In the past decade, we’ve seen a meteoric rise in popularity of comic book movies. Especially thanks to the success of films like The Dark Knight Trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan and that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Since it’s December and there’s no announcement of any other films of the genre being produced before the year’s end, let’s take some time and rank the top ten comic book movies of the past decade starting from 2010 all the way to 2019.
10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Dark Knight Rises is the final movie of the critically acclaimed Christopher Nolan directed Dark Knight Trilogy about DC’s caped crusader, Batman. This movie has Batman (played by Christian Bale) face off against one of his most famous villains, Bane (played by Tom Hardy.) The movie borrows inspiration from three different Batman story-lines, Batman: Knightfall, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman: No Man’s Land. In this film Batman deals with the consequences caused by his nemesis, Joker (played posthumously by Heath Ledger.) Eight years have passed since then, and organized crime is a thing of the past because of the Dent Act giving the police more power. However, this peace is disrupted by the sudden appearance of Bane who plans to destroy Gotham and the rest of the world.
9. Wonder Woman (2017)
Although not the first ever female-led comic book movie, Wonder Woman was the movie and hero that we needed in this era dominated by blockbusters and comic book movies. The movie is an origin story of one of DC’s most famous characters and arguably the most famous female superhero, Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot). The movie’s plot discusses her origins in Themyscira, the island of the Amazons, and her eventual departure from the island to try and protect the world during World War 1 from the threat of Ares the God of War. The movie was a critical and box office success that succeeded in proving that female-led superhero movies can be a success, potentially opening doors for more female directors and female-led blockbusters in the future. Despite brilliant performances and amazing sequences, the film’s final act holds it back. The film rushes to the finish and eventually devolves into a stereotypical fight against a giant CG Monster that is too dark to see well on screen. However, Wonder Woman’s final speech about fighting for love rather than hate is an empowering speech that anyone should take a chance to listen to.
8. Black Panther (2018)
In the past decade, there are few films that reached the magnitude of Black Panther. The movie was a cultural phenomenon that can only be found once every couple of years. Coincidentally, we got two films like this in back-to-back years, with Wonder Woman in 2017 and Black Panther in 2018. A nearly all black blockbuster/ comic book movie was exactly what was needed at the time, even if it wasn’t the first of its kind. Rolling off the success of the introduction of the character in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) returns in his first standalone film as the King of Wakanda where he faces the struggles of becoming a King before he believes that he’s ready. To make matter worse, T’Challa also faces the addition of a new external threat in the form of Killmonger (played by Michael B Jordan) that threatens to start an worldwide uprising due to his troubled past. The massive success of this film led to more doors being opened to more black superheroes and blockbuster movie leads as well as making Michael B Jordan and Chadwick Boseman superstars in Hollywood.
7. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War is the followup to the critically acclaimed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where members of the Avengers find themselves at odds with one another and with governments around the world because of their involvement and culpability in recent large scale threats. In this film, we are given an on-screen adaptation of the famous story-line of Marvel’s Civil War comic book. The movie’s crossover story-line has many of the characters and their story-lines interacting with people taking either the side of Captain America, who chooses to resist governments’ intervening with the heroes, or the side of Iron Man, who chooses to stand with those governments. The film follows a similar plot line; however, the inciting issue seems to be the the Sokovia Accords, a document that is signed by many countries of the UN demanding that the Avengers have all their actions be monitored and dictated by the UN.
6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
We finally reached the Endgame. All roads that we took led us to this movie. The third film MCU film that was directed by the Russo Brothers, solidified them as A-List Directors that could possibly do no wrong. After the smash hit of Infinity War and the big box office but weak critical response of Captain Marvel, we are given the final film in what is now called the Infinity Stone Saga. In Avengers: Endgame, The Avengers face off once again against the Big Bad of the Universe, Thanos. The film is huge, it’s loud, exciting, emotional, tense, and beautiful. It was a jaw-dropping spectacle that could only be fully felt after enjoying the journey that were the 22 films that preceded it. Disney and Marvel outdid themselves in this film by doing the impossible: making this dream of a large-scale universe of separate stories that eventually intersect a reality.
