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‘The Dark Knight’ and More Superhero Films That Wowed Fans and Critics

Why so serious? It’s been 10 years since “The Dark Knight” premiered on July 18, 2008 to sweeping success, establishing DC Comics as a major threat in the superhero film industry. But “The Dark Knight” achieved more than just an impressive billion dollar showing at the global box office — it also captivated film critics.
The DC powerhouse proved comic book movies’ potential to extend beyond fanfare and into the upper echelons of cinema history. And though comic book adaptations aren’t necessarily the kind of movies that come to mind when awards season approaches, a smattering have attained critical success. Here’s a list of 10 of the best-reviewed superhero blockbusters of all time.
The Dark Knight (2008)

Though “The Dark Knight” is technically a Batman film, its resounding critical acclaim had much to do with the caped crusader’s nemesis, the Joker. Heath Ledger’s brilliantly chilling performance as the giggling, knife-happy villain earned him a rare spot in an elite class of actors who won the Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, and Critics Choice award for a single role. Ledger received the honors posthumously, as he died prior to the release of the film, which scored eight total Oscar nominations. In 2008, Variety‘s review of “The Dark Knight” called it a ”bold, bracing, and altogether heroic reinvention of the iconic franchise.”
Iron Man (2008)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Marvel/Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5886260g)Robert Downey JrIron Man - 2008Director: Jon FavreauMarvel/ParamountUSAScene StillAnimationIronman

The MCU’s inaugural film, “Iron Man,” took the idea of a self-made superhero to a new level, with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark literally becoming the advanced technology he created. Downey Jr.’s witty and sarcastic performance as the biotech hero added extra personality to the film, which landed two Oscar nominations for sound editing and visual effects — no surprise to Variety, which touted the film as an “expansively entertaining special effects extravaganza.”

Logan (2017)

Logan 2017

A dark horse in the 2017 Oscar race, “Logan” received one nomination for its screenplay, which turned the action-packed superhero formula on its head in favor of deep introspection, portrayed elegantly by Hugh Jackman as an underground Wolverine. Like “The Dark Knight,” the film also benefited from a dynamic supporting performance, delivered by Dafne Keen as Logan’s young companion, Laura. Last year, Variety credited director James Mangold for his adept handling of violence in the film, which critic Owen Gleiberman called, “slashingly satisfying, because it’s earned, and also because Mangold knows just how to stage it.”

Superman (1978)

Superman 1978
A pioneer in the comic book film genre, Christopher Reeve exuded unflinching heroism and morality as the invincible Superman. The movie soared to four Oscar nominations, including a nod for legendary composer John Williams and a win for visual effects. 40 years ago Variety recognized the super film’s significance, calling it “a wonderful, chuckling, preposterously exciting fantasy.”
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 2
Three different movie stars have donned Spider-Man’s iconic webbed suit in the last 20 years, but Tobey Maguire will go down in history as the first to bring Marvel’s youngest super to the big screen in the early 2000s. Nominated for three Oscars, the middle film in the original “Spider-Man” trilogy stands out for its innovative cityscape action sequences featuring the teen hero versus the nefarious Doctor Octopus. Variety bestowed the sequel with high praise, deeming it “as good a live-action picture as anyone’s ever made using comic book characters.”

Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther

The first superhero movie with a primarily black cast, Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” quickly surpassed blockbuster status and became a cultural phenomenon. Chadwick Boseman’s stoic valor in the title role, Michael B. Jordan’s complex performance as the threatening Killmonger, and the technologically astounding world of Wakanda — run largely by a force of women — introduced a new standard of heroism, prompting fans and critics alike to sing “Wakanda forever!” Hopping on the Wakanda-train, Variety wrote, “Everything that distinguishes ‘Black Panther’ from past Marvel pics works to this standalone entry’s advantage.”
WONDER WOMAN
Another major stride for inclusion in the super-verse, DC’s “Wonder Woman” proved femininity can save the world. Gal Gadot’s tenacity and vulnerability as the first woman to headline a superhero film launched her to global stardom, leading the film to best many of its male-centric competitors both in the critics circle and at the box office. Last year, Variety‘s Andrew Barker called Patty Jenkins’ tentpole “consistently entertaining — with star Gal Gadot proving an inspired choice for this avatar of truth, justice and the Amazonian way.”
The Avengers (2012)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Marvel Enterprises/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5886273du)Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark RuffaloThe Avengers - 2012Director: Joss WhedonMarvel EnterprisesUSAScene StillAvengers Assemble

What’s better than a superhero? Try six superheroes teaming up against an alien army. The star power packed into Marvel’s “The Avengers” — featuring Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Chris Evans’ Captain America, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk — smashed the summer box office and scored an Oscar nomination for visual effects. Variety applauded the Oscar-nominated spectacle as “escapism of a sophisticated order.”

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Sound Mixing Oscar Contenders

Match-ups between Earthly defenders and extraterrestrial enemies are relatively common in the super-sphere, which is why the novel idea of intergalactic superheroes carved a memorable spot for “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, and the rest of the ragtag alien team delivered action-packed escapes and a rocking soundtrack to the MCU, which Variety predicted would “inject some much-needed life into Hollywood’s sagging summer fortunes.” In addition to indeed bolstering the box office, the film also scored two Oscar nominations.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain American-Civil War

“Captain America: Civil War” pitted two of the MCU’s most powerful superheroes against each other in an epic battle with practically enough cameos to qualify as a fourth “Avengers” film, featuring not only Evans’ Captain America and Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, but also Boseman’s Black Panther, Paul Bettany’s Vision, Johansson’s Black Widow, Don Cheadle’s War Machine, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, Renner’s Hawkeye, and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. Variety praised the “hero-vs.-hero extravaganza” as “the most mature and substantive picture to have yet emerged from the MCU.”

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