Release the Hype Engine! In a few more weeks, we’ll be able to see “Avengers: Infinity War.” Ever since Marvel Studios started this big crazy thing 10 years ago with “Iron Man,” there have been a lot of superheroes in movies. With comic-book fans calling this decade the Golden Age of Superheroes, let’s count down the 20 best films from Marvel, DC, & some others. But, I’m only talking live-action movies based on preexisting characters and/or stories. Oh, some spoilers too, duh.
Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition
Uh-oh. Get ready to spew hateful comments and fire up the dislike button because I definitely just put this movie on here. A movie with grand ambitions that doesn’t succeed on all of them, this three-hour neo-Wagnerian opera of super dudes still does more things than many comic-book movies, or even general sci-fi/action-adventure movies, are willing to do.
An immaculate cast (Ben Affleck IS Batman), near-perfect cinematography from Larry Fong, gorgeous costumes from hidden talent Michael Wilkinson, superb set design from Patrick Tatopoulos, and a dynamite score from maestro Hans Zimmer and up-and-comer Junkie XL make “BVS: UE” a viscerally-cinematic joy to behold. While the overall writing and direction are controversial and divisive, you shouldn’t deny the clever ideas Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder reached for, or the ones they succeeded in.
Mediocre superhero flare is what nerds around the internet call this movie. But almost 18 years later, this movie still has great performances, along with visual and thematic directions most comic-book movies are still trying to figure out.
We often forget this is the movie that proved that comic-book superhero movies (based on characters other than Batman & Superman) could be awesome. We also forget that this is where we got Hugh Jackman and much of the MCU-style humor from. This movie is also the reason why old geezers like Sir Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are recognized for being so cool today. Overall, “X-Men” is a humble story executed quite well.
Road to Perdition
Here’s an unexpected gem in the treasure chest. This movie shocked audiences when they saw America’s sweetheart, Tom Hanks, portraying a gun-toting mobster who kills without remorse. This film, based off of the DC imprint Paradox Press, also features a pretty killer cast, including Steppenwolf actor Ciarán Hinds, and Superman actor Tyler Hoechlin. Sporting an interesting story and clever visuals, “Road to Perdition” stands out from the rest of the crime-drama pack with an especially fine-tuned look on not just violence, but bias in general.
A surprisingly mature work in the genre that produced dumpster fires like “Suicide Squad” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” this movie not only has brawn, it’s also got heart. Hugh Jackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, and even Dafne Keen turn in Oscar-worthy performances that can make even the toughest fans shed a tear.
Writer-director James Mangold forged a movie that’s mythologically strong and subtle, as well as being narratively singular, giving us the Wolverine movie we need and deserve. My only qualm is that it’s typical Oscar bait, featuring Wolverine and a few sci-fi concepts. But, “Logan” is still a beautiful closing chapter on its characters and even a partial bookend to the genre overall.
If “X-Men” is the reason why comic-book movies are good, then “Spider-Man” is the reason why we have so many. Released in 2002, this was the first movie to make more than $100 million in America on opening weekend. The film also (along with “X-Men” and “Blade”) spawned the overwhelming crossover desire audiences didn’t get until a decade later with “The Avengers.”
Loaded with visual style and packed with narrative cohesion, this movie makes the small life of Peter Parker seem like a Biblical epic. This movie is also one of the few Marvel pictures to feature both a good villain (Willem Dafoe is delightful as Green Goblin) and a competent musical score (courtesy of “Batman” scribe Danny Elfman). My main gripe is Mary Jane; she’s awful.
Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two!