Top 10 Superhero Movies That Changed Everything

Credits: Matthew Wende Matthew Wende
Written by Nick Spake Comic book movies often get a bad reputation for just rehashing the same tropes over and over again, but these films changed the game and did something most people had never seen before! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Comic Book Movies that Changed Everything! But what will take the top spot on our list? Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to NickSpake1 for suggesting this list, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/WatchMojo%20Top%2010%20Superhero%20Movies%20that%20Changed%20Everything
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These superhero movies more than saved the day. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Superhero Movies That Changed Everything.

For this list, we’re taking a look at movies that changed the superhero genre as we know it and, in some cases, impacted the entire film industry.

#10: “Wonder Woman” (2017)

It’s weird to think that Supergirl, Elektra, and Catwoman all got live-action solo movies long before Wonder Woman, the most iconic heroine of them all. But while “Wonder Woman” wasn’t the first female-led superhero movie, it was the first to achieve massive, widespread success. It was also the first studio superhero movie to be helmed by a female director, Patty Jenkins; and it not only received overwhelming critical acclaim, but also crushed several box office milestones. Considering that superhero movies typically restrict women to love interests and supporting roles, Gal Gadot’s spot-on portrayal of Wonder Woman stood out as a beacon of female empowerment.

#9: “Deadpool” (2016)

While there had been several R-rated superhero movies already, most of them were only modest financial successes at best. Considering that the “X-Men” franchise had always played it safe with a PG-13 rating, it seemed highly unlikely Fox would ever allow “Deadpool” to take the R-rated route, especially after that “Wolverine” movie. When the studio finally gave the film the green light, however, their gamble paid off in a big way. This ultra-violent, profanity-laced, Golden Globe-nominated film made over 10 times its $58 million budget, becoming the highest-grossing “X-Men” movie ever. Suddenly, Hollywood was much more open to the idea of producing adult superhero flicks, such as the Oscar-nominated “Logan”.

#8: “Black Panther” (2018)

Before T'Challa appeared in “Captain America: Civil War,” the MCU had already introduced black superheroes, such as Falcon and War Machine. Whereas those characters were limited to sidekick roles, however, Black Panther earned leading man status in 2018. Equally inspiring, the film was helmed by an African-American director and boasted an almost entirely black cast. “Black Panther” went above and beyond simply being a cool flick, utilizing its complex characters and fictional African setting to tackle timely world issues. In an era overrun with race riots, whitewashing, and travel bans, this record-breaking blockbuster spoke to a wide range of audiences, conveying a relevant and important message about unity.

#7: “Blade” (1998)

Twenty years before the King of Wakanda got his own movie, this cult classic did shine the spotlight on another black superhero. But the race of its protagonist aside, “Blade” is particularly significant for finally doing a Marvel character justice. Up until this point, Marvel Comics hadn’t exactly translated well to the big screen. “Howard the Duck” was a bomb, “Captain America” barely got a theatrical release, and Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four” movie was never even officially released. “Blade” ended Marvel’s losing streak, with stylish visuals, thrilling action, and pitch-perfect casting. And following “Batman & Robin” and “Steel,” “Blade” also reminded audiences that superhero movies could still be dark, sophisticated, and badass.

#6: “The Dark Knight” (2008)

With “Batman Begins,” director Christopher Nolan brought the Caped Crusader back to his dark roots. At the same time, he created a more pragmatic version of Batman who could seemingly exist in the real world. Nolan upped the ante with the universally-acclaimed “The Dark Knight”. Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as The Joker, in particular, set a new standard for supervillains, combining the colorful nature of a comic book character with the gritty realism of a terrorist. While many other superhero movies have mimicked “The Dark Knight,” few have proven as smart, challenging, or groundbreaking.

#5: “Batman” (1989)

As revolutionary as “The Dark Knight” trilogy was, Warner Bros. probably wouldn’t have taken a chance on Nolan’s vision if Tim Burton hadn’t already set the stage. Outside of the comics, Batman had been developing a notoriously campy reputation over the years. Superhero movies in general weren’t all that common and they rarely veered into dark territory. “Batman” changed everything, with gothic production design and a story that treated its audience like adults. What’s more, Burton delved into Bruce Wayne’s tortured psyche, exploring what motivates a man to dress up as a bat and fight crime. For the longest time, this wasn’t just the definitive Batman movie, but the superhero movie to beat all others.

#4: “The Avengers” (2012)

By 2012, crossovers were nothing new, but none more ambitious than this mega moneymaker. Over the course of five blockbuster movies, Marvel had established numerous heroes who could be connected in a shared cinematic universe. Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all finally crossed paths in “The Avengers.” At the time, doing a crossover of this magnitude was virtually unheard of. Marvel pulled it off, however, with an event picture unlike any other. DC would get on the crossover bandwagon soon after with their Extended Universe. “The Avengers” didn’t just impact the superhero genre; every major studio wants to cash in on the shared cinematic universe trend now.

#3: “Iron Man” (2008)

When Nick Fury appeared at the end of “Iron Man,” comic book fans could tell that a floodgate of possibilities was about to open. We most likely wouldn’t have gotten “The Avengers” if this film hadn’t kicked off the MCU in such stellar fashion. While Iron Man was not an obscure character by any means, Tony Stark wasn’t a household name before 2008. That all changed thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s charismatic comeback performance, and director Jon Favreau’s energetic direction. The MCU has stood out from all the other cinematic universes because it’s taken the time and care to flesh out its characters. “Iron Man” provided the formula for success.

#2: “Superman” (1978)

Back in 1978, comic books were generally viewed as kid stuff. With his take on “Superman,” director Richard Donner set out to make audiences truly believe that a man (well, sorta) can fly. More importantly, he aspired to show audiences just how fun, romantic, and poignant a superhero movie could be. “Superman” felt like the first superhero movie to really analyze what it means to be a hero. While it wasn’t afraid to inject a few humorous, and even corny, moments, the film also depicted Superman’s origin story with wonder and gravitas. Superman wasn’t just a role model, but somebody we could identify with. It’s the human touch that made this film a game-changer.

#1: “X-Men” (2000)

Many people point to Sam Raimi’s original “Spider-Man” as the film that launched the modern renaissance of superhero movies. While that blockbuster certainly has its place in history, it was Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” that paved the way for everything that followed. After enduring a series of ups and downs, the superhero genre needed a big critical and commercial success in the year 2000. “X-Men” answered the call with slick style, a well-rounded ensemble, meaningful themes, and a clear understanding of the source material. Since then, we’ve gotten better superhero movies and even better “X-Men” movies. None of them would exist, though, if this film hadn’t laid out an essential blueprint.

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