There is no doubt that 2023was a rough year for superhero movies. After being the dominant genre in Hollywood for well over a decade, it appeared that the genre was starting to wear thin on audiences. The year started strong with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which had the biggest opening weekend of the Ant-Man films but quickly fell out at the box office, and reviews for the film were poor. The Flash, a long-awaited big-budget adaptation that had been in development at Warner Bros. for years, finally hit theaters and became one of the biggest bombs in the studio’s history.

Aquaman and Captain Marvel grossed $1 billion dollars when they were each released, but their sequels, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and The Marvels, respectively, made headlines for disastrous opening weekends and became some of the biggest bombs in their franchises. As such, 2023 has been a year of depressing headlines for superhero fans, with not just talk about fatigue but about how the genre is on its last legs. Think pieces and doom-saying have become the primary mode of discussing superhero stories, and how things look even more depressing considering the superhero offerings in 2024 are rather slim.

Yet despite all the negative headlines, 2023 had some truly great offerings in the superhero genre. Heroes like Superman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got fresh new spins, while Guardians of the Galaxy and Doom Patrol got satisfying conclusions to their stories, with audiences meeting new heroes like Blue Beetle on the big screen for the first time. These are the best superhero films and television series of 2023.

15 Gotham Knights

When the first trailer for Gotham Knights aired, many people wrote it off. It seemed cheap even by CW standards, and was a Batman series that not only killed Batman early on but featured a bunch of lesser-known Batman-supporting characters. There was no Robin or Batgirl, but instead characters like The Joker’s Daughter, Bluebird, and Spoiler. It felt like the CW television series were only getting the scraps to play with, yet that is exactly why it works. After so many films and television series featuring the same old protagonists, it was refreshing to see lesser-known but just as great members of Bat-family get the spotlight in Gotham Knights.

DC Characters You Never Thought You’d Love

The series focused on a rag-tag group of characters in the comics who, together, form a strong team. Characters like Fallon Smythe’s Harper Row and Anna Lore’s Stephanie Brown went from antagonistic to romantic interests. It was great to give Carrie Kelly (Navia Robinson), Robin in The Dark Knight Returns, the spotlight for a chance. Tyler DeChiara was a great positive representation of a trans character with Cullen Row. The romance between Oscar Morgan as Turner Hayes and Oliva Rose Keegan’s scene-stealing Duela Dent was the exact type of young adult romance one wants from a CW series.

While Gotham Knights only lasted one season before being canceled by the CW, the series shows just how rich the DC Universe is and how sometimes it can be good to look at the lesser-known heroes. Stream on Max.

14 Loki Season 2

Loki season two had a lot of obstacles to overcome. The first season was beloved by many Marvel fans, but it was also criticized for essentially being all set up for season two. With the domestic abuse trial of Jonathan Majors beginning while the series was airing, and his character Victor Timely originally conceived as a big part of the marketing, the new season was off to a rough start. Yet very quickly, the series found its groove and was a major improvement over season one.

A Haunting Conclusion to Loki’s Character Arc

Loki season two dug deeper into the characters, exploring how they respond to a new status quo. Yet the best part was in fact the ending. The series was not just a conclusion to the story started in season one but also wrapped up the titular character’s arc that began all the way back in 2011’s Thor. In a hauntingly beautiful shot, Loki finally gets to sit on a throne he so desperately wanted but must do it alone to maintain the safety of the multiverse. The rest of reality might not know the sacrifice he has committed, but he does so to protect not just the ones he loves, but the entire universe. Ultimately, the two seasons of Loki tell a fascinating 12-episode story of a villain who becomes a hero. Stream on Disney+.

13 The Marvels

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The Marvels legacy will be written as “Marvel’s biggest flop.” While that certainly is disappointing, box office results do not always equate to the quality of a movie, and The Marvels is a very fun time and one the MCU needed after a series of dark, somber projects like Loki, Secret Invasion, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The dynamic between Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is the best part of the movie and makes the entire thing worth watching.

