, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been pretty straightforward. Sure, Guy Pearce played a fire-breathing dude in Iron Man 3, and Christopher Eccleston showed up as a dark elf in a movie we've all forgotten about, but for the most part, the MCU was relatively grounded (for superhero films, anyway). But this was a movie about a talking tree, a smart-aleck raccoon, and a whistling space pirate. These were wild characters that mainstream audiences had never heard of before, but writer-director James Gunn pulled it off with galactic grace, injecting these losers and scoundrels with wit, warmth, and a whole lot of heart. And now, fans around the world all agree that the Guardians are great, and we are all Groot.

18. Dredd

In 1995, Sylvester Stallone tried bringing Judge Dredd to the silver screen, and the result was an absolute disaster. Fortunately, the mean mugging lawman got a second shot in 2012, when Karl Urban donned the grungy red helmet. The plot of Dredd is incredibly simple. The world is a dystopian nightmare, and Mega-City One is crawling with crime. One of the meanest gangsters in the city — Cersei Lannister… er… Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) — is holed up inside a skyscraper, so Dredd and his psychic partner (Olivia Thirlby) have to clear out floor after floor in their bloody attempt to bring the crime lord down. The film is similar in style to The Raid: Redemption, with the two heroes fighting their way up stairs and facing down threat after threat, video game-style. And the violence here is absolutely beautiful in a Wild Bunch sort of way. Director Pete Travis uses slow motion and vivid colors to incredible effect, slowing scenes down so we can watch bodies gracefully tumble from the top of a high-rise or see bullets rip through bodies and spray crimson, jeweled blood across walls. If graceful, gory violence is your thing, then Dredd is required viewing.

17. Captain America: Civil War

This Captain America sequel has been described as Avengers 2.5, and for good reason. It featured as many heroes as the typical Avengers film, and told a politically charged story that set Earth's Mightiest Heroes against one another in one of the most eye-popping big-screen battle royales ever conceived. (The Giant-Man surprise is worth the price of admission alone.) Along with giving fans juicy, high-stakes heroes vs. heroes battles, Civil War also introduced Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther to mainstream audiences, and took a major step toward moving the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) forward by picking over some of the fallout from Avengers: Age of Ultron. But even if you're not up on all the Marvel lore—or jump in with little to no previous knowledge of these characters and their prior MCU adventures—it's still one heck of a fun thrill ride.

16. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

More explosive, more affecting, and funnier than the first, The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is another snarky space epic powered by a slammin' and soulful classic rock soundtrack and state-of-the-art visuals. The Guardians of the Galaxy hooked you on a feeling. Vol. 2 capitalizes on that neurochemical dependency.

This time around, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel as Marvel's pint-sized answer to The Force Awakens' BB-8), and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista and his hearty laugh) square off against their toughest foes yet. With the uptight bravado of a put-upon villain, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), high priestess of an advanced civilization called The Sovereign, is a formidable enemy. The Sovereign fights its wars from the safety and comfort of a big, golden video arcade for drone combat pilots.

The dynamite supporting cast includes Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Karen Gillan as Gamora's mercurial sister Nebula, and the great Michael Rooker as blue-faced Yondu (everyone's favorite rough-around-the-edges bounty hunter not named Solo or Fett). Memorable performances from Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell also make this sequel a must-see. Critics who quibbled with Vol. 2's hyperactive style and one too many emotional moments missed the galaxy's beauty for its uninhabitable pockmarked planets.

15. Thor: Ragnarok

Until 2017, Thor was the weakest link in the Avengers. He was a pompous prince who liked hitting things with a hammer… and that was about it as far as characterization went. Making things worse, the Thor films took him way too seriously, but every so often, you could see something special in the character, thanks to the talented Chris Hemsworth. Marvel just needed the right filmmaker to get rid of the over-the-top drama and turn this Asgardian into a likable guy.

Fortunately, the god of thunder finally got the movie he deserved when Marvel hired Taika Waititi to direct Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi scaled back the Shakespearean theatrics and — with a little help from Hemsworth's comedic chops — turned Thor into a well-meaning goofball. He also brilliantly paired the lovable lug with a nebbish Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), giving us an Odd Couple-style comedy in space. Without a doubt, it's the funniest film in the MCU, largely because of all the improv, but at the same time, it grapples with some pretty heavy themes, like the effects of colonialism.

