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55 Best Superhero Movies Of All Time, Ranked

If you took a time machine to the late 1980s and revealed to any Wizard Magazine-reading nerd that the coming decades would introduce the public to characters like Groot, that nerd would certainly call you a liar. But indeed, superhero movies have evolved from being a genre Hollywood didn't quite know how to approach into basically the only type of blockbuster films that consistently make a ton of money. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe can still claim dominance over superheroes on film, it's far from the only game in town. Fans can enjoy icons like Wonder Woman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Wolverine in a wide variety of movies, with more coming out every year.

But with so many cape-and-cowl movies available, a significant question emerges: Which flicks stand above the rest? We're here to answer that question by ranking the 55 best superhero movies of all time, from the merely amazing to the absolutely stupendous. How does your favorite superhero movie stack up? Let's dig in and find out.

55. Super

The Crimson Bolt and Boltie wear impractically bright costumes that look straight out of the most kid-friendly comics ever created, but their crimefighting techniques look more like the unsettling violence of "The Sopranos." Short-order cook Frank Darbo has lived a lackluster life — until he becomes the Crimson Bolt at, he believes, God's urging. With the help of his sidekick Boltie, he sets out to rescue his estranged wife from a brutal man by any hideous means necessary. James Gunn's first feature-length foray into the land of capes and masks unfolds like a metacommentary on the genre's intrinsic contradictions, as well as a trial balloon for concepts he'd revisit in HBO's "Peacemaker." 

54. Deadpool 2

The sequel to "Deadpool" cranks up the gleefully R-rated gore, general zaniness, and earnest heart that lots of folks connected with the first time around. Brawny time traveler Cable zaps into Wade Wilson's reality to slaughter a future tyrant. However, the alleged baddie is a troubled kid Wade can't help but protect. Prison breaks, mutant team-ups and ludicrous violence ensue. "Deadpool 2" successfully introduces time travel to Deadpool's proverbial toolbox of story devices, Zazie Beetz effortlessly prompts discussions about whether a Domino solo movie could work with her winning performance, and opening theme "Ashes" marks Celine Dion's finest film soundtrack effort since "Titanic."      

  • Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin
  • Director: David Leitch
  • Year: 2018
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

53. Orgazmo

The '90s produced as many superhero spoofs as earnest entries into the genre, but "Orgazmo" — an early feature by "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker — is not interested in making fun of superheroes exclusively. It also skewers the rigidity of organized religion and the adult film industry. In "Orgazmo," a devout Mormon becomes an adult film star who never actually engages in intercourse on camera. However, he does fight crime with his unmatched martial arts expertise and the "Orgazmorator" ray gun. We're not allowed to say what this device does, but we bet you can guess. Did we mention this movie is NC-17? Because it's NC-17. 

  • Starring: Trey Parker, Dian Bachar, Robyn Lynne Raab
  • Director: Trey Parker
  • Year: 1997
  • Runtime: 90 minutes 
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 47%

52. Captain America: Civil War

Widely known as "the one where Spider-Man and Black Panther show up," "Captain America: Civil War" sees Captain America and Iron Man driven apart by the Sokovia Accords, a proposed set of international regulations for the Avengers and their extra-human ilk. Graciously, the Russo brothers focus on spectacular action set pieces and expanding the MCU, without dwelling excessively on the politics of the matter. Watching Spider-Man team up with Iron Man is worth the price of admission alone, but contemplation of the Avengers' legality makes the whole affair uniquely intriguing.

  • Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
  • Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Year: 2016
  • Runtime: 146 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

51. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

A quintessential childhood film for a swath of the millennial generation, the inaugural cinematic journey of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles draws heavily from the original graphic novels by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. A mysterious crime wave is engulfing New York City, and only the Turtles can stop it. But when Master Splinter, their wise mentor, is captured, what are they supposed to do? Team up with new allies like news reporter April O'Neil, of course. Considering its technical innovations and kid-friendly metaphors for grown-up subject matter, this movie could be discussed alongside puppetry-based fantasy staples like 1982's "The Dark Crystal" and 1986's "Labyrinth," except it made too much money to qualify as a cult classic.   

