Ryan Smythe ‘15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
First, the ground rules. This is tricky territory to be navigating, with more emotions tied into these characters than have ever been felt by Michael Bay. Some of these relationships have existed before the Superhero boom in the early ‘00s, but 2008 marked the true mainstream-ification of superhero love and, with the sole exception of Batman, Marvel rules the hearts of the world.
Rule 1: This list will encompass all Marvel movies, whether or not they are produced by Marvel Studios/Disney. Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights to all of their characters, but they are all still Marvel characters. Also, Stan Lee graced many of these movies with his presence, so who are we to argue with the master?
Rule 2: Only one movie per franchise. Nearly all of the superhero movies in existence are part of a series. Whether or not that is indicative of Hollywood’s lack of creativity, or a cash grab, or blah blah blah, each movie in the series is about the same main character, and will be treated accordingly. That being said, reboots will be counted as separate series, so a character still has the chance to make the list twice.
Rule 3: No references to Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, or X-Men Origins: Wolverine will be made from here on out. There are other puke-worthy Marvel movies out there, but these are the holy triumvirate of bad. They existed within better franchises, and could have been so much more. The jokes about them are old, tired, and shall not sully their betters on this list.
10. The Incredible Hulk
Poor Edward Norton. He could have been part of the greatest cinematic event in history and instead, for whatever reason, never made it past the first movie. Despite being inferior to Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the Hulk, Norton brought one beast of a movie to the screen. The film had drama, a love interest, action, and superpowers so intense that they could only be described as punching things really, really hard. This is the quintessential formula for any superhero movie, and it checked everything off the list. Unfortunately, it hit theaters a month and a half after a different Marvel movie with similar plot structure and much more interesting enemies.
9. Thor: The Dark World
It was a toss-up between this movie and its predecessor, but ultimately won out due to one of the single best fight scenes ever filmed. For clarification, it’s the climactic portal-jumping battle between Christopher Eccleston and Chris Hemsworth, not the slap delivered by Natalie Portman to Tom Hiddleston’s face. As woefully terrible as the women were in this movie, the action was fantastically choreographed and shot, covering up for enough of the writing flaws to make this list.
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Bring in the stars of the previous cast, let Bryan Singer dropkick all mistakes made by worse directors out the window, and make the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr deep enough that James Cameron wants to take a submarine to its bottom? Sounds like a formula for success. Throw in Oscar award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and a scene that utilizes slow motion better than any other movie including 300 and The Matrix, and what’s left is hatred towards Fox for allowing anyone else to direct an X-Men movie. But Singer is back and ready to compete head-to-head with Joss Whedon.
7. Men in Black
Based on a comic owned by Marvel and taking place in the height of Will Smith’s career, Tommy Lee Jones steals the show. Besides its creativity in both world and character design, the relationship between the cheeky Smith and brick wall Jones is more than entertaining enough to carry even a mediocre movie. Luckily for the two stars, it’s not a mediocre movie and remains one of the best alien movies to date, despite not being one of the best series.
6. Spider-Man 2
Sorry Tobey Maguire, but Andrew Garfield is a better Spider-Man than you. And Kirsten Dunst, Emma Stone kicks your ass as the love interest. But James Franco’s Harry Osborn shows every sign of living up to the madman potential his father gave him, and Alfred Molina matches the Green Goblin crazy for crazy, tentacle for pumpkin bomb. It only took Maguire to not completely screw up for this movie to become a classic, and he did just that.
Also based on a Marvel-owned comic outside of the core universe, Kick-Ass shows exactly how an R-rated superhero movie should be laid out. It’s brutal, Nic Cage’s mustache is beautiful, and Chloë Grace Moretz is the perfect badass. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays the nerdy teen-turned-superhero better than anyone else, and along with fantastic directing, cinematography, music, and supporting cast, creates a wonderful movie. Hopefully more superhero movies will follow in its R-rated path, as long as they aren’t Kick-Ass 2 again.
4. Iron Man
Genesis. The birth of the most powerful movie franchise in existence, and the beginning of Disney’s desire to purchase Marvel. Robert Downey Jr. could have been given an Easy Bake Oven and could have pulled off a blockbuster, but he was given the single coolest set of armor and a goatee. It was checkmate on DC before the title screen came on, just no one knew it yet. Smartly coming out well before The Dark Knight, it garnered all media attention without even a hint of competition. When the inevitable documentary about the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes out in the future, Iron Man will be at its core, both for being an amazing movie and the explosion that consumed the world in superheroes.
This was the spark that set off that explosion. X-Men was the first spark to fly, Spider-Man was the second, but X2 was the one that finally caught flame. Partially because its franchise had a full two-year head start on Spidey’s, partially because Hugh Jackman became a cultural icon, and partially because Bryan Singer is a wizard, this movie showed the sustaining power that a superhero franchise could have on screen. If this movie flopped, there would be no Avengers, no Iron Man, and maybe no continuation of Spider-Man. And, like in Days of Future Past, a single scene won the movie, this time starring Nightcrawler.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Instead of letting Peggy Carter die and letting everyone move on in peace, the director and writers decide to break the audience’s hearts. Instead of letting Cap fight head-to-head with the Winter Soldier, the director and writers give him the two best non-powered allies in Black Widow and the Falcon (who will become Captain America very shortly in the comics, and possibly the movies). Instead of using a throwaway villain, the director and writers drop a bomb to create even more bridges and set up future movies. That is the takeaway from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It should have been an incredibly simple movie to create, without much fuss because who cares? It’s a Marvel movie and will make a stupid amount of money. Instead, audiences received an incredible movie that lets everyone simultaneously root for the hero in the moment and dream about what will happen to his character in the future.
1. The Avengers
Is anyone surprised?