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The Best and Worst Non-Comic Superhero Movies

Sometime around the release of the third "Spider-Man," fifth "X-Men" film, and sixth "Batman" film, the terms "superhero movie" and "comic-book movie" became interchangeable. But fans of Sin City, A History of Violence, and the films below would confirm that they're two separate entities. As shown by the six movies below and this weekend's big new release, Chronicle, superhero movies can be original pieces of work. And though not every film on this list works, there's something refreshing about the ability to create a whole new superhero world on film.

The Matrix

The Matrix, in essence, is a superhero movie, though the special effects, "What is reality?" plot, and awfulness of the sequels detract from it. Neo is Superman (albeit a Christ-like Superman), Trinity is Lois Lane, Morpheus is Jor-El, and Agent Smith is, well, whatever bad guy you want to compare him to. But the very same things that make us forget this is a superhero movie are the things that make it so much better than that, so much more unique than most films in the genre. It set a new standard for action, and it goes deeper and more intellectual than any other superhero film would ever dare.

The Incredibles

It's tough to compare Pixar's canon because almost every film is a perfect 10, but Brad Bird's 2004 effort has to be one of the studio's best. It's undeniably the best-choreographed as far as action scenes go, and it features some of the studio's most memorable characters.


Last year, director James Gunn's film got little attention, and perhaps deservedly so. It takes all those things many people hated about Kick-Ass and magnifies them tenfold. But even for Kick-Ass fans, this one is a little hard to swallow. Regardless, you have to admire the moxie it takes to make this film, and Rainn Wilson serves as an appropriately atypical superhero.


If you thought Sam Raimi got his superhero start with Spider-Man, think again. He actually directed this 1990 Liam Neeson vehicle. It's a very messy film, but a lot of fun and very 1990. It tells the story (that's a lot like V for Vendetta) of a horribly scarred man who seeks revenge against the men who caused his injuries. It more resembles Raimi's Evil Dead films than Spider-Man, and it's far from perfect, but it's one of the genre's best-kept secrets.


Like Super, this film never totally comes together (the main problem, ironically, being the film's original screenplay), but its heart is certainly in the right place. Will Smith plays brilliantly against type as the titular hero, who has something of an alcohol problem. When the film focuses on Hancock's shortcomings, it's great. Once it transitions into a more conventional superhero movie, it goes off the rails.


M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense follow-up is in many ways his most complex endeavor. That's not exactly a surprising statement considering the cliff he fell off following Signs (which came right after this), but if you're interested in more than just a spooky third-act twist, Unbreakable might be your favorite Shyamalan effort. Yes, there's a twist, but it'll catch you off guard, especially when you put it up against other superhero films. There's definitely no other like it.


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