Release Year: 2011
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Director: Kenneth Branagh
In the old days, when men drank from the skulls of their enemies, beards were braided, and helmets with horns was the hot new thing, Thor was the Norse god of thunder.
Yeah: back in the days of Viking raids and pillages, this muscle-bound deity was the coolest guy you could be. He was brawny, he was uber-strong, and his mighty hammer made satisfying thwack sounds whenever he set it loose.
But although many things have changed since the Viking era (emoji are the new runes; crop tops are the new armored breastplates) we still have a massive hero-crush on our boy Thor.
Because of his all-around awesomeness, the guys over at Marvel Comics—specifically a trio named Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber—thought that Thor would make a great superhero. They were right. Reimagined as a modern-day defender of All That is Awesome, Thor was a major player in the superhero boom in the 1960's that became known as the Silver Age of Comics.
But back then, comic books weren't the unstoppable engine of pop-culture domination that they are now. Outside of a handful of figures like Superman and Batman, you had to be a pretty hardcore comic book fan to know who most of these guys in tights were.
Besides appearing in the comics themselves, Thor only guest-starred in some breathtakingly awful kids' cartoons, and a not-so-super live-action movie that made him second banana to Lou Ferrigno's Hulk. (Watch at your own risk.)
But that was before superheroes become big box office hits. This trend hit critical mass in the early 2000's with movies like Spider-Man, X-Men and Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.
A guy named Kevin Feige figured out a way to kick all of that to the next level: He developed a plan to start out with individual movies with individual superheroes, then combine them into a big-team up movie where they all got together to beat back some giant threat. He kicked it off with Iron Man in 2008, and the success of that led straight to Thor.
Our favorite hammer-wielding hottie was the first Marvel hero to follow Iron Man, and the success of his movie in 2011 ensured that Feige's master plan could keep rolling straight into the first Avengers movie (2012).
Directed by noted god of Shakespeare Kenneth Branagh, Thor found the perfect balance between ancient myth and modern cool. Branagh gave the story some hefty literary weight…as well as a fair helping of Shakespearean allusion. (Featuring classically trained actors like Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston didn't hurt on that front).
But don't worry—Thor isn't some fusty BBC production where people walk slowly through drawing rooms and write long letters with feathers. Thor brings on the mythological bad guys—lots of frost giants and monsters running around—which lead to some epic boss fights and greenscreen pyrotechnics.
And this surprising melding of Bard-style drama and 21st Century CGI mayhem set Thor apart from the other Marvel movies that came out at the time. Compared to the throwback nostalgia of Captain America and the high-tech snark of Iron Man, Thor is something slyly special: it's a reminder that people have been obsessed with the epic power struggles for as long as anyone can remember.
The Vikings had tales of godly mayhem. People in Queen Elizabeth I's court had Shakespeare plays. And we have Marvel comics…and the movies they inspire.
And the best part? Thanks to this movie (and the insane success of The Avengers) this god of thunder shows no signs of stopping. He'll be thwacking things with his hammer onscreen until Ragnarok.
We know the superhero story: smart, sensitive type gets bit by a spider/attacked by a cave full of bats/exposed to gamma radiation. Then—surprise—smart, sensitive type becomes imbued with spidey senses/hires his manservant to make him gadgets/turns green and angry.
It's a tale so common that comic book naysayers dismiss superheroes as 100% wish fulfillment. Dorky guys (and gals) wish that they had superpowers, so they create dorky fictional alter-egos who gain the power to crush bad dudes the way that John Belushi crushes beer cans on his forehead.
Enter: Thor. This guy is no 98-pound weakling. He's a dang god. He's heir to the throne of Asgard. He's buff. He's arrogant. He has no problem getting chicks.
And that, as it turns out, is exactly his problem.
Thor sees Thor fall from grace…pretty much literally. He falls from the heavens and lands in BreakingBadLandia—we mean New Mexico—where he has to learn what it means to be a hero. As it turns out, it takes more than just superpowers. It takes humanity.
Thor and his twenty-four-pack abs learn what it's like to get by with nothing at all—no hammer, no super-strength, and no idea how to politely order a cup of coffee. It's only when he realizes that he's lost it all is he able to become the hero he always wanted to be.
Thor shows us that all the best superheroes need to have a balance between humility and crazy-awesome powers. Either you start off as a shlub and attain greatness…or, like Thor, you have to regress from a Norse god into a ripped-but-powerless mere mortal.