A Colorful Adaptation of 1970s Marvel Comics

Yet there is so much more to The Marvels. Director Nia DaCosta (Candyman) pulls in a wide variety of strange, out-there cosmic lore from the Marvel Comics of the 1970s and ties it into various elements of the established MCU. In many ways, The Marvels is the most accurate adaptation of 1970s Marvel comics. Filled with color, energy, and great chemistry between the leads, The Marvels is a movie that will likely grow in appreciation in time as audiences who skipped it in theaters discover it. The Marvels is playing in theaters and will stream on Disney+. Check out our interview with the film’s producer, Mary Livanos, below:

12 Shin Kamen Rider (Shin Masked Rider)

Shin Kamen Rider (released on Prime Video under the title Shin Masked Rider) is a reboot of the Kamen Rider franchise, a popular superhero, or tokusatsu series in Japan. It is the third tokusatsu reimagining from write and director Hideaki Anno (creator of Neon Genesis: Evangelion) following 2016’s Shin Godzilla and 2022’s Shin Ultraman. Much like those, it was an attempt to update the classic franchise traditionally aimed at children and give it a more adult edge featuring more blood, gore, and politically charged topics.

How the Japanese Get Gritty

Shin Kamer Rider was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Kamen Rider, although it was delayed two years. The film plays up the pulpy aesthetics of the original series, but the emphasis on blood and high-end action shows how the franchise has evolved over the years and can grow with its audience while maintaining what fans love about the franchise. The discussion of giving gritty reboots of superheroes is typically associated with Western media, so Shin Kamen Rider serves as a great examination of how another culture tackles the approach. It’s a far cry from The Dark Knight, and maintains the goofiness of the genre, so it’s an interesting and delirious cultural experiment. Stream on Prime Video.

RELATED: The 23 Best Action Movies of 2023, Ranked

11 Blue Beetle

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Blue Beetle is a fascinating look at the difference between classic and derivative. A derivative piece of superhero media might be something like Black Adam or Morbius, a piece that not only pulls from other superhero stories but does not add anything new to the material; these feel rather cynical in their creation. Blue Beetle, on the other hand, feels classical. Yes, it has plenty of elements audiences have seen in other superhero films. Audiences who have seen a superhero movie can identify elements from Spider-Man: Homecoming, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Venom, and Captain Marvel, just to name a few, but the film is clearly using those familiar elements as a springboard for something new.

Using Tradition to Create New Superhero Moments

Blue Beetle uses these tropes as a springboard to highlight what makes it unique. It puts the Mexican-American experience front and center and speaks to how the superhero concept is universal. These elements are present across cultures, but how do different cultures inform or challenge the conventions of the genre? The titular hero does not keep his superhero identity secret from his family; instead, they help him on his journey more so than any other hero has had before. Family is clearly a strong part of this story’s identity.

Blue Beetle is filled with topical moments, the best being a wish-fulfillment scene of watching the hero lay the smackdown on a paramilitary organization that is coded to be Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers. Blue Beetle does not reinvent the wheel, but it was not trying to. It was trying to show that anyone of any culture and background can be a superhero, and it does so in a charming, fast-paced, and fun adventure. Stream on Max.

10 What If…? Season 2

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What If…? season two arrived just in time to round out 2023 for the MCU, easily the roughest years for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The new season is a major improvement on the first season, with no weak episode in the bunch. The creators have a bit more freedom to play around with stories and characters, pulling in new elements introduced in Phase 4 to contextualize previous plot lines from the Infinity Saga and beyond. What If…? can have a truly fun episode like “What If…Happy Hogan Saved Christmas” while also doing a cyberpunk noir send-up with “What If…Nebula Joined the Nova Corp.”

What If the Possibilities Were Endless?

The introduction of the newest hero, the Mohawk woman Kahhori, might be the best episode not just in this season of What If…? but in all of Marvel television. Marvel always had the title of “The House of Ideas,” and with What If…? they have introduced an entirely new superhero with an alternate history with which they could tell countless stories. Seeing the creators play around with beloved characters, storylines, and genres is what always made the What If…? comics so great. This is easily a series that the MCU should continue to invest in, because with each new film or Disney+ series comes an exciting possible What If…? episode. Stream on Disney+.

