15. 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.
14. 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.
13. 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.
12. 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.
11. 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.
10. 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.
9. 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.
8. X-2 (2003)
The movie: Bryan Singer's second X-Men movie still stands as one of the greatest superhero movies committed to celluloid. In every sense it outdoes the previous outing, an orchestra of superb action and brilliantly-drawn characters. Upping the number of spectacle set-pieces to showcase the power of the mutants is the main reason the sequel has aged so well. Its opening sequence featuring the cunning Nightcrawler as he infiltrates the White House was talked about then and it's still relished today.
It's Wolverine who continues to lead the story, as Singer takes the mutton-chopped mutant farther than before by delivering an explosive moment where he exerts his "berserker rage." Buried beneath all of the badassery however, is a big, beating heart that yearns for inclusion. Scenes between Bobby and his parents as he steps forward to tell them he is Iceman are just utterly-heartbreaking.
Best superhero moment: Stryker's men don't stand a chance against Wolvie's brute force, as he takes out every single one of them who dare threaten Professor X's school.
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. 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.