Which are the best superhero movies of all time? Studios pour buckets of money into these films and the “arms race” for better stunts and production value has now been raging for decades.
We’re going to tell you which are the 15 best superhero movies of all time based purely on the story, the filmmaking, and aesthetic. If you disagree with our list, make your case in the comments below.
Best Superhero Movies
What makes a superhero movie?
We have to set some quick rules for our list of the best superhero movies of all time. We’re going to skip any animated superhero films.
The idea of this superhero movie list is to rank the best live-action superhero feature films, so shows like Amazon’s The Boys won’t make it onto the ranked list and neither will Lego Batman... C’mon!
Now, I personally love Batman Forever, but I have enough objectivity to know that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The purpose of this ranked list of superhero movies is to provide objective analysis of the filmmaking and aesthetics across all superhero films that fit the criteria.
We’ll rate the writing, directing, cinematography, and entertainment value so that you know why we loved these great superhero movies.
GOOD SUPERHERO MOVIES
16. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)Hellboy 2: The Golden Army shows that great wide-angle fight scenes, intricate production design, and a strong vision from the director can lead to something better than just a good superhero film.
Guillermo Del Toro has shown that his best films depend on him to stretch his creative legs and this superhero film is no exception. It’s at the beginning of our superhero movie list due to a lot of really strong competition within the superhero movie genre.
GREATEST SUPERHERO MOVIES
15. Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman has some really great moments in the film, like when Diana first steps into no man’s land, or the signature battle scene with the reimagined theme music — which oddly only played once.
Casting superheroes isn’t as much of a layup as one might think, but Gal Gadot is sort of perfect for the role, and athletic enough that the stunt sequences all seem very natural and believable. The main reason this film isn’t higher on the list is the lackluster villain and final battle scene.
I love David Thewlis. He’s a great actor, but you need to cast someone with some serious mobility to facilitate a great final battle scene, otherwise, you’ll be stuck using a CG villain for your climax.
14. The Crow (1994)The Crow is a cult classic that claimed the life of star Brandon Lee. Despite the fatal accident on set, the film is still one of the best superhero movies of all time. An undeniably powerful superhero film.
The great things about The Crow is the overall theme of the film, and how it discusses society’s relationship with chaos, evil, and darkness. One might even say this superhero film was ahead of its time, and laid the groundwork for many of the subsequent dark superhero movies.
Also, Dwight Schrute's "desert island" pick.
Top Superhero Movies
13. Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther is a really great superhero movie that features one of the best car chase sequences in a superhero film. The casting was on point, many of the fight scenes are intense and suspenseful, and both villains are highly entertaining, each with their own unique reasons.
There are also some really strong emotional moments in the film, most of which involve T’Challa’s relationship with his father, as well as the final battle scene between Black Panther and Killmonger.
12. Spider-Man (2002)
The original Sam Raimi Spider-Man is one of the best superhero movies of all time for many reasons, like the building fire scene, or the final battle with the Green Goblin. This was a great execution of the origin Spider-Man story, and who doesn't love Macho Man and Pizza Time.
Now, the bar was set pretty high from this first film, and the following movies weren't able to live up to the expectations, but the original Spider-Man movie was a great success which is why it lands on our ranked list of the best superhero movies of all time.
SUPERHERO MOVIES RANKED
11. Iron Man (2008)Similar to Spider-Man, the first Iron Man movie was a huge success and arguably relaunched the career of a very talented actor. The mixture of humor, action, and heart set the tone for every Marvel film to come.
The ending of Iron Man was also a surprising moment that sets this movie apart. Where so many other superhero movies rely on drama caused by secret identities, this film heads in the opposite direction. As far as Marvel superhero movies and origin stories go, Iron Man was able to build a rock solid template that tops the box office again and again.
DARK SUPERHERO MOVIES
10. Blade (1998)Blade is one of the best superhero movies of all time because it was highly innovative, and built real fear inside the viewer rather than simply telling us we should be scared of the story's villains.
Wesley Snipes is also a transformative actor who brought a unique quality to this role. Blade is a twisted expression of darkness and how often the person best suited to fight evil has some in their own blood. I wouldn't begrudge someone who felt the tone of the film was a bit too hokey, but there is enough self-awareness that it plays.
