We’ve hit a little break in the superhero/comic book cinematic genre with Thanksgiving coming up. As anticipated films like Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 have been pushed to 2021, this is a good point to look back and be thankful for how far our favorite category has gone. Since DC seems to have gotten it together, genuinely poor superhero movies are hard to come by now. When Thor: The Dark World is the worst of your 23-film franchise, that is a great sign. And now it’s not even far-fetched for these films to receive Oscar and/or Golden Globe nominations.
With so many recent hits in the superhero universe, which ones should we be most thankful for? Obviously, we’re grateful for everything we’ve been given from this genre. But there are some films that, without their existence, none of this would’ve been possible. Let’s take a look at six films in the comic universe we should give thanks to!
I have to pay my respects to the original that boosted the superhero movie genre into the mainstream. Richard Donner’s Superman was a gamble as the most expensive film ever made at that point. With an all-star cast, the film was a great success, telling the origin story of Kal-El and building to an eventual showdown between the Man of Steel and Lex Luthor. I mean Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Ned Beatty? I’m 23, and I don’t even need this movie to recognize all those names from other terrific films.
Additionally, Donner brings to the silver screen pioneering special effects and a phenomenal score from John Williams. Ultimately, Superman strayed from the campiness of TV classics, like Adam West‘s Batman, while still keeping some charm. We can never forget nor be thankful enough for how much of a game-changer this movie was.
I’m going to make some people angry by not including X-Men on this list. But while the 2000 film was the first successful transition of Marvel characters into theaters, Blade actually saved Marvel from cinematic obscurity. So it would be criminal to not be extremely thankful for this vampire flick.
In 1996, Marvel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy until a surprising hero came to the rescue. The Daywalker isn’t always the first character that comes to mind when it comes to superheroes. Especially since the film was basically a horror movie and Rated-R, this wasn’t the prototypical Marvel film that we’ve come to associate with the brand. But Wesley Snipes kills everything in sight, including the role of the half-human, half-vampire. The film gave Marvel its footing in an uncertain time, and the rest is history.
One of the best movies from one of my favorite directors. Sam Raimi directed the horror classic The Evil Dead at just the age of 21, and it only got better from there. You better be hyped for the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness! The first Spider-Man film really allowed Marvel to see the potential behind the superhero genre and how they could be headlining summer blockbusters.
Tobey Maguire plays the title character, along with other great performances from Willem Dafoe, J.K. Simmons, and Kirsten Dunst. The death of Uncle Ben is heart-breaking, but teaches a young Peter Parker that, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Marvel saw they had a sleeping giant with this franchise, leading to two sequels. But it wasn’t for another six years that the actual universe took off.
Iron Man (2008)
Well, we have to be thankful for this film because it kicked off the MCU. The beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe tells the story and aftermath of an arrogant billionaire being kidnapped by a terrorist organization. But this experience lets Tony Stark realize he needs to have a more hands-on approach toward protecting the world. This movie is great and sets the template that most Marvel movies followed afterward.
The ending foreshadows how far Stark is willing to go to save others, for better or for worse. Also, the twist which reveals the real villain is great and ratchets up the tension. I honestly didn’t know who Iron Man was growing up, but this was the movie that made me want to watch whatever was next for the king of giving out funny nicknames.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Not only one of the most impactful superhero films ever but also in Hollywood overall. Christopher Nolan‘s masterpiece made the Oscars have to reconsider what genres deserved consideration for their top awards. It may be shocking to the academy, but many superhero films deal with some very complex themes! Of course, everyone remembers the unforgettable performance by the late, great Heath Ledger. But the other performances are terrific as well, such as Aaron Eckart as Harvey Dent and Christian Bale as the Caped-Crusader. We can never be thankful enough for a movie like this.
This film set the tone for a darker DC Universe that some films capitalized on and others squandered. More of a crime thriller than a superhero film, the gritty, realistic, non-CGI reliant tone blurs the lines as to what makes a real hero. This was also the first superhero film to reach the $1 billion box office mark. Overall, The Dark Knight is one of the best movies of the millennium and further redefined the genre.
The Avengers (2012)
I really wanted to put Avengers: Infinity War here, since there are even more characters to balance, combined with the payoff towards a great villain that has been built up for six years. But this was the original mash-up of the icons. This movie came at a moment where it wasn’t a certainty that every movie from this universe was going to be a hit. Plus, adding in Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk was a bold move that paid off. The build-up towards the moment in which the Hulk emerges is legendary and adds an element of terror to the character.
Plus, in the post-credits scene, we see the big bad villain of the universe, Thanos, for the first time. Loki is a formidable antagonist, especially with the scepter in hand, who’s also somewhat tragic in his deal with the devil. Overall, great film, characters, humor, and action. This is a fun-ride that began an awesome emotional journey throughout the four films. There’s a reason why there was a global shudder when Captain America said, “Avengers assemble,” in Avengers: Endgame.
In the season of giving thanks, what films are you most thankful for from the superhero genre? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!