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Top 10 Unconventional Superhero Movies

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Garrett Alden There are superhero movies, and then there are movies with superheroes IN them. This list is looking at the latter. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 unusual superhero films. For this list, we’ll be looking at movies that don’t conform to the typical superhero tropes, or else call attention to those tropes by playing them up. Special thanks to our user the super cool and hip Dan Paradis for suggesting this idea twice, check out the voting page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Unconventional+Superhero+Movies

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There are superhero movies, and then there are movies with superheroes IN them. This list is looking at the latter. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 unusual superhero films.

For this list, we’ll be looking at movies that don’t conform to the typical superhero tropes, or else call attention to those tropes by playing them up.

#10: “Unbreakable” (2000)

A superhero film directed by M. Night Shyamalan may not inspire confidence now, but we’re glad it did in the year 2000. The movie follows David Dunn, a security guard with marital problems who survives a horrific train wreck without a scratch. With guidance from Elijah Price, a comic book art dealer, David, along with his son, comes to understand that he has superhuman abilities. “Unbreakable” breaks the mold of superhero films by largely focusing on its characters and their relationships; leaving the super powers to serve the story, rather than the story serving them.

#9: “Mystery Men” (1999)

In the world of “Mystery Men,” superheroes have corporate endorsements as well as archenemies. “Mystery Men” follows a group of struggling heroes who use a wide variety of unconventional equipment and abilities, including silverware, shovels, and the undead skull of the wielder’s father stuck in a bowling ball. When the city’s greatest hero is kidnapped, the team sees their chance to make a name for themselves. Chock full of quotable lines, outlandish costumes, and hilarious, relatable characters, it’s no mystery why “Mystery Men” is a cult classic.

#8: “Kick-Ass” (2010)

Most kids want to be superheroes. “Kick-Ass” demonstrates why it’s a less than a safe career path, at least in the real world. The title character is a high school student who dons a mask and suit, and promptly gets his own ass kicked. Repeatedly. The two other masked vigilantes he encounters, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, who are more trained, heavily armed, and highly driven, don’t fare much better, with Big Daddy dying in the course of the story. Hyper violent, profane, and darkly comedic, “Kick-Ass” brings the familiar superhero origin story down to earth.

#7: “The Crow” (1994)

It’s not often that a superhero tale begins with the protagonist dying. A year after Eric Draven is murdered alongside his fiancée, a crow brings the dead musician back from the dead to perform justice on their killers. What follows is a roaring rampage of revenge, with Eric using his newfound rapid healing abilities and mild psychic powers to wreak deadly punishment on the perpetrators. With its intense action, gothic imagery, and a surprisingly touching message, “The Crow” is a superhero movie like no other.

#6: “Chronicle” (2012)

Shot in the found footage format, “Chronicle” depicts three high schoolers who develop psychic powers after coming across a mysterious object in a cave. Like many people who develop supernatural abilities, their exploration of their powers is initially lighthearted; using them to pull pranks and become popular by performing “magic.” However, Andrew, the primary cameraman, comes from an abusive household and the bullying he receives ultimately results in his lashing out at those around him, culminating in a large scale conflict in Seattle. Besides its format, “Chronicle” is also unusual in that it’s told from the perspective of the “villain.” Though some say it borrows heavily from the acclaimed anime “Akira,” the film is still worth a watch.

#5: “Watchmen” (2009)

This polarizing adaptation of Alan Moore’s Hugo Award-winning, game-changing graphic novel depicts a version of America where vigilantes have been outlawed, and the world’s only true superhero, the nuclear Dr. Manhattan, has become a weapon in the Cold War. Meanwhile, the murder of a former “mask” sends one of the final holdout vigilantes, Rorschach, after the killer. Though some critics and fans of the source material believe that much of the story’s subtext has been removed, “Watchmen” remains an engaging mystery, with elements of a political thriller, and some stunning visuals.

#4: “The Mask of Zorro” (1998)

The titular swashbuckling pulp hero is said to have been part of the inspiration for Batman, which more than makes him a superhero in our book. Apart from its 19th century setting, “The Mask of Zorro” is also notable for switching up the typical matchups you find in superhero films. The original mentoring Zorro, played by Anthony Hopkins is the one who ultimately battles the film’s primary villain, while the younger Zorro, played by Antonio Banderas, fights the antagonist’s second-in-command, who killed his brother. All in all, the film is a fun, period twist on the genre.

#3: “Deadpool” (2016)

Some of the entries on our list subvert superhero tropes subtly. “Deadpool,” meanwhile, points at them blatantly and laughs. From its opening credits, which are all just clichéd archetypes instead of the actors’ names, to its after credits scene referencing “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Deadpool” revels in playing up the superhero movie formula. Through its hard R-rating, irreverent, self-aware protagonist and stylish, well-choreographed action, “Deadpool” still manages to differentiate itself from typical superhero movies too. Though some might feel the film’s use of parody brings it closer to the very clichés it lampoons, we think that “Deadpool” manages just the right balance through “maximum effort.”

#2: “The Mask” (1994)

You might want to check your fire alarm, because this entry is “suh-MOKIN!” This movie may have the standard set up of a superhero story, with mild-mannered Stanley Ipkiss gaining supernatural powers from the title mask, but its execution is anything but ordinary. The mask grants the wearer cartoonish, reality warping abilities, while also lowering inhibitions, meaning that the meek Stanley’s first inclinations upon gaining powers are to use them to exact revenge on the people who walk all over him. The film depicts superpowers as being a double-edged sword, which was pretty uncommon in the 90s.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

“Super” (2010)

“V for Vendetta” (2006)

“Darkman” (1990)

#1: “The Incredibles” (2004)

Leave it to Pixar to be ahead of the curve. Coming out years before “Watchmen” or “Captain America: Civil War” dealt with the issue of superhero legality on the big screen, “The Incredibles” tackled the subject with aplomb. What really sets this film apart though is its depiction of the challenges faced by a superpowered family, particularly as they must hide their abilities. The individual family members each struggle with the need to be special or unique, whether it’s through a mid-life crisis, or teenage angst, making it very easy for the audience to relate to them. “The Incredibles” may not be conventional, but it is, well…you get the idea.

Do you agree with our list? Which superhero film do you think stood out from the rest? For more outside the box Top 10s posted daily, be sure to subscribe to

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