9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
There has never been such an accurate comic book come to life as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It truly was a Sony Pictures Animation film that captured the most complex representation of Spider-Man in silver screen history.
Spider-Verse’s narrative was deep, not just for the multiverse concept that would come to rule the Marvel Cinematic Universe and mainstream blockbuster discussion for the next five years, but because there were genuine character stakes, interesting plot twists, some existential philosophy, and a genuine “with great power comes great responsibility” arc to rival the very best of them. It was as if Phil Lord and co-writer Rodney Rothman had been given the secret formula by Stan Lee himself, every heart-breaking turn to their narrative and character titbit given in-world consequences and meaning.
In many ways, Into the Spider-Verse was the best of Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy – the very personal stakes, the way in which moments with the ordinary public would come to define the hero, character choices being the most heroic acts of all – but it was also so different to all we’d seen before, it revolutionising the animated form with comic book-inspired renders that looked like they had come straight from the pages of a Marvel comic. Into the Spider-Verse took superhero narratives where they had never been before, presented it in a style that mainstream animation had yet to embrace, and in doing so gave the entire genre the courage to step outside its narrow limitations and into a new era.
10. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Just as Stagecoach had proven to be the height of the Western long before the genre’s relative demise, Avengers: Endgame proved to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s mountain peak, the very highest point the genre could ever reach. Offering sensational final twists to the multi-billion dollar franchise-leading characters Iron Man and Captain America, this was the series finale to top all series finales, and the ideal jumping off point for those who’d matured alongside the genre’s development.
The Avengers (2012) was childhood fantasy come to life, and Endgame was all of that and more. It was quite literally dozens of relatable leading characters from tens of successful franchises and standalones coming together in an otherworldly visual spectacle, uniting as one to overcome an oppressive force that threatened their very existence (and ours). In an era of outspoken discontent with oppression in many forms, Endgame was the fantasy that suggested to us that “our time in the Sun shall come”.
Endgame, perhaps inevitably given the iconic ending to Infinity War, became the most successful box office hit of all time for a small period upon release, its mainstream status confirmed even beyond the confines of cinema and into the wider zeitgeist. People of all ages knew about Endgame even if they hadn’t seen it. There weren’t queues around the block like there had been for the earliest blockbusters Jaws and Star Wars, but the same buzz was apparent. This was event cinema of the highest order, and felt like the only comic book film any comic book fan should ever see. It was fantasy escapism, yes, but in a much more truthful real-world context it could prove to be one of the box office’s last ever major draws, the rise of streaming (and consequentially shorter release windows and lack of trust in the exhibition experience) already defining a world in which more Endgames seem less and less likely.
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