erik lundegaard

Ranking Every Freakin' Superhero Movie Ever Made with Erik Lundegaard

Ranking superhero movies

Intro

As we did with best pictures, as we did with baseball movies, we're now doing with superhero movies. Ranking them. All 96 of them and counting. 

It ain't easy to do. Sure, after a minute or two or 10 you've got your top movies. But those middling ones? The half OK, half awful ones? Brutal. How do you parse all of that disappointment? We're living in the superhero-movie age, yet there haven't been many great superhero movies, have there? Maybe there can't be. Maybe it's ultimately too juvenile a genre.

Caveat: I'm a Silver Age Marvel guy. What Frank Miller did with the genre is more Mickey Spillane than Stan Lee to me. Stan was about inner turmoil surrounded an outer toughness; Miller is about an outer toughness surrounding an inner cruelty. The Inhumans, created by Jack Kirby, are more human than Miller's humans. This point-of-view is reflected in my list.

But enough. Up up and away, semi-true believers! Or thwip! Or snikt! Or ... Yeah. Onward.

Erudite Erik's Superhero Movie Rankings

1. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
2. Superman: The Movie (1978)
3. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
4. X2: X-Men United (2003)
5. Iron Man (2008)
6. The Incredibles (2004)
7. Unbreakable (2000)
8. Spider-Man (2002)
9. X-Men (2000)
10. The Dark Knight (2008)

For me, “Spidey 2” wins it not only for adhering so well to the Silver-Age Marvel comic (“Spider-Man No More!”), but for giving us epic battles followed by poignant moments (elevated train, pieta; final battle, revelation). Christopher Reeve's original “Superman” is still the model on which most superhero movies are based. Plus it makes me feel 15 again. Joss Whedon gave us the epic Kirbyesque battle that the Fantastic Four/Galactus movie should have been (and didn't come close to being), while “X2” would probably be even higher on my list if its ending battle wasn't so ... meh. Obviously fanboys will be disappointed that “The Dark Knight” isn't ranked higher but it only made my top 10 because of Heath Ledger. But if it makes you feel better, Batfans, here's the IMDb rankings, where the entire “Dark Knight” trilogy is a little higher.

11. The Mark of Zorro (1940)
12. Mystery Men (1999)
13. Man of Steel (2013)
14. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
15. Batman (1966)
16. Iron Man 2 (2010)
17. The Mask of Zorro (1998)
18. Batman Begins (2005)
19. X-Men: First Class (2011)
20. Batman (1989)

Someday I should post on the Zorro movies the way I did with Superman movies. Or is that a groan I hear? And is it from me? “Mystery Men” is the best of the superhero comedies, followed closely by the Adam West “Batman.” Note: already the disappointment begins. “Man of Steel” gave us too much Krypton in the first half and too much destruction in the second. Ed Norton's “Hulk” worked best in Latin America, worst in Harlem. “Batman Begins” suffers from missed opportunities.

21. Superman Returns (2006)
22. Hancock (2008)
23. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
24. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
25. The Mark of Zorro (1920)
26. Superman II: The Donner Cut (2006)
27. Hellboy (2004)
28. Iron Man 3 (2013)
29. Batman (1943)
30. Thor (2011)

I'm a bigger fan of “Superman Returns” than most. “Hancock” was onto something but lost it. “Captain America” felt too anodyne, while “Amazing Spider-Man” rebooted too soon, tried too hard to be “Dark Knight,” and its hero was overall too distracted. (Hello? The Burglar?) Watch “the Donner cut” of Supes II for the first scene, which is great. I need to see “Hellboy” again. “Iron Man 3” makes it this high for the middle portion, Iron Man unironed, and for Robert Downey, Jr., who never loses his sense of irony. “Thor”? Verily, he never did much for me. By this point, not even halfway through the list, we're already beginning to get into the dregs.

31. Superman (1948)
32. Sky High (2005)
33. Kick-Ass (2010)
34. Blade (1998)
35. Chronicle (2012)
36. Hero at Large (1980)
37. Superman II (1981)
38. Watchmen (2009)
39. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
40. Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)

I can be persuaded to switch my vote on a lot of these. “Kick Ass” is better than “Sky High”? Sure. I just remember being charmed by the latter, pissed off by the former. “Blade” is better than “Thor”? Could be. At this point, I'm shrugging my shoulders.

