The 25 best superhero movies – ranked by Robbie Collin

From having rich, dead parents to being bitten by a radioactive spider, there are many ways to qualify as a superhero, so perhaps it’s fitting that the superhero movie is one of the most inclusive and welcoming genres of all.

There’s no immediately obvious common ground between a suspenseful M Night Shyamalan drama about a security guard blessed with unnatural resilience and strength, and a swashbuckling space adventure co-starring a talking raccoon and a sentient tree – yet we intuitively place both in the superhero category.  

Perhaps that’s because each film says something about our collective human desire for a certain kind of champion to rise up in troubled times – a vigilante who has our best interests at heart, but doesn’t abide by the laws, either societal or physical, that hold us back. Or perhaps it’s just because we love dual identities, fantastical struggles between good and evil, and fancy, skin-tight costumes, and it’s useful to group stories that provide all three under the same catch-all heading.

So in ranking the greatest superhero films of all time, we’ve tried to keep things flexible. Some are based on pre-existing comic books while others aren’t; and some centre on humans with extraordinary powers while others don’t. Some are science fiction, some are fantasy, and others fall somewhere in between. But all of them are terrifically entertaining – and if the superhero boom continues to yield films this great, then long may it continue.