In the last 20 years, superhero movies and shows have taken over all of entertainment. Which is good because these are characters people like us have read about as kids and watching them on screen makes for an experience nothing can replace.
But despite their blockbuster statuses, only a handful of them will truly stand the test of time.
1. X- Men (2000)
X-Men is the first film that comes to mind, not only because it kickstarted the genre but because it was way ahead of its time.
The movie didn’t shy away from using the underlying theme in the comics – ‘racism’ and its consequences as the plot of the film. The movie proved that superhero movies could also operate with mature content.
2. Spider-Man (2002)
X-Men might have started it all but Spider-Man was a household name way before the film released. So naturally, people were more drawn towards the web-slinger.
Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man was a more personal story. It didn’t have the element of the fantastic like X-Men. Even with Peter’s powers, it was grounded in the struggle of the American working class. And that honesty is what made us fall in love with the character.
3. Batman Begins (2005)
When Nolan took over the Batman franchise, we had no idea what to expect. But in the course of 3 movies, he gave us a Dark Knight we could never forget.
After Clooney’s debacle as the masked vigilante in the 90s, everyone thought that the Bat was dead. But Nolan dug it out of the grave, got Christian Bale in shape and made an epic origin story that not only satisfied geeks like me but truly started the hype that surrounds Nolan’s films these days.
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight wasn’t only a good superhero movie, it was a masterclass in filmmaking, The Godfather of our generation, so to speak.
Throughout the course of the film, the lines between good and bad become so blurred that the only thing that sets apart the hero and villain are the consequences of the choices they make.
Heath Ledger stole the show so well, that even today after more than a decade, we compare every villain that has ever existed to the Joker.
5. Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man should be in this list just for the sheer fact that it started the biggest franchise the world has ever seen. But it was a good movie first.
For starters, it came out of the blue at a time when nobody expected anything from Robert Downey Jr. The film was a tale of redemption, both for the character of Tony Stark and the actor who portrayed him,
And it was Jon Favreau’s genius that took a 2nd-tier character from the comics and made him the Godfather of all superhero movies to follow.
6. The Avengers (2012)
A lot of casual fans hadn’t even heard of characters like Thor or Hawkeye, or even Captain America before The Avengers released in 2012, not in India at least. The film wasn’t a masterpiece by any standards.
But it was everything you would want to see in a superhero movie. It was the first superhero-ensemble movie to have ever released and it took the world by storm.
It was well-made and was in tone with the light-heartedness of the comics. It not only catered to die-hard fans but also to people who hadn’t seen the previous MCU films. It was rooted in the classic blockbuster formula and gave us things we had never seen before.
7. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
Easily the best film in the MCU, Winter Soldier is what brought the Russo Brothers to the fold. This movie gets full marks for its old-world action sequences, which were surprisingly physical and a refreshing change from the CGI.
Winter Soldier is a thriller that makes you and the characters question everything about the world you are living and operating in. There’s emotion, drama, action and an old-school tale of friendship that will carry you till the end of the line.
8. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The last of the Captain America trilogy, Civil War brings upon us a clash of ideologies. God’s righteous man, Captain America hides secrets from Tony Stark and would go to any extent, break all laws to protect Bucky.
On the other hand, the man who once claimed to have successfully privatised world peace wants to be reigned in by the governments of the world. The Avengers are divided and fight amongst themselves like pawns in a bigger game played by a mere mortal.
9. Deadpool (2016)
I know. Why is Deadpool on this list, right? Why not? Deadpool was the first of its kind. After a botched attempt at filming the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Fox finally got it right after basically letting Ryan Reynolds… talk!
The film was self-aware and made fun of the whole superhero genre while actively being a part of it. The story was okay as was the CGI. But it was so damn fun to watch.
10. Daredevil (2015)
Unlike superhero films, superhero TV shows have always been a part of our lives. And while most of them start off well, they soon fall to the same formula of family dramas.
But Daredevil is not one of those shows. In its core, the show is about heart and the will to fight for the small guy in the face of overwhelming odds. The action sequences are on par with any big budget film.
And the stories it tells just stands out. There is no out and out good and evil here. Just people fighting injustice and creating the world in their own image. It’s up to you to decide whose vision of a better world you prefer.
The show also shows us the two types of superheroes that exist in this world – One who would root out all evil and one would punish it in hopes of redemption. There is an entire episode dedicated to the Punisher and Daredevil just talking about whose methods are more persuasive.
11. The Punisher (2017)
The Punisher is an icon for the people of the US, more so for those in armed forces. But despite the character’s popularity, no filmmaker ever had done any justice to it despite multiple attempts.
Then this happened. After having established the heart-breaking origin story in Daredevil, the show deviates from the traditional hack and slash methods of the Punisher and gives the story more depth by making it more about depression and PTSD and the sheer feeling of helplessness that could force people to take drastic steps.
Sure Frank Castle unleashes himself at frequent intervals and is unhinged when he does so but he is not a madman with a gun and the show does very well to convince us of it despite the overwhelming proof.
12. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Given the state of the first two Thor films, Marvel needed to do something drastic to make one of its marquee players a force to be reckoned with. But nobody thought that it would be in the form of a comedy.
Ragnarok was a unique approach to an otherwise boring Shakespearean character. But hats off to Taika Waititi who capitalised Chris Hemsworth’s comic prowess and gave us the Thor we so badly needed.
But while he did that, Waititi also unleashed Thor as the God of Thunder, setting him up as the ultimate nemesis to Thanos in the next film.
13. Logan (2017)
There is nothing about this film that hasn’t already been said. For 17 years, Fox had the perfect actor playing the perfect character in films that did not truly appreciate his skills. But all that changed with Logan.
Powered by Deadpool’s success, the filmmakers decided to go for an R rating and gave us the Wolverine we had been longing to see.
But this time, Logan wasn’t saving the world or the mutant race. He was saving his own daughter and his friends. It was bloody, brutal, emotional and sent us all home crying after the end, like a good old Western does.
14. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 2 continues with the journey of Peter Parker. And it sees him growing up and getting confused between choosing his personal life and his duty as a crime fighter.
The film also makes you relate to Dr Octopus as a villain whose intentions are towards the betterment of the world but he crosses a line he can’t come back from. The movie grills you on an emotional level and was one of the first films to walk on the gray side of morality.
15. Unbreakable (2001)
The film shows that heroes are also people. And sometimes they are fucked up.
16. Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse
Trust my words, you have never seen animation like this ever. Because it has never been made.
But Spiderverse not only pushes the envelope in terms of graphics but also in terms of storytelling. It brings out the biggest group of Spider-Men/ Women and its villains on one screen and lets them spin their magic.
17. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Marvel followed the same formula that it had followed for all its previous films. But it placed the villain in the hero’s shoes and made us see his point. And in all fairness, given the current state of the world, the villain made sense.
Even though we had never seen an ensemble movie of this scale, Infinity War felt personal. More often that not, we see a formula to any MCU movie. Infinity War broke that mould. It told the story from Thanos’ eyes. He was the hero of the story. He made the hard choices, his friends died, he nearly died but he won in the end.
I guess, it did follow the formula, huh!
Any other film or show that you think should be on this list, let us know.