Top Black Superhero & Comic Book Movies of All Time *Updated*
It’s 2019 and while I wrote the majority of this post back in 2016, there have finally been a few new superhero movies that feature a Black protagonist. Not only that, but they have actually been quite good. Not only not only that, but two of them were nominated for Academy Awards including the first ever Superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture. So this February, I decided to update this list to include the more recent Black superhero and comic book movies. Below is the original introduction.
Wrapping up another Black History Month I’ve decided that after watching and reviewing all of them (which sadly want all that hard aside from discovering them all) I’ve decided to rank them all in this list in case you haven’t been paying attention and might not know how many are really out there, even if there’s only a couple surprises on this list and they’re probably closer to the bottom. And as for my criteria for what counts as a “Black Superhero Movie” or a “Black Comic Book Movie”, the biggest one is that a Black actor or actress gets top billing at the bare minimum. That means that Men in Black and Men in Black II don’t make the cut, but Men in Black 3 does. I’m also going with what I consider to be the standard definition of Black as best as I can figure based on my limited knowledge and am excluding other People of Color such as Asians, Latinos, and West Asians since there are several Asian superhero movies and Bollywood superhero movies I have yet to watch. Enough small talk, on with the list!
20: Abar: the First Black Superman
This is the first, but not the last Blacksploitation film on this list and it’s barely a superhero movie. It spends a lot of its runtime pushing its social message while adding some really cheap special effects and an absolutely bonkers third act where Abar finally becomes the titular Superman with some bizarre abilities completely unrelated to the Siegel and Shuster creation.
19: Blade: House of Chthion
This is the TV pilot movie for the Blade TV series where Wesley Snipes was replaced with rapper slash actor Sticky Fingaz and the vampire house that’s unpronouncably spelled “Chthion”. It feels very much like a TV pilot, and for a series that only lasted one season at that. Fingaz just doesn’t have the same chemistry or charisma as Snipes and the writers aren’t able to work around it at all.
This is the first, and probably not the last vanity project on this list that was supposedly a vehicle for Shaq to branch out from his basketball superstardom into acting territory. And while they chose a somewhat notable Black superhero that was created during the well known Death of Superman comics arc, they didn’t really keep much of anything that was related to comics character aside from the suit of armor and the hammer. The budget was incredibly low, and instead of making it into a full blown comedy, they decided to cover up some of the budget with humor. But instead, they ended up with a movie that couldn’t take itself seriously, but wasn’t very funny either. No one wants the climactic ending to be solved by whether or not Shaq can throw the equivalent of a free throw.
This was filmed shortly after Halle Berry became the first Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Leading Actress, and unfortunately this was a huge drop in quality from Monster’s Ball. I’ve gone on about this film many times and it’s just awful how they took a popular character from the Batman mythos, tossed out everything about her, added in a bunch of ridiculous mythological cat powers and behaviors, and ended up with this giant mess of a movie.
This is the superhero comedy from In Living Color alums David Allen Greer and Marlon Wayans that take a guy with the social graces of the show’s Handi-Man only with the inventing ability of a pseudo genius and the resources of a junk yard. Some people might find his washing machine robot and an adult not understanding what’s happening during his “first” erection, but I wasn’t feeling any of it.
The first of a couple films to stretch the concept of a “superhero movie” this video project is mostly a compilation of several Michael Jackson music videos strung together with a weird little plot involving some kids and Joe Pesci as a bad guy that is kind of a short film that makes up about twenty minutes in the middle. The best part about this film really are the music videos, especially the amazing Smooth Criminal smack dab in the middle. But aside from that, it’s Michael Jackson self-aggrandizing in the worst way possible.
14: Up, Up, and Away
This was a Disney Channel Original movie directed by Robert Townsend which won’t be the first time that he appears on this list. It’s a sweet little family film that has nice message to go along with it. It also takes the very rare look at a superhero family where the middle child doesn’t have any super powers. The rest of the plot may be rather silly and inconsequential, but it does enough things differently from the normal superhero movie that it’s worth looking into. Especially if you have kids or grew up in the late 90’s.
13: Friday Foster
This is the second Blacksploitation film on this list and it surprisingly stars a very young Pam Grier. It follows a lot of the exploitation cinema formulas, but it softens them enough that they end up falling flat on a lot of levels. If you haven’t watched much exploitation cinema, it’s not a bad place to start, especially if you’re a Pam Grier fan as she really is the best part of this film. And like several other films on this list, it has a pretty significant cast of actors in it.
12: Blade: Trinity
The last and worst of the Blade films, this one came along when the brand was really starting to die out even though it hadn’t hit rock bottom with the TV series to come a couple years later. This tried to bring in some fresh blood with Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel, which for some reason they thought that what a Black, half vampire badass needed was a couple young, white sidekicks. But jokey and boring didn’t help liven things up even when they brought in future Heat Wave to play the king of all vampires Dracula. But it wasn’t enough to have Dracula, they also had to bring him down a peg with a Count Chocula joke of all things as well as a pair of vampire Pomeranians.
