The 100 Greatest Superhero Movies of All Time - The Best Superhero Movies Ranked
By: Karl Stern (@wiwcool)
This is the latest of our "The 100" best of lists and it takes a look at one of my favorite things since I grew up as a comic book fan - The 100 best superhero movies ever. I learned to read from comic books. Before I ever entered school I was well ahead of "See Jane run," because of comic books. I have lived a happier and more imaginative life which has brought me countless hours of joy. In this list of the 100 Greatest Superhero Movies ever I explore the modern era version of the comic book - the comic book superhero movie. Yes, I know comics are still around, I’ve ranked them too, and I still read them. But most of pop culture today knows these iconic characters best from their blockbuster movie appearances.
I have used multiple website and print media "Top Superhero Movies" and "Best Superhero Films" lists to help compile the When It Was Cool Top 100 Best Superhero Movies Ever and have averaged them together giving more credence to more established and expert writers, sites, and publications. I have included a list of sources at the end of this article. I have also received numerous suggestions from the visitors of When It Was Cool and listeners to the When It Was Cool Podcast.
I referenced numerous other popular media "Top 100 Greatest Superhero Movies" or "Top 100 Best Superhero Films" or "Best Comic Book Movies Ever" lists and averaged their rankings. I then added points to my own personal picks and those suggested by our visitors as well. Ticket sale numbers really didn't factor that strongly into it.
After numerous lists and rankings were averaged together, here are the When It Was Cool 100 Greatest Superhero Movies of All Time.
Before you get to the list! You might be interested in our podcast special counting down these movies with commentary and our thoughts on how and why the 100 Greatest Superhero Movies ever ranked where they did!
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1) The Dark Knight (2008) (1880 points)
The Batman movie The Dark Knight was consistently number one on most of the lists used to rank the best superhero movies of all time. It was also my personal top choice. The Christopher Nolan series, featuring Christian Bale as Batman, fared very well across the board but the unforgettable, perhaps all time great, performance of the late Heath Ledger as The Joker, put this movie over the top as the best superhero movie ever made. There was no controversy. The Dark Knight and The Avengers ran neck and neck the whole way as number one and two but I doubt many could legitimately argue that Batman The Dark Knight doesn’t deserves the top spot as the best superhero movie ever made.
2) The Avengers (2012) (1798 points)
The Josh Whedon film The Avengers brought together the various superheroes of the Marvel Universe into one giant smash hit team-up superhero film. Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor had all already appeared in their own solo movies and were joined by Hawkeye and Black Widow for an amazing big budget superhero movie that delivered on every level. It also lead to multiple sequels which made billions of dollars. The films brightness, humor, and all out action won the hearts of movie goers and spawned one of the most incredible movie universes in history. Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, and more.
3) Spider-Man 2 (2004) (1621 points)
From 2004 and not a part of the on-going Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man 2 movie starring Tobey Maguire in the role of Spider-Man, was consistently a critical favorite. The movie pitted Spider-Man against one of his main comic book rivals- Dr. Octopus and delivered on almost every level. The Chicago Tribune’s Mark Caro stated that Alfred Molina was a "pleasingly complex" villain, and the film as a whole "improves upon its predecessor in almost every way."
4) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) (1607 points)
When Marvel first announced they were doing a film based on the comic book property Guardians of the Galaxy, movie critics and comic book fans thought they might be reaching a bit too far. At the time, Guardians of the Galaxy were a deep cut comic book property to say the least. While they had somewhat of a cult following, the series and characters were hardly mainstream. But the movie was a remarkably fun adventure. The oddball cast all over performed. Chris Pratt delivered as Star Lord, Zoe Saldana was tremendous, and pro wrestler Dave Batista delivered a side splitting performance as Drax the Destroyer. Even Groot and Rocket Raccoon became pop culture sensations. A tremendously fun movie in every way.
5) Iron Man (2008) (1605 points)
The movie that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey, Jr. starred in this over excelling first installment in the Iron Man and Marvel series. Make no mistake, Iron Man was an A-List super hero in Marvel Comics and had been for decades but he was an order of magnitude below your biggest Marvel Comics characters like Spider-Man and The Hulk in pop culture. That all changed with Downey’s exceptional performance and great storytelling in Iron Man. The movie still holds up strong and is well worth revisiting if you haven’t done so recently. Many times the first of something isn’t best. In the case of Iron Man, it really is one of the best superhero movies ever made.
6) Logan (2017) (1529 points)
The X-Men related movie that stood out strongest among the critics was James Mangold’s 2017 Logan starring Hugh Jackman as the aged and rugged Wolverine who is now taking care of the elderly Professor X. The movie was ranked by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten movies of 2017. Inspired, in part, by the popular Old Man Logan comic book storyline, the movie was the final installment in the Wolverine trilogy of movies which also included X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine, all starring Hugh Jackman in the title role.
7) Captain America: Civil War (2016) (1518 points)
Chris Evans returned to play Captain America in this third installment of the Captain America movie series in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. One could argue this movie was more of an Avengers movie than a Captain America movie as it guest starred several heroes from the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe of films including Iron Man, Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, Hawkeye, Black Panther, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man, and the debut of Spider-Man inside the Marvel movie universe.
8) Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) (1488 points)
All three Captain America movies fared very well among movie critics. With Chris Evans back in the lead role of Captain America, this film centered around the return of Captain America’s believed to be dead side-kick Bucky who has returned as the feared Winter Solider. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said of Captain America: Winter Soldier "What makes The Winter Soldier so enjoyable, and what will make it so profitable, is its emotional bandwidth—all the vivid, nuanced life lived by its characters in between their frenzied escapades.”
