When thinking about superhero movies, many people’s minds most commonly go to the lighthearted action flicks found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as they’ve effectively taken over the superhero film landscape. But for superhero film fans looking for something spookier to watch this Halloween, they’d be surprised to know there’s a wonderful selection of spooky superhero films to quench that superhero/horror thirst.

Whether it be the astounding makeup and special effects found in Spawn or the gory slasher-film inspiration found in Blade II, the superhero film genre has never shied away from dipping their toes into horror themes to tell their stories. It’s not all that often these two highly popular genres meet, but when they do, the results can be memorable. These are standout superhero movies that dare to incorporate horror elements, ranked by scariness.

10 ‘The Toxic Avenger’ (1984)

Directed by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz

Image via Troma Entertainment

Nerdy boy from Tromaville named Melvin was never part of the popular crowd. One day, when working as Cleaning Staff for a health club, he’s bullied and chased around until he accidentally falls out of a two-story window, causing him to fall into a barrel of toxic waste. The chemicals distort his body and he becomes the Toxic Avenger.

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While the film leans into campiness and cheesy moments, like many 80s films, it also features heavy gore and gruesome moments that are sure to make viewers shiver. The Toxic Avenger himself is a nasty sight to behold as well due to the wonderful prosthetic work by Jennifer Aspinall.

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9 ‘Spawn’ (1997)

Directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé

Image via New Line Cinema

When Al Simmons is ordered to infiltrate a biochemical weapons plant and is murdered by an assassin hire by his superior, Jason Wynn. As Simmons arrives in Hell itself, he’s offered a choice; forever become the servant of Hell and get the chance to return to Earth to see his wife or remain in Hell to live out the rest of eternity. Upon returning to Earth, 5 years have passed, and he has become the entity known as Spawn.

While the film’s reviews are hit or miss, the make-up and special effects work crafted charactersthat look terrifying and control the vibe of every scene they’re in. The film was nominated for Best Make-up at the Saturn Awards, and it was well deserved.

8 ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ (2022)

Directed by Sam Raimi

Image via Marvel

When the young America Chavez comes to Earth from another dimension, Doctor Strange must protect her from the mentally broken Scarlet Witch, who seeks to kill her for her dimension-hopping power.

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If there’s anyone that knows how to meld horror with another genre, its director Sam Raimi. Coming from a large history with comic book movies that feature horror elements with his iconic Spider-Man trilogy, he finally got the chance to do more and delve deeper into the horror genre with his take on the Sorcerer Supreme. Utilizing Scarlet Witch’s powers to amplify body horror gave Raimi the chance to really shock casual MCU audiences who weren’t expecting an MCU horror film.

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7 ‘Hellboy’ (2004)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Being rescued from the Nazis as a child, a young demon grows into a hero that will defend the public from darkness. Hellboy follows the character of the same name as he works for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense to protect America.

Many note that the film’s main villain is one of the scariest parts of the film overall. Karl Ruprecht Kroenen’s first reveal out of costume is a horrifying sight to see. Stitched together all over his body and having practically no face, the villain is sure to send chills down the spine of any audience member. Hellboy stands out amongst the crowded superhero landscape, a visually wonderful and emotionally engaging treat thanks to director Guillermo del Toro.

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6 ‘Split’ (2016)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

While it may not seem like a superhero film on the surface, Split actually serves as a supervillian origin story for the Unbreakable universe that started with the superhero film Unbreakable starring Bruce Willis and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Split follows Kevin, a man with 23 personalities with one hidden one struggling to come out, kidnaps three girls as his personalities fight for control.

Unlike others, Split doesn’t rely on gore or special effects to execute its scares. Rather, Split is a psychological thriller that wonderfully builds tension through James McAvoy’s brilliant performance. Kevin feels like his personality could switch at any moment and kill the second protagonist, Casey, the leader of the group of girls that had been kidnapped.

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5 ‘Blade II’ (2002)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Slashers have been a huge part of the horror genre since its inception and a slasher film is exactly how one could describe Blade II. It’s thrillingly gory and action-packed. As a pandemic sweeps the nation, turning reapers into mutant freaks that can infect both humans and vampires, meaning no one is safe. Blade must reluctantly team up with the Vampires to put a stop to it.

Blade II heavily leans into its slasher film inspirations, providing action that is not only well choreographed but bloody and brutal. Those watching Blade II are sure to experience a bloodbath of fun, action and some bone chilling kills. These days, Blade II is generally seen as the high point of the series, thanks in no small part to Del Toro’s confident mastery of everything from gore effects to the consistent tone that juggles campy and creepy.

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4 ‘Brightburn’ (2019)

Directed by David Yarovesky

Over the last two decades, many franchises have pondered the question of what would happen if an all-powerful character like Superman were to turn evil. Brightburn ponders what would happen if a character like Superman turned evil as a child, a time when emotions are high and life is changing.

The kills in Brightburn are chilling and most importantly, creative. When studios like DC handle an evil-Superman trope, they typically have to hold back on gore and bloodiness, but Brightburn does not. The kills upon the time of release were some that many audiences had not seen before, with The Boys, a show with similar gruesome scenes, not releasing until about 2 months after.

3 ‘Darkman’ (1990)

Directed by Sam Raimi

Image Via Universal Pictures

Sam Raimi has made his way around the block when it comes to directing superhero/horror films. Earlier in his career, Raimi directed Darkman, a film about a scientist who was burned alive returning to those who did it to exact revenge. Darkman memorably stars Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand.

Darkman‘s connection to horror come through inspiration from monster movie tropes through its protagonist. The gory sight of Darkman‘s face after being burned alive is a gut-wrenching sight to behold. Many believe this is Raimi’s first proven example of how well he can blend and transition between tones.

2 ‘The Crow’ (1994)

Directed by Alex Proyas

When Eric Lee and his wife are murdered by a gang, he returns from the dead to hunt down the gang as he’s hunted by a police officer named Sergeant Daryl Albrecht, played by Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame.

Its gritty fantasy revenge tone mixed with a grunge aesthetic makes this film a spooky watch through and through. Watching Eric witness his wife be slaughtered right before his eyes before being murdered himself, and having to remember all of it when he is resurrected is a horror in and of itself.

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1 ‘Donnie Darko’ (2001)

Directed by Richard Kelly

A normal person is given an incredible gift, and they must use it to protect something they care about. The core fundamentals of many superhero films all lie within Donnie Darko. Donnie is a kid who, after being told that the world is going to end soon by a mysterious figure in a terrifying rabbit costume and an airplane engine crashed into his home, the rabbit suit begins to manipulate him into committing a series of crimes.

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Donnie Darko, while not being as much of a visual horror, leans into the realm of psychological horror with its incredibly thought-provoking existential surrealism. Outside of a creepy rabbit outfit, viewers may not see much that will horrify them, but they’ll walk out of their viewing experience with horror in their minds. Richard Kelly‘s filmography peaked with this 2001 cult classic, which earned considerable critical acclaim and fan response after an initial flop run at the box office.

NEXT: The Best Horror Movies of All Time, Ranked

 Darkman, Brightburn, and Donnie Darko prove that superhero movies can sometimes be genuinely scary.  Read More