The 10 Best Non-Comic Book Superhero Movies
In today's golden age of superhero films, it's easy to forget about the non-comic book superhero movies that have graced the big screen.
When most people think of superhero movies, they think big budget comic book movies from the likes of Marvel and DC. While those types of movies are obviously vital to the success of the superhero movie genre as a whole, they're not an end-all be-all. There's actually a fair share of superhero movies that aren't derived from source material like comics—totally original works of art, unafraid to throw themselves into realm of superheroics.
Chances are, you've seen most of these films, but probably didn't really realize they weren't based off of anything. Because, let's face it—most great films are based off of things that were once in writing.
Indeed, these non-comic book superhero movies are trailblazers in their own right, and certainly deserved to get mentioned as such. So, let's take a look at some of the best of the best, and if you happen to be sick of the seemingly endless content from Marvel and DC, don't worry—there are other options.
This first entry might appeal to a bit of a younger demographic, but it's definitely one of the best non-comic book superhero movies over the last decade-plus. Disney's Sky High remains a classic amongst Disney and superhero fans alike, and it's really not hard to see why. Adding superheroes to a (somewhat) relatable high school setting is a recipe for an instant classic, and while it might not be one of Disney's most well-known titles, it's certainly worth seeing if you're a fan of the superhero genre as a whole.
It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's... Dwight Schrute?
Rainn Wilson stars in this James Gunn original, and shows off his acting range in the process. Wilson plays the heroically un-heroic superhero, the Crimson Bolt—a do-gooder at his very core, but totally inept when it comes to doing actual, you know, superhero stuff. This is a fun blend of comedy, action, and drama, and its definitely one of the better non-comic book titles out there.
An M. Night Shyamalan classic, Unbreakable (ironically) breaks all the rules of a classic superhero movie, en route to becoming one of the most memorable non-comic book films in the genre EVER.
The live action movie follows David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a security guard who survives a train crash, and learns from Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) that he possesses superhuman strength.
I don't want to give too much away, but this movie actually lives in a shared universe, with 2017s Split serving as a thematic sequel. A third film, Glass, has already started shooting, and will be released in 2019. It will exist as the third installment of the franchise, and unite the first two films officially.
The Toxic Avenger wasn't met with much fanfare when it was first released way back in 1984, but it has retroactively garnered a cult status since its original inception. That's pretty impressive for a superhero film with no comic book origins.
The film from Troma Entertainment follows a janitor-turned-superhero known as The Toxic Avenger. The titular character earns his superpowers after he falls into a vat of chemicals and gains superhuman strength (not to mention some horrible disfigurements). The movie is incredibly violent and somewhat campy, but that odd juxtaposition has led to its newfound cult status amongst fans.
Another Disney instant-classic, The Incredibles spawned its own uber-popular superhero franchise despite its lack of comic book source material.
And by lack of, I mean none at all.
In 2004, The Incredibles depicted a family turned superhero team, The Parrs. The family attempted to hide their powers in a quaint 1960s suburban setting, but were eventually forced into showing off their skills in order to save the world against an alien being. The movie spawned a recent sequel, The Incredibles 2, and Disney has not ruled out a third one in the near-ish future. While The Incredibles 2 apparently wasn't that incredible, it's hard to live up to the immense success of the original film—a classic in its own right.
This movie is definitely split amongst audience-members, yet it still remains one of the better non-comic book superhero films over the past decade or so. Will Smith stars as Hancock, a washed-up, unpopular superhero with a loud mouth and penchant for destruction. Think Deadpool, only way more annoying. Like Deadpool, this movie was geared towards adults, as it was originally rated R before the studio cut some scenes in order to get it the more audience-friendly PG-13. While this movie wasn't met with much critical acclaim, it should receive brownie points just for being its own original idea. Not to mention that they got Will Smith, a noted superhero fan (he even correctly predicted Batman v Superman), on board, so there's that.
Chronicle follows a found-footage formula similar to horror movies The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, making it a bit more grounded than other movies on this list. The movie follows three high school seniors who bond over their newfound telekinetic powers. The film is well-received by critics (86 percent Rotten Tomatoes score) and fans alike, making it one of the more memorable non-comic book superhero movies of the last decade.
This film teeters on the edge of "superhero" movie; but with the prevalence of, well, a super ex-girlfriend, this definitely makes the movie qualifiable. The premise of the movie is self-explanatory, really. A man (aka Luke Wilson) dumps his longtime girlfriend (Uma Thurman), and later finds out she happens to have superpowers. This movie is more comedic in nature, due to the sheer ridiculousness of the premise, but it definitely deserves a spot on this list nonetheless.
The superhero origin story Darkman stars the great Liam Neeson as the titular character, and remains one of the more innovative non-comic book films in the genre to date. Neeson's character, Dr. Peyton Westlake, suffers a series of horrific burns after he is attacked and left for dead by a big-time mob boss. As a result, Westlake becomes a ruthless vigilante, Darkman. The movie is based on a short story by Spider-Man director Sam Raimi, who, at the time, was unable to secure the rights to the characters Batman or The Shadow, so he decided to make his own superhero movie instead. And we're all glad that he did.
2010s Megamind proved to be a worthy superhero film in its own right. Between its high-octane 3D animation, hilarious premise, and the perfect casting of Will Ferrell as the villain-turned-anti-hero Megamind, this film remains one of the best non-comic book superhero movies out there. It didn't necessarily kill it at the box office, but both fans and critics had some pretty high praise for Megamind upon its initial release. While this animated flick is more geared towards kids, adult superhero fans will also have a great time watching this perfect blend of action and comedy.