There have been three waves of comic book movies since 1978. Superman
in 1978 kicked off the first (small) wave. Batman
in 1989 kicked off the second (bigger) wave. That second wave was faltering in the late 1990s, especially with the failure of Batman & Robin
, which was released in 1998, wasn't perceived by most moviegoers as a superhero film, but it played an important function behind the scenes, acording to Avi Arad, in that it strengthened Marvel's hand in getting studios more interested in their properties, which helped lead to X-Men
in 2000, which is the film that I would say kicked off the third (much bigger) wave that continues to this day. Spider-Man
in 2002 kicked things up to an even higher level, demonstrating that superhero films could be worldwide mega-blockbusters (the genre had tended to be much stronger domestically than internationally prior to that).