11: Meteor Man
This is a bit of a guilty pleasure for myself, it’s another superhero comedy by Robert Townsend, only instead of having it be for the Disney Channel, it was actually shown in theaters. It has an amazing cast including people like the now vilified Bill Cosby, James Earl Jones, Eddie Griffin, Don Cheadle, and music from Cyprus Hill, Naughty by Nature, and Biz Markie. It’s very much on the cheesy side of things, but I still enjoy it.
This is another slight guilty pleasure as I really love a lot of the people involved in this film from Michael Jai White in his first real starring role and John Leguizamo in an honest, if grotesque role as the Clown. It was the first serious superhero movie even though even then it suffered getting dropped down to PG-13 from a possible R, but it suffered coming out a little bit too soon and had the WORST CGI DEVIL EVER! The plot was a little convoluted and the special effects often left something to be desired, but there are hints of a good movie in there.
9: Pootie Tang
This is another film that I just didn’t fully connect with the humor. It seemed to have been billed as a Chris Rock film even though he’s not the lead, nor the writer or director. He does play multiple roles and it was essentially a film that spun off from a series of sketches on his talk show. It suffered by having it chopped up in the editing room, but like Spawn, there are hints of a good movie in here. But the jokes had to be spelled out to the audience, and there are so many plot lines going on that it’s hard to keep track of them all. And it’s just bizarre to have a main character that speaks his own language that everyone just understands at face value as the basis for an entire feature length movie.
8: Vixen: The Movie
This is an animated movie that was initially a web series on CW Seed that tied in with the Berlanti Arrowverse before Vixen later showed up in live-action form. It’s a decent animated film with a similar quality as the overall DC Animated movies although the quality dips a little bit due to the fact that it was initially a webseries rather than a fully formed movie from the beginning. It’s also one of the very few Black female led movies on this list next to Catwoman and Friday Foster.
This is the first film on this list that I genuinely enjoy. Or at least I absolutely love the first half of this film while I can tolerate the second half. It stars Will Smith as the only Black person in LA who also happens to be a superhero who is an asshole and has amnesia. Will Smith is incredibly likable and sympathetic the more you learn about Hancock, but the film gets bogged down by its own hard to explain mythology where Charlize Theron plays his immortal mate that is also the key to ending his own immortality. And their fighting creates this giant electrical storm for some reason.
6: 2 Guns
It’s honestly a little bit tough for me to remember much about this charming, but forgettable cop crime caper film where Denzel Washington gets top billing. The plot is as convoluted as they come with at least a half dozen double crosses if not more and loyalties shifting at every turn. But the saving grace for this film is the amazing chemistry between Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Their friendly rivalry and begrudging partnership make this film worth sitting through and even enjoyable to boot.
5: Men in Black 3
Surprisingly this is the only movie out of the Men in Black trilogy where Will Smith finally gets top billing over Tommy Lee Jones, likely because Jones is replaced with Josh Brolin for most of the run time. It has a lot of great time travel jokes, a villain almost as great if not greater than D’Onofrio’s Edgar from the first film in Jermaine Clement’s Boris the Animal. Brolin does a spot on Agent Kay impression and the film makes the past alien tech feel sleek, but also less advanced.
I’m sure there wasn’t much doubt what films would make the top of this list. It’s a shame that throughout the years, nothing has really come along to replace what helped start the entire superhero movie phase. Wesley Snipes shines in what is arguably his best film role as the Marvel vampire hunter from the pages of the Tomb of Dracula series. Even though it barely acknowledges that it’s a Marvel movie, it instead revels in the action horror genre of vampire and vampire hunter films and does it well. It also doesn’t worry about making itself into an origin movie, it gives just a quick expositional origin before jumping into Blade at the height of his career.
3: Blade II
And while there is some debate over which Blade film is better, and I will often come out in favor of the first Blade film, there is just something about the sequel where Guillermo del Toro brings in his spectacular vision of these uber vampires and combines it with the enjoyable enemy of my enemy team up with the villains. It also has such an enjoyable cast, from the antagonistic Ron Perlman, a young Norman Reedus, and Danny John-Jules for us Red Dwarf fans. It has some amazing special effects, and a few surprises at the end, plus plenty of gore and action along the way.
2: Into the Spider-Verse
This is the most recent movie on this list having came out just this past December where it introduces the world to Miles Morales along with a half dozen other Spider-people. It’s an amazing animated movie that’s full of action, humor, and heart right up there with the best Pixar and Disney features, but it’s got a unique quality that’s all its own. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature in this year’s Oscars, and it has a good chance of winning.
1: Black Panther
This is the mega blockbuster from last year that was released in February and became one of the top grossing movies ever made. In the US, it made over $700 million to become the third highest grossing film here. On top of that, it was critically acclaimed as an excellent film in its own right and became the first fully-fledged superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture. Besides that, it’s not just a single Black main character in this film, the majority of the cast are Black and Black culture really surrounds this film, both inner city culture as well as African culture, even though it takes elements of real African culture and combines it into the fictional Wakandan culture. While the first two Blade movies are decent, this is so far above those that it’s in its own category right alongside Spider-Verse.
So, those are my picks. I’d love to know if there’s any films that you think I left out because if there are, I’d love to find them and check them out myself. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t forget about any that I’ve already seen. What would be your number one from this list? And are there any that you might go seek out? Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.