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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, May 19, 2011


To be sure, some of my "top 20" won't be recognized as films with superheroes in them, though I certainly could justify the featured heroes as belonging to what I call the "superhero idiom."

MARK OF ZORRO, THE (1920)-- The first cinematic adaptation of Zorro, as well as the film that elevated Douglas Fairbanks Sr to adventure superstardom

SEIGFRIED (1924)-- Fritz Lang's ambitious adaptation of the Seigfried legend

MASK OF FU MANCHU, THE (1932)-- *Not* the first film adaptation of classic "super-villain" Fu Manchu but still an over-the-top delirious delight

TARZAN THE APE MAN (1932)-- The first Johnny Weismuller Tarzan, and still the definitive jungle-hero.

ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1941)-- The best chapter-serial adaptation of a comic-book superhero.

7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, THE (1958)-- The best venture by Ray Harryhausen pitting heroic swains against stop-motion monsters

GOLDFINGER (1964)-- The best of the '60s superspy films.

DIABOLICAL AXE, THE (1965)-- Mexico made dozens of wrestler-superhero films, but this one, which gives Santo an origin uncannily like that of Captain Marvel, is excellent escapism.

THE FIRST STAR WARS TRILOGY (1977/1980/1983)-- Well, it really is one long continuity spread out over three films, so I'm counting it as one big film.

SUPERMAN II (1980)-- Once the origin was outta the way, the sequel was free to be a little less portentous.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1980)-- Valentine to the adventure-serials of yore, albeit with a supernatural angle they usually didn't attempt.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)-- Not always true to Robert E. Howard, but closer than any other live-action or animated version.

ROBOCOP (1987)-- Best of the "future-Earth" superheroes

BATMAN (1989)-- Whether you think modern superhero movies are a good thing or not, Tim Burton gets the credit for making them viable as adult entertainment.

HEROIC TRIO, THE (1993)-- Hong Kong's best take on the superhero genre

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2003)-- Wire-fu *wuxia* superheroics.

X2: XMEN UNITED (2003)-- Another #2 sequel that outdoes the original.

SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)-- And yet another #2 that outdoes #1.

IRON MAN (2008)-- Robert Downey, jacked up on armor.

INCREDIBLE HULK, THE (2008)-- Still not the absolute best take on the Hulk, but the closest so far.

It'll be interesting to see if any of 2011's offerings force me to drop one or more favorites. GREEN LANTERN certainly seems a contender-- but I thought that about THOR, too.


Charles Innes Jr. said...

starwars is not a superhero film

Gene Phillips said...

Like I said, "superhero idiom" applies to these films whether people say "superhero" when they see it or not.

wug said...

If Star Wars is a superhero film, then so is Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or any movie where a character has fantastic powers, which are half the movies in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Basically, your defining the superhero genre so widely as to make it near meaningness. You also forgot BATMAN BEGINS, the best live-action superhero movie in the past decade or two.