Who would’ve thought the past decade provided us heavy strengths in entertainment with comic book movies? The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been massive champions at the box office with each movie they release every year with a guided plan, while the DC Expanded Universe still has some catching up to do. Though I will strongly disagree with those saying they’re ruining Hollywood, even though so many have come out, that takes away that not a ton of people are going out to see original movies. But any famous person who thinks they’re just “amusement park rides” and aren’t considered cinema have no clue what they’re talking about when there are many people around the world that can experience pure joy out of them.
We had our fair share of some that are undeniably incredible to largely disappointing ones that had high potential. Some box office successes, some should’ve done better. They exist so everybody can talk about them as soon as they’re over and go into detailed discussions about them later on. The most popular ones from the 2000s were The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies. Now, we’re in a time where getting excited about a new movie will never change.
Throwing together this list of my own wasn’t an easy task to accomplish since there was a ton I love almost every year. Are these the most well-directed movies ever made? Not all of them, but who cares at this point? Though let me throw in a disclaimer: This list is only for movies based on an existing property. So, as much as I adore Chronicle, it’s an original superhero movie and not based on anything before it. For now, I dedicate this list to the top 15 movies over the past years that gave me joy and made an impact of being not just typical adaptations made for a certain group of people.
Honorable Mentions: Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Ant-Man, Thor: Ragnarok, Big Hero 6, The LEGO Batman Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Dredd, Black Panther, Shazam!
15) ‘X-Men: First Class’ (2011)
X-Men: First Class was definitely a needed breath of fresh air for the franchise after X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine left a horrible taste in our mouths. Though making this a prequel to how young Charles Xavier and young Erik Lehnsherr/ Magneto first met didn’t sound that interesting and the trailers didn’t entirely sell me, Matthew Vaughn crafted an exciting installment and one of the best prequels ever made. Period.
The direction of the franchise blew me away in how they could revamp X-Men for many fans, including me. A lot of the action didn’t feel like anything humongous, but it doesn’t compromise the entire film. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s relationship truly parallel Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen’s relationship from before, this should’ve been the kind that Obi-Wan and Anakin should’ve had in the Star Wars prequels and didn’t achieve it. Oh, and Kevin Bacon as the villain Sebastian Shaw was unexpectedly awesome.
14) ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010)
Kick-Ass answers the question we all might’ve thought of at one point, “How come nobody ever tries to be a superhero?” Not only is it impossible, but nobody could indeed survive being one that fights crime, especially with no superpowers. Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s comic was the first step into how an R-rated superhero movie is made. In a weird mixture of Spider-Man and Mystery Men, nerdy teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron- Taylor Johnson) becomes a real-life superhero and encounter others in the process.
I knew nothing about the property, but it was a different comic book movie than I expected. It’s violet, grounded, and it has a then 12-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl totally stealing this entire movie with every action scene killing people. Remember when there was controversy over this character? Plus, this is one of Nicolas Cage’s best performances in forever as this Ned Flanders type father a.k.a. Big Daddy. While it’s fun, it gets dark in a way that doesn’t ruin the tone. If you want my opinion about the sequel, it’s not good, except for Jim Carrey.
13) ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ (2014)
There’s nothing more fun in the MCU than Guardians of the Galaxy. This was coming out when non-fans of the comics knew who these characters were. The trailers were exciting enough, but should we take a sci-fi movie seriously when there are a talking raccoon and tree involved? Yet, a risk like this paid-off. This 2014 blockbuster, directed by James Gunn, was fantastic in every way, and even after all these years later, being surprised by how much I enjoyed this shocks me. And it showed just from this one movie that he cared deeply about this property and didn’t want to screw it up.
This would’ve easily failed upward if this didn’t make audiences from around the world care about Peter Quill/ Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) on this adventure through the universe. But thanks to its clever humor, entertaining action, and a glorious soundtrack with some of the best songs ever, Guardians of the Galaxy wouldn’t be popular, would it? This is also probably the first MCU movie that hit me emotionally.
12) ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ (2010)
From the times I read certain sections of Bryan O’Malley’s graphic novels, Edgar Wright perfectly adapted Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as no one else would. This is one of those comedies I gush about constantly because of how genius it was and how nobody saw it when it came out in the summer of 2010. Almost like Wright ripped the pages and translated them to screen to helming one of the funniest comic book movies ever made that subverts expectation. “This is boring,” said no one ever.
This titular bass-playing Canadian (Michael Cera) has fallen head over heels for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but he faces the ultimate challenge as he has to defeat her seven evil-exes to get with her. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has everything any geek could ask for: Spectacular fight sequences, video game references, tons of hilarious moments, great editing, and Brie Larson as Scott’s ex “Envy” Adams. Part comic book movie, part video game movie that’s better than everything else, no hate should come from this. I still standby calling this the definition of underrated.
11) ‘Joker‘ (2019)
Officially becoming the second comic book movie to get a Best Picture nomination, almost everybody, especially on Film Twitter, will constantly hate on Todd Phillips’ origin story of the most popular Batman villain of all-time, the Clown Prince of Crime. Joker shouldn’t have worked. Not only was this one of the best movies of 2019, but it’s also purely captivating seeing a different kind of spin of the character. And yes, I’m on the side of people who loves it that isn’t jumping on the pretentious bandwagon.
What I appreciate about Joker the most is that this didn’t feel like the traditional superhero movie, in which the perspective is focusing on a man who just wants to be a comedian, but life is just putting him through desperate times, pushing him through a descent into madness. Joaquin Phoenix’s mesmerizing performance as Arthur Fleck/ Joker gives the second-best portrayal of the character since Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. The last act made me feel uneasy, but it was almost over where the Joker was born.
10) ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ (2014)
There are a ton of sequels that are better than the original. Almost everybody can agree that Captain America: The Winter Soldier improves gracefully than The First Avenger, and that’s because it was one of the first movies in the MCU to avoid being predictable and having realistic stakes. The Russo Brothers’ first foray into becoming well-established in the franchise directed a superhero movie that’s also a great political/spy espionage thriller in between.
Now that Steven Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans) is now working for S.H.I.E.L.D. in present-day finding his place in the world, he doesn’t know everything beneath the surface with a reveal that changes how we see this organization forever. This gave us some of the coolest action in the series (the elevator fight) and Bucky Barnes/ Winter Soldier made for an amazing villain. Because of this single movie, this made me a Captain America fan for life.
9) ‘Deadpool‘ (2016)
Because of the positive reactions to the leaked test footage and Ryan Reynolds himself, Fox finally gave us the Deadpool movie fans deserved with maximum effort. This was the best mulligan of the character we could’ve gotten after the disaster that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine and its R-rating helped it very much so. Reynolds pulled off the “Merch with a Mouth” anti-hero, earning him a Golden Globe nomination, with flying colors with its laugh-out-loud humor and breaking the fourth wall, even with just a budget of $58 million. I can’t tell you how much how perfect he is in this role.
Its style fits into the X-Men universe that was impossible to think about, and director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick told this origin story about revenge and romance in the most memorable fashion. Believe me when this is the hero Reynolds was born to play instead of Green Lantern, which they joked about, twice. Though because of positive reviews and huge box office numbers for a February release, Deadpool paved ways for studios to do R-rated comic book movies.
8) ‘Captain America: Civil War‘ (2016)
Unlike the fail that was Batman V Superman that had no clue what it tried to be, Captain America: Civil War actually has a cohesive plot that has two heroes in a personal conflict that reflects on the bond Captain America and Iron Man have grown with each other. This might have so many characters involved, but this touches on how the universe is dealing with the actions they bring whenever there’s the action is taking over the world. With these heroes also taking sides, that didn’t make the overall film feel pointless or crowded.
