We live in a time when society widely recognizes the importance of representation. With that said, we have opportunities to see more and more movies in which people of color get various portrayals on the big screen, so today, we are going to talk about the best black superhero movies in the past several decades.
The superhero genre certainly got into the Hollywood spotlight recently, and although many argue that the golden age of these movies is slowly passing, we get new releases with each passing year, and fans continue lining up to watch them. We also had chances to see some amazing releases in the past, and after thorough research, we found some gems that the fans of the genre will certainly appreciate. Making a list of these was difficult, but we have managed to get the best ones, so let us begin.
1. Black Panther (2018)
Being one of the gems of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther takes the top spot on our list. This movie has earned a lot of success since its release, and it was the first action superhero movie with a primarily black cast and lead that managed to earn over 1.3 billion USD across the globe.
The lead in this movie is T’Challa, portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman, who brought to the screens one of the most iconic black characters in the superhero action genre. The story follows him after he has faced his father’s death and has to rally his people to fight and regain a Wakandan artifact and keep it out of the hands of people who would use it for destruction.
Throughout this fight, he is faced with numerous challenges, and at some point, he also has to do everything he can to save the world. It is a movie that earned huge critical acclaim, and thanks to the talented cast and great writing, it has a special place in the hearts of MCU fans worldwide.
2. Blade (1998)
Blade is a movie based on one of Marvel’s mid-level superheroes that took viewers by surprise and earned a lot of success in the era when the superhero genre was not as popular as it is nowadays. It is also a movie that has a cult following among fans, and even though we will get a rebooted version of this movie from Marvel in 2024, Stephen Norrington’s version from 1998 still has a special place in fans’ hearts.
Wesley Snipes portrays the main character, Blade, who is half human and half vampire and hunts down vampires. Despite the fact that this movie was R-rated, it was a massive box office success, while the critics considered it more style than substance. Nevertheless, the movie was loved by the audience and got two less successful sequels.
Producers were not as confident in the movie’s success since, at the time, superhero movies, in general, were not strongly accepted by the audiences as they are today. Audiences believed that the 2000s X-Men was the fresh start of comic book movies, while in fact, it all started with Blade, the movie that added a fresh spin to the genre and paved the path for films to come.
3. Sleight (2016)
Sleight is a unique take on the genre, and it is a movie that was made on just a 250.000 USD budget, which, considering the overall success the film had, was an enormous win for the creators. With a talented cast and engaging story, Sleight is definitely a movie you should consider adding to your watchlist.
The main character of the story is Bo, portrayed by the actor Jacob Latimore, who is a young street magician using magnetic tricks against the drug dealers who kidnapped his sister. The story is an interesting take on the genre as it takes a unique approach with the main character, who does not gain his powers from some type of accident but rather develops them using his intelligence and engineering knowledge.
The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was acquired by Blumhouse. It was a huge success as Sleight earned 4 million USD on a 250.000 USD budget. The film was also critically acclaimed and praised for subverting expectations and delivering a grounded, urban touch to the genre.
4. The Meteor Man (1993)
The Meteor Man is a great mixture of comedy, action, and fantasy, directed, written, and acted by Robert Townsend. It is a goofy take on the genre, packed with a talented cast of actors, one of them being the iconic voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones.
The story follows a teacher in Washington, D.C., known for being mild-mannered but very brave. One night he gets hit in the chest by a souped-up chunk of the meteor, which gives him the ability to fly, even though he is scared of heights. He also becomes able to master the information in any book in a short period, and with this set of abilities, his friends and family want him to protect their community from Golden Lords.
It is a great comedy movie with some cool cameos from such greats as Cypress Hill’s B-Real and comedic genius Sinbad. The Meteor Man is a comedy superhero movie that earned a huge following over the course of years and has a special place in the hearts of fans from that era.
5. Up, Up, and Away (2000)
Up, Up, and Away is a gem from Disney Channel that follows the story of a boy named Scott that is part of a super-powered family, but he is the only one without any powers. Due to this fact, he feels left out and confused, but it only lasts until he gets the chance to use a talent of his own to save everyone.
This is another creation of Robert Townsend, who was also responsible for The Meteor Man movie we have just listed. The world-building in this one definitely showed various improvements in Townsend’s directing skills, and the world he created felt lived in and gave us a look at heroes living a normal, everyday life.
