This past weekend saw the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming as the iconic web-slinger returned home to Marvel. It also saw Wonder Woman surpass Deadpool at the comic-book box-office and made it more abundantly clear than ever that these superhero films are a big staple of cinema today. So, I put myself up to the task of ranking my favourites of the 21st Century.

2017 alone has already seen 5 tentpole comic-book films hit our screens, with another 2 major ones set to release before the year wraps up - discounting Valerian and Kingsman: The Golden Circle and focusing solely on superhero outings; TV isn’t even up for discussion at this point in time, that's a whole other realm of its own. 2018 will see over 10 superhero films arrive. And even more in the couple years after that. It’s just a fact of life now that these superhero films have weaved themselves into our calendars, proving to be not only very lucrative but mostly very good too - Marvel has certainly mastered the formula of making fairly enjoyable, if a little familiar, films as part of their MCU - with very few actually disappointing (here's looking to you Fant4stic and Green Lantern).
However, these so-called superhero blockbusters have been a part of our culture for quite some time before now. The list dates back years, well into the early 20th Century with the likes of Superman and Batman being the first notable ones to break out into the spotlight. But even this recent boom dates back to pre-2008 and the launch of the MCU with Iron Man but rather all the way back to 2000 with X-Men and 2002 with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man - arguably, two of the most important comic-book films leading to the resurgence of them today. 2005 saw a big boom of these films, and 2008 another and now we’re getting a plethora of them every single year - dominating the box-office and Summer like a hive of angry bees.
So, to celebrate this forthcoming myriad of comic-book films - that may or may not be great, only time will tell - and because I'm just a massive superhero fan myself, I took it upon myself to look back over the past 17 years of superhero films - Marvel, DC, Fox, the whole shebang - and rank my favourite 10 superhero films of the 21st Century. Because, whilst what's set to come may be good (here's to hoping), these are the greats - the tentpole gold standard for what all of these upcoming comic-book movies should aspire to be. It’s worth noting that this is my purely subjective list of my own personal choices - and it's not necessarily a concrete list either, given my tendencies to fluctuate between favourites often.

But before we get into the top 10, let’s dive into my honourable mentions:
HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

ANT-MAN

Despite Edgar Wright departing the helm, Ant-Man was still one of Marvel's freshest and funniest origin stories yet.

THE AVENGERS

Seeing all of these iconic heroes come together for the first time was something of a blessing and a damn epic spectacle.

THE WOLVERINE

James Mangold’s The Wolverine was a visceral affair and the closest we'd get to the true Berserker Logan (or so we thought).

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men prequel/reboot was such a treat and such a refreshing, fun take on these beloved heroes.

IRON MAN 3

Arguably the MCU’s most divisive film, Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 was such a funny, off-kilter film that was different and defiant.
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

The Lego Batman Movie breathed a different energy into the iconic Caped Crusader in a film that was hilarious and riotously fun.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

James Gunn’s risky space-opera about a ragtag group of misfits and a talking Raccoon and Tree paid off. What a ride.


SPIDER-MAN

One of the most important superhero films, Raimi’s Spider-Man captured the heart of comic-books and the beloved web-slinger.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

This Summer saw the beloved web-slinger return home to Marvel for his own solo outing and what a joyous, charming, fun delight it was.

BATMAN BEGINS

The beginning of Christopher Nolan’s iconic The Dark Knight trilogy and one of the best superhero origin stories put to film.
TOP 10:

10. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
James Gunn’s sequel to his 2014 hit was not only bigger than its predecessor - in scale and ambition - but better too; it ramped up the spectacle, the heart, the humour and the emotion and all with such truly satisfying conviction and aplomb to make a deeply satisfying and entertaining superhero sequel.

9. WONDER WOMAN
The DCEU’s first (and very necessary) success wasn't just good, but GREAT. Wonder Woman came lauded with many expectations and it surpassed them all, and then some, in such a fun, different, hopeful, and truly epic comic-book outing. And one that was so different and original too.

8. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Bryan Singer returned to the franchise he first brought to the big-screen and delivered a film so unique and brilliant. It brought together X-Men new and old, reinvigorated the franchise, wiped the slate clean and even made The Last Stand redundant and nothing more than a bad dream.

7. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Perhaps the MCU’s finest film yet, The Winter Soldier was so different from everything that came before it. This was more espionage thriller than comic-book film and made one of the studio’s more boring heroes up to this point everyone's new favourite one in a darker, more nuanced MCU endeavour than we were used to.

6. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Another rather divisive film in my list, The Dark Knight Rises brought Christopher Nolan’s trilogy to a fine conclusion. Following Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, expectations were jarring and this film toppled them with a walloping bang. It really brought meaning to the word “epic” in a film so huge and important - in spectacle, stakes and emotion.

5. DEADPOOL
A decade in the making, Ryan Reynolds FINALLY brought the Merc with a Mouth to the big-screen in all his rude, crude, violent and awesome glory and it proved to be one of the funniest, most riotous and also most comic-book accurate adaptations ever.

4. THE INCREDIBLES
Pixar are known for their masterful and unequivocal storytelling (most of the time anyway) and their venture into superhero territory with The Incredibles created such a fun, beautiful feature and easily one of the studio’s and this genre’s national treasures.

3. SPIDER-MAN 2
Spider-Man 2 took the character of Peter Parker in a much more emotional direction in a film that not only built upon its predecessor so superbly but that also superseded it too, in every way. Not to mention, this was a film that gives us one of the best on-screen comic-book villians in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock.

2. LOGAN
Hugh Jackman ended his near 2-decade long run as the beloved Wolverine in a film that finally gave us the violent, R-rated Berserker Logan that we always wanted to see on the big-screen. However, it was also a very nuanced, off-kilter and emotionally charged film too that was so different and refreshing in this genre. We could not have asked for a more fitting send off for Jackman and the character.

1. THE DARK KNIGHT
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight reinvigorated the superhero genre and my love for this film will always be unapologetic and unequivocal. It’s dark, intense and brutally beautiful and took Batman in such new, compelling directions and gave us Heath Ledger’s Joker - still, in my opinion, one of the finest performances by an actor in a role ever. This is a masterclass in craft and a masterpiece in every sense of the word; it's easily the best superhero film of the 21st Century and a tentpole for what this genre aspires to be.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

Related Posts

0 comments