With the major tentpole superhero movies slowly prepping for their second-renaissance through movies and shows (WW84, WandaVision, Black Widow), I thought now would be a nice time to look at some of the non-MCU/DCEU movies that got us here. Here are 7 top-tier recommendations.
The world of comics and superheroes has long captivated many a mind. Their powers, secret lives, and personal ordeals with the inhuman ability to stick through their values through it all has been a source of inspiration of many a nerd… before it all went mainstream. Now — everyone loves them! But do they only get a view of a certain type of hero thanks to the prevalence of Marvel & DC’s films? I’d like to take a stab at correcting some of that by introducing people to these historically non-mainstream alternatives.
Also, please note that I’m saying these movies aren’t part of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or DC Extended Universe (DCEU) — not that they aren’t associated with Marvel or DC at all. Also, this is a list of alternative classics, so you won’t see things like the original Superman or Batman here, or more recent things like Deadpool in this listing.
Super was an amazing action-comedy, released in 2011, that could be caught on Netflix for a while. Starring Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) and Elliot Page (Inception, Juno, Whip It) — imagine a disgruntled everyman-style Batman, walking around with a wrench, who isn’t afraid to bash some skulls in. Throw in some adult humor to soften the mood, and you have the ingredients for a damn good time!
This movie is not for children, much like this next one…
#6: KICK-ASS Movies
the KICK-ASS movie franchise (?) was about a regular guy in a suit trying to make the world a better place. An action-comedy with a bunch of gritty characters from the comic series of the same name, this movie took no prisoners (especially in its sequel).
You saw a Nicholas Cage (again) Batman character named “Big Daddy” [SPOILERS] meet a grizzly end. You saw his “tougher-than-Robin” sidekick/daughter “Hit-Girl” (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) murder people mercilessly. All while the titular character, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who would go on to become the MCU’s short-lived Quicksilver in the Avengers movies), just bumbled his way into some form of superhero maturity.
These movies dealt with “real-life” superhero violence in a way that just hadn’t been shown at the time (2010). And the sequel brought in even more brutality with a murderous Russian, a violent Jim Carrey (no offense to the movie, but I think he must have needed the money – LOL), and a dog trained to bite men in their crotches. Yeah…
Still – I had a great time with these movies and totally felt like they deserved a mention.
This 2019 mindf*** is on the list for one reason: Evil Superman.
That alone makes this one AMAZING! Can you REALLY imagine a world where a being like Superman was just on the wrong side? Imagine an angsty teen with the abilities of Superman?! This one was dark (in a good way). It had elements of Horror. It was just… WOW! And the things that end up happening to some of the characters as they piss this kid off… Woof.
Be careful what you pick up in the woods, folks. And raise your kids right. Get them socially-adjusted. The world is a tough place, and you never know who may one way be in positions of power – so strive to add more good people into the world (which, now that I think about it, might be a moral undertone of this film).
When I tell you that this 2012 movie tickled my brain in all the right places!! The only thing that was super sad about this movie is that nothing more was done with this world.
I felt like this one borrowed a lot thematically from the anime classic Akira. A wayward kid finds power and then become corrupted by it. Period.
Movies like this are ground-breaking in their own right, and I just wish that I saw Hollywood take chances like this more often. The leads do a great job in this one, and I’m happy that they’ve gone on to each have ok-to-great careers in their own right.
#3: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
While this one isn’t necessarily a superhero-esque movie, there are definitely powers involved. And the idea of fighting for the one you love in this Michael Cera-flick is taken to a literal extreme.
Can you imagine if you had to throw down with every ex your current significant other has ever had? For some people, that would be a cake walk – but for others, that would be a monumental task!
The other thing that I love about this one is the symbolism. At its surface, this is just a nerdy fight movie with cool effects based on video game motifs, but I’d challenge people to dig a little deeper (and you really don’t have to try that hard).
This movie is about relationship insecurity (specifically as presented from a male perspective). Almost every guy has dated that person who used to be with people who just seem more interesting (objectively-speaking) in some way, and the characters symbolize this. Scott (Michael Cera) battles a ton of “interesting guy” tropes as he grows more comfortable with his relationship with Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Musicians, jocks, hipsters, artists, a rich guy — think about that. But, like all of us, he had to overcome that mess in order to have a fruitful relationship at the end of the day.
If I had to categorize Scott Pilgrim, I would go as far as to call it a straight comedy vs. an action-comedy. There are stunning action sequences, but I think all of that is just a fantasy-sweetener on top of the more important comedic happenings.
Also, you see a lot of big names pop up in this cast (it’s kind of stacked)!
If you have never seen Push, see this movie. This is my personal favorite on the list, that loses out to #1 on a technicality (more to come on that).
The world this movie sets up is shockingly fleshed out in a single outing. I watch this movie 1-3 times a year (I may watch it tonight, actually), and it never gets old for me. Chris Evans is one of my favorite action stars in modern times because he took on roles in things like this, Scott Pilgrim, Snowpiercer, etc.
Dakota Fanning, kills it. Djimon Hounsou, owns his role. Camilla Belle, she’s shockingly believable.
I love these characters and the story they act out. I dig the chemistry between the characters on all levels. And I’m always left wondering “What if?” about this one. For me, this movie is one of my great pop-culture pillars that I will always stand by and want more of (much like fans of Firefly).
I want to call out these 3 movies before I talk about #1. In no particular order:
The Meteor Man
A great campy classic for you and the kids (if you have any) with some very famous (and infamous) cast members.
This one slants hard Sci-Fi, but I feel like it’s a precursor to a lot of Gun-Fu action that we see in current U.S. movies.
The only reason this one isn’t officially on the list is that it’s ALL THE WAY Sci-Fi (even further along than the one above).
#1: Blade (Original Trilogy)
I think anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the importance of this one is just missing a lot of history. People always jump to the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, but I’d argue that there WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies without this one.
Blade had a $70MM box-office performance in the U.S. and a $61MM international standing at a time when superhero movies weren’t a mainstream thing. The cast in part 1 masterfully plays their roles – and the action sequences were, and still are, top-notch.
Blade 2 made even more total money ($154MM).
And while Blade: Trinity was my least favorite of the trio, it made just as much as the original ($131MM).
The movies were honestly made out of order (Blade fought a god, a monster, and then the OG badass vampire — he probably should’ve fought a monster, the OG, and then the god?), but this trilogy laid what I felt was the groundwork for every superhero movie that followed into cinematic success. That’s the ONLY reason this one isn’t #2 for me. I can’t deny its impact.
And that’s it! What did you think of the list? What movies did I miss that you feel should’ve been on here? Is anyone mad that Howard the Duck didn’t make it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.