Essentially, this is what this movie is all about, as Marshalls are a regular family that deals with everyday family issues. The film also sends a strong message as Scott, who is the only member of the family without powers, gets to realize that it does not take powers to be a hero and save the day.
6. Hancock (2008)
We saw Will Smith taking on the roles of various characters in the science fiction genre, but Hancock was his first dip into the superhero genre waters. However, this is not your standard superhero flick, as Hancock is more of an anti-hero that struggles with drinking and the problems that it causes in his life.
Smith plays a reluctant superhero who has a drinking problem and is generally unconcerned with his reputation and the problems he tends to cause in his attempts to do heroic deeds. Over the course of the story, he manages to save a man who decides to assist him in improving his reputation and image and help him become a real hero that everyone admires.
A huge chunk of Hancock’s past is missing from his memory, as he woke up in a hospital with amnesia and superpowers, after which he turned to alcohol and anger. Eventually, he also meets another superhero like him, Mary, and pieces of his past slowly start clicking back into place.
7. Black Adam (2022)
Black Adam is a movie that came out at a strange moment for DC Extended Universe, as it is currently in the transition period since the movies they have released over the course of years had multiple oscillations and ups and downs in terms of the box office success.
Nevertheless, this is still a very entertaining superhero film with a strong lead of Dwayne Johnson, who delivers an exceptional performance, restraining his well-known charisma to provide a more somber take on the Black Adam character, which works very well in the story and the note of the movie.
The story follows Black Adam, who reawakens after 5.000 years and becomes the world’s ruthless protector – an anti-villain who wants to take on the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman. Given the fact that the story is in the 21st century, he must face off against the Justice Society of America and its heroes, such as Doctor Fate, Hawkman, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone.
8. Spawn (1997)
Spawn is a movie based on one of the most popular comic books of all time, starring Michael Jai White, who does an exceptional job portraying this character. The movie was written by Todd McFarlane and directed by Mark A.Z. Dippe, while the screen story was the work of Alan B. McElroy.
The story follows Spawn, a murdered soldier who basically makes a deal with the devil to lead his army in exchange for returning to his wife on Earth. However, when Spawn finally returns, he decides to use the powers he was given for good instead of evil, which gives a neat little twist to the story.
The movie was highly praised by critics and audiences for its stunning visuals and style, while John Leguizamo’s performance as Clown remains one of the most iconic in the genre. Considering the fact that Spawn was an R-rated film, it performed really well, and despite mixed commercial and critical response, it gained a cult following and audience that loves the movie to this very day.
9. Fast Color (2018)
This movie’s story takes place in the future midwest, where a woman pursued by the law for her potentially dangerous abilities is forced to flee back home to her family. Fast Color is a movie directed and written by Julia Hart, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Strathairn, and Lorraine Toussaint.
Mbatha-Raw’s performance was highly praised by critics, and the inspirational story the movie delivers brought numerous people to the theaters. Fast Color is a shiny example of mixing the superhero genre with grounding reality, which is a welcomed deviation from what Marvel and DC movies have been doing over the last decade.
Audiences enjoyed a variety of metaphors the Fast Color delivered, one of the most praiseworthy being the fact that the tale talks about women having to conceal their strengths and showcasing that this strength enhances when combined with the strengths of women working together. Amazon is currently working on a television series continuation of the story.
10. Blankman (1994)
Despite the fact that the Blankman movie is a sort of parody of superhero flicks, it is a lowkey classic that gained a lot of popularity over the course of years. The movie was directed by Mike Binder, while the writing credits belong to the pair of Damon Wayans and J.F. Lawton.
Damon Wayans stars as Darryl Walker, the titular vigilante hero, who decides to take matters into his own hands after his grandmother got killed by mobsters. This tragic event inspires him to become like his favorite superhero Batman, and with his reluctant sidekick Other Guy, who is portrayed by David Alan Grier, starts taking on criminals in their neighborhood.
Blankman is one of the rare movies in the genre that is not based on a comic book. It is a hilarious take on the superhero story, as it depicts the character who decides to use his skills to become the lowest-budgeted superhero of all time.
11. Catwoman (2004)
In 2004, Halle Berry delivered one of the most recognizable portrayals of the iconic DC Comics character Selina Kyle or Catwoman. The movie was directed by Pitof, while the writing credits go to Bob Kane for the characters and Theresa Rebeck and John Brancato for the story.
Aside from Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, and Benjamin Bratt also provided their talents in this movie. Although