9) Batman Begins (2005) (1357 points)
The gap between Batman Begins and Captain America: Winter Solider is over 100 points which is significant in our ranking system. It statistically shows that listings 1-8 are somewhat on another level than the next tier down. That being said, Batman Begins is one of my personal top picks and I ranked it on my personal picks in the top five. Until The Dark Knight, I thought Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was the perfect Batman movie and would be impossible to top. The story is, I believe, the best superhero origin movie ever made and a perfect launching pad for the masterpiece which came next. Still today, over a decade after it’s release, Batman Begins still holds up well and is certainly amazingly better than the Batman appearances that have been part of the DC Cinematic Universe.
10) Wonder Woman (2017) (1312 points)
The benefit of averaging all of the “best of” and “greatest” superhero movies list instead of just listing my personal favorite superhero movies is the advantage of seeing if you are in agreement with others or maybe you should re-evaluate your opinion. I’m sorry but I have thought the entire DC movie universe thus far has been horrible. Just a complete dumpster fire of movies. I generally hear people say, “well… except for Wonder Woman and Aquaman.” I do agree that those are the two best of the DC movies but also didn’t think either was that great. I understand Wonder Woman gets great praise and obviously ranked very high to end up in the top 10 but I thought the movie’s villain was forgettable, if not outright terrible, and the film was largely boring highlighted only by Gal Gadot’s performance was Wonder Woman. Others, obviously, thought better of it. Still, the DC movies, in list after list, performed terribly.
11) Superman (1978) (1308 points)
One of the most beloved superhero movies of all time. I was surprised this movie didn’t crack the top 10 but let’s be honest. I recently re-watched the movie to review here at When It Was Cool and the movie has some problems. It’s a lot cheesier than you might remember and that much loved flying date scene between Superman and Lois Lane is actually embarrassingly awkward but, for whatever reason, we all loved it. Superman is very charming and Christopher Reeve is perfect as Superman and Clark Kent. It was also interesting that the various lists I used to average this ranking has Superman all over the place. Some lists ranked it very high and others pretty low. It seems we all want to love it but the reality is that this movie is not as good as nostalgia wants us to remember it being.
Here is our previous review of Superman (1978) - Click here.
12) Unbreakable (2000) (1174 points)
An unlikely superhero movie starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. The first in the Unbreakable trilogy of movies explores comic book theory and follows an unlikely and unwilling hero in Bruce Willis all while setting up Samuel L. Jackson as a surprise super villain. This M. Night Shyamalan movie contains the classic expected Shyamalan twist as does the two sequels. While stereotypical and cliched of his movies this one actually worked and worked well. I was surprised many of the best superhero movie lists I referenced included this movie but it is clearly a legitimate superhero movie as it checks all the boxes you would expect despite not including the hero in costume trope nor being part of DC or Marvel universes.
13) Spider-Man Homecoming (2017) (1160 points)
The second in the Spider-Man reboot movie franchise that placed Spider-Man inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As you will see from this list, there have been many Spider-Man movies over the years. Reboot after reboot, attempt after attempt, to bring the classic Marvel Comics hero to the big screen. Many have actually been very good and some very good. Tom Holland and Robert Downey, Jr. both star in Spider-Man Homecoming which sees Spider-Man outside of New York in Washington D.C. with some really cool moments in and around the iconic landmarks of the city.
14) Spider-Man (2002) (1132 points)
The first Spider-Man movie of the Tobey Maguire film trilogy and a very respected superhero movie despite the Spider-Man franchise being relaunched and rebooted multiple times. Even thought this movie is now 17 years old it actually holds up pretty well and a lot of fun. Of course, it is an origin movie, something Spider-Man has no shortage of in the movie theater. And even though we have now seen Spider-Man’s origins over, and over, and over again, there is a simplistic fun to this movie that has helped it stand the test of time. Also keep your eye out for a fun cameo by pro wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
15) Deadpool (2016) (1147 points)
Deadpool is one of the few new comic book characters of the modern era to develop a substantial and lasting fan base. The character of Deadpool is part superhero, part comedy character, and part comic book commentary so making a movie based on this character by 20th Century Fox and part of the X-Men universe could have gone wrong. But it didn’t. Deadpool (2016) delivered just the right amount of action and comedy and Ryan Reynolds redeemed himself from his less than stellar portrayal of Green Lantern several years earlier. Deadpool worked as a movie and spawned a successful sequel.
16) Thor Ragnarok (2017) (1143 points)
One thing that has always set the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies apart from the dark and joyless DC movies is a healthy dose of comedy and laughs among all the action and adventure. In other words, it’s actually OK to have fun in a movie. Thor Ragnarok is probably the most fun superhero movie that has been made to date and critics seemed to love this film. Thor Ragnarok ranked highly on virtually every ranking list I used to create this one. The movie, which guest starred the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) alongside Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, is basically a buddy comedy set in space which a heavy helping a superhero action adventure. What’s not to love?
17) The Incredibles (2004) (1111 points)
I didn’t really want to include animated films on this list but The Incredibles and it’s sequel appeared so often on critic’s best superhero movies lists that I had no choice but to include a few. The Incredibles is a beloved superhero film from 2004 released by Walt Disney Pictures and produced by Pixar. This movie covers many themes present in other superhero franchises and stands out as an animation masterpiece. The sequel also fared quite well among movie critics.
18) Black Panther (2018) (1103 points)
Many of the lists I used to average these rankings had Black Panther at or near the top while others had it much lower, so it ultimately averaged out in the number 18 spot. Black Panther was certainly groundbreaking in terms of progressing minority cast and characters into a big budget and mega-successful film. A few of the lists even hail it as the greatest superhero movie ever made. Personally, I feel like it should have ranked a little higher and may have been hurt by being a more current movie and, given time, will settle into the top 15 if not the top 10. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danai Gurira and part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
19) X-2 X-Men United (2003) (1046 points)
Among the most popular of the X-Men movie franchise is X-2 released in 2003. The year of release is impressive because there is a huge difference between what is expected out of a great superhero movie in 2019 and what was expected in 2003. The standards were much lower back then as more superhero movies failed than succeeded, so for X2: X-Men United to stand the test of time among critics and make the top 20 is a testament to how well loved this movie is. Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Halle Berry.
