The 30 Best-Ever Superhero Movies, Ranked

1. The Incredibles (Metacritic score: 90)

Pixar’s superhero family film takes the best of what we love about superheroes and spies to create a highly quotable, family-friendly action flick. Writer-director Brad Bird seamlessly fuses the mundanity of suburban living with a nostalgia for golden age comics. Just remember: No capes! (Photo: Disney/Pixar)

2. Iron Man (Metacritic score: 79)

Simultaneously revitalizing Robert Downey, Jr.’s film career and jumpstarting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man rocketed a then-lesser-known superhero to new pop culture heights, thanks to a slick superhero outfit and Tony Stark’s unceasing quips. Without Downey’s winning intro to Marvel’s new slate of movies, the entertainment behemoth wouldn’t be where it is today. (Photo by: Marvel)

3. Superman: The Movie (Metacritic score: 86)

From John Williams’s iconic score to groundbreaking visual effects, Superman: The Movie established itself as a classic way before shared universes and sequel sagas were ever concepts at the major studios. Richard Donner directs an incomparable Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, who carries the movie with his perfect mix of wit, charisma and virtue. (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

4. Guardians of the Galaxy (Metacritic score: 76)

Not every superhero ensemble needs a five movie setup before the big team-up. Director James Gunn infuses the fun and spectacle of Star Wars with a witty, snarky sensibility that proves 21st-century superhero movies don’t need to be dark and brooding to be memorable. (Photo by: Marvel)

5. Spider-Man 2 (Metacritic score: 83)

The best superhero movies also work as straight-up movies, regardless of genre. Spider-Man 2 fits the bill as Peter Parker feels the strains on his life as a struggling college student and budding hero. Don’t miss the memorable sequence involving Spidey, Doc Ock, and a runaway subway train. (Photo by: Columbia Pictures)

6. Superman II (Metacritic score: 87)

Michael Shannon did his best, but no one can beat the verve and style of Terence Stamp and his fellow black-clad baddies as General Zod, Ursa, and Non. Special effects were meh, but Christopher Reeve’s charm as Superman/Clark Kent stands the test of time, as does the film’s surprisingly dark plot. (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Metacritic score: 70)

Whereas the first Captain America movie captured the sincerity of World War II-era heroism, Winter Soldier showcases just how murky modern warfare has become. The tension between government security and individual privacy makes the film all the more relevant, but it’s the tension between the mysterious Winter Soldier and Captain America that makes the film dynamic. (Photo by: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel)

8. Batman (Metacritic score: 66)

Films lower on our list ranked far higher on Metacritic. But consider: Without Tim Burton’s trippy vision of the Caped Crusader, our idea of live-action Batman could still be all groovy 60s music and Bat Shark Repellent. Hinting at a darker side to the Dark Knight, the 1989 film features an unprecedentedly eccentric style, as seen in otherworldly sets, dual Prince and Danny Elfman soundtracks, and, of course, Jack Nicholson’s sublime Joker. (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

9. The Avengers (Metacritic score: 69)

Bringing together heroes that carried their own films, The Avengers pays off Marvel’s grand experiment in a big way. Films lower on our list did better with critics, but director Joss Whedon did a remarkable job embracing the color, humor, and unadulterated joy of watching multiple superheroes duke it out. (Photo by: Marvel)

10. X-Men: First Class (65)

Serving primarily as the origin of the great frenemy relationship between Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr, First Class single-handedly re-energized Fox’s X-men franchise. Setting aside continuity issues with the other films, the ‘60s-set throwback makes us remember why we loved the first two X-Men movies so much. Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkholme, a.k.a. Mystique, certainly doesn’t hurt either. (Photo by: Fox)

11. The Crow (Metacritic score: 71)

Brandon Lee’s last film is also one of his best: Based on the comics by James O’Barr, The Crow follows Eric Draven (Lee), a man resurrected to enact vengeance on the thugs that killed him and his fiancée. While the circumstances of Lee’s death during the production make the dark film seem even more gloomy, the anti-hero tale packs a punch with its production design, grungy soundtrack, and fight scenes. (Photo by: Miramax)

12. Batman Begins (Metacritic score: 70)

In this reboot, Nolan delivered a whole new way to think about the Caped Crusader. Bruce Wayne is a man with unlimited funds and an unceasing drive to fight crime in his home city– a place that doesn’t seem so unlike certain cities in the real world. Who knew becoming Batman could seem so logical? (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

13. X-Men: Days of Future Past (Metacritic score: 74)

Blending all of the timelines, continuities and actors of the past X-films, Days of Future Past takes one of the comic’s most iconic story arcs and transforms it into a cinematic game changer, rebooting the X-Men series while still using the same talented cast. Time travel isn’t any less confusing, but the results, like Patrick Stewart squaring off against James McAvoy as his younger self, are so worth it. (Photo by: Fox)

14. Captain America: The First Avenger (Metacritic score: 66)

Set during World War II, Captain America is simultaneously a period war movie and a classic superhero origin story. Chris Evans redeems himself for his best-forgotten part in Fantastic Four with his endearing take on Steve Rogers/Captain America. A scene-stealing leading lady in Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and a seriously creepy villain in Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull, round out the film as one of Marvel’s best origin tales. (Photo by: Marvel)

15. Hellboy (Metacritic score: 72)

A fantasy superhero movie in which a human-raised hellspawn fights off a Nazi-affiliated magical Rasputin really shouldn’t work, but it does. In fact, it’s great, thanks in large part to Ron Perlman’s performance as the cigar-chewing, kitten-adopting Hellboy. He has swagger and charm, even though he’s afraid of disappointing his father, played by the distinguished Sir John Hurt. (Photo by: Columbia Pictures)

