By: Tim Biasi
As the 2010s (Two thousand teens? Twenty teens? Whatever.) comes to a close, it shouldn’t take too long to figure out the genre that had the biggest impact on the moviegoing experience over the last 10 years. Sure, there have been some great movies made since 2010, but superhero movies have ruled the roost without question. Some broke records, some broke barriers, and some made history for the wrong reasons. I’m putting this out there right now, these are not my favorites, and their order does not designate which films are better than which. It is simply my interpretation of their impact on and importance to the superhero genre of the last 10 years.
Away we go.
10. Fan4stic a/k/a Fantastic Four (2015)– This movie was an unquestionable bomb. Critically derided, financially unsuccessful and a lot of ugly stories behind the scenes. So why does it make the list? This movie has earned its place for no other reason other than the fact that it proved that the you can’t just follow a formula and churn out a superhero blockbuster. Things can still go wrong. In this case, the blame can be laid at the feet of studio interference (not the first time you’ll see that term on this list) and an inexperienced director who didn’t get along with his crew. Come release day, a finished product was shown that barely resembled anything director Josh Trank had envisioned. And he made sure everyone who could read knew it. Because of this, we must appreciate this movie for no other reason than it reminds us that bad superhero movies are still possible and so we must cherish and enjoy the good ones that much more.
9. Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse (2018) – Did you know that Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man? I’m sure you did, because Sony has been shouting that from the top of their lungs since 2002. They made the Raimi films and then rebooted him 5 years later with Andrew Garfield. Spider-Man was the only thing Sony could hang their hat on while seeing Fox go through the paces with X-Men and the MCU take over the world. Spider-man was their little slice of glory in an otherwise crowded Marvel landscape. And after licensing Spidey to Marvel/Disney in live-action form, they still had the rights to an animated movie (strangely enough, Marvel owns the animated television rights. IP rights are weird, guys.). They decided to flex this muscle seemingly as a middle finger to the MCU as they saw Disney do Spider-Man better than they ever could. They gambled on a high concept animated movie with SpiderVerse. SpiderVerse was a movie that they made sure, at least with how they approached it, could only be made in a cartoon. And that’s why it’s so great. It feels like you’re watching a comic book come to life, while staying true to the character’s many incarnations and capturing the whimsy of an animated film which is to excite and entertain. Stellar performances from all the Spider-people anchor the film and a special shout out goes to Liev Schrieber as Wilson Fisk who gives the movie a great villain to defeat. When all was said and done, SpiderVerse won and became the first superhero movie to win the Oscar for Animated Feature, forever proving that animated superhero movies can be just as great as their real life counterparts as long as you lean into the elements that exist only in the world of animation and use them to your advantage, which this movie did. It made history in the process.
8. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – We’ll be seeing Earth’s mightiest heroes a bit later, but this movie deserves a mention. It was the biggest crossover to date, throwing in Doctor Strange and The Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther to an already stacked Avengers roster. Thanos was the most formidable Marvel villain since Loki. But one big reason this movie deserves the impact it made, beyond the box office, beyond all the star power of the cast, is that SPOILER ALERT: The bad guy won! Thanos accomplished his mission and snapped away half of the universe. Never before has a superhero movie left its audience without even a glimmer of hope. We were left with just the remnants of our heroes who were lucky enough to survive. Bad guy shows up, heroes keep him at bay, he changes his plans and beats down the heroes who have to regroup in the face of defeat, rely upon each other as a team after some infighting and they vanquish the bad guy. That’s the superhero movie road map. Infinity War flipped that on its ear, and we got global and universal annihilation as a result. Bold move, Russos. Bold move.
7. Aquaman (2018) – I don’t like to give Zack Snyder much credit for his work in the DCEU, but as you’ll see later, I give him credit where it’s due. Here’s the first example though. Casting Jason Momoa as Aquaman was an inspired choice. Aquaman was always a blue eyed, blonde white dude. Casting a pacific islander, a person of color, who lives in a place where the ocean is all around him is a great idea for the master and protector of the seas. It also helps that Jason Momoa has half of the charisma of the entire freaking world. Aquaman was the first DCEU movie to make a billion dollars. 3 movies with Superman, 2 with Batman, 2 with Wonder Woman and Aquaman is the first to cross ten figures. Beyond that though, this movie signified the shift in DCEU’s tone. They finally realized that their plan wasn’t working and decided to change course and it showed on screen. Aquaman was FUN! It wasn’t dark, dreary and hopeless like its predecessors (minus Wonder Woman of course), and it steered into the fact that, and stay with me on this, moviegoers want to have a good time when they see superheroes. This course correction was cemented by the tone and success of Shazam a year later. The laughing stock of the Justice League has the fattest wallet and is responsible for the new direction of and the revival of a dying universe/franchise.
