Comic book movies have exploded in recent years, being the cause for some of the most successful franchises in movie history. The best part is that they appeal to a wide audience and not just people who read comics. They serve as an amazing escape into worlds where good conquers evil even if it means making huge sacrifices in order to do so. Nothing against DC (or other) comic book fans here, but it’s hard to deny that aside from the success of Nolan’s Batman trilogy (which I loved), and perhaps a select few other movies, Marvel has recently dominated the comic book genre of the movie industry, creating large and numerous universes involving some of the most beloved superheroes. Due to the coming release of Guardians of the Galaxy this week, which I can’t wait for, I’ve decided to share my current top 10 favorite movies based on Marvel comics. Feel free to comment and share your own ranking and opinions!
10. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) discovers he has new abilities after being bitten by a radioactive spider. He goes through many trials tribulations including dealing with his new abilities, suffering a loss in the family, trying to find out why his parents left him when he was young, falling in love with the beautiful Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and going head to head with Dr. Connors a.k.a. the Lizard (Rhys Ifans). I like Andrew Garfield more than Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. Even though he was about as old as Tobey was when he made the first Spider-Man, I think his youthful charisma makes him fit the part of a teenager a lot better. I also like how they made Gwen Stacy his first love, as it was in the comics, and it’s just a plus that she’s played by the adorable Emma Stone. There are certain things that the older franchise did better, but this reboot was still exciting and enjoyable to watch.
9. Iron Man 2 (2010)
Director: John Favreau
Cast: Robery Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle
With the world aware of Tony Stark’s identity as Iron Man, everyone wants a piece of his new technology. Tony has to deal with his declining health, as well as a new villain, Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), who has developed a similar technology and has a personal vendetta against Stark Industries. I wasn’t a huge fan of the villain in this movie, but I still found it to be fun and Robert Downey Jr. was just as good in this as he was in the first Iron Man. Plus, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is introduced in this movie, and she is a beautiful badass. I also love that Don Cheadle (a worthy replacement for Terrence Howard) suits up as War Machine and kicks ass with Iron Man.
8. Thor (2011)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins
Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the arrogant son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is cast out of Asgard and forced to live on Earth after disobeying his father, where he meets and falls in love with the scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) Meanwhile, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s power hungry, adopted brother, takes control of the throne and sends the Destroyer to Earth to prevent Thor from returning. Chris Hemsworth was quite simply made for this role and does a great job with it. Tom Hiddleston, however, is a show stealer. He’s one of the few villains I feel like I want to root for half the time, even more so in Thor: The Dark World. This movie is a pretty fun adventure, and, unlike other Marvel movies, it explores an unfamiliar world outside of Earth, allowing for some impressive CGI. I wasn’t all that interested in seeing it when it came out, but was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it actually was, and still is, upon subsequent viewings.
7. X2 (2003)
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and the rest of the gang team up with Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) to take down William Stryker (Brian Cox), the man responsible for Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton, and who is now controlling mutants and trying to use Professor X to wipe them all out. I like where the story went with this sequel, and instead of focusing on who the characters are and what they can do (already tackled in the first film), it delves deeper into bigger conflicts and explores new threats that force mutants on both sides to have to band together. I also like the introduction to Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), as he is one of the coolest mutants in the movie, as well as the discovery of pieces of Wolverine’s past, something that was shown more (but not necessarily well) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s a fun movie that makes good use of all of its characters and their unique abilities. Oh, and the ending is awesome.
6. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina
Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) struggles with the responsibilities that come with being Spider-Man, as well as his feelings for Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and the secrets he’s keeping from his angsty best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), who wants to seek revenge on Spider-Man for his father’s death. In the meantime, he faces a new villain, Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), a brilliant scientist who he once admired. Spider-Man 2 manages to hold up the best throughout the years and multiple viewings. I like that the villain in this movie is someone Spider-Man has a connection to and a previous admiration for, it makes having to face him that much more emotionally powerful. His struggles are numerous and complex, having already become familiar with the responsibilities he has by choosing to be who he is, and having to make sacrifices in his personal life in order to be this hero. I also like the relationship between him and Harry a lot more than in the newer franchise. It’s more personal, and Harry has a better motivation for turning against Peter/Spider-Man. It’s an interesting and exciting movie, and it’s well-written. You care about the characters and the conflicts and that makes it likable enough even for people who aren’t big on comic book movies. It’s more accessible and in my opinion, it has aged really well.
5. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
I wasn’t as big of a fan of the X-Men franchise until First Class came out. Now the X-Men have dominated the presence of my top 10 list. First Class explores the beginning of the X-Men, taking us through the lives of Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and other fellow mutants as they try to take down Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a man who is not only responsible for the death of Magneto’s mother, but also is determined to start a world war. I was overwhelmed with the talent of this new cast (January Jones and Zoe Kravitz excluded), and I loved the amount of heart that was put into this movie. There are some emotional scenes between Charles and Erik which not only act as examples of the great performances by McAvoy and Fassbender, but also expresses the close, yet complex friendship between who we previously know as Professor X and Magneto–two men with opposing views. It is something that is not explored in the first three X-Men movies, yet it is the most interesting and powerful relationship in the story. Many aspects of this movie make it easy to relate to and sympathize with the main mutants, despite it being a comic book story. It was a fresh start after the not-so-successful X-Men: The Last Stand, and set itself up for a new series, which has so far proven to be superior in many aspects.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)–with the help of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie)–tries to take down a new threat, The Winter Soldier. With S.H.I.E.L.D. being corrupted, this proves difficult to do as they no longer know who they can trust. This movie was a huge step up from Captain America: The First Avenger. The action is impeccable with hard hitting fight scenes and well-made car chases. The story was intelligent, involving a few twists, and it acts as a political thriller within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It raises the bar even more for the next phase of movies, being a film that successfully balances action and intelligence, and is also a lot darker and more serious in tone, but still manages to maintain some of Marvel’s trademark humor.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen
X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of my favorite movies of 2014 so far. The older cast teams up with the newer cast when Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) goes back in time to help the junior mutants stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), which if not stopped, will eventually lead to the elimination of both humans and mutants. This movie created a link between the old and new X-Men movies. There may still be plenty of plot holes in the franchise as a whole, but this movie by itself is intelligent, exciting, humorous and emotional, and in my personal opinion, succeeds as being the best in the whole X-Men franchise. Full review here.
2. Iron Man (2008)
Director: John Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a billionaire who owns a weapons manufacturing company, is captured and imprisoned by terrorists after his convoy was destroyed by his own missile. He is forced to build a suit of armor in order to escape. After seeing what kind of horrible things his weapons are being used for, he decides to stop manufacturing weapons and focus on building his Iron Man suit. It’s hard not to love this movie when you have the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. playing the superhero. He is the most stand out character of all of the Avengers, and despite his lack of humility, he is still the most fun (in my opinion, anyway). Thanks in part to director Jon Favreau, this movie has the perfect balance of humor, wit, adventure, suspense and seriousness. Being the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it set the bar high for the following films to come.
1. The Avengers (2012)
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston
I can’t help but love a superhero ensemble. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. to help stop Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his alien army from taking over Earth. This is just an all around fun movie which people who were already invested in phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe had no choice but to be excited about. I love the chemistry between all the cast members, from the bickering between the arrogant Tony and the humble Steve to the developing connection between Tony and Bruce Banner–two geniuses with alike minds. Black Widow and Hawkeye have a past that is minimally explored, but all that’s important is that she’ll break out of being tied to a chair and effortlessly beat up a bunch of Russians if she hears that he’s in the least bit of trouble. Loki, again, is a fun villain who can definitely hold his own against this large ensemble cast. After watching these characters’ individual movies and becoming invested in their stories, it’s hard not to get super excited when you see them working as a team. Everything before The Avengers built up to this final result, and it didn’t disappoint. Hopefully The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be just as good, if not better.
Blade (1998) and Blade II (2002) – it took me a while to realize that these were actually Marvel comic book movies, but I had seen them a bunch of times back in the early 2000s and found them to be fun with some great fight choreography.
X-Men (2000) – really opened the door for comic book movies and showed that they could be fun and serious, and not completely ridiculous.
Spider-Man (2002) – brought one of the best Marvel superheroes to life, and even though Raimi supposedly screwed up the original comic book story a bit, it was still successful and a pleasure to watch.
The Incredible Hulk (2008) – fun to watch Edward Norton play a superhero, although I do like Mark Ruffalo for the part as well. Not a great story, but still entertaining.