Iron ManAs the first real building block of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man is a hugely important film and a game-changing comic book movie for many reasons.
For one, it re-introduced the world to Robert Downey Jr., who is an absolute revelation as Tony Stark. He owns every single scene and is a pleasure to watch.
More than that though, Iron Man also completely changed the way that people looked at comic book movies, giving us a more playful and mainstream ride that appealed to both the hardcore fans and those who were unfamiliar with the character before walking into the theatre.
Guardians of the GalaxyAside from taking comic book movies into the cosmic realm, Guardians of the Galaxy is a game changer for the genre since it showed us that even the most unknown and risky properties could become huge box office and critical successes.
Thanks to director James Gunn, who packed the film to the brim with visual splendor, inventiveness and some of the most loveable characters ever to grace the screen in a comic book movie, Guardians of the Galaxy changed the game and set a new bar for the genre going forward.
We are Groot, indeed.
The AvengersThe first of what will surely be many superhero team-up films, The Avengers paved the way for all kinds of crossovers and mashups within the genre.
Joss Whedon's deft handling of the larger than life superheroes meant that what many people thought to be impossible had actually been pulled off rather remarkably, proving that the concept of a shared, cinematic universe could indeed be done in Hollywood.
Captain America: The Winter SoldierWhile Captain America: The Winter Soldier was more of a game changer for Marvel than the genre as a whole, it still represented an exciting step forward for comic book movies.
While it packed some seriously exciting action set pieces, the film played out more like a political thriller, which is something we hadn't really seen in the genre before.
It was fresh, layered, intriguing and thought-provoking, adjectives you don't usually lobby at a comic book movie, and adjectives that proved the genre doesn't have to rely on huge explosions and larger than life set pieces to capture an audience's attention.
The Dark KnightArguably the greatest comic book movie of all-time, The Dark Knight is an absolute masterpiece and a game changing film because it showed us that comic book movies could transcend genres.
The Dark Knight is a complex thriller, a gripping crime saga and an intelligent, stylish and technically brilliant summer blockbuster, all bundled into one endlessly satisfying package.
Up until this point, comic book movies had been mostly campy, light-hearted romps, but The Dark Knight changed all that, showing us just how down and dirty superheroes could get.
Spider-Man 2An early example of how to do a comic book movie right, Spider-Man 2 was more of a game starter than a game changer, but it was still a key component in turning the genre into what it is today.
With a fantastic villain in Doc Ock, equal parts intelligence and emotion and improvements upon its predecessor in almost every way, Spider-Man 2 set the gold standard for comic book movies upon release and paved the way for much of what we see today.
It was influential, perfectly executed and just a damn fine film.
Batman BeginsWhile The Dark Knight Rises took the whole "dark and gritty superhero" theme and really ran with it, it was Batman Begins where we were first introduced to the concept.
Never before had we seen such a grounded and dark superhero tale, as previous entries into the genre were played out more campy and comic-y. With Batman Begins, however, Nolan turned the genre on its head, opening up a whole new road of possibilities for future comic book movie directors to head down.
Watchmen: The Ultimate CutAn intelligent, complex, bold and layered plot, coupled with visually striking imagery turned Watchmen into a rather impressive effort, despite its flaws.
While The Ultimate Cut of the film is the best version, and fixes a lot of Snyder's errors, Watchmen stands out as not only a great comic book movie, but one that changed the game, because it went far beyond our expectations for what the genre could give us.
Up to that point, and perhaps this statement still holds true, there had never been another comic book movie quite like Watchmen. It was a comic book movie strictly for adults only, and one that was packed so full of substance that subsequent viewings were absolutely necessary to digest everything.
BatmanWhile Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is now the gold standard not only when it comes to Batman, but comic book movies in general, Tim Burton's 1989 take on the pop culture icon should not be forgotten. Nor should its impact on the genre, and Hollywood as a whole be overlooked.
From its astonishing (at that time) $411 million box office take to Nicholson's massively influential portrayal of The Joker, and from Tim Burton's risky move to stray from the source material to the whole way the film was marketed/promoted, there wasn't very much that was "status quo" about 1989's Batman.
Say what you want about it, but there's no doubt that it laid the groundwork not only for the comic book movies we have today, but for almost all blockbusters in Hollywood.