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100 Essential Superhero Movies – The Originals

I decided that I wanted to make a list of 100 superhero movies that I thought were the essentials, the ones that everyone needs to see at one point in time if they want to be a fully fledged superhero movie afficionado, and while I am having guest bloggers this month help me fill out the list, there are many much more obvious choices that were easy to make and I’m here to share some of those with you. I’ve looked at plenty of movies that came from DC and Marvel, but there have been quite a few superhero movies that came from original creations made specifically for the movie that weren’t just parodies of other superheroes and it’s high time to honor some of them.

Super Inframan

This is an important superhero movie for a few different reasons. It’s considered the first superhero movie to come from China, even though it was inspired by the Ultraman TV show and various others where giant robots or men would fight other giant monsters. It also comes from the famous Shaw Brothers who made many movies throughout the years and are most well known for their kung fu movies like Five Deadly Venoms. Looking back on it, it holds up like an old episode of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers with campy dialogue through a bad English dub, cheap rubber costumes, but some decent fight choreography. But as one of the first it should be on this list.

Darkman

Darkman

Before Sam Raimi was handed the reigns of the first Spider-Man trilogy, he wanted to make a movie based on the Shadow, but since he couldn’t get the rights he created his own superhero called Darkman. He’s a hero whose face was badly burned, but he was also creating an artificial skin that can be made to look like anyone, but can only maintain its integrity for one hour after being exposed to sunlight. It has a lot of noir elements to it and has a young Liam Neeson in the lead role, it also has plenty of flair to it which reminds you that it was made by the same person who created Evil Dead.

Unbreakable

Even though nowadays M. Night Shyamalan is usually the punchline of a joke, when he was first starting out he was hailed as the next Hitchcock, and after his breakout second film the Sixth Sense he turned his attention to his style of an origin story. While he initially had a typical three act structure, he decided to throw out the second and third acts and build the film around what is essentially the first act of a superhero movie. Not only that, but he took the world of superheroes and made it believable. There’s nothing supernatural or magical in this movie, everything is grounded in reality, albeit a heightened reality. It’s a very slow and deliberate pacing which adds to the tension built around a normal guy who begins to realize that there is something more than ordinary about him and his life.

Catwoman

Technically this movie is “based on” the Catwoman from DC comics who is Batman’s villain/ally/love interest/whatever. But the filmmakers decided to change almost everything about her character except for the fact that she’s a cat burglar and turned this movie into one of the biggest disasters and one of the biggest excuses that studios use when ask why they don’t make superhero movies with female leads. It seems like a good idea in theory, Halle Berry as Catwoman, Sharon Stone as the villain, even Benjamin Bratt wasn’t a bad choice for the ally/love interest. But when she gets her powers from a mysterious group of mystical cats, uses tons of cat puns, and has the meet cute moment by playing a game of cat-enhanced basketball, something went definitely wrong here.

Dr. Horribles Sing Along Blog

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

This is the shortest entry on this list, but also one of the most influential, and quite possibly one of the biggest reasons why webseries have been on the rise in the past several years. During the writer’s strike, Joss Whedon and several of his friends and affiliates decided to combine their talents and create this pet project as they weren’t able to do any TV or Film projects while the strike was going on, but were able to do this web series slash mini series slash mini movie based around a villain named Dr. Horrible played by Neil Patrick Harris and his quest to join the Evil League of Evil and get the girl while trying to avoid his nemesis Captain Hammer played by Nathan Fillion. And on top of everything else, it’s a musical. Not only that, but on the DVD release there’s also a musical version of the cast commentary.

Hancock

This is a bit of a odd choice, as the movie can be divisive especially as the first half of the movie is very different from the second half. While the first half is much more light and comedic, it takes a darker and more sci-fi turn in the latter half and many people think it falls off the rails a bit. Will Smith plays John Hancock, a superhuman with abilities similar to Superman although he has amnesia and at the beginning of the movie prefers to use his powers for self gain until he saves a PR guy played by Jason Bateman who decides to improve his image. There’s also a bit of a surprise twist which changes things in the second half, but overall it’s still a lot of fun and the interaction between Will Smith and Jason Bateman is fantastic.

