10 Best Animated Superhero Movies

share to other networks share to twitter share to facebook

Although big-budget live-action superhero blockbusters are all the rage these days, animation is one of the best mediums for bringing cape-and-cowl stories, whether they’re original or comic book adaptations, to the big and small screen. After all, unlike live-action, they’re able to push the limits of our imaginations without relying on distracting CGI or special effects. In short, you’re simply able to get lost in the story itself, without all the excess baggage.

With the popularity of animated superhero movies seemingly on the rise, we here at Epicstream have compiled a list of what we think are the 10 absolute best. Check out our picks and then let us know what you think in the comments section!

  1. All-Star Superman

    Much like the critically acclaimed 12-issue limited series of the same name, All-Star Superman tells the story of a dying Man of Steel as he attempts to get his remaining affairs in order before he succumbs to lingering radiation poisoning. However, due to time restraints, the film is a somewhat condensed version of the source material. Some of the elements of the plot can be a bit confusing, especially if you haven’t read the source material, which ultimately holds the film back from a more favorable position on this list. Still, All-Star Superman is a highly enjoyable movie and it fully encapsulates the joy and brightness of the anything-goes Superman of the Silver Age.

    Advertisement
  2. Planet Hulk

    When it comes to direct-to-video animated films, DC definitely leads the pack. However, one of the few Marvel gems to be released in this format is Planet Hulk. Based on the comic book storyline of the same name, the story centers on the Green Goliath’s banishment to the planet Sakaar where he’s forced to compete in gladiatorial-style battle against other prisoners. Eventually, though, Hulk and his fellow captives start an uprising and overthrow the tyrannical Red King. The film strikes a perfect balance between story and action – something the live-action standalone Hulk movies have struggled with. And while Thor: Ragnarok adopted some elements of the comic book source material, Planet Hulk is a far stronger (pun intended) execution of bringing that story to screen. 

  3. Justice League: The New Frontier

    Despite failing to incorporate all of the quirks and nuances of the source material, Justice League: The New Frontier is a fairly faithful and exceptionally fun retelling of the late Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier. The story bridges the gap between the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, with Golden Age heroes Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman meeting Silver Age heroes Green Lantern, Flash and Martian Manhunter. In addition to adapting the source material in terms of story, the animation also brilliantly captures Cooke’s unique artistic style, which – for many – is worth the price of admission alone.

  4. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

    Few entries on this list do a better job adapting the source material than the two-part retelling of Frank Miller’s most influential work of all time, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Miller is an incredibly cinematic writer, which is largely why the story works so well in both comic book and movie form. Some elements, on the other hand, are greatly enhanced through animation, such as the television-screen-style panels that are so prominent in the comic. Some of the 1980s social commentary may feel a little dated at this point (then again, maybe not), but much like the source material, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is one of DC’s crowning achievements.

  5. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker

    Whether we’re talking about the cut or the uncut version, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker in this list. As any fan will tell you, though, the uncut version is far superior. As the title implies, the story deals with the return of the Clown Prince of Crime in 2040 Neo-Gotham City. However, instead of the original Caped Crusader, it’s up to Terry McGinnis to put a stop to the mad laughter. With this being a Bruce Timm and Paul Dini joint, the animation, direction and voice acting are all outstanding, though the real winner is Mark Hamill’s Joker, who shines brighter than he did in Batman: The Animated Series, if that’s even possible. Do yourself a favor and check out the uncut version, though, if you want to experience the full story as Timm and Dini intended.

  6. Batman: Under the Red Hood

    Batman: Under the Red Hood is an adaptation of both Death in the Family and Under the Hood, which collectively tell the story of the death and subsequent return of Batman’s hot-headed second Robin, Jason Todd. However, unlike the optimistic young hero we see in flashback sequences, Jason – now going by the name Red Hood – is a hardened vigilante with morals far looser than those of the Dark Knight. What makes this film so profound is the struggle Batman faces as he not only attempts to rehabilitate his ex-partner but also as he fights with the guilt he suffers because of what he considers his biggest failure. It’s a moving film, and despite some slightly subpar voice acting in comparison to other DCAU films, Batman: Under the Red Hood is an absolute must-watch.

  7. The Incredibles

    If you take the core premise of Captain America: Civil War, combine it with everything the Fantastic Four films should have been and render it all in CG animation, then you’re left with Disney/Pixar’s Academy Award-winning film The Incredibles. The story takes place in a world where collateral damage and public resentment has forced superheroes into retirement, but a top-secret mission soon pulls Bob Parr and his family away from their quiet suburban life and back into the fold of full-time heroics. Writer/director Brad Bird proved five years earlier with TheIron Giant that he knew how to transcend the genre and craft a well-rounded, beautifully-scripted superhero story that can appeal to all age brackets, and with The Incredibles, lightning struck twice.

  8. The Death of Superman

    In 2007, DC attempted to adapt the classic Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen comic book story in Superman: Doomsday, which fell flat for many fans. Thankfully, though, the second time proved to be the charm with 2018’s The Death of Superman. In fact, the film came as quite a welcome surprise following a short string of DC animated films that were truly worthy of their direct-to-video status. As with other adaptations, the film takes some liberties with the source material, but regardless of the changes, everything works, including the addition of the DCAU’s version of the Justice League. At the time of this writing, we haven’t seen the sequel, Reign of the Superman, but if it’s anywhere close to this one, it will surely be worthy of a spot on this list as well.

  9. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

    If Batman: The Animated Series is the Holy Grail or animated Batman shows, then Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is the same for animated Batman movies. Although it failed at the box office in 1993, fans and critics have been incredibly vocal in their praise for this love story/murder mystery, which features both mainstays from B:TAS and several new and engaging characters. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a film that’s truly worthy of its cult status, and thanks to the recent Blu-ray release, a whole new generation can now embrace it, too. 

  10. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    The hype is real. In fact, if you’ve been on social media whatsoever since the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it should come as no surprise that it landed the number one spot on this list. The film centers on Miles Morales and a whole plethora of Spider-Men and woman (and pigs) from other universes who must work together to stop an inter-dimensional threat. As brilliant and engaging as the story is, though, the animation and voice acting are absolutely out of this world, catapulting what’s already an amazing film into something truly spectacular (see what we did there?).