With The Batman marking the ninth live-action Caped Crusader and Thor: Love and Thunder set to be the 29th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s safe to say that there have been a lot of quality superhero films released by Hollywood in the past few decades. Not all of them have landed the same acclaim but the majority are actually strong.
Out of the few hundred superhero films that have been released from before TV to the present day, these have landed the top spots on IMDb with a combination of high ratings and a city’s worth of votes in their favor.
10 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – 8.0
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Beating out Deadpool by only a 100,000 votes, the also-comedic 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy nets the tenth spot – coincidentally, it’s also the tenth film in the MCU. It’s almost hard to believe it takes place in the same universe as the other 2014 MCU film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, considering how realistic and serious that espionage-thriller is.
In fact, the superhero genre as a whole seemed to be teetering toward grim and gritty at the time, yet Guardians showed how well a comedy superhero film that wasn’t a genre parody could do. It arguably helped pave the way for Deadpool to exist, although plenty of other factors went into that.
9 The Avengers (2012) – 8.0
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The 2012 movie that proved how incredibly successful a connected film universe could be, The Avengers released to massive fanfare, acclaim, and box-office success upon release, ultimately becoming the highest-grossing film of the year and, at the time, the third-highest of all time.
With character dynamics that highlighted each hero’s unique attributes and quotes iconic a decade later, The Avengers managed to get audiences around the world to fall in love with the team. Although it sets up the wider universe of the Infinity Saga, it’s also a really enjoyable rewatch on its own, because the creators couldn’t assume the audience’s MCU familiarity as they can today.
8 Logan (2017) – 8.1
Stream On FXNow & Freevee
What does it mean for a legend to die? Most mainstream superhero franchises, following the comics’ lead, won’t let their universe end. Maybe some characters can die, and a few of those may not get resurrected, but the universe, and the brand, live on. That’s not the case for Logan.
As the finale for the original X-Men actor Hugh Jackman (and originally Patrick Stewart, as well), Logan takes the superhero fantasy of invincibility and looks at what happens when that fantasy ends and reality kicks in, bringing violence and death into a world finished with heroes. Superhero films still dominate, but it’s hard to imagine them having a better swan song than this searing character drama.
7 Batman Begins (2005) – 8.2
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Although Batman appeared in Tim Burton’s universe before he began in Christopher Nolan’s, the origin story of Nolan’s Batman ultimately received more love from IMDb users than any entry in its predecessor series. Batman Begins reinvented Batman for an age where his threats fit with a post-9/11 world.
The film’s reinvention of Batman, however, also acted as a reinvention of the entire superhero genre, with Iron Man (and therefore the MCU as a whole) and Man of Steel taking influence from it in terms of telling a character’s origin story and creating a grounded world. Aside from its influence, though, it remains a compelling, tightly-told story about Batman and his relationship with Gotham City.
6 Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) – 8.3
Rent On Apple TV
Not only one of the best films to gross $1 billion, No Way Home is the third in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man trilogy and was a great cap to (at least the first part of) the series. By bringing back the Maguire and Garfield generations of Spider-Man, and their films, the film became a celebration of two decades of the cinematic wall-crawler.
It was this celebration, and the fact that the legacy characters are integral to the story as opposed to simple gimmicks to get people into the seats, that brought Spider-Man: No Way Home such staying power at the box office, and in the hearts of audiences.
5 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – 8.4
Stream On FXNow
Of course, Spider-Man: No Way Home might never have happened had Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse not had such a strong impact on its own. Although the film remains the lowest-grossing Spider-Man film, Spider-Verse was beloved by viewers and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Coming out three years before the MCU would begin to explore the idea of a multiverse, it also showed that audiences were capable of not only accepting the idea of different Spider-people and different realities but that they could find it to be one of the greatest animated films of all time. That’s why it’s so hard to wait for Across the Spider-Verse, but worth it.
4 Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – 8.4
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2018’s Avengers: Infinity War was the build-up of over a decade’s worth of work across 17 MCU films, and it was anticipated like few movies before or since, with its first trailer racking up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube. Somehow, the film delivered on and even surpassed, those expectations.
Seeing all the major MCU players on the same screen was a monumentally exciting feeling, but crossover films are at their best when their novelty combines with great character work, and every actor brings their A-game, pun intended. When half the heroes turn to dust, it feels like a tragedy on the grandest of scales and set up one of the hardest obstacles for the second film in this two-part story.
3 Avengers: Endgame (2019) – 8.4
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The second half of Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame was a time travel, heist, and superhero film all rolled into one. Since half of Infinity War‘s cast was gone until the final battle, it also meant more time with the survivors, who happened to mostly be the MCU’s most veteran characters.
Half the universe turning to dust may have been tragic, but there was always the expectation that it would be reversed in Endgame, but the non-dust deaths in Endgame are irreversible. Witnessing Natasha and Tony sacrifice their lives to save the universe, and Steve Rogers finally getting his chance to retire and be happy, merited nothing less than tears from the audience.
2 The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – 8.4
Rent On Vudu
Just as the MCU was beginning to realize its full potential in 2012 with The Avengers, the Dark Knight trilogy gave audiences its finale later that summer with The Dark Knight Rises. Like Logan, it explores what happens when a hero’s journey comes to an end, but in this case, the ending results in Batman becoming deified as Gotham’s ultimate savior, a title he’s definitely earned.
Rises was never guaranteed to even be made, since Nolan approached each film invidivually, but IMDb is obviously grateful that he did. The only reason Rises could be considered a let-down is because of the astronomical expectations set by its predecessor film.
1 The Dark Knight (2008) – 9.0
Stream On HBO Max
What gives the Dark Knight trilogy the best IMDb average is not only due to the fact that all three films are in the top ten of all time for superhero films on IMDb, but that The Dark Knight itself is the 4th-highest-rated film period, across tens of thousands of titles. It’s no surprise it’s IMDb’s favorite superhero film.
The acclaim comes down to the story, which is really led by Heath Ledger’s Joker, as he and Batman are locked in a truly epic struggle for the soul of Gotham, to prove whose worldview is correct: order and decency, or chaos and destruction. It’s at the level of mythical, with resonance going back to the earliest written stories in history. It’s hard to imagine any superhero film beating its legacy.
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