15. Batman (1989)
The movie: It's amazing that Batman ever got made considering the 25,000 letters of objection the studio received when Michael Keaton was cast, along with Jack Nicholson having late start times and an insane box-office percentage inked into his contract. But it did.
Tim Burton's singular vision for a dark, brooding superhero is an off-kilter mix. It's a nostalgic trip into eighties cinema that dresses Bruce Wayne in chunky-knit sweaters, then seconds later becomes a riotous gangster film from the 1940s, complete with the overblown pap-pap of pistols. While Burton himself confessed to not being completely happy with the finished product, describing it as more a phenomenon than a good movie, he did gift the movie world with one of the nuttiest performances ever: Nicholson's Joker.
What's crackers about his take on the Clown Prince of Crime is that Burton actually gives him an origin. In the comics, part of the Joker's mystique is that his real name is never revealed. Here? Damn, it's only ruddy Batman that creates his cackling alter-ego.
Best superhero moment: The first time Batman appears on a misty Gotham rooftop, in his suit, doing what he does best: catching crooks.
14. The Incredibles (2004)
The movie: Pixar's most beloved film turned to classic comic books for inspiration, plucking tons of recognisable moments from their golden era to tell the tale of what happens after you hang up the suit.
It's a testament to director Brad Bird just how much detail is crammed into the movie. On the one hand, it's a solid animated flick that boasts loads of awesome action sequences youngsters will love. But it goes both ways - there's a lot for adults to savour here. Beneath the lycra outfits and caricature villains is a heart-warming tale that's all about the importance of family. Sure, it riffs on Bond at every opportunity, and jabs at the vagaries of getting old, but it does something that most live-action superhero films never dare venture into: the realm of retirement.
Best superhero moment: Frozone can't lay his hands on his super suit and loses his - ahem - cool.
13. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The movie: After taking a break from the X-Men franchise Bryan Singer returned to helm Days of Future Past. He had to really, didn't he? What began in 2011's soft reboot First Class could only be continued by the man who started it all.
Singer used one of the most well-loved comic storylines as inspiration. A complex, time-travelling tale that stretches across history wasn't just a terrific story, it was an opportunity for Singer to make it up to the fans for leaving the franchise after X-2. By having different teams of characters dotted all over the timeline, it left the door open for popular X-Men to return, as well as introducing a slew of new mutants in a dizzying tangle of plots.
It seemed like a big challenge that could have resulted in another dud. There's many speaking parts and various story threads all tied together to the X-Men continuity. But that's the wonder of time travel - there's no such thing as can't.
Best superhero moment: Magneto and Mystique take to the streets for a super-public fight. A blast to watch but yeah... probably not the best idea when you're keeping mutant life on the DL.
12. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
The movie: Of the two franchises dedicated to the webhead it's the middle chapter in Sam Raimi's trilogy that sums up everything we love about Spider-Man. Raimi strikes a perfect balance between Spidey's acrobatics, his inner struggle to become a hero and his romance with Mary Jane. It's a lot to juggle, and yet, every component is given a committed amount of time and each character gets a true arc from start to finish.
Peter Parker's day-to-day misery is quashed by his burgeoning friendship with Doctor Octavius. Of all the friend-to-foe betrayals Parker suffers, it's this film that serves up the best of all, mainly because Raimi has zero desire (then, at least) to overstuff the movie with a gazillion villains. When done right, one bad guy will suffice. Alfred Molina's switch from mentor to antagonist as Dr. Octavius is the franchise's best baddie to date.
Best superhero moment: Peter and Dr. Ock come to blows in the trilogy's best fight sequence: on a speeding train.
11. Batman Begins (2005)
The movie: Before Christian Bale took up the cowl we hadn't seen a decent Batman movie in years. The thought of another one in the vein of Batman & Robin was hard to stomach, which is why Batman Begins came at the perfect time. The superhero genre was a laughing stock, still reeling from the after-effects of Joel Schumacher's sequels. Christopher Nolan blew everyone's socks off by telling folks this is how you make a movie about The Dark Knight.
Well, that's what he decided, by approaching the comics without wanting to create another frivolous spectacle. The world had seen enough of that; it was time for Batman to get serious. And damn, did he get serious. This was the first time that a superhero movie was so downbeat. Bruce Wayne's not a happy-go-lucky chap, he's a troubled, tormented protector desperate to make a difference. In terms of comic book loyalty? Nolan gets an A.
Best superhero moment: Eager to escape the cops, Batman shoots into his handily-parked Tumbler and makes his getaway.
