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5 Movies like Superman (1978): Pre­’Avengers’ Superheroes

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Dale Barham itcherRemember a time way back when the superhero genre wasn’t monopolized by ‘The Avengers’ or shared universe movies? I know it’s difficult to imagine now, but we used to have (good) movies like ‘Superman’, ‘Spider­Man’ and ‘Batman’ that didn’t adhere to another film’s plot points … it was a simpler time!~ Dale Barham

Men of Steel!

Let me start by saying that I love the Marvel movies … really I do! I’m not some grump who wishes things were as they used to be. I love ‘Iron Man’, ‘Captain America’ and all the rest. However, I DO think that the superhero genre has become less impactful and somewhat stale as this shared universe trucks along.

Back before ‘Iron Man’ came storming onto our screens, we had films like ‘Superman’. Obviously, I wasn’t alive when it was released but I near enough destroyed my video copy because I watched it so many times as a kid.

Duds aside, there was an added magic to these superhero flicks, something I think is missing from the current crop of spandex crusaders. 


Movies Similar to ‘Superman’…

‘Batman’ (Tim Burton, 1989)

Up until 1989, the only live action Batman the world had seen was the campy TV show with Adam West and Cesar Romero. So when Tim Burton’s take on the Dark Knight hit cinema screens, we were all stunned. It was dark yet goofy and utterly mesmerising. As you watched Bruce Wayne do battle with the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker, you realised that THIS is what superhero movies could be.

Heck! Even the follow­up, ‘Batman Returns’, was just as good. However, this is the one that really ushered in a new era for the Caped Crusader.

Similarity Match: 85%
Like ‘Superman’ this was a trend­-setter and the best superhero movie of its decade. That being said, both flicks have a very different tone and vibe.

‘Spider­-Man’ (Sam Raimi, 2002)

Hands down, this is my favourite superhero movie ever.

Why? Because it just had that ‘it’ factor. So did the sequel if you’re wondering, but not the third one or the reboots … they just plain sucked!

I’ve always loved Spidey. I’d watch the cartoons religiously and read all the comic books. I’d sometimes even kid myself that I had a spider sense and could climb walls … I broke an arm and got beat up a lot. But seeing Raimi bring Peter Parker to life and pitting him against one of my favourite villains ever, Green Goblin, was just a rare cinematic treat that is yet to be topped. ‘The Avengers’ is a novelty, but this ‘Spider­-Man’ is magic!

Similarity Match: 80%
It’s another origin story with a real fun vibe and a great villain, but ‘Superman’ was probably more revolutionary for its time … the dude can fly! 

‘X­-Men 2’ (Bryan Singer, 2003)

If ‘Spider­Man’ proved how fun superhero movies could be, and ‘Batman’ proved how dark they could be, then the ‘X­-Men’ movies proved just how badass filmmakers could go! I opted for the second because it just felt like the pinnacle of the genre at the time, far surpassing the impressive original. We see mutants at war with a society that doesn’t want them, fighting a private army led by the delusional and malicious Stryker.

Hugh Jackman tears stuff up as Wolverine while Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen give credence to the larger­-than­-life plot and characters.

And that Nightcrawler opening scene? Oh my word, what a rush!

Similarity Match: 70%
The action is more hard-­hitting and the movie is more traumatic than ‘Superman’ but both are just as fresh and fun when it boils down to it.


If You Like ‘Superman’, You Will Like…

Whether you’re a hardcore comic book nerd or just a casual movie fan, there’s no doubt you’ll pick up on the religious similarities between ‘Superman’ and … well, God. After all, he is near enough omnipotent and can even bring people back from dead. If you’re wondering what other movies portray characters with a similar connotation, then look no further than these next suggestions!

‘Watchmen’ (Zack Snyder, 2008)

If you haven’t seen ‘Watchmen’ I can assure you it’s unlike any other superhero movie you’ve seen before. Darker than ‘Batman’ and more mature than say ‘The Punisher’ or ‘Blade’, ‘Watchmen’ is an epic story set in alternate universe where nuclear war threatens to destroy the world and masked heroes are the only ones who can stop it.

The more astute of you will see the comparisons between the god­like Dr. Manhattan and Superman, but the former is driven by keen, unparalleled logic which often seems harsh and cruel.

‘The Matrix Revolutions’ (The Wachowskis, 2003)

While this isn’t the best installment in ‘The Matrix’ series, the parallels between Neo and a deity are clear for anybody to see. Is he prepared to sacrifice himself for humanity? Check. Is he all powerful? Pretty much yeah. Is there an element of reincarnation? Of course … and he kicks Hugo Weaving’s butt while doing it all!

See! He’s practically Jesus!

Both Superman and Neo can fly, have super strength and are prepared to sacrifice themselves for those they hold dear, but ‘Superman’ is the more rewarding watch of the two.


Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane?

So there you have it, a list of awesome pre­’Avengers’ superhero movies that double up on the action, fun and nostalgia. Of course, I’ll be in line for ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and all the rest, but I don’t think they’ll ever capture the magic of all those that came before them.

Are you a Marvel fanboy (or girl) or do you prefer the old classics off the genre as well?

Let me know in the comments section below!

Hi, I’m Dale and I’m a Blu-Ray addict. When I’m not obsessively fixating over the ever-growing mountain of movies taking up most of the front room, I’m usually writing about all things Hollywood. Go figure, huh? If I’m not glued to the television watching ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ for the billionth time, you can probably find me crooning in my hard-rocking blues band or having inane conversations with the resident cats.
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