The Best Modern Superhero Films

by Brett_Melito | created - 24 Jun 2013 | updated - 23 Nov 2013 | Public

From 2000 onward

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1. The Dark Knight (2008)

PG-13 | 152 min | Action, Crime, Drama

82 Metascore

When the menace known as the Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham. The Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine

Votes: 1,926,388 | Gross: $534.86M

What is there to say about this movie that hasn't been said? It deserves all the praise it gets. A nearly flawless movie about order, chaos, the breaking point, lies, and corruption. There's a reason why this is in the top 10 movie of ALL TIME on IMDB, but unlike the others, it's still going UP, not DOWN. This is no superhero movie. its much, much more. Seeing this in a theater, with particularly no high expectations at the time, I sat there, watching the epic play out. Heath Ledger, you are the Joker. The best comic book villain on screen, period. A

2. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

PG-13 | 164 min | Action, Thriller

78 Metascore

Eight years after the Joker's reign of anarchy, Batman, with the help of the enigmatic Catwoman, is forced from his exile to save Gotham City, now on the edge of total annihilation, from the brutal guerrilla terrorist Bane.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman

Votes: 1,307,056 | Gross: $448.14M

Probably held the highest expectations for any superhero movie, ever. Yes, even higher than Dark Knight. Seeing this in the IMAX theater the day it came out, I went with expectations high. And it delivered. In fact, it delivered so well I was still shocked on how amazing it was. This movie is in no way a rehash of this predecessors, and doesn't fall to the trilogy ending curse (Spiderman, Iron Man, X-men, Supermen, i'm looking at you). I consider it Dark Knights equal, but in a sense, Dark Knight is probably the better movie. A

3. Batman Begins (2005)

PG-13 | 140 min | Action, Adventure

70 Metascore

After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight to free crime-ridden Gotham City from the corruption that Scarecrow and the League of Shadows have cast upon it.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Liam Neeson

Votes: 1,123,096 | Gross: $206.85M

It's 2005. It's been eight long years since the last Batman movie, the previous being so horrible it killed the franchise. Batman Forever didn't help things, and Batman Returns was too disturbing and weird for it's own good. But this came out. And it was great. In fact, it was so great, it blew people's minds. What made it so great? There was expectations, but nothing as huge as its successors would. It sets the bar for all new superhero movie reboots. Think about it; Man of Steel. When you first saw it, you compared it to Batman Begins. As will all new reboots. A-

4. Iron Man (2008)

PG-13 | 126 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

79 Metascore

After being held captive in an Afghan cave, billionaire engineer Tony Stark creates a unique weaponized suit of armor to fight evil.

Director: Jon Favreau | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges

Votes: 794,176 | Gross: $318.41M

Robert Downey Jr.'s saving grace and Marvel's huge comeback. After Marvel's four year run in low-quality superhero films, this came out, sending them back to the top. The movie taking itself semi-seriously, kind of like life: serious situations are serious, parties and socializing aren't. With this perfect blend, Marvel made their best movie yet. Too bad the sequels (except the Avengers) are even close to as good as this. A-

5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

PG-13 | 127 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

83 Metascore

Peter Parker is beset with troubles in his failing personal life as he battles a brilliant scientist named Doctor Otto Octavius.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco

Votes: 469,189 | Gross: $373.59M

Arguably the greatest Spider-man movie. Superhero sequels can be two things: better or equal to the first (THIS, X2, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises) or worse (Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Last Stand, Wolverine). This is a truly worthy follow-up. The one problem? Mary Jane is hostage again at the end. However, it's not nearly as repetitive as it will be in the 3rd. A-

6. Spider-Man (2002)

PG-13 | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

73 Metascore

When bitten by a genetically modified spider, a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student gains spider-like abilities that he eventually must use to fight evil as a superhero after tragedy befalls his family.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco

Votes: 606,262 | Gross: $403.71M

The second-oldest movie on the list. Like X-men, the effects hold up to today's. Unlike X-men, the main character is relatable, the characters more human, and the musical score unforgettable. There's a reason why there's four Spiderman movies in 10 years, the reason because this one is so great. A-

7. Chronicle (2012)

PG-13 | 84 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

69 Metascore

Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery underground. Soon they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.

Director: Josh Trank | Stars: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly

Votes: 221,825 | Gross: $64.58M

The only superhero movie filmed with a documentary-style camera. It's relatable teen characters are a blast to watch on screen, even when the flying doesn't look totally real (but it never takes you out of the movie). However, the movie isn't long, and it's lucky, because if it was two hours, that would be 20 minutes too much. B+

8. The Avengers (2012)

PG-13 | 143 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

69 Metascore

Earth's mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are going to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity.

