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Best Superhero Movies On HBO Max, According To Critics

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Superhero movies, empirically speaking, are the bee's knees, as is man's recently developed ability to watch pretty much any movie ever made by opening an app and clicking a button. Together, these two great tastes have combined to give viewers a world where they can dive into a weeks-long comic book movie binge, only ever moving to let the streaming platform of their choice know that yes, they are still watching, thank you very much.

But where to begin? With hundreds of motion pictures and a dozen or so streaming service options to choose from, getting started on a personal superhero film festival might feel intimidating. That said, let's start with HBO Max and their panoply of big-screen flights-in-tights offerings. It's a deep well, featuring the majority of DC's on-screen adaptations, a handful of indie darlings, and, in what seems like a passive-aggressive move on the part of Marvel, X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Here, we've compiled a list of some of HBO Max's most critically beloved superhero flicks on the menu, spanning almost 40 years and several Batmen. You'll believe a man can fly, from the comfort of your own home.

Superman: The Movie - 94% Fresh

Up until the late 1970s, superhero movies were practically unheard-of. There were a few compilations of old World War II-era serials. There was the 1966 Batman movie featuring Adam West, Burt Ward, and the most plot-driving off-screen death of a dolphin in cinematic history. That was roughly the whole shebang.

All of which made it seem positively bonkers when details about an upcoming Superman adaptation started hitting the news. It was set to be the most expensive movie ever made, based on a 500-page script by the guy who wrote The Godfather. Marlon Brando was paid $3.7 million and a cut of the gross for 12 days of work reading lines off of cue cards. Months of pioneering special effects work were done, with the filmmakers experimentally attempting to pull off the Man of Steel's look mid-flight, using everything from a remote control plane in the shape of Superman to a dummy in a cape being shot out of a cannon.

And somehow, at the end of it all, audiences wound up with one of the best-reviewed and most beloved big-budget adventures of all time. Even today, Christopher Reeve's performance remains an albatross around the neck of anyone with the hubris to put on a red and blue onesie in front of a camera. Is it a perfect movie? No, and you can check out all 45 minutes of Lois Lane's thirsty internal monologue beat poetry for the receipts. But 40-plus years later, Superman: The Movie is still some of the most optimistic, magical filmmaking on record.

The Dark Knight - 94% Fresh

"A bwiwiant fiwm. Five staws." That's the general consensus when critics talk about The Dark Knight, the 2008 Batman movie with a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a special place in the Blu-Ray collection of every unmarried American man over 30.

Expectations for The Dark Knight were high when it premiered. It was the follow-up to Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, considered by many to be the watershed moment in a genre with hours of Bat Nipples and ice puns in its closet. Wildly, it managed not only to make its immediate predecessor look quaint by comparison but to snatch the Holy Grail of comic book movie achievements by making almost everyone, including devotees of the source material, happy.

For two and a half hours, The Dark Knight steeps its audience in Bush-era allegory, armor-clad ennui, and IMAX action sequences that directors are still trying to live up to today. Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance as the Joker remains the solid gold standard in edgelord weirdness. Most impressive of all is the sequel's staunch refusal to tie into a larger DC universe, leaving audiences with what is, in retrospect, the refreshing sense that they're not on the hook to watch three spin-offs and an inter-franchise team-up over the course of the next two years.

Chronicle - 85% Fresh

It was a simpler time for Josh Trank when his feature film directorial debut, Chronicle, came out in 2012. He hadn't yet been tapped to helm a Star Wars movie and, as a result, hadn't yet been removed from the project, either. Fantastic Four was still several years in the future of this, the darkest timeline. Trank was a 27-year-old former Groundling with a backlog of popular short internet videos and a rad found footage indie movie that would change the course of his career.

Chronicle tells the story of a trio of high school students whose lives take a turn when they interact with a mysterious crystal that they find in the woods. The encounter leaves them with telekinetic powers and a philosophical rift, as the least well-balanced of the three starts to exhibit signs of early-onset supervillainy.

Critics and audiences ate Chronicle up when it came out, rocketing the film to the top of the box office and helping to launch the careers of Michael B. Jordan and Dane DeHaan. It's been referred to as an apt parable about adolescence and one of the most unique films in the superhero genre.

X-Men: First Class - 86% Fresh

The X-Men movies had taken some hits by 2011. The first film had paved the way for more serious comic book fare in the future, and the second was considered one of the best superhero movies ever made. Then came the double-stuffed ridiculousness of X-Men: The Last Stand and the (gestures wildly) everything of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It was time for a changing of the guard.

Enter: X-Men: First Class, the YA novel-adjacent reimagining of Marvel's Merry Mutants. A new, period-piece look at the genesis of the Xavier School was a breath of fresh air for the franchise. Stellar performances from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender create a frenemy dynamic for the ages. The special effects are phenomenal. Kevin Bacon, as Star Lord would later observe, is the best actor of all time. Hugh Jackman's Wolverine makes what is, hands down, the single greatest cameo in the history of cinema.

More than a decade later, X-Men: First Class remains the second-highest-rated film in the series, only surpassed in perceived quality by its immediate follow-up, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Even more wildly, Fox never made another X-Men movie after that. It's true. Don't look it up, just accept it.

Wonder Woman - 93% Fresh

It's bananas that DC took as long as they did to start diving into their stable of characters for major motion pictures in the modern era. A cinematic universe would have probably been easy pickings in the wake of the MCU, but the continued success of the Dark Knight trilogy proved to be a double-edged sword when Christian Bale's Batman didn't jibe tonally with, say, a Plastic Man crossover or the introduction of Beppo the Super Monkey.

When Warner Bros. finally got around to the DCEU, they stumbled out of the gate with Batman v Superman but still had plenty of workable component pieces to play with. Chief among these was Gal Gadot's Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, princess of Themyscira. When Wonder Woman's number got called for a solo outing, the iconic hero didn't disappoint.

Director Patty Jenkins takes audiences on a centuries-spanning epic adventure in Wonder Woman, offering plenty of visual spectacle and heart along the way. Gadot ramps up her performance after a relatively buttoned-down take on the character in Batman v Superman, exploring Prince's human side as a superpowered, justice-driven fish out of water. The critical and financial success of the film only serve to embolden its ability to take a hero best remembered for her invisible jet and ability to change clothes by spinning around really fast and turn her into an inspiration to a generation of young moviegoers.