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The Top 20 Must-See Quintessential Superhero Movies

Updated October 2, 2019 61.3k votes 4.9k voters 86.7k views20 items

List RulesVote up the superhero movies that define the genre and should be required viewing for beginners in an Intro to Superhero Films class.

It seems every month, a new superhero movie is being released - and that's a good thing! Thanks to the success of earlier films like Spider-Man and Iron Man, the superhero genre has taken Hollywood by storm. Superhero films define our culture as these characters have been with us for decades. Spider-Man, Captain AmericaSuperman, and others are America's epic heroes. Much like Odysseus and Achilles illustrated Greek values, these figures represent the moral principals that define our nation. Audiences are drawn to these characters again and again because of their multigenerational storylines that continue to have relevance today. These essential superhero films teach us that great power means great responsibility, our differences should be valued, humanity is capable of both great good and great evil, and no hero truly stands alone. Even if you're not an aficionado of action and fantasy, there are some superhero movies everyone should watch. 

Superhero films have proven to be some of the most popular, critically acclaimed movies made in decades, and there appears to be no slowing them down anytime soon. Given the sheer magnitude of superhero films out there, getting into the genre can feel overwhelming. This list contains superhero movies for beginners to ease you into the fictional worlds that have proved resonate with millions. 

If you're new to the genre, you can consider this list an intro to superhero movies, containing the most famous films the genre has to offer. Check out these must-see superhero movies and then give your favorites a thumbs up! 

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  • Captain America
    Video: YouTube
    The Captain America Franchise is a set of three Avengers superhero movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that star Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. The series includes Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), set predominantly during World War II, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), set two years after the Battle of New York, and Captain America: Civil War (2016), which is set after the defeat of Ultron....  more
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    • Guardians of the Galaxy
      Video: YouTube
      Guardians of the Galaxy is a 2014 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name. It is the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was directed by James Gunn. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill forms an uneasy alliance with a group of extraterrestrial misfits who are fleeing after taking a powerful artifact....  more
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      • Spider-Man
        Video: YouTube
        Peter Parker is a fictional character and secret identity of Spider-Man in the films, adapted from the comic-book character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; portrayed by Tobey Maguire and films created by screenwriter David Koepp. This rendition of Spider-Man follows the Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3, also appearing in video game adaptations derived from each film....  more
        • Actors: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco
        • Released: 2002-2007
        • Directed by: Sam Raimi
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      • Batman
        Video: YouTube
        Batman is a 1989 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character. The Dark Knight of Gotham City (Michael Keaton) begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being the clownishly homicidal Joker (Jack Nicholson)....  more
        • Actors: Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Michael Keaton, Jack Palance, Billy Dee Williams
        • Released: 1989
        • Directed by: Tim Burton
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