A-List: Best Scenes from Superhero Films

By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis

June 16, 2011

I think I saw the dude on the right on Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.

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After the demise of America’s first league of superheroes, Kennedy is assassinated by a former champion, Nixon assumes power, man walks on Dr. Manhattan’s moon, Ozymandias impersonates Disco Stu, and the Watchmen are formed as spiritual successors to the Minutemen. And this time they feature a much hotter Silk Spectre and a dude whose mask paint morphs into the creepiest shapes. Finally, the capper to the subtle but horrifying turn of events revealed in the credits is on display. Richard Nixon has been elected to a third term in office.

Acerbic, contemplative and imaginative, the opening credits to Watchmen are a fitting tribute to the genius of the graphic novel’s author, Alan Moore. This sequence demonstrates an understanding of what he attempted to accomplish with his heralded masterpiece, and it segments the pieces in easily consumed snack bites of genius. As divisive as the entire movie has proven to be, no one ever debates the genius of the opening credits of Watchmen. There is more character development in these few moments than is on display in most full length features.

Attack on the White House (X2: X-Men United)

We have yet another opening scene on our A-List, which we suppose shows the importance of establishing a tone right away in superhero films. Here, we are introduced to the fabulous character Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), who “bamfs” his way right into our hearts as he mounts a full-on assault at the White House, one that is bound to get him some heat from a lot of scary people.


He runs through the halls of the White House, and all we truly see of him in those initial moments is his blue, demon-like tail. He materializes through walls and ceilings to take out Secret Service agents, using style, grace, and…well, a sort of blue smoke that appears as he vanishes and returns. When we finally do see him, his white, white teeth stand out against the deep blue of his skin, and he bounds on all fours toward the Oval Office. The fear of the men protecting the President is palpable, and only becomes worse as they realize that even if they shoot at their enemy, they aren’t really able to hit him. A clever bit of suspense is built when the president’s bodyguards surround him, and can hear the chaos in the halls around them. Nightcrawler’s mutant powers are on full display as he completely annihilates all the men in the Oval Office, then hops on top of the President and hisses at him. His tail pulls out a knife, and he’s about to get stabby right at the moment when a bullet somehow hits home. Wounded, the mutant disappears, but leaves behind the knife, bearing the message, “Mutant Freedom Now.”

This is the perfect introduction for the events that occur in X2, as Dr. Xavier sets out to discover who is behind the attack, while the President brings in General William Stryker, who will raid Xavier’s school and take custody of several mutants. The effects are stellar, and anyone who is a true Nightcrawler fan will thrill to the sounds and movement made by the character. The scene is tense and exciting without being overly simplistic, and a truly terrific way to bring a new mutant into the fold.

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