There. I said it. The 2018 film Black Panther is the best superhero movie ever. I know what you must be thinking: what about The Dark Knight? The Avengers? Spider-Man: Into the Spider verse? Or Spider-Man: Far from Home? These are all fantastic suggestions, and no doubt high on the list of greatest hero films, but there’s something about Black Panther that pushes it ahead of the rest.  

A First  

Right from the beginning, Black Panther had something going for it that most other superhero films did not: no one had ever made a movie about the character before. This film was an original, the first of its kind – not a sequel, not a spinoff, not a reboot – and what Ryan Coogler did with it made it all the more refreshing and exciting.  

Writer-director Coogler held nothing back with Black Panther: he was inventive and risk-taking, pushing the boundaries of what audiences had come to recognize as a “superhero film.” The protagonist, T’Challa, is an immediately iconic character – carefully balancing his regality with a timid charm that somehow made him relatable, despite the fact that no one in the audience was heir to the throne of a country with advanced technology and abundant resources kept secret from the entire world. Just guessing. His playful nature as a brother to Shuri made him approachable, yet his perfect physique and agility made it believable that he was a crime-fighting superhero. 

Persuasive Characters

Equally compelling was the villain that threatens the fictional world of Wakanda, and challenges T’Challa’s place as king. I give you Erik Killmonger, played by a scarily muscular and good-looking Michael B. Jordan – and I don’t think that’s subjective. Killmonger’s preferred choice of outfit involves camo pants, boots, and no shirt, which reveals small brandings all over his body. We discover later that each brand represents a person he’s killed, hence the name Killmonger. The villain also gets an origin story of his own – one of loss and betrayal – that makes his master plan quite persuasive.  

And I haven’t even gotten to the badass women that are essential to T’Challa’s survival and success as a hero yet. Seriously, if it weren’t his tech-genius sister Shuri, vigilante ex-girlfriend Nakia, and the greatest warrior in Wakanda, General Okoye, we’d probably still be at the theater waiting for T’Challa to get stuff done.  

The action sequences and use of CGI are stunning, giving audiences a fresh take on the car chase, awe-inspiring mid-air fight scenes, and some nicely choreographed female warrior fight scenes. The aesthetics and the score are the cherry on top, making Black Panther not just a good superhero film, but a great film in general. The modern pan-Africanist costumes and gorgeous skyscapes of Wakanda transport you to another world, and the score – the theme you hear when you approach the great country of Wakanda, the battle soundtracks – gets you excited and ready to go to war for a country that doesn’t exist.  

If Black Panther is an example of what Black joy and liberation looks like – we could use a whole lot more of it.