I found a pretty good deal at Target the other day. I wasn’t even looking for it. I just stumbled across it in the movie section. It was a Superman 3-pack on Blu-ray for thirteen dollars.
Thirteen dollars! That’s less than five dollars per movie. And we’re not talking Superman IV: Quest for Peace kind of Superman, we’re talking Superman I, Superman II: The Richard Donner cut and Superman Returns. I mean “technically” that is the complete story (at least as perceived in the mind of Bryan Singer).
I was pretty thrilled with my find and decided to do a Superman marathon that weekend. Superman I and II we’re quite enjoyable. I’ve never seen the Richard Donner cut but had heard that most people believe (and I now agree) that it is the preferred version.
Where this article comes in, though, is with Superman Returns. Superman Returns is a sad movie, not because the plot itself is sad but because this movie should have been awesome. Brandon Routh is a great cast for Superman, Bryan Singer had a great track record for genre movies, with X-men and X2 but somehow the movie fell apart. It got lost in a mopey Superman, a miscast Lois, and a failed attempt to keep in continuity with Richard Donner’s cuts. But I digress.
What caught my attention in this movie is one scene. One scene, that when considered alone, is probably the best Superman scene to date: the airplane rescue. In fact, you could say that this scene is one of the reasons Superman Returns is so bad because this scene occurs so early in the film and the rest of the movie never gets close to being that good again. It’s like if someone gave you a great piece of cake and then immediately started feeding you pigeon poop.
So watching this scene again got me wondering: what are the best scenes in superhero movies? Not what is the best superhero movie, but what are the best scenes? The ones that stick with us long after the credits roll? So after careful study and research including a marathon of Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman, and many more including (gasp!) Fantastic Four, I’ve come up with this list. Unsurprisingly, Fantastic Four didn’t make the cut.
Now one thing to note is I am looking at superhero movies, not movies based on comic books. I realize that for the majority of this list those two ideas will be one in the same but there is one scene here that wasn’t based on a comic book. But because we’re looking at superhero movies you won’t see anything like A History of Violence or Road to Perdition on this list, though those are both excellent movies with many great scenes.
I did try to get clips of the scenes but in some cases, I couldn’t find the clip or the quality was really poor, so you’re stuck with a trailer. I am sorry for that but my suggestion would be to go watch the scenes in their full glory anyway.
Also, spoilers abound from this point forward. So if you haven’t seen a movie, just skip it on this list or you know, go out and see it and then come back.
Finally there are so many great superhero movies that many classic scenes didn’t make the cut. I would love to have included the hostage scene from Kick Ass, the helicopter rescue in Superman or final scene from Unbreakable and many more but there was only room for ten and something had to go. So here are my top ten scenes from superhero movies:
10. Chronicle: The Talent show
Every kid knows that being able to fly or shoot lasers from your eyes would take even the nerdiest comic book kid and turn them into class president in under three minutes. It’s a dream we’ve all had and many movies have shown the joy of a kid gaining powers but I have never seen it portrayed better and with so much fun than the Talent show scene in Chronicle. Using their newfound telekinesis, Steve and Andrew go into the school talent show and skyrocket Andrew’s school status from loser to winner in a heartbeat. While the notion of fake friends who don’t really appreciate you is all over this scene it’s still so much fun to see Andrew get the confidence to be the top dog for one night.
9. Captain America: The final talk with Peggy
Captain America: The First Avenger is full of great moments including one of the best introductions to a hero’s costume I’ve ever seen when Captain America tours for war bonds. But the moment in the movie that feels most like the Captain America we know and love is the heartbreaking final talk between Captain America and Peggy. As he bravely steers Red Skull’s ship into the ocean, saving millions of lives, Capt. talks over the radio to Peggy promising her a date to go dancing. Sadly it is a promise that he and the audience know he’ll never be able to keep.
8. V for Vendetta: The Old Bailey Blows Up
V may not be a superhero in the traditional sense but his quest for vengeance and justice isn’t far off from someone like Batman. His methods on the other hand are a bit more extreme, as portrayed in his bombing of the Old Bailey. Happening at the beginning of the movie, we are shown that V is more than willing to use people’s emotions, such as fear, guilt or duty to complete his mission of revenge. This scene leaves his unwilling partner Evey, and the viewer, questioning if this man is someone they should get behind or if his actions against a fascist government may be less heroic and more of a fanatical terrorist.
