5 superhero movies you need to watch this year

The superhero film is the ultimate fantasy – from kids to adults, everyone loves them. So what flights of fancy can we look forward to this year?

Superheroes are expensive to film. They’re often too fast to catch on camera, or so super-strong their diets demand they leave set every other minute to eat, and getting the bad guys to sit still while the cameras spool-up is no mean feat. It’s for these reasons – and budget constraints – that there are just five great comic book films worth mentioning in 2011. Just like a superhero, great they shall be.

Thor 29 April 

The Norse God of thunder is coming. The Marvel comic adaptation stars Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk in Star Trek) as Thor, Sir Anthony Hopkins as his father Odin, and Natalie Portman as eye candy. The Wire’s Idris Elba also appears. All this, and Kenneth Branagh directs.

Thor is stripped of his Hammer – the source of his powers – and cast out of Asgard by his father for encouraging war. Enter Natalie Portman, who Thor inevitably falls in love with, as most of us have already done. Then Earth’s attacked by the God’s brother Loki and the armies of Asgard. Let’s hope Thor defends Earth or it’ll be a short film.

X-Men: First Class 2 June

A prequel set in the '60s based around Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) as he starts his school for gifted mutants, while battling the views of his friend and future nemesis Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr). Mad Men’s January Jones plays the role of the sexy Emma Frost. She won’t even have to act.

A young Beast, Angel Salvadore, Cyclops, Havoc, Mystique and Nightcrawler are all going to appear in this far more serious and epic-looking X-Men instalment directed by Matthew Vaughan. This could be the start of another winning trilogy.

Green Lantern 17 June

The protagonist isn’t a geek like in most comic book films, but a daring test pilot called Hal Jordan (aka Green Lantern). After finding a dying alien, he's tasked with policing the universe as part of the Green Lantern Corps. He's given a green ring with the power to manifest anything he imagines, and his only weakness is fear.

When Thaal Sinestro (Mark Strong) harnesses the yellow power of fear, it’s up to Hal to control his own dread to save the universe. Let’s hope he doesn’t imagine-up the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Captain America: The First Avenger 29 July

The Cap is one of the greatest heroes to grace the pages of Marvel, with Ed Brubaker’s recent comic-run winning an Eisner Award. A film was made in the '90s but it was, frankly, a bit budget and rubbish. This time Chris Evans (from Fantastic Four) has stepped up to don the shield, taking on the Nazis and their leader, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).

After volunteering for a secret military research project during WW2, sickly-soldier and twerp Steve Rogers is transformed into the ultimate super soldier. The scientist that performed the procedure is then killed, making Steve, conveniently, one of a kind – the first lone superhero to defend America.

Cowboys & Aliens 12 August

The title alone is enough to evoke boyhood tingles down your neck. Add in director Jon Favreau (Iron Man), a badass cowboy called Jake Lonegran (Daniel Craig), then top it off with legend Harrison Ford playing a Colonel, and Hollywood better prepare to redefine blockbuster success.

The year is 1873 and a spaceship has arrived in Arizona. The aliens are there to take over Earth. Starting in the gun-happy Wild West is bound to be a big mistake for those unwelcome extra terrestrials.