  • Starring: Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, Josh Pais
  • Director: Steve Barron
  • Year: 1990
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 41%

50. Big Hero 6

Baymax is a helpful robot made of balloons whose creator's little brother, irreverent teenager Hiro, builds him a flying mech suit. The pair go on adventures with a social circle of similarly brilliant teenagers. But a microbot-wielding villain is menacing the colorful city of San Fransokyo, and Hiro is, after all, just a kid — can he possibly stop this masked menace? With Baymax's help, it just might be possible.

  • Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller
  • Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
  • Year: 2014
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

49. Batman: The Movie (1966)

While the 1960s "Batman" series doesn't take itself seriously, its version of the Dynamic Duo are not messing around with their quest to make Gotham a safe and prosperous city. You might even say this Batman and Robin are serious men in an unserious world. In this movie, which spins out from the program, the Bright Knight's most devious foes form an organization known as the United Underworld, whose plot involves turning diplomats into powder with a dehydration gun. On a separate occasion, their plot involves an exploding shark. Yes, it's goofy — and fun as all get-out.

  • Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Cesar Romero
  • Director: Leslie H. Martinson
  • Year: 1966
  • Runtime: 105 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

48. Joker

Joaquin Phoenix's Oscar-winning performance as the Clown Prince of Crime runs the gamut from tragic to blisteringly psychotic in this unique superhero-in-name-only film. Arthur Fleck lives a disappointing life in a disappointing world. As his stand-up career flatlines, he becomes enmeshed in the violence that defines Gotham City — and nothing is ever the same again. A nihilistic exploration of a character moviegoers never seem to tire of, "Joker" is a memorable vision of misery and madness. 

47. X-Men: First Class

Immortal enemies Charles Xavier and Magneto are friends and allies in this movie, which explores the X-Men's early '60s origins. Brought together by ideals and experience, the two men head up what will become Marvel's most famous band of mutants. But as the world changes, so do they. Which future should mutants pursue: Xavier's vision of coexistence, or Magneto's dream of "homo superior" supremacy? The fact that this film has barely any Wolverine in it, yet still manages to entertain, is a testament to its originality and verve.

46. Zack Snyder's Justice League

Colloquially referred to as the "Snyder Cut," "Zack Snyder's Justice League" is a maximalist take on the DC universe and a totally unprecedented do-over of a major studio blockbuster insisted upon by an online fan campaign. Batman and Wonder Woman must rally Earth's metahumans to fend off an invasion from the fiendish planet Apokolips. It's a noble effort, but what hope does the fledgling Justice League have against Darkseid when Earth's greatest champion, the Man of Steel, has been dead since the previous film in this series? Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash rally regardless — but even they might not be prepared for what's facing them.    

  • Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Year: 2021
  • Runtime: 242 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

45. Wonder Woman

A reverent depiction of one of the most enduring origin stories in comics, "Wonder Woman" stands apart from the pack on two major counts. For one thing, it's a World War I period piece; for another, its leads have shockingly vivid romantic chemistry. After pilot Steve Trevor crash-lands on Themyscira, island of the Amazons, Princess Diana must join the fight ravaging the planet. But Ares, immortal enemy of peace, is ready for her and her allegedly god-killing sword. A sweeping story packed with engaging performances, "Wonder Woman" does right by a comic book icon.

  • Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen
  • Director: Patty Jenkins
  • Year: 2017
  • Runtime: 141 minutes 
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

44. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Marvel Studios and Sony finally put their differences aside, allowing Spider-Man to take his rightful place at the heart of the MCU in this endearing film. In his first headlining gig in the red-and-blue spandex, Tom Holland's Peter Parker squares off against the sinister Vulture. But the brand-new Spidey is also just a kid, who wants to enjoy high school, go to parties, and maybe romance his crush. What's a superpowered teen to do? Try to balance it all, of course. This take on the classic hero is particularly enlivened by Peter's friends Ned and MJ, played winningly by Jacob Batalon and Zendaya.

43. The Lego Batman Movie

Batman headlines a lot of terrific movies, but this is the only one that ends with every denizen of Gotham City — even the evil ones – dancing and singing along to an upbeat tune extolling the virtues of friendship. This refreshingly offbeat spin on The Dark Knight pits him against the Joker, but also his own irascibility. People — especially eager young Robin — want to be part of his life, but he insists on solitude. Can Batman learn the value of friendship before it's too late? As acerbic as it is endearing, "The Lego Batman Movie" is a celebration of comic book tropes, found families, and, of course, little plastic building blocks.

  • Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson
  • Director: Chris McKay
  • Year: 2017
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

42. TMNT (2007)

A wildly underrated addition to the Ninja Turtles franchise, "TMNT" brings the brothers back together after an extended sabbatical from anti-evil activity. There's an immortal warlord on the loose — but can they reunite in time to save him? Whereas some adaptations barely differentiate the titular turtles from each other, in this movie, Leo, Raph, Mikey, and Don all scan like distinct individuals bonded by a shared history, rather than a mutual appreciation of pizza and catchphrases. That's not to say the Turtles don't like pizza or catchphrases in this movie, though — they absolutely do.

  • Starring: Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako
  • Director: Kevin Munroe
  • Year: 2007
  • Runtime: 87 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 34%

41. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn — the only thing everyone seems to agree works in 2016's "Suicide Squad" — breaks up with the Joker and embarks upon a crime spree of her own in "Birds Of Prey." Members of Gotham's supporting cast previously unseen in the DC Extended Universe — Huntress, Renee Montoya, Cassandra Cain, and Black Canary — make their first appearances here, as Harley's unlikely band of butt-kickers. They're out to take down underworld boss Roman Sionis — but can they truly tackle his empire of cruelty? The energy of this movie is "Deadpool" meets "Heathers" on literal roller skates.

  • Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
  • Director: Cathy Yan
  • Year: 2020
  • Runtime: 109 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

40. The Rocketeer

While wearing a rocket pack invented by eccentric businessman Howard Hughes — depicted here by Terry O'Quinn, more than 10 years ahead of "Lost" — protagonist Cliff Secord can fly at tremendous speed. Granted, plenty of modern superheroes can fly; the ability by itself isn't all that special. But Cliff lives in the 1930s, where folks are generally easier to impress, and the country is lousy with secret Nazi agents whose faces are all in immediate need of punching. He amply provides.    

  • Starring: Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton
  • Director: Joe Johnston
  • Year: 1991
  • Runtime: 109 minutes 
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%

39. Deadpool

Ryan Reynolds spun a career-defining triumph out of total humiliation with "Deadpool." While he technically plays Wade Wilson in 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," that movie's version of Deadpool has functionally nothing in common with Marvel's beloved absurdist antihero. Reynolds and director Tim Miller made darn sure to get Wade right on the second try. After he's left permanently disfigured (but also unkillable) by brutal experimentation, Wade Wilson becomes Deadpool, a fourth-wall-breaking maniac out for revenge and the cure for his condition. What results is loaded with stunningly gratuitous violence, gut-busting hilarity, and one of the greatest X-Men team-ups ever.

  • Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein
  • Director: Tim Miller
  • Year: 2016
  • Runtime: 108 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

38. Black Widow

 Repeatedly delayed due to a global pandemic and the eventual cause for a very expensive lawsuit, the 2021 theatrical run of "Black Widow" was not aided by agreeable exterior conditions. Once the turbulent real-world factors are set aside, however, this explosive espionage endeavor provides a bridge between the pre-"Infinity War" MCU and the post-"Endgame" MCU. Natasha Romanoff is eager to leave her past behind, but the other Black Widows created in the fearsome Red Room need her help ... and so does Yelena, the woman who once posed as her little sister. Florence Pugh's inaugural turn as Yelena is so excellent, it immediately caused fans to wonder when she's getting her own trilogy.     

  • Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour
  • Director: Cate Shortland
  • Year: 2021
  • Runtime: 133 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

37. The Wolverine

Loosely inspired by a 1982 miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, "The Wolverine" rehabs Hugh Jackman's Logan by sending him on a self-contained adventure in Japan — literally the other side of the world from any physical reminder of the other X-Men. There, he's stripped of his healing ability, confronted with the ghosts of his past, and forced to battle high-tech samurai. "The Wolverine" feels like the first cinematic X-Men tale in which Logan's virtual immortality meaningfully informs the story, which proves to be a memorable hook.

