Over the last two decades, the superhero movie has come to be one of the most dominant genres in Hollywood, with many of the world's biggest media franchises based on the adventures of various caped crusaders and superpowered vigilantes.
From the intertwined mega-franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DCEU to animated favourites such as The Incredibles and gritty, serious affairs such as Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy to comedies such as Deadpool, superhero movies have come in many different forms over the years, but which can claim to be the best?
To try and find out, we've ranked some of the biggest superhero movies of all time based on the following four factors:
(according to IMDb)
According to Metacritic
Total Worldwide Gross
(adjusted for inflation)
Taking the top spot is Marvel's Avengers: Endgame, the final film in the MCU's ‘Infinity Saga' and the culmination of 21 films that came before it.
Not only is Endgame the highest-grossing superhero movie, but it's also the highest-grossing movie of all time, making around $2.8 billion, which shows just how popular the genre has become.
It was also a hit with fans and critics alike, who saw it as a satisfactory conclusion to the stories of the heroes that we've got to know over the last decade or so.
2019's Joker goes against so many of the things that we would expect from a ‘superhero' movie, so much so that if you didn't know that it was taking place in the Batman universe, you'd be forgiven for instead seeing it as a psychological thriller.
The film was by far the most searched for of any of the films we looked at, and also had the second-highest rating with fans, although critics were a little more divided on the film, praising the Oscar-winning performance of Joaquin Phoenix, the cinematography and musical score while criticising the dark tone and handling of violence and mental health.
Black Panther broke down many barriers for the genre, as the first superhero movie to feature a nearly all-black cast, but it was also massively successful with fans, critics and at the box office.
With a story that touched on modern political and social issues that don't often get covered by superhero movies, the film also became the first in the genre to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars.
Annual Search Volume
As we know, the majority of superhero movies are based on comic book characters, predominantly from those by the two biggest names in the business: Marvel and DC.
Of course, other publishers have seen success too, such as Dark Horse's Hellboy, while there are also plenty of superhero movies which are totally original for the big screen, such as Pixar's Incredibles films.
However, it's still Marvel and DC who dominate the landscape, so which comes out on top?
Taking an average for the 100 top movies featured in our ranking, it was incredibly close, with the two having an identical critic score for their films (64), while Marvel slightly had the edge with fans (a rating of 7.2, compared to 7.1).
Financially, Marvel outperformed DC by around $130m, although DC received more Google searches than Marvel!
Taking all of the above into account, it was Marvel who came out on top, by the narrowest of margins!
We looked at over 100 superhero movies and ranked them on the following four factors, giving each movie a normalised score out of 100 for each factor and taking an average across all four factors to arrive at our final score.
The user-submitted score out of 10 given by users of IMDb.
The average review score of movie critics, aggregated by Metacritic.
Annual Search Volume
The number of global searches made for each film on Google between November 2019 and October 2020 according to Google Ads Keyword Planner.