Superior superhero movies

As the just-opened “Thor: The Dark World” reminds us, superhero movies are today’s version of the mythology of yore. Instead of Norse Eddas or Homeric epics, academics thousands of years hence will be studying the intricacies of the Marvel Universe and pondering whether or not the legendary bard, Christopher Nolan, ever existed. Perhaps the pantheon these future scholars put together will be topped by these five films.

The Kobal Collection at Art Resource

Superman (1978)

  • Even blogger Dean Treadway, who says that he’s “wholly against the genre,” admits a liking for this harbinger of blockbusters to come. Christopher Reeve remains the ideal Man of Steel and Richard Donner’s rendition retains the mythic simplicity of the original story.

Warner Brothers

Batman Returns (1992)

  • Blogger Tim Nasson strongly disagrees with Treadway about the superhero genre, and cites Tim Burton’s sequel as proof that the form is capable of greatness. “The scene with the baby penguin being sent down the river like Moses,” he writes, “is the best opening scene in any movie.”

Attla dora

X-Men (2000)

  • I must disagree with Tim about best opening scenes. Instead I would nominate the beginning of this first film in the Marvel mutant franchise. The teenage Magneto lashing at the gates of Auschwitz with his magnetic powers demonstrates that the genre is capable of pathos and poetry.

Warner Bros.

The Dark Knight trilogy: BatmanBegins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

  • The reader who calls himself “haha haha” (what is his secret identity?) suggests that these three epics from Christopher Nolan be considered as one opus. “The first is a true origin story,” he writes. “The second is probably the most exhilarating experience I’ve had in a theater. The third is a complex machine with all sorts of cogs working to bring the story full circle, and simply gets better on repeat viewings.”

Industrial Light & Magic

Iron Man (2008)

  • There is more to a superhero than a neat costume, even when it’s armor-plated, and Robert Downey Jr. as the brilliant, vain, dryly witty billionaire Tony Stark — genius inventor, heroic wag, and arms dealer supreme — brings the needed touch of (pun sadly intended) irony to the role.


  • Last Tuesday was Guy Fawkes Day, when Britons acknowledge the would-be revolutionary by burning him in effigy. Which films about rebels and revolutionaries do you think are worth celebrating? Speaking of holidays, Hanukkah begins on Nov. 27, Thanksgiving is on Nov. 28, and that’s just for starters. For the Nov. 24 Cinemania, let us know what holiday movies you like the best. Cast your votes at

Peter Keough can be reached at
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