  • Starring: Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Famke Janssen
  • Director: James Mangold
  • Year: 2013
  • Runtime: 126 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

36. The Dark Knight Rises

The final entry in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy offers a colossal, chaotic, and ultimately fitting close to Christian Bale's tenure under the cowl. Bane, a masked revolutionary, is out to reduce Gotham City to rubble. Part of this plan sees him destroy Bruce Wayne's life in every possible way. Batman will need all his cleverness, strength, and resolve to emerge from the pit Bane (literally and figuratively) consigns him to — but even that might not be enough.

  • Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Year: 2012
  • Runtime: 165 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

35. Shazam!

While the inaugural pair of DCEU movies — "Man of Steel" and "Batman v. Superman" — are known for their polarizing grimness, "Shazam!" offers a much brighter take on its source material that still manages to keep its feet on the ground. During an otherwise normal subway ride, young Billy Batson comes into contact with an ancient wizard, who names Billy as his champion. Empowered to become the grown-up superhero Shazam whenever he speaks that magical name aloud, Billy gains new abilities that help him fight Dr. Sivana. But more importantly, they allow him to bond with his foster family.

  • Starring: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel
  • Director: David F. Sandberg
  • Year: 2019
  • Runtime: 132 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

34. Blade II

Eventual prestige filmmaker Guillermo del Toro guides what could've been a rote supernatural martial arts caper into an achievement of campy B-movie blood 'n guts in this killer film. Evil vampires recruit human-vampire hybrid Blade to help them fight even evil-er vampires. Can this unlikely team-up prevail before the planet is scoured of all life? "Blade II" is exciting, bizarre, and entertaining as heck. It's only flaw: It might also leave you with an inflated notion of techno music's popularity during the early '00s.    

  • Starring: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman
  • Director: Guillermo del Toro
  • Year: 2002
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: 2002
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%

33. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Not long after the first "Hellboy" came out, Guillermo del Toro went from being a highly respected mid-level horror-fantasy director to the brains behind an Oscar-nominated dark fairytale. His enhanced reputation is reflected in the scope and aesthetic sensibilities of this sequel. The titular demonic hero takes on a tremendously powerful mechanical army in this one, as well as the uncaring world. What's a big, red member of Hell's royal family to do? Describing it as "Blade II" going one-on-one with "Pan's Labyrinth" in a demolition derby feels like an oversimplification, but it's also the most accurate way to describe "The Golden Army."    

  • Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones
  • Director: Guillermo del Toro
  • Year: 2008
  • Runtime: 120 minutes 
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

32. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Tom Holland's second solo Spider-Man sojourn sends the gang from the Midtown School of Science and Technology on a European fieldtrip. Peter hopes to take a break from doing Spider-Man stuff and spend some time with MJ, but inexplicable attacks from building-sized elemental monsters screw that plan up entirely. Good thing the evidently benign Quentin Beck is here to help ... right? All the while, Peter (and the world) grieves Tony Stark, who seems to have left an unfillable chasm at the heart of the superheroic world.

  • Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Director: Jon Watts
  • Year: 2019
  • Runtime: 129 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

31. Superman II

The source of the iconic line, "Kneel before Zod!," "Superman II" cranks up the volume on the wide-eyed, Golden Age of Comics-style kookiness of the first "Superman." Kryptonian conquerors have arrived on Earth, and decided to take it for their own. Superman must stop them, while also nurturing his burgeoning romance with Lois Lane. In 1980, it had barely occurred to anyone that superheroes could be ridden with angst. "Superman II" is gritty and raw by the standards of its day, which means it's a refreshingly balanced production to modern eyes.

  • Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman
  • Director: Richard Lester
  • Year: 1980
  • Runtime: 127 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

30. The Batman

The launch of a whole new Batman begins as an obsessive, grim iteration of Bruce Wayne prowls a particularly dark Gotham City. "The Batman" places extra emphasis on the Caped Crusader's reputation as a detective, as he hunts a flamboyant serial killer version of the Riddler and unravels a criminal conspiracy that ties together many of Gotham's business and political elites. To his shock, this includes Thomas Wayne.      

29. The Mask of Zorro

A retelling of one of history's earliest superhero stories and the definitive modern Zorro movie, "The Mask of Zorro" vibrates on both old and current frequencies. Here, an epic team-up between the original Zorro, fresh from prison, and the new Zorro takes place. They're both aiming to take down a corrupt governor and his villainous henchmen, but bringing him to his knees won't be easy. Adventure, romance, and glamour are all on offer here, set off by no small amount of flair.

