The past decade was defined by the rise of movies based on comics, and specifically superhero comics, as Hollywood's biggest success story. But while it's hard to remember now, before "The Avengers" firmly established the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a pop culture phenomenon in 2012, hugely successful movies about costumed heroes were considered outliers, not inevitabilities. And that's not even getting into the fact that as the 2010s began, the idea that audiences would flock to films that not only have shared continuities but require them to make sense was considered laughable.
Well, no one is laughing now (except Disney's accountants, probably). TheWrap takes a look at the 12 best superhero movies of the past decade.
12. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"
Fans of the foundational comic book series, which debuted in 2004, may not see this as groundbreaking material; everyone else will. It's a ballsy mashup of imagery and rules of the universe that borrow from video games, TV sitcoms, Saturday morning cartoons, rock 'n' roll, anime, sci-fi/fantasy and yes, comic books.
11. "Man of Steel"
Christopher Nolan's realistic approach to superhero sagas and Zack Snyder's experience creating visually stunning action sequences made Clark Kent's return to the big-screen forget Bryan Singer's dismal 2006 "Superman Returns."
"Deadpool" is one of those movies that's all the more successful for how easily it could have gone so very wrong. It's suffused with an arch, self-aware wit -- its titular hero violates the fourth wall more than Groucho Marx, Bugs Bunny and Ambush Bug put together -- yet it takes its romance and revenge storylines just seriously enough to keep us engaged.
9. "Thor: Ragnarok"
New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi added his personal touch to the "Thor" franchise with this film, and made it fun and entertaining -- and the visual effects are never too much. The film should be lauded for its portrayal of women, as well as main characters, Thor and Loki. Even Hulk is hilarious in the film, and the character and plot arcs work in the third installment of the "Thor" franchise.
8. "Guardians of the Galaxy"
Take the Dirty Dozen, subtract the Magnificent Seven, and you'll roughly get the membership of "Guardians of the Galaxy," a surprisingly winning space-faring adventure with a group of Marvel Comics characters led by Chris Pratt in a breakout action-lead performance.
7. "Wonder Woman"
Gal Gadot's turn as Princess Diana of Themyscira was a refreshing standout amidst the sludge of "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," and she's as good if not better headlining her own solo adventure. It's a film that not only improves upon many of the seemingly built-in shortcomings of superhero movies, but also mixes smarts, sentiment and adrenaline in the best Hollywood style. This is a superior popcorn movie, no matter what the genre.
"Joker" become the first movie with an R rating to gross $1 billion at the box office. That alone is enough to immortalize it in the comic book movie canon. But when compared to some of the big DC and Marvel tentpoles that have defined the movie ecosystem over the past few years, it's amazing how Gotham City's most infamous villain has beaten the superheroes at their own game.
5. "The Avengers"
Marvel Studios built it's cinematic universe over four years and five movies which culminated in the critically acclaimed and crowd pleasing 2012 release of "The Avengers." At the time a radical idea, Kevin Feige's master stroke put all the heroes from the previous Marvel Phase One movies into one big team up movie which conquered the world to the tune of $1.5 billion dollars at the box office.
4. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
The Russo brothers, who made their entrance to the MCU directing "Winter Soldier" before taking the reigns on "Civil War" and, eventually, 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War," really impressed with "Winter Soldier." It's a classic spy thriller with a superhero twist. And Robert Redford as the bad guy is a really nice touch. But what really pushes it to greatness is the way it just gets it. It gets people. It gets the world. It pushes the idea that you gotta do what you gotta do even when you know it's not gonna work out.
3. "Black Panther"
With beautiful cinematography and stunning costume design, "Black Panther" lives up to our expectations. And another thing the film does well: Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger is a fully fleshed-out villain for whom you also feel compassion at times.
James Mangold's small-scale western is a game changer for the entire superhero genre, daring to defy pretty much standard by which you expect these movies to operate. It's just a great movie by any normal standard.
1. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"
The best superhero movies, and movies in general, are the ones that are truly most human. And "Spider-Verse," despite being animated, despite the wacky cast of Spider-People, despite the outlandish premise, is as real as movies get.