As a kid, I adored the cheesy, campy "Batman" TV show. My mother says I spent much of my childhood with a towel tied around my neck and I was Batman for Halloween four years in a row. As I grew older and discovered the Bob Kane comics, I became fascinated with Batman's duality, which then extended into the duality inherent in almost all superheroes and their "seceret" identities.
Superhero movies have been around for almost as long as movies themselves, but they really didn't come into their own until film technology caught up to their super powers in the late 70's with Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie. Since then, they've gotten better and better, though my love of them has never gone away. Below is a list (in no particular order) of my favorite superhero movies. I do have to note that I find it interesting that with one exception, they are all sequels. I suppose origin stories are important, though what really matters are the adventures themselves, which probably makes for much better story-telling.
Spider Man 2 (2004)
Cult director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead; Darkman) turned up the excitement in his first follow-up to Spider Man by introducing one of Spidey's best villains, Dr. Octopus, while making Peter Parker a conflicted (and exhausted) young superhero being torn in too many directions at once. Great performances from a terrific cast (especially Alfred Molina as Doc Ock) and one of the most exciting runaway train sequences ever, make Spider Man 2 one of the best superhero movies, ever.
Batman Returns (1992)
Director Tim Burton's follow-up to his megahit re-imagining of Batman is the best of the 80's & 90's Batman movies. It has terrififc performances from Danny Devito as a grotesque Penguin and Michelle Pfieffer as a super sexy Catwoman, the always brilliant Christopher Walken as retailing mogul Max Shreck (in a nod to the actor who played Count Orlock in the original Nosferatu), not to mention some of the best noirish images since the 40's. A terrific cast, amazing visuals and a witty script from Daniel Waters all add up to one fun movie ride.
Superman II (1980)
Director Richard Lester infamously took over for Richard Donner in this sequel after Donner fueded with producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind. Donner had already shot most of the movie, using a script by novelist Mario Puzo (The Godfather). Superman, realizing he loves Lois Lane, gives up his powers to spend the rest of his life with her, but when a trio of crazed Kryptonian criminals escape their prison in the Phantom Zone, threatening Peace, Justice and the American Way, Supe must find a way to get his powers back and save the world. Stars Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder have never looked more gorgeous and the amazing Terence Stamp (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) makes for one of the genre's greatest super villains.
Blade II (2002)
Blade is one of the comics' first major black superheroes, and as embodied by Wesley Snipes in the first movie, a badass half-vampire/half human intent on avenging his mother's death (and his own creation) at the hands of the vampire Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorf). Snipes is all too grim and all too serious in the original, but in the hands of a genius director Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labrynth), Blade comes into his own in the stylish sequel. Recruited by the vampire elite to fight a new breed of vampire led by the blood-thirsty Nomak (Luke Goss), Blade must reconcile his hatred of vampires with his love for one of their royals, Princess Nyssa (Leonor Varela). It's darker, bloodier and more exciting than both the original and it's rather lame follow-up, Blade: Trinity.
X2: X-Men Unite (2003)
After cutting his teeth on the overblown and often confusing X-Men, director Bryan Singer got down to business and made what, at the time, was the best superhero movie ever. Many members of the LGBT community credit the openly gay Singer for drawing parallels between themselves and the persecuted mutants of the X-Men comics. Starring hunk-a-licious Hugh Jackman in a role he seems saddled with until he loses his looks; sultry Famke Janssen; Patrick Stewart; Halle Berry; Sir Ian McKellan and a slew of terrific supporting players, X2 is an exciting and inspiring entry into the genre.
Iron Man (2008)
Marvel Studios' first fully financed film takes one of their minor characters and elevates him to superstar status, thanks to dircetor Jon Favreau (Elf; Zathura) and a simply terrific performance from super-talented Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role. Downey's zillionaire Tony Stark is a concieted and arrogant creep who learns his lesson when captured in the desert by middle eastern terrorists and forced to build a superweapon. Instead, he builds a super suit and thus is born a superhero. Funny, exciting and loaded with terrific CGI FX, Iron Man was one of three outstanding superhero movies of the past summer.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Del Toro's sequel to Hellboy is simply a visual orgy whose gorgeous images can only really be appreciated upon multiple viewings. When Elf Prince Nuada (Luke Goss, again) decides to take back the Earth from mankind by ressurecting the unstoppable, automatonic Golden Army, it is up to Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his team to save mankind. Perlman, who has spent most of his acting career under layers of latex (TV's "Beauty and the Beast"), gives his best performance as the superhero most people hate - and whose destiny is to bring about Armageddon - while the supporting cast (Selma Blair, Doug Jones and the always hilarious Jeffrey Tambor) just add to the fun. Simply amazing.
The Dark Knight (2008)
How much more can be written and/or discussed about Christopher Nolan's masterpiece? His follow-up to the astoundingly good Batman Begins is quite simply the best superhero movie ever (though many expect Zack Snyder's forthcoming Watchmen to snatch that title away, come next March). Part crime-thriller; part noir mystery and all superhero adventure, The Dark Knight owes much of its success to the astonishing performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. It is the the third of this past summer's three great superhero movies, and the first in the genre to stand a legitimate chance at winning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Nolan) and Best Supporting Actor (Ledger). Should it win any (or all) of these awards, it would be a coup for the genre and a victory for fanboys everywhere. Quite simply an astonishing achievement in filmmaking, no matter what the genre.
More of this, anon.