Superheroes: fictional characters doing impossible things in implausible costumes. Why is society so fascinated by them? Of course, they inspire us, and reassure us, and certainly entertain us. They also provide a platform for story-telling that is epic in scale – often allowing for sweeping sci-fi or historical drama, alongside intimate tales of relationships and familial bonds. It is hardly surprising that the world of film adopts – and occasionally spawns – so many of these characters as its own.
The potential for these crusaders to draw in audiences has been explored and expanded further than anyone could have imagined back when ‘Superman And The Mole-Men’ became the first superhero movie to hit cinemas in 1951. Since then, filmmakers have continually mined the realms of comic books, graphic novels, animation, TV, and even conceived their own original superheroes, in search of that most elusive of achievements: A good superhero film.
So what is the secret ingredient? What separates a Green Lantern from a Dark Knight? Most would argue that it all comes down to the script – simultaneously embracing the full potential of the superhero story-scape, while adding something new and fresh. The truly great superhero films – those that naturally rise to the top – aren’t just entertaining and inspirational, however. They use the superhero genre to draw us in, and reflect both us and the times we live in. We recognise aspects of ourselves in the hero, the villain, the bystanders or the struggle itself, and that’s why we love them.
This is a debate that has echoed through the ages, and shall continue forever more. In the meantime, however, here are the Top 50 Superhero Films according to writers at We Got This Covered. In theatres, or straight to DVD – for distribution deals and box office receipts are no guarantee of quality – these are the cream of the feature-length crop.