Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a revolutionary masterpiece filled with stunning art, sound, and story. There’s no denying how incredible it is, and it’s earned every bit of praise it’s gotten, as well as all the love for its various Spider-people. But, while deserving of all the accolades it’s received, Into the Spider-Verse is certainly not the first superhero film to achieve greatness. These animated films helped pave the way for Miles, Gwen, Peter, and the rest of the Spideys in the multiverse.
1. Planet Hulk (2010)
Planet Hulk took us to the planet of Sakaar almost a decade before Thor: Ragnarok took a stab at the barbaric planet, but how the Hulk ends up there is a touch different than the live-action movie that borrowed from the storyline. In the animated story (and the comic book that inspired it), The Avengers decide that The Hulk is too dangerous to remain on Earth. Bruce’s friends try to send him to a peaceful planet, but Hulk wakes up in a rage and knocks the shuttle off course. From there, it’s 80 minutes of the big green guy smashing his way through gladiators, leading revolutions, and claiming an entire planet as his own.
2. Superman And Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
If it features the World’s Finest teaming up, we’re probably going to be on board. With that said, Superman and Batman: Public Enemies takes things to a whole new level. Featuring an action-packed lineup of heroes and villains that includes the likes of Power Girl, Black Lightning, Metallo and many more, Public Enemies follows our heroes as they tackle a corrupt government led by President Luthor. If you learn anything from the movie, let it be that you should never, ever, endanger one of Superman’s friends.
3. Teen Titans Go: To The Movies (2018)
Teen Titans Go is a complicated anomaly. Though undeniably weaker than its predecessor Teen Titans, their animated film Teen Titans GO: To the Movies featured so much heart and low-key comic book humor that the performance of the television series didn’t matter. Imagine if your favorite teen heroes decided to make a movie, and the hijinks that would ensue – along with the metahumor. That’s exactly what you get out of this one. Besides, things close out with a cut-scene of the original Titans saying that they’ve found a way back!
4. The Incredibles (2004)
When The Incredibles first released back in 2004, none of us were really sure what to expect. We’ve seen major franchises try to spin threads on their own unique superheroes in the past, but none accomplished the same level of success as Disney did over a decade ago. We immediately bought into the Parr family’s adventures and woes. Right down to their pasts as heroes in broad daylight, to their struggles as a powered family in hiding. Disney and Pixar nailed the perfect formula with this one.
5. Big Hero 6 (2014)
We’re all used to Disney making us cry by now, but damn Big Hero 6 and its first twenty minutes. By making you care about Tadashi and Hiro’s family immediately, the film makes you care about the conflict that much more. Though the show’s main characters are mostly archetypal, they’re all still endearing in their own right. Baymax’s charm could probably hold the movie on its own, but writers John Roberts, Robert Baird, and the rest of their team decided not to rest on their laurels with their ensemble.
6. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993)
For decades, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was the gold standard that every other animated superhero film strove to achieve. Stemming from the critically acclaimed animated series, Mask of the Phantasm follows Batman’s quest to clear his name after another vigilante makes their way into town and starts offing mob members. In case ol’ Bats’ life wasn’t difficult enough, his long-lost flame returns to Gotham. In fact, Andrea Beaumont was part of the reason Bruce donned the cowl to begin with. Needless to say, things get a little emotional for the Caped Crusader while he juggles clearing his name, the villains he has to fight on the day-to-day, and the one that got away.
7. Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)
The Bat Family has always been a complicated one. Though they’re certainly not the only hodge-podge family of heroes, things are always a little darker in Gotham than they are in, say, Metropolis or Central City. Dark enough that, sometimes, members of the family get beaten to death in abandoned warehouses. Though it’s true that comic book characters rarely stay dead, sometimes coming back isn’t always the best thing. Jason Todd always had more of a violent streak than Batman’s other wards, but his resurrection via the Lazarus Pit didn’t do his mean streak any favors. Upon his return to the living, Jason moves on from being Robin to become the Red Hood. His mission? Kill the Joker.
Since some media seem to have forgotten lately, here’s a casual reminder that Batman (and by proxy the Bat Family) doesn’t kill. When Bruce Wayne and Jason finally meet face-to-face again, an enraged Jason asks why that is. Not for all of the villains in Gotham, Jason gets that some of them can be saved. But why the Joker, specifically? Why the man who killed him, paralyzed Barbara Gordon, and slaughtered or tortured so many others?
That might be more of a long-winded explanation than the other entries have gotten, but all of it is to illustrate just how Under the Red Hood dissects the Batman, and what it is that makes him who he is. Because, yes, The Joker has done all of those unspeakable things. But the moment a member of the Bat Family kills him is the moment that he’s finally won. Under the Red Hood is complicated, messy, gorgeous, and absolutely deserves a watch if you haven’t checked it out yet.
There you have it! You may notice that the majority of those films are from the DC side of the comic book world. It’s true that they’ve done a lot better on the animated front than they have on the live-action, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came crashing into our lives to remind us that the folks over at Marvel (and Sony) have just as much complexity up their sleeves. We already know the world will split off into several sequels, and we can’t wait to see which of their future offerings make us reevaluate this list in the coming years.
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