Two blog relays in a matter of weeks? Yep. This time around the topic at hand is superhero movies, which is only fitting seeing as it was created by Lambcast-regular and host of the FilmWhys podcast (upon which I’ve appeared no less than three times so far) Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights and Movie Nights. The aim of this quest is to determine the best 10 superhero movies of all time. Here are the rules, as defined on Bubbawheat’s original post:
1. The list of movies will be passed to another blogger who will post their list within a week.
2. The blogger will take their list, remove 3 movies – with explanations, and replace with 3 new movies – with explanations.
3. If a movie lasts five rounds without being removed, it is locked into place.
4. If a movie is removed three different times, it is locked out and can no longer be chosen by someone else.
5. Once four movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 2 movies.
6. Once eight movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 1 movie.
7. Once all ten movies are locked into place, the relay will be complete.
So far, Bubbawheat started the mission with The Avengers, Batman Returns, The Dark Knight, Hellboy 2, The Incredibles, Iron Man, Spider-Man 2, Superman, X-Men, Unbreakable, Batman: Under the Red Hood & Blade 2.
He then passed it on to Andrew from A Fistful of Films, who removed Batman: Under the Red Hood, X-Men and Hellboy 2 and added Chronicle, Mystery Men and The Rocketeer.
Next up was Ruth from FlixChatter, who removed Blade 2, Chronicle and Mystery Men, and added Batman Begins, X-Men 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The baton was then passed to Terrence from The Focused Filmographer, who removed The Incredibles, Batman Returns and X-Men 2, before adding Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, V For Vendetta and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Terrence, bless him, then handed the challenge on to me, and as the 5th person to take part in this mission, I get the first chance to “lock in” any movies that everyone else has already OK’d. As long as I leave The Avengers, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Spider-Man 2, Superman and Unbreakable in, they all become permanent fixtures on this list, forever. As they say, with great power comes great responsibility. This does, however, make my job a little more difficult. You see, there are two films on the list I’ve been handed that I haven’t seen, so technically I should be kicking them out, as I can’t justify including them. The Rocketeer and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm have thus far eluded me. There are also two very new movies here, which I don’t think have had enough time to leave their impact upon society, and are therefore unworthy of inclusion, those movies being Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. I have a personal rule that a film cannot be deemed the greatest anything until it has been out for at least a year, and I’ve seen it more than once outside of a theatre. My final predicament is that, as I said, I’ve got the opportunity to cement up to 6 of these movies in place, but one of them I don’t feel very strongly about, and thus I cannot bring myself to be the one responsible for locking it in. Ideally I’d actually like to swap out 6 movies, but the rules state three, so here we go:
The Dark Knight
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Batman: Mask of the Phatasm
V For Vendetta
Guardians of the Galaxy
Who I’m Removing:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
When I started writing this post I hadn’t actually seen this film, and was removing it on the grounds of my lack of viewing, as well as it being too recent to be worthy of inclusion. However, I watched it earlier today, and now I can definitely stand behind my reasoning to remove it. It’s not a bad movie, far from it in fact, but it’s not exactly a great one either. I’m not going to properly go into my reasonings now, as I’ll be posting a review shortly, seeing as the film has ended up on one of the lists I’m going through.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
This was pretty much a coin toss. I had to get rid of either Batman: Mask of the Phantasm or The Rocketeer, because I’ve seen neither. So, to decide, I looked at which one I want to see more, and going by the cast alone I have to pick The Rocketeer, so by the process of elimination Mask of the Phantasm has to be removed. Also, I’ve never actually seen an animated classic superhero movie, so I have a weird and entirely unfounded kind of prejudice against them.
The one I might get some stick for. I caught up with Superman for the first time last year, and whilst I enjoyed it I didn’t love it. This could be derived from me not exactly being a fan of the character, which wasn’t helped by Superman Returns or Man of Steel, so as I said earlier, whilst I don’t have any issues with it being regarded amongst the Top 10, I don’t feel right about being the guy responsible for locking it in place. No hard feelings?
Speaking of locking movies in place, here are the five films that, from now on, must stay in the list:
OK, first off it’s actually called Avengers Assemble, or at least it is in the UK, to avoid confusion with that terrible Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman travesty from the 90s. Now we’ve got that sorted, why is this so often deemed the greatest superhero movie by so many people, and why is it worthy of this list? Firstly it’s tremendous fun, it’s also got great action, and managed to bring together all the previous relevant movies to create one magnificent whole that gave each character enough screen time and plenty to actually get on with, without feeling bloated and overlong.