People were either on Team Cap or Team Iron Man when it came out, yet on multiple re-watches, I couldn’t pick a side because I saw their respective points. We also got our impressive introductions to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU. The airport battle was unbelievable witnessing on screen for the first time, and will always be a part of my memory. Because of what they’ve gone through and not being a part of a team anymore, that might be the reason they lost in Avengers: Infinity War.
7) ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ (2015)
This is the third time a Matthew Vaughn movie appeared on here, and that’s because he’s a director who knows how to handle action. Take 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service for example. Although it’s based on Mark Millar’s comic book series, this is a high-octane mixture of action and comedy that’s slick while paying a cool homage to the classic spy films like the James Bond films crossed breeds with Men in Black.
Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman really put in a lot of effort of taking things so gentlemanly while having smart dialogue and writing in exaggerated, fast-paced action sequences, which were amazing, especially that unbelievable Church fight set to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” This proved that Colin Firth is one cool action star as Harry Hart, and this was our introduction to the talented Taron Egerton as the likable Eggsy. Thrown in some unbelievable spy action and a lisp Samuel L. Jackson as the main antagonist, and what we have is an underrated comic book movie. This made me think that becoming a spy would be sweet, even in a suit.
6) ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012)
The Dark Knight is THE greatest superhero movie ever made; that is a fact. There was no way Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment following Batman would top it, but The Dark Knight Rises was everything most fans wanted. This also came out a year before the start of the DCEU. It has gained from major detractors over the years pointing out plot holes or saying the ending makes little sense. Not everything perfect, and there were certain questions I have about it, but it’s phenomenal, even when Batman appears the least amount of screen time of here.
Even comparing this to its predecessor is a bit unfair when they felt like two different movies when some people will feel disappointed by it. Not me. Take into account the action, the performances from Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/ Batman, Anne Hathaway surprising everyone as Catman, and Tom Hardy as Bane never provided a dull moment with his screen presence. Despite its flaws, I’m one of the biggest defenders of The Dark Knight Rises, and I don’t appreciate those not giving it a second chance and focus on the bad moments. Nolan gave us the perfect conclusion to what I think is the best comic book trilogy ever directed, along with Batman Begins. Completely underrated to where it doesn’t deserve the unjustified hate.
5) ‘Wonder Woman‘ (2017)
Before Wonder Woman, the DCEU was still finding its footing after a string of disappointments from fans of critics (Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad). That can also be said when this was coming out at a time where female-led superhero movies failed to entertain. It wasn’t until Wonder Woman in the summer of 2017 that breath new life into the cinematic universe that was awe-inspiring. Maybe that was because they let director Patty Jenkins do her work with no interference, which led to Wonder Woman being a success everywhere.
We finally got a modern take on the heroine without making it cheesy, but action-packed and fun. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman is here to stay, and the chemistry between her and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor was an aspect of the film that I didn’t think I would enjoy, much so love. Unlike others, the third act didn’t bother me, though that aspect shouldn’t ruin the entire film for anyone else with it delivers breathtaking action (The No Man’s Land sequences being the biggest standout), an awesome musical score, and an origin story that stays true to its source material amidst war and humanity. As of now, it’s my favorite DCEU movie.
4) ‘The Avengers’ (2012)
Back in 2012, nobody knew the ultimate team-up film like The Avengers would ever work. Everything started with Nick Fury showing up at the post-credits scene at the end of Iron Man telling Tony Stark isn’t “the only superhero in the world.” This was an idea that hasn’t been done before. But thanks to the multiple setups in the standalone movies and Joss Whedon’s involvement as a writer and director, it turned out to be one of the most entertaining blockbusters in recent memory. My teenage mind experienced an event I didn’t think was possible. The moment they did that 360 degrees shot on all of them with Alan Silvestri’s theme, that was when I flat-out love this before it ended.
