And there are also the "novelty" superhero films such as "Indian Superman." These movies are/were exercises in copyright infringement, and never saw theatrical release outside of their countries of origin. Many of these films are good for a few laughs, and can be seen in part or in their entirety on YouTube.
Excellent! Had to see it twice!
Good movie with a few flaws.
Not bad, but not great.
I’d watch it once if I was bored enough.
So bad it’s kind of good.
1950s, 1960s, 1970s
1. Superman and the Mole Men (1951) *
You can watch this whole movie on YouTube. It is, by some accounts at least, the first feature film featuring a DC or Marvel superhero.
2. Batman (1966) @
You can also watch this one on YouTube. I've read that at the time this came out, the two stars of the show were banging just about anything in a skirt. Good times!
3. Superman (1978) ****
This film is classic, and is STILL one of the best superhero films ever made! The scene where Lois "dies" really freaked me out when I was a kid.
4. Superman 2 (1980) ****
This one might be even better than the first Superman. Terrence Stamp was fantastic as General Zod, the plot was well thought out, and many scenes in this movie are iconic. See it if you haven't already.
5. Swamp Thing (1982) **
Wes Craven directed this before he rose to fame with A Nightmare on Elm Street. As a child it was one of my favorite films, though I can't say I like it quite as much now. Adrienne Barbeau was HOT.
6. Superman 3 (1983) **
Not quite as good as the first two Superman films. Also quite jokey, but Richard Pryor was in it, so what could you expect? Gotta love the "bad Superman" sequence.
7. Supergirl (1984) @
Supergirl, one of several kryptonians who survived the destruction of Krypton by fleeing to "inner space," does battle with an evil sorceress. The actress that plays Supergirl is hot, but this movie makes almost no sense from beginning to end.
8. Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1987) **
A lot of people like to go on about how terrible this one is, but it's not really trying to be a good film in the first place. Christopher Reeve takes his last run at being Superman, and the whole thing is predictably silly. Would have been cooler if "Nuclear Man" had been Firestorm.
9. Batman (1989) **
Tim Burton's 1989 movie phenomenon. This is the movie that revived the genre after years of stagnation. Pretty slow compared to more recent films, but a lot more like Bob Kane's original Batman comics. In some ways, Michael Keaton is still my favorite Batman. Fun Trivia: for the three weeks Jack Nicholson spent filming his scenes as the Joker he earned $6 million, in addition to a percentage of the box office gross, which amounted to something between $60 and $90 million!
10. The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) **
A surprisingly watchable movie. More humorous than the first one, and Swamp Thing looks less rubbery. It's too bad they never made a third one, because the run Alan Moore did on the comic book would have produced some really trippy movies. Fun Trivia #1: Heather Locklear is in this. Fun Trivia #2: The actress that played Faora in Superman II is Dr. Arcane's mistress.
11. Batman Returns (1992) *
This didn't seem so much a movie as an excuse for a toy line. By 1992 I was already sick of Tim Burton and his quirkiness, and this movie did nothing to change my opinion of him. Yeah, Michelle Pfeiffer was a damn sexy Catwoman, but that fact alone did not save this film.
12. Batman Forever (1995) *
This is where Joel Schumacher stepped into the Batman franchise, and the results are unsuprising. It's a shiny, pretty movie star world that proves unbearably dull. It would have been bad enough, but Jim Carrey's overacting makes it so much worse. Fun Trivia #1: Bruce Wayne breaks a henchman's neck after Two-Face disrupts the circus. Fun Trivia #2: During a subsequent discussion, Wayne mentions to Dick Grayson/Robin that "The circus must be halfway to Metropolis by now." Fun Trivia #3: Jon Favreau, who would go on to direct both Iron Man and Iron Man 2, is in this movie for about a second.
13. Batman and Robin (1997)
Gluttons for punishment would have seen this in the theater. I was probably next door, watching a better film. Seeing the apocalyptic performance Arnold Schwarzenegger gives as Mr. Freeze, one marvels that Batman Begins ever got made at all.
14. Steel (1997)
Shaq plays John Henry Irons, an ex-soldier who develops a suit of armor and then sets out to rid the inner city of high tech weaponry. Some terrifically bad puns in this movie. It was aimed at kids, and the plot makes little sense.
15. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) *
No wonder Alan Moore wants nothing to do with Hollywood. Movies such as this one prove his point. This movie lacks the sense of irony that made the comic book so good, and one wonders what the hell Sean Connery was thinking.
