The Best Superhero Movies You Can Stream Right Now

Movies Coming to Netflix

There’s never been anything quite like Black Panther before. The latest Marvel movie is one of the first major comic book adaptations with a black lead, and it’s already poised to be one of the franchise’s most successful entries, having sold more advance tickets than any other film in Marvel history. And as Candice Frederick put so eloquently in a piece for /Film, Black Panther is “specifically a black movie that celebrates the strength and beauty of black womanhood in an era in which both get tossed aside.” It may be one-of-a-kind for now, but it will surely usher in a new wave of superhero films that celebrate other races and cultures, and ones that emphasize the power and strength of women.

So yes, Black Panther is a singular film, one that comes at an interesting time in the surge of high-grossing – and occasionally prestigious – superhero flicks. If you’re looking to wade through the waters of what came before, there are a surprising number of excellent-quality superhero flicks currently available on major streaming services. Here are some you can mull over while you wait for your Black Panther screening this weekend.

Best female villain: Batman Returns

Where to watch it: Netflix

Tim Burton’s 1992 sequel to his highly successful, Michael Keaton-starring Batman is this writer’s personal favorite superhero film. It doesn’t have the finesse of the MCU or the gritty surrealism of Zack Snyder’s DC films, but there’s a sort of quirky goth sensibility about Batman Returns. Keaton returns as the Caped Crusader, and Danny DeVito is thoroughly creepy as the evil Penguin, but the star of this show is Michelle Pfeiffer’s iconic interpretation of Catwoman. She slinks across the screen like an acrobat, every move a slippery, seductive tease. There’s never been a female villain quite like her.

Best soundtrack: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Where to watch it: Netflix

Even if James Gunn’s bizarro cadre of characters isn’t your cup of tea – although, if it isn’t, who are you? – you’re probably down for the smile-inducing soundtrack, full of throwback jams you’ve heard a million times before but never in such a sparkly fun context. There’s a lot to love about the Guardians sequel, from Baby Groot to Kurt Russell’s Ego, but it’s the music that really cranks everything up a notch. Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” hasn’t been this memorable since those Eternal Sunshine trailers, and 60s/70s favorites like Fleetwood Mac, Jay and the Americans, and Sweet get showcase moments.

Best attempt at a Wolverine movie: Logan

Where to watch it: HBO Now

James Mangold’s Logan is a miracle movie. After two attempts to give Hugh Jackman the Wolverine spin-off movie he deserved, Marvel finally got it right with this searing, apocalyptic take on the beloved character. (No dig at Mangold’s other Wolverine film, The Wolverine, which is also good – but nowhere near Logan levels.) Jackman has never been better in his most famous role, and Patrick Stewart also delivers an awards-caliber performance as Professor X. But it’s Dafne Keen’s X-23 who steals the show as Logan’s protege and daughter figure, and breathes new life into a franchise that was starting to grow silly and stale.

Best franchise starter: Iron Man

Where to watch it: Hulu and Amazon Prime

We owe a lot to Iron Man. Like, a lot. Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark changed the game back in 2008, a year that also gave us The Dark Knight; the start of universe-weaving, prestige superhero films. It’s easy to forget, given all that came after, just how explosively fun Iron Man is. Downey is perfect as the smart-talking Stark, and it’s fun to spot the little things that would grow out of the film and into what would become the MCU. (We’re looking at you, Jarvis and Nick Fury.)

Most interesting disaster: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Where to watch it: HBO Now

I feel a little mean calling this film a “disaster,” especially given its very passionate – and very vocal – fanbase. I’m not knocking Batman v Superman entirely, because it remains a truly fascinating window in a cinematic universe that’s so ambitious in story and scale that you have to admire the attempt. But that attempt remains a messy one, with signs of studio fussing and odd editing throwing off the layers of interplay between its two iconic leads. Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are both well-cast and do what they can with what they’re given. And it’s always a pleasure to see Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, who swoops into the story in the knick of time and thoroughly justified her own standalone. Speaking of…

Most valuable player: Wonder Woman

Where to watch it: HBO Now

Wonder Woman remains the DCEU’s best feature. It’s a bright, beautiful origin story full of hope and (pardon the dumb pun) wonder. Gadot is fresh as spring as Diana Prince. Her assimilation from island goddess to British civilian is adorable and never cynical, a quality missing from a lot of recent superhero efforts. The film is full of big moments – like the instantly iconic “No-Man’s Land” sequence – that are both heart-wrenching and tender. Director Patty Jenkins nailed this one.

Best facial hair: Doctor Strange

Where to watch it: Netflix

Benedict Cumberbatch gives it his all in this underrated Marvel flick, which is full of enough spiritualism to stand alone in a big cinematic universe. He may be known for his goofy finger poses and swirly hand magic, but it’s that goatee that really gives the character an edge. Or maybe it’s the cape. But the goatee is fun.

Best Christopher Nolan Batman movie: Batman Begins

Where to watch it: Netflix

The Dark Knight was a major event in a lot of ways. Heath Ledger’s take on The Joker changed the game, and the film’s bonafides changed Academy Award voting and ushered in countless imitators and a new brand of cinematic comic storytelling. But all of that technically started in Batman Begins, Nolan’s first take on the character, and a film that feels indebted to both what came before in the genre and the new frontier it was about to pave. For that, it gets a slight edge as “best Nolan Batman” (in this dear ranker’s opinion). The most frustrating element of Nolan’s trilogy is the disparity between location design; The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises have sleek, real-city feels, but the Gotham City of Batman Begins is a little kookier, and way more fun. And it actually feels like the rotting city we’re told it is, not just in the design, but in the goons on the street and the corruption in the corners. There’s also a mysticism to Bruce Wayne’s training that brings levity to all the grittiness. This is a Batman with an origin and purpose you really buy.

Best creature design: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Where to watch it: HBO Now

Guillermo del Toro had a great 2017. He’s the odds-on favorite to win Best Director at the Oscars for The Shape of Water, and he spent much of last year collecting similar trophies for the film. It’s a great time, then, to revisit this gem, a truly singular output from a visionary genius. We’ll probably never again see a comic book movie so gloriously opulent in character design, from the gothic Angel of Death to Nuada’s albino-Legolas vibe. It’s a treat to get lost in del Toro’s lush world-building.

Best romance: Captain America: Civil War

Where to watch it: Netflix

Bucky and Cap are in love and we all know it.

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