“The Dark Knight” (2008).
Okay, this first one is a little predictable, but we may as well get “The Dark Knight” out of the way first.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy came at a time when the superhero movie market wasn’t as saturated as it is right now, and it offered audiences a semirealistic, modern take on the Caped Crusader with an exceptional cast and crew behind it.
“The Dark Knight” blends post-9/11 fears and pacey blockbuster storytelling to pit Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne against a terrifying threat, the Joker (Heath Ledger), whose only motivation is to cause chaos for the sake of chaos.
Of course, Ledger’s performance is nothing short of legendary and defined the Clown Prince of Crime for a generation — earning him a posthumous Oscar.
The plot itself is much more complex and real than anything in the MCU, partly because it doesn’t need to revolve around superpowers or cosmic beings to tell its story. Instead, just a cohort of incredibly well-written heroes, villains, and everyone in between.
That’s all without mentioning the sheer talent Nolan assembled behind the screen, as it boasts the likes of Hans Zimmer’s hair-raising score, Wally Pfister’s gorgeous cinematography, and the stunning story from David S. Goyer.