20) Batman (1989) (1018 points)
In 1989 people were scratching their heads wondering why Mr. Mom was cast as Batman. Michael Keaton got no love from fans or critics before the film. One example is Ed Grant who said, “Keaton's casting as the muscular Bruce Wayne remains one of the most wrongheaded decisions in movie history; the talented supporting cast can't overcome the stiff dialogue.” It turns out that Keaton worked out fine and Jack Nicholson as the Joker was exceptional. While the movie doesn’t hold up as strong as you might remember, the times have changed. In 1989 this was a great movie and over achieved expectations. It also ended up in the top 20 of the all time greatest superhero movies and spawned multiple sequels, some of which were great and some not so much.
21) Avengers Infinity War (2018) (1000 points)
The final movie in our ranking of the best superhero movies of all time to accumulate over 1000 points is Avengers Infinity War, part one of a two part series which concluded with Avengers: Endgame. The movie, I think, was hurt by the fact that it was very long and featured only the first half of the story and ended on a big downer. The story was epic and it contained everything you love about the Marvel Cinematic Universe but at times it felt like a chore to sit through and anyone who can sit through both Infinity War and Endgame back to back is a true champion.
22) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) (985 points)
I loved this movie a lot. I wish it would have made the top 20 but there have been so many blockbuster superhero movies made over the last ten years which made that impossible. Still, this is a very good movie that I believe really captures the heart of who Captain America is. Chris Evans did an exceptional job in the role and the plot and writing really do a great job establishing that Captain America is a role model, a true hero, and someone we should all aspire to be.
23) X-Men Days of Future Past (2014) (976 points)
X-Men: Days of Future Past from 2014 was directed and co-produced by Bryan Singer and written by Simon Kinberg. X-Men Days of Future Past is the seventh installment of the X-Men film series. X-Men Days of Future Past was inspired by the 1981 Uncanny X-Men storyline "Days of Future Past" by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. The characters travel back in time to 1973 to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.
24) X-Men (2000) (936 points)
A few of the X-Men movies are clustered fairly close together in this cumulative ranking of the greatest superhero movies of all time. This suggests that many critics felt the X-Men movies were pretty consistent in quality. In general, they fared worse than the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and much better than the DC Universe movies. This is the movie that launched that franchise. X-Men introduces us to Wolverine, Rogue, Professor Xavier's X-Men, and the Brotherhood of Mutants, led by Magneto. Magneto intends to mutate world leaders at a United Nations summit with a machine he has built to bring about acceptance of mutantkind, but he was not aware that this forced mutation will result only in their deaths.
25) X-Men 1st Class (2011) (895 points)
I really liked X-Men First Class a great deal. An interesting time shift superhero movie featuring the X-Men family of characters. I think Magneto is such an interesting character, he is very complex. Essentially, this is an X-Men prequel and well worth re-visiting if you haven’t seen it since 2011. After X-Men First Class the cumulative point totals begin to significantly decline. To me this indicates that the movies that made the top 25 are really exceptional movies and the ones that follow are a step down. That being said, there are some really good movies still to come but some have significant issues.
26) Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017) (859 points)
The sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy was ambitious to say the least. Celestials, Ego, and other cosmic deities of the Marvel Universe are pretty high concept characters and difficult to present in a way that normal people can understand. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 took a stab at it and, for the most part, it worked. While not as good as the original, the comedy remained strong, the characters remained interesting, and the scope of it all remained grand.
27) Dark Knight Rises (2012) (855 points)
You can’t win them all I suppose. The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy of movies starring Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne was so great on so many levels, however, the third and final installment missed the mark on a lot of levels. The casting of Tom Hardy as the villain Bane seemed like a great idea at the time especially if you had seen his performance in Bronson. However, a terrible character design which covered his mouth made his speech almost incomprehensible and seriously distracted from his performance. Also, the movie seemed meandering and boring. It wasn’t a terrible movie, as it made the top thirty, but it was easily the most disappointing of the Nolan trilogy.
28) Hellboy 2 Golden Army (2008) (839 points)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a 2008 film written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and is a sequel to the 2004 film Hellboy (which also made our list). Ron Perlman reprises his starring role as Hellboy. The film grossed over $160 million. It received positive reviews from critics, which praised the fantasy atmosphere in the film and I must add that the character designs are pretty amazing. Another example of a sequel outranking the original on our of the greatest superhero movies ever.
29) Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse (2018) (830 points)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a computer-animated superhero film produced by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation in association with Marvel, and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. It is the first animated feature film in the Spider-Man franchise. Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse stars the voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, and Liev Schreiber. In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales becomes one of the many Spider-Men from various dimensions who team up to save New York City from Kingpin.
30) Batman Returns (1992) (809 points)
From 1992 the sequel to Tim Burton’s Batman starring Michael Keaton returning for the second and final time to the role. The movie suffered from trying to cram too many villains into one film for Batman to deal with including Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and The Penguin (Danny Devito). This, unfortunately, would be a recurring theme in most all Batman movies to follow. Michael Keaton once again did a stellar job in the lead role.
