It is really very cool that Superhero Movies are now an actual film Genre! It means that we, you and I, have arrived. We are no longer fringe geeks or nerds but mainstream consumers with our own demographic. We are part of the corporate monolith! (Maybe we should find another hobby?)
I love those lists that the AFI comes out with every so often. Top 100 movies…top 100 Action movies…Top 100 romance movies…Top 100 movies no one ever saw etc. So in keeping with that I have consulted with the film experts at DOWECHEATEMANDHOW for the top TEN all time Superhero movies. There may be some surprises and I know that there will be disagreements so I invite your comments and even venom (but please leave your guns at the door!)
1) Dark Knight – For me this is a no brainer. This was the first Superhero movie that actually found a huge following among audiences that were neither comic or genre fans. It is a tightly written, directed and paced film that is visually stunning. Add an Oscar winning performance and this movie goes right up to the top just passing….
2) Superman –The Movie – The 1978 film that made Chris Reeve a star proved that a big budget film about a comic book hero could be a good/great movie AND a mainstream block buster. It was also one of the few Superhero movies to produce a sequel that was every bit as good as the original. The promo for this movie was “You’ll believe a man can fly”…and we did.
3) Spiderman – For a Superman film to work you had to believe a man could fly. For Spidey it was all about the web slinging! And BOY did that look great. So did Kirsten Dunst (‘nuff said!). Add to that the PERFECT Peter Parker in Tobey Maguire and Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn and you have a non-stop thriller that popped right off the comic book pages. It may have been the most FAITHFUL film adaptation of a comic book character ever.
4) Batman (1989) – Tim Burton gave us a creepy , other worldly interpretation of Batman that was a visual masterpiece. While Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his Joker, Nicholson SHOULD have won an Oscar for HIS!
5) Superman 2 – The Salkinds kept us waiting a LONG time for this sequel to the original film but it was worth the wait. Terrance Stamp was wonderfully over the top (KNEEL before Zod!) and Hackman did him one better (You’d think with all that advanced technology these morons could use a door knob). Plus Clark and Lois shacking up in Superman’s…shack was priceless.
6) Blade – Wesley Snipes…long swords…dusted Vampires. Nuff said.
7) X-Men – There is just something so viscerally satisfying about watching Hugh Jackman popping Wolverine’s claws. Stewart was BORN to play Professor X. and Haley Berry…. Haley Berry… Haley Berry…what was I thinking about again?
8) Batman Begins – Warner did everything in it’s power to destroy the 1980’s franchise, finally jumping the shark entirely by putting nipples on George Clooney’s bat suit. Batman begins redeemed the franchise by going back to the beginning and giving us the first cinematic Batman origin story.
9) Iron Man – When I heard that Robert Downey Jr. was to play Tony Stark I was dubious. And was I wrong! The movie is a non stop rollercoaster of well paced action. Plus where did he get all those wonderful toys?
10) Batman Returns – Michelle Pfeiffer is purrrfect as Catwoman and Danny Devito gives us a Penguin who is actually a dangerous villain. Tim Burton’s dystopian Gotham works once again!
I left out two notables here:
Sin City – While based on a graphic novel and a wonderful, risk taking film, was not actually a superhero movie.
Watchmen – I know I’m gonna get slammed for leaving Watchmen off the list but ultimately the film WAS a disappointment. It was a GOOD film that should have been great. It was ultimately undone for two reasons. First the source material did not age as gracefully as Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. What was cutting edge in the mid 80’s has become somewhat clichéd today. Angst ridden, dysfunctional heroes are a staple in current comics. Second the casting (aside from The Comedian and Rorschach) was a disaster. The opening 20 minutes was brilliant but the remainder of the film was disjointed, unevenly shot and poorly edited. Plus six foot blue….ummmm things….not great in a serious movie…again….Watchmen - Good…not great.
Finally I know that there are no less than FOUR Batman films here but try to knock one off. See what I mean? On the bright side I did omit Superman IV!
I also left out some great animated films but I will go into those in a future post.
Also I promise to deliver that piece on Sue Storm very soon!