(Photo by Gramercy)

50 Movies That Defined Comic-Con

Comic-Con International: San Diego is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and across those decades a number of films have launched at the convention to various states of acclaim. Reports indicate, for example, the 1976 panel introducing Star Wars to the masses was not the draw the first meeting of the Avengers would be almost 30 years later. But in the 21st Century, the annual geek-themed festival became a bellwether for at least two huge phenomena: the Twilight Saga and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And along the way, the underlying spirit of Comic-Con – the comics themselves – inspired a number of classic films. Also, at least a few films were shot during the four day event.

The list below represents some of the most significant films tied to Comic-Con’s 50 year legacy – from a time before Christopher Reeve convinced audiences that men could fly and people around the globe wondered where Batman got his wonderful toys to our current anticipation about Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some of these films went on to change the world, others became cult classics, and a few challenged the expectations of what a Comic-Con film could be.

But each is an indelible part of the Comic-Con consciousness, from memorable panels to the eventual expensive collectibles some of these films inspired decades later. And most of them influenced the cosplay you are bound to see at the Con. From documentaries to tentpole releases, these are the films of Comic-Con. Alex Vo

#50
Adjusted Score: 104467%
Critics Consensus: A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possibilities of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same.
Synopsis: The Imperial Forces -- under orders from cruel Darth Vader (David Prowse) -- hold Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hostage, in... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#49

Superman: The Movie (1978)
93%86%

#49
Adjusted Score: 99012%
Critics Consensus: Superman deftly blends humor and gravitas, taking advantage of the perfectly cast Christopher Reeve to craft a loving, nostalgic tribute to an American pop culture icon.
Synopsis: Just before the destruction of the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sends his infant son Kal-El on a spaceship... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

#48

Heavy Metal (1981)
66%67%

#48
Adjusted Score: 67560%
Critics Consensus: It's sexist, juvenile, and dated, but Heavy Metal makes up for its flaws with eye-popping animation and a classic, smartly used soundtrack.
Synopsis: Adventures from deep space to futuristic New York, and beyond. Each world and story is dominated by the presence of... [More]
Directed By: Gerald Potterton

#47

Conan the Barbarian (1982)
65%74%

#47
Adjusted Score: 67060%
Critics Consensus: Though Conan may take itself too seriously for some, this adventure film about a former slave seeking vengeance is full of quotable Schwarzenegger lines and gritty action.
Synopsis: Orphaned boy Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is enslaved after his village is destroyed by the forces of vicious necromancer Thulsa Doom... [More]
Directed By: John Milius

#46

Batman (1989)
73%84%

#46
Adjusted Score: 78309%
Critics Consensus: An eerie, haunting spectacle, Batman succeeds as dark entertainment, even if Jack Nicholson's Joker too often overshadows the title character.
Synopsis: Having witnessed his parents' brutal murder as a child, millionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) fights crime in Gotham City... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 43600%
Critics Consensus: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is exactly as advertised: one-liners, brawls, and general silliness. Good for the young at heart, irritating for everyone else.
Synopsis: In New York, mysterious radioactive ooze has mutated four sewer turtles into talking, upright-walking, crime-fighting ninjas. The intrepid heroes --... [More]
Directed By: Steve Barron

#44

The Rocketeer (1991)
66%65%

#44
Adjusted Score: 69549%
Critics Consensus: An action-packed, if anachronistic, look back at pulp matinee serials, The Rocketeer may ring hollow with viewers expecting more than simple fun and gee-whiz special effects.
Synopsis: Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) is a cocky stunt pilot in love with a beautiful actress, Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly). When... [More]
Directed By: Joe Johnston

#43

Star Trek Generations (1994)
48%57%

#43
Adjusted Score: 50787%
Critics Consensus: Generations stands as a mediocre changing of the guard for crews of the Enterprise, with a dull plot that sometimes seems like an expanded episode of the television series.
Synopsis: In the 23rd century, the Starship Enterprise is dispatched to the scene of a giant energy field about to engulf... [More]
Directed By: David Carson

#42

Mallrats (1995)
57%82%

#42
Adjusted Score: 58961%
Critics Consensus: Mallrats colorfully expands the View Askewniverse, even if its snootchie has lost a few of the bootchies boasted by its beloved predecessor.
Synopsis: T.S. (Jeremy London) and his best friend, Brodie (Jason Lee), take a trip to the mall after their girlfriends break... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Smith

#41

X-Men (2000)
82%83%

#41
Adjusted Score: 87730%
Critics Consensus: Faithful to the comics and filled with action, X-Men brings a crowded slate of classic Marvel characters to the screen with a talented ensemble cast and surprisingly sharp narrative focus.
Synopsis: They are children of the atom, homo superior, the next link in the chain of evolution. Each was born with... [More]
Directed By: Bryan Singer

