As we continue to march backwards through the years to fill our Best Movie Bracket, we come to 2008 which was an historic year especially when it comes to Superhero movies. We have had superhero movies for decades all the way back to 1966 with Batman: The Movie, but I believe that the current Superhero craze took hold in the summer of 2008.
This fervor took root 8 years earlier when we saw a team of mutants take form in X-Men, and Spider-Man in 2002 confirmed that audiences were ready for more spandex and secret identities in their summer movie going diets. Both of those franchises had lost some of their steam releasing sub-par sequels in 2006 and 2007. That could have been the end, but two things happened in 2008 that changed what our summer movie seasons have looked like ever since.
First, Christopher Nolan captured the attention of a generation with The Dark Knight in part due to a disturbing performance of the Joker by Heath Ledger who died earlier in 2008 before he could see his creation come to life. The Dark Knight was the highest grossing film of the year by a long shot and Ledger was awarded with a posthumous Oscar for his performance (unheard of for a superhero movie).
The success of The Dark Knight may have been enough to keep the Superhero genre going, but in that same year Marvel Studios created an interconnected cinematic universe which we are still seeing built today. Marvel released Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk about a month apart from each other along with their promise to continue to bring other second and third tier properties to life.