Top 10 Superhero Movie Cliches

Script written by Clayton Martino. With such a variety of unique characters and compelling storylines to choose from, why do most superhero movies end up kind of looking the same? Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Superhero Movie Clichés. For this list, we’re looking at the most common clichés found in superhero movies. Special thanks to our users WatchDogsFan47, viliguns, Andrew A. Dennison, Davids Gibbs, NickJrII, fenris01, Ryan Haven, http://www.youtube.c, Erica Jones, allyrosesmith and Marlon Jacques for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Clayton Martino.

Top 10 Superhero Movie Cliches


With such a variety of unique characters and compelling storylines to choose from, why do most superhero movies end up kind of looking rather similar? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Superhero Movie Clichés.

For this list, we’re looking at the most common clichés found in superhero movies.

#10: A City Is Destroyed in a Large Battle

The hero is supposed to save the world from the evil villain who wants to destroy the planet. Yet, more often than not, a city is absolutely leveled during a climactic battle which would likely result in hundreds of deaths and millions of dollars in damages. We see this in “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Avengers,” and “X-Men: The Last Stand,” but the worst culprit has to be “Man of Steel.” Disaster experts at Watson Technical Consulting estimated that 129,000 people would have been killed and there would have been over $700 billion in damages. And Superman is Earth’s SAVIOR?!

#9: Villain Is a Science Experiment Gone Wrong

Sure, we know it can be difficult to come up with ways for a person to gain superpowers, but why does it always seem to be science-related? The worst offender of this cliché is the “Spider-Man” franchise. The Green Goblin, Doc Ock, and the Lizard all were promising scientists before their experiments went horribly wrong. We also see villains emerge from scientific experiments in “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man 3.” How about more villains, like The Joker, who are just evil for the sake of being evil?

#8: Convenient Connections Between All the Main Characters

There are over 7 billion people in the world – and there are way more across the galaxy if you include all the other planets in the comic book universe – and yet most superhero movies tend to revolve around a small group of characters that are all connected somehow. For example, in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Peter fights Dr. Curt Connors, the mentor to his girlfriend Gwen Stacy, whose father is the police captain who helps Peter-as-Spidey in his fight at the end of the film. Connors was also the partner of Peter’s father, Richard Parker, before he disappeared.

#7: Cops Are Against the Hero

This is one of the more understandable clichés on the list, but it is a cliché none-the-less. If a strange person showed up with the ability to shoot webs or turn into a green giant, there’s a strong chance the police force and military would take every precaution necessary. Still, after seeing it in the “Spider-Man,” “Batman,” and “X-Men” franchises, it’s starting to become dull watching the hero have to explain to the cops that he is actually on their side.

#6: Pep Talk

No matter how powerful or strong-minded the hero is, it seems he always needs a pep talk at some point, typically from an older, wiser figure; the most obvious examples being Uncle Ben and Alfred. A pep talk can also be given by the leader of a team, however, like Nick Fury, who uses Phil Coulson’s death to motivate the Avengers, and Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Can’t these guys just inspire themselves to save the world?

#5: The Origin Story

Sometimes we don’t need to know where a character comes from in order to appreciate them. More often than not, the origin story bogs down the film. Case in point: do we really need to see a spider bite Peter Parker AGAIN? It’s much more entertaining to see Spider-Man swinging around New York City than it is to watch Peter Parker get picked on at high school. There’s a reason why films where the superhero is already established are some of the most critically successful superhero movies.

#4: Hidden Identity

This cliché primarily applies to the “Spider-Man” and “Batman” franchises, and seeing as it seems incredibly easy for people to figure out that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, we are primarily referencing Batman. Seriously, would it have really mattered if James Gordon knew that Batman was Bruce Wayne? Even more shocking, he couldn’t figure that out until the last movie?! While protecting a secret identity helps add to the drama of a film, it doesn’t seem like it is all that practical. Everyone knows who the Avengers are and they seem to manage just fine.

#3: Villain Explains Master Plan to Hero

Why does the villain have to explain everything to the hero before killing him? This is a common cliché of the Bond genre but is found in superhero movies as well. Lex Luthor is perhaps the best example, as he reveals to Superman that there are in fact two missiles headed for the United States, a plan Superman eventually foils after escaping from Luthor’s underground lair. This cliché has actually been manipulated by other films as well, like “Sin City,” when Senator Roark explains his entire plan to Hartigan knowing full well that he can’t do anything to stop it.

#2: Love Interest Is Kidnapped

As if the stakes weren’t high enough, the hero’s love interest always seems to be kidnapped by the villain. Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, Rachel Dawes, Pepper Potts and Nancy Callahan are just some of the numerous characters to play the damsel in distress role. Unless a female character has superpowers, it seems that all they’re good for is getting captured. Christopher Nolan at least played on this cliché by having Batman fail to save to Rachel during “The Dark Knight,” while Gwen Stacy actually assisted Spider-Man in his battle versus The Lizard in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Villain Destroys Himself
- Standing on the Top of Buildings
- Superhero Teams Always Have One “Tank” Character
- Non-Practical Costumes

#1: Traumatic Childhood

It seems that almost all superheroes are inspired at a young age to fight crime because they experienced some sort of traumatic event during their childhood. The most common cliché is the death of a parent or parental figure. Thomas and Martha Wayne, Uncle Ben, and Jonathan Kent are just some of the many examples. We also learn that Magneto lived in a concentration camp during World War II while Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, was blinded at a young age. Can’t someone who had a happy childhood gain superpowers and be motivated enough to save the world?

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite superhero movie cliché? For more super Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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