9 Superman & Lois Season 3

While fans are left waiting for James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy to give the Man of Steel his big screen treatment a fresh makeover, fans of the hero actually had an incredible year as the iconic character shined in two separate television projects in 2023. The first one up is Superman & Lois season three, which aired on the CW from March 14, 2023, to June 27, 2023. The series sees Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) raising their sons Jordan (Alex Garfin) and Jonathan Kent (Michael Bishop stepping into the role after Jordan Elsass left the series). Season three delved more into the rich Superman lore with characters like Bruno Manheim, Lex Luthor, and Doomsday, but most notably featured the heartbreaking story of Lois Lane being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Superman and Lois Becomes a Powerful Tear-Jerker

This storyline shakes all the characters to their core. This is one issue that Superman, despite all of his power, is helpless to stop, and he must embrace what it really means to be super for his partner while she goes through this. Meanwhile, Lois Lane is left grappling with her own mortality. A parallel is drawn between the Kent family and how they deal with cancer to the villains Bruno Manheim and his wife, Peia, and how they grapple with cancer.

It is a thoughtful, deeply human season that grounds Superman in a way like no other creator has. While many comics have tackled Superman’s own mortality, it makes him more relatable to see how he deals with the idea of possibly losing someone he loves and how powerless he feels. Superman & Lois has been renewed for a fourth and final season on the CW that will air sometime in 2024, and it continues to prove why it is one of the best versions of Superman ever. Stream on Max.

8 I’m a Virgo

I’m a Virgo

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Ever since Boots Riely burst onto the scene with 2018’s Sorry to Bother You, fans have been wanting to see what the director would deliver next. Like a lot of filmmakers who make one high-profile, low-budget, critically acclaimed movie, he is immediately thought of by fans as a pick for a big-budget superhero movie. There are two sides to this coin: on the one hand, studios tend to use less experienced directors as a way to control the project more, while on the other hand, fans want to see their favorite superheroes tackled by talented filmmakers. Boots Riley had made it clear he would never do a comic book superhero movie…at least not an existing one.

Superheroes as Fascist Instruments of the Oligarchic State

With I’m a Virgo, he creates his own hero and world, and the result is as incredible as one would expect. The series follows Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), a 13-foot-tall Black man who has been sheltered from the world and always loved the comic books and media of a Tony Stark-like person, The Hero (Walton Goggins), a billionaire named Jay Whittle who has become a superhero. As Cootie goes out into the world and becomes involved in political activism, he ends up in conflict with The Hero.

Just like how Sorry to Bother You tackled capitalism, I’m a Virgo is equally politically charged and tapped into the moment by dealing with issues like Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and the often troubling power fantasy of heroes like Batman and Iron Man. These are essentially white billionaires using their money to buy them the ability to flex power and control over others, and Riley deconstructs the heroism of superheroes as such. I’m a Virgo feels like a great indie graphic novel, with surreal imagery and dream logic, but feels relevant to the zeitgeist, especially in 2023 when many people are sick of the traditional superhero myth. Stream on Prime Video. Check out our interview with lead star Jharrel Jerome below:

7 Invincible Season 2

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Invincible season two was long-awaited, as season one wrapped more than two years ago, in April 2021. What kicked off with an incredible special focused on Atom Eve, Invincible finally returned towards the end of 2023 for four episodes before going on hiatus until the final four episodes of the season air. It is because of that, as it is only half a season, that the series ranks lower on this list. Had the full season aired, it would likely be much higher, since these episodes of Invincible season two formed an incredible season of television.

A Heartfelt but Violent Cliffhanger

It expanded the character relationships and dug into them more complexly, while also delivering on the often silly rules and conventions of comic book stories and playing them incredibly straight. It pulls from audiences’ knowledge of superhero stories like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Aquaman, and Spider-Man and puts its own spin on these conventional stories. It is bloody and violent but also sincere, and following the mid-season cliffhanger, fans eagerly await the rest of the season. Stream on Prime Video.

6 Gen V

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Gen V is a spin-off of The Boys which, on the surface, sounds like the exact same idea that The Boys constantly makes fun of. Trying to expand this franchise into a shared universe with crossovers seems like the cynical cash grab that The Boys is making jokes about. Gen V justifies its own existence by shifting the POV of the story. While The Boys is about how normal humans view superheroes, Gen V is about how superheroes view themselves and how a generation of young people who start out wanting to do good will eventually be crushed into the cynical corporate-sponsored narcissism that becomes the main superheroes of The Seven.