This proves that the masterminds behind comic books and comic book heroes aren't just dweebsies who wish they were caped crusaders. They're also writers that are keyed in to the stuff of great storytelling: after all, Thor's story parallels other hero-to-zero-to-hero sagas like Odysseus' in The Odyssey.
So whether you're a comic book newb or someone who's steeped in the tradition of shy secretaries who become heroic (or is that anti-heroic?) because a few cats licked them back to life…Thor has something to teach you about what it takes to become a hero.
And hey: on the off chance that any pampered Norse gods or goddesses out there are reading this—you ain't a hero until you've spent time in the Land of Enchantment, inhaled a few dust devils, dined at a few greasy spoons, and learned not to think that your armpits smell like eau de parfum.
The first appearance of Thor on the big screen was a little wonky. It occurred in the movie Adventures in Babysitting, the story of one hapless teen's attempts to wrangle her young charges through an out-of-control night in Chicago. One of them, a little girl, is a huge Thor fan, and at one point mistakes a blonde-haired mechanic for the god of thunder.
We've reached a stage where the multiple actors are showing up as different superheroes depending on the film. Chris Evans, for example, played the Human Torch before he became Captain America, and Halle Berry was both Storm and Catwoman. Thor is no different. Ray Stevenson, who plays the portly, food-loving Volstagg here, actually got his start in the Marvel Universe back in 2008…when he played the Punisher in the movie Punisher: War Zone.
The Mighty Thor Library
An unofficial fan page dedicated to Marvel's beloved god of thunder (and lately, the goddess of thunder).
Here's the official page on the Internet Movie Database.
The critics weigh in on the God of thunder, with a not-too-shabby Tomatometer rating of 77%.
Interested in how Thor did at the box office? Box Office Mojo has the breakdown.
If you're interested in the comic the movie is based on, Marvel has a whole database for you. (Warning: they charge.)
The Incredible Hulk Returns
The 90's were a dark time for Marvel projects. Case in point: this ridiculous updating of the old Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk show, with a cameo from our favorite god of thunder.
Going back even further into the stink pile, we have this awful Thor cartoon from the 1960's.
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
Spider-Man always had a higher profile than Thor. Here, he lets the god of thunder guest star on a cartoon from the mid-1980's.
Hulk vs. Thor
The advent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brought a big step up in the quality of our cartoons. Case in point: Hulk vs. Thor, which was released a few years before this one, and previews the pair's big throwdown in The Avengers.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
A few more Thor-friendly cartoons. This one is part of the recent show The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Thor: Tales of Asgard
And yet another direct-to-DVD cartoon: this one released after the live-action movie.
Chris Hemsworth Interview
Thor himself dishes on the release of the movie.
Tom Hiddleston Interview
We've heard from the hero. Now let's hear from Team Bad Guy.
Sif and Loki Speak!
Two of Thor's most prominent denizens talk about the movie.
And One for the Director
A little something from Branagh talking about the film.
Plus One for Good Luck
Another interview with Branagh, taking it home for us.
Iron Man 2 Cookie
If you've watched movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and who hasn't at this point?) you now that they usually stick a post-credits cookie in at the end as a kind of teaser for whichever film is coming up next. Thor got his shout-out at the end of Iron Man 2, and some nice soul went ahead and posted the scene on YouTube.
Here's the preview, designed to whip the world into a foaming frenzy about the awesomeness that is Thor.
And of course, the big guy got in on the action for Marvel's game-changing The Avengers: bringing heroes from four different movies plus their buddies together in a throwdown for the ages.
"If He Be Worthy…"
Three films later—in Avengers: Age of Ultron to be precise—Thor's buddies put that whole "if he be worthy" thing to the test by trying to pick up Thor's hammer. Also, Thor may have learned his lesson, but he can still be a jerk sometimes.
Thor Parties Down
Chris Hemsworth shows exactly, precisely what happens after Thor wins a fight, courtesy of SNL. Apparently it's karaoke and Dave & Buster's for the god of thunder…
The Teaser Poster
Looking a little crimson there, big guy.
The Second Poster
This one's a little better than the first.
Behind the Scenes Magic
A behind-the-scenes shot of the final showdown. The universe is suddenly looking awfully green…
The Director and the God
Hemsworth and Branagh work out the shot on set.
Just so we know that not all the images were CGI on this thing.
Hero, villain. and director at the big soiree in Hollywood.
One More for Good Luck
Another shot of the premiere, this time with Jaimie Alexander hanging out with the boys.