10. Deadpool (2016)
The movie: KER-SMASH! That's the sound of Deadpool breaking the fourth wall, one of the many qualities that earned him a big-screen movie worthy of his brash irreverence. Star Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller spent years championing the merc with a mouth's solo movie, and finally got the go-ahead from Fox when leaked test footage was met with universal praise.
And let's thank our lucky stars for that illegal slip. Deadpool is the comic book adaptation fans have longed for since X-Men Origins: Wolverine made a hash of the beloved mercenary. Awash with blood, foul language and nudity galore, the movie holds nothing back as Deadpool battles against the men who turned him into a disfigured superhero. Or, as his best pal Weasel refers to his appearance: "you look like an avocado that had sex with an older avocado."
Best superhero moment: Deadpool turns up to the final showdown, only to remember that he left all of his weapons in the cab.
9. Superman: The Movie (1978)
The movie: Richard Donner's Superman live-action movie isn't the first feature to bring Krypton's favorite son to the big screen, but it is, to quote Tina Turner, simply the best. Origin films are now branded with that tag from the day they're announced, but Superman never set out to just explain Kal-El's past. The focus here is on story, and the breathtaking spectacle of the movie - IT'S A GUY WHO FLIES! - manages to overpower Margot Kidder's performance.
Out of hundreds of hopefuls, Christopher Reeve snagged the lead role, and it's now impossible to imagine anyone else outdoing his iconic version of Clark Kent. He brings hope, humanity and an all-around goodness to Superman, which makes it a lot easier to stomach some of the cheesier elements of Donner's movie.
Best superhero moment: It's a small one but one that had an everlasting effect on the genre: when Superman first takes flight.
8. Wonder Woman (2017)
The movie: I know what you're thinking: another origin story? Really? But believe me when I tell you, this is a whole new take on the superhero cliche, and it's for a character whose origin we haven't seen in a movie before.
Growing up on the Amazonian island of Themyscira, Princess Diana (no, this is a different one) discovers American pilot Steve Trevor after he crashes offshore. After learning about the horrors of the World War, and believing Zeus' son Ares responsible for the conflict, Diana takes it upon herself to go and resolve the fight. As you do.
It may have wallowed in development hell for a while, but we reckon Wonder Woman delivers "the hope-charged blast of purely likeable entertainment that superhero movies might just need", and the chemistry bubbling between Diana and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is delicious. Plus Gal Gadot rocks that tiara like a champ. What else do you need?
Best superhero moment: Wonder Woman's finale is paradoxically the best and worst thing about the movie, but that scene is all kinds of amazing… and Wonder Woman wouldn't be Wonder Woman without it.
7. Iron Man (2008)
The movie: Iron Man laid the foundation for a multi-billion dollar franchise. The first movie in Marvel's Cinematic Universe, was by definition, a gamble. We're not talking a small loss, either. If the film hadn't rocketed to the top of the box office, Marvel Studios faced bankruptcy and loss of The Avengers rights. It's an achievement that this blockbuster movie based on a character that, let's face it, no-one outside of the comic book fandom really knew, turned out to be such a hit.
It was Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark that blew people away; he's smart and funny without being patronising. You root for him to succeed and get a weird sensation in your tummy when he steps into the Mark II suit for the first time. That sense of superhero fun and flat-out action that director Jon Favreau brings to the movie? It's his vision that laid a blueprint of sorts, to steer the future of the franchise.
Best superhero moment: Tony emerges from the cave, decked out in his Iron Man Mk I suit.
6. Batman Returns (1992)
The movie: Following Batman's enormous success, Tim Burton and Michael Keaton were brought back for a sequel. Looking back now, in this age of micromanaged studios, it's phenomenal how much freedom Warner Bros. granted Burton. What he turned over wasn't a retread of the original. Nope, it was a movie that outraged parents and it's not hard to see why. It replaces a family-friendly plot of good vs. evil with a far more devious story.
If the 1989 film hinted at Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale's bedroom antics, then Returns positively oozes sexuality through Michelle Pfeiffer's turn as Catwoman. And then there's the Penguin, played by Danny DeVito, a savage, sewer-dwelling villain out to sabotage Wayne and the entire city of Gotham for his suffering. Much like the first movie, the bad guys outshine Batman easily, which is perhaps why those parents were so miffed. Who wants to see a superhero film where the villains look cooler? Everyone it would seem - despite how iffy the result turns out to be.
Best superhero moment: Bruce Wayne coolly rebuffs Catwoman's advances and somehow transforms it into a bit of a fight scene too.