Ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe started dominating the global box office, superheroes have become a safe bet. You may say you’ve grown tired of the genre, but it’s made important cultural advances over the years. They have become more inclusive when it comes to women and minorities, even if the safe basic formulas really haven’t been challenged. But this was nevertheless the year when a superhero movie received a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. And now we’re all waiting to see if Captain Marvel delivers.
Here are my genre favorites.
2008-U.S. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart.
“The film is a visual feast for those with a bleak mind; Gotham has never been a city one would like to spend a vacation, but the gothic look fits the brutality of the story. The action sequences are magnificent and fanboys will enjoy the new Batpod; the masculine style of the film is the same as in the original, militaristic and bombastic.”
1978-U.S. Directed by Richard Donner. Cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve.
“The tagline says it all about perhaps this blockbuster’s foremost allure – the visual effects that made Superman fly for real for the first time ever. That part of the film is rich and varied, featuring impressive work with models, matte paintings, wires and blue screen. The latter half of the story almost turns into one of the era’s popular disaster movies, but still maintains its tension and creativity.”
2016-U.S. Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson.
“The filmmakers expertly blend action with an intelligent story. It may be an unwieldy spectacle, but it’s still well balanced. And its set-up for future chapters whets one’s appetite. Like a well-honed soap opera, this cinematic universe knows how to keep us coming back for more.”
2005-U.S. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson.
“One of the darkest, most depressing comic book superheroes ever fashioned deserved a movie that is equally nightmarish. Who could have guessed that Christopher Nolan would be better at this than Tim Burton himself?”
2012-U.S. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway.
“The running time tries our patience (as well as a few frustrating logical gaps in the story), but Nolan keeps us busy with oddly endearing visuals of a gritty Gotham and a final hour that amps up tension in many ways as everybody in this large cast finds useful purposes. Superior performances all around.”
2004-U.S. Directed by Sam Raimi. Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco.
“Screenwriter Alvin Sargent makes sure we get a good idea of Peter Parker’s inner turmoil; we get to ponder if doing the right thing always is the right thing. Maguire is a lot of fun as Peter, always the direct opposite of his smooth, tough alter ego.”
2018-U.S. Directed by Ryan Coogler. Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o.
“Appealingly photographed adventure in 3D that is consistently entertaining and colorful, with great action and a final showdown between hero and antagonist that doesn’t have us looking at our watches; their battle is emotional. The technical details are topnotch, creating the look and style of Wakanda and its people and place in Africa.”
2004-U.S. Directed by Brad Bird. Voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson.
” It’s obvious that Brad Bird has put a lot of love and labor into this project, not only when it comes to designing superheroes and their strengths and weaknesses, but also creating a family that sticks together through thick and thin. Watching the constant collisions between trying to raise kids and stopping evil from taking over the world is great fun.”
2012-U.S. Directed by Joss Whedon. Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo.
“Assembling a cast like this, that not only consists of huge stars but also has them playing some of the greatest creatures in the comic-book universe, and make it work rather seamlessly is something one should marvel at.”
1989-U.S. Directed by Tim Burton. Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger.
“It’s nice to see Burton finish the movie in a way that is typical of him, with two freaks battling it out high up in a Gothic cathedral. This was his first multi-million dollar blockbuster, but Tim Burton stayed true to his style.”
2002-U.S. Directed by Sam Raimi. Cast: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst.
“Eventually, the rights were secured by Columbia and Sam Raimi was hired to direct the movie. He was after all the guy who made the superhero flick Darkman (1990) reasonably entertaining and he had more recently shown maturity to match his sense of humor and pace. Oh yes, he was definitely the man to make Spidey come alive on a big screen.”
2017-U.S. Directed by Taika Waititi. Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett.
“A completely bonkers Marvel film in 3D, the funniest one to date, with great tongue-in-cheek performances by Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and especially Jeff Goldblum as the most Goldblum-esque of supervillains.”