5. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is a well cited set of films when it comes to discussing some of the best superhero films, not only of recent times but of all time. From his Dark Knight Trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises is the film whose release fell in the 2010s and as such must be included in this list.
The Dark Knight Rises grossed over a billion dollars and became Nolan’s highest grossing film as well as one of the highest grossing films of all time.
Originally, Nolan was hesitant to make a third film after The Dark Knight, but he agreed after developing a script with his brother which they felt would conclude the series on a satisfactory note. Upon its release, The Dark Knight was well received critically and praised for its performances, action sequences and direction.
The impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy and The Dark Knight Rises is something that marks it out as one of the greats. These films paved the way for a reignition of the superhero genre, and not only that but for superhero films to be dark and more grounded in ‘realism.’ Since The Dark Knight Rises release, there has been a wave of darker and grittier superhero films and audiences have lapped them up.
The Dark Knight Rises, along with The Dark Knight, also opened up an interesting discussion on awards bias. The exclusion of Nolan being nominated at the Academy Awards for either Best Director or the films being nominated for Best Picture angered a lot of fans. This led to a change in the perception of the superhero genre in the industry.
4. Avengers Assemble (2012)/Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)/Avengers: Infinity War (2018)/Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Yes, this entry includes four films so is technically cheating. But when it comes to the Avengers films, it is very difficult to pick any one of the films over another one. Much like the Avengers themselves, they all come together to create something pretty awesome and unbeatable.
Much debate has raged when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and whether or not the Marvel films are enhancing or ruining cinema. Regardless of where you fall in that debate, it cannot be disputed that the 2010s was dominated by Marvel and when we look back in years to come, these films will undoubtedly be mentioned.
The Avengers films made up some of the biggest box office revenues of the last decade as well and Avengers: Endgame broke box office records in 2019 to become the highest grossing film of all time.
One of the great things about these films was that they created a story arc that played out over several films and allowed audiences to become fully engaged and invested in the superhero characters in them. The Avengers films also demonstrated visual and special effects at their biggest and showed what blockbusters could do at their most extreme – this was massive budget cinema and in turn was massively popular.
3. Joker (2019)
Joker is certainly one of the most controversial and one of the most talked about superhero films of the last decade. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck has been widely hailed and not only has it been called one of the best performances of 2019, but one of the best of all time. And with award season upon us, Joker looks to become the recipient of numerous nominations and awards.
Joker boasts an amazing central performance, and to many that may even be its biggest draw. However, Joker is also technically impressive. The cinematography is excellent, the colour palette is perfect, and the production design is spot on – altogether the setting of a restless Gotham City in 1981 is brought to life flawlessly.
Joker is an interesting film to pick as one of the best superhero films of the last decade, because many people might argue that it is not a superhero film at all. But there in lies its genius – Joker is a slow burn film about a man’s descent into madness and yet it does feature small facets that audiences do associate with superhero films. And of course, it does fit into the lore of one of the most recognised superheroes of all time – Batman.
Joker was directed by Todd Phillips, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver. Joker grossed over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, making it the highest grossing R-rated film of all time. Though Joker was made to be a standalone film, a sequel has since been announced as currently in development.
2. Logan (2017)
The film that served as Wolverine’s swansong could not have been better. Logan was not only an incredibly moving and engaging film that was a real treat for fans of the X-men universe, it was also a technically fantastic film that blew audiences away with its sleek visuals and brilliant cinematography – Logan packed a punch both visually and emotionally.
The decision to make Logan a gritty and dark film was a decision that could easily have backfired – having the genteel and mild-mannered Professor X saying the f word was something most audiences never expected to hear! However, this proved to be the perfect decision and allowed audiences to experience Wolverine in a way they never had before and in turn it gave audiences an amazing, character driven masterpiece.
The technical elements also mark Logan to one of the best superhero films of the last decade. The colour palette is excellent – the desert scenes are dusty and authentic whilst the scenes in the forest are natural and striking. The editing is great, especially during the fight scenes where the action is fast, furious and violent.
Logan took inspiration from ‘Old Man Logan’ and was directed by James Mangold, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Upon its release, it was critically acclaimed and went on to gross over $619 million at the worldwide box office. Logan went on to become the fourth highest grossing R-rated film of all time and was the first live action superhero film to be nominated for an Academy Award for screenwriting.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse burst onto cinema screens with its cutting-edge visuals and blew both audiences and critics away. With its distinctive, meta style and engaging storyline and characters, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse breathed new life into a very well-known story and superhero.
Co-directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was first announced in 2015 following the Sony leak which detailed the studio’s plans to reignite the Spider-Man franchise with an animated film. Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, who produced the film, always wanted the film to be comedic and also to have a very unique visual style. In order to achieve the visuals seen in the finished film, Sony used one hundred and forty animators – the largest number ever used on a Sony Pictures Animation.
Upon the film’s release, it was well received both commercially and critically. The film was nominated for and won numerous awards, including winning Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse grossed over $375 million against its $90 million budget and was greenlit for a sequel which will be released in 2022. The success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has also inspired a spin-off film called Spider-Women, which will focus on three generations of female Spider related characters.