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Comic book movies are hot right now, and none more so than those from uber-awesome comic book publisher Marvel. They pretty much wrote the book on iconic heroes, from Spider-Man to the Incredible Hulk, and we reckon that these movies are the absolute best out there.
You don’t have to be a hero to watch these movies, but it helps.
What do you get when you put a ton of powerful superheroes in a movie together, facing off against one of the most villainous villains in all of villainy? The Avengers, that’s what. This is an absolute tour-de-force of a movie that never drops the action. Every single actor, from Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man to Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, totally shines. And it also has some deliciously funny lines and moments too, which will surprise no one who’s familiar with the work of director Joss Whedon, who previously penned Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Oh, and it’s also the movie that turned Tom Hiddleston into a legit star.
Another team-based movie, X-Men came at the beginning of the comic book movie craze—and we’re sure glad it did. Have you ever seen a guy so perfectly cast as Wolverine? Because Hugh Jackman absolutely nails the top spot, supported by Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and Storm played by Halle Berry. Camping it up on the villainous side is Ian "Gandalf" McKellen, who clearly loves every minute of playing the merciless and over-the-top bad guy. It doesn’t even matter what the plot is (a terrorist plot about stopping mutant world domination, with some social commentary about race and sexuality thrown in), it’s just a great popcorn movie.
You might not even realize that Kick-Ass is a Marvel comic movie, but it makes a nice change from the usual familiar superheroes—particularly since the titular Kick-Ass is just a kid with absolutely no super powers, just a strong sense of justice. Chloe Moretz joins him as the delightfully brutal Hit-Girl, a kid for whom violence is a core part of the superhero make-up (no Superman-style "no killing" here). Nicholas Cage’s Adam West impression in the role of Batman-like Big Daddy makes this worth watching.
Tiny hero, but big on action, Ant-Man was one of the first modern day superhero movies to move against the dark and gritty style and into comical. It’s borderline farcical, and we mean that in a good way, with the ever-brilliant Paul Rudd planting his tongue firmly in his cheek as Ant-Man, a hero who can shrink to the size of an ant. With a premise like that, you can’t fail to smile at easily one of the best Marvel comic movies out there.
Men in Black
OK, the comic books didn’t start off in the hands of Marvel, but by the time this Will Smith vehicle was made, they sure were. You always knew the men in black were there, watching, waiting, erasing your memories of the latest UFO invasion. Men in Black is the tale of a super-secret government agency assigned to protect Earth from the scum of the universe—you know, all those shape-shifting aliens bent on overpowering humans and dominating the world, well someone’s got to do it. Best part about it? They look real good while doing it, what with those sharp suits and shades.
Robert Downey Jr. was already a star when this came out (actually, he’d fallen out of favor with Hollywood), but this is the film that made him a superstar. Wise-cracking, sarcastic, and cynical as Tony Stark, our Rob defined the whole movie—you just can’t take your eyes off him whenever he’s on the screen. It has all the action and adventure you need from a superhero tale, making it one of the best Marvel comic movies out there. In fact, it’s hard to even think of anyone else taking on the mantel of Iron Man after Robert Downey Jr.
The Amazing Spider-Man
The controversial reboot to Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy, this pretty much plays out like the 2002 version, only without organic web-shooters. British actor Andrew Garfield dons Spidey’s mask here, and he’s well cast, with just enough nerdiness to be endearing, and just the right amount of snappy one-liners to keep us rooting for him to beat bad guy Electro. It’s also fairly faithful to the original comic book arc featuring a romance between Peter "Spider-Man" Parker and police captain’s daughter, Gwen Stacey.
However good The Amazing Spider-Man is, it’ll never match the brilliance of Spider-Man. It’s a pure visual feast. Again, it helped keep superhero movies in the public eye, and brought to life one of the most iconic Marvel men ever. Sure, the choice to go with organic webs caused an uproar with fans and the special effects look a little ropey (they looked just as ropey back when it was released), but there’s never been a superhero movie since that has made us feel as if we could soar from building to building. And Bruce Campbell’s cameo is worth the admission price alone.
Deadpool is what happens when you take the sarcastic wit of Spider-Man, mix in the brutality of The Punisher, and let one of the most infuriatingly good-looking men on the planet, Ryan Reynolds, wear a mask. Deadpool is all about challenging our expectations of superhero movies—here’s an anti-hero who’s not all good and not all bad, who kills enemies dead, repeatedly breaks the fourth wall to talk to the audience, and drops an F-bomb at every available chance. And you know what? It totally works.
X-Men: First Class
A prequel, X-Men: First Class takes a look at what it’s like for mutant students to grow up attending Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. It was a more peaceful time then, before Professor X and Magneto were sworn enemies with vastly opposing ideologies. X-Men: First Class acts as an origin story for pretty much everything that occurred in all previous X-Men films, while introducing new and exciting mutants among the familiar faces. There’s an absolutely sterling cast holding this one together, including James McAvoy as Professor X and Michael Fassbender in the role of Magento.
The hero Thor is a strange beast. Thanks to his historical significance, he’s a household name; as a superhero he’s much less well-known. Well, until this movie was released with Chris Hemsworth picking up the hammer to become the God of Thunder. Directed by Kenneth Brannagh, Thor tells the tale of… Thor, who’s sent to Earth by his dad, Anthony Hopkins (also known as Odin) and falls in love. But that all turns sour once he faces up against Loki, his brother from another mother. And you thought fights with your siblings were bad!
The Fantastic Four
We’re talking about the 90s Fantastic Four—none of this lightweight, modern-day kids stuff here. This movie was made just before the studio lost the rights to the fab foursome, so it’s a clear cash-grab made from desperation and laziness. Yep, the effects are ridiculous, the acting’s barely passable and the story is a total loss, but that’s what makes this movie so enjoyable. One for real Marvel fans to check out.
Hey, wasn’t that guy in that lightweight, modern-day kids version of Fantastic Four? Yep, Chris Evans, who played Johnny Storm the Human Torch in F4, was cast in the role of an all-American WWII soldier who doesn’t make the cut, but instead is experimented on by scientists. The result? Mild-mannered Steve Rogers becomes the mighty Captain America, determined to fight for truth, justice, and the American way… Or was that Superman? Anyway, after waking up in the present day, Cap’s tasked with defeating the vicious Red Skull and preventing another world war, because frankly, that’s the last thing anyone needs.
Wesley Snipes as a half-vampiric vampire-slayer? What’s not to like about this set-up? It’s one of the first comic book movies made entirely for adults, with all that that brings—gore, sex, and swearing. What really makes this one stand out, beyond the fact that Blade is such a ludicrously (and consciously) cool character, is the swordplay between him and the army of Deacon Frost, played by the raspy-voiced embodiment of pure evil, Stephen Dorff.
Guardians of the Galaxy
You knew it had to appear here, right? Because it’s probably the best Marvel comic movie out there. It’s just self-aware enough to be cool without trying too hard; and the whole rag-tag team of heroes here are unique, recognisable and so darn likeable. There’s an awesome soundtrack too, as Star Lord, a child of the 70s taken from the planet by the guardians and played by Chris Pratt, appears to be obsessed with old-school artists like… space oddity himself David Bowie, of course.
These are our top picks for the best Marvel comic movie out there—what’s your favorite? Did it make the list? And just how many times do we have to get bitten by a spider before we get super powers too?