Super

Super

This is a very dark comedy which takes a look at how it really takes someone with a mental imbalance to become a superhero, and here Dwight played by Rainn Wilson is a socially awkward nerd who loses his wife to a drug dealer named Jacques played by Kevin Bacon, who he only got in the first place because he was a nice guy to her when she was in one of her rehab cycles. While watching TV he has a vision from God to become the crimefighter The Crimson Bolt to get her back. Along the way he gains the help of a psychotic comic book shop clerk named Libby who ends up becoming his sidekick Boltie. Together they go after Jacques and his henchmen with an arsenal complete with pipe bombs and other weapons in a very bloody battle which doesn’t come as much surprise when coming from director James Gunn who came up through the low budget horror studio Troma Films and is now in charge of the upcoming Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

All Superheroes Must Die

One thing I enjoy being able to do with this site is to find and share movies from independent filmmakers, and one of my favorite films that I’ve come across so far is this low budget film from writer/director/star Jason Trost, best known for his post apocalyptic DDR movie the FP. In All Superheroes Must Die, a group of five heroes have been captured by one of the arch nemeses who has taken away their powers and put them in the middle of a small town full of explosives and hostages and they must play a Saw-like game with no winners and plenty of victims. Even though it’s a superhero movie, there is a strong horror element to this film and not just due to its low budget roots.

Chronicle

Chronicle

One type of film that has been explored ad nauseum in the horror genre has only been tried once so far when it comes to superheroes and when it did it breathed new life into both types of film with Josh Trank’s Chronicle. Here three teenagers gain telekinesis after coming in contact with a mysterious alien ship. But instead of simply becoming a team of superheroes like what would often happen in a comic book or superhero movie, they use their powers to screw around. And eventually things take a much darker turn until it all explodes in the climactic end of the movie. And on top of that, this led Josh Trank to be handed the reigns to the new Fantastic Four movie in the works.

What I Left Out

Alongside Super there were a couple other indie superhero movies that I enjoyed, but took a similar route as Super though neither of the filmmakers have gone on to do much more afterwards and that is Defendor and Special. There’s also a few other lesser known superhero movies that I also haven’t gotten around to like The Sidekick, Griff the Invisible, Alter Egos, or The Superhero. It’s possible that they’re great and if I decide to update this list again next year I may shift the list around if I think they’re worthy of inclusion. Is there anything I left off that you think should be included? Let me know! If you want to defend it I may just let you and include a poll to let the readers decide if it should be included in the 100 Essential Superhero Movies. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.

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About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 300 superhero and comic book movies in the past four years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on June 14, 2014, in Blogs, Lists and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Some good stuff here. Love the inclusion of Chronicle, Darkman, and Unbreakable, in particular. I liked Hancock, but didn’t love it (the twist left me cold). Catwoman is crap. Super is a difficult one for me. I badly wanted it to work, but it didn’t quite turn the trick for me. Haven’t seen the others. I’ve never even heard of Super Inframan. Thanks for that tidbit of info.

    • I feel pretty similarly to Hancock, I loved the first half, and thought the second half was ok but could have been done a lot better. Super was one that stuck with me even though I was conflicted on it during my first watch and I appreciated it a lot more on a re-watch. And Inframan is a trip, I catch flak for promoting the English dub, but I think it just adds to the cheesy B-Movie of the whole thing.

      Oh yeah, and I completely agree that Catwoman is crap, but it’s also one of those high profile disasters where it had all the right elements in place but it somehow went completely wrong.

  2. Really good list. I had no idea that Raimi based Darkman on The Shadow. Dr. Horrible is great because the songs are good and it has a lot of drama despite it being a comedy.

    • He does go pretty far away from the Shadow but if you know that the Shadow was the starting point there are definitely some similarities. And I can’t resist putting Dr. Horrible on as many superhero lists as possible, especially when I get to use that great piece of art I found.

  3. Dr. Horrible, Unbreakable, and Chronicle are all great inclusions, and I can certainly see the argument for Darkman as well.

    Catwoman… well, you and I both know how ridiculously bad it is. But it’s a list of “essential”, not “best”, and there’s certainly something to be said for people being informed of just how terrible it is. On the other hand, do I really want to subject somebody to it? 😀

    • Ahh yes, Catwoman. I forgot to mention that as terrible as it is, it’s also the only superhero movie with a black woman in the lead role which accounts for something. Of course, the real reason I included it in this category is so I didn’t have a category of DC movies that was just Catwoman and Watchmen.

  1. Pingback: 100 Essential Superhero Movies | Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights

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