28. Spider-Man: No Way Home

The third Spider-Man movie starring Tom Holland is a culmination of almost two decades' worth of storytelling across two major film studios and three fictional universes. It's hard to even imagine such a scenario ever coming to pass — just as it's hard to imagine a more heartfelt celebration of the wall-crawler's legacy in movies. Peter Parker has accidentally ripped open the multiverse, which draws enemies from the Spidey-verses headed up by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. Add in some devastating losses and an unforgettable choice that will change Peter's life forever, and you have a truly great modern superhero movie.

  • Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Director: Jon Watts
  • Year: 2021
  • Runtime: 148 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

27. Captain America: The First Avenger

Before he can be unthawed in modern times and introduced to the rest of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, young Steve Rogers must become a science experiment gone haywire, a mascot for the American military, and finally, the Allies' premiere one-man Nazi-killing machine. Can one juiced-up kid from Brooklyn truly make a difference on the battlefields of World War II? Yes — but not without help. Hayley Atwell is a particularly strong ally: She generates an onslaught of charisma, solidifying Agent Peggy Carter's MCU presence into the indefinite future.

  • Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan
  • Director: Joe Johnston
  • Year: 2011
  • Runtime: 124 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

26. Mystery Men

Literally 20 years ahead of its time, "Mystery Men" clearly would've been a gargantuan hit in 2019: Its sensibilities run alongside superhero satires like "The Boys" and "Deadpool." Mr. Furious' power is that he gets really, really angry. The Shoveler shovels exceptionally well. Carol carries a bowling ball that's haunted by the poltergeist of her overbearing father. Captain Amazing is a big-name crimefighter far more obsessed with his image than saving the world. Together, they're out to save Champion City. While we didn't appreciate it during its debut, we can at least celebrate "Mystery Men" today as one of the first truly offbeat cape flicks.

  • Starring: Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Janeane Garofalo
  • Director: Kinka Usher
  • Year: 1999
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 61%

25. The Suicide Squad

"The Suicide Squad" towers over its similarly-named 2016 predecessor. This time around, Amanda Waller deploys a squadron of villains and misfits to Corto Maltese, aiming to neutralize the murky "Project Starfish." As is usually the case with Amanda Waller, not all is as it seems. As King Shark, Sylvester Stallone is essentially the cannibalistic Groot of this movie. That alone is worth checking out, but it helps that this anarchic joy ride also features Margot Robbie's irresistible Harley Quinn and John Cena's hilarious debut as Peacemaker.

24. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Whether Scott Pilgrim himself deserves superhero status is certainly a debatable matter, however, "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" is certainly a comic book movie with superheroes in it. Michael Cera is at his all-time most Michael Cera-ish as the lead, who must fight mysterious Ramona Flowers' scariest one-time paramours if he wants to date her. Infused with video game and indie rock references, "Scott Pilgrim" plays out like a thought experiment: What if "Ready Player One" had more self-awareness? Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, and Brie Larson all throw down in the supporting cast. 

  • Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin
  • Director: Edgar Wright
  • Year: 2010
  • Runtime: 112 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

23. Spider-Man

After 2000's "X-Men" demonstrated that superhero movies could be financially viable again, Sam Raimi stepped up to the plate with this take on the iconic wall-crawler. "Spider-Man" is a comic book movie that unapologetically behaves like a comic book movie: Peter Parker's journey from hapless nerd to diligent superhero is completely and thrillingly classic. In battling the Green Goblin, however, he must decide what sacrifices he is truly willing to make. This dynamite movie reminds us once again that great power and great responsibility are like cream cheese and bagels — the first's no good without the second.  

  • Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Year: 2002
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

22. Batman (1989)

Tim Burton's "Batman" established the template for modern Batflicks. Whereas Adam West's Bruce of the '60s tells us to fasten our seatbelts and look both ways before crossing the street, Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne will get nuts if circumstances demand that he do so. And boy, do they demand it: He must face off against Jack Nicholson's Joker in this flick, who so ably performs the role, it took Heath Ledger's career-defining take on the Joker to eclipse him. This Gotham City is weird, mean, glamorous, and still one-of-a-kind.