31) Superman II (1981) (771 points)
There are two versions of this Christopher Reeve movie, the theatrical one and the Donner Cut version. I am not going to explain the differences here, I have already done so in an article about Superman II which you can read by clicking here. I will say that, despite the multitude of problems with this movie, it gave us the unforgettable pop culture phrase “Kneel before Zod”. It is also, warts and all, my favorite of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
32) Watchmen (2009) (718 points)
When is a comic book movie too close of an adaptation of the comic book? When it’s the Watchmen. That is actually one of the major complaints about Watchmen which is also one of the most popular graphic novels of all time. Watchmen is not an easy read. It is complex and, at times, plodding. It’s cerebral and often not that thrilling, but it has risen to be one of the best and highest selling graphic novels ever. The movie faithfully captured the graphic novel but it’s not for everybody. A strong film which I personally enjoyed but it might be a bit too much for some people.
33) Hellboy (2004) (706 points)
Ron Perlman stars as Hellboy in this 2004 movie adaptation of the Dark Horse comic book property. Hellboy also made our 100 greatest comic books and graphic novels of all time list. The movie got favorable critical reviews and performed moderately well at the box office. The sequel outranked the original in the case of Hellboy but both are well worth going out of your way to see.
34) Kick Ass (2010) (701 points)
A fun and interesting superhero movie. Based on a comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. The movie explores the myth verses reality of what would happen if a kid actually did suit up and fight crime like in the comic books. The movie was criticized for it’s language and violence but critics also liked the onscreen chemistry and off-beat story. Kick Ass also spawned a sequel as well.
35) Iron Man 3 (2013) (678 points)
Iron Man 3 was my least favorite of the Iron Man movies. I thought the movie was kind of boring to be honest even though it featured an army of Iron Man suits which is usually right up my alley. I was a big fan of the Armor Wars story line in the Iron Man comic book series but Iron Man 3 left me flat for some reason. To be honest, after seeing Iron Man 3 for the first time I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it again.
36) Big Hero 6 (2014) (639 points)
I’m glad to see Disney’s Big Hero 6 get some love from critics. This is a very overlooked superhero movie based on a Marvel comics property. Big Hero 6 is funny, interesting, and has an epic battle scene. It’s one of the few animated movies to make our 100 best superheroes movie list and I’m glad because I thought Big Hero 6 was a wonderful but underrated movie.
37) The Crow (1994) (613 points)
A dark and tragic movie. The Crow comic book was getting a lot of buzz at the time and when a major motion picture was announced starring rising star Brandon Lee it looked like The Crow might break the character through to the mainstream in a big way. But the tragic death of Brandon Lee in a stunt gone wrong on the set forever tainted the appeal of the movie. The movie was still successful enough to have multiple sequels.
38) Dr. Strange (2016) (595 points)
I was disappointed to see Dr. Strange rank so low but also not surprised. When It Was Cool has already previously reviewed Dr. Strange - here. I loved the movie, especially the special effects and the magical elements but I know many found the movie boring. My wife and I saw it together and came away with two different opinions of the film. Dr. Strange as a comic book character has always been hit or miss for me but I thought the movie was better than this but, obviously, other critics didn’t.
39) Avengers Endgame (2019) (579 points)
Don’t panic. It wasn’t that critics didn’t think this movie was great, in the case of Avengers Endgame, it’s all about timing and this movie was so new at the time I did this ranking that many best superhero movie lists hadn’t yet ranked it. Shazam suffered from the same problem. Still, there is a drawback that this movie is really long (three hours long) and is essentially the second half of Avengers Infinity War. The two movies are essentially one epically long movie which is going to hold it back a little bit because if you just jump onboard with this movie without first seeing Avengers Infinity War (and honestly several other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies) then you are going to be lost.
40) Avengers Age of Ultron (2015) (506 points)
I thought Avengers Age of Ultron under-delivered in a lot of ways and apparently other critics agreed with me as well. I enjoyed Avengers Age of Ultron, don’t get me wrong, but I thought the movie missed the mark with the main villain- Ultron. I was left very underwhelmed by Ultron who, in the Avengers comics, is a really impressive character. I felt he left a lot to be desired in the movie and his designed varied significantly from the comic book character and I too thought that was for the worse.
41) Batman Mask of the Phantasm (1993) (493 points)
Another animated entry in our list is the 1993 Batman the Animated Series full length feature movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Originally, this was planned as a direct to tape release but, instead, Warner Brothers decided to give it a full theatrical release and the film was met with tremendous critical acclaim but low box office sales. Featuring the voice talents of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and others.
42) Incredible Hulk (2008) (492 points)
Five years after the critically panned first attempt at a live action Hulk movie, this entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe was released. While better received than the 2003 Hulk movie, the 2008 Incredible Hulk film did only modestly with the critics as well. It doesn’t help this movie stand up to the test of time that the lead character of Bruce Banner had to be recast for future movies when Edward Norton didn’t return to the role.
43) Lego Batman Movie (2017) (475 points)
These various Lego movies have done surprisingly well with critics. For one thing, they are a lot of fun, and heaven knows if you’re looking for fun with you DC comic book characters on the big screen then you have little choice but turn to the 3D animated stylings of Lego. This film is a spin-off from the Lego Movie.
44) Ant-Man (2015) (452 points)
Much like the Guardians of the Galaxy that came before it, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans feared that Ant-Man would be the first flop of the franchise. That didn’t turn out to the be the case. While not a blockbuster, the film did fine at the box office and got generally favorable reviews largely due to it’s humor. Ant-Man seems like an odd hero to pick out of the vast Marvel catalogue of characters but Ant-Man was one of the earliest Marvel superheroes.
45) Dredd (2012) (451 points)
There have been two movies made about the dystopian police enforcer Judge Dredd. One did well at the box office but got terrible critical reviews. The other didn’t do very well at the box office but did get solid critical reviews. The 2012 movie Dredd saw Karl Urban in the lead role and critics and fans generally liked the movie. The problem is, it lacked 3.5 million dollars making up it’s budget and thus failed at the box office.
