erik lundegaard

Superheroes posts

Friday June 28, 2013

Ranking Every Freakin' Superhero Movie Ever Made By IMDb Score

The best superhero movies of all time

I did it with the Academy Awards' best pictures. I did it with baseball movies. Isn't it about time I did it with superhero movies? Isn't that what you've been asking yourself lo these many months? Nay ... years! Well, face front, semi-true believers, because it's happening right now!

A few minor provisos about what's included. First, and most obviously, what's a superhero movie? Or better: What's a superhero? Sure, Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, rah. But do we count Meteor Man and Blank Man? I did. How about Steel or Barb Wire? Yes to the first, no to the second. I don't have Sheena, either, which seems like blatant sexism at this point, until you realize I didn't include Tarzan the Ape Man. And is it OK to parse Zorro and Robin Hood? I did. For me, Zorro is the ur-superhero: a masked avenger who is pretending in his secret identity be a weak man to the disgust of the Girl Who Matters. Robin Hood is simply a Middle Ages avenger stumping for the king. And no, no Scarlet Pimpernel, either. Sorry, Leslie Howard.

Because newer films tend to start with higher scores and drop—as longtime reader and IMDb-watcher Andrew Reed has said—I've ranked the ties in chronological order. Age before beauty, as it were. It's much more impressive, for example, that Tim Burton's “Batman” has a 7.6 rating than “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” does.

That said, when is IMDb going to add an extra decimal point already?

But enough of my yammering, Lundy Legions: It's clobberin' time!

Row Movie Year IMDb rating
1 The Dark Knight 2008 9.0
2 The Dark Knight Rises 2012 8.6
3 Batman Begins 2005 8.3
4 Marvel's The Avengers 2012 8.3
5 The Incredibles 2004 8.0
6 Iron Man 2008 7.9
7 Man of Steel 2013 7.9
8 Kick-Ass 2010 7.8
9 X-Men: First Class 2011 7.8
10 Superman II: The Donner Cut 2006 7.7

Well well well, if it isn't the Caped Crusader and his little Boy Wonder. OK, just barely the Boy Wonder. At the very end. Spoiler alert.

That's right. IMDb's top three superhero movies are the three Chris Nolan Batman movies. I don't think any of them make my top 10. Too much wrong with them. But they're dark and gritty and kids confuse that with meaningful. There's a lot of needless destruction in them, and some people just want to watch the world burn. 

As for “The Avengers,” “Incredibles” and “Iron Man”? Yes yes yes, as Molly Bloom said. (Look it up.) But no no no (as Ringo Starr said) to “Kick Ass.” It wants its irony and wish-fulfillment, too. And the best “X-Men,” according to these kids, is the prequel rather than “X2”? Oh my stars and garters.

“Man of Steel” will plummet to Earth, surely, but will the Donner cut of “Superman II”? Right now it's ranked higher than even “Superman: The Movie,” which started all of this, and it's a rare movie that most people won't watch and thus vote on. Although I guess IMDbers do vote without having seen. Just as, on election day, people vote without having thought.

Let's keep on. To the batpole, Robin.

Row Movie Year IMDb rating
11 The Mark of Zorro 1940 7.6
12 Batman 1989 7.6
13 X2: X-Men United 2003 7.6
14 Watchmen 2009 7.6
15 Iron Man 3 2013 7.6
16 X-Men 2000 7.4
17 Spider-Man 2 2004 7.4
18 Superman: The Movie
1978 7.3
19 Spider-Man 2002 7.3
20 Megamind 2010 7.3

Five movies with a 7.6 rating? Right away, we have an argument for that extra decimal point. And what a mixed bag these movies are! The Tyronne Power reboot of the “Zorro” franchise, which is good; Tim Burton's “Batman,” which is *meh*; the second Bryan Singer-directed “X-Men” movie, which is GREAT; Zack Snyder's “Watchmen,” which ruined one of the best songs ever written, Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah,” like, forever; and “Iron Man 3,” which made more than a billion dollars worldwide but is still plummeting here.

