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What’s the Greatest Superhero Movie?

I was chatting with somebody yesterday about comic book movies. I don’t think there’s been a truly great super hero movie yet. I’m talking about the movie that is to super hero movies what 2001 or Star Wars is to science fiction films, or The Godfather is to gangster movies.

Why hasn’t there been a great super hero movie yet? I’m not entirely sure. One reason, I think, is that most of them don’t aspire (or achieve) to sophisticated themes or allegory. I didn’t walk out of The Dark Knight thinking, “man, that was really an exceptional meditation on…well, anything.” Maybe they’ll never do that, but I think it’s almost a prerequisite for making a great movie.

I should specify that I’m referring to live action movies here. I think The Incredibles is a more accomplished and complete film that every superhero starring actual humans in rubber suits that I’ve seen. I’m excluding Sin City because it’s not really about super heroes, as far as I can remember.

I’m curious what you, dear readers, think has been the greatest (most accomplished, best or whatever superlative fits) superhero movie thus far. Here’s a poll. To keep the list shortish, I’m choosing the better films according to Metacritic. If you think Daredevil is the greatest superhero movie, well, shame on you.

I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch. I’ll add suggestions if Poll Daddy lets me.

15 Responses to “What’s the Greatest Superhero Movie?”

  1. Michael Kwan

    I guess it’s a fine line between what is a superhero movie and what is a “comic book” movie, which would explain your omission of 300 and Sin City.

    Anyhow, I voted for Iron Man for no real reason in particular. I would have voted for X-Men — I’m quite the fan of Wolverine — but I feel that Iron Man was a superior film. The caveat is that I have yet to see The Dark Knight.

  2. Colleen

    I would have chose the most recent Hellboy film but its not on the list. The Dark Knight was good, but its way over hyped. Some of the worst editing in a movie I’ve seen this year.

  3. darren

    Michael: It’s interesting, I think, that many of the ‘comic book’ movies are not ‘superhero’ movies. Maybe the latter genre is too constraining?

    Colleen: Yeah, that was an oversight. I can’t actually edit the poll (rightfully, I guess). Sorry about that.

  4. Randi

    I wonder if The Dark Knight has the most votes because it is the most recent?

  5. filmgoerjuan

    Not sure if it’s possible for you to edit your poll after the fact, but X-Men (2003) should really be X2: X-Men United (2003), otherwise people might mix it up with the X-Men (2000) you’ve got on the list as well.

    And of course I mention this because it’s also my vote for best :)

  6. darren

    Filmgoerjuan: Whoops, crap, my bad. I can’t edit it. I don’t know about the movie, but ‘X2: X-Men United’ is one goofy title, eh?

  7. Todd Sieling

    > ‘X2: X-Men United’ is one goofy title, eh?

    It sure is, but it had more of a story than the first.

  8. Jayne

    I liked Unbreakable. Not one of the traditionals listed, but a superhero film nonetheless.

  9. Derek K. Miller

    I voted for Superman II because no one else had so far. I guess the 1960s Batman movie wasn’t an option? :)

  10. Pennsy

    I’m with Jayne. I think Unbreakable comes closer to your “exceptional meditation” criterion than the rubber suit movies I’ve seen. Great cast. Exceptional story. Fully drawn characters. No CGI that I noticed. Definitely my favorite.

  11. darren

    I kind of forgot about “Unbreakable”, I must admit. Sorry about that.

  12. Adam

    I couldn’t rightly say at present, however if I may suggest that the forthcoming Watchmen will soon be filling the role of the Greatest Superhero Movie.

    The source material is of the highest possible calibre, and Zack Snyder just…knows how to effectively translate these stories to the screen.

  13. Carl

    I kind of thing that superhero movies are to this generation what Westerns were to our parents/grandparents (delete as appropriate). Much of the genre was vacuous, formulaic White Hat vs. Black Hat shoot-em-‘ups… but eventually it gave us The Searchers, High Plains Drifter, and High Noon. Characters like Stark and Wayne at least point to the way to interestingly complex, conflicted and ambiguous heroes.

    I wonder whether the next time the AFI does a “greatest films by genre” list, there will be a superhero or comic book genre?

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