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The 50 Best Superhero Movies of All Time: Another Update

Here’s where ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ ‘Captain Marvel,’ ‘Shazam!,’ and others slot into our rankings

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Warner Bros./Ringer illustration

Since we last updated our superhero movie rankings in January, a few noteworthy entries have hit theaters—four of which were able to crack the latest edition of the top 50, knocking out The Incredible Hulk, the original Hellboy, The Wolverine, and Flash Gordon. (A quick reminder that our rankings are determined through a formula dealing with four equally important factors: critical success, box office performance, rewatchability, and timelessness.)

The most significant newcomer to our rankings is, to no one’s surprise, Avengers: Endgame, which sits in third place on our list. Along with surpassing James Cameron’s Avatar to become the highest-grossing movie of all time, Endgame managed to funnel an entire decade (and 20-plus movies) of anticipation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a satisfying and emotionally resonant ending for OG heroes like Tony Stark and Captain America. (Just don’t think about the movie’s time-travel mechanics too hard.) That Endgame near-unanimously succeeds (see: the 94 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes) with such weighty expectations—not to mention a roughly three-hour run time—was as impressive a performance as anybody could have expected.

Marvel’s imprint on our superhero update went beyond Endgame, though: Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home came in at no. 23 and no. 15, respectively. Both films also surpassed $1 billion at the box office, and seeing how both heroes would appear to be integral pieces to Phase 4 of the MCU—well, so long as Marvel and Sony can agree to share Spidey in the future—their enduring popularity will be important to Marvel’s overbearing dominance in the genre moving forward.

The only non-Marvel addition to the rankings came courtesy of the DC Extended Universe, as Shazam! narrowly made the cut at no. 44. Shazam! didn’t make nearly as much money as its DCEU predecessors Aquaman and Wonder Woman, but with positive reviews and a respectable box office intake relative to a smaller budget—well, small by superhero standards—it certainly wasn’t a letdown, either. Despite technically being a shared universe, the DCEU no longer seems interested in putting its heroes in films together after the failures of the Zack Snyder era. (Even if that won’t stop certain fans from clamoring for the instantly mythologized Snyder Cut of Justice League.) Shazam!, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the upcoming Joker couldn’t be tonally farther apart, but that’s a DCEU feature, not a bug. With Joker due out in October, we’ll see whether DC’s hot streak continues with sadboy Joaquin Phoenix becoming cinema’s very first Incel Joker. (Kidding; sort of.)

Alas, that means the likes of Glass, Dark Phoenix, and the Hellboy remake couldn’t break through this year—though none of that should be particularly shocking. Glass, arguably the best film of the bunch, often felt like M. Night Shyamalan conducting an academic lecture explaining the appeal of superheroes as if we haven’t been watching dozens of blockbusters for the past 15 years. Meanwhile, the new Hellboy was crass, loud, R-rated, and profoundly stupid. With respect to star David Harbour, who was doing his best, it’s a travesty that Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman didn’t get a chance to complete their aesthetically unique franchise.

And poor Dark Phoenix. Disney’s swallowing of 21st Century Fox played a part in the movie getting reshot and reworked until the last minute. (Jessica Chastain and Co. were originally going to play Skrulls, but because the Skrulls were also showing up in Captain Marvel, the characters were retrofitted into what can only be described as vaguely menacing “Evil Groots.”) Perhaps Dark Phoenix was always destined to be terrible—a compelling Sophie Turner performance notwithstanding—but it’s a tepid and anticlimactic end to Fox’s storied and highly influential mutant franchise. Thankfully, the X-Men live on in our rankings, where Logan already feels underrated. (How is it not in the top 10?!)

You can peruse our entire rankings here, and if you would like to express any complaints about where certain films landed or how the rankings are formulated, don’t shoot the messenger—the creator’s Twitter handle is @andrewgrutt.