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15 best superhero movies of all time, ranked

If you're looking for a list of the best superhero movies, stop right where you are! We've got you covered with everything you need.

Best superrhero movies: X men superheroes and Thanos

What are the best superhero movies? Whether it’s Marvel, DC, or whatever else, this genre is a minefield.

It’s had its lows, but some of the best movies of the past two decades have been superhero movies. Whether you’re re-watching the Marvel movies in order, or Nolan’s Batman movies, you’ll be encountering some of the best action movies ever made. But with so many to choose from and new movies coming every few months, if you’re wanting the best of the best it can be hard to know where to start. That’s where this handy list comes in.

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15. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

With its unforgettable elevator brawl and that iconic highway chase, The Winter Soldier stands out in the MCU as one of the few movies in the franchise that genuinely tries to evoke a tone. Paranoia, darkness, and secrecy are the bywords here, as Cap is forced to adjust to the grim reality of the modern day, personified by his former friend Bucky Barnes.

Teaming him up 1:1 with Black Widow was a brilliant decision, and her more ambiguous moral codes are the perfect contrast to his own notions of right and wrong. That, combined with the franchise-best action, keeps you on the edge of your seat with intense suspense, and it’s all grounded by the Russo brothers’ realistic touch. This is an espionage thriller first and foremost, and it’s a great one.

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14. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Of course, there has to be an X-Men movie on this list. Conventional wisdom suggests that X2 is the greatest of mutants’ cinematic outings, but we’re going to be bold and say that Days of Future Past is, actually, better. It’s the most X-Men of the X-Men movies, in that it really feels like it’s torn straight from the comics, telling one of the group’s best stories which is also explored in the likes of the classic animated series.

This take on the Days of Future Past story changes things up, and in doing so brings two eras of X-Men together. It’s kind of like a proto-No Way Home and might be the first proper ‘alternate realities collide’ superhero movie. The most impressive thing about Days of Future Past is that it could have been a total mess, but it makes the time travel make sense and the stakes are always present and threatening.

In a strange way, you can really go into Days of Future Past without having watched the previous X-Men movies in order. The timeline is already so messy and confusing that this movie acts as an endpoint and a starting point, no matter where you are on your X-Men journey.

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13. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

There’s a strong argument to say that Avengers: Infinity War is the best Marvel movie, and it’s certainly the most ambitious. As a culmination of long-running story arcs established throughout the preceding phases, not only does it have to finally introduce the story that the whole franchise has been building up, but it has to do it while also juggling every Marvel character from the movies so far. No pressure.

Somehow, Avengers: Infinity War made it work. It brings together the core Avengers and then adds in Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and all the other supporting heroes for an ultimate showdown with Thanos. It’s got some of the best action moments in the franchise, humor, heart, and thrills, and the distinctiveness of each hero is never lost amid all the chaos.

Some standout scenes include the beginning battle between Thanos and Hulk, the battle on Titan and Quill’s realization of Gamora’s death, and the final moments with Thanos victorious. It’s a thunderously impressive movie, and there hasn’t really been a better Marvel movie since. Is this where it all peaked?

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12. Black Panther (2018)

Just when it felt like the Marvel Cinematic Universe was faltering, Black Panther came along to remind us just how entertaining and powerful the superhero genre can be.

Easily one of the best Marvel movies ever, Black Panther is a lively labor of love that’s rightly been hailed by critics as a triumph. Almost every element of T’Challa’s solo film is perfect, but we want to draw particular attention to the Black Panther cast, who may be the greatest ensemble ever put forward in a superhero film.

Best superhero movies: The Crow

11. The Crow (1994)

If we were judging any of these films on their soundtrack, The Crow would easily come out on top, featuring cuts by Nine Inch Nails, Rollins Band, Helmet, and The Cure. Alas, great tunes only get you so far; all the fine action and gothic set design take The Crow the rest of the way.

Brandon Lee stars as the cult anti-hero Eric Draven, resurrected for one day by the eponymous mythical crow after he and his partner are murdered. A musician with shoulder-length hair and an affinity for corpse paint and a decent pair of leather pants, he’s your archetypal goth, now living the dream as part of the undead.