On top of all that, there's the '80s aesthetic, the super-cool score from Mark Mothersbaugh, and a fight scene when Thor battles the Hulk in a gladiator match. With help from a cast that includes Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, and Tom Hiddleston, Ragnarok successfully hammered all the problems out of the Thor franchise.

14. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is so much more than a superhero movie. It's Marvel getting political. The second installment in the Captain America franchise, Winter Soldier finds red, white, and blue Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in a world where things aren't black and white anymore. After coming out of the ice, he finds himself in an era when government agencies strike first and ask questions later, drones are used to take out potential threats, and the surveillance state is keeping tabs on everybody. It's hard to know who to trust, and Cap quickly finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy that involves Nazis, metal-armed assassins, and an evil Robert Redford. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, God's righteous man goes rogue, because sometimes patriotism means you've got to fight the guys in charge. 

Directed by the Russo brothers, the film is an homage to 1970s political thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and The Parallax View, and those Russos know how to build some tension. Winter Soldier features some of the most suspenseful scenes you'll ever see in a superhero film, tense moments that boil over into fantastic action scenes, like the elevator brawl and Nick Fury's escape from an army of HYDRA agents. The film also majorly shakes up the MCU, tearing down S.H.I.E.L.D. and setting up the stakes for Civil War. And hot on the heels of both Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks making headlines, the movie hit some hot-button issues. But current events aside, The Winter Soldier is a masterclass in action and tension — and the best entry in the Captain America franchise. Hail, Steve Rogers.

13. Superman: The Movie

Though the big-screen Superman is dark and dreary these days, he got his start as a brilliant red-and-blue beacon of hope. Richard Donner's 1978 Superman starring Christopher Reeve was an instant classic, puling in an A-list cast (including Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder) and telling a classic story complete with a dastardly scheme from Lex Luthor. It was a perfect combination, from the cutting-edge special effects to the casting of then-unknown Reeve as Clark Kent (bigger stars, including Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone, James Brolin, and Christopher Walken were all considered at different points). Superman: The Movie set the template for the modern-day superhero movie genre, proving you could take these characters seriously and still have a whole lot of fun in the process.

12. Unbreakable

The year 2000 was an interesting one for superhero movies. It was right after the debacle of the Joel Schumacher Batman films, but long before anyone had ever heard of a "cinematic universe." It was also the year X-Men reinvigorated the genre and introduced audiences to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. But just a few months after Logan and his band of mutants faced Magneto, director M. Night Shyamalan stepped into the super-scene with his own take on the genre: Unbreakable.

Shyamalan's follow-up to The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable was a brilliant exploration and deconstruction of comic book characters at a time when superhero movies weren't the all-powerful juggernauts of Hollywood they'd soon become. It was also a radical departure from the superhero films that had come before. For example, Batman & Robin was released just three years earlier, and that was a wild spectacle filled with cheesy one-liners, flamboyant costumes, and set designs out of a Baz Luhrmann fever dream. Unbreakable, on the other hand, was grounded in reality and treated superheroes seriously, laying the groundwork for many comic book movies to come.

Plus, the movie is just so darn good. There's the dynamic duo of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, each giving outstanding performances. There's Shyamalan's color schemes of purple, green, and orange — all signifying something special about individual characters. James Newton Howard's score is incredibly haunting, and the film created a universe where James McAvoy would someday unleash his inner beast.

11. Black Panther

With very few exceptions, black superheroes haven't headlined many of their own films. The MCU has great black characters like War Machine and Falcon, but these guys are wingmen to white heroes. Needless to say, change was overdue when Black Panther pounced onto the scene. Played by Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther — aka T'Challa — first showed up in Captain America: Civil War and quickly became a fan favorite. The courageous cat made his triumphant return in 2018, and when his film hit theaters, the entire world fell in love with the kingdom of Wakanda.  