#40

Unbreakable (2000)
70%77%

#40
Adjusted Score: 75692%
Critics Consensus: With a weaker ending, Unbreakable is not as a good as The Sixth Sense. However, it is a quietly suspenseful film that intrigues and engages, taking the audience through unpredictable twists and turns along the way.
Synopsis: David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is the sole survivor of a devastating train wreck. Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) is a... [More]
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

#39
Adjusted Score: 99728%
Critics Consensus: Full of eye-popping special effects, and featuring a pitch-perfect cast, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brings J.R.R. Tolkien's classic to vivid life.
Synopsis: The future of civilization rests in the fate of the One Ring, which has been lost for centuries. Powerful forces... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#38

Starwoids (2001)
80%48%

#38
Adjusted Score: 16631%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Dennis Przywara

#37

Spider-Man (2002)
90%67%

#37
Adjusted Score: 97873%
Critics Consensus: Not only does Spider-Man provide a good dose of web-swinging fun, it also has a heart, thanks to the combined charms of director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire.
Synopsis: "Spider-Man" centers on student Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) who, after being bitten by a genetically-altered spider, gains superhuman strength and... [More]
Directed By: Sam Raimi

#36

The Time Machine (2002)
29%37%

#36
Adjusted Score: 33604%
Critics Consensus: This Machine has all the razzle-dazzles of modern special effects, but the movie takes a turn for the worst when it switches from a story about lost love to a confusing action-thriller.
Synopsis: Scientist and inventor Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) is determined to prove that time travel is possible. His determination is turned... [More]
Directed By: Simon Wells

#35

Hellboy (2004)
81%66%

#35
Adjusted Score: 88614%
Critics Consensus: With wit, humor and Guillermo del Toro's fantastic visuals, the entertaining Hellboy transcends the derivative nature of the genre.
Synopsis: At the end of World War II, the Nazis attempt to open a portal to a paranormal dimension in order... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#34

Comic Book: The Movie (2004)
40%40%

#34
Adjusted Score: 8528%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Hired as a consultant on a movie about one of his favorite characters, a lifelong comic fan (Mark Hamill) accompanies... [More]
Directed By: Mark Hamill

#33

Sin City (2005)
77%78%

#33
Adjusted Score: 87140%
Critics Consensus: Visually groundbreaking and terrifically violent, Sin City brings the dark world of Frank Miller's graphic novel to vivid life.
Synopsis: In this quartet of neo-noir tales, a mysterious salesman (Josh Hartnett) narrates a tragic story of co-dependency, while a musclebound... [More]

#32

300 (2006)
61%89%

#32
Adjusted Score: 70626%
Critics Consensus: A simple-minded but visually exciting experience, full of blood, violence, and ready-made movie quotes.
Synopsis: In 480 B.C. a state of war exists between Persia, led by King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and Greece. At the... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder

#31

Iron Man (2008)
94%91%

#31
Adjusted Score: 104919%
Critics Consensus: Powered by Robert Downey Jr.'s vibrant charm, Iron Man turbo-charges the superhero genre with a deft intelligence and infectious sense of fun.
Synopsis: A billionaire industrialist and genius inventor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), is conducting weapons tests overseas, but terrorists kidnap him... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#30

Punisher: War Zone (2008)
29%42%

#30
Adjusted Score: 32708%
Critics Consensus: Punisher: War Zone recalls the excessively violent, dialogue-challenged actioners of the 1980s, and coincidentally feels two decades out of date.
Synopsis: Frank Castle, aka The Punisher (Ray Stevenson), turns the streets of New York City red as he wages a one... [More]
Directed By: Lexi Alexander

#29

Twilight (2008)
49%72%

#29
Adjusted Score: 57452%
Critics Consensus: Having lost much of its bite transitioning to the big screen, Twilight will please its devoted fans, but do little for the uninitiated.
Synopsis: High-school student Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), always a bit of a misfit, doesn't expect life to change much when she... [More]
Directed By: Catherine Hardwicke

#28

The Dark Knight (2008)
94%94%

#28
Adjusted Score: 107633%
Critics Consensus: Dark, complex, and unforgettable, The Dark Knight succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling crime saga.
Synopsis: With the help of allies Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman (Christian Bale) has... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

