Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Top 15 Superhero Movies, #1-5

Well here are my top five. I feel very confident that all 5 of these movies deserve to be in the top 5 and I feel very strongly about my number one choice. Beyond that, though, many of these could be shuffled around within the top 5 and, in fact, I have shuffled them a bit myself before settling on this order.

5. X-Men 2

Although X-Men 3 might rise some in my admiration after a second viewing, I believe that this second installment in the series is easily the best. Whereas the first X-Men film was heavy on plot and light on action, the third film was light on plot and heavy on action. X-Men 2, however, got the balance between plot and action just right. The action scenes are top-notch, especially the opening scene with Nightcrawler, and these action scenes further the plot along.

4. Batman

The first Batman film is single-handedly responsible for the rise of the modern superhero film as it exists today. It did this by taking its subject matter seriously and attempting to represent the contemporary comic-book universe accurately on film. Batman is called The Dark Knight for a reason and this film demolishes the campy residue left over from the dated Batman TV series. It presents a Batman who is tortured, dark, and on a mission of vengeance - in short, the Batman of the comics. Michael Keaton does a superb job in the role and Nicholson's Joker has become a classic cinematic villain.

3. Spider-Man

It pains me to put this movie third rather than second. I love Spider-Man and this movie captures the character brilliantly. Sam Raimi made a smart choice in presenting the story of Spider-Man primarily as a love story, which is not far off the mark. Raimi also reportedly resisted studio pressure to have Spider-Man kill the villain at the end. Spider-Man simply does not kill. Period. It is a violation of his moral code ("With great power comes great responsibility.") The only mark against this film is that the special effects in a couple of early scenes in the movie are not as seamless as they should be. The only thing keeping this movie out of my number one spot is the strength of the remaining two films.

2. Batman Begins

This film retains the same dark take on Batman the first Michael Keaton/Tim Burton outing used, but it sets the story in a more real world by removing many of the gothic and fantastical elements. By treating the origin story of Batman, this film is able to dive more deeply into the psychological underpinnings of the character. More than in any other Batman film, we get a clear sense of why Batman does what he does. The villains are capable and interesting without overshadowing the real character of this story. This is Batman's story from beginning to end and Christian Bale captures the brooding, psychologically scarred persona of both Bruce Wayne and Batman admirably.

1. Spider-Man 2

The superhero of superhero movies. One of the many things that distinguish it is that for all of the exciting action sequences, Sam Raimi never allows his film to lose sight of the story. As with Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 is a love story masquerading as an action film. The movie also remains true to the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man as the misunderstood, hard-luck kid unexpectedly blessed with superpowers. What has always made Spider-Man the most relatable of all superheroes is that Peter Parker is just an ordinary guy who struggles to pay the bills, maintain relationships, and live a normal life, but who finds that his extraordinary gift often makes accomplishing those very difficult. He is the ordinary everyman with an extraordinary talent. The villain, Doctor Octopus, equally holds his own in this film. Always one of Spider-Man's most iconic villains, here he provides the perfect alter-ego to Spider-Man: two science geeks granted great power who must decide how to use that power.

Well, that's my list. As with most lists, it is constantly in flux and I trust that the next couple of years will provide new superhero movies that would bump some of these off. And there are plenty coming up with great promise: Spider-Man 3, Wolverine, Fantastic Four 2, Ghostrider, and Iron Man, among others. It's a good time to be a fan.


At 1:06 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Great choices! I was hoping Batman Returns would be there. The Spiderman films are top-notch, as well.

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Jim said...

I have to say I agree with your Top 5, but personally feel like the X-Men films edge out the Spider-Man films, but that's probably just a personal preference.

But where's Mystery Men? IMO, it's the single greatest superhero film ever made, and it's also based on a comic book (albeit a bit obscure). Check it out if you haven't. I might have also tried to fit Sky High somewhere in there. Both films have a heavily element of humor, but are extremely well-done.

Have you ever seen The Return of Captain Invincible? It's a pretty obscure 80's film, but one I'm sure you'd enjoy if you can find a copy.

And who could forget Steel? (j/k)

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I have seen Mystery Men and Sky High and enjoyed them both. The Return of Captain Invincible and Steel I have not seen, however. I will have to keep my eyes open for them.

At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad you included Iron Man as one of the future films we are all awaiting with great anticipation.

At 2:25 AM, Blogger Jim said...

You won't miss anything with Steel, except for Shaq's fine performance...

At 4:33 PM, Blogger nhe said...

Where's "Unbreakable"?

At 6:27 PM, Blogger Jared Cramer said...

i have to say, i'm also dissapointed that unbreakable didn't make it. I think it's a terrifically underrated film.

Also, what about "V for Vendetta"?

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Unbreakable. Excellent add.

I was going to throw V for Vendetta in there, but then I realized, it's based on comic, but isn't exactly a superhero movie...

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I didn't actually think about "Unbreakable", but I probably would not have included it anyway. The main reason is that I was only including superhero movies that are based on comic books. Also, I liked the story and idea of Unbreakable a lot, but I thought Shyamalan's direction on this movie got in the way of the story rather than facilitating it.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Greg said...

I would add that with "V for Vendetta" I didn't consider it both because, as Jim says, it is not technically a superhero movie, but also because I haven't seen it yet. Forces conspired to keep me out of the movie theater, so I am circling in DVD waiting mode.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Chris Wise said...

excellent list Greg... I was sad to see The Flash pilot episode excluded, but I understand the necessity to avoid the made for TV element. Who can forget Captain America's made for TV movie? Or even Spiderman's hoakie wall climbing in cotton pajamas that so fascinated me as a kid!!!
I've been amazed (and relieved)at the quality of superheroes we've gotten recently. Batman Begins set off warnings in my head when I first heard the concept, but watching was an imagination revitalizing experience. I just saw X-men 3 this week and wished deeply Bryan Singer finished the story as he began it. Jean Gray was too shallow a dent in the plot.
On a brighter note, my imagination is already going wild over Superman Returns... Hearing Brando's voice again in the teasers gave me chills. I'm amazed at how much the new guy sounds and looks like Christopher Reeve. I still remember the day I went to the theatre with my dad to see Superman 2 (still my favorite of the series).

Anyhoo, enough walking down memory lane... good posts people, good posts.

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Laura Ware said...

I'm wondering if "Superman Returns" is going to shake up your list any...I hope to see it in the next couple of days.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I expect it will. I will be seeing it soon. I don't know if it will be good enough for my top 5, but I've been hearing good things.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Jared Cramer said...

well, you really should go rent vendetta and give us all your review. :-) it is one of my few favorite movies of the past year.

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Mike (your brother) said...


I liked the superhero lists. Its a post that I can at least understand. I do think you had one notable exception. The Incredibles. I'd have to say it is could at least knock off the Hulk and no one would mind.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Yeah, I haven't heard from anyone who would seem to mind the Hulk being knocked off.


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