The 15 Best Superhero Movies And Shows Of 2018
By GameSpot Staff on
Was 2018 the best year ever for superheroes on the screen?
2018 was maybe the best year for superheroes ever. It wasn't just that a decade's worth of Marvel Cinematic Universe films finally culminated with Avengers Infinity War, although of course that was a huge part of it. But across movies and TV, superhero fiction was simply phenomenal this year.
With Daredevil Season 3, Netflix had its strongest Marvel series yet, and nevermind the sad injustice that it then got canceled along with the rest of them. Marvel had a good year overall, with Ant-Man and even Deadpool 2 in addition to Infinity War.
Meanwhile, the DCEU got maybe its strongest entry yet with Aquaman--at least, if the reactions so far are to be believed. And even anime continued its strong superhero run with the latest season of My Hero Academia, which for our money was one of the best shows of the year. And none of this is even counting comics, because we gave that its own list.
In no particular order, here are our 15 favorite superhero movies and shows from 2018.
What were your favorite superhero movies and shows this year? Let us know in the comments below, then check out our lists of the top 10 movies and top 10 TV shows this year, the 30 best Netflix exclusives, and the 28 best performances of the year.
1. Avengers Infinity War
If we're talking about superheroes, it is impossible not to mention Marvel's biggest movie of the year, Avengers: Infinity War. Marvel took a decade's worth of superpowered protagonists and slapped them into one movie. What makes this pure insanity is that it worked exceptionally well. No one got backstories--expositional or otherwise--because we were all familiar with these characters which really helped moved the movie forward. Even when Infinity War packed in brand-new characters like Thanos' Black Order, it was established very quickly that these are the villains, and that's all we really need to know.
Marvel produced what can easily be considered a triumph in filmmaking. It combined huge action set pieces with emotional, character driven moments, which is crazy when you realize how many people are in this movie, and they all have their own character arcs. The two and a half hour movie movies incredibly quick, but at no time will the audience get whiplash as it's just such a smooth and well produced flick. Try and think of a moment when this movie dragged even one bit. I'll wait. You can't because this is one of the greatest superhero stories to ever hit the big screen. -- Mat Elfring
2. Daredevil Season 3
The original season of Netflix's Daredevil series set a high bar that most of the subsequent shows, from Luke Cage all the way to Defenders, failed to match. But thanks to a new showrunner and the return of fan favorite villain Wilson Fisk, Daredevil Season 3 somehow did the impossible and actually surpassed the show's first season to become the best season yet from Netflix and Marvel's uneven collaboration.
Most of all, Daredevil Season 3 was a relatable parable for the very real dangers we're facing in our real life societies, from manipulative, evil "leaders" undermining the foundations of our lives, to fear being weaponized and used against us. Fisk was always a great villain, but in Season 3, when he seemed more real than ever, he became something more. This incarnation of Daredevil may be done, but boy did it go out on the right foot. -- Mike Rougeau
3. My Hero Academia
What does it say about 2018 that the most popular superhero fiction of the year involves a villain decimating Earth's mightiest warriors and wiping out half of existence with a snap of his fingers? For many, superhero stories are a source of personal strength. When the trials and tribulations of real life start to feel insurmountable, tall tales of good triumphing over evil offer a soothing catharsis. But uplifting entertainment has been hard to come by lately.
My Hero Academia, however, continues to stand out as a shining beacon of positivity. It isn't just a compelling story about a boy trying to become a hero, it's reminder of why it's important to hold onto the hope that the world seems hell bent on crushing. In Season 3, Midoriya Izuku faces greater challenges than ever before, and yet his idealism is unwavering. In the face of overwhelming odds he uses whatever power he has, at whatever cost to himself, to fight for what's right.
Midoriya's greatest strength is also what makes My Hero Academia one of the best superhero stories of today: the ability to inspire. In the same way Midoriya's classmates are emboldened by seeing him emerge from battle beaten, bloody, and bruised--but with his head held high and a smile on his face, My Hero Academia leaves viewers charged with optimism. And in this day and age, that makes it incredibly special. -- Tamoor Hussain
4. Black Panther
Black Panther is immensely brilliant for a plethora of reasons. It's Marvel's first movie--Blade aside--starring a black actor. In fact, the vast majority of the cast are people of color, and there were plenty of stories, tweets, and videos of black people around the world proclaiming their excitement after seeing the film. That was simply great to see.