FUNNY SUPERHERO MOVIES
9. Deadpool (2016)
Deadpool is the superhero movie Ryan Reynolds was made to star in, and the humor and tone are so specific and refreshing that it catapults this into one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. The action is closely tied to the humor in an equally exciting and entertaining way.
The fourth wall breaks in this superhero film add an extra layer as well, and the overall filmmaking is actually much more creative and innovative than your run-of-the-mill superhero movie. As far as funny superhero movies go, I think this one takes the cake. Mmmm... coconut!
Dark Superhero Movies
8. Logan (2016)
Logan makes our superhero movie list because it brings something special to the table. Apart from really strong filmmaking, this is one of the only times you will see the exodus story of a character rather than a constant repeat of the genesis.
Logan is gritty, violent, emotional, and taxing in all the ways you don’t expect when heading to the cinema for the superhero genre, but that may be due to the fact that comic book fans are more complicated than many Hollywood producers are able to realize. The general population enjoys the majesty of a generic superhero story, but true fans of the genre love to see their favorite characters in complicated stories.
Great Superhero Movies
7. Doctor Strange (2016)
Doctor Strange is one of the most visually stunning mixtures of computer-generated images with live-action, but the connection of the visuals to the concept is what makes this such a great superhero movie.
While Doctor Strange owes much of its tonal success to Iron Man, the sound design, filmmaking, and a fantastically clever ending raise the stakes of this film from a fun movie to a complete head trip. I've read many reviews that took issue with the Marvel formula used for this origin story, but the things that make this film unique add up to push Doctor Strange into the top 10 superhero movies ever.
BEST X-MEN MOVIE
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)One of the reasons X-Men: Days of Future Past is so high on our list of the best superhero movies of all time is because it’s an awesome journey through time and space. The movie has so many great scenes.
The other things that made this movie so fun to watch were the plainclothes costumes and the soundtrack. You get to have this fun juxtaposition of 1970’s fashion and music all throughout. Bryan Singer has ruffled a few feathers recently and he is notoriously difficult to work with, but he is a really talented director and he was able to construct one of the best comic book movies to date with a really big cast.
BEST SUPERMAN MOVIE
5. Superman (1978)
While not technically the original superhero movie, this was the gold standard for years. Again, so many of the best superhero movies are dependent on their main villain, and Lex Luthor is one of the best.
Gene Hackman’s charisma made Lex Luthor likable, and this set the tone for many movie villains to come. This is the sort of special sauce that will give you one of the top superhero movies of all time. Unfortunately, we have yet to see many more likable villains in the genre… yet.
SUPERHERO MOVIE LIST
4. Batman Begins (2005)Batman Begins is one of the best superhero movies of all time, not because it was dark or brooding, but rather that it’s thought-provoking. It’s an adult movie that still appeals to young people and used practical effects that support great filmmaking. It also has a stellar cast.
There are elements of horror, espionage, adventure, and the most important aspect of any Batman movie — detective work. Batman Begins is the origin story so many other superhero movies wish they could be.
BEST COMIC BOOK MOVIE
3. Watchmen (2009)Watchmen is one of the best superhero movies of all time because it’s a wonderful allegory. The film (and comic) uses the powers and celebrity of superheroes to satirize war-monger culture and the cold war.
The cast is awesome, the script is fantastic and dark and funny, and apart from 300, it is the best Zac Snyder film. The philosophy intertwined with the visuals makes this one of the best superhero films.
Best Marvel Movie
2. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)Hand down one of the most expansive and surprising of all the superhero movies, Avengers: Infinity War proved to be a masterful combination of tone, story, action, effects, and sheer production.
Avengers: Infinity War is hands down the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and was a happy rebound from a few duds in the Avengers franchise that couldn’t seem to make their massive budgets work.
BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE OF ALL TIME
1. The Dark Knight (2008)Some of you may be surprised, but I highly doubt it. The Dark Knight has become the favorite for the best superhero movie of all time. It carried the best traits from Batman Begins and then stepped it up a notch.
Most agree that Heath Ledger’s Joker is the best super-villain to grace the silver screen. The innovative filmmaking, use of practical effects, and compelling storyline hold a special place in the superhero genre.
Every James Bond Movies Ranked
Make sure to let us know what you think in the comments. If you make a compelling enough case, we may even change our list. Now that you’ve read our list of the best superhero movies of all time, make sure to check out our list of every James Bond movie ranked from worst to best.