For most of the 20th century, superheroes were considered entertainment exclusively for children. Within a few years of their inception in comics they were everywhere — by the early 1940s, you could find superheroes on the radio and on movie screens, with television following not long after that — but almost exclusively in tacky, low-budget material intended for a youthful audience. These were not great works of art; more like disposable junk.
As the audience for comics and superheroes began to get older in the 1960s and ’70s, and as special effects technology began to improve, the budgets and ambitions of superhero movies grew. These days a great superhero film stands up to comparison with any other big-budget Hollywood production. Of course, the bad superhero movies are still just as crummy — or maybe worse — than those tentative early efforts.
Below, we’ve surveyed the entire history superhero genre, from the highest of highs to lows so low they would make Mole Man blush. These lists include films based on Marvel and DC characters, as well as heroes from independents like Dark Horse and Image — and even a few characters that bypassed comics entirely and were created expressly for the big screen. They show just how far superhero movies have come in 80 years — and how far they still have to go.
The Best Superhero Movies Ever Made
We ranked the 25 best superhero movies ever. Did your favorite make the cut?
The Worst Superhero Movies Ever Made
We love superhero movies here at ScreenCrush, but the genre is not without its share of flops. Here we rank the worst of the worst.