46) Iron Man 2 (2010) (424 points)
While Iron Man was a smash hit at the box office and with movie critics, Iron Man 2 wasn’t bad so much as it was forgettable. With a weak villain and a storyline that meandered, Iron Man 2 had trouble really figuring out what exactly it wanted to be. Starring Robert Downey, Jr. once again as Iron Man, the character would fare much better as part of the ensemble cast of the Avengers.
47) Thor (2011) (421 points)
The first Thor movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a big hit in 2011 but hasn’t aged as well over time. Make no mistake, there were problems with the first movie and everyone was aware of them then. Thor is banished to Earth, falls in love, and is hunted down by the massive Destroyer and Loki. The film filled in some necessary story elements in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but in hindsight was a tad bit boring and awkward at times.
48) Superman Returns (2006) (416 points)
I rewatched Superman Returns not long ago for a Patreon podcast special and feature article at When It Was Cool. Brandon Routh wasn’t bad as Superman. In fact, this movie held up better than expected it’s just… well… boring. This movie just drags on forever and lacks anything really thrilling other than Superman battling an island basically. Also, there is the uncomfortable to watch Superman as a stalky creeper scenes with Lois Lane. Also, it tries way too hard to be the Christopher Reeve Superman movies (and is considered a sequel except for ignoring Superman III and Superman IV). Yeah, kind of a mess, but stood up better than I expected.
49) Blade II (2002) (409 points)
Wesley Snipes returns as the Marvel Comics vampire hunter Blade in this movie sequel that was very well received by critics. As one of the older movies on our countdown, Blade 2 actually stands the test of time better than most. It’s also a reminder that while the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a lot of laughs, action, and fun it would also be pretty cool to see some of the classic Marvel monsters get a shot in the movie universe as well.
50) The Wolverine (2013) (408 points)
This James Mangold Wolverine series installment once again starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was a rare misstep in the series. This one had very mixed critical reviews with some calling it the best movie in the series and others feeling it missed the mark. Largely true to the comics some wondered if introducing a romantic element into the Wolverine story was a good idea on the big screen. Personally, I liked the film and would have ranked it higher.
51) Rocketeer (1991) (382 points)
Set in 1938 Los Angeles, The Rocketeer was an early Disney attempt at a superhero movie based on a comic book character. The movie was well received by critics and starred Billy Campbell in the lead role. Rocketeer character creator Dave Stevens is quoted as saying that he thought Billy Campbell nailed the part of the lead character.
52) Man of Steel (2013) (368 points)
There is much that could be said about the most recent Superman movie - Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill in the lead role. When It Was Cool has already done a full review and podcast special on the Man of Steel. There is a lot to love and hate about this movie. I am not surprised to see it rank so low as the DC movie universe generally ranked very poor among critics. I recently rewatched Man of Steel and found it less hateable than I originally did. Zod, in fact, was actually pretty impressive. Man of Steel just had a lot going on, a whole lot. The dark and melancholy tone of the film really hurt it’s appeal and all the DC movies that came after it.
53) Darkman (1990) (366 points)
In 1990 Sam Rami could not get the rights to either Batman nor The Shadow so he created his own character to base a superhero movie on - Darkman. Darkman is a really good and interesting movie with call backs to the old Universal monster movies as well (obviously the appearance of the title character played by Liam Neeson evokes images of the Invisible Man). I was glad to see several critics give this movie it’s due and include it on their lists.
54) Shazam (2019) (353 points)
Although the movie version of Shazam (the original Captain Marvel) bares little resemblance to the classic comic book character, I still loved this movie a lot. Shazam is hurt in this ranking of the greatest comic book and superhero movies of all time list for the same reason as Avengers: Endgame- it’s release was too recent and thus had not been ranked by as many critics. Still, this movie was a lot of fun and one of my personal favorites. A completely different type of DC movie full of color, fun, and energy.
55) The Incredibles 2 (2018) (351 points)
The sequel to The Incredibles by Disney and Pixar also makes the list. This 2018 follow-up 3D animated superhero movie had both a strong box office and critical reviews and made over a billion dollars world-wide. Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter both returned in their voice over roles to the film.
56) Blade (1998) (347 points)
The original Blade movie starring Wesley Snipes did worse in our ratings than the sequel but still, this 1998 movie starring the Marvel Comics character Blade the Vampire Hunter did very well especially considering it is a relic from before the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe era when superhero movies were expected to be bombs. Be sure to check out our When It Was Cool podcast special on the character Blade.
57) Captain Marvel (2019) (326 points)
One of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Captain Marvel, suffers from the same affliction that Avengers: Endgame and Shazam suffers from in that it is a very recent release and not all critical review lists have yet ranked the film. Still, while Captain Marvel certainly has it’s fans it’s response from critics have been very middle of the road and in terms of ticket sales falls well into the second or third tier of Marvel movie successes.
58) Aquaman (2018) (315 points)
Aquaman is a great example of the tremendous disconnect between Warner Brothers and what people actually want from DC superhero movies. It’s been my experience when the question is asked, “Are any of the DC superhero movies good?” the answer is usually, “Yes! Wonder Woman and Aquaman!” While Wonder Woman did exceptionally well with critics, Aquaman came in at number 58 in our cumulative rankings. Critics were largely apathetic about the movie starring Jason Momoa in the lead role. The movie had a lot of problems despite being one of the “best” DC superhero movies. We have previously reviewed Aquaman - here.
59) Spider-Man 3 (2007) (313 points)
The black suit Spider-Man story which introduced Venom into the Marvel Universe in comic books is a very popular fan favorite story. Spider-Man 3 botched this about as badly as possible. Who can possibly forget the awkward and embarrassing goth Peter Parker dance scene? Spider-Man 3 simply did not work. I am actually surprised to see it ranked this high.