7. Spider-Man 2: Doc Octopus and the train
Spider-Man 2 is the golden medium of the Sam Rami trilogy. Sandwiched between Spider-Man, which was good, but doesn’t hold up and Spider-Man 3, which went so far off the rails that it is hated and ignored by everyone this movie is still the best of the bunch* and that is reflected best in the epic train fight with Doc. Octopus. This felt like the first real Spider-Man fight and thankfully the often hostage Mary Jane was nowhere in sight, giving us the real threat of an out of control train. An unmasked Spider-man was able to stop the train only before passing out from exhaustion. He was then moved to the back of the train in a Christ-like fashion and is promised from the people of the train that they won’t reveal his secret. The scene is cut short when Doc Octopus returns but it’s a save that’s hard to forget.
6. Batman Mask of the Phantasm: I didn’t count on being happy
Our first and only animated movie on this list spun out of the classic Batman: The Animated Series. While most Batman movies feature at least one great Bruce Wayne moment, it is surprising and fitting that it’s in the animated movie that we get the best one. Flashing back to the days just before Batman’s creation Bruce finds he is falling in love with a girl named Andrea Beaumont. Realizing he can’t be with her and keep the promise he made to his parents Bruce travels in the rain to beg at his parents grave for their permission to break his promise to avenge them. Few lines give chills quite as much as this: “It just doesn’t hurt so bad anymore… I know I made a promise but I didn’t see this coming, I didn’t count on being happy. Please, tell me that it’s okay.” Even years later our hearts break knowing that is one promise not meant to be broken.
5. Watchmen: Opening credits
“Watchmen” is a live-action motion comic. Zach Snyder lifts the majority of the scenes straight out of the famed comic book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. This method works great in some scenes, such as Dr. Manhattan’s transformation and some not as well but the best of the best in this movie occurs during the opening credits. We are given a history of this alternate universe set to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “The times they are a-changing”. There are so many little easter eggs and treats in these scenes that you feel like you’ve watched an entire movie. In fact who knows, maybe DC will decide to reedit these scenes for a “Before Watchmen” movie.
4. Marvel’s Avengers: Assemble in NY
“Avengers Assemble!” might not have been said in the movie but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. Taking five years and five movies worth of information, Joss Whedon assembled the biggest movie obstacle of past few years by bringing several big characters and actors onto one screen. The movie is full of many parts that will put a smile on your face but there’s really nothing else like that big battle in New York. From Hulk smashing Loki to Iron Man’s sacrifice, it’s a great battle scene that spotlights each character and gives them a logical reason to… well, assemble.
3. Superman Returns: Airplane rescue
As stated above, this scene is one of the most Superman-like scenes you could hope to see. From the beginning ditch of Jimmy at the bar to the heroic ending with a cheering crowd, this is what it feels like to have a Superman comic brought to life. Contrary to Lois’s article she wrote while Superman was missing, “Why the world doesn’t need Superman,” this scene reminds us why the world does need Superman: to do the big and powerful things that other heroes can’t.
2. X2: X-Men United: Nightcrawler takes the White House
You could debate this one with me and I would probably lose because the opening scene in X-Men is one of the most famous of the genre but I’ve always had a special place for the sequel’s opening scene when Nightcrawler takes the White House. This scene turns the first movie on its head as you get a really good example of why regular folk are afraid of mutants. Nightcrawler takes down the entire secret service without breaking a sweat. This sets the stakes for the movie and shows what a dangerous mutant could really be capable of. You believe in the X-Men but you can also relate to the fears of regular people. On top of everything else this scene is so much fun as you get a real sense of what Nightcrawler can do with his powers. You may wonder what teleportation would really allow you to do and this scene shows you over and over again that there is a valid reason for Nightcrawler being one of the main X-Men over the past 30 years.
1. Dark Knight: Joker interrogation scene.
The Dark Knight changed the way the world sees superhero movies forever. There is no denying that the influence from this movie has seeped into every superhero movie since it’s debut in 2008. You could create a list of the 10 best scenes in the movie and still have several difficult choices to make. But if you could only pick one scene to show everyone what this movie was all about it would have to be the Joker interrogation scene at GCPD. This scene shows Batman and Joker’s relationship in an intense mental battle and physical battle. If you want to extend this scene out it also shows the creation of Two-Face, as well as Batman’s biggest failure, the death of Rachel Dawes. Everything from the music, to the cuts, to the lighting and shots; there is not better representation of Batman and his world than this scene. Should the Joker ever appear in a later film this scene will be what that entire movie would be judged against.
So there you have it, my top ten superhero scenes. Do you agree? Did I forget something? Leave a comment below with your own list.
*It should be noted that the Amazing Spider-Man and the Dark Knight Rises could change this list up a little bit. I will go through at the end of the summer and revamp the list based on what these two movies bring. Perhaps this will be a top twelve list depending on how those two movies shake things up.