Superhero movies and TV series have, for better or worse, become a thriving genre, as whole universes have unfolded on screen, with prequels, sequels, and spin-offs coming from every corner. Needless to say, it’s a good time to be a fan as they have seen massive story arcs played out on the big screen, not only once but across multiple films and TV series over the course of several years.
More recently, we’ve seen this across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where shows such as Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier allow storytellers to tell great stories, but with characters, audiences have invested in. The end result is a rich library to tap on it, as those who have never picked up a comic book in their lives can now know of characters, including lesser-known ones such as Star-lord, Thanos, Clayface, and even Polka Dot Man. Seriously, Polka Dot Man.
The superhero genre is largely dominated by members of DC and Marvel Comics, and why not? Both have been in the superhero game for decades, with comics, merchandise and video games in their long list of inventory, but is there all it is? Nope.
Whilst the superhero storytelling of Marvel and DC have birthed a strong and loyal fanbase that have powers to sway opinions and careers (case in point: #ReleaseTheSnyderCut), there is more to the genre than these big two corporations. If you’re looking to watch superhero TV series and movies that aren’t Marvel or DC Comics, then here are our top picks and recommendations in no particular order. You will not regret it.
Created by Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), Invincible is a coming-of-age story that transforms into a violent superhero tale. The adult animated superhero series revolves around 17-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), who’s just like every other guy his age — except his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.
Jupiter’s Legacy (2021)
Jupiter’s Legacy is based on the comic book series of the same name by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. The series premiered on Netflix on 7 May 2021 and follows super-powered children of superheroes struggling to live up to the legendary feats of their parents. The series also dabbles on the origin stories of the parent heroes in a smartly executed dual timeline approach. Jupiter’s Legacy’s central themes are on power and the temptations to abuse it, as well as the difficulty in taking the right path and the issues that come with handing over the responsibility.
The Boys (2019)
You didn’t hear it from us, but it seems like Amazon is the unofficial home for violent superheroes with corrupt moral compasses. Just like Invincible, The Boys is a bloodfest and looks at what happens when heroes go rogue and start abusing their powers. When it’s the powerless against the super powerful, the Boys head out on a heroic quest to expose the truth about the Seven and Vougtht, a multi billion-dollar conglomerate that manages the superheroes and covers up all their dirty secrets.
The Neighbour (2019)
This Spanish original Netflix series sees Javier, a 20-something struggling with adulthood and his girlfriend, unexpectedly becomes a superhero by ingesting a tiny red pill. Based on the comic by Santiago García and Pepo Pérez, The Neighbour is a superhero-comedy that fans have akin to Shazam! and Green Lantern, with a tad of the streamer’s 2020 original movie, Project Power.
Superheroes are often celebrated and well-loved. Except, that’s not the case in Hancock. In this Will Smith led movie, superzero Hancock hires a public relations specialist to rehabilitate his image. The result of this PR branding and management, Hancock finds himself making more enemies and discovers a piece of information about his past that will change his entire future.
Hancock is off-beat, comical and quirky. It’s Superman in the real world, but if people didn’t care about him and what he could do.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2011)
Scott Pilgrim is an ordinary teenager falling in love with a girl out of his league. The only way to get her (and keep her) is to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends, who are all superpowered. Funny and filled with cameos from stars such as Brie Larson and Captain America himself, Chris Evans, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a wild mix of comic book and video game effects to the next level so that Scott can finally get the girl of his dreams.
In a dystopic future, coldblooded policeman Dredd and psychic rookie Cassandra investigate three brutal murders in a tower block where they stumble upon a drug den run by the vicious drug lord Ma-Ma.
A character rooted in long-running British comics anthology 2000 AD, Dredd is the idea of the machismo-laden supercop who takes the law into his own hands and takes it to its logical extreme. And if you are looking, please watch the one starring Karl Urban and directed by Pete Travis and written and produced by Alex Garland, and not the terrible 1995 Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, and Diane Lane.
KICK-ASS is a realistic look at costumed vigilantism with unrealistically hyper-violent action. The film is about a loser teen that reinvents himself as a superhero despite not having any superpowers or skills. Father/daughter vigilante duo Big Daddy and Hit-Girl joins the fight.
The film takes things to the extreme with its shooting, maiming and slashing of bad guys. It’s a great comedy-action film that will make The Punisher proud. PS. Not for the faint of heart or stomach. There’s also a sequel but the original is much better.
Animated superhero films slaps okay. The Incredibles, everyone’s beloved Big Hero 6 and even the wacky Monsters vs Aliens are high-tier superhero animated movies that peaked during the year of its release. There’s something about innovative and creative superhero storytelling in animated films that hits different when compared to live-action, and Megamind is no different.
Unlike The Incredibles, Big Hero 6 and Monsters vs Aliens, all these supers came to their powers and consciously decided to be good. Megamind, however, sees the super villain eventually become the superhero without the audience, or even the character himself realising it. Megamind is one of those bad guy turned good films that didn’t receive a lot of fanfare or attention, but is well received amongst fans and audiences who managed to give it a watch.
Fun, energetic and at times dazzling, Megamind is a fun watch and we’re still keeping our fingers crossed for a sequel 11 years on.
Monsters vs Aliens (2009)
The comedy-action animated film sees a woman named Susan Murphy who turns into a giant on her wedding day after being hit by a meteorite. Labelled a monster and then taken into government’s custody, Susan teams up with other monsters to defeat an evil alien named Gallaxhar from destroying the Earth.
