Superhero movies have been a staple of the big screen for almost two decades. Since the release of X-Men in 2000, superhero movies have become some of the biggest and most successful films of all time, grossing over $16 billion since 2000.
Many fans, experts and critics agree that certain superhero movies have stood out and risen to the top. Here, we explore the best superhero movies ever made, discussing both quality and box office success. We will also examine the themes of these movies, their impact on superhero movies that followed, and the reasons for their continued success.
The Dark Knight, released in 2008, is widely considered to be one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Directed by Christopher Nolan, this movie was praised for its dark and mature themes, and was seen as a turning point in the genre. The Dark Knight featured strong performances from both Heath Ledger as the Joker and Christian Bale as Batman, as well as its portrayal of the duality of the Batman character.
The Avengers, released in 2012, marks the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What made The Avengers stand out was not just that it featured an array of superheroes from the Marvel universe, but also the way in which it blended action, humor, and drama. This movie was massively successful, grossing over $1.5 billion.
Spider-Man, released in 2002, follows the story of the young Peter Parker, who is bitten by a genetically-modified spider and gains the powers to become Spider-Man. This movie was praised for its light-hearted tone and spectacular action scenes. Spider-Man also played an integral part in developing the superhero genre, as it was the first superhero movie to showcase a teenage superhero.
X-Men, released in 2000, was the first major superhero movie in the modern age and paved the way for the genre. The movie was praised for its exploration of themes such as prejudice and discrimination, as well as its depiction of mutants. X-Men was also praised for its rule-breaking action sequences, which many felt set a new standard for superhero movies.
Influence of Superhero Movies on Other Genres
The success of superhero movies has had a lasting impact on other genres. Superhero movies are often cited as one of the main influences on the modern action movie, as they have helped to redefine what a successful action movie looks like. Superhero movies have also had an influence on science fiction, displaying a new level of worldbuilding and special effects.
The success of superhero movies has also had a huge influence on the comic book industry, with many comic book publishers looking to emulate the success of the superhero movie genre. This has resulted in a boom of comic book related titles, in both print and digital formats.
Finally, the success of superhero movies has also had an impact on television. Superhero movies have helped to launch the current trend of long-running, serialized superhero-related television shows, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Universe shows.
Franchises and Cinematic Universes
The success of superhero movies has led to the rise of larger franchises and cinematic universes. The most notable of these is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has become the most successful film franchise of all time. The MCU has also spawned several spinoffs and tie-in movies.
DC Comics has also followed suit, launching its own cinematic universe with Man of Steel in 2013, and expanding further with the release of Wonder Woman and Aquaman. DC has also had success with its television universe, which includes shows such as Arrowverse and Gotham.
Fox has also had success with the X-Men franchise, which has released four movies and is scheduled to release two more in 2019. Fox has also had success with the R-rated spinoff, Deadpool, which grossed over $780 million.
Sony has also launched its own cinematic universe, focusing on its Spider-Man properties. This universe includes Spider-Man: Homecoming, Venom, and the upcoming Morbius. Sony has also launched a series of spinoff animated movies, including Into the Spider-Verse.
The Impact of Superhero Movies
The success of superhero movies has had a huge impact on cinema. Superhero movies have shifted the paradigm of what a blockbuster movie looks like, emphasizing action, special effects, and spectacle. They have also deepened our understanding of iconic characters, with characters like Batman and Spider-Man now seen as complex anti-heroes.
More recently, superhero movies are being praised for their attempts to diversify the genre. Movies like Black Panther, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel have been praised for their efforts to expand the genre beyond white male heroes, and for their attempts to explore deeper themes of identity, race, and gender.
Superhero movies have also had a lasting impact on pop culture. Superheroes have now moved outside of the movie industry, with superheroes appearing in video games, toys, and apparel. The genre has also had a huge influence on television, with superhero-related television shows like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow becoming hugely popular.
The Future of Superhero Movies
The future of superhero movies looks brighter than ever. The genre is increasingly branching out into R-rated movies, with more adult-oriented titles such as Logan, Deadpool, and the upcoming Joker making waves at the box office.
The genre is also becoming increasingly ambitious, with movies such as Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel displaying a level of scale and spectacle previously unseen in superhero movies. The genre is also experimenting with new ways of telling superhero stories, with animated features such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. showing how the genre can be used to tell fresh and exciting stories.
Finally, superhero movies are beginning to explore new genres and themes, with horror, comedy, and arthouse-style superhero movies becoming increasingly common. Movies such as The Old Guard and Birds of Prey, which both released in 2020, have all displayed a new level of ambition and creativity in the genre.
The success of superhero movies has also led to a rise in television spinoffs. Many of the movies have spawned their own television shows, such as the MCU’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., DC’s Arrowverse, and Fox’s Legion. Spinoffs such as these have been hugely successful, as they are able to explore the characters, storylines, and themes in greater depth.
Furthermore, TV spinoffs have become more ambitious. Shows such as HBO’s Watchmen, Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, and Amazon’s The Boys have all become hugely successful, exploring new and sometimes controversial ideas.
Finally, superhero shows have been embraced by streaming services. Netflix, Amazon, and HBO have all invested heavily in the genre, producing a wide variety of shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Legion, and The Boys.
The success of superhero movies has had a huge impact on cinema, television, and pop culture. Superhero movies have redefined what a blockbuster movie looks like, and have spawned a whole new genre of television spinoffs, with streaming services embracing the genre more and more. The future of superhero movies looks brighter than ever, with the genre continuing to push the boundaries and explore new genres and themes.