Director: Joss Whedon | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner

Votes: 1,106,578 | Gross: $623.36M

I would've loved to put this higher, but I just can't do that to the movies above. It's got it's spot in the top 10, and this movie does everything a Marvel movie could want. However, the 7 above ALSO do something groundbreaking, while this one doesn't do that, it sure as hell does everything right. B+

9. X2 (2003)

PG-13 | 134 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

68 Metascore

The X-Men band together to find a mutant assassin who has made an attempt on the President's life, while the Mutant Academy is attacked by military forces.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen

Votes: 455,930 | Gross: $214.95M

The best of the X-men movies. Also, it's the only Marvel movie that has sent chills down my spine. It's brilliant in it's own way, and maybe the only one X-men that can truly stand on its own. B+

10. Man of Steel (2013)

PG-13 | 143 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

55 Metascore

Clark Kent, one of the last of an extinguished race disguised as an unremarkable human, is forced to reveal his identity when Earth is invaded by an army of survivors who threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction.

Director: Zack Snyder | Stars: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane

Votes: 613,957 | Gross: $291.05M

One of the newest movies on here, and defiantly one of the best. Were there a couple problems? Sure (needs more ZOD), but the pros far outway the cons, and in this superhero pic, the seriousness works pretty well. Maybe not as well as batman, but still. It isn't higher due to its drawn-out fights and relies a little too heavily on CGI. B+

11. Thor (2011)

PG-13 | 115 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

57 Metascore

The powerful, but arrogant god Thor, is cast out of Asgard to live amongst humans in Midgard (Earth), where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.

Director: Kenneth Branagh | Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston

Votes: 622,294 | Gross: $181.03M

Even if it's just missing out of the top 10, Thor is a fun movie that has enough action and enough character to be entertaining and funny but still taken seriously. B+

12. Kick-Ass (2010)

R | 117 min | Action, Comedy

66 Metascore

Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a superhero, even though he has no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so.

Director: Matthew Vaughn | Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloë Grace Moretz, Garrett M. Brown

Votes: 477,865 | Gross: $48.07M

Arguably the darkest and maybe most realistic (but messed up) superhero movie on here, Kick-Ass is a great movie that blends action, gore, and dark comedy with a heart. B+

13. X: First Class (2011)

PG-13 | 131 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

65 Metascore

In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of Mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start World War III.

Director: Matthew Vaughn | Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon

Votes: 578,577 | Gross: $146.41M

A prequel to the X-men trilogy, and it's good. However, as a movie on it's own, it doesn't fare nearly as well. B

14. X-Men (2000)

PG-13 | 104 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

64 Metascore

Two mutants come to a private academy for their kind whose resident superhero team must oppose a terrorist organization with similar powers.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen

Votes: 508,595 | Gross: $157.30M

The oldest movie on the list, and a pretty good one. The effects hold up to today, and while this movie isn't great, there isn't much to complain about. B

15. The Wolverine (2013)

PG-13 | 126 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

61 Metascore

When Wolverine is summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, he is embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.

Director: James Mangold | Stars: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima

Votes: 378,016 | Gross: $132.56M

There were some parts that bothered me in this film, mostly things in the third act, but all in all this is a very solid superhero movie. Also, the post credits scene is arguably the best of just about any marvel movie, leaving this movie on a very high note. B

16. Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

R | 103 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

41 Metascore

Following Kick-Ass' heroics, other citizens are inspired to become masked crusaders. But Red Mist leads his own group of evil supervillains to get revenge, kill Kick-Ass and destroy everything he stands for.

Director: Jeff Wadlow | Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey

Votes: 226,972 | Gross: $28.80M

This sequel to Kick-Ass isn't as great, but still very well done. It seemed as if the filmmakers were playing it safe with this one, not exactly pushing the boundaries that made the first so great. Anyway, the final fight is very creative and really fun to watch. B

17. Watchmen (2009)

R | 162 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

56 Metascore

In 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.

Director: Zack Snyder | Stars: Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Malin Akerman

Votes: 431,450 | Gross: $107.51M

While in the Top 5 most dark superhero movies, it isn't in the Top 5 most realistic. This movies pretty good, but some of the heroes just look kind of goofy (naked blue man, i'm looking at you). B-

18. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

PG-13 | 104 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

58 Metascore

An all-out war looms when the discovery of a cure for mutations draws a line between the followers of Charles Xavier and those of Magneto.

Director: Brett Ratner | Stars: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen

Votes: 428,572 | Gross: $234.36M

Another one a lot of people don't like that I do. There were a good amount of problems, but the final fight at Alcatraz was done very well and had a proper end for Magneto. B-

19. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

PG-13 | 139 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

59 Metascore

A strange black entity from another world bonds with Peter Parker and causes inner turmoil as he contends with new villains, temptations, and revenge.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Topher Grace, Thomas Haden Church

Votes: 432,598 | Gross: $336.53M

I may be the 1% of people that don't hate this movie. That's true; I don't. But it's not great, either. Some consider it a slap in the face to fans, but I would watch this again between this or Amazing Spiderman. B-

20. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

PG-13 | 112 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

61 Metascore

Bruce Banner, a scientist on the run from the U.S. Government, must find a cure for the monster he turns into, whenever he loses his temper.