Shifting the Perspective of The Boys

Focusing on a group of college students at a prestigious superhero college, Gen V is a riff on Marvel Comics’ X-Men, but that extends beyond the setting of a school for gifted youngsters. The series is about how the human fear of supers can form a reactionary superpowered faction who sees themselves as superior to humans and want to rule over them. Meanwhile, a select group of students just want to live up to the illusory image of superheroes created by the media. Gen V is a great companion piece to The Boys that has all the blood, gore, sex, and over-the-top sequences fans have come to expect. Its more optimistic worldview is a great, bleak irony when the audience knows that the world will crush the heroism these young people aspire to. Stream on Prime Video.

5 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

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The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are some of the most iconic figures in popular culture. For over 40 years, multiple generations of kids have latched onto some incarnation of the heroes in a half shell, finding their own entry point into the franchise that has reworked the mythology in some ways. The latest attempt, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, shows that there are still plenty of fresh ways to tackle this franchise.

Putting the Teenage in TMNT

The movie particularly emphasizes the “teenage” part of the title that has always been underutilized, even featuring real teenagers to voice the characters. The turtles are given a true 21st-century update beyond superficial elements, making them sound like modern Gen-Z teenagers with references to interests that are relevant to the target audience. The film still finds a way to be appealing to all audiences, as it reminds the viewers of what it was like to be a teenager. The movie pulls from various points in the franchise’s history, from an artistic style inspired by underground comics to teenage doodling. This is a great distillation of why the franchise has endured for so long.

Fans of TMNT are sure to like this new spin on the material, and even more impressively, thanks to the writing talent of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, director Jeff Rowe, and an all-star cast, it can be appealing to someone who has never had any interest in the franchise. Stream on Paramount+ and check out our interview with the film’s director below:

4 Doom Patrol Season 4

While the first half of season four aired back in 2022, the final set of episodes for the season did not air until just recently, in late 2023. It had been almost a whole year since fans saw the first half of the season, and by the time it aired, it was already known that Doom Patrol would be one of many DC shows to end following major restructuring at DC Studios. Yet, for fans of Doom Patrol, it feels weird to even think it made it to four seasons. The series was so bizarre and premiered on a now-defunct streaming service (DC Universe), with its second season being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything seemed to be working against Doom Patrol, yet it endured.

An Emotional Ending to a Brilliantly Bizarre Series

Over the course of four seasons, audiences have gotten to watch these very lovable odd misfits grow and become the best versions of themselves. The excellent Doom Patrol was always able to grab headlines for its incredibly out-there material that would push the boundaries of comic book absurdity, from sex ghosts to singing butts to superheroes who curse constantly. But while other shows would just fall back on that zaniness, Doom Patrol instead had a real emotional weight to it with some incredibly beautiful moments. They were never broken; they were just odd, but they all fit together.

The end of the series finds the team breaking up and going their separate ways, all finding some semblance of peace. The final shot with Brendan Fraiser’s Robotman, who has been the audience’s POV and lead character since the beginning, is one of the most heartfelt and poignant moments in any superhero project. If Superman: The Movie made audiences believe a man can fly, then Doom Patrol will make you believe a robot can make you cry. Stream on Max.

3 My Adventures with Superman

2013 was a major turning point for Superman. The year saw both the release of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us. These two projects rewrote the idea of Superman for well over a decade. The superhero of hope and optimism was reimagined as a dark, tortured soul who was always one bad day away from becoming the worst villain. It appeared that in the 2010s, it was difficult for audiences and filmmakers to imagine Superman could just be good.

Yet now it appears audiences want the classic traditional take on Superman. This kicked off with Superman & Lois in 2021 and will be a major part of James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy in 2025, but 2023 might have seen the best version of Superman to hit the screen since Christopher Reeve, thanks to the animated series, My Adventures with Superman.