21. Guardians of the Galaxy

Star-Lord, aka Peter Quill, assembles his ragtag crew of outcasts to keep an Infinity Stone out of the hands of intergalactic warlord Ronan the Accuser in this rollicking flick. If you're watching the MCU through for the first time, keep an eye on those Infinity Stones — they turn out to be pretty important. James Gunn somehow lulls us into suspending disbelief for the sake of implausible characters like Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a tree who can only say "I am Groot." What results is electric, bizarre, and immensely fun. 

20. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

You can't have a real conversation about superhero movies without a lot of focus on Batman, and you can't have a real conversation about Batman in media without discussing "Batman: The Animated Series." The theatrically-released "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" is basically a feature-length episode of the series. It's also one of the more effective deep dives into Batman's inner motivations and conflicts ever committed to celluloid. Here, the Caped Crusader must confront his past when a masked killer cuts a wide swath through Gotham City's underground. But the truth is even more intense than he ever could have imagined.

  • Starring: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Bob Hastings
  • Director: Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm
  • Year: 1993
  • Runtime: 76 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

19. Iron Man

Tony Stark is a spoiled, brilliant war profiteer shocked into humility by a brutal kidnapping. Upon escape, he decides to change the trajectory of his life and put the superpowered armor he's built to good use. Unfortunately, not all of his business partners are crazy about this idea. "Iron Man" could stand on its own as an entirely solid techno-action endeavor, but it becomes something truly special in its historically crucial after-credits scene. Believe it or not, back in 2008, folks didn't understand they had to sit through the credits of Marvel movies. This flick changed that forever.

  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Year: 2008
  • Runtime: 126 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

18. The Crow

While its legacy is dominated by the on-set death of 28-year-old star Brandon Lee, "The Crow" successfully channeled the grim urban warfare and moral ambiguity of '80s comics years before the DCEU did. When musician Eric Draven rises from the dead, he discovers he has fantastic abilities. He uses these to seek revenge on the street gang that killed him and his one true love. "The Crow" is intensely dark and violent, but in a way that never feels mopey or gratuitous. It is, simply, a broken-hearted superhero film that embraces love and loss with open, black-feathered wings.

  • Starring: Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott
  • Director: Alex Proyas
  • Year: 1994
  • Runtime: 100 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

17. Iron Man 3

Placing the third installment in the MCU's Iron Man series this prominently on an all-time list might be considered controversial in some circles, but we're confident in this decision. Following the events of "The Avengers," Tony Stark is at loose ends. The arrival of the mysterious terrorist known as the Mandarin makes things worse, to say nothing of the rocky road he and Pepper Potts have begun to walk. "Iron Man 3" contains a clever second act swerve, one of Gwyneth Paltrow's best MCU turns, and barrels of acid quippery. Also, a bunch of people fall out of an exploding airplane at one point, and Iron Man figures out a way to rescue 'em all. It's awesome as heck.   

  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle
  • Director: Shane Black
  • Year: 2013
  • Runtime: 130 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

16. Avengers: Infinity War

Until the day  "Avengers vs. Justice League" enters production, "Avengers: Infinity War" will remain the most crowded and ambitious multi-franchise crossover movie in existence. Intergalactic tyrant Thanos arrives on Earth to collect the only two Infinity Stones he hasn't yet captured. With the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and so many other white hats pulling together to halt Thanos' malicious grandiosity, surely the good guys can't lose ... right? They'll have to try their hardest to stop the purple baddie from slaughtering half of all life in the universe — and even then, it might not be enough.

  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin
  • Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Year: 2018
  • Runtime: 149 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

15. Avengers: Endgame

The second half of the epic that begins with "Avengers: Infinity War" wisely focuses on Tony Stark and Steve Rogers as they struggle to undo Thanos' cosmic massacre. Time travel might just be the ticket — but they won't succeed without incurring some wrenching losses. It all culminates in an unforgettable battle for all the marbles that people will be talking about for decades to come. "Avengers: Endgame" elegantly ties off the saga of two fantasy-adventure icons, and launches the MCU into the future.    

