1. Dark Knight (2008) & Iron Man (2008): It might seem like a cheat, but these films are such polar opposites in tone, that to try and declare one better than the other is an injustice. Dark Knight is the heavy and oppressive serious film. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is unsettling and outright scary. He pretty much created a definitive film version of the character. Iron Man is the fun action film. Downey Jr. is completely charming and has great chemistry with Gwynneth Paltrow (resurrecting a somewhat forgotten character-was Pepper Potts even around anymore before the movie announced she was a character in it?). Terrence Howard was solid, and Jeff Bridges was almost unrecognizable with that bald head…but he was a great bad guy. That these two very different but very good comic book movies came out in the same summer was kind of impressive.
2.History of Violence (2005): An intense tale of people seeking second chances, Viggo Mortensen gives a terrific performance as Tom Stall who becomes a local hero when he foils a small town robbery. But all is not as it seems, Tom has a past he has tried to leave behind…and it follows him, threatening his new life and his family. Cronenberg created a terrific film, with a powerful cast.
3. X-Men 2 (2003) / Spider-Man 2 (2004): The first tie. Both movies no longer had to worry about “introductions” and could just give the audience the adventure they were looking for. More Wolverine! But seriously, Wolverine was less tame-yet more heroic, his fight against the soldiers in the mansion is spectacular. Everybody is great, Singer was clearly building on something and had some big ideas for the third film. It felt like the Empire Strikes Back of Super Hero movies. Of course, the third film might as well had Ewoks…
Spider-Man 2 was great partially because it kicked fanboy complaints in the ass. Fanboys laughed at the announcement of Doc Ock as the villain. He just a fat guy with metal arms…how could that be a threat??? But Raimi took the challenge and cast Alfred Molina… Molina played his role as a tragic monster. And it really worked. We have Peter Parker having to fight a man he truly admires, in the end, Otto Octavious shows his true colors, making him one of the best movies super-villains in all of the Super Hero film history.
4. V for Vendetta (2005): Unlike Watchmen, which did not update it’s story, the Wachowski Brothers and director James McTeigue opted to push the film forward into a near future and update it’s parallels. This completely changed the point of the original story, so in that sense, one could easiy be very critical here. But the visuals and the performances were mesmerizing. Even though the film can seem a little overbearing in it’s metaphors for the war on terror, it is one of the few Alan Moore adaptions to be successful at all, let alone work pretty well as a film (looking at you League of Extraordinary Gentleman).
5.Road to Perdition (2002): Tom Hanks stepped into a slightly atypical role. While he is a loving father, he is otherwise not a pleasant guy. He is a hitman who works for Paul Newman…but when his son is witness to an event he should not have seen, Hanks works to protect him-as well as keeping him from choosing the same dark path he has taken in life. The performances are excellent and it is a story that keeps your attention.