As of early 2019, Black Panther is the ninth highest-grossing film of all time. It's the first superhero movie to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and it's also among the best-reviewed superhero films on Rotten Tomatoes. So what makes this movie so special? Well, firstly, the nearly all-black cast — starring talented actors like Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Kaluuya, and Angela Bassett — struck a chord with audiences. Then there was the African setting, which allowed filmmaker Ryan Coogler to explore a rich culture that's little-seen in Hollywood films. As a result, Black Panther has been hailed for its vibrant costumes, unique production design, and its African-themed score.

And then, of course, the film introduced audiences to one of the greatest bad guys in superhero history: Erik Killmonger. Played to villainous perfection by Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger is a stone-cold murderer, but you still have to sympathize with the guy because his motives are 100 percent understandable. Plus, who can forget those scars? With its fantastic characters and beautiful world-building, it's no wonder Black Panther was a breakthrough hit, and we're sure its legacy will live on forever, just like Wakanda.

10. Wonder Woman

For a very long time, the superhero genre was dominated by dudes. Sure, we had Catwoman and Black Widow, but they were relegated to sidekick characters and bad guy parts. But the gender roles were finally reversed in 2017, when the most iconic female hero finally got her own movie. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman was a critical success and a box office smash. It gave life to the faltering DCEU, turned Gal Gadot into an A-list star, and inspired young girls across the world with a big-screen superhero they could look up to.

Sure, the villains are a little weak, and the film suffers in the third act, but the movie gets Diana (Gadot) absolutely right. In an overarching DC franchise defined by grit and gloom, this Amazon princess is a beacon of courage and hope. She isn't punching down cities or branding bad guys with red-hot irons. She isn't striding across No Man's Land so she can beat up some supervillain. Instead, she's deflecting bullets with her shield because she wants to rescue a peaceful little town. Unlike Ben Affleck's Batman or Henry Cavill's Superman, Diana actually cares about people and sees the good in humanity. She's more concerned with saving lives than serving justice. Superman's glyph might stand for "hope," but it's Wonder Woman that restored our faith in the power of superheroes.

9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

From 2002 to 2017, there have been six different Spider-Man movies, and that's not counting films where the webcrawler makes an extended cameo, a la Captain America: Civil War. You'd think the character would be played out by now, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse takes the web-slinging mythos in exciting new directions by introducing us to an animated world of parallel dimensions, comic panels, and a talking pig.

The plot follows teenage Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) who's bitten by, you guessed it, a radioactive spider. But things get even more complicated for young Miles when a powerful machine opens up portals to other worlds, sucking a whole crop of Spider-Men into Miles' version of New York City. There's Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir and Penni Parker, and then there's an overweight and depressed Peter Parker who'd rather be eating pizza than trying to stop the Kingpin.

Each one of these characters is drawn with their own unique style — from Looney Tunes to anime — and really, it's the film's brilliant animation that sets it apart from every other superhero film. Word bubbles appear onscreen, the colors are exciting and explosive, and the entire film feels like it's been printed on a textured page. Honestly, as far as capturing that comic book feeling goes, this might be the best superhero movie ever made.

Of course, none of that matters without a solid story and strong characters. Fortunately, Miles Morales is one of the most exciting superheroes to come along in a long time. In addition to the visual splendor on display, this is a movie with a lot of humor and a lot of heart, and when Miles finally becomes his own version of Spider-Man, it's one of the most triumphant moments in superhero history.

8. Logan

Hugh Jackman is Wolverine—and taking cues from the unanticipated mega-success of Deadpool, the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, 2017's Logan finally allowed Jackman's spirit animal to spill copious amounts of blood, sever limbs, and make full use of the colorful vocabulary he's long enjoyed in the comics. Pitched as "a really bloody Little Miss Sunshine with superheroes," Logan is a movie that X-Men fans, woefully accustomed to enduring watered-down versions of their favorite heroes on the big screen, never expected to actually happen.

Inspired by the classic Western Shane and loosely—and we mean loosely—based on Mark Millar's Old Man Logan comics, Logan trades in that story's blind Hawkeye and inbred Hulk gang for a senile Professor X and a thoroughly reimagined version of Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook in a breakout performance). Jackman makes Wolverine interesting again as a broken man with a failing healing factor. The brilliant Richard E. Grant menaces as ruthless eugenicist Dr. Rice. Sir Patrick Stewart gives one of the best performances of his storied career, but it's Dafne Keen's star-making performance as the merciless X-23 that elevates a would-be grim character study into must-see neo-Western murder-pageant.

