The 25 best superhero movies - from MCU blockbusters to cult classics

15. Kick-Ass (2010)

The movie: Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar's collaboration brought about much controversy at the time of release. Not because it's full of violence and bad language - which it undoubtedly is - but because 12-year old Chloe Moretz was dishing out both.

It's subversive to the point of making you wince. The idea of a self-made superhero, one who possesses no actual abilities, is turned into an amusing, dark-as-hell escapade. Aaron-Taylor Johnson's teenager embraces his love of comics and lets them spill into the real world by becoming Kick-Ass. Going up against wealthy foes who wipe the floor with him time and time again, leads him to join forces with Hit-Girl (Moretz) who wields a katana like a seasoned pro. It's also the only film to make Nicolas Cage's quirkiness the least batshit thing onscreen.

Best superhero moment: Kick-Ass visits Rasul, a low-life drug dealer who's been harassing the girl he likes, and does what you think he does. Yep, kicks his ass. With a little help from Hit-Girl.  

14. 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. 

13. Deadpool (2016)

The movie: Deadpool 2 is great and all, but it's nothing compared to the original Deadpool movie of 2016, that first gave the character a big-screen spotlight 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.  

12. Black Panther (2018)

The movie: Even before its release, Black Panther was making headlines for its record-breaking pre-sale success, political timeliness, and significance as a step forward for diversity in Hollywood. But the fact is, even when you isolate it from its historical importance, Black Panther is a thrilling, endearing ensemble movie that oozes flair and originality through every Wakandan seam.

Compared to most Marvel origin stories, the cast is large and varied - filled with both rising talent and celebrated thespians - but all of them play an important role in the story, each providing motivations and viewpoints that enrich the jaw dropping Afro-futurist setting with warmth and humanity. And Marvel finally has a villain worthy of your attention in Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger, whose raw energy is never put to waste for a single second of his screen time. 

Best superhero moment: T'Challa heads to South Korea, where a cascading Russian Doll chase sequence snowballs into increasingly pandemonic levels of mayhem. 

11. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The movie: Guardians of the Galaxy rewrote the rules of Marvel's Cinematic Universe. Superhero movies can be silly and irreverent without damaging their soul. And boy, does Guardians have a lot of that. From the opening scene right up until the final moments, all you feel is heart, most of which comes from writer-director James Gunn's love for the material.

And his cast. And his crew. OK, so everyone involved in this hilarious space opera loved going to work. The great thing is, it shows. Every single element of this whacked-out story of misfit superheroes joining together to fight evil works in harmony. You've got the throwback soundtrack, spot-on casting, and just enough fan service to prevent it tipping into oblivion. If you like your superheroes without the swagger, this is for you.

Best superhero moment: Peter Quill's insistence that people call him Star-Lord - which no-one ever takes seriously. 

10. 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.  

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming

The movie: When Sony and Marvel announced it was entering a deal allowing Spider-Man to become a part of the MCU, there was understandable concerns about rebooting the webbed wall-crawler for the second time since 2012's Andrew Garfield-led origin flick. But Tom Holland's scene-stealing introduction in Captain America: Civil War allayed almost all concerns about Marvel's treatment of the character, and Homecoming was merely the icing on the cake. 

Peter Parker really is just a kid in Spider-Man: Homecoming, failing to juggle his private and public life with his unfulfilling vigilante persona, and it's here where the movie manages to justify itself as a different take from what we've seen in the web-slinger's cinematic history before now. It helps that Robert Downey Jr. is in it, too, perfecting the definition of supporting role to a tee, while Michael Keaton's Vulture makes for a worthy local villain. 

Best superhero moment: When Peter and Adrian Toomes figure out each other's alter egos, and the conversation begins to get uncomfortably tense. 

8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The movie: Homecoming may be a fantastic superhero movie, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse understands the character better than anything else we've seen before. A beautifully animated romp inspired by the Spider-Verse storyline of the Marvel comics and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie fame), this Miles Morales led escapade is worlds removed from the MCU or Sony's own universe of Venom and the upcoming Morbius movie.

Into the Spider-Verse stars multiple Spider-Men (including an older, chubbier Peter Parker, Spider-Gwen, and - yes - Spider-Ham), who find themselves thrown into the same dimension after Kingpin plays god with some multi-verse hopping portals. It sounds ridiculous, and a tad overcomplicated, but Into the Spider-Verse finds its heart and soul even while toying with convention and frequently winking at the camera. At the very least, you'll be mesmerised by every painstakingly crafted frame, which looks just like a comic book brought to life.

Best superhero moment: It's got to be Peter Porker (AKA, Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney) asking Miles whether animals can talk in his dimension, "cause I don't want to freak [anybody] out."

7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

The movie: Put The Winter Soldier next to the first Captain America movie and they couldn't appear more different. But there is one aspect shared by both films: they mix together several genres to tell a better story. There's no throwbacks to WWII in this sequel, instead Anthony and Joe Russo throw it back to the '70s-era of paranoia. Heck, Robert Redford's even in it. 

Caught up with all the goings-on since he was trapped in ice for decades, Cap's back with a new haircut and a mission to kick-ass in the 21st century. Dropping the sepia-tones of the first flick for a harsher look suits its modernised story. And while the second Avengers movie opened last year - with a bigger budget - that sequel doesn't come close to touching the action highs of Cap's second film. The Nick Fury car sequence, the introduction of The Winter Soldier, and the big one...  

Best superhero moment: When Steve Rogers takes out an entire elevator full of Hydra agents. "Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?" he calmly asks before wiping the floor with them.  

6. Logan (2017)

The movie: Curiously marketed as Marvel's answer to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, the truth is that comparing Logan to the Dark Knight does a disservice to its standalone accomplishments. Yes, there's a grounded, thoroughly depressing sense of realism to Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold's depiction of a world-weary, ageing hero and his dysfunctional family, but there's really no other superhero movie like Logan out there.

It asks what happens when you confront a character who's always suppressed his feelings in favour of pure, surface-level rage, and subsequently delivers an emotional wallop that comes without warning. If this is the future of superhero movies, we can't wait to see where the X-Men universe goes next. 

Best superhero moment: That bittersweet, yet utterly pitch perfect ending. The less said about it, the better. 

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