Director: Louis Leterrier | Stars: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt

Votes: 369,032 | Gross: $134.52M

A good take on Hulk. It's more serious and much less laughable than the 2003 one, and ties in with the avenger movies. Barely, but enough. B-

21. Iron Man 2 (2010)

PG-13 | 124 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

57 Metascore

With the world now aware of his identity as Iron Man, Tony Stark must contend with both his declining health and a vengeful mad man with ties to his father's legacy.

Director: Jon Favreau | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Votes: 600,817 | Gross: $312.43M

Perhaps worse than Iron Man 3, but I still liked it. It had less plot holes than 3, for one, and didn't disappoint me as much. Then again, it isn't anything great, just SLIGHTLY above average. C+

22. Iron Man Three (2013)

PG-13 | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

62 Metascore

When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

Director: Shane Black | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Votes: 636,072 | Gross: $409.01M

Maybe this is so low because I expected more. The scenes with Ben Kingsley were BADASS, but there were only like...3? 4? Anyway, the fire people were like the dumbest villains in a superhero movie like this. C+

23. Superman Returns (2006)

PG-13 | 154 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

72 Metascore

Superman reappears after a long absence, but is challenged by an old foe who uses Kryptonian technology for world domination.

Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden

Votes: 254,094 | Gross: $200.08M

In a world of sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots, this one isn't the worst (Amazing Spiderman, Iron Man sequels), but isn't the best (Batman Begins, King Kong). It's worth a watch, but opinions are sharply divided and I can't blame them. The movie starts off well, but gets worse and worse as it goes on. The actor does a better Clark Kent (which scenes are actually really funny) than Superman. C

24. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

PG-13 | 136 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

66 Metascore

After Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically altered spider, he gains newfound, spider-like powers and ventures out to solve the mystery of his parent's mysterious death.

Director: Marc Webb | Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Irrfan Khan

Votes: 499,834 | Gross: $262.03M

Overrated and made only for money. Sony would've lost the rights to keep Spider-man if they didn't release one every five years (Spiderman 3 came out in 2007). So, to hold on to the rights, they released this. The first 2/3rd are decent, but the last 3rd is horrific. C

25. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

PG-13 | 124 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

66 Metascore

Steve Rogers, a rejected military soldier transforms into Captain America after taking a dose of a "Super-Soldier serum". But being Captain America comes at a price as he attempts to take down a war monger and a terrorist organization.

Director: Joe Johnston | Stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Samuel L. Jackson, Hayley Atwell

Votes: 599,955 | Gross: $176.65M

The worst of the ongoing 'Avengers' movies (Iron Man 1,2,3, Thor, Avengers, Incredible Hulk, Captain America). The first 3rd is promising, but it's a rapid decline from there. C

26. Hulk (2003)

PG-13 | 138 min | Action, Sci-Fi

54 Metascore

Bruce Banner, a genetics researcher with a tragic past, suffers an accident that causes him to transform into a raging green monster when he gets angry.

Director: Ang Lee | Stars: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas

Votes: 230,512 | Gross: $132.18M

I didn't think it's as bad as everyone says it is, but that doesn't mean it's good either. C

27. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

PG-13 | 107 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

40 Metascore

A look at Wolverine's early life, in particular his time with the government squad Team X and the impact it will have on his later years.

Director: Gavin Hood | Stars: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, Danny Huston

Votes: 411,671 | Gross: $179.88M

The far and away worst of the X-men movies. C-

28. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

PG-13 | 112 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

54 Metascore

When Dr. Jane Foster gets cursed with a powerful entity known as the Aether, Thor is heralded of the cosmic event known as the Convergence and the genocidal Dark Elves.

Director: Alan Taylor | Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård

Votes: 488,503 | Gross: $206.36M

This sequel to Thor is a disaster in every way, except for the CGI of course. Characters are hollow. The plot has more holes than Swiss cheese. The villain? He's a dark elf. Yes, you read that correctly. C-

29. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

PG | 92 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

45 Metascore

The Fantastic Four learn that they aren't the only super-powered beings in the universe when they square off against the powerful Silver Surfer and the planet-eating Galactus.

Director: Tim Story | Stars: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis

Votes: 229,784 | Gross: $131.92M

I think I liked this more than the first? But that isn't saying much. I don't remember and I don't want to. D+

30. Fantastic Four (I) (2005)

PG-13 | 106 min | Action, Adventure, Family

40 Metascore

A group of astronauts gain superpowers after a cosmic radiation exposure and must use them to oppose the plans of their enemy, Doctor Victor Von Doom.

Director: Tim Story | Stars: Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Jessica Alba

Votes: 286,837 | Gross: $154.70M

They really messed this one up. D+

31. Green Lantern (2011)

PG-13 | 114 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

39 Metascore

Reckless test pilot Hal Jordan is granted an alien ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers that inducts him into an intergalactic police force, the Green Lantern Corps.

Director: Martin Campbell | Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong

Votes: 242,275 | Gross: $116.60M

And I thought MY jokes were bad. D