The Dark Knight
Another contender for the greatest superhero movie slot is the middle film of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which eschewed the more fantastical, otherworldly elements of most superhero films for gritty realism and mostly plausible plots. Much has been made over the years of Heath Ledger’s now iconic performance as the Joker, but he’s ably assisted by a terrific supporting cast including Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhall, Gary Oldman, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Cillian Murphy, Michael Jai White and of course William Fichtner. Not forgetting Christian Bale as Batman too, he crops up in there now and again. This still remains the only film I’ve ever seen in Imax – and on opening night at that – and I’ve gone back to it many times since. Just a shame that part three in the trilogy was such a disappointment.
Another middle film from a trilogy, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 corrected the mistakes of its predecessor, and made leaps and bounds of improvements by way of an excellent villain (Alfred Molina is wonderful as Dr. Otto Octavius), some stellar action, particularly the train sequence, and one of those rare occasions where neither Tobey Maguire nor Kirsten Dunst annoy me intensely.
And here we are with my personal favourite superhero film, and possibly the one I’ve also seen the most times, because Film4 seem to show it every other week and twice on Sundays. It’s easily the best origin story I know of, and is the crowning pinnacle of the second act to Robert Downey Jr’s career. His casting is inspired – I can’t think of anyone else that could possibly be even close to his performance, and it’s also worth noting that without Iron Man we’d never have The Avengers, or at least, we wouldn’t have the many set-up movies, and it wouldn’t be half as good as it is.
To be honest, I’m a little surprised that M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable is amongst the first films to be locked in. When superhero movies are discussed it rarely comes up, possibly because it breaks from the mould by being nothing but origin story, with the film ending just as Bruce Willis’ hero discovers his foe. It’s a very, very dark and gritty film, with the only supernatural element being the exceedingly low-key powers Willis has. Also, Samuel L. Jackson’s Glass Man villain is perfect. It’s perhaps the best superhero film to watch several times, as more is revealed on multiple viewings. I’d probably still include it amongst my top 10 though.
Who Else Remains:
I mentioned Iron Man is probably the best superhero origin story, well Batman Begins comes in at a very close second, for many of the same reasons as The Dark Knight, but alas it lacks in such an enigmatic villain. The combined forces of Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy and Tom Wilkinson are not inconsiderable, but neither are they as supremely iconic as Ledger’s Joker.
Like I’ve said, I haven’t seen The Rocketeer. However, I’d recently heard a fair amount about it, so I would quite like to see it some day. It appears to have a low-tech, almost cheesy charm to it. I’m slightly concerned that if it makes it through another round it too will be cemented in permanently, but that’s a risk I must take.
V For Vendetta
I do not expect V For Vendetta to suffer such a fate. I have nothing against the film, and by all rights I don’t think it should be included on this list because it’s not so much a superhero film as it is just based on a graphic novel, and if we’re allowing that then where the heck is Sin City? Vendetta is a good movie, specifically for Hugo Weaving’s impressive performance, permanently behind his mask. The V-filled speech he gives to the fingermen is one of my favourites.
Guardians of the Galaxy
I feel wrong for letting this slide by, it goes against everything I stand for. Yes, it’s amongst my top 5 films of the year so far, probably in the top 3, and I imagine it will remain fairly high up come the end of 2014, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it was only released less than a month ago. How can it possibly be deemed one of the greatest superhero movies if it’s only been in our collective consciousness for less than 5 weeks? That being said, it’s a thoroughly awesome movie that is a great deal of fun. I want a Groot.
Here are the three films I’m adding to the ranks:
I’ve got a bone to pick with Terrence. He removed The Incredibles from the list, thereby denying me the chance to lock it in with the others. This bothers me because it not only makes my top 12 superhero films, but my top 4, because it’s wonderful. Damn you Terrence. Damn you.
I’m genuinely surprised it’s taken this long for Zack Snyder’s Watchmen to be even mentioned with regards to this list. As superhero films go it’s epic in scope, covering decades of time in a revisionist history wherein wannabe-superheroes (plus an anatomically altered omnipotent Dr. Manhattan) have played a large part in major events, and now face a new threat to humanity. There’s so much going on in this film which is so rich with characters – Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach, for example, or Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s The Comedian. Surely this is worthy of consideration based upon the opening title sequence alone.
