Superhero movies are everywhere, and they’ve matured from the point they started at in the 70s with “Superman.” These movies are so varied and different that people can have wildly different opinions on which is best.
“Logan” is much different in tone and style than “Black Panther,” which is just as different as “Iron Man 3.” But there’s a certain baseline of objective quality to a movie that can’t be ignored because of personal preference. Some movies get highly praised at the time of release and never get reappraised, because if they did, their sheen would be lost.
Some movies break the mold and do new things and change the game so they get more praise than they truly deserve. Lot’s of reasons go into it, but some movies get too much praise. Honestly, not too many of them are given too much credit, but there are some. Here are 10 movies that fit the bill for a wide variety of reasons.
10. Thor: Ragnarok
This one is relatively new, but it’s gotten a good heaping of praise upon its release. Part of that is because it’s a Thor movie that is finally a completely good movie and not a fractured mess. Another reason is because it is massively funny, one of the most thoroughly entertaining movies in the MCU from front to back. But another reason is that it’s smarter than it has any right to be, especially for a Thor movie.
It’s about colonialism and the deep rot it can set into a place. Which is all fine and dandy, except none of the dramatic elements of the story land. It’s a weirdly empty movie. And it’s not like the movie has no stakes or no consequences to it. Big things happen and big things are set up. But it’s just limp, and that probably has something to do with the movie being way more interested in being funny and undercutting every single moment within itself. So nothing ever feels important.
It’s hard to get invested, which makes it feel like a lesser movie, despite it being so watchable. It’s been getting a lot of praise for being one of the best in the MCU, but it’s a bit hard to make that claim when it has such a massively fundamental flaw. But still, it’s very watchable.
The movie that started it all. Without this, there may not have been the superhero film boom that we are currently living in. At the very least, it would be vastly different. This movie is the skeleton that almost all superhero movies are based on, at least until 2008 when “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight” changed everyone’s idea on what a superhero movie could be.
It’s a classic of cinema with perhaps the greatest casting of a hero of all time with Christopher Reeve. It’s also really messy and flawed as all hell, mainly in that second act when Gene Hackman shows up and throws the movie entirely off its axis.
The first half is a beautiful and poetically gorgeous movie that truly feels like Superman brought to life. That tone so perfectly encapsulates the feeling of reading the best Superman stories that it’s wild that it would fall so off balance later on.
Hackman and crew are in an entirely different movie than everyone else, and the Reeve section of the movie that becomes a knock-off “Bringing Up Baby” just doesn’t mesh with the stakes that are brought into the movie that are then completely dismantled by insanely stupid new powers invented simply for the crisis at hand.
There’s the completely goofy and useless poetry voiceover scene. But maybe worst of all is that once Clark gets the suit after his decade-long Pink Floyd trip in the Fortress of Solitude, where he has no real purpose in the movie. He’s just there. Which is the biggest problem of the second half.
It’s just there with no real propulsion and a bland approximation of what a climactic ending should be in a movie like this. So give it credit for being first in the door, but admit how massively flawed the movie is and how it doesn’t really measure up anymore.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Marvel got Spidey back and they did him justice in “Civil War.” So his first solo outing under the MCU banner was bound to make people happy. And it did. Claims that it’s the best Spider-Man movie were abound. People didn’t change their tune that Tom Holland was easily the best Spider-Man put to screen.
Michael Keaton was praised as being a rare exception in the MCU as a good villain. The tone of a John Hughes-ian high school movie helped distinguish it from past Spidey films. It was a little home run from them, a small scale movie that did good work to showcase the little guy in the midst of more global and galactic movies.
But this is not the best Spidey movie. It’s the second best, no doubt. But there’s a big gap between this and the number one on that list, “Spider-Man 2.” For one, the action in this movie is pretty bad.
Jon Watts does not know how to assemble an action scene, to the point that the final set piece is a barrage of nonsense. So the sense of wonder is out of the picture, which Sam Raimi did in spades. He still is near unbeatable in the superhero world with action beats.
Keaton is in a weird spot as he is undoubtedly great, but it’s a performance that does more of the heavy lifting then the writing. It’s hard to believe a near 70-year-old man who has been a blue collar worker his whole life can all of a sudden be a top-tier black market criminal with the capacity to go toe to toe with a genetically modified superhero.
The movie works thanks to the acting and the casting and the fun tone throughout. The hero beats almost feel perfunctory, like a rough as hell pilot for a TV show that is prime to go on to better things.
7. Iron Man
What if I was to tell you that “Iron Man” is barely a movie and only works thanks to Robert Downey Jr.? Like “Superman,” it’s a movie that works like gangbusters in its first half but then drops like a rock in its second half.
The villain is just bland and almost like an afterthought, a character shift that just comes out of nowhere to get us some action. It’s action that is not really good. It’s all formless and feels like it’s trying to bide it’s time to get to the final moments.
Time has also not been kind to the movie, as the MCU it helped build has kind of rendered it obsolete. It doesn’t feel like it fits in that universe. Choices like having SHIELD be a newer government agency doesn’t mesh with every other movie building it up as a post-World War II entity built on the back of Howard Stark.
Nor does it feel right that the world can’t wrap it’s head around a war suit made of metal when we then see a World War II almost solely fought with alien-built sci-fi tech and a well-known super soldier. The rickety nature of the story and the outdated world building beats don’t work anymore.
The movie has been left in the dust. Again, give it credit for the works that have come after it, but be honest about the weaknesses at hand.
Another first through the door creditor. Without this we wouldn’t be where we are, blah blah. We get it. And it’s true. It helped sell the more outlandish and sci-fi elements of comics. But it also has some glaring weaknesses.
Tobey Maguire is a great Peter but is a kind of terrible Spider-Man. The effects work is weak as hell, not really selling the web-slinging as well as it needs to. The Green Goblin is a great villain for 25 minutes, when he achieves everything he sets out to do and then decides to haunt Spider-Man for reasons unknown to anybody.
The movie becomes a series of scenes with no real purpose, a fact you don’t realize until you think about how little happens and how there’s no real inciting incident that Goblin sets into play, no grand plot. Sam Raimi was new to this scale of filmmaking, having built his chops of cheap horror flicks and mid-range Dad movies. So there’s some understandable cobwebs on this movie as it’s obvious that Raimi is figuring everything out.
There’s some truly great stuff too, as Raimi is too gifted to not get some special stuff within. But it’s flawed as hell, lacking the thematic heft or the outrageously entertaining popcorn material of part two. It’s one of those movies that makes it understandable that Spidey fans have been so patient with the constant reboots and sequels. Outside of 2, there’s been a lack of a consistent package.