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5. Iron Man (2008)
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 93, Fans 94
Adjusted global gross: $648 million
Summary: Iron Man is possibly the greatest origin story on this list. They quickly set up the arrogant, greedy Tony Stark, and then show you the transformation. Not only did this usher in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (sorry The Incredible Hulk), it also restarted the career of Robert Downey, Jr. This movie is nearly flawless, avoiding some of the classic superhero movie tropes, including the double origin story with hero and villain. This is a movie about Tony Stark, a character exploration wrapped in an action movie wrapper.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 94, Fans 91
Adjusted global gross: $720 million
Summary: Earlier this year, I ranked all the MCU movies and put this second to "Age of Ultron." I think I was wrong. After watching both again, I think this is the better movie. (Actually, my initial list was flawed, and I've corrected some of that in here.) One of the best things about this movie are the villains: the smooth Alexander Pierce and the cold Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier. The best part of this movie is the interplay between Cap and Black Widow. Her amoral view is the perfect counterpoint to Cap's old school morality. And like many great movies, the ending is not some glorious victory, but a messy win.
3. Batman Begins (2005)
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 85, Fans 94
Adjusted global gross: $456 million
Summary: I believe I'm in the minority about which of Christopher Nolan's Batman films is the best. Critics might place this movie third, and fans second. But I love how tight this movie is, a simple story, great character development, and tremendous action. I even think Katie Holmes does a good job. Nolan did something I thought nearly impossible when this movie came out in 2004: he retold an often retold origin story and made it fresh. Is Heath Ledger's Joker a better villain than Liam Neeson's Ra's Al Ghul? Yes, but Neeson does an excellent job.
2. The Avengers (2012)
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92, Fans 91
Adjusted global gross: $1,578 million
Summary: After recently re-watching this movie, I was blown away by how tight the story is. The dialogue is expertly written and delivered, perfect casting married with great storytelling. Yes, the movie builds on character development of prior movies, but it also stands on its own. The movie delivered on everything I want from a superhero movie: awesome action, interesting characters, witty banter, an excellent villain, and high stakes. Joss Whedon also kept all the characters relevant despite their varying power sets.This movie holds up, and I believe will be the standard upon which live-action superhero movies will be measured by artistically and financially.
1. The Incredibles (2004)
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 97, Fans 74
Adjusted global gross: $796 million
Summary: As I was researching this post, I was floored by the fan rating of "The Incredibles" on Rotten Tomatoes: 74. What? That's lower than "Man of Steel" or "The Amazing Spider-Man". Do fans really believe this is just an ok movie? Crazy. This film is flawless. Brad Bird created a fun, retro, Golden Age superhero world with rich characters fueled by an intriguing family dynamic. Not only is this film the best superhero movie ever, but it's an all-time great movie and one my Pixar's greatest achievements.