60) Constantine (2005) (302 points)
Many people not into comic books might not be aware that this Keanu Reeves movie is based on a DC comics character. While the movie takes significant liberties with Constantine it is still a pretty enjoyable stand-alone movie. I expected Constantine to float under the radar of the greatest superhero movies of all time but enough critics placed it on their “Best of” lists to warrant inclusion in ours at number 60.
61) Deadpool 2 (2018) (299 points)
After the smashing success of the first Deadpool movie fans wondered if the sequel would live up to the original. For the most part, it did. Still, Deadpool 2 had it’s share of critics and some wondered if Deadpool, clever though it may be, was really a one note joke as the sarcasm and cynical tone which made Deadpool so popular didn’t click as well with Deadpool 2. Ryan Reynolds returns as Deadpool joined by Josh Brolin as Cable.
62) Amazing Spider-Man (2012) (293 points)
The forgotten Spider-Man movie (and it’s sequel). Nestled between the fan favorite Tobey Maguire and the fan favorite Tom Holland lies the virtually forgotten Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies. It’s not that this movie was bad, it wasn’t, in fact some critical websites gave this movie as high as 90% positive reviews, it’s just that it was a Spider-Man movie that we didn’t need. Another telling of Spider-Man’s origins. We got it. In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone in the world knows Spider-Man’s origin at this point. Can we please, please, please never have another Spider-Man origin movie?
63) The Punisher (1989) (289 points)
I was very surprised to see The Punisher (1989) make the best superhero movies of all time list this high. I remember The Punisher being a huge disappointment and critics generally blasting the movie starring Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher. The Punisher comic book series was red hot in the 1980s, so was Dolph Lundgren coming off of Rocky IV but what was not hot in 1989 were comic book movies. This one sank like a rock but apparently some critics secretly loved it giving it enough points to make the top 75 best superhero movies of all time.
64) Thor the Dark World (2013) (287 points)
One of the lower ranked Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Thor the Dark World is not bad so much as it is forgettable. Do you even remember who the enemies were in this movie? No? Me either. Apparently it was the Dark Elf Malekith and Kurse also made an appearance. A completely forgettable movie.
65) Sky High (2005) (283 points)
Sky High is a superhero comedy movie about an airborne school for teenage superheroes. Directed by Mike Mitchell, and written by Paul Hernandez, Robert Schooley, and Mark McCorkle. Sky High stars Michael Angarano as Will, a freshman at the school, Danielle Panabaker as his best friend and love interest, Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston as his parents, and Lynda Carter as Principal Powers. Sky High made a few of the best superhero movies lists and brought in 80 million dollars on a budget of 20 million.
66) The Mask (1994) (272 points)
The Mask was a 1994 superhero comedy movie starring Jim Carrey in the title role based on a comic book series of the same name by Dark Horse Comics. The movie was a smash hit with a budget of $23 million it brought in $351 million at the box office. Still, the movie is campy, whacky, and over acted in the typical Jim Carrey style. I wouldn’t have included it on my list but enough critics did so to rank it among the top 75 best superhero movies ever.
67) Ant-Man & Wasp (2018) (263 points)
The lowest ranked of the modern era Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. The sequel to Ant Man, much like Thor the Dark World, was not bad so much as just forgettable. In a shared universe full of such epic casts as The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s hard to drum up the same excitement for Ant Man and Wasp. While they were pioneers of the Marvel Universe in the comic books, their story just isn’t strong enough for two stand alone movies.
68) Chronicle (2012) (259 points)
A few of the best superhero movies rankings we used for our composite score included this 2012 movie. Described as a found footage superhero thriller, Chronicle was directed by Josh Trank and written by Max Landis. It follows three Seattle high school seniors, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell), and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) who form a bond after gaining telekinetic powers from an unknown crystalline object found underground.
69) Batman the Movie (1966) (250 points)
The theatrically released movie tie in to the 1966 Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin facing essentially their entire rouges gallery. Batman the Movie is very campy, silly, and comical but also a lot of fun. It’s hard to take Batman the Movie seriously in this modern era of giant budget shared universe blockbusters but, amazingly, several critics included it in their list of the greatest superhero movies of all time.
70) Batman Forever (1995) (231 points)
Batman Forever is something else. I honestly can’t believe this 1995 movie ranked this high among critics as I don’t think I’ve ever heard a soul say they loved this movie. It’s as if the 1990s threw up all over Batman. Somehow, someway, we got all the bad things about Batman mixed into one movie. At times this movie can be fun but for the most part it’s a disastrous train wreck. It’s also not even the worst Batman movie on the list so take some comfort in that. Also, Val Kilmer is not terrible as Batman.
71) X-Men the Last Stand (2006) (198 points)
Mixed reviews for X-Men The Last Stand. It is the sequel to 2003's X2, and the third installment in the X-Men film series, and was directed by Brett Ratner and written by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn. It features an ensemble cast including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, and Patrick Stewart. X-Men the Last Stand’s script is loosely based on two X-Men comic book story arcs: "The Dark Phoenix Saga" by writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, and "Gifted" by writer Joss Whedon and artist John Cassaday.
72) Punisher War Zone (2008) (186 points)
While the consensus of our greatest superhero movies of all time list didn’t come to this conclusion, several critics argued that Punisher War Zone starring Ray Stevenson is the best Punisher movie ever on the big scene. I actually liked this movie a lot and thought it was a pretty solid representation of the Punisher character. Others, however, didn’t think as highly of Punisher War Zone with Rotten Tomatoes giving this as their consensus opinion, “War Zone recalls the excessively violent, dialogue-challenged actioners of the 1980s, and coincidentally feels two decades out of date.”