Not that I was denying this was going to be amazing, but there was no way of putting a two-hour movie featuring the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, The Incredible Hulk, and Hawkeye fighting to take down the mischievous Loki, the first major villain that stood out from everyone else, and his Chitauri army in New York. This was the first time we’ve seen all of them together that started as bitter rivals, but established that their teamwork is the ultimate key wasting none of their talents. Before this came out, I have seen the previous solo movies in the MCU, but knew nothing when talking about the comics. This was just an absolute blast throughout. If you don’t like The Avengers, something’s wrong with your mind.
3) ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse‘ (2019)
If there’s one movie that came close to dethroning Spider-Man 2 as my favorite Spider-Man movie, that’s would go to the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This animated feature produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller never becomes tiring after repeat viewings just being completely engrossed by not only the coolest animation style ever put to screen, but finally seeing fan-favorite Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) as the lead with other iterations of different Spider-Men from other dimensions that didn’t ruin the vibe the film was already bringing. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman made a classic in the making for the hardcore fans out there.
It was like a vibrancy of a comic book that was brought to life in the most amazing way imaginable. I wouldn’t mind seeing a spin-off with Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage). This also provides a message that’s very much needed to those wanting to be a hero: No matter who you are in terms of your race, gender, or anything that defines who you are inside, anybody can wear the mask and become a Spider-Man of their own. Also, for a movie with a talking pig, there’s a line that’s too true, “The hardest thing about this job is you can’t always save everybody.” Props to Sony Pictures Animation for putting out the most successful movie in their filmography that everybody can instantly attach to.
2) ‘Logan‘ (2017)
Logan is the Wolverine movie we all wanted for a long time. Director James Mangold already tackled the character in the fairly underrated The Wolverine, but this bloody take on the popular X-Men character gave us a human story that was well deserving. Set in the style of sci-fi, neo-Western with mutants, this was the perfect send-off to Hugh Jackman’s most famous role in his entire career since playing him since Bryan Singer’s original from 20 years ago. I think we’re all on an agreement that he should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination, right?
After the release of that perfect trailer, it set the tone in spades with a serious installment that would differ from the rest, even with its brutal R-rating. We’re seeing Logan becoming an old man on the edge of dying taking care of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart in his best portrayal yet) and also protecting this young mutant X-23 (a true breakout in Dafne Keen). Exploring this almost father/ daughter relationship between the two was an unexpected addition of the film. Logan says a lot about life and just letting hope not give up on us. But it has an ending that gets me every time I think about it.
1) ‘Avengers: Endgame‘ (2019)
Everything was leading to this. Honestly, was there any other movie that could take the top spot? I don’t think so. I have already said everything about what I said about Avengers: Endgame in my favorite movies of the decade and my list of the best movies of 2019. Unforgettable. When you can pull off a film that’s a culmination of 22 freakin’ movies and 11 years of stories into a three-hour film involving nearly every Marvel character put to screen, time travel, and a third act battle that will live on as a masterpiece, it’s cinema at its finest. Many of us didn’t know what to expect when Thanos’ conquered all the Infinity Stones and wiped out half of humanity after Avengers: Infinity War. The ones who were left have felt lost without knowing what to do next. It’s this heist that leads to the unexpected and gives our heroes a chance to make things right again. Five movies on here made me tear up at least once, here, I legit cried three times upon each re-watch.
The Russo Brothers had to take some risks that were surprising for long time audiences, and it made us care personally about these characters since its inception. If you think back ten years ago, you never something like this would ever come true. I will never have the same reaction when again when all the portals were opening up to see that those who turned to dust have returned with Alan Silvestri’s rising score accompanying it. When Captain America finally uttered those two words, “Avengers! Assemble,” before charging to Thanos’ humongous army, I can only describe it only as epic.
A bunch of fan service? Sure, but was it needed? In every right. Who cares if all the female characters fight together felt forced; I was happy it finally came true. Of course, the MCU will continue years later until they run out of heroes to bring to the big screen, but nothing else can beat Avengers: Endgame as the greatest installment from the MCU. Everything about the performances, the action, the emotions, the humor, and the way it concludes from fan favorites, I’m serious when calling this the best comic book movie of the 2010s.