Every year it’s the same thing: a whole new squad of superheroes flies into movie theaters. But this year you can start your own Justice League with all the superheroes showing up onscreen. There’s X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, and Captain America: The First Avenger. And those are just the ones coming out this summer. It all kicks off on Friday, when the God of Thunder brings his big, badass hammer to the big screen in Thor. We can’t wait. In anticipation we’re running down our 10 favorite superhero movies.
1. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s 2008 Batman movie truly transcends the comic-book genre. For starters, there’s Heath Ledger’s terrific performance as the Joker. Then there’s the story and Nolan’s taut direction. It doesn’t get better than this.
2. Batman Begins
Nolan’s first Batman movie is super too. He retells the Dark Knight’s origin with plenty of style. But he also shows off some intense action sequences. Plus, you get to know the man behind the mask.
3. The Incredibles
Pixar’s 2004 hit about a family of superheroes trying to make a go at it in the real world goes deeper than most live-action movies, with issues of loyalty, responsibility, and individuality.
What happens when your superheroes aren’t so super? According to this bloody, foul-mouthed movie about kids playing dress-up, you get your ass kicked. And you bleed. A lot.
5. Iron Man
The sequel is loud and obnoxious. But the first one from 2008 is everything a superhero movie should be: big, explosive, and totally awesome. It’s a lot of fun to watch too.
Zack Snyder’s big-screen version of the greatest comic book of all time is long, unwieldy, and thoroughly mesmerizing as it tells the story of a group of old superheroes investigating the murder of a colleague.
7. Spider-Man 2
Spidey is one of the most popular superheroes out there, and director Sam Raimi captures his longtime appeal in the first two movies in the series (the less said about the third the better).
Next year’s reboot is supposed to wipe away everything you know about this 2002 movie. Why? It’s faithful, exhilarating, and loads of fun. Plus, the Green Goblin is totally badass.
By modern standards, this 1978 movie about Krypton’s favorite son seems a little corny. But Christopher Reeve is the perfect Man of Steel, and the film perfectly captures the comic’s head-spinning exuberance.
M. Night Shyamalan’s often overlooked follow-up to his breakthrough movie The Sixth Sense stars Bruce Willis as a maybe-superhero who survives a terrible train accident. Think there’s a twist? Has Shyamalan made crappy movies since?