Not much “Spider-Man” love, is there? The best Spidey is 17th? Below “Watchmen”? Whallopin' websnappers. Three of these films—“X2,” “Spider-Man 2” and “Superman: The Movie”—would be (and will be, semi-true believers) in my top 10. Maybe my top 5. Stay tuned.

Row Movie Year IMDb rating
21 The Mark of Zorro 1920 7.2
22 Adventures of Captain Marvel 1941 7.2
23 Unbreakable 2000 7.2
24 Don Q: Son of Zorro 1925 7.1
25 Hellboy II: The Golden Army 2008 7.1
26 Iron Man 2 2010 7.1
27 The Amazing Spider-Man 2012 7.1
28 Zorro's Fighting Legion 1939 7.0
29 Superman  1948 7.0
30 Atom Man vs. Superman 1950 7.0

Now this is an interesting group: two silent films, four movie serials from the '30s, '40s and '50s, two sequels, a reboot and a turn-of-the-century original, “Unbreakable,” which also might be in my top 10.

The “Captain Marvel” serial, by the way, was probably the first true superhero movie, or serial, ever made, if you think of a superhero having powers and a cape and a secret identity. It doesn't look bad, considering. (That mannequin can fly!) Back then, the Big Red Cheese actually sold better than the Big Blue Boy Scout. Then litigation got in the way.

Interesting that both Kirk Alyn Superman serials are tied with each other, but it is tough to choose between them. Both have their pleasures, their absurdities, their long, boring faults. But both are way better than “Superman and the Mole Men.” (See #63. — Erudite Erik.)

Row Movie Year IMDb Rating
31 Batman Returns 1992 7.0
32 Blade 1998 7.0
33 Thor 2011 7.0
34 Chronicle
2012 7.0
35 The Phantom 1943 6.9
36 The Incredible Hulk 2008 6.9
37 The Shadow 1940 6.8
38 Hellboy 2004 6.8
39 X-Men: The Last Stand 2006 6.8
40 Captain America: The First Avenger 2011 6.8

Look at the above 10 again. What reads wrong to you? A 7.0 rating for “Batman Returns,” perchance? The movie where Tim Burton flew his freak flag for the villain, the Penguin, rather than Batman? That's certainly part of it. But I also have trouble abiding a tie between “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which wasn't bad, and “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the movie where Brett Ratner gave us loutish dialogue, where Professor X tells Wolverine, “I don't have to explain myself—least of all to you,” and where, most important, Ratner kills off half the X-Men! Wotta revoltin' development.

We're only a third of the way there and it's already starting to feel a bit *blah*, though, isn't it? “Thor”? “Blade”? “Chronicle”? Too bad the second half of “The Incredible Hulk” (the Ed Norton version) wasn't as good as the first half. And not just because it lacked Débora Nascimento.

BTW, has anyone seen that “Shadow” serial?

Alright, let's keep going, kids. Who knows what evil lurks down there....

Row Movie Year IMDb rating
41 Super 2011 6.8
42 Superman II 1981 6.7
43 The Mask of Zorro 1998 6.7
44 X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2009 6.7
45 Batman 1943 6.6
46 Blade II 2002 6.6
47 Hancock 2008 6.5
48 Batman 1966 6.4
49 Darkman 1990 6.4
50 Zorro Rides Again 1937 6.3

I'm glad “Superman II” (Lester version) isn't as beloved as its catchphrase “Kneel before Zod!” “Mask of Zorro” (1998) is tied with “Wolverine” (2009), but I'd take the former over the latter any day. The Zorro reboot works; the Wolverine prequel was a major disappointment.

Oh, “Hancock,” you should've been better. Oh, Adam West “Batman,” you were better. But fanboys these days want their heroes glowering and growling. No poking fun at the entire genre—or the entire culture. Caped, costumed men must stand, grim-faced sentinels on tall gothic buildings, as rain pours down and fails to wash the scum from the streets. So many of these kids still kneel before Frank Miller.

