There has never been a better time to be a comic book nerd. Each year, we are treated to a handful of films based on the characters we always knew were fit for the silver screen. Superhero films have become so commonplace that kids growing up right now will have no idea what it was like when our imaginations were the only theaters playing movies for characters like Wolverine and Thor. In order to raise superhero cinema to the level it is on right now, as one the most lucrative genres in all of Hollywood, key films had to pave the way at critical junctures. It was not enough for a new franchise to have its own financial success. It had to inspire executives and filmmakers to give other characters a chance while, hopefully, making bolder creative choices. This article honors five films for being the most important in the history of superhero cinema. This is not a best list, but rather one that focuses on the films that have held up as the most influential, or ushered in a new era of growth within the genre. A film like The Avengers, for example, is too recent for its impact to be adequately measured. As the years go by and superhero cinema presses on, this list will be subject to change, but for now, the following five films rank as the most important in the genre. 5. The Dark Knight The Dark Knight is the most critically acclaimed superhero film of all time, by just about any measure. Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for his iconic turn as The Joker. It is an honor that no actor or actress had ever received for his or her work in the genre. The film received eight Academy Award nominations in total and was listed among 2008s best films by the American Film Institute, Critics Choice Awards, and the Producers Guild of America. Serious superhero films had already been in place for years, but The Dark Knight transcended its genre and entered the realm of what a more pretentious audience might consider high art. It was more than a comic book blockbuster; it was a modern crime drama that just so happened to feature a man dressed as a bat waging war on a criminal mastermind disguised as a clown. At the same time, it was a faithful representation of the source material. To date, no superhero film has ever been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The Dark Knight, however, is the only film that came close enough for people other than rabid fanboys to consider its lack of a nomination to be an unforgiveable snub. Even the Academy appeared to acknowledge its own misstep by increasing the Best Picture category to ten nominees after TDK did not make the list of five nominees for 2008. Essentially, Christopher Nolans masterpiece kicked down the Academy door so that one day, another superhero film will have the ability to actually walk through it.