Top 10 Darkest Superhero Shows

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Top 10 Darkest Superhero Shows

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Cassondra Feltus
Superheroes often have to deal with some dark subject matter, as evidenced by these shows. For this list, we'll be looking at shows with twisted, unsettling, or serious subject matter. We won't be including animated shows as those deserve a list of their own. Our countdown includes “Jessica Jones” (2015-19), “The Boys” (2019-), “Doom Patrol” (2019-), “Daredevil” (2015-18), and more!
Transcript
Superheroes often have to deal with some dark subject matter, as evidenced by these shows. For this list, we’ll be looking at shows with twisted, unsettling, or serious subject matter. We won’t be including animated shows as those deserve a list of their own. Our countdown includes “Jessica Jones” (2015-19), “The Boys” (2019-), “Doom Patrol” (2019-), “Daredevil” (2015-18), and more! Which superhero show do you find the darkest? Let us know in the comments.

#10: “Doom Patrol” (2019-)


The strange world of DC’s “Doom Patrol” doesn’t follow your typical superheroes. After the superhuman outcasts suffer horrific accidents that leave them physically and emotionally scarred, the only person to care for them is Dr. Niles Caulder (aka The Chief). Each member of the eponymous team is tormented by their own personal demons and painful memories. Cliff and Cyborg are haunted by the deaths of loved ones, while Larry struggles to be open about his sexuality. Some of the darkest moments involve Kay Challis’ childhood trauma and resulting dissociative identity disorder. Jane acts the primary personality among the 64 superpowered alters that manifested to protect the young girl. Beyond the bizarre characters and wacky antics is a story about a group of rejects and their tragic pasts.

#9: “Luke Cage” (2016-18)


After spending years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Carl Lucas just wants to keep a low profile. But the rampant crime and corruption in his home of Harlem, New York makes it hard for him to keep his head down. His indestructible skin and superstrength come in handy when he goes up against the likes of arms dealer Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and councilwoman Mariah Stokes-Dillard. Going by the name Luke Cage, the neighborhood hero tries to protect his community, while dealing with systemic racism, injustice, and his own past.

#8: “Legion” (2017-19)


Noah Hawley’s “Legion” remains one of the most daring, visually striking superhero series to grace our screens. When he was an infant, David Haller, son of Professor Charles Xavier, was infected with a parasite in his mind. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, unaware that he was a powerful telepathic mutant. Like David, viewers don’t know when something’s real or a hallucination. Throughout his lifetime of mental turmoil and abandonment issues, David developed a drug addiction, leading to a moment where he attempts to take his own life. “Legion” is a fun, trippy ride, with layered, captivating characters. But it also explores love, mental illness, and the blurry line between heroes and villains.

#7: “Moon Knight” (2022)


Steven Grant is an Egyptology-obsessed Museum gift shop-ist living a humble life in London. Often disoriented, with perpetual dark circles under his tired eyes, he believes he has a sleep disorder. His life gets more and more chaotic until he is confronted by Marc Spector, another identity inside him, who also happens to be an avatar for Khonshu, Egyptian god of the moon. Growing up, he spent years being severely mistreated by his mother, who blamed him for the accidental death of his little brother. The trauma caused Marc to dissociate and create the identity of Steven. “Moon Knight” has moments of humor and fantasy. But it also tells a complex story with elements of psychological horror.

#6: “Jessica Jones” (2015-19)


Hardened private investigator Jessica Jones runs her own detective agency in Hell’s Kitchen. The former superhero suffers from PTSD after years spent with the sinister Kilgrave, who uses his powers of mind control to get whatever, and whomever, he desires. While his backstory makes him a touch sympathetic at times, his constant gaslighting and unwillingness to admit his wrongdoing solidify him as one of the most deplorable Marvel villains. Jessica comes off as apathetic but behind the sarcasm and hard drinking, she’s a good person just trying to survive in a world that’s beaten her down, helping a few people along the way. She may not want to be an Avenger but her dedication to saving humanity is still heroic.

#5: “Titans” (2018-)


The ‘gritty realism’ of “Titans” can at times feel forced, like the instantly meme-able cringey line from the first episode. This Dick Grayson isn’t the optimist we know from the comics or animated series. He left Bruce and Gotham behind to be a detective in Detroit but gets sucked back into the superhero world when a troubled girl needs his help. Rachel Roth (aka Raven) doesn’t learn about her demonic parentage until she’s a teenager and eventually has to face off with her father Trigon. We witness several on screen deaths, often at the hands of ruthless villains like Deathstroke. Violent, grounded, and all-around bleak, “Titans” delves into the harrowing emotional effects of life as a young superhero.

#4: “Daredevil” (2015-18)


During the day, Matt Murdock is a lawyer fighting against the injustices in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. But at night, he becomes the vigilante superhero Daredevil. Blinded as a kid, Matt developed heightened senses that allow him to become an expert fighter. When the legal system fails the people of Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil takes it upon himself to make things right. And that means breaking some bones and spilling some blood along the way. But he’s not the only one with a penchant for violence. Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) is a widely feared crime boss that no one would dare cross. A flashback to a young Fisk murdering his father gives us insight into the man he is now.

#3: “The Punisher” (2017-19)


After appearing as an antagonist in Netflix’s “Daredevil”, Frank Castle moved onto his own show. The former Marine turned merciless vigilante lives a life of solitude. As one of the darkest Marvel characters, Frank’s approach to crime fighting stems from the unbearable loss of his family. His justifiable rage sends him on a quest for vengeance, but he later finds himself in the middle of a larger conspiracy to uncover. No cape. No superpowers. Just a regular person in extreme circumstances using lethal methods.

#2: “The Boys” (2019-)


“The Boys” is known for its graphic violence and satire, but that humor clearly comes from a dark place. The series begins with the horrifying death of Hughie Campbell’s girlfriend Robin, caused by an unhinged “supe.” All members of the Seven are pretty terrible in their own ways, except for their latest recruit Starlight, who’s assaulted by the Deep on her first day. Many of the characters have been dehumanized in some way, especially the supes. They weren’t born with powers, but made by Vought using Compound V. Some are addicted to their strength and power, like the psychopathic Homelander, while others hate the consequences of their abilities. But to Vought, they’re just lucrative weapons.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Gotham” (2014-19)


Explores the Origin Stories of the Dark Knight’s Most Disturbing Villains

“Cloak & Dagger” (2018-19)


Two Teenagers Connect Through Their Powers of Darkness & Light

“The Umbrella Academy” (2019-)


A Dysfunctional Superhero Family Bonded by Childhood Trauma

“Helstrom” (2020)


Demons, Satanists, & Serial Killers

“Peacemaker” (2022-)


A “Hero” with a Violent Upbringing Killing in the Name of Peace

#1: “Watchmen” (2019)


While its source material was already dark, Damon Lindelof managed to go even darker in the HBO series. Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2019, it sees a white supremacist group declare war on the Tulsa Police Department. Years before on the fateful “White Night,” the group killed police officers who protected minorities receiving reparations for racial injustice. Since then, officers wear masks to conceal their identities, including Detective Angela Abar, whose costumed persona is Sister Night. The series opens on the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, a true American tragedy often left out of history classes. Unlike Alan Moore’s graphic novel, the series isn’t focused on morally reprehensible superheroes, but rather racism and extremism.
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