After 23 movies comprising of “The Infinity Saga,” it’s almost unbelievable that there were Marvel movies, let alone comic book movies, long before Tony Stark peacocked around his Jericho Missile. Superhero movies have come a very long way since Superman And The Mole Men from 1951.
Over the years, comic book creators and filmmakers have turned all sorts of properties into epic action flicks. Superheroes can come from anywhere; a quarterback for the NY Jets landing in the middle of an intergalactic conflict, a kid bitten by a radioactive spider, a girl who lives in a tank, or a woman who runs her own dive bar by day and bounty hunts by night. For better, and sometimes for far worse, fans are always at least interest in seeing their favorite superheroes come to life.
With the debut of Iron Man, Marvel has consistently set the bar for what comic book movies can be and can achieve. Actors from all walks of life want in, and, judging by Avengers Endgame, just about the entire world is all in on superheroes. For everyone that needs to remember or just didn’t realize, there was a world of superheroes before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s our primer on some of those movies.
10 The Crow (1994)
Both the making of and the story of The Crow have become the stuff of tragic folklore. Creator James O’Barr, suffering from depression over losing his girlfriend, poured all of his anger and sadness into this tale of revenge. Tragically, Brandon Lee died onset due to an accident, making the story somehow mean that much more. In some ways, The Crow exists in the bubble of grungy movies from the nineties. In others, it is a haunting look at what might have been for Brandon Lee and this franchise.
9 Superman (1978)
Before there were at least two superhero movies coming out every year, fans didn’t have a whole lot—but at least we had Superman. To describe that to a person who has only known a world full of supers makes them scratch their heads very confused.
For all the flying and fighting that everyone can do nowadays, Christopher Reeve was and will always be the first person who made an entire generation believe that a man can fly. No other Superman has been able to do that since.
8 Batman (1989)
To erase the “wham, bam, pow” stigma Batman had, Warner Bros. sought out director Tim Burton to do it. Batman completely ruled the summer of 1989. People were getting tickets to other movies just to watch the trailer—remember, there was no internet back then. The poster, which was the bat-signal, was being stolen from bus stops around the country. The original Batman movie still holds up and is still borrowed from heavily in all of the other depictions of the Dark Knight.
7 V For Vendetta (2005)
Alan Moore night vehemently disliked any and all of his stories being adapted for the big screen, but that didn’t stop fans flocking to theaters to see V For Vendetta. In a world overrun by a fascist regime, a lone masked terrorist is waging an anarchistic war for freedom. It was Natalie Portman’s first foray into the comic book movie realm, and it introduced the Guy Fawkes mask into the lexicon as a symbol of freedom and rebellion.
6 Batman Begins (2005)
The Dark Knight was released several months after Iron Man, making the film ineligible for this list. But that just means that Batman Begins can get some love. The movie is an outright fun adventure, and it’s also a story that is seldom told: what exactly happened when Bruce left Gotham.
From his dealings with the League Of Shadows to his first meetings with Gordon, and all the way the Tumbler chase and the subway battle, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale delivered a clear message—Batman was back!
5 Blade (1998)
A badass with a trench coat and sunglasses prowls around at night destroying bad guys. That might sound a little bit like The Matrix, but it’s really Wesley Snipes’ Blade. The movie wasn’t the first Marvel movie, but it was the first one in a very long time and besides not wearing a lime green shirt, the movie was a pretty faithful adaptation of the story. It was the first Marvel movie to treat the material with seriousness as opposed to the nonsense of movies that came before like Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher.
4 X2: X-Men United (2003)
The original X-Men was good, but it seemed to be holding back. Right from the moment we see Nightcrawler assault the White House, X2 was off to the races and never let go. After not getting to see Wolverine really let loose in the first film, the assault on Xavier’s School wasn’t just a standout for this movie, it still holds up as a marquee moment for all of the X-movies. Along with the subplot of the ever-looming Phoenix Force, X-Men United was one of the first genre-defining superhero movies.
3 Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Tom Holland is currently crushing it as everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Let’s remember a world where Tobey Maguire has yet to dance his way out of our hearts in Spider-Man 3. That’s because, in Spider-Man 2, Maguire was cooking on all cylinders.
So was the rest of the cast, especially Alfred Molina as Doc Ock. Plenty of superhero movies have one or two action scenes that are unforgettable, this one is no different with the Spidey and Doc Ock train fight.
2 Heavy Metal (1981)
As far as adult-oriented, anthology-laden graphic novels go, Heavy Metal magazine was very influential. The movie was a ride that once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget it. Scantily-clad superheroes, crazy drug-using aliens, and a cabbie who seems like a pro-to-Corben Dallas from the Fifth Element. It’s all framed with stories from an evil ball of light, the Loc-Narr.
1 The Incredibles (2004)
Pixar has had a never-ending string of hits since the very first Toy Story. When The Incredibles was revealed to the world nearly ten years later, they had done it again. To date, Marvel has made a decent Fantastic Four movie, Pixar decided they would create their own family of superheroes. From beginning to end, the movie has all sorts of Pixar magic infused with superhero power... maybe this is where Disney got the idea to buy Marvel?