Superhero movies have become the biggest selling films in the history of cinema. Just as it was once almost impossible to avoid cowboy movies, it is now increasingly difficult to avoid the prevalence of the superhero genre. When an Avengers film can break the $2 billion mark, it’s safe to say that a superhero film is difficult to lose money on. However, it does happen. Some superhero movies fall far behind (looking at you, New Mutants), but what superheroes are the true legends of film? Forget the box office take, and check out this list of the top superhero films to grace the silver screen.
A relatively unknown character, Blade is now considered to be the launch of the modern superhero film. There were superhero films before Blade, of course, but the fact that the Wesley Snipes action film embraced its comic book origins rather than being embarrassed by them was a game-changer. There’s a reboot on the way, and with Blade all set to become part of the MCU, this one character is a fan favorite that looks like becoming a defining superhero for the next decade. In recent years, there has been a growing number of Blade cosplayers, which is always a sign that a character is popular. With his quips, violence, and the fact that his enemies are all vampires, Blade perfectly blends the superhero and horror genres in a way that had never quite been achieved before.
Love him or hate him, there’s no escaping the fact that Batman has universal appeal. Research by Cashlady shows that Batman is the single most popular superhero in Russia, but it’s not just Russia that loves a bit of Bruce Wayne’s tortured vigilante. From the 1966 Adam West comedies to the ’89 reboot by Tim Burton, Batman is rarely out of the cinema. In recent years we’ve had Christopher Nolan’s award-winning Dark Knight trilogy, as well as the ill-fated Zack Snyder version. That’s not even counting the many animated films that see the masked crusader either working alone or battling his vast rogue’s gallery with superhero allies. Batman is, without doubt, riding higher than Superman when it comes to popularity on the big screen.
There were a lot of controversies when the actor Hugh Jackman was cast as the short, aggressive Canadian, but the actor quickly made the role his own. It could be argued that Jackman proved so popular that even the comics now have art that looks more like the actor than the original design of Wolverine! One of the reasons why Wolverine is such a popular character in film is that despite having two subpar solo movies, the final outing was simply exceptional. Logan (2017) had echoes of The Searchers, all with that superhero tint and a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Widely considered as a masterpiece of the modern superhero genre, Logan firmly established Wolverine as one of the top movie superheroes of all time.
With the end of Endgame, there was something of a full stop in terms of the superhero film on the big screen. Whether the MCU can maintain its growth with blockbusters like Avengers, or DC movies can emerge from a series of serious missteps remains to be seen. With characters like Ms. Marvel, the Fantastic Four, and even Morbius all set to have increased presence at the box office, there’s still a lot more to come from the superhero genre.