5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Now, I know that I just took time to drool over Endgame. However, I feel like the story of the Endgame is only as good as it is because the climax of the story was so groundbreaking and breathtaking. ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ fully introduced us to Thanos, the big bad that was hyped up for viewers of these movies since the first Avengers film. Endgame couldn’t be as powerful if it wasn’t for this film. In this film, the Avengers face their biggest threat, The Mad Tyrant Thanos whose goal is to collect all the Infinity Stones to help finally enact a plan. It also takes a step back and makes the main character of the film not the Avengers, but the villain Thanos. We follow him for most of the movie and learn what drives him to achieve his goal of acquiring all the stones. Portraying Thanos less as a Monster that just seeks destruction and more as a person that wants to help the Universe. A man with a noble cause however feels the ends justifies the means.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. This movie, while not as big as some of the other films on this list, was still financially successful and critically acclaimed. It was also the first film the Russo Brothers directed for the MCU. Winter Soldier takes the typical comic-book movie and spins it on its head, making it a political spy thriller. The film follows Captain America (played by Chris Evans) two years after being thawed out after being frozen for seventy years and helping stop Loki from taking over the world with the Tesseract, with him still trying to get acclimated to life in the 21st century. But things turn weird when someone attacks Nick Fury, nearly killing him. This new threat arrives: The Winter Soldier. The film is a fun and smart way to place the traditional Captain America character in a modern world. I recommend that everyone who loves comic book movies see it, because it’s shrouded in mystery, action and social commentary that’s timeless.
3. Joker (2019)
Joker is a creepy, tense and breathtaking movie that drives inspiration from films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. The movie is directed by Todd Phillips, who is known primarily for directing comedies such as the Hangover Trilogy. The film is an origin story for the most iconic comic book villain The Joker (played by Joaquin Phoenix) that takes us through the life of Arthur Fleck, a socially inept man that suffers with some psychological issues, that dreams of one day becoming a famous comedian in hopes to put a smile on everyone’s face. However, he lives in Gotham, a rough and tough city that resembles New York City in the 1980’s. The film is a combination of masterful acting from Phoenix, proving that he is clearly one of the best actors working today, and Todd Phillips who proves himself to be a multi-talented director in his own right. It’s a smart, dark and gritty film that is unafraid to take risks and play with expectations. I’d highly recommend it.
2. Logan (2017)
Logan is another one of those comic book movies that transcend the genre for its plot. It’s one of those films that say, ‘This is what a comic book story can be.’ Logan discusses topics that aren’t usually discussed in comic books, especially since comics are usually a medium only for children. But this film tackles topics like, old age, death, loss, mental issues, depression and stagnation. The film is shot and feels like an old western film even down to the Johnny Cash song, ‘Hurt’ as the main theme for the trailer. The movie is heavily inspired by the comic-book story-line of ‘Old Man Logan’ which is an alternate story-line that is about a world where all the heroes that we know aren’t exactly how they used to be. At the center of the story is Old Man Logan aka Wolverine. I should preface that this movie isn’t as powerful without seeing the previous X-Men and Wolverine movies that preceded it. However, I will argue that this movie still stands up on its own because of the timelessness of the story. This film was marketed as the last film that we will see Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Sir Patrick Stewart (Professor Charles Xavier) portraying their characters in the Fox X-Men Franchise. So when I saw it in theaters when I finished I couldn’t help but cry…. I mean sob, because it’s the end of an era because these actors have portrayed these roles for nearly 20 years.
1. Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse (2018)
Alright, let’s do this one last time. Let me end this list off with Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, an animated comic-book movie that’s the first ever appearance of Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), one of the newest additions to the Spidey Family. This film is the origin story of Miles Morales, a half Puerto Rican and half African American teen who becomes Spider-man in an alternate time-line to the one with Peter Parker that most people know. He’s bitten by a radioactive Spider and is just as riddled with insecurities, struggles and a knack for quips Parker is. Into the Spider-verse also introduces other members of the Spider family, such as Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, and Peni Parker: all alternate timeline Spider-Man incarnations. This film surprised everyone who saw it, because who would have thought that the best comic-book movie to come out since 2010, would be an animated film that featured a talking pig. I know that when the movie was announced and people saw the trailer, many thought it would be a good movie, but no one expected it to be as amazing as it was. It tackles topics such as taking risks, family life, and resiliency. Even discussing the idea that anyone can be great, that anyone can be spider-man. That reinforces the idea that greatness is something achievable as long as we work for it and aren’t afraid to take a leap of faith.
Featured image via ConsequenceofSound.net