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The 50 Best Superhero Movies of All Time: An Update

Before ‘Captain Marvel’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’ arrive and disrupt everything, let’s take stock of where the second half of 2018’s superhero movies—from ‘Deadpool 2’ to ‘Aquaman’—rank

Marvel/Warner Bros./Sony/Ringer illustration

The superhero world has gotten a lot … weirder since May 2018, the last time we updated our ranking of the best movies in the category. Following the massive yet relatively traditional releases of Black Panther (no. 2 on the list) and Avengers: Infinity War (no. 9 on the list), the genre saw entries that were either narratively small-scale, bizarrely bold, or creatively groundbreaking. The superhero movies that closed out 2018—Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Venom, Aquaman, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—were evidence of how the genre has evolved and expanded, almost entirely for the better. But that doesn’t mean any of the movies reached icon status on their own.

Our ranking is up to date once again—before Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame come to disrupt things in 2019, that is—and none of the movies that dropped in the latter half of 2018 find themselves cracking the top 20. Deadpool 2, off the strength of solid reviews and strong box office numbers, finished highest of the five movies in question, coming in at no. 22. Into the Spider-Verse followed closely behind at no. 30, though it’s a movie that was clearly hamstrung by its relatively lackluster box office performance. As a reminder, our ranking takes into consideration critical success, box office performance, rewatchability, and timelessness. Into the Spider-Verse scored extremely well in three of those categories—its Rotten Tomatoes score is the highest of any superhero movie on the list, and the same goes for its perfect scores in both rewatchability and timelessness, as voted by Ringer staff. But the movie’s box office total should top off somewhere around $142 million domestically, a paltry number compared with Black Panther’s $700 million, or even Deadpool 2’s $325 million. Is it unfair for Into the Spider-Verse to get penalized so severely for only kind of making a bunch of money? Maybe. But on the other hand, a core purpose of a superhero movie is to make boatloads of money, so maybe not.

Elsewhere, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Aquaman settled in at no. 32 and no. 36, which, as enjoyable, profitable, good-not-great movies, seems right. But then there’s Venom, which—all apologies to my colleague and devoted fanboy Miles Surrey—did not crack the top 50, coming in at no. 67. It does seem shameful that a movie in which Michelle Williams–as-Venom makes out with Tom Hardy–who-becomes-Venom is not considered elite, but there are a few reasons this happened. First of all, the movie’s 28 on Rotten Tomatoes is one of the worst scores of all qualifying movies, topped only by movies like Max Steel, Jonah Hex, and Fantastic Four. Perhaps critics were unable to recognize the genius of Hardy jumping into a lobster tank, but what’s done is done. Secondly, while Venom is somehow making an incredible amount of money overseas—and hardly showing signs of slowing down—our ranking considers only domestic gross, for which Venom’s $213 million is just slightly above average. If we ever update the Good Bad Movie Ranking, Venom will assuredly find its way to the top of that list, but I’m sorry: As far as the superhero ranking goes, Venom is a merely mildly successful film with horrible reviews.

Check out the entire ranking here, and if you don’t like any of it, take it up with the guy who makes the rul—oh wait, that’s me. Don’t take it up with me, because the ruling is final.