6. Justice League (2017) – I know what you’re thinking. What impact could this film have had? Well, let’s dig a little deeper into this disaster. Say what you want about the movie, and for the millionth time, I really enjoy it, but it was a freaking disaster from start to finish. This movie, much like Fantastic Four, showed that just because you have the blueprint doesn’t mean you can’t screw up building the house. Marvel laid the groundwork and all WB had to do was follow the path and they built the roof first and watched it crash to the ground. Studio interference reared its ugly head, this time to an unprecedented level. #ReleaseTheSnyderCut has taken over the entertainment world, which is problematic in itself that essentially two versions of the same movie exist. A lot of people overlook this fact about the idea of the Snyder Cut, the fact that Joss Whedon’s is the version we got means that WB believed the Snyder Cut would have been WORSE. Let’s not forget that. Who’s to say the Snyder Cut would be better than what we got? 80 pages of reshoots don’t get ordered for a good movie. This film’s journey was history making for the wrong reasons. Let’s not get started on the mustache. That’s better left on the trash heap of potential this movie wasted.
5. Deadpool (2016) – It shouldn’t have worked. A foul mouthed, slicing and dicing, fourth wall breaking, self-aware mercenary superhero? Especially one that had a lot to make up for after his terrible rendition in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Impossible. How can you make a movie where the hero swears, talks to the audience and cuts people in half and make it bankable for mass audiences? Short answer: This is how. Cast Ryan Reynolds and let him be himself. Make the blood and guts slightly more cartoony than real, and make the movie funny as hell. Deadpool was the first R-rated superhero film to have such mass appeal. Yes, Blade was first, but Blade can’t shine Deadpool’s shoes. Deadpool proved that not just kids like comic books and superheroes, and that there is a place in the world for bloody, somewhat gritty movies such as this. So much so, that freaking Disney of all companies just announced they’re making a Deadpool 3, without changing anything that made him so successful. That’s a feat in and of itself.
4. Wonder Woman (2017) – Wonder Woman’s journey to the screen was interesting. Female-led superhero films were not a thing. The very thought was laughed at. Despite Wonder Woman being the undisputed queen of female superheroes, bringing with her intrinsic appeal and audience, it took this long for her to fill theaters. As you’ll see in our next entry, it’s quite amazing how a small part in a bigger movie can lead to a revolution. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was one of the few bright spots in the cinematic misstep that was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but for all the flaws that movie had, Zack Snyder hit the nail on the head with his depiction of Wonder Woman. She absolutely stole the final battle and looked more badass than Batman and Superman combined, all while looking feminine and fierce. All of this finally convince Warner Bros to give her a go at leading a picture of her own and she gave WB 821 million reasons why she belonged with the men. Women finally had their champion, having waited far too long for her.
3. Black Panther (2018) – After his scene stealing performance in Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther was destined for great things. Everyone and their mother knew he was getting a solo film in the very near future and when he did, boy did it deliver. It became the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture. It didn’t have a chance of winning, but the nomination proved it belonged. It actually won a few awards as well, including costume design so it was the first MCU movie to win an Oscar for other than VFX. But its impact spanned much further than just awards. The movie became the highest grossing superhero film with a lead of color. Black Panther was an anthem for African Americans who finally got to see a superhero that looked like them. It made a billion dollars and shed light on an ethnic group that was largely neglected by superhero movies to that point.
2. Avengers: Endgame (2019) – The biggest superhero movie of all time. The biggest MOVIE of all time. 2.8 billion dollars. The first movie in 10 years to beat Avatar. It had an impossible task of wrapping up 10 years and 22 movies worth of storylines in a nice neat little package. And it accomplished this in spades. It was the perfect season finale to a 22-episode season long story arc that just so happened to have 2 hour episodes. It was proof that playing the long game can have a most satisfying payoff with patience and vision. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor all got fitting ends to their stories (Thor’s ending was more of a character ending and his character will be going in a new direction in Thor: Love and Thunder), and so many loose plot threads were taken care of. This would have been a collosal feat by itself. But more than that, it sets up the next phase of the story, namely the Disney + phase, with Falcon and Winter Soldier and WandaVision (still hate that title) coming soon. Both of these shows will piggyback on the ending of Endgame, so the impact of this movie on the greater story is two-fold. So why is it only number 2? Read on, but suffice it to say that this movie had one thing going against it that kept it from the top spot: It was standing on the shoulders of the one that started it all.
1. Marvel’s Avengers (2012) – What else can be said about this movie? It was huge in scope, in budget, in box office and in impact. This movie was unprecedented in that it was the first big superhero crossover movie and became the blueprint that everyone tried to rip off ever since. And we’re not just talking DC and Warner Bros. Universal did it with their failed Dark Universe of movie monsters like the Mummy and Dracula, etc. Something that made as much history as Avengers did that has been cribbed by companies that aren’t even in the superhero business deserves the number one spot.
And there you have it. The good, the bad, the ugly and the historical. For better or for worse, these movies of the last decade were important in shaping the landscape of the direction of superhero movies going forward. I realize the list was a bit Marvel-heavy, but what do you expect? Marvel has more properties they’re putting out in such rapid succession. The fact that the majority of the list is on the back end of the decade as well just shows you that they seemed to have figured out the formula for success, which just makes me excited for the gems that are to come in the 2020s. As always, if I missed anything or you disagree, leave a comment!
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