More than anything else, it's a great establishing moment for Wakanda as a force, which helps set the stage for the Wakanda fight in Infinity War. It's 2018, and Marvel has perfected its formula for bringing in new characters without delivering an origin story. Black Panther is a phenomenal success not just for being a great movie, but for reaching all corners of the planet, getting the world to shout "Wakanda forever" together in an awesome cultural event. -- Mat Elfring
5. Legion Season 2
Legion Season 2 really honed in on something we loved about the first season of the X-Men fringe show on FX: You never really know if what you're seeing play out on the screen is really happening. Is David (Dan Stevens) dreaming or hallucinating? Is some unreliable narrator spinning a tale? Or is the show's dreamlike setting simply giving you the impression that it might shift or change again at any moment?
The show's stylized, malleable nature might irk viewers who crave a more straightforward superhero show, but if you're into it, boy was Season 2 incredible. It had ups and downs, sure, but whether the show was exploring multiple possible parallel timelines or culminating in a final battle that looked more like a 1980s metal music video, Legion Season 2 was worth seeing through to the end. -- Mike Rougeau
6. Ant-Man and the Wasp
After seeing Infinity War, fans across the nation were bummed out, because their favorite characters were just killed off in an epic movie. Luckily, Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015's Ant-Man, was a delightful palate cleanser. The movie was layered with tons of jokes and the whole thing felt light-hearted and fun, something Marvel movie fans desperately needed. It took what worked in the first movie and expanded upon it, while making sure certain elements--especially the comedy aspects--didn't overstay their welcome. And much like Pixar's Incredibles 2, the Ant-Man sequel revolved heavily around family, more specifically around the dynamics between fathers and daughters. This created a brilliantly layered movie for something most people just assumed was going to be a "silly superhero movie."
Hannah John-Kamen's Ghost was also a very welcomed addition to the cast, even when you consider the fact that Ghost isn't even an Ant-Man villain to begin with. On the surface of Ant-Man and the Wasp, it's a silly superhero movie about growing and shrinking, but the film ends up being a lot deeper than we thought it would be. It's a movie that proves Marvel can put out a standalone movie in the midst of something larger happening. Hopefully, they do more movies like this in the future. -- Mat Elfring
7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Let's be honest--it's kind of hard to surprise us when it comes to superhero movies these days. After ten years of the MCU, there's just not a lot of room for major innovations. We've been spoiled by the golden age of the genre, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. And the silver lining is it makes movies like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse all the more stunning.
It's not just that Into The Spider-Verse is the first animated Marvel movie to hit big screens with a wide release ever (unless you count Big Hero 6), it's the fact that it managed to make itself so completely unique in the process. We've seen our fair share of Spider-Man stories, but none of them have come even close to this. One part origin story of new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, one part introduction to Sony's "Spider-Verse," a multiverse that connects different alternate realities (and subsequently, their respective Spider-people), Into The Spider-Verse isn't a movie based on comic book characters, it is a comic book come to life.
Into The Spider-Verse is a wild, psychedelic love letter to superheroes and the stories that originally brought them to life, wrapped in a hilarious and relentlessly stylish shell. It's candy for your eyes, and a shot of pure, neon-splashed joy aimed directly at your heart. -- Meg Downey
8. Incredibles 2
The Incredibles movies are the Fantastic Four films we deserve. Name a good Fantastic Four movie--you have four to choose from. You can't because they're awful. However, both Incredibles movies are exceptional. There's always a seed of doubt in the viewer's mind when a sequel to a successful movie 14 years after the fact, but Incredibles 2 not only picks up right where the last movie left off, but it does so in a way that is seamless when it comes to the story and quality of the story. This is one of those rare occasions where the sequel is better than the original.
What makes this such a spectacular superhero movie is that it leans heavily on the family dynamic more than any other film, and does so in a way that makes sense for the story. This isn't just a team. This is a group of people who live in the same house, eat meals together, and go through the same struggles as anyone else, but they're also a superhero team. During a year where the superhero movie focus was "hey, everyone you love is dead," Incredibles 2 was a breath of fresh air, offering a family-friendly atmosphere with characters and a story that won't alienate older viewers. It's another smashing success from Pixar. -- Mat Elfring
DC's cinematic universe has been less than stellar outside of Wonder Woman. The company has focused on dark, gritty stories and characters that have fallen a bit flat when they get to the big screen. However, somehow, applying that to a weekly TV series works exceptionally well, especially when DC doesn't have to answer to a ratings board or the MPAA. The DC Universe streaming series Titans is weird, but it is one of the most interesting superhero shows on television. Once you've settled into the fact that Titans has no problems displaying brutal violence and having its characters say things like "F*** Batman," the series becomes one of the best new shows of 2018.
