I haven’t gotten to see "Suicide Squad" yet, but if the promotional stuff’s anything to go by, the movie is dark, deranged, and a bit refreshing. I say that not so much because I like edgy movies, but because it looks like it’s something new. So many of the superhero films I’ve seen lately have been formulaic -- they weren’t bad, in fact I loved watching most of them. But there’s a fine line where I’ve seen the 15th or 20th superhero origin story in a semi-realistic setting with a cute romance subplot, and I think, “haven’t I seen this before? This almost feels I’m watching "Iron Man" again.”
For anyone else in my spot, looking for something a little more quirky to watch, here are five of the more memorable superhero movies out there.
1. "Ant-Man" directed Peyton Reed (2015)
This film could have easily been just another action comedy á la "Iron Man" or "Captain America." Fortunately, Marvel Studies went for a caper film tone instead, and we got possibly the funniest Marvel movie yet. Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a reformed cat burglar who gets recruited by retired superhero Hank Pym. Pym needs someone to help him defeat a former protegé (played by Corey Stoll) and take up his mantle as Ant-Man.
From Scott’s hilarious cohorts, to his interactions with Pym and his daughter, to an (ahem) “messed-up looking dog,” the laughs don’t let up in this film.
2. "Superman" directed by Richard Donner (1978)
Ultimately, most superhero movies have emulated this film on some level. But none of the successors have really captured the sheer gravitas and scope. Like “Ben-Hur” (or “The Godfather,” also co-written by Mario Puzo), the story slowly unfolds to reveal mythic characters who strive for things which will have massive consequences if they get them. Christopher Reeves gives a great performance as the Man of Tomorrow, sent to earth by his father Jor-El to avoid one planet’s demise and become the beacon of another one. Margot Kidder co-stars as Lois Lane, and Gene Hackman plays Lex Luthor.
Forty years and five sequels and remakes later, nothing has quite touched this epic.
3. "Spider-Man" directed by Sam Raimi (2002)
If "Superman" invented dramatic superhero movies, "Spider-Man" revived it after a decade of disuse. Most of the contemporary superhero movies have followed its lead – and at least one emulated it too much – none of them have had the same fusion of drama and goofiness. It treated its characters like real people, but also had cornball special effects and favored thrills over polish. Tobey Maguire plays the titular character, with Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson.
The sequel may have been better made, but it didn’t match the funny, slightly-dated intensity of this film.
4. "Batman Returns" directed by Tim Burton (1992)
It may not be Tim Burton’s best film -- or even his scariest -- but as superhero movies go, this may be the darkest one out there. It opens with an infant Oswald Cobbleplot (aka the Penguin) being thrown into the sewer, and it only gets darker as Batman fights this feral, flippered foe’s plans for Gotham. Micheal Keaton returns as the caped crusader, with Danny DeVito as the Penguin, Micheal Keaton as Batman, Michelle Pfeiffer as a psychotic but alluring Catwoman.
The atmosphere's cranked to a third gear in this film and never slows down.
5. "Darkman" directed by Sam Raimi (1990)
One of the few dramatic superhero movies of the '90s to get both good reviews and good box office receipts, "Darkman" is also highly unique. Fresh off his work on the seminal "Evil Dead" movies, Sam Raimi created a superhero based not on comic books but on old Universal monster flicks. It’s a weird, garish extravaganza, but that’s all intentional. Liam Neeson stars as Peyton Westlake, a disfigured scientist whose life was destroyed by mobsters, and he’s decided to return the favor. Frances McDormand stars as his lady love, and Larry Drake plays a cold-blooded mobster villain.
You may love or hate this movie, but you certainly won’t be bored.