73) Hancock (2008) (177 points)
Another non-DC or Marvel superhero movie makes our list at number seventy-three. Hancock is a 2008 superhero comedy film directed by Peter Berg and starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, and Jason Bateman. Hancock is the story of a superhero, John Hancock (Smith) from Los Angeles whose reckless actions cost the city millions of dollars. The movie follows his exploits in improving his public image.
74) Fantastic Four (2005) (163 points)
I must confess. The 2005 Fantastic Four movie and it’s sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer are guilty pleasures of mine. I like these two films more than most critics. Apparently, from their low placement on our greatest superhero movies of all time list, a lot more. I know, to date there hasn’t been a good Fantastic Four movie made. Soon, however, the Marvel Cinematic Universe may finally take a stab at it so there is still hope.
75) X-Men Origins Wolverine (2009) (154 points)
The lowest ranked of the Wolverine movies (but not the X-Men movies), X-Men Origins Wolverine got a big fat “meh” from critics who didn’t find much to love about this movie. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert said, “Why should I care about this guy? He feels no pain and nothing can kill him, so therefore he's essentially a story device for action sequences."
76) Megamind (2010) (139 points)
Megamind is an interesting entry onto the list by DreamWorks and Paramount. Megamind tells the story of a super-intelligent alien supervillain who, after a battle one day, actually destroys his foe, the superhero Metro Man. Having Metro City for himself creates a new superhero to serve as his nemesis. His plan backfires, as he ends up creating a new supervillain. Megamind attempts to set things right and discovers his newfound purpose as a superhero.
77) Teen Titans Go the Movie (2018) (136 points)
Another animated feature that makes the rankings. Teen Titans Go the Movie (2018) might have ranked higher had more lists considered it but still, enough did that it made the best superhero movies of all time list. A fun and colorful trip of a movie and smarter than you might think. A spin-off of the popular cartoon television series.
78) Hulk (2003) (133 points)
This is the Ang Lee Hulk movie which is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Generally despised by critics and not much of a fan favorite either. I don’t hate this movie as much as many seem to, although the CGI now seems dated and the utterly gigantic Hulk is ridiculous.
79) Ghost Rider II - Spirit of Vengeance (2012) (129 points)
I only saw Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance once, at the theater, and in 3D if I remember correctly. All I remember about the movie is that it was very boring. I actually liked the first Nicholas Cage Ghost Rider movie from 2007, although after recently rewatching it for our When It Was Cool review it didn’t hold up very well.
80) Justice League (2017) (126 points)
DC fans, I know and I’m sorry. But critics hate these DC Universe movies. Virtually none of the lists I used to make this composite best superhero movies of all time list ranked Justice League anywhere near the top. This might be your favorite movie and if it is then good for you but the consensus is clear, whatever it is Warner Brothers is doing with these abysmal DC movies is not what the bulk of fans seem to want.
81) Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2013) (125 points)
The other forgotten Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movie. Again, not terrible but not great either. Also, and this is my biggest complaint with Amazing Spider-Man 2, the villain costume designs for The Shocker and Rhino are terrible. One thing, however, that shouldn’t be forgotten is that the movie was no bomb. With a budget of $293 dollars it brought in $709 million. This is the lowest ranked Spider-Man movie on our countdown of the greatest superhero movies.
82) Captain America (1990) (120 points)
This movie probably isn’t as bad as you remember. I rewatched it a few years ago and it struck me as just being dull far more than being bad. The Red Skull is actually pretty good in this pre-superhero movie boom film. Starring Matt Salinger in the lead role. It’s pretty much what you would expect would be a Captain America movie between the 1970s made-for-TV Captain America movies and the blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe Captain America movies.
83) Glass (2019) (113 points)
The final movie in the M. Night Shyamalan Unbreakable trilogy left a lot to be desired and ended the Unbreakable saga on a less than satisfying note. Starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, and Samuel L. Jackson in the conclusion of this unlikely superhero / supervillain saga.
84) Batman & Robin (1997) (110 points)
Many people probably got to this point on the best superhero movies ever list and thought this had to be the lowest rated Batman movie. Nope. Stay tuned. Still, this 1997 stinker couldn’t be saved by George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, or a ridiculous Batman costume redesign. This movie is widely hated by critics and fans alike and, need I remind you, is not even the worst performing Batman movie on our list.
85) The Spirit (2008) (95 points)
The Spirit is a beloved comic book property but a despised movie. It was also a bomb at the theaters with a budget of $60 million it only made $39 million and nobody was clamoring for a sequel either. Written and directed by Frank Miller based on The Spirit character created by Will Eisner.
86) Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) (92 points)
I like the two 20th Century Fox Fantastic Four movies better than most. That’s not to say I think they are great or they are among my favorites but I don’t hate them. I am also a really big fan of the Silver Surfer as a character in the Marvel comic books. That being said, I am in the minority and critics really dislike this movie. Even the Power Cosmic couldn’t save this one. Also, this isn’t even the most hated Fantastic Four movie as the 2015 revamp didn’t even rank (it literally did not even make a single “best of list”, I had to assign it one point just to mention it in the “didn’t make it” category).
87) Green Lantern (2011) (91 points)
Ryan Reynolds found lots more success as Deadpool than he did as Green Lantern. Pre-dating the DC Universe movies, Green Lantern was largely panned by both fans and critics. I didn’t think the movie was terrible and I actually know people who really like this movie. Green Lantern seems like a difficult character to build an entire movie around. Green Lantern is just very, well, epic with all the space stuff but Marvel managed to do it successfully with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
88) Flash Gordon (1980) (86 points)
Go ahead, sing the song… “FLASH… AH AHH! HE’LL SAVE EVERY ONE OF US!” The most memorable thing about this campy take on Flash Gordon, starring Sam J. Jones in the title role, is the equally ridiculous soundtrack by Queen. Still, silliness aside, the movie is fun for what it is, a 1980 cheesy sci-fi flick.