Row Movie Year IMDb rating
51 Captain America 1944 6.3
52 Flash Gordon 1980 6.3
53 The Rocketeer 1991 6.3
54 The Punisher 2004 6.3
55 Spider-Man 3 2007 6.3
56 Batman and Robin  1949 6.2
57 Sky High 2005 6.2
58 Superman Returns 2006 6.2
59 Hero at Large 1980 6.0
60 Punisher: War Zone 2008 6.0

By the hoary hosts of hogwash! I had my problems with “Superman Returns,” too, but IMDb voters would have it below “The Punisher” (with John Travolta as villain), “Flash Gordon” (with Queen on the soundtrack), and one of the worst movies ever made, “Spider-Man 3,” in which black goo from outer space turns Peter Parker into some combo of Tony Manero and Adolf Hitler??? Great Caesar's Ghost!

Row Movie Year IMDb rating
61 Mystery Men 1999 5.9
62 The Green Hornet 2011 5.9
63 Superman and the Mole Men  1951 5.8
64 Blade: Trinity 2004 5.8
65 The Legend of Zorro 2005 5.8
66 Green Lantern 2011 5.8
67 The Shadow 1994 5.7
68 Hulk 2003 5.7
69 Fantastic Four 2005 5.7
70 The Specials 2000 5.6

“Mystery Men” is way better than this, kids. But, as with the Adam West “Batman,” you need a sense of humor to get it.

Green movies (Lantern, Hornet, Hulk) don't make much green, do they? Did any movie here? “Fantastic Four,” kinda, but it's an embarrassing addition considering how instrumental the FF is in the Silver Age of Comics. Wotta revoltin' development.

Speaking of...

Row Movie Year IMDb rating
71 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 2007 5.6
72 Batman Forever 1995 5.4
73 Daredevil 2003 5.4
74 The Return of Captain Invincible 1983 5.3
75 My Super Ex-Girlfriend 2006 5.2
76 Ghost Rider 2007 5.2
77 Spawn 1997 5.1
78 Superman III 1983 4.9
79 The Phantom 1996 4.8
80 Elektra 2005 4.8

When you see movies like “Ghost Rider,” “Superman III,” “Daredevil” and “Elektra,” you know you've almost reached bottom. Just 14 rungs to go. Hang on ...

Row Movie Year IMDb rating
81 The Spirit 2008 4.8
82 The Meteor Man 1993 4.7
83 The Legend of the Lone Ranger 1981 4.5
84 Blankman 1994 4.4
85 Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 2012 4.4
86 Superhero Movie 2008 4.3
87 Supergirl 1984 4.2
88 Zoom 2006 3.9
89 The Fantastic Four 1994 3.8
90 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace 1987 3.6
91 Batman & Robin 1997 3.6
92 Catwoman 2004 3.2
93 Captain America 1990 3.0
94 Steel 1997 2.7

Hear that sound? That's the sound of hitting bottom. Thank God. Thank Odin. And his beard.

As we began with “The Dark Knight,” we end with “Steel,” starring Shaq. (Haven't seen it.) As we began with “The Avengers, we end with Matt Salinger's ”Captain America“ from 1990. (Haven't seen it.)

But I have seen the final Golan and Globus Superman and the George Clooney Batman and both deserve to be down here. Along with ”Supergirl“ and ”Legend of the Lone Ranger“ and Frank Miller's ”The Spirit,“ which is stab-out-your-eyeballs bad. Yes, and Nic Cage, Powerless Man, who sold his soul to the devil a long time ago.

So any I've missed, semi-true believers? Feel free to rap with Cap in the comments field below.

Final thought: I suppose it's a positive that there aren't many superhero movies worse than ”Batman & Robin.“ But I suppose it's a negative that there aren't any superhero movies better than ”The Dark Knight."

Ah, but there are. There are.