It follows younger superheroes in the DCU like Robin, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy with the plot revolving around a weird family--that feels straight out of Leave It To Beaver--hunting down Raven, but regardless of how these villains talk, they are extremely ruthless and have no problem killing. As the series progresses, the world is expanded, and what sets this far apart from the rest of the DC TV series--primarily everything on the CW--is that it's not another "villain of the week" show. Titans is episodic, and all while this is happening, it's building a world, which becomes very apparent when the episode "Doom Patrol" rolls around. For DC Universe's first original series, Titans ends up being a wonderful and gets us all excited for what the streaming service has next. -- Mat Elfring
10. Deadpool 2
The first Deadpool film captured the essence of the Merc with a Mouth, and it was clear that Ryan Reynolds was born to play the starring role. Deadpool 2 is just as fun and gives Deadpool fans exactly what they want--meta jokes, stylistic action, and R-rated violence. While the first film was definitely more grounded with a tighter script, this sequel is all over the place. But it’s a fun ride.
The action in Deadpool 2 is great--it definitely earns its R-rating and is hyper violent. New additions to the cast, particularly Josh Brolin as Cable and Zazie Beetz as Domino, reinvigorate the series with solid performances. The way that X-Force is included and handled in the film is quite funny, and Deadpool’s interactions with the X-Men are just as amusing as they were before. Credit is also due to the movie’s hilarious mid-credits scene which took Deadpool’s meta humor to another level. Yes, Deadpool 2 is more of the same, but for Deadpool fans, that’s not a bad thing. -- Chastity Vicencio
Gotham is weird. There's no way around it. Gotham has been weird since its very first episode and that's how it's managed to remain one of the most consistently intriguing superhero properties. While it'll never come out and say it, this show is clearly meant to act as a prequel, of sorts, to Tim Burton's Batman films. It's big and gothic and extravagant and eccentric, and through it all manages to look and sound nothing like any other superhero show or movie.
It's also given fans new and memorable takes on characters liker Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman, and even Bruce Wayne himself, pre-Batman. In doing so, it essentially tosses any canon you might recognize out the window to weave its own tale. For some, that's a bad thing. But, honestly, that's what makes this show so good. It's honest about the fact that it's taking the idea of Batman and Commissioner Gordon and Gotham City to tell a brand new story. Truthfully, every comic book-based movie and TV show does this to some degree. The way Gotham's does it--and will continue to do so in its final season--though, makes it hands down the best superhero TV you're going to find, in my book. -- Chris E. Hayner
12. Legends of Tomorrow
You may love Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl, but none of those are the best superhero TV series on The CW. Instead, it's the little show that could, Legends of Tomorrow. Legends first season was bad and everyone knows it--even the cast. Nobody was quite sure what the formula was or what it should strive to be, given that it existed without a rather rigid Arrow-verse. By Season 3, though, the answer was clear: Get weird.
Given that the entire show is about a band of misfits with a time machine, Legends leaned hard into the absurd to tell its stories and has now actually distanced itself from the other Arrow-verse shows. While they're all bogged down in angst and drama, the legends are befriending a fuzzy blur stuffed toy named Beebo and going back in time to save a young Barack Obama in college. No plot twist is too bizarre for Legends at this point, including an entire episode set at a summer camp trying to capture a witch. Because, honestly, who doesn't want to see John Constantine try to fit in as a camp counselor? -- Chris E. Hayner
13. The Girl in the Spider's Web
You may not think of "superhero" when it comes to Lisbeth Salander, but Girl in the Spider's Web is working really hard to change that. In the latest outing for the character, director Fede Álvarez has essentially turned the hacker into Batman. Under the cover of night, she seeks out vigilante justice. She has the cool car, her own batcave, wears a mask, and hides in the shadows. However, Lisbeth is far more tortured than Bruce Wayne could ever be, which is quite a feat. That all said, Girl in the Spider's Web attempts to turn the Girl in the Dragon Tattoo into a superhero/action franchise and if the results are anything like this movie, sign me up for more. -- Chris E. Hayner
14. Teen Titans GO! To the Movies
This was easily the best DC Entertainment movie of 2018. Teen Titans GO! To the Movies was just pure fun and joy, something we don't often get with things like Justice League or Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Instead of a dark and gritty world lacking hope, instead viewers for a bright and colorful one, loaded with meta jokes, funny songs, fun character, and jabs at the superhero genre itself. This was Deadpool for kids, which is exactly what Once Upon a Deadpool is attempting to be. What's more, though, it was a better movie than Deadpool 2. The humor was more clever, the characters had more charisma, and it didn't rely on a dead girlfriend to power the story forward. More Teen Titans GO! Please. -- Chris E. Hayner
We can't say much about it yet, since the movie still isn't out for weeks, and the official review embargo hasn't even lifted yet. But suffice that Aquaman is downright insane--totally unlike any other superhero movie we've ever seen. It has its ups and downs, and a fair amount of extremes on either side; the bad bits are really bad, but when the move's good, it's exceptionally good. If nothing else, Aquaman is at least unique. And I have a feeling it's going to have some fans when it finally releases at the end of the year. -- Mike Rougeau