7. The Incredibles

Released in 2004, The Incredibles is still one of the best superhero movies, one of the best Pixar movies, and one of the best animated movies ever. It made such an Omnidroid-size impact when it landed that, 14 years later, the sequel earned over $1 billion at the box office. What exactly makes this movie so special?

First off, there's the super cool Michael Giacchino score that sounds like it was written for a Bond movie. Then there are the brilliant little moments that stick in your memory all these years later, like the hilarious interviews that open the film or the macabre "no capes" montage. There's also the fact that this is a kids' movie that deals with seriously adult themes. Characters go through midlife crises, grapple with concepts like hiding their identities in a world that won't accept them, and struggle with ideas like being exceptional vs. fitting in. That's pretty mature stuff for a PG movie.

And then there are the action sequences, which are on (Bob) par with almost anything you'll see in a Marvel or DC film. But really, it all comes down to the characters, this dysfunctional family that finally unites when they realize it's okay to be special. What's also fascinating is that Dash, Violet, and Elastigirl don't have the benefit of starring in decades' worth of comic books. They're original characters created by Brad Bird, but they're just as beloved as Spider-Man or Superman. All these years later, we still remember this super-powered family because they're all so… well… incredible.

6. Avengers: Endgame

After 11 years and 21 films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe brought the Avengers story arc to a close with Endgame. This epic action flick smashed box office records, won nearly universal acclaim, and said farewell to some of our most beloved superheroes. It found the perfect balance between spectacular battle scenes and genuine emotions, and on top of all that, it introduced audiences to two of the greatest Marvel characters of all time: Professor Hulk and Fat Thor.

Sure, the movie runs over three hours long, but it never feels its length. While the film starts off in a world devastated by the Decimation, it quickly becomes the superhero equivalent of Back to the Future II, with the Avengers traveling back in time and visiting some of the greatest MCU movie scenes in a quest to acquire the Infinity Stones. The gimmick is loads of fun and allows for some truly touching moments (e.g. Tony and his dad, Thor and his mom, the Hawkeye/Black Widow scene on Vormir). And then finally, the film ends with the most incredible superhero battle ever filmed, with pretty much every Marvel character showing up to fight Thanos and his army of space baddies.

On its own, Endgame is an absolute joy, but it truly works as the capper to a grand experiment. Marvel spent over a decade constructing an unprecedented cinematic universe, and audiences got to know the likes of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Natasha Romanoff over the course of 20-plus films. Moviegoers were truly invested by the time Endgame rolled around, and watching these characters reunite one last time truly tugs on the heart strings. While the MCU will keep on keeping on, Endgame brings the Avengers storyline to a proper close and provides the perfect ending to an epic franchise.

5. Iron Man

This film is the granddaddy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and just as good today as it was when it blew our socks off in 2008. With heavy hitters like the X-Men and Spider-Man already sold off to larger studios, Marvel had to pull heroes from the bench to launch its shared universe. Iron Man was one of the best of the rest, so they gave director Jon Favreau a lot of freedom and banked on the charisma of Robert Downey, Jr. The gamble worked, and this movie managed to tell an extremely fun story while setting the tone for a massive $20 billion franchise to follow. It's also a textbook example of how to get a superhero origin story right on film.

4. Avengers: Infinity War

It was all building to this. First, we were introduced to Tony Stark. Then Marvel assembled the Avengers to save New York. From there, we met characters like Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Over the course of ten years and 18 films, Marvel prepared for the "most ambitious crossover event in history," and when it came time for the world's mightiest heroes to fight the universe's biggest bad guy, the results were infinitely better than anyone could've dreamed.

