Director: David Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong, Grace Fulton, Djimon Hounsou, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews
When it came to be understood that two Captain Marvel movies would be hitting cinemas at more or less the same time, few could have expected that the Warner Bros offering Shazam! starring Zachary Levi would be the one most fondly remembered, but what David Sandberg and the team at DC offered was a loving tribute not only to the superhero films of our age, but those coming-of-age childhood classics from the 80s and 90s such as The Goonies; it truly was a smile-inducing 2 hours and 12 minutes.
Creative, hearty and seemingly made with the intentions of sneeking a lovely movie into the studio system, Shazam! may not have massively excelled in terms of action but it more than made up for it in terms of comedy and a sense of innocence often lost in the sub-genre’s never-ending pursuit of wider and wider audiences.
Having more than tripled its production budget at the box office, a sequel will likely be heading our way before too long and, given the warmth of the original, an impending 2nd movie is not something we’ll be fighting against.
Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen
A billion dollar box office hit that sparked controversy from critics and even government institutions before it had ever been released, Todd Phillips’ Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role was probably the most critically divisive film of any genre in the 2019 calendar year, but what it managed to provoke in some critic circles and audiences can be seen as evidence of a film ultimately delivering on its premise of a character study about a villainous psychopath.
Featuring one of the best lead performances of any actor in 2019, Joker was a tightly anchored piece with little extravagance by the way of cast (in terms of number or star names) and offered a character journey that seemed to unravel at an ever-increasing pace for the entirety of its runtime, creating an instantly recognisable piece of cinema that offered something truly unique to its mass audience.
While Joker is arguably not a superhero film at all, the film’s undeniable ties to the genre earn the film its inclusion in this list, and given its difference to so much of what the genre has produced to date, as well as the quality of some of its central-most aspects, it is absolutely one of the most significant pieces of the year, perhaps even the decade; only not quite as significant as our number one…
Recommended for you: Live-Action Jokers Ranked
1. Avengers: Endgame
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Josh Brolin, Danai Gurira, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Mackie, Jon Favreau, Tom Hiddleston, Evangeline Lilly, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Letitia Wright, Pom Klementieff, Michelle Pfeiffer, Cobie Smulders, Tilda Swinton, Taika Waititi
Joseph Wade’s review of Avengers: Endgame described the MCU culmination project as follows: “it’s likely we’ll never see superhero cinema reach the heights of this again. Every single minute of the 3 hour run-time will captivate you (and then some). Laugh, cry and be left in awe at the majesty of the peak of the Marvel mountain…”
And what a peak that was…
Superhero cinema has been around for decades, and Marvel Studios for over 10 years, but if ever there was a stepping off point for long-term die hard fans, that point would have been after Endgame, the film offering satisfying narrative conclusions to a number of long-term stories; enough to warrant all twenty-plus films released ahead of it.
So far as superhero cinema goes, Endgame had it all. It had stakes, incredible action, quips, moments of levity, deep moments of emotional twists and turns, it all made sense and it all looked spectacular. What more could anyone want from a superhero film?