However, dreams are short-lived in Alex Proyas’s adaptation of James O’Barr’s dreary comic. Eric blows his way through the gang that targeted him, leaving his insignia behind for any onlookers. This ’90s movie gloriously captures the spirit of the era, made all the more poetic by Lee’s tragic passing mid-filming.

Best superhero movies: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

10. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Just as Batman: The Animated Series is one of the definitive takes on Gotham’s protector, the adjoining DC animated movie Mask of the Phantasm is one of the best Batman movies. A copycat killer masquerading as the big, bad bat intertwines with Bruce Wayne’s past, creating a lovelorn mystery for him to unravel.

Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski further exemplify their deep understanding of DC’s detective by pitting him against a puzzle that evolves with every twist. They invoke Bruce’s childhood in order to broaden his background beyond the death of his parents, an ambition sorely lacking from other jaunts on the silver screen.

Mask of the Phantasm looks superb, too, benefiting from the feature-length remit. All that, and Batman actor Kevin Conroy delivers what could be his greatest vocal performance as Bruce.

Best superhero movies: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

9. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)

Let it never be forgotten in all the fervor of the MCU and DCEU that the mid-2000s gifted us with not one but two Hellboy movies made by Guillermo del Toro. Both great, the second inches it overall by being bigger, stranger, and more ambitious.

The half-demon hero, played by Ron Perlman, and his slightly monstrous teammates at the BPRD have to stop an elf prince from reactivating a dormant mechanical army that’s considered unstoppable. They’re led to a fantastical hidden market in New York, the Giant’s Causeway, and the Angel of Death.

Naturally with del Toro the effects work in this monster movie are brilliant, full of eye-catching and intricate details. Combined with spot-on casting that includes Selma Blair, Doug Jones, and John Hurt, the film feels like one of creator Mike Mignola’s books come to life, but still its own beast as well.

Best superhero movies: The Avengers

8. The Avengers (2012)

The definitive superhero movie of the 21st century so far, The Avengers is lightning in a bottle. Crossing over six different MCU characters, each from disparate preceding blockbusters, the sheer kinetic energy makes it an infectious romp that’s pure popcorn entertainment.

Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Hulk, and Black Widow are drawn together when Marvel villain Loki causes an alien invasion in an attempt to rule Earth. The Avengers Initiative’s first recruits don’t gel at first, and watching Robert Downey Jnr and Chris Evans challenge each other is amusing as is, but it’s when they finally put their differences aside the picture ascends to another level.

Best superhero movies: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man has been so prolific and beloved for so long, that he’s almost a genre unto himself. Into the Spider-Verse plays with that by creating a team made entirely of alternate web-heads, with Miles Morales at the center.

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Each Spidey has their own aesthetic, with Spider-Man Noir all greys and blacks, the biomechanical SP//dr styled as an anime character, and so on. They’re forced together by Wilson Fisk and his interdimensional portal that threatens the fabric of existence. Never a dull day when you’re a web-slinger!

Among all the joyous references and beautiful sequences, we get an introspective story from Miles learning what it means to be a hero and why Spider-Man still inspires us all. Filmmaking is so often synonymous with magic, and what directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman accomplish is nothing short of wizardry. Is it the best Spider-Man movie?

Best superhero movies: Mystery Men

6. Mystery Men (1999)

A flop when it came out, the hapless superhero comedy movie Mystery Men would likely find it considerably easier to garner an audience if released now. Ben Stiller, William H Macy, Hank Azaria, Janeane Garofalo, Kel Mitchell, and Greg Kinnear are a group of blue-collar heroes struggling to be taken seriously in comparison to the extravagantly superpowered Captain Amazing.

It doesn’t help their powers include cutlery as lethal weapons, using a shovel like a hammer, getting really, really mad, and constant bickering. When the opportunity to stop released supervillain Casanova Frankenstein arises, they manage to stop arguing just long enough to seize the day.

