Moviegoers in recent years have seen theaters dominated by an ever-popular wave of superhero movies. The many films produced by Marvel and DC made for some of the most highly anticipated cinematic events of the 2010s.
While not all of these movies were critical or commercial darlings, there were still plenty of superhero projects that stood above the rest as creative and thrilling adventures that helped make the genre what it is today. Superhero fatigue may be finally setting in, but these 10 films haven’t lost their ability to excite and move their many fans.
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
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In their breakout debut in superhero cinema, directors Anthony and Joe Russo reinvigorated Captain America’s story by pitting him against the very government he fights for in this outstanding spy thriller. After learning Hydra has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., Cap goes on the run with Black Widow and is forced to face his best friend, Bucky, who is now Hydra’s titular brainwashed assassin.
Though this film places Cap in the modern world, it takes a refreshing approach to filmmaking by presenting more hardcore, but practical action scenes, with the famous elevator fight being the high point.
9. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
After one of their missions causes an international tragedy, the Avengers are split in half as they are pressured to have their actions limited by the government, all while Captain America uncovers a conspiracy to tear them all apart.
Though Cap and his allies once again find themselves fleeing from the authorities, Civil War brings together Avengers old and new, including Black Panther and Spider-Man, to meet each other in a superpowered battle for the ages. As friends and allies clash in a raw and emotional bout of ideals, this film proves that the greatest threat the Avengers ever faced is themselves.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy (2013)
Even after The Avengers broke new ground for the superhero genre, Guardians of the Galaxy came in and pushed the boundaries of what comic book movies could do. Many people, including the film’s own cast, thought that this would be the MCU’s first box-office bomb, but theaters instead blew up with hilarity and excitement over this new team of misfits and their truly awesome mix.
Director James Gunn proved all the naysayers wrong by taking a group of unknown characters, including a talking tree and a gunslinging raccoon, and made them one of Marvel’s most beloved bands of heroes thanks to an endearing story, spectacular visuals, and plenty of laughs to go around.
7. Wonder Woman (2017)
Though the DC Extended Universe experienced many disappointments with the likes of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman swooped in and defied all the odds and became a groundbreaking success in many ways.
As the first comic book movie helmed by a female director, Wonder Woman features a revolutionary depiction of the titular hero that set a high standard for how women are portrayed in the superhero genre. Illustrating her fight for peace and love during World War I, this Amazon warrior’s origin story is an endearing, thoughtful, and action-packed adventure that has everything audiences could want in a comic book film.
6. Logan (2017)
Left to die in a world without mutants, an ailing Logan encounters a young girl with the same powers as him and helps her seek asylum from her former captors. As Hugh Jackman’s swan song from Fox’s X-Men universe, this film held nothing back in displaying the brutality of Logan’s postapocalyptic world and the tragedy that has befallen him and his loved ones.
Logan plays differently than most comic book films, capturing the essence of classic noir and Western films to give the titular superhero a somber but fitting farewell.
5. The Avengers (2012)
Before this film came along, a superhero crossover film of its scale and ambition seemed close to impossible. But Marvel Studios defied expectations to bring forth one of the most influential blockbusters ever made.
In their first movie together, the Avengers gather to save Earth from the evil god Loki and his army of alien Chitauri, battling them all in New York in a series of quips and explosions. Though certain aspects of this film may not hold up today, for better or worse, The Avengers changed modern cinema and laid the groundwork for superhero films to dominate theaters in the last decade.
4. Black Panther (2018)
Thanks to a spectacular effort by Marvel Studios and director Ryan Coogler, Black Panther proved to the world that African stories with a predominantly Black cast could become blockbuster hits. This film took audiences to the African nation of Wakanda, where its people live free and prosperous lives, and its leaders overcome oppression. At the same time, Wakanda is the setting of civil conflict, as King T’Challa must face off against his cousin Killmonger and other challengers for the throne while debating whether or not he should share his nation’s resources with the rest of the world.
This was the superhero film Black audiences dreamed of, and by bringing African culture and relevant issues regarding race and colonialism to the forefront, Marvel spurred a cinematic and cultural revolution with a long-lasting impact.
3. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Everything was building to this. Avengers: Infinity War saw Thanos finally rear his head and seek out all six Infinity Stones himself. For a film set in the MCU, Infinity War features an exceptionally dark story with incredible stakes, as Thanos and his legions slaughter their way across the cosmos and kill many of audiences’ favorite characters in the pursuit of infinite power.
Despite this, the evil Titan set a high standard for villains in cinema by being a layered and sympathetic figure, as he believes he is saving an overpopulated universe from destruction by wiping out half of all life. No matter how many fans saw it coming, none of them were prepared for the horror of Thanos’ victory.
2. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
This blockbuster truly lived up to the hype created by Infinity War. To undo all the damage Thanos did with his dreaded Snap, the Avengers travel back in time to recover the Infinity Stones and bring back everyone who was erased from existence.
As the culmination of the Infinity Saga, Endgame shows the Avengers revisiting many of the MCU’s greatest moments and exploring what made it such a beloved film franchise in the first place. However, the movie’s real highlight comes in its outstanding third act, which pit all of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes against Thanos and his army in a glorious final battle that left audiences around the world cheering in theaters.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
As great as Across The Spider-Verse is, the original still remains the better film. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse serves as a love letter to the web-slinger’s classic comics, deconstructing many classic tropes and fully embracing the silliness of its source material. At the same time, the film injects enough heart and drama into the story to be taken seriously.
Likewise, the film’s groundbreaking animation truly makes the picture look like a comic book brought to life, and it has been an inspiration for the looks of many animated films since its release. Much like Miles in this film, Into the Spider-Verse went from being an underdog to one of the greatest game-changers in superhero cinema.