10 Best Superhero Movies Of All Time

  • Captain America: Civil War perfectly balances multiple characters, providing each one with a defined role and moments to shine, while still advancing the main characters' story arcs.
  • Avengers: Endgame is a stunning achievement in event filmmaking, with real stakes, dramatic deaths, and an impressive final battle.
  • Batman Returns offers a gothic joy, highlighting the depth of Gotham and introducing iconic villains who bring a darker tone to the Batman franchise.
Well before the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline with 2008's Iron Man, Hollywood's love affair with superheroes was already in full swing. From the DC serials in the 1940s through to the 1990s era of Marvel licensing almost every major superhero out for surprisingly little, some of the best movies of all time have starred superheroes and supervillains.
Since then, Hollywood has broadened the comic book horizons dramatically, exploring multiverses, crossovers, and event movies of such scale that they cost more than most movies could ever dream of making. But which is best? Will a Marvel movie emerge victorious, or a DC release? Whether you like caped crusaders, mutants, or animated web-slingers, our selection of the best superhero movies of all time caters to all.
10 Captain America: Civil War (2016) Close Captain America: Civil War
Release Date May 6, 2016 Director Joe Russo, Anthony Russo Cast Martin Freeman, Daniel Brühl, Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Evans, Paul Rudd, Frank Grillo, Scarlett Johansson, William Hurt, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland Runtime 2h 28m Captain America: Civil War perfectly encapsulates so much of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe does so well when it's on top form. Most obviously, in this case, is just how well it manages to balance so many characters, both old and new. This is a film that introduces Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Ant-Man, giving each one a clearly defined role and moments to shine, without trading off on any of its main characters arcs, including Captain America and Iron Man's falling out, Bucky Barnes' hero turn, and Black Widow's torn allegiances. No one really feels underserved, and that itself is impressive.
Then there's the action, which is working - like Captain America: The Winter Solider before it - at the highest level seen in the MCU. The climactic clash as Bucky and Cap take on Iron Man is as personal and poignant a Marvel fight gets. Before it, the airport battle remains to this day the most joyous, awesome showcase of how to do big superhero action. Displaying a dizzying array of superhero powers, even the kitchen sink gets thrown into the mix as all bets are off: it's pure, unadulterated comic book mayhem; cinema as a sugar-rush.
Underpinning all of this, though, are its thematic throughlines. One of those is the idea of choice, some of which are political, most of which are personal, and which is reflected through all the main characters in some way (whether that's choosing a side, choosing revenge, choosing mercy, or choosing to wear a delightful sweater when you're an android). Alongside that is the idea of friendship and betrayal, which is why it ultimately has to come down to Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, and Tony Stark. The movie brilliantly wrestles with those ideas, making it one of the deeper MCU entries, while also delivering almost non-stop popcorn thrills along the way. - James Hunt, Deputy Features Lead Editor
9 Avengers: Endgame (2019) Close Avengers: Endgame
Release Date April 26, 2019 Director Joe Russo, Anthony Russo Cast Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Evangeline Lilly, Sebastian Stan, Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan, Brie Larson, Paul Bettany, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman Runtime 3Hours 2Minutes Billed as the movie crossover event to end all movie crossover events, Avengers: Endgame is that rare thing: a white-hot typed movie that actually delivers. With the impossible task of taking the model for Captain America: Civil War, and beefing it up to include hundreds of characters rather than tens, what results is a stunning achievement in event film-making. After the shocking Avengers: Infinity War ending that saw Josh Brolin's Thanos win and wipe out half of the universe, the emotional stakes of the surviving Avengers turning the tide back in their favor were pretty much unprecedented.
Endgame's greatest success is in its ability to balance things perfectly - something Thanos would be proud of. It's not only an event horizon of escalation, there's also space for the development of individual character arcs. There are also real stakes, dramatic, MCU-changing deaths, and a final battle that is both eminently quotable and infinitely impressive as a grand spectacle. The only problem now, is how the MCU goes further with the upcoming Avengers: Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars releases.- Simon Gallagher, Managing Editor
8 Batman Returns (1992) Close Batman Returns
Release Date June 19, 1992 Director Tim Burton Cast Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough Runtime 126minutes Batman Returns is a walking contradiction: at once one of the greatest Batman movies of all time, and yet also the release that ensured a torrid period for the Dark Knight that culminated in Christopher Nolan's reboot. And while Warner Bros. may have balked at Tim Burton's increasingly dark vision for Michael Keaton's caped crusader, more than 30 years later, it's still a gothic joy. What Burton understood most about Batman is why Gotham deserves him so much: in a city of freaks, this Bruce Wayne is cut from the same cloth.
Bigger, bolder, and yes, darker, than Batman (1989), Batman Returns is beautifully inappropriate, hauntingly poignant, and understands that sometimes even the most famous of villains need a tune-up from their source material. Luckily, Burton counted on Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Danny DeVito as Penguin, and the often overlooked Christopher Walken as Max Shreck to hold his cards, and all suggest a depth to Gotham no other Batman movie has managed since. - Simon Gallagher, Managing Editor
7 The Batman (2022) Close The Batman
Release Date March 4, 2022 Director Matt Reeves Cast Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Dano, Andy Serkis, Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz Runtime 176 minutes The Batman managed to put a new spin on the classic DC superhero, starring Robert Pattinson as a newer caped crusader who gets dragged into an investigation of gruesome murders committed by Paul Dano's Riddler. The noir aesthetic of The Batman gives it a unique tone in the pantheon of Batman movies, while writer-director Matt Reeves weaves a compelling murder-mystery story that keeps audiences engaged.
At the same time, Reeves builds up the world of his Batman, introducing a number of villains from the rogues gallery and making Gotham its own character in the movie. The Batman works well as a superhero movie on its own and sets the stage for more stories to be told in this DC univers - Molly Freeman, Lead Superheroes Editor
6 Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023) Close Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Release Date June 2, 2023 Director Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson Cast Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac, Jake Johnson, Issa Rae, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Jorma Taccone, Jason Schwartzman Runtime 120 Minutes The major success of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse raised something of an issue for the sequel, so good was the first installment that it left its successor with some huge shoes to fill. However, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse proved that the series could uphold this standard, even while expanding its multiverse further than ever before - including LEGO and live-action scenes that didn't feel out of place despite their massive visual differences.
Ultimately, Across The Spider-Verse's only real problem as a movie is its questionable ending pacing, which is arguably a worthy sacrifice intentionally made in order to ensure the third movie, Spider-Man: Beyond The Spider-Verse, is able to kick off explosively with the sequel's setup. Even taking this complaint into account, however, the movie's distinctive and endearing takes on the countless iconic versions of Spider-Man ensure it's one of Marvel's most successful movies, both critically and commercially.- Zoe Miskelly, Superheroes Editor
5 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Close Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Release Date April 4, 2014 Director Joe Russo, Anthony Russo Cast Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Sebastian Stan Runtime 136 minutes Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the middle chapter in Chris Evans' MCU trilogy, but it showcases the strength of Steve Rogers character's world-building up to that point while telling a story that feels entrenched in the franchise's universe. Reminiscent of classic spy thrillers, The Winter Soldier sees Steve confronting the dark underbelly of SHIELD, and having to face off against his former best friend, while questioning who exactly he can trust. Genre-riffing comic book movies may be more common-place now, but the idea of a Marvel espionage thriller were wild back then.


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