Best Superhero Movie Origins

The 10 best superhero origin movies of all time

Contributed by
Oct 18, 2018

Every superhero needs an origin — and given that Hollywood has been teeming with superhero movies in recent years, a lot of those origins have been depicted on the big screen.

Some of those origin movies have been less than stellar and even terrible (Ghost Rider, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Green Lantern, we're looking at you in particular), but the majority have been very good, which is probably why superhero movies are the big thing in the world of cinema right now.

In this piece, we'll take you through what we believe are the best 10 superhero origin movies. As there have been so many, some may be missing — do you agree with our list?

Captain America First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger may just be the most under-appreciated superhero movie of all time.

While you'll rarely hear anybody calling it terrible, it's hardly ever spoken about in the same way other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are — and that's a real shame.

Its problems lie in the fact that it isn't the huge spectacle that most superhero movies are, and it doesn't provide loads of laughs — something many superhero movie fans want in a flick — but it's still a very good movie. Not to mention that it spawned two of the best sequels in comic book movie history, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Captain America: Civil War (2016).

The First Avenger boasts lots of pulpy action, has a very retro vibe, and feels like good old-fashioned entertainment. Moreover, it features several great performances, not least of all from Chris Evans as the titular hero, but also from the likes of Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, and Stanley Tucci.

deadpool

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool is unlike any other superhero in movie history, so it was only appropriate that his 2016 origin film was equally unique.

Ryan Reynolds starred as the titular character and absolutely nailed the role. Reynolds is Deadpool. It was the casting everyone, including Reynolds, wanted, even after he portrayed the character in less successful fashion in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

When you consider that Wade Wilson's story is a pretty tragic one, it feels weird saying that no other superhero movie has ever provided so many laughs. The meta nature of the movie, the fourth-wall breaking, the one-liners, the self-deprecation, and the Easter eggs and references all ensure Deadpool earns a place on this list.

Deadpool was genuinely hilarious and showed that R-rated comic book movies can be both a commercial and critical success — so it's no surprise that a sequel was rushed out just two years later.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

In the case of superhero team movies like 2012's The Avengers, we can't really refer to them as "origin movies" because the characters who were founding members of the team were already superheroes at the time. That's not the case with 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy, however.

When the Guardians of the Galaxy first met, every single one of them was a rogue of some description. Star-Lord was an outlaw, Gamora was an assassin working for Thanos, Rocket and Groot were mercenaries and bounty hunters, and Drax was in prison for a murderous rampage.

But they came together to fight for the forces of good and the result was a charming, hilarious, and truly epic cosmic adventure — and, given how relatively unknown the team was to most movie fans, all of that made for a very pleasant surprise.

The movie spawned a sequel that was almost as good as the first, 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the team recently met the Avengers in this year's Avengers: Infinity War — so you know they've officially made it.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange (2016)

After eight years of mostly science-based movies, it was inevitable that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would explore the world of magic. In 2016, Doctor Strange did exactly that, with the introduction of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sorcerer Supreme, and it was great!

The film brilliantly depicted Stephen Strange's transition from cocky neurosurgeon to spiritually-led Master of the Mystic Arts after he severely injures his hands in a car accident.

As well as being a great movie, Doctor Strange was also a fabulous visual spectacle that transfixed audiences, featuring psychedelic imagery that the world would have referred to as "far out" or "trippy" when Strange was created back in the '60s. It genuinely felt fresh and original — and that's quite the compliment, as feeling "fresh" and "original" are two things that most superhero movies struggle to achieve these days.

Batman Begins

Batman Begins (2005)

Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy is, to this day, the most consistently brilliant superhero movie trilogy ever made.

It all started with 2005's Batman Begins, the first live-action Batman movie to truly depict the character's origins (1989's Batman saw the Dark Knight already fighting crime from the get-go) and Christian Bale's first outing as Gotham City's protector.

While it was dark and brooding, Batman Begins was also an extremely smart and exciting movie that brought a genuine sense of realism to Batman without losing any of the character's essence. It also helped movie fans to understand exactly what motivates Bruce Wayne to become a nocturnal vigilante.

And the fact that it had the exceptional supporting cast of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, and Katie Holmes didn't do it any harm, either.

Spider-Man

Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man was one of the first superhero movies of the modern era — along with the likes of 1998's Blade and 2000’s X-Men — that kicked-off the love affair Hollywood still has with masked vigilantes today.

This 2002 offering was the first in Sam Raimi's iconic trilogy with Tobey Maguire in the titular role — and it was absolutely fantastic.

Spider-Man featured all the web-swinging action you could ever want in a Spidey flick, but it also had a lot of heart, as Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and Rosemary Harris delivered brilliantly emotional performances. That, combined with the love Raimi obviously put into it, resulted in a wonderful cinematic experience.

Of course, the sequel would turn out even better — Spider-Man 2 (2004) is one of the best superhero movies ever made — but the less said about Spider-Man 3 (2007) and that awful depiction of Venom, the better!

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (2017)

Finally, we come to a female-led movie! Yeah, they aren't many of those in the world of superhero movies (although, thankfully, that's looking likely to change in the coming years).

2017's Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot in the titular role, was absolutely superb. The Israeli actress had already made her DCEU debut in the previous year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, in which she was the best part of what was otherwise a complete mess of a movie, so the fact that her solo outing was so good was no surprise at all.

Gadot was charming and inspirational, the movie was a genuinely good piece of period re-creation, and Wonder Woman's romance with Steve Trevor was one people actually cared about, which is rare in superhero movies.

It's by far and away the best movie in the DCEU, although, given the quality of the others, that's not as notable an achievement as it should be.

Iron Man in Flight

Iron Man (2008)

The movie that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008 was Iron Man, and the fact that it was so damn good is a huge reason why the franchise has gone on to be so successful.

Robert Downey Jr. took on the titular role after a period of rebuilding following years of very public substance abuse, arrests, rehabilitation, and relapses. That made his casting a huge risk — as did the fact that Iron Man was then nothing more than a B-list character in the world of superheroes — but his charisma made his Tony Stark immediately likable and his undeniable talent helped make the film a huge critical success.

Iron Man provided the platform for Downey Jr. to become one of the world's highest-paid actors and he has since gone on to portray Stark in eight more MCU movies to date (including cameos).

Superman

Superman (1978)

No superhero movie list would ever be complete without 1978's Superman. Heck, the list could be about the best superhero movies of the last 10 years and you'd still have to include it, just because!

In all seriousness, Superman is 40 years old and still genuinely holds up to this day. Granted, some of the special effects look a little silly, but they were state-of-the-art at the time and we'll happily let them slide due to how great the movie is.

It was Christopher Reeve's debut as the Man of Steel and he totally nailed it. Reeves exuded just the right touch of charm, humor, and formidableness to portray both Clark Kent and his superhero alter-ego perfectly.

The movie depicted the Kryptonian being launched into space, landing on Earth, growing up on the Kent farm and becoming Superman. It was a true pioneer of the superhero genre and one of the main reasons movies about such characters are still so popular today.

Black Panther

Black Panther (2018)

This year's Black Panther movie was so good that many people are calling for it to be nominated for the Best Picture gong at the 91st Academy Awards next February.

Black Panther was an astonishing movie that elevated superhero cinema to new heights, told a fantastic story, introduced a plethora of intriguing new characters to the big screen, and broke down several barriers in Hollywood with a black director and predominantly black cast.

It was a colorful, epic adventure of a movie and, given that it saw Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa assume the throne of Wakanda and truly become the titular hero by allowing the world to see what Wakanda is really about, it's undoubtedly the best superhero origin movie of all time.

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