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.
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.
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.