Released in 2018, Avengers: Infinity War quickly became the fourth highest-grossing film of all time. It featured MCU heroes from Wanda Maximoff to Scott Lang, and it seamlessly integrated all these crazy and colorful characters into a cohesive world. Most importantly, Infinity War totally delivered when it came to the Mad Titan. Since 2012, Marvel fans had been eagerly awaiting Thanos' arrival, and when the purple warlord finally showed up, he didn't disappoint. In fact, in a surprising twist, Marvel made Thanos the true protagonist of Infinity War. This nearly three-hour epic is his story, and after some of the greatest fight scenes in Marvel history, the Mad Titan wins the day.

In one of the gutsiest endings in blockbuster history, Thanos actually collects all the Infinity Stones and snaps half the universe out of existence… including many Avengers. Sure, we all knew that Spider-Man and Black Panther would eventually come back, but watching these beloved characters turn to dust was absolutely heartbreaking. After so much buildup, the villain won, setting the stage for the climactic finale to Hollywood's most successful franchise.

3. The Avengers

Marvel took a chance with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, and those movies laid the foundation for one of the biggest film franchises in Hollywood history. The Marvel Cinematic Universe spans more than 20 films and counting, but the pinnacle of the franchise was arguably established relatively early on, with the first ever team-up of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The studio tapped geek demigod Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire SlayerFirefly) to write and direct the project, and the result proved an unqualified critical and commercial hit.

It's one of the most successful films ever made, pulling in more than $1.5 billion worldwide, and it scored some of the best reviews earned by any of the year's wide releases. It's a comic book brought to life in the best possible way, and Whedon managed to blend a bevy of characters, geek-out fan service, and a compelling story into one perfect package.

2. Spider-Man 2

In 2004, film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Spider-Man 2 is the best superhero movie since the modern genre was launched with Superman." Of course, the genre was in its infancy back then. The MCU was a pipe dream, Batman Begins hadn't begun, and there were only two X-Men movies. Things were really different, so while this Spidey flick was a high-water mark in the early 2000s, it can't compare with modern-day blockbusters, right?

We're here to say Spider-Man 2 still holds up. Director Sam Raimi does a fantastic job of juggling mood and tone to create a truly wonderful film. This is a movie that features an Evil Dead-style horror sequence, a montage set to "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," the most heartbreaking date ever filmed, and a villain who feels like an old-timey Universal monster, a la Frankenstein. None of this should fit together, but it all works perfectly. Then there's the train fight between Spidey (Tobey Maguire) and Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), which is still one of the greatest superhero showdowns ever put on the silver screen.

But Spider-Man 2 really shines by giving us the most relatable superhero of all time. Unlike Michael Keaton's Batman or Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, Peter is just a normal guy, trying to deliver pizza, attend classes, and woo the girl of his dreams while keeping the streets of New York safe. When he's not fighting superheroes, he's majorly struggling with everyday problems. Yeah, he can shoot webs and climb walls, but this version of the wall-crawler is still the most human superhero we've ever seen.

1. The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight isn't just the best superhero movie ever made. It changed the way people view an entire genre. With the help of Iron Man, it ushered in a new era for comic book movies. Suddenly, these weren't just silly popcorn flicks. Superhero movies could be high art, worthy of awards and accolades. In fact, when the Oscars failed to nominate The Dark Knight for Best Picture, the outcry was so huge that the next year, the Academy opened up the number of potential nominees from five to ten. Now blockbusters get the attention they deserve, all thanks to the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime.

After all, nobody had ever seen a superhero film like The Dark Knight. Before Nolan changed the game, people were expecting movies like Ghost RiderSpider-Man 3, and Superman Returns. Now, here was a film with one of the greatest opening sequences of all time. Here was a film that explored heavy concepts like what people will do when forced into terrible circumstances or how far the "good guys" should go when it comes to defeating evil. Here was a movie that told a truly tragic story in the rise and fall of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), that would inspire films like Skyfall, and that would feature the greatest 18-wheeler flip of all time.

And then there's the Joker. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his turn as the chaos-loving terrorist, and all these years later, people still shudder when they remember his freaky scars and his terrifying magic trick. It's a performance for the ages, and thanks to Ledger, the Joker joined the pantheon of cinematic villains, right up there with the likes of Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter. With its impressive acting, pounding score, impeccable direction, and intense action, The Dark Knight is the kind of superhero movie that fans deserve and need.