#27

Avatar (2009)
82%82%

#27
Adjusted Score: 95362%
Critics Consensus: It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but Avatar reaffirms James Cameron's singular gift for imaginative, absorbing filmmaking.
Synopsis: James Cameron's Academy Award®-winning 2009 epic adventure "Avatar", returns to theaters September 23 in stunning 4K High Dynamic Range. On... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#26

Watchmen (2009)
65%71%

#26
Adjusted Score: 77451%
Critics Consensus: Gritty and visually striking, Watchmen is a faithful adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel, but its complex narrative structure may make it difficult for it to appeal to viewers not already familiar with the source material.
Synopsis: In an alternate 1985 America, costumed superheroes are part of everyday life. When one of his former comrades is murdered,... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 38023%
Critics Consensus: The Twilight Saga's second installment may satisfy hardcore fans of the series, but outsiders are likely to be turned off by its slow pace, relentlessly downcast tone, and excessive length.
Synopsis: After the abrupt departure of Edward (Robert Pattinson), her vampire love, Bella (Kristen Stewart) finds comfort in her deepening friendship... [More]
Directed By: Chris Weitz

#24

Red (2010)
71%72%

#24
Adjusted Score: 78811%
Critics Consensus: It may not be the killer thrill ride you'd expect from an action movie with a cast of this caliber, but Red still thoroughly outshines most of its big-budget counterparts with its wit and style.
Synopsis: After surviving an assault from a squad of hit men, retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) reassembles his old... [More]
Directed By: Robert Schwentke

#23

Kick-Ass (2010)
76%81%

#23
Adjusted Score: 86034%
Critics Consensus: Not for the faint of heart, Kick-Ass takes the comic adaptation genre to new levels of visual style, bloody violence, and gleeful profanity.
Synopsis: Using his love for comics as inspiration, teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to reinvent himself as a superhero --... [More]
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn

#22

Tron: Legacy (2010)
51%63%

#22
Adjusted Score: 60211%
Critics Consensus: Tron Legacy boasts dazzling visuals, but its human characters and story get lost amidst its state-of-the-art production design.
Synopsis: Sam (Garrett Hedlund), the son of famous video-game developer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), has been haunted for a long time... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Kosinski

#21

Salt (2010)
62%59%

#21
Adjusted Score: 71293%
Critics Consensus: Angelina Jolie gives it her all in the title role, and her seasoned performance is almost enough to save Salt from its predictable and ludicrous plot.
Synopsis: When Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) became a CIA officer, she swore an oath to duty, honor and country. But, when... [More]
Directed By: Phillip Noyce

#20

Skyline (2010)
15%18%

#20
Adjusted Score: 17500%
Critics Consensus: A middling sci-fi entry, Skyline offers proof that solid special effects alone cannot overcome a flat storyline filled with uninspired dialogue.
Synopsis: Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) take a trip to Southern California to visit his friend, Terry (Donald Faison),... [More]

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 92240%
Critics Consensus: Its script may not be as dazzling as its eye-popping visuals, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is fast, funny, and inventive.
Synopsis: As bass guitarist for a garage-rock band, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has never had trouble getting a girlfriend; usually, the... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#18

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
44%43%

#18
Adjusted Score: 53386%
Critics Consensus: Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are as dependably appealing as ever, but they're let down by director Jon Favreau's inability to smooth Cowboys & Aliens' jarring tonal shifts.
Synopsis: Bearing a mysterious metal shackle on his wrist, an amnesiac gunslinger (Daniel Craig) wanders into a frontier town called Absolution.... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#17

Sucker Punch (2011)
22%47%

#17
Adjusted Score: 29810%
Critics Consensus: It's technically impressive and loaded with eye-catching images, but without characters or a plot to support them, all of Sucker Punch's visual thrills are for naught.
Synopsis: Locked away, a young woman named Babydoll (Emily Browning) retreats to a fantasy world where she is free to go... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder

#16

Thor (2011)
77%76%

#16
Adjusted Score: 87841%
Critics Consensus: A dazzling blockbuster that tempers its sweeping scope with wit, humor, and human drama, Thor is mighty Marvel entertainment.
Synopsis: As the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of the Norse gods, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will soon inherit the throne... [More]
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh

#15
Adjusted Score: 89033%
Critics Consensus: With plenty of pulpy action, a pleasantly retro vibe, and a handful of fine performances, Captain America is solidly old-fashioned blockbuster entertainment.
Synopsis: It is 1941 and the world is in the throes of war. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants to do his... [More]
Directed By: Joe Johnston

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 84254%
Critics Consensus: A well-chosen cast and sure-handed direction allow The Amazing Spider-Man to thrill, despite revisiting many of the same plot points from 2002's Spider-Man.
Synopsis: Abandoned by his parents and raised by an aunt and uncle, teenager Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), AKA Spider-Man, is trying... [More]
Directed By: Marc Webb

