A few people have sent this to me, so I thought I would post some brief comments here about it. Overall, it’s an interesting list. I don’t particularly agree with all of it, but I think they did a good job including a more varied listing of films than one would probably expect from such a narrow classification. I’m listing them here in reverse order, with my thoughts next to each.
10. Iron Man (2008) – This probably would have been on my list, too, and maybe a little higher. Actually a terrific mix of humor, gravitas, and allegorical content, with perhaps the best casting of a lead role in the history of super hero films. It also proves that you could produce a blockbuster film using a secondary superhero, provided that it was done right.
9. Watchmen (2009) – Hmmm…I’m reminded of what Mario Puzo once said about The Godfather as a novel versus a film – in essence, the movie may have been one of the twenty greatest films of all time, while the novel wasn’t even one of the best books of its year. The inverse is somewhat true about Watchmen – the original graphic novel is still perhaps the best ever written, but what worked on the page did not always click on screen, much of which had to do with historical context and conformity to mainstream filmmaking. It’s still a very good movie, and maybe top ten worthy, but I’m not positive of that.
8. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) – Inspired choice, though the actual animated series (still holds up as one of the best of all time) had many episodes that were actually far, far better. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was also probably just as good.
7. The Rocketeer (1991) – It’s been probably close to two decades since I’ve seen this so it’s not exactly fresh in my mind, but I remember it being more likable than good. I might want to give it a second look.
6. Blade II (2002) – Guillermo del Toro did a very good job with it, but the first film was better overall. Wouldn’t have included.
5. Superman II (1980) – A good effort that didn’t quite follow through on its potential, no doubt in large part due its script problems and the creative upheaval that came from Richard Donner’s firing during production. Might have made the cut, but not over the first film.
4. Unbreakable (2000) – Another very good idea that didn’t live up to its potential. I had actually read the script long before the film was made, so it’s twists weren’t actually surprising to me at the time. This is a case where I think Shyamalan’s script would have been better served in the hands of another director.
3. Spider-man 2 (2004) – If they had selected this for number 1, I wouldn’t have argued with it. A thoroughly human story interwoven in a superhero adventure, with perfectly realized casting.
2. The Dark Knight (2008) – Would have been my number 1 – arguably the American film of the first decade of the 21st century – a trenchant allegory of the War on Terror and Post-9/11 consciousness, disguised as a superhero film, but treated with the reverence of an epic urban crime drama.
1. The Incredibles (2004) – Another choice I wouldn’t argue with, and certainly would have been in my top five. Another of the true gems of the Pixar dynasty.
Notable (Questionable) Exclusions –
Superman (1978) – Still the progenitor of superhero movies, not without its flaws, but unmatched for its sense of grandeur and wonderment.
Batman (1989) – one of the most significant films in Hollywood history for the impact it had on blockbuster filmmaking beyond simply superhero films, and it still holds up fairly well.
X2: X-Men United (2003) – One of the better sequels you’ll ever see, with an exceptional third act. Certainly the best superhero “team” film yet made.
Batman Begins (2005) – Perhaps the best origin film, that perfectly captures the psychological underpinnings of perhaps the most famous of superheroes.