  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
  • Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Year: 2019
  • Runtime: 181 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

14. Batman Returns

Over the years, the deliciously dark "Batman Returns" has solidified its reputation as one of the Dark Knight's most enduring cinematic escapades, as well as the best Batflick of the '90s. Michelle Pfeiffer permanently etched her image into the superhero genre with a definitive turn as Selina Kyle, who becomes Catwoman under intense duress. Danny DeVito is uproariously savage and sociopathic as the Penguin. And then there's Michael Keaton's Batman, who's attempting to keep both of them from permanently harming Gotham City. It's manic, stylish, and strange — absolutely perfect, in other words.

  • Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Year: 1992
  • Runtime: 126 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

13. The Incredibles

Ironically, one of Disney's best superhero offerings has nothing to do with Marvel. State-mandated retirement forces Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible, to give up vigilantism. His restlessness makes him easy prey for the manipulations of an enigmatic villain known as Syndrome, whose ambitions and career trajectory are not what they seem. Luckily, Mr. Incredible's family is uniquely positioned to help him out of this jam as they, incidentally, also all have superpowers. Parenthood, suburban malaise, and good old-fashioned fisticuffs collide in this Pixar treasure.

  • Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Director: Brad Bird
  • Year: 2004
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

12. Unbreakable

M. Night Shyamalan followed up his breakthrough "The Sixth Sense" with another Bruce Willis-led mind-bender. Elijah Price, an obsessed comic book nerd with a rare bone disease, has a theory: If he was born much weaker than the average person, someone out there must've been born much stronger than the average person. He thinks he's found his inverse when David Dunn miraculously survives a trainwreck that kills every other passenger — but David refuses to believe he's superhuman. Even if he is, there might be more to the story ...

  • Starring: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright
  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Year: 2000
  • Runtime: 107 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The first MCU entry from the Russo brothers is a twist-packed thriller as exciting as any alien-centric flick. Cap, Black Widow, and Nick Fury join forces to unravel a conspiracy with the potential to derail all of civilization. It especially pulls the rug out from under viewers with regards to S.H.I.E.L.D., the alleged good guys who might actually be irreparably infiltrated by terrorist network Hydra. In the midst of it all is the mysterious Winter Soldier, an assassin straight out of Steve Rogers' past.

  • Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson
  • Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Year: 2014
  • Runtime: 135 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

10. Batman Begins

After "Batman & Robin" sucked the dignity out of the Dynamic Duo, the franchise wisely defaulted back to Batman's broody formative years. Best known at the time of the movie's debut for 2002's disorienting nail-biter "Memento," director and co-writer Christopher Nolan presents a version of Gotham that feels truly unique. Bruce Wayne's origin story is on offer here, interpreted through an intensely gritty lens. He spends the first third of the film acquiring his de facto superhuman power of self-discipline — the rest, he devotes to weaponizing the shadows against the superstitious and cowardly. This might still not be enough to take down the terrifying Scarecrow, however.

  • Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Year: 2005
  • Runtime: 140 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

9. Black Panther

A full-blown cultural phenomenon upon its wildly successful 2018 debut, "Black Panther" remains the MCU's most thoughtful and thematically rich chapter. King T'Challa is introduced in "Captain America: Civil War," which frees "Black Panther" up to go beyond the typical origin story route. In this film, the new head of state navigates a messy geopolitical inheritance and confronts Wakanda's history of isolationism. When an estranged member of the royal family comes calling, T'Challa must decide what sort of king he wants to be — and what sort of country he wants to lead. Plus, there's also a wicked boss car chase scene.

8. Thor: Ragnarok

Thor had multiple team-ups and solo movies under his belt by 2017, but the God of Thunder still hadn't found a clear cinematic identity ... until director Taika Waititi took the reins. Informed by the psychedelic sensibilities of 1970s Marvel comics, "Thor: Ragnarok" sends its hero through the intergalactic ringer. Stranded on the chaotic trash planet Sakaar, Thor is forced to engage in gladiatorial combat. Soon enough, he learns he's not alone — the Hulk and estranged Asgardian Valkyrie are here too. But they're not exactly jazzed about his plan for escape — or confronting Hela, his long lost sister, who's grinding Asgard beneath her boot.

  • Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett
  • Director: Taika Waititi
  • Year: 2017
  • Runtime: 130 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The themes of quite a few superhero movies basically boil down to a lead character grappling with daddy issues. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" bounces that subtext up to regular text, as Star-Lord finally encounters Ego, his biological father, a celestial being who might not be all that he seems. Speaking of father-son dynamics, Rocket Racoon and Baby Groot establish themselves as comedy legends, as well as brutal killing machines. What is Ego's plan for the universe? Why did he leave in the first place? And what, oh what, is Baby Groot's favorite song to jam out to? The answers might surprise you.

  • Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper
  • Director: James Gunn
  • Year: 2017
  • Runtime: 135 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

6. Superman

The original "Superman" happens to be the prototype for just about every other film on this list, but it's also a fantastic watch unto itself. The familiar origin of the Man of Steel plays out with spectacular sci-fi grandeur, which manages to feel retro-cool, rather than dated. Lex Luthor plans to kill Superman with a real estate scam, because it was the late 1970s and CGI tech capable of depicting a Brainiac or a Starro was not yet available. This doesn't hurt the movie, though — to modern eyes, it makes it downright refreshing. It helps that Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder are frickin' adorable as Lois and Clark.

  • Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Year: 1978
  • Runtime: 143 minutes 
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

5. The Avengers

The MCU starts with "Iron Man," but it doesn't feel completely real until its first full-blown crossover project. "The Avengers" let the world know that this business about a shared movie universe might have some staying power after all. A gathering of characters introduced in prior films — principally Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor — put aside their petty differences to save New York City from a mythological sorcerer aided by an army of cosmic goblins. As smarmy conqueror Loki, Tom Hiddleston steals the show, but everyone's firing on all cylinders. This is the modern superhero movie in many ways, and will likely remain a classic for decades to come.

  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
  • Director: Joss Whedon
  • Year: 2012
  • Runtime: 143 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

4. Spider-Man 2

The follow-up to 2002's highly encouraging "Spider-Man" doubles down on Peter Parker as a sad-sack overburdened 20-something, while channeling director Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead"-honed horror sensibilities into Alfred Molina's tragic Dr. Otto Octavius. Peter just can't seem to handle being Spider-Man in this film: His powers are on the fritz, his grades are slacking, and his love life is frayed. Is fighting crime really worth it? Meanwhile, Dr. Octavius, transformed into the villainous Doc Ock, threatens to destroy the city with this scientific experiments — but in truth, he's suffering an identity crisis of his own. Not unlike a man with extra mechanical arms, "Spider-Man 2" expertly juggles multiple themes and plotlines.

  • Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Year: 2004
  • Runtime: 122 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Simultaneously stuffed to the brim with deep-dive references and providing a welcoming gateway for new fans, "Into the Spider-Verse" activates previously untapped potential in Spider-Man's origin story. A radioactive spider bites teenage Miles Morales, bestowing upon him the proportional strength and speed of an arachnid, plus invisibility and a very cool finger-zap power. Following the death of Peter Parker, Miles must become the new Spider-Man, and train under the guidance of ... Peter Parker? Things get even more confusing when further Spider-heroes pop up from wildly different universes. This mesmerizing film is particularly distinguished by its jaw-droppingly innovative animation.

  • Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
  • Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
  • Year: 2018
  • Runtime: 117 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

2. Logan

The end of Hugh Jackman's 17-year, nine-film run as the anchor of the X-Men movie franchise is one-part hyper-violent dystopian adventure, one-part metacommentary on the modern superhero boom, and one-part touching father-daughter bonding story. In a brutal future, the man known as Wolverine must shepherd mutantkind's future to safety in the form of Laura, a young girl with a mysterious past. Their journey is a tragic one, yet also spiked with hope. "Logan," which practically drips gravitas out of its many stab wounds, is the rare superhero film that might make you cry.

  • Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
  • Director: James Mangold
  • Year: 2017
  • Runtime: 137 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

1. The Dark Knight

"Why so serious?" We'll tell you exactly why we're incredibly serious about "The Dark Knight" — it's the greatest superhero movie of all time, and one of the better films of the 2000s overall. Director Christopher Nolan returns to Gotham and levels up from "Batman Begins" with a philosophical slobberknocker between the Joker's sadistic chaos and Batman's benevolent order. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for delivering a mass-murdering, bizarrely charming Joker who still pops onscreen all these years later. Meanwhile, the rise and fall of Harvey Dent provides "The Dark Knight" with its thematic backbone. Recommended for viewing at least once a year.