#13
Adjusted Score: 56410%
Critics Consensus: It's the most entertaining Twilight, but that's not enough to make Breaking Dawn Part 2 worth watching for filmgoers who don't already count themselves among the franchise converts.
Synopsis: Bella (Kristen Stewart) awakes -- as a vampire -- from her life-threatening labor, and her newborn daughter, Renesmee, proves to... [More]
Directed By: Bill Condon

#12

Marvel's the Avengers (2012)
91%91%

#12
Adjusted Score: 105390%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a script that emphasizes its heroes' humanity and a wealth of superpowered set pieces, The Avengers lives up to its hype and raises the bar for Marvel at the movies.
Synopsis: When Thor's evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), gains access to the unlimited power of the energy cube called the Tesseract,... [More]
Directed By: Joss Whedon

#11
Adjusted Score: 83191%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Interviews with Joss Whedon, Stan Lee and others are included in filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's journey into the pop-culture fan mecca... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Morgan Spurlock

#10

Godzilla (2014)
76%66%

#10
Adjusted Score: 88499%
Critics Consensus: With just enough human drama to anchor the sweeping spectacle of giant monsters smashing everything in sight, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla satisfyingly restores the franchise's fire-breathing glory.
Synopsis: Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a Navy bomb expert, has just reunited with his family in San Francisco when he is... [More]
Directed By: Gareth Edwards

#9
Adjusted Score: 54576%
Critics Consensus: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice smothers a potentially powerful story -- and some of America's most iconic superheroes -- in a grim whirlwind of effects-driven action.
Synopsis: It's been nearly two years since Superman's (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis.... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder

#8

Deadpool (2016)
85%90%

#8
Adjusted Score: 105221%
Critics Consensus: Fast, funny, and gleefully profane, the fourth-wall-busting Deadpool subverts superhero film formula with wildly entertaining -- and decidedly non-family-friendly -- results.
Synopsis: Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a former Special Forces operative who now works as a mercenary. His world comes crashing... [More]
Directed By: Tim Miller

#7
Adjusted Score: 114830%
Critics Consensus: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's action-packed plot, dazzling visuals, and irreverent humor add up to a sequel that's almost as fun -- if not quite as thrillingly fresh -- as its predecessor.
Synopsis: Peter Quill and his fellow Guardians are hired by a powerful alien race, the Sovereign, to protect their precious batteries... [More]
Directed By: James Gunn

#6

Justice League (2017)
39%68%

#6
Adjusted Score: 67530%
Critics Consensus: Justice League leaps over a number of DC movies, but its single bound isn't enough to shed the murky aesthetic, thin characters, and chaotic action that continue to dog the franchise.
Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists newfound ally Diana Prince... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 119876%
Critics Consensus: Spider-Man: Homecoming does whatever a second reboot can, delivering a colorful, fun adventure that fits snugly in the sprawling MCU without getting bogged down in franchise-building.
Synopsis: Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker returns home to live with his Aunt May. Under the... [More]
Directed By: Jon Watts

#4

Aquaman (2018)
65%73%

#4
Adjusted Score: 84907%
Critics Consensus: Aquaman swims with its entertainingly ludicrous tide, offering up CGI superhero spectacle that delivers energetic action with an emphasis on good old-fashioned fun.
Synopsis: Once home to the most advanced civilization on Earth, the city of Atlantis is now an underwater kingdom ruled by... [More]
Directed By: James Wan

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 108809%
Critics Consensus: Avengers: Infinity War ably juggles a dizzying array of MCU heroes in the fight against their gravest threat yet, and the result is a thrilling, emotionally resonant blockbuster that (mostly) realizes its gargantuan ambitions.
Synopsis: Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and the rest of the Avengers unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet --... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

#2

Glass (2019)
36%67%

#2
Adjusted Score: 57801%
Critics Consensus: Glass displays a few glimmers of M. Night Shyamalan at his twisty world-building best, but ultimately disappoints as the conclusion to the writer-director's long-gestating trilogy.
Synopsis: David Dunn tries to stay one step ahead of the law while delivering vigilante justice on the streets of Philadelphia.... [More]
Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan

#1

Shazam! (2019)
90%82%

#1
Adjusted Score: 112417%
Critics Consensus: An effortlessly entertaining blend of humor and heart, Shazam! is a superhero movie that never forgets the genre's real power: joyous wish fulfillment.
Synopsis: We all have a superhero inside of us -- it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out.... [More]
Directed By: David F. Sandberg