It turns out that I'm an idiot who can't count. I forgot one key superhero movie which is awesome, easily in the top 5, and when I looked at the other 4, none could in all good conscience be thrown out in favour of Spiderman 3, which I loved even if everyone says it's bad.
The one I forgot is now at number 4. I think it's that good.
You know the X-Men franchise takes itself pretty seriously - at least this far in its run - from the fact that it opens in Auschwitz. Ooer, dark; Frank Miller, Alan Moore territory here we come. After that it comes together very nicely as one of only 2 successful multi-protag superhero movies. A raft of terrific actors have a great time with a good screenplay.
4. The Incredibles
I remember watching this at the cinema with my daughters and being impressed at a film which could hugely entertain a pre-school child, a teen and an adult. The story structure is terrific, the pace never lets up, the humour sections are genuinely funny and not just saddo cheese-fests (I particularly loved the costume fitting). It's not easy to write a great story that has pace, humour, always with an eye on the video game opportunity. I think The Incredibles really pulls it off. My only teentsy concern is the self-referential nature of the movie, with its commentary on the nature and perception a world in which superheroes exist. It seemed a very original twist on the superhero mythology when Alan Moore did it in 'Watchmen', but now seems a bit passe. Then again most people haven't read 'Watchmen'.
I love Tobey Maquire and have always loved Peter Parker. Green Goblin was a great villain to pick for the Spidey movie. Peter's growing delight with his powers and the way that, despite being a superhero he only slowly dispels his nerdy-boy persona, are the stand-out bits for me. Yes, the swinging is all very good too, love the swinging and the wall-crawling.Everyone in this movie is just great, but Jonah Jameson is a special delight.
2. Superman II
I almost put this top. It's not top of anyone else's list, as far as I know, which makes me think; where were you people in 1980? Don't you realise the significance to those of us who were lovelorn teens, of the moment when Clark tells Lois that he's Superman? Their first kiss is up there with Han Solo's kiss with Princess Leia as one of the defining movie smooches for people my age! We also get to learn more about Supe's homeworld, see the camp wonderfulness of the exiled Kryptonians and actually worry that Superman may not win the day. The end somewhat spoils it, with Clark being allowed to get his powers again. I see that it's called for, but basically, it's a deus ex machina.
1. Spiderman II
It's unusual for a sequel to be better than the first, but not uncommon in Superhero films. Why? Because the first superhero film necessarily serves up the Origin Story. We all know more or less what such a story will give us. Ordinary guy becomes extraordinary and finds that he must use his extraordinariness to help people. Big Baddie threatens the world, superhero to the rescue, problem solved. Not very interesting, so far. The surprises, threats and complications really arise in stories further along the line. Jaded superhero; superhero tempted to evil; superhero in love, etc. Spiderman II goes for an early foray into Jaded Superhero. It's probably not a bad time for that story. You can't really roll that one out again until the superhero is supposedly 'past it', as in "The Dark Knight Returns". Doc Ock is great, ripping chunks out of walls and hurling them at people. So many classic moments of the genre, so well executed.
Didn't make the list:
Daredevil - one of my greater movie disappointments. How was this not wonderful? Why didn't they get Frank Miller to write it? What was with the stupid, pumping rock soundtrack? Why was Matt Murdoch not blond??? I love MM but Daredevil was baaad, and not in the good way.
Elektra - not as dreadful as people say, actually. Better than Daredevil. But again...why didn't Frank Miller write? Why didn't they at least use one of his Elektra stories?
Constantine - (based on Hellblazer) really good. Would put it at twelve.
Spidey 3 - cos I can't count, but I'd put it at 7 probably, in a rejig.
Superhero Movies I'd Like To See:
The Spirit, Watchmen, a good Daredevil movie, Groo the Wanderer, The Trouble With Girls. Technically neither The Spirit, Groo nor Lester Girls have superpowers. But then neither does Batman, so fair is fair.