Kinka Usher’s one and only feature-length production, Mystery Men has an easy-going nature to it, lovingly satirizing the absurdity of superheroes. The cast, mostly from comedic backgrounds, seem very aware that effects-heavy action film typical of these stories aren’t their forte, but make clear they can still hang under the right circumstances.

Best superhero movies: Birds of Prey

5. Birds of Prey (2020)

Cathy Yan’s colorful, high-spirited film about Harley Quinn joining up with several other female DC anti-heroes after she breaks up with Joker deserved better. Margot Robbie returns as Harley to battle the DC villain Black Mask, enlisting the help of Huntress, The Black Canary, Cassandra Cain, and Gotham City detective Renee Montoya.

Birds of Prey is bright and energetic, with nimble choreography giving the set pieces a madcap, fearless quality. In contrast to DC’s penchant for doom and gloom, this is loud and proud, pushing the franchise away from further rehashes of old faithfuls. If there’s any justice, we’ll get a sequel one day.

Best superhero movies: The Incredibles

4. The Incredibles (2004)

Before the Fantastic Four came to the big screen in live-action proper, this Pixar movie gave us a superhero family that challenged the Marvel team’s place in our hearts. Forced retirement led Mr Incredible and Elastigirl to settle down and have a family, giving birth to three kids: superfast Dash, force-field generating Violet, and Jack-Jack, whose powers are so far undefined.

The parents work regular jobs, but Mr Incredible starts taking some contract work stopping evil robots, all part of a ploy by Syndrome, who holds a grudge from being rejected as a sidekick some years prior. Soon the whole family is needed to save the city, including some friends like Frozone, voiced by the one and only Samuel L Jackson.

Behind the sterling adventure, The Incredibles is a delightful, heartfelt family drama that looks at aging and unrequited dreams. Director Brad Bird imbues superheroism with a sense of mortality and responsibility towards tomorrow’s great protectors.

Best superhero movies: Superman: The Moovie

3. Superman: The Movie (1978)

In 1978, Richard Donner made us believe a man could fly, and in many ways, we’re still chasing that sense of wonder. Superman is the platonic ideal of superhero movies, full of awe and splendour, but also unassuming and quietly idealistic.

Much of that comes down to Christopher Reeve’s casting as the Man of Steel for this Superman movie. His performance sits right at the crossroads between humble reporter Clark Kent and larger than life hero, morphing his body language and demeanour as needed. Donner wants us to believe in superheroes; Reeve makes us believe they’re all around us every day.

Best superhero movies: Dredd

2. Dredd (2012)

Just about everything in Pete Travis and Alex Garland’s take on Judge Dredd and Mega-City One serves as a balm for the farcical Sylvester Stallone effort. Karl Urban keeps his helmet on as the toughest lawman in the city, the dystopian metropolis feels like a genuine hellhole, and Olivia Thirlby features as Judge Anderson, one of Dredd’s great accomplices.

Anderson and Dredd get stuck in a rundown apartment building, forced to push their way up against a drug-peddling gang. Their skills and resources are pushed to their limits by the ensuing chaos, forced to work without backup.

The scope is smaller than many of its peers – something that didn’t help Dredd following The Avengers in 2012 – but that’s exactly what Judge Dredd stories are. He doesn’t take on the world, just enforces the rules when lawlessness is rampant. The Judges need not be full-on standard-bearers, but more of this kind of tight-knit thrillers would be welcome from caped crusaders of all sorts.

Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

Before the MCU really established itself as the dominant superhero movie force, these Christopher Nolan movies reigned supreme. The Dark Knight – the middle movie in the trilogy – is the best of them all and is often regarded as one of the best movies ever made, period.

We could get into the plot, or the visuals, or any of the other details that make The Dark Knight amazing, but truly it’s the dynamic between the central duo: Batman and Joker. Their eternal battle reaches its pinnacle here, as Joker consistently has the better of Batman with his love of pure, unfiltered chaos. The performance of Joker actor Heath Ledger will go down in history as one of the best ever.