The Legend of Zorro (2005)
The Legend of Zorro is a western-adventure movie that sees the masked hero Zorro torn between his promise to his wife and his duty towards the citizens of California when he decides to embark on a dangerous adventure. Whilst not superpowered, Zorro is the Batman of his generation, andl a hero in his own right, serving the people he swears to protect no matter the costs.
Sky High (2005)
90s and 2000s kids, this Disney channel original movie will bring back waves of nostalgia. Set in an era where superheroes are commonly known and accepted, young William Stronghold, the son of famed supers Commander and Jetstream, tries to find a balance between being a normal teenager and an extraordinary being – all whilst navigating a highschool for supers. Stopping villains, escaping bullies and attending prom, Sky High is a a good teen flick that is different from the action-packed and violent imagery synonymous with the superhero genre.
Superheroes? Check. Nostalgic? Check. Cheesy teen movie? Also, check.
Hell yeah Hellboy! Based on Mike Mignola’s critically acclaimed comic book, Hellboy sees a baby demon brought to earth grow up into a top agent for the Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense.With his field team consisting of an aquatic fish man and a pyrokinetic woman, the movie is a cross between Ghostbusters and Raiders of the Lost Ark so if you love those, you’ll definitely enjoy Hellboy.
A quick Google will show you that there’s a 2019 Hellboy reboot ,but we highly recommend watching the OG 2004 movie and it’s highly rated 2008 sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, instead.
The Incredibles (2001)
The Incredibles is one of Pixar’s most popular animated films to date, and for a good reason. The movie looks at a family of superheroes who saves their dad from being exterminated by an evil villain on a mission to wipe out all the supers. It sounds a bit heavy, but when you rope in the sweet coming of age stories of the young pre-teen and baby heroes and smart comedy, you’ve got yourself a full package. The 2004 family movie later received a sequel in 2018 and has birthed one of the most memorable scenes in Pixar history.
Honey, where’s my super suit? WHERE. IS. MY. SUPER. SUIT.
Unbreakable is a superhero thriller film by M. Night Shyamalan starring Bruce Willis. It follows a security guard named David Dunn who survives a horrific train crash with no injuries, leading him to discover that he harbours superhuman abilities.
Unbreakable is deemed an underrated superhero movie. The film isn’t action-packed or has big action scenes like the Marvel Cinematic Universe nor was it anything similar to the X-Men movie that released during the same time. Unbreakable uses its own original and unique drama and thriller approach to tell the origin of this superhero, grounded on the story of a man, finding his calling and purpose. It’s also the first in Shyamalan’s Eastrail 177 Trilogy, followed by Split (2016), and Glass (2019).
Mystery Men (1999)
In Mystery Men, a group of aspiring superheroes repeatedly fail to protect their city due to their ineptitude. However, they soon get another chance to prove themselves when a mysterious villain rises to power. This superhero comedy stars some of the best in the business, including Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, and Janeane Garofalo.
Inadequate superheroes, witty and tongue-in-cheek satire, if you don’t end up enjoying this movie – THAT’s a mystery.
The Crow (1994)
Based on a cult-favourite comic book of the same name, The Crow centers around a young poet and guitarist called Eric Draven. When Draven and his fiancee are brutally murdered by a street gang, a crow takes pity on him and resurrects him to life on the anniversary of his death. The undead supernatural avenger later decides to give his killers a taste of their own medicine.
This 1994 dark fantasy superhero film is directed by Alex Proyas and stars the late Brandon Lee, who unfortunately died on set of the movie 8 days before its completion. The young Lee would’ve been a big movie star, with fans comparing his performance to Heath Ledger’s Joker.
The Mask (1994)
The Mask is an underrated superhero movie. Behind the antics led by Jim Carrey, the movie tells the tale of a shy bank clerk named Stanley Ipkiss who stumbles across an ancient wooden mask and transforms into a wild zany cartoon. With his new found powers he tries to get the girl of his dreams and saves Edge City from a sleazy creimlord named Dorian Tyrell.
The Mask is bound to be nostalgic for many with great music and again, Jim Carrey. Sadly, he didn’t return for the sequels, which we do not recommend.
The Rocketeer (1991)
The Rocketeer didn’t do well when it made its release but we bet that it would’ve been an instant box office gold in today’s superhero-friendly climate. The Rocketeer is the story of a stunt pilot in the 1930s who happens upon a strange rocket pack that allows him to fly and do good deeds, only to be menaced by the Nazis and the FBI. A healthy mix of adventure and humour, The Rocketeer always feels brand new decades after its premiere.
Helmed by Sam Raimi and starring Liam Neeson, Darkman sees Dr. Peyton Westlake, a scientist working to create artificial skin for burn victims. Disaster strikes when he gets mixed up in underhanded dealings and is brutally burned and beaten by gangsters. Subjected to a radical procedure that severs his spinothalamic tract, Westlake is utterly transformed. Unrecognizable, unable to feel pain, and granted enormous strength by adrenal overload, Darkman uses other people’s faces to take revenge.
There you have it, 20 superhero TV series and movies that aren’t Marvel or DC. Whether you’re looking for a superhero series or movie that is swayed towards thriller, drama, comedy and straight up violent, there is something on this list for everyone – and something on this list that we bet you haven’t considered watching before.
Remember, there are more superheroes out there based on comic books you’ve never read or seen before so diversify your superhero library and happy watching!