There’s really no dispute. The last ten years belonged to the superhero movies. Four decades after Richard Donner’s Superman and three decades after Tim Burton’s Batman, comic book heroes are bigger box office draws than ever before. The big difference in the 2010s was that movies were more faithful to the characters as they appear in the comics.
We don’t have to switch out colorful outfits for black body armor every time. Heroes with moral codes are not obliged to kill the villain in every film (sit down, Zack Snyder). We’re still working on the one about how heroes with secret identities shouldn’t need to reveal themselves to their girlfriend/love interest every time. But one thing at a time. Besides, secret identities in and of themselves are practically irrelevant now.
This was also very much the decade of the Marvel movie. DC had a few breakout hits, but it was ultimately the MCU that had a near stranglehold. Perhaps that will change in the next ten years. But for now, here’s our picks for the top 10 superhero movies of the decade.
10. The Dark Knight Rises
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
We’re not saying the movie’s conspiracy theories created very similar real-world talking points, but it sure does feel prescient in hindsight. It also introduced the Russo brothers to Marvel, which became the start of a beautiful friendship. Who knew these TV comedy directors would go on to make the most epic comic book movies ever? This was our first hint.
8. Wonder Woman
But it also comes down to Patty Jenkins, whose love of the original Christopher Reeve Superman films inspired her to give the greatest female hero a suitably cinematic origin. The No Man’s Land scene already feels like an all-time classic, but even simple moments like Diana eating ice cream remain memorable. We can’t wait to see Jenkins take on the ’80s in Wonder Woman 1984.
7. Black Panther
The debate about engaging a hostile world or withdrawing from it will always be timely. This film also made Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger as compelling as Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, and earned Marvel Studios its first ever Best Picture Oscar nomination. This movie was one of a kind, and a landmark for superhero cinema.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Wright’s greatest power? Taking Michael Cera, a comedic actor whose standard shtick had become tiresome, and giving him a real character to play. Audiences may not have embraced Scott Pilgrim in theaters, but this is a film we’ll be re-watching for years to come.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
James Gunn began the decade with Super, a dark, R-rated comedy about Rainn Wilson having a religious hallucination that persuades him to become a superhero. It foreshadowed the direction superheroes would take by the end of the decade…in part because it also led to Guardians of the Galaxy.
Given the keys to the Marvel kingdom, Gunn proved first that he could make a major superhero flick and not lose his own voice. Secondly, that Star Wars isn’t the only space opera franchise in town. This movie also demonstrated that Marvel had become such a trusted brand that fans would show up for heroes they had never heard of before. Including Rocket Raccoon, and a walking, talking tree who only says “I am Groot.” Or “We are Groot,” as the case may be.
Logan is often compared to a western, but it recalls the original Mad Max too. Plus it gave another character something to riff on in his sequel…
3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The movie did not disappoint. Deadpool went hard R with both the violence and very adult situations. And it did so while mocking the entire X-Men franchise. Reynolds is now so entrenched as Deadpool that he may be the only Fox hero to survive the transition into Kevin Feige’s MCU. Which means that in the ongoing feud with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Deadpool wins.
Avengers was a huge roll of the dice, and what’s most amazing is that that it’s still a really great, fun movie eight years later. Joss Whedon quickly re-established who Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye were while letting them play off of each other. The bickering between old-fashioned patriot Cap and libertine Tony Stark set the tone for their entire dynamic. Plus Tom Hiddleston’s Loki cemented himself in the pantheon of the MCU’s villains by bringing the heroes together.
The first encounter between Cap, Tony, and Thor was something special and magical. In the MCU, there’s a hardline between the pre-Avengers movies and the post-Avengers films. But this is the movie that made the MCU into what it is today.
What are your picks for the top 10 superhero movies of the decade? Let us know in the comment section below!