10. Daredevil (2003)
Years before he became Batman, Ben Affleck starred as lawyer-turned-vigilante Matt Murdock in Daredevil. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, Daredevil pitted the Man Without Fear against Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin and Colin Farrel's Bullseye. Affleck put in a lot of effort for the role, working with the blind performer Tom Sullivan in order to understand what it felt like to be blind; the film's special effects were actually quite innovative, particularly when it came to realizing Daredevil's Radar Sense. Unfortunately, though, the plot was basically a paint-by-numbers superhero origin story. Daredevil was a commercial flop, grossing just $179 million in the global box office.
There's a sense in which it's hard to rank Daredevil. The R-rated Director's Cut was of a far superior quality to the theatrical release, and Johnson is rightly proud of it. "We hadn't seen a superhero come home covered in scars, and chewing on pain pills," he noted, "and it was kind of grim. You're not going to get that right now from a Disney-owned Marvel character."
9. Fantastic Four (2005)
Next up is the first Fantastic Four film, starring Ioan Grufford, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis as Marvel's First Family. Where most of Fox's superhero movies pivot towards the dark and gritty, director Tim Story decided to honor all the cheesiness and lightweight humor of the original comics. It has its highlights - Chiklis starred in several memorable scenes, pulling off an effective performance in spite of the heavy makeup - but on the whole Fantastic Four demonstrates that a comic book concept from the 1960s does actually need a bit of adapting in order to work on the big screen.
Jessica Alba has been scathing about the whole experience, telling Syfy that it even made her consider giving up acting. "The director was like, 'It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica.' He was like, 'Don't do that thing with your face. Just make it flat. We can CGI the tears in.'"
8. The Wolverine (2013)
There's a sharp jump in quality between Fantastic Four and James Mangold's The Wolverine. Set in the aftermath of X-Men: The Last Stand, The Wolverine is a character piece in which Jackman's Logan is struggling to deal with pain and grief. He's gradually drawn to Japan, where he gains a sidekick in Rila Fukushima's Yukio and an ally - and potential lover - in Tao Okamoto's Mariko. The plot is adapted from one of the most popular Chris Claremont stories of all time, and a number of scenes are reproduced faithfully as part of the story, including a tremendous sequence in which the Hand bring Wolverine down.
While this is a strong film, it isn't really Jackman who shines in it. Fukushima was perfectly cast, with Mangold dramatically reinventing her comic book character; she changed from a black-clad assassin to a manga-inspired bodyguard. It worked perfectly, and Fukushima reveled in the action scenes, admitting she had a blast.
7. X-Men: First Class (2011)
2011's X-Men: First Class was essentially a smart way of relaunching the X-Men franchise. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, it was envisioned as a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy, revealing the backstory of Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. Fox struck gold with a series of high-profile castings, with James McAvoy playing the young Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, and Jennifer Lawrence becoming the shapeshifting Mystique. The plot is a smart one, weaving the X-Men into real-world history in a version of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's something of a character piece, exploring the relationship between Xavier and Magneto and laying the foundations for the bitter rivalry of the X-Men trilogy.
Unfortunately, this film also marks the point where the X-Men continuity really began to get a bad rep. The inclusion of Emma Frost flatly contradicted X-Men Origins: Wolverine, while the childhood friendship between Xavier and Mystique doesn't quite work in light of their adversarial relationship in the first three X-Men movies. Still, First Class was a box office success, grossing over $350 million worldwide and gaining positive reviews. The future of the X-Men franchise was secured.
6. Deadpool (2016)
One of the most popular X-Men characters from the '90s, Deadpool had long been a subject of interest to Fox. They'd cast Ryan Reynolds for the part in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and at the time had even contemplated a spinoff Deadpool movie. But that film disappointed, and frankly made very strange decisions when it came to Deadpool. For years, the project seemed to be dead in the water.
Then, to everybody's surprise, test footage leaked online and went viral. Fox relented in the face of proven demand, and Reynolds got his chance to redeem the role. He flourished in the role, winning over viewers the widecracking, fourth-wall-breaking Merc With A Mouth. Deadpool grossed a stunning $783 million against a budget of just $58 million, a staggering achievement given its R-rating. Reynolds was joined by Stefan Kapičić as the voice of Colossus, and Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, with the latter character dramatically reinvented for the film. The success of Deadpool emboldened Fox to take a more experimental, and frankly far more successful, approach to their superhero movies.
And yet, it's important to note that Deadpool isn't perfect. It's a triumph of style over substance; when viewed through a critical lens the plot is frankly rather lackluster. But that doesn't really matter; it's the performances that made this film a hit.
Page 3 of 3: The Top 5 Fox Superhero Movies
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020