Another film Terrence removed, but one I feel less strongly about than The Incredibles. As much as I think this is a great film, easily the best X-Men movie so far, it had some stiff competition. First Class and Days of Future Past are both worthy list contenders as well, as are the likes of Hellboy 2 and Mystery Men, and I know some people didn’t like it too much, but I still consider Iron Man 3 to be one of the best films from last year, and would easily make my top 10. However, that would have been a film thrown away, as I highly doubt it would survive the next round.
So, the rules change for the next contender. With more than four films locked in, now only two can be subbed out at a time. I’m going to hand this over to the guys at Simplistic Reviews, so DJ Valentine, Matt Stewart and Justin Polizzi go put your collective heads together, you have one week!
Here is the list, as it stands:
The Dark Knight
V For Vendetta
Guardians of the Galaxy
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Woah, I’m kinda surprised that 5 films are already locked in, but I guess it makes sense that it’s those ones. The most unexpected is Unbreakable but I suppose it works so well because it’s outside the box for the genre.
I just noticed Sam Jackson appears in 4 of these too.
I’m not surprised 5 are locked in already. With pretty much any genre there will be a few films widely regarded as “the best,” so they will be kept in my almost everyone. In fact, if Terrence hadn’t gone insane and knocked out The Incredibles and I wasn’t so stuck up about Superman there’d be seven locked in by now!
Also, I don’t think you can count Sam Jackson’s roles in Iron Man and the Avengers as being two separate ones. That’s like saying Gary Oldman is in two because he’s in Dark Knight and Batman Begins.
Ahh, great blogathan! Wish I had heard about this sooner, cuz I certainly would have loved to have joined in. I’m pretty happy with the locked-in films – Spiderman 2, Dark Knight, and The Avengers all being favorites of mine and ones I would consider worthy of the list. I really enjoyed Iron Man as well, and am glad it got locked in. I actually haven’t seen Unbreakable, but now I want to after seeing posts about this blogathan. Personally, Batman Begins is also one of my favorites, and I’m hoping it gets locked in soon! 😀 I liked that you added in both The Incredibles and X-Men 2, although I may be biased towards X-Men: First Class. I’m also with you in that I don’t think a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy can be considered one of the best if it hasn’t even been out for half a year yet. Great additions!
Thanks Kristin. If you pester the people that get tagged in the blog relay, you might have a shot at being a part of this one!
Haha, hmm . . . perhaps I should pester some people then! 😉
Cool removals. I agree wholeheartedly on Phantasm and Winter Soldier. The former, I personally don’t think is even the best animated Batman flick (I prefer Under the Red Hood). And I’d go with Batman Begins or Burton’s ’89 Batman over either. I also share your reasoning on The Winter Soldier, just too new. I’m on the fence about removing Superman, though. Mostly because I’m just not as high on Watchmen as most seem to be. Love your other two inclusions, though. Man, I hope I get to play this game. Good work.
I can’t really comment on Burton’s Batman as although I’ve technically seen it once, I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happens in it. Batman Begins is great though. I hear good things about Under the Red Hood, I’ve just never tracked it down and watched it yet. I hope you get a shot at taking part too.
Thanks for taking part! I had a strong feeling when this was passed to you that you would be removing Superman: The Movie. It’s one of those movies that you really have to have that connection to in order to keep enough reverence for it. I also had a strong feeling that you would bring back the Incredibles, I almost wanted to tweak the rules so that the Incredibles would have a leg up since it made it four in a row before being knocked back down to one, but I’m pretty sure it will make the final list down the road, at least I hope so. I’m also with you on leaving off the newcomers. I know it feels like they’re the best superhero movies of all time right now, but will they feel that way 2 years down the line? 3? Maybe. Maybe not.
I would suggest that you check out Mask of the Phantasm at some point down the road, it’s fairly short and pretty good, though I agree with Wendell that Red Hood is a better version of a similar story. I also wanted to mention as a quick tangent that I believe I did actually see both Avengers in theaters and I don’t think there’s any risk of confusing the two.
I’d probably predict that in a few years Guardians of the Galaxy will still be thought well of, maybe even enough to be worthy of this list, but I don’t think the same of The Winter Soldier.
Do you think there’s a chance Sean Connery and his weather machine could end up being the big villain in Avengers 3?