While this can be called the golden age of the superhero genre, it has been with us for quite some time now, with its roots dating back as far as the early 20th century. And while nowadays most of these movies are based either on DC, either on Marvel, either on some other comic book properties, it doesn't necessarily needs to be so.
Check out our list of 10 superhero flicks which aren't based on comic books or graphic novels!
Way before directing the first Spider-Man flick, Sam Raimi wrote and directed this little gem, with Liam Neeson playing the role of the titular superhero. In the movie, Neeson portrays a good doctor (Peyton Westlake) who is perfecting a type of artificial skin for burn victims.
Ironically, or not, he ends up being one such victim, after his laboratory is destroyed - completely disfigured, he undergoes a medical procedure meant to rid him of all the pain. He succeeds - in the process he gains superhuman strength. Using also the artificial skin he devolved (skin which maintains its properties only in the dark, hence the name of the movie), he plots his revenge.
As a non-comic book superhero flick, Darkman has gathered quite a following. After being successful at the box-office, it spawned several sequels (thought they were direct to video ones, with Neeson exiting the role) and convinced Marvel to launch a limited comic book adaptation, as well as a video game.
The Toxic Avenger (1984)
Going even further back in time, we find another superhero flick, although of a different tone - a lot campier than Darkman, The Toxic Avenger is as funny as its name suggests. The premise seems taken out of an Adam Sandler movie - a mop-boy at a health club falls into a vat of toxic waste, after being pursued by some evildoers.
After falling in the chemicals pit at the health club, the mop-boy transforms into a super-strong and super-big and super-disfigured creature, becoming the Toxic Avenger.
The movie was supposed to be a horror one and it does retain some horror elements. However, it is not one. It didn't meet such a great success when it was released - however, it did gather a cult following in the years which came after. It even spawned its own animated series.
The Specials (2000)
If we jump into the future, we find The Specials, written by none other than James Gunn (the guy you should thank for Guardians of the Galaxy). Shot in 18 days on a minimum budget, The Specials is in fact the slowest action-superhero movie, in the sense that it presents the superheroes on their day off.
The characters are, nonetheless, regular superheroes with pretty awesome superpowers.
The satire was praised its unique approach of the superhero genre, particularly for the dynamic of the group. It is a must, if you want to see how James Gunn evolved until now.
In the same year, M. Night Shyamalan released, probably, his last good movie. Unbreakable starred Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson and is not at all your average superhero movie.
David Dunn, the main character, finds out that he has this strange ability, which renders him immune to any kind of physical harm - he is unbreakable. On the other side of the spectrum is Elijah Price, who is nothing like him - his bones can break at the slightest impact.
David Dunn wants to see if he is indeed unbreakable and he soon discovers that he also has other abilities, such as super strength and extra-sensory perception. So he starts fighting crime as an anonymous hero.
Marketed by the director as a superhero flick, Unbreakable is mainly considered as a psychological thriller. To be noted, it is one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite flicks.
Most recently, back when Will Smith was still one of the safest actors for a studio to bet one, he made Hancock - which presents, basically, what would happen if Superman was a drunkard.
Though it received mixed reviews, it is still a very fun ride and it is, to this date, Will Smith's best movie, as far as the opening weekend is concerned. This will most likely change when Suicide Squad opens.
The Meteor Man (1993)
As far as hilariousness is concerned, this superhero flick should go straight to the top. Part satire, part children's movie, The Meteor Man is about a school teachers who becomes empowered when he is struck by a meteor (hence the name).
Superhuman strength, flight, super-speed, x-ray vision, and others are the superpowers with which the teacher begins scaring off the local gangs.
The movie didn't do well - neither with the critics, neither at the box office. However, it gathered a following and Marvel released several issues about Meteor Man later on.
My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006)
Superhero movies are, in fact, a mix of genres. And My Super Ex-Girlfriend (starring the celestial body Uma Thurman) proves that very well, since it is in fact a romantic comedy. A guy (Luke Wilson) dumps his girlfriend because she is too needy - little does he know that she is in fact a superhero (called G-Girl), who got her powers when came into contact with a crashed meteorite.
It is probably the least well-received movie on this list, being called extremely sexist and misogynistic. However, it is still a hilarious take on the superhero genre, with a regular villain (Professor Bedlam, portrayed by Eddie Izzard) who wants to strip her. Of her powers, of course.
Special stars Michael Rapaport in the lead role of a psychotic man who believes he is a superhero. However, is he really a schizoid, or does he really have powers, such as phasing through solid objects, flight, strengths, and others?
As you might expect, this is yet another take on the superhero genre, a more dramatic and tragic one. While there are plenty of dark humor moments in Special, you cannot help but feel sympathetic for the main character.
The main question which comes out of this movie is this one: what makes a superhero? Is it his superpowers? Or his super-humanity?
This is the superhero flick which landed Josh Trank the Fantastic Four reboot, to everybody's disappointment (including his own). The movie is spectacular and it is an autopsy (this is the right word) of what happens when a timid teenager with family issues gains superpowers.
This is no Peter Parker story, by far. Chronicle received almost unanimous critical acclaim and brought back the studio a hefty profit. Josh Trank became a well-known director, while Dane DeHaan went on to play Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Michael B. Jordan became the Human Torch.
The Incredibles (2004)
As everybody says, The Incredibles is, basically, how Fantastic Four should be made. Though this is an animated superhero flick, it strikes all the right chords. Unanimous critical acclaim, the highest opening weekend ever for Pixar, 2 Oscar wins out of 4 nominations, and a huge profit.
What else can be said? Bring on the sequel, which is scheduled to arrive in 2016.