It's been nearly 15 years since The Dark Knight - easily the most beloved superhero film ever made - was released. Since then, the superhero genre became the dominant film genre of the 2010s. Of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was largely responsible for that boom, but The Dark Knight's success definitely helped pave the way.
The Dark Knight might not be the best superhero film ever made - that would be The Incredibles - but it's a close second. Out of all of Hollywood's comic book adaptations, the second of Christopher Nolan's Batman pictures is the one that stands out as a genuine cinematic masterpiece.
So, throughout the superhero boom, has any subsequent film actually lived up to Nolan's sophomore Bat-flick?
Well, no, but many have come close and there have been a ton of absolutely great superhero offerings released throughout the subsequent 14 years since that movie. Such films are a reminder that, for all the flack superhero films get from many, this is actually a genre that regularly produces some really excellent work.
So, from the MCU to the X-Men, from DC to post-modern superhero comedies, these following 20 superhero smash hits are the films that have come closest to matching The Dark Knight.
20. X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Kicking off the list is X-Men: Days of Future Past, which merged both the old and new X-Men casts together and reached highs that the mainline X-Men series never actually reached again.
Detractors of superhero films love to dismiss them as mindless spectacle, and while that argument is certainly true in some cases, the genre is actually one that frequently delivers strong storytelling and compelling heroes' journeys.
A fantastic example of this is Days of Future Past, which is honestly better as a drama than as an action film. It's an emotionally rich, smartly scripted and exquisitely acted (by Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Michael Fassbender in particular) extravaganza that does deliver some really strong action, but always puts character first and makes for a moving, utterly fascinating viewing experience.
It can occasionally be slow, but the overwhelming amount of heart and sheer power of the narrative more than make up for its flaws. Besides, this movie also gave us one of the greatest scenes in superhero movie history: Professor X's (Patrick Stewart) telepathic conversation with his younger self (James McAvoy).
Oh, and if all of that wasn't enough, this is also a time travel film that mostly avoids plot holes and retcons the travesty that was X-Men: The Last Stand - "satisfying" doesn't even cover it.