2018 has proven to be quite an incredible year for superhero movies. The likes of Disney-Marvel, Warner-DC and even Sony Pictures have managed to release offerings of a high standard, with each picture being successful in its own right. The quality on the screen and the returns at the box office have been at an all-time high with Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther even receiving Oscar buzz as one of a number of critically acclaimed releases in the genre this year.
In 2017, Justice League proved to be the standout dud of a pretty stellar year, but without a single film hitting such lows in 2018, we were treated to 9 films of the popular adaptation genre that were entertaining, exciting and at least somewhat unique.
In this edition of ranked,we’re ranking each 2018 superhero movie from worst to best.
Don’t agree with us? Let us know in the comments!
9. Ant-Man & the Wasp
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, T.I., Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer
It’s not that Ant-Man and the Wasp was at all a bad movie, more that it seemed to retread a lot of old ground, the film seemingly the last of the dying breed of 1st and 2nd phase MCU films, tropes and all.
The film managed to sew together somewhat of a reasonable villain story and the casting additions of Laurence Fishburne and Michelle Pfeiffer were welcomed, but the film’s purposeful distancing from the rest of the Avengers story was divisive and there seemed to be very little so-called “real” stakes. Being a sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp didn’t have the surprise factor its predecessor had and thus failed to capture the imagination when it offered much of the same in a way seemingly even more in line with the traditional Marvel sequel. This 3rd Marvel offering of the year was fun and still worth a watch (especially for fans of the Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly characters) but in a time of transition for superhero films as a whole towards more genre-specific fare, dialling down the comedy from one of the studios’ first forays into the genre just seemed a little too “by-the-numbers”.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate
If this was a list for most divisive superhero film of the year, then Venom would top it. The Sony Pictures release felt like a throwback to the 2000s decade of superhero films like Daredevil, The Fantastic Four and Elektra, only with more insults and bloody violence, Tom Hardy’s performance being one so clearly enjoyed by the actor himself that you couldn’t help but to appreciate it, whether you loved it or hated it.
What this film did hold over Ant-Man and the Wasp however, was that it felt fresh. We hadn’t seen anything like this in nearly a decade, and while so much of it was absurd and ridiculous, that only added to the feeling of it being different to the rest, a quality that Ant-Man 2 didn’t have.
Must-see in its own right, this standalone debut for the famous character of Venom sits at number 8 for the year.
7. Incredibles 2
Directors: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson
Make no bones about it, Incredibles II was one of the year’s most hotly anticipated movies. The original Pixar classic had gathered somewhat of a cult following, with many listing it among the very best superhero movies ever made, but this year’s sequel felt like a replay of the first film more than anything original in its own right, with each character’s arc from the first movie seemingly forgotten in order to replay them all over again in this film, only with Elastigirl in the lead role.
The choice to centre the picture on Elastigirl made for some funny moments, but the narrative was let down by a twist about as easy to foresee as it gets – the true bad guy of the piece was quite literally called Evelyn Deavor ie, Evil Endeavor – and just about everything else was so frighteningly similar to the original that it just didn’t quite hit like it perhaps should have done, the spark of The Incredibles 1 seemingly dimmed a little by an adequate sequel that holds a lot of enjoyment but isn’t quite the follow-up we deserved after all these years.
Director: James Wan
Starring: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temeura Morrison, Ludi Lin, Michael Beach, Randall Park
Another divisive superhero film? Never!
The only live-action superhero film to come from DC and Warner Bros in 2018 was Aquaman, a movie that looked and at times even felt like an underwater Thor complete with battles lifted directly out of Star Wars, but also suffered from some absurdly poor dialogue exchanges, predictable and overplayed character arcs, and a few small hints that it was, at times, playing it safe.
The qualities of director James Wan inevitably dragged this film into the realm of at least being passable (even to DC’s most hardened critics), while Jason Momoa came across as a charismatic new presence in the superhero sphere.
This was hardly blow-your-socks-off cinema, but it was a step in the right direction for DC and a visually compelling movie in of itself.
5. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Warner Bros Animation
Directors: Aaron Horvath, Peter Rida Michail
Starring: Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Michael Bolton, Greg Davies, Nicolas Cage
This unexpected gem of a TV series movie was packed to the brim with Deadpool levels of fourth wall breaking and puns galore, and unexpectedly had fun for both kids and grown-ups.