A Superman for a New Era

My Adventures with Superman explores the early days of Superman’s journey, with Clark Kent being a young intern at the Daily Planet who begins to fall in love with fellow intern Lois Lane all while being accompanied by his best friend, Jimmy Olsen. Like The Spectacular Spider-Man before it, My Adventures with Superman feels both classic and modern. It takes the familiar elements audiences know and love about Superman while updating them in ways that stay true to the essence of the character.

Superman faces off against a wide array of villains, yet not many are from his rogues’ gallery. Instead, they are drastic reworkings of other DC villains with a tech-based edge. Superman will still do something like save a cat from a tree, but the show also cleverly distances himself from his alien heritage, as he cannot understand the language. This makes for a nice new spin on the material while enforcing the theme that what makes him Superman is not only his bloodline but the way he was raised.

Related: My Adventures with Superman: What We Want to See in Season 2

The highlight of the series, though, is the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Making the Superman story a workplace romantic comedy is a stroke of genius and makes the series a nice companion piece to Superman & Lois. If Superman & Lois is about exploring a love story during a marriage, My Adventures with Superman explores how these two fell in love. Their relationship is genuine, sweet, and challenging, and audiences are equally as excited for them to get together as they are for an action sequence. My Adventures with Superman is a triumphant return for the Man of Steel. Stream on Max.

2 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the final entry in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. While the Guardians will likely return in some form, this film marked the end of the era, as James Gunn will now oversee DC Studios. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was treated as a swan song for many involved, and the movie is a miracle that almost did not happen after James Gunn was fired in 2018 by Disney before being rehired in 2019. The end result is a poignant, emotional, and satisfying trilogy conclusion that is rare in the genre.

James Gunn Says Goodbye to the MCU

While Star-Lord has always been the main character, it was clear that Rocket Raccoon was the character Gunn latched onto the most. He got a bigger role in the second movie, and he was also the only original member of the team to survive the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Here, his story is put front and center, and audiences get to see the incredibly heartbreaking origin story of one of the franchise’s most popular heroes. The High Evolutionary is easily one of the most evil villains in the MCU, and the scenes of animal abuse make this one of the darkest entries in the franchise.

Yet the movie still has a great deal of fun, with plenty of laughs and incredible needle drops that audiences love from the film series. The film’s biggest stroke of genius is to buck convention and not kill any of the heroes. Going into the movie, everyone was expecting some member to die, but instead, not only does everyone get to live but get to go out on their own in exciting ways that act as both a conclusion and a new beginning. By the time Florence+The Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” begins to play, the audience can’t help but smile along as this decade-long story gets a happy ending. Stream on Disney+. It will be interesting to see what James Gunn brings from his time at Marvel to DC Studios; to learn more about the subject, check out our video essay below:

1 Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Miles Morales returns as Spider-Man and travels across the Multiverse to join forces with Gwen Stacy and a new team to face off with their most powerful villain yet.

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Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse had great expectations placed upon it. The movie was the sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which took everyone by surprise and quickly became regarded as one of the greatest superhero movies ever. That meant the sequel had some big shoes to fill, and it also had the hurdle of being another major multiverse story at a time when it appeared audiences might be tiring of the concept. Yet even with the odds stacked against it, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse managed to deliver a sequel that more than lived up to its predecessor. It’s one of the greatest sequels of all time, alongside the likes of The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, and Toy Story 2.

A Perfect Sequel Interrogates the Canon

The film managed to pick up on the narrative threads laid out in the first film, expanding on Miles Morales’s story and Gwen Stacy while also introducing a whole host of new fan-favorite characters like Spider-Man 2099, Pavitr Prabhakar, Spider-Punk, and Spider-Woman. It featured plenty of fun cameos and easter eggs from across the history of Spider-Man comics and films, but also used them as a meta-commentary on the nature of canon and how these stories need to evolve and not be afraid to push these characters beyond the preconceived notions fans put upon them.

Fans are eagerly awaiting the third film, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, which was delayed and does not have a release date set. Yet this sequel still works so well on its own that it can be enjoyed and is easily the best superhero film or television series of 2023, which is a good sign that the genre still has plenty of stories left to tell. Stream on Netflix.

 2023 was a rough year for superheroes, but there were still plenty of great stories that show the genre still has a lot of life left in it.  Read More