89) Jonah Hex (2010) (85 points)
Wow, people hate this movie. I’m sure people are going to have a fit over the fact this movie ranked this high but it did. Believe it or not, Jonah Hex made a few best superhero movie lists. Josh Brolin stars in the lead role. I don’t have an extensive history with the Jonah Hex character, I never really collected his series in the comics, so I didn’t think the movie was awful. It wasn’t good but it wasn’t awful to me. Apparently it is to a lot of other people.
90) Suicide Squad (2016) (77 points)
I was shocked that Suicide Squad trended as low as it did on the greatest superhero movies lists I used to create ours. I knew that Suicide Squad had generally mixed reviews but I thought that Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn was pretty well received in pop culture. Despite the mixed critical reviews the movie was a big box office success with a budget of $175 million Suicide Squad made $746 million dollars in ticket sales.
91) Batman Superman Dawn of Justice (2016) (72 points)
I absolutely hate this movie. It’s beyond “dislike” or “don’t care for”… no I HATE this movie. I hate it to the degree I refuse to review it for When It Was Cool. I feel like Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice destroyed Superman for a generation. I’ve only sat through this abomination once, at the theater during opening week, and watched the joy get sucked out of all the little kids there. Kids were begging their parents to leave, turned around in their seats not watching the movie, as I struggled to watch this joyless slog of a film. I’m actually insulted that this movie made the top 100 and, for a while, it looked like it wouldn’t but a couple of best superhero movies lists did include it, although ranked very low. It seems like I wasn’t alone in hating this movie.
92) Kick Ass 2 (71 points)
Isn’t it just like Hollywood to give you something good (ie: Kick Ass) and then try to squeeze more out of it and getting something soulless and forgettable in return (ie: Kick Ass 2)? You can look at Kick Ass 2 in one of two ways. It’s too bad they did a sequel of a good movie or it’s great that they stopped at 2 and didn’t try to make more.
93) Spawn (1997) (68 points)
Ok, so Spawn is pretty terrible and the rubber costumes are awful. Spawn is every B Movie you have ever seen starring a comic book character that was really hot in the early 1990s. Believe it or not, the Spawn comic book series (by Todd McFarlane) is still putting out new issues even to this day. A Spawn movie could have been (or could still be) good but it needs a bigger budget than this one got ($45 million).
94) Daredevil (2003) (66 points)
Whenever I have asked, “What is the worst superhero movie you can think of?” more often than not I get Daredevil (2003) as an answer. As it turns out, it outranks others on our list. Some just weren’t that well known, some were actually worse, but I must say that Ben Affleck might be a nice guy (I have no idea if that’s true) but he has sure ended up in a few bad superhero roles. This dud somehow managed to get a spin-off in Elektra, a movie so bad it didn’t even make the top 100 best superhero movies of all time.
95) Ghost Rider (2007) (63 points)
I was surprised to see Ghost Rider rank as low as it did. That’s not to say this is a bad movie (starring Nicholas Cage in the lead role) because it kind-of is. That being said, I would sit through this movie ten times before I sat through Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice once. I also liked Ghost Rider better than the sequel Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance but the sequel accumulated more points in our study.
96) X-Men Apocalypse (2014) (60 points)
So, is this movie really worse than Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Sadness? I don’t think so, but critics gave no love to X-Men Apocalypse. The lowest rated of the X-Men movies (so far). Rotten Tomatoes’ consensus opinion reads, “"Overloaded action and a cliched villain take the focus away from otherwise strong performers and resonant themes, making X-Men: Apocalypse a middling chapter of the venerable superhero franchise."
97) Max Steel (2015) (57 points)
Another non-Marvel or DC superhero movie. Max Steel is a 2016 movie based on the Max Steel action figure line by Mattel. The film chronicles the adventures of teenager Max McGrath and alien companion Steel who combine their powers to form the superhero Max Steel.
98) Superman and the Mole Men (1951) (54 points)
I was surprised to see any movie critics remember this movie starring TV Superman’s George Reeves. We have previously reviewed Superman and the Mole Men here at When It Was Cool. Obviously, this movie didn’t have the budget or special effects of modern era superhero movies but a few critics remembered it fondly enough to make our greatest superhero movies list.
99) Split (2017) (49 points)
The second movie in the Unbreakable trilogy got a few votes, enough to be included on our list. This movie may have ranked so low because it actually focuses on a supervillain rather than a superhero. The acting of James McAvoy in Split got a lot of praise but the portrayal of mental illness was criticized.
100) Steel (1997) (48 points)
I am shocked this movie made it into the top 100. Steel is a 1997 superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film stars Shaquille O'Neal as John Henry Irons and his alter-ego Steel, Annabeth Gish partner Susan Sparks, and Judd Nelson as Nathaniel Burke. Poor Venom was one point away from making the list.
Venom (2018) (47 points), Supergirl (1984) (46 points), Elektra (2005) (45 points), Judge Dredd (1995) (43 points), Green Hornet (2011) (40 points), Howard the Duck (1985) (37 points), Swamp Thing (1982) (36 points),Toxic Avenger (1984) (35 points), Superman IV (1987) (33 points), Superman III (1983) (31 points), The Phantom (1996) (30 points), Blade Trinity (2004) (5 points), The Shadow (1994) (3 points), Catwoman (2004) (2 points), Fantastic Four (2015) (1 point).
The following links and sources were used for reference for this article of the 100 Greatest Superhero movies of all time. Their rankings figured into the average.
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