'Nuff said?

the worst superhero movies of all time

Posted at 07:33 AM on Jun 28, 2013 in category Superheroes
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Saturday May 11, 2013

The Superhero Trilogy: Powers Revealed, Lost, Turned Evil

An observation about superhero sequels.

The first superhero movie of the modern era, the one that caused Hollywood to realize the money to be made from men in tights, was “Superman” in 1978. What happens to Supes in that Donner/Lester trilogy?

  • I: Superman's powers are revealed
  • II: Superman's powers are lost (so he can be with Lois)
  • III: Superman turns evil (via synthetic kryptonite)

It doesn't seem like much of a formula—the box office for each sequel kept dropping—but we haven't gotten far away from it. The Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” movies follow it exactly:

  • I: Spider-Man's powers are revealed
  • II: Spider-Man's powers are lost (psychologically)
  • III: Spider-Man turns evil (via intergalatic space goo)

There are subtler variations, certainly. At the end of “The Dark Knight,” Batman agrees to be perceived as evil, which, I've argued, is a smart move that prevents the series from descending into camp; and for the first half of “The Dark Knight Rises,” he's lost his powers through old age, injuries, and cynicism. He has to build his way back. Twice.

In “X2” the government has a secret program to turn mutants evil (Nightcrawler, etc.). In “X-Men 3: The Last Stand” it has a secret program to take away their powers (via Leech).

In “Iron Man 2,” Tony Stark doesn't turn evil, exactly, he just acts like an ass since he thinks he's dying; in “Iron Man 3,” the movie strands him in Tennessee, powerless, without a working suit.

Even fucking Ghost Rider lost his powers in “Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vegeance.”

Of course, what matters is less the formula than the variations within the formula. Losing powers worked in “Spider-Man 2” and “Iron Man 3” (the Tennessee portion was the best part of that movie) but not “Superman II” or “X-Men 3.” And while turning evil is a tired plot device, the ways Bryan Singer handled it in “X2” and Christopher Nolan in “The Dark Knight” were inspired.

Even so, can't we get a new story now and again?

Apparently not. This summer, “The Wolverine,” sequel to “Wolverine,” opens in July. The big line from the trailer? “I'm not healing.” Apparently Logan loses his powers. Never saw it coming.

The Superman superhero trilogy: powers revealed, lost, and turned evil

The classic superhero trilogy: powers revealed, lost, and turned to evil.

Posted at 07:19 AM on May 11, 2013 in category Superheroes
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Tuesday April 09, 2013

Who Knew Prof. X was a Slacker?

Director Bryan Singer tweeted this photo today, from, one asssumes, the set of his 2014 film, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”:

Prof X's thesis from X-Men: Days of Future Past

At first you think: Cool! How fun to be able to play with stuff like that.

Then I caught the date at the bottom. Wait. 1973? Really? Wasn't Xavier at Oxford in the early 1960s in the first prequel? The events all took place before the Cuban Missile Crisis in Oct. 1962, which is when Prof. X lost the use of his legs. So it took him more than 10 years to finish his thesis? Charles Xavier? Was he moping or something? Did he take time off to fight crime with his brain? Who knew Prof. X was such a slacker?

Posted at 03:06 PM on Apr 09, 2013 in category Superheroes
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Monday March 18, 2013

There's Big Money in Fantasy

In 1940, Look magazine did a feature on Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, and their new comic book creation “Superman,” whom Look calls “An imaginary man popped out of an imaginary planet.” But I mainly love the subhed there: The part that begins “New Comic Strip Hero Proves...” and ends with the title of the post:

Superman: New Comic Strip Hero Proves There's Big Money in Fantasy

As Jolson said, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You ain't heard nothing yet.”

Posted at 07:06 AM on Mar 18, 2013 in category Superheroes
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Thursday February 28, 2013

Coming Soon

Coming Soon: Man of Steel (2013)

I still miss the spitcurl.

Posted at 08:11 AM on Feb 28, 2013 in category Superheroes
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