41. Fantastic Four (2005)
42. Hulk (2003)
43. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
44. Batman Forever (1995)
45. Blade: Trinity (2004)
46. The Green Hornet (2011)
47. Superhero Movie (2008)
48. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
49. Batman Returns (1992)
50. The Shadow (1994)

It's getting painful now, isn't it? All those hours wasted: Mine, yours and the filmmakers'. All those dollars down the drain. All that talent that could've been working on better things.

51. Batman and Robin (1949)
52. Superman III (1983)
53. Daredevil (2003)
54. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
55. Superman and the Mole Men (1951)
56. Ghost Rider (2007)
57. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
58. Elektra (2005)
59. Green Lantern (2011)
60. The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981)

For a while I thought “Daredevil” was the worst superhero movie ever made. Those were the days.

61. Supergirl (1984)
62. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
63. Batman and Robin (1997)
64. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
65. The Spirit (2008)

Can a superhero movie be worse than Frank Miller's “The Spirit”? Possibly. I haven't seen the 1994 version of “Fantastic Four,” for example. But “The Spirit” is at the bottom here because while “Supergirl” is awful, and “Spider-Man 3” destroys the legacy of the first two movies (while destroying Spider-Man's entire raison d'etre), and “Batman and Robin” is a chesse factory, and “Superman IV” ruins what good feelings we had left over from the Chris Reeve/Superman franchise, at least it had good intentions. Frank Miller had stars, budget, studio backing. He had power and he created this CGI crapfest. We never get outside of his imagination and his imagination is small and dirty. It’s appropriate that our first set piece is the swampland outside Central City, because that’s what Miller’s imagination feels like to me. There, the Octopus clangs a toilet over The Spirit’s head and laughs, and when The Spirit doesn’t join in, when none of us join in, he declares, in full Sam Jackson bore, “Come on! Toilets are always funny!” To quote from the film: “Pardon me, but is there a point to this? I’m getting old just listening to you.”

Not Yet Seen

Don Q: Son of Zorro (1925)
Zorro Rides Again (1937)
Zorro’s Fighting Legion (1939)
The Shadow (1940)
Adventures of Captian Marvel (1941)
The Phantom (1943)
Captain America (1944)
Flash Gordon (1980)
The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)
Darkman (1990)
Captain America (1990)
The Rocketeer (1991)
The Meteor Man (1993)
The Fantastic Four (1994)
Blankman (1994)
The Phantom (1996)
Steel (1997)
Spawn (1997)
The Specials (2000)
Blade II (2002)
The Punisher (2004)
Catwoman (2004)
The Legend of Zorro (2005)
Zoom (2006)
My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006)
Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Megamind (2010)
Super (2011)

Your Turn

Rank the Superhero movies

Christopher Reeve, Superman

Go on; you know you want to rank 'em.


Posted at 09:38 AM on Mon. Jul 22, 2013 in category Movies - Lists  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

COMMENTS

Coachcav wrote:

I mostly agree with your list, we have very similar tastes. The one thing that shocked me was that you haven't seen Flash Gordon from 1980! How have you avoided that so bad it's kind of good epic all these years?

Comment posted on Mon. Jul 22, 2013 at 10:41 AM

Erik wrote:

Probably because I tend not to watch the “so bad it's really really bad” movies. Plus “Flash Gordon” never did anything for me. But if I'm to complete this damned task...

Comment posted on Mon. Jul 22, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Tim wrote:

I'm right there with you on the top ten ... though I might push “Mystery Men” up to the ten slot. And I need to see “Unbreakable” again, I think; it might go down a notch or three from your #7.

Comment posted on Mon. Jul 22, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Reed wrote:

I submitted mine which are very much aligned with yours. The only exceptions being the disdain I had for Superman Returns and Spiderman Reboots (again). Also, I am the only person I know (the only person alive) who liked X-Men the Last Stand. Must've been in a good mood that day.

Comment posted on Tue. Jul 23, 2013 at 03:59 AM

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