16. Catwoman (2004) @
Halle Berry plays Catwoman, Sharon Stone plays the villain, and Benjamin Bratt plays the most clueless detective in the world. The DC comic book character in name only. That scene where the cats bring Halle Berry back to life is hilarious. So bad it's good!
17. Constantine (2005) ***
This oft-overlooked movie is worth your time. It might not be classic, but it's a solidly put together film with an interesting protagonist. The guy that plays the devil near the end is great.
18. Batman Begins (2005) ****
Hell yes. This was a movie Batman as we always wanted to see him. Not the neurotic guy with all the gadgets, but the kind of guy who could kick your ass. The scarecrow is awesome here.
19. V for Vendetta (2005) ***
Great film, made by the Wachowskis of Matrix fame. Hugo Weaving is fantastic, and even if they dumbed down the source material it's still worth your time.
20. Superman Returns (2006) **
Not as bad as some people make it out to be. Yeah, Superman does come off as a stalker, and I don't know why they had to do so many of his flying scenes in CGI, but the part where Kevin Spacy and co. deliver a beatdown is excellent.
21. The Dark Knight (2008) ****
Still hands-down the best superhero movie ever made. And yes, I liked The Avengers. The plot is complex, the performances are amazing, and the direction is first-rate. How could Nolan have ever topped this one?
22. The Spirit (2008)
Fuck this movie is bad. I saw Sin City so many times I had the lines memorized, and with The Spirit I was hoping for something similarly classic. Unfortunately, Frank Miller isn't quite as good in the absence of Robert Rodriguez.
23. Watchmen (2009) ***
Two problems with this movie: the actors are too pretty, and way too much kung fu fighting. Aside from these two problems, it is faithful to the comic book and works on many levels. Snyder might have bungled Sucker Punch, but this movie gave me hope for Man of Steel.
24. Jonah Hex (2010) *
Josh Brolin stars as an ex-confederate soldier who can talk to dead people. John Malkovich is the villain. It was almost a good movie, but the soundtrack ruins the better moments and it gets pretty corny near the end.
25. Green Lantern (2011)
The movie had everything going for it. I'm not even a big fan of Green Lantern, but when I heard about the director and the cast I got really excited. Unfortunately the road to Green Lantern is paved with good intentions.
26. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) **
This movie just bored me. It's over three hours long, and Bane is unintentionally hilarious at times. Anne Hathaway makes a great Catwoman, but that's all I can say in favor of this film.
27. Man of Steel (2013) **
Half of a great movie, and half of a Michael Bay movie. It starts out well, even though some of the details surrounding Krypton don't bear thinking about. Henry Cavill is a great Superman, but Zack Snyder was trying too hard to please too large an audience.
On the Way
28. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Henry Cavill will reprise his role as Superman, Ben Affleck is Batman, Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, some guy I've never heard of is Cyborg, Ezra Miller is the Flash, and Jason Momoa will appear as Aquaman. Warner Bros. has constructed some very ambitious plans around this film. We'll see if it works out.
29. Suicide Squad (2016)
Hell yes Suicide Squad. As with Deadpool, this could be a great film if they don't water it down too much. Will Smith will star as Deadshot, Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn, and Jared Leto plays the Joker. David Ayer is directing, and I'm thinking this one will be pretty good.
30. Justice League Part 1 (2017)
Having set up the general premise in Batman v. Superman, Warner Bros. will introduce this superhero team to the big screen. Confirmed members are Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman. The Flash and Green Lantern will also appear.
31. Wonder Woman (2017)
Likely contingent upon the success of Batman v. Superman. To me the idea of this movie is a no-brainer - a female superhero(ine) with a great back story. Hopefully Warner Bros. finds the right director. Chris Pine will also appear in this movie as Steve Trevor.
32. The Flash (2018)
Ezra Miller will play the Flash. No other details available.
33. Aquaman (2018)
Jason Momoa will play Aquaman. No other details available.
34. Shazam (2019)
The Rock (OK, Dwayne Johnson) has already been cast as Black Adam. Word is that this film will exist outside the main DC cinematic continuity.
35. Justice League Part 2 (2019)
So not only are we getting the second Avengers film, but we're also getting a second Justice League film in the same year. It boggles the mind.
36. Cyborg (2020)
Ray Fisher has already been cast as Cyborg. I imagine he'll turn up much earlier in the Batman v. Superman film.
37. Green Lantern Corps (2020)
Some conceptual art for this film appeared at the SDCC. As for the rest, your guess is as good as mine!