X-Men (Metacritic score: 64)

In 2000, Fox premiered X-Men, and the cinematic landscape has never been the same. Proving superhero movies can be engaging, thoughtful, and thrilling, the Bryan Singer-directed franchise opener also confirmed that superhero movies are only as good as their super cast. With Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellen as Magneto, and then-relatively-unknown Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, X-men has acting chops in spades. (Photo by: Fox)

X2: X-Men United (Metacritic score: 68)

Taking a page from the Star Wars original trilogy strategy book, this 2003 sequel to X-Men is bigger and darker than its predecessor. Mutants face their most dangerous enemy yet as fear of their unique powers grows in the hearts of non-powered citizens, and more importantly, government officials. (Photo by: Fox)

18. Spider-Man (Metacritic score: 73)

Sony’s first attempt at adapting Marvel’s masked webslinger for the silver screen cemented the modern superhero movie as something more than a fad. Despite a story that felt creaky and dated, director Sam Raimi struck the right balance between heart and brawn. Plus, who can forget that iconic kiss between an upside-down Spidey and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane? (Photo by: Columbia Pictures)

The Dark Knight (Metacritic score: 82)

It’s not just Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as The Joker that makes Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight worthy of our list. Nolan succeeds in presenting larger-than-life figures that nonetheless feel grounded in a landscape where the stakes are real. Jaw-dropping action, like a flipping truck trailer, add to the majesty of this captivating sequel, though the overall tone often feels pretentious. (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

20. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Hardcore Batman fans recognize Mask of the Phantasm as one of the best tales ever told about the Dark Knight. Set in the same world as the critically-acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, the 1993 noir animated film showcases two of the best talents to ever portray Batman and the Joker, voice actor Kevin Conroy and Star Wars alum Mark Hamill. (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

21. Chronicle (Metacritic score: 69)

Few films have done the found-footage trope well, and Chronicle is one of them. Josh Trank’s directorial debut explores what happens when three high-school teens suddenly develop powers after encountering a mysterious meteorite. Pro tip: Don’t let the kid with issues encounter a mysterious meteorite if you don’t want to deal with the dawn of a super villain. (Photo by: Fox)

22. Iron Man 3 (Metacritic score: 62)

Following the overstuffed Iron Man 2, the Marvel superhero needed some retooling for his third solo movie. The post-Avengers threequel delivers as it explores Stark’s PTSD after engaging in alien warfare, though the clunky hot-Pepper sequence seemed more laughable than powerful. (Photo by: Marvel)

23. V for Vendetta (Metacritic score: 62)

More political thriller than typical action-fueled superhero flick, the Wachowskis-penned Alan Moore adaptation examines the blurred lines between superhero and vigilante (as well as freedom fighter and terrorist). The Guy Fawkes-masked vigilante V plots against a totalitarian Britain equipped with some cool knives, but also, more importantly, some indestructible ideas. (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

24. Batman Returns

The current slate of Marvel movies has a villain problem (aside from Loki, of course). Maybe modern superhero filmmakers should take note of the juicy, memorable displays of villainy in Batman Returns. As an even darker sequel to the already dark Tim Burton-directed Batman, the 1992 film features character-defining performances of classic Bat-nemeses Penguin and Catwoman from Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer. (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

25. Big Hero 6 (Metacritic score: 74)

Inspired by an obscure Marvel superhero team, the Disney computer-animated feature centers on smart kid Hiro and his plushie robot sidekick Baymax, who must defeat a baddie plaguing San Fransokyo. Overflowing with heart and humor, not to mention lush animation, Big Hero 6 also adds much-needed diversity to the superhero movie genre. (Photo by: Disney)

26. Kick-Ass (Metacritic score: 66)

Kick-Ass is ostensibly about the eponymous hero, a regular teen who decides to be a crime-fighter. But the real star of the movie, which is based on the graphic novel by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., is Hit-Girl, an 11-year-old killing machine. Brought up by her ex-cop vigilante dad (a wonderfully unhinged Nicolas Cage), Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl steals the movie with a purple wig and a powerful, albeit tiny, punch. (Photo by: Dan Smith/Lionsgate)

27. Watchmen (Metacritic score: 56)

While Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ beloved series can’t exactly match the brilliance and complexity of its paper origin, the 2009 epic superhero drama certainly came close. Infusing post-9/11 concerns with the original’s Cold War-era sensibility, Snyder not only nailed a story once considered un-filmable, but also made it relevant for today. (Photo by: Warner Bros.)

27. Unbreakable (Metacritic score: 62)

M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t have the best reputation anymore, but his early work speaks for itself. Following the success of Sixth Sense, he created a quietly powerful, modern superhero origin story. Bruce Willis stars as David, the unwitting strong man who is the sole survivor of a train wreck. Samuel L. Jackson also stars as an eccentric comic book collector who first recognizes David’s superhuman abilities. (Photo by: Touchstone)

Blade II (Metacritic score: 52)

Is any superhero cooler than day-walker vampire slayer Blade, as played by Wesley Snipes? Answer: No. Director Guillermo del Toro ups the ante from the sequel’s predecessor, taking Blade’s battles against the vampire horde to new levels of gory goodness. (Photo by: New Line)

30. The Dark Knight Rises (Metacritic score: 78)

Rounding out Nolan’s Bat trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises reaches monumental heights in terms of scope and sheer ferocity, as Bruce Wayne, the man, and Batman, the symbol, face greater threats than ever before. But despite its high Metacritic score, we had to lower its rank to the bottom…because we still have no idea what Bane is saying. (Photo by Warner Bros.)

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