Superhero movies don’t have to be part of the MCU or DCEU to be successful. There are many excellent standalone superhero movies that tell unique stories, like The Crow and Kick-Ass. Films like Chronicle, Hancock, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offer fresh perspectives on the superhero genre.

Superhero movies rank among the most successful in all cinema, and although the movies of the MCU and DCEU have often dominated at the box office, there are many excellent examples of movies in the genre that don’t belong to big franchises. It’s no secret that superhero movies have become some of the most prevalent in the industry, owing to their financial potential and widespread appeal. The movies of the MCU have seen Marvel gain something of a monopoly on the genre, with many of any given year’s most anticipated releases being Marvel Comics adaptations.

However, the MCU isn’t the only franchise around. The DCEU and its movies also spun a large interconnected narrative, albeit to considerably less success than Marvel. Despite there being major franchises dominating the genre, there are still several excellent superhero movies that don’t belong to either. Many of these stand alone as one-off stories, and some feature as part of their own smaller franchise. Though the shared universe has earned incredible success, it’s not the defining factor in a good superhero film. Here are the 10 best superhero movies that aren’t part of the MCU or DCEU.


10 Best Superhero Movies Of All Time

From multiple Batmans to Spider-Man, multiverses and time travel, here’s our rundown of the best superhero movies ever.

10 Chronicle Combines Superhero Action With A Found Footage Style

Chronicle (2012)

Chronicle tells the story of three high school students who develop a bond after gaining telekinetic powers. Told in a found-footage format, the film stars Dane DeHaan and Michael B. Jordan, both of whom went on to star in major Marvel movies in the years that followed. Chronicle wasn’t the most high-profile success, but it impressed critics with its examination of the more personal side of hero stories. A powerful piece of human drama that also happened to serve as a superhero movie, Chronicle is a great example of a thought-provoking standalone entry into the genre.

9 Hancock Is An Original Spin On Common Superhero Tropes

Hancock (2008)

Superhero movies don’t have to be part of the MCU’s movie timeline or an entry into the DCEU to attract big-name stars, as proven by Hancock. Will Smith stars as the titular superhero, a houseless individual who excessively consumes alcohol and performs acts of unwanted heroism. It’s not until a well-meaning civilian (Jason Bateman) shows him some compassion and introduces Hancock to his wife (Charlize Theron) that the hero begins to embrace his potential. Hancock is another excellent standalone superhero movie that doesn’t belong to the MCU or DCEU, but rather forges its own path through the genre.

8 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Is Still A Perfect Superhero Satire

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

There have been many adaptations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics, but few have stood the test of time as well as 1990s live-action movie of the same name. The film might appear somewhat dated, but its campy presentation only adds to its continuing charm. As the characters were developed as spoofs of popular Marvel heroes, the film’s light-hearted nature taps perfectly into that air of family-friendly satire, and even decades later, still embodies why the eponymous characters have become such a lasting staple of the superhero genre.

7 The Crow Fits A Specific Niche That Marvel And DC Rarely Attempt

The Crow (1994)

Though most modern superhero movies take on an air of light, hopeful, and inspirational, those qualities aren’t crucial to success in the genre any more than MCU or DCEU status. The Crow proves exactly that, with its edgy ‘90s gothic vibe providing an alternative style of superhero film. Brandon Lee stars as the titular vigilante, who returns from the dead to get revenge on the men who murdered him. Though The Crow’s production was mired by tragedy, the movie itself stands as an excellent example of the different ways the superhero genre can be approached.

6 Megamind Subverts Some Of The Genre’s Problematic Tropes

Megamind (2010)

The superhero genre is one that heavily relies on specific tropes and ideas, but Megamind delights in challenging them. The animated film follows the titular character, a supervillain who realizes his heroic nemesis isn’t the good guy he appears to be. With the antagonist forced to behave in a heroic manner, Megamind subverts the typical tropes of the genre, offering a well-written and carefully considered spin on superhero stories that also happens to be suitable for the whole family.

5 Dredd Was An Instant Cult Classic That Brilliantly Realized The Character In Live-Action

Dredd (2012)

The movies of the MCU and DCEU might be the most successful and well-known comic book adaptations in modern cinema, but Marvel and DC aren’t the only comics in the world. 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd is a consistently popular figure in pop culture, and 2012’s Dredd adapts his story to the big screen. The film became an instant cult classic, with Karl Urban’s Dredd perfectly capturing the gruff essence of the hard-edged law enforcer. A gritty and violent example of an excellent superhero movie that doesn’t belong to the MCU or DCEU, Dredd remains a beloved entry into the genre.

4 Kick-Ass Is Equal Parts Brutal & Hilarious

Kick-Ass (2010)

Though the Kick-Ass comics were published by Marvel, the character isn’t part of their typical pantheon. As such, the 2010 movie of the same name isn’t considered a part of the MCU, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Kick-Ass follows normal teenager Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who decides to become a vigilante after sustaining nerve damage that limits his ability to feel pain. His entanglement into a dangerous world of criminals and highly-skilled crimefighters offers up subtly hilarious action and tragedy, proving that the MCU doesn’t have a monopoly on bringing humor to the superhero genre.

3 The Incredibles Proves Even The Youngest Audiences Love Superhero Stories

The Incredibles (2004)

When it comes to hugely successful movie studios, Marvel might well consider Pixar rivals, even though the latter’s movies are typically directed at a much younger audience. However, the Disney-owned animation studio did try their hand at a superhero movie in 2004 with The Incredibles, delivering a hero movie that was perfectly inoffensive family fun. The story of a family of superpowered beings, The Incredibles stands apart from any pre-existing superhero franchise, establishing a perfectly accessible world for even the youngest of viewers.

2 Watchmen Is A Noir Superhero Epic

Watchmen (2009)

Watchmen may have been published by DC Comics, but it exists as part of an alternate history and therefore is not part of the DCEU’s movie timeline. Zack Snyder’s 2009 adaptation of Alan Moore’s award-winning story is a dark, hard-boiled superhero epic that examines the seedier side of the superhero genre, with its heroes serving as far more morally gray than the typical comic book paragons of heroism. Watchmen remains one of the most enjoyable and subversive superhero movies well over a decade after its release, proving a franchise isn’t needed to ensure superhero movie success.

1 Hellboy Perfectly Brings The Supernatural Hero’s World To Life

Hellboy (2004)

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is far from a traditional hero. A being summoned for the sole purpose of destroying the Earth but instead raised to protect humanity from supernatural threats, the titular paranormal investigator combats ghosts, monsters, and all manner of assorted villains. 2004’s Hellboy, directed by the master of dark fantasy Guillermo Del Toro, was a near-perfect realization of Mignola’s comics. With excellent world-building, practical effects that hold up two decades on, and an appropriately dark and epic narrative, Hellboy remains the best example of a superhero movie that doesn’t belong to the MCU, DCEU, or any other established franchise.

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