The narrative itself was simple enough – the story following famed Batman sidekick Robin’s pursuit of becoming a film star just like his DC brethren (each of whom appear) – but it was the level of comedy on offer in this Warner Bros Animation that truly set the film apart.
To quote some of the better lines:
“You’re not the Justice League? Then you must be the Guardians of the Galaxy?”
“I did have a movie, but we don’t talk about it” – Green Lantern
“The plutonium crystal, the perfect plot device.” – Slade (ie, “Not Deadpool”)
What really sent this movie over the edge was a Stan Lee cameo to remember, the famed Marvel creator popping up in animated form in this film “by accident” because he “simply loves cameos!” It was quite a fitting way for one of the comic book industry’s greatest names to make one of his final appearances, and a truly memorable moment in a film filled to the brim with creativity, cameos and fun.
4. Deadpool 2
20th Century Fox
Director: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna
Now that the Deadpool live-action movie character is well and truly a part of the zeitgeist, his presence seems too often to be overlooked and/or forgotten, the almost invincible superhero’s endless gifts to us accepted as if the norm when in actuality it remains pretty damn special.
Ryan Reynolds and company have created a juggernaut of the genre (pun intended) and this year gifted us a 2nd instalment worthy of the original and all the hype we’d had for years in the build-up to its release.
Perhaps lost a little behind the cultural phenomenon that was Marvel’s largest ever team-up movie (which was released just 3 weeks earlier), Deadpool 2 actually made over $700million worldwide as an R-rated (15) film, continuing to prove the financial viability of films aimed at more adult audiences.
In the film itself, the X-Force team-up was perhaps the most fondly remembered of all of its major moments and could arguably be the funniest superhero movie sequence of all time because of how it subverted genre expectations and delivered laughs in the truck load. Let us cherish Mr. Deadpool, PG-13 Christmas specials and all.
3. Black Panther
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis
The cultural phenomenon of superhero cinema in 2018 was without a doubt Black Panther, the first black person fronted superhero film from Marvel Studios and the introduction of one of the undisputed leaders of the studio’s output from here on out.
Coogler’s work behind the camera crafted a truly enticing and emotional story that was at once personal to the two central most characters and their opposing views, but also the plight of African Americans as a whole. Each character was identifiable, their actions believable, their viewpoints understandable, and the response was one of love and adoration; finally we had a movie with true representation, not just stereotypes.
It was indeed very tough to put an apparent Oscars front-runner at number 3, but with a few misdemeanours regarding CGI and sub-plots, Panther just didn’t quite reach the levels of the two all-time great superhero movies that top our list…
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Sony Pictures Animation
Director: Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoe Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine
What a breath of fresh air Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was.
This unique animation, inspired by the comic book panels of the actual “Spider-Man” comics, burst out of the screen in about as unique of a way as we’ve seen from Hollywood ever.
The work of the studio, under the guidance of The Lego Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who acted as producers, with Lord doubling as the screenwriter), was nothing short of spectacular, the matching of the animation to a tantalising, exciting and fresh new take on the Spider-Man origin story cementing this unexpected gem as one of the best superhero movies of all time and easily the animated film of the year.
Had it been released in almost any other year, this truly effervescent, moving offering would have topped our list, but there was one once-in-a-lifetime event that we simply couldn’t overlook…
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin
“What did it cost?”
Avengers: Infinity War is the superhero film of 2018 because it may well be the single greatest superhero film of all time.
This epic culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 1st and 2nd phases felt like the special event all other superhero films had only ever marketed themselves as, the season finale to a 20-movie stretch across time and space. Everything in this movie felt like it mattered, and obvious reincarnation aside, the Russo’s truly made you feel the struggle of the heroes against their coming destruction.
With a cast of over 20 mainstream, franchise-leading characters each playing their part, Infinity War was the stuff of dreams for any avid comic book reader or comic book movie fan, with each frame offering something for everyone but never feeling exploitative.
There will simply never be another superhero film like it, and we could very well end up describing this as the peak of the mountain when looking back on the superhero craze in general. This absolute gem from two of the greatest comic book directors of all time was an unforgettable picture, a cultural phenomenon and the best superhero film of 2018.
Phew… there’s bound to be some controversy with the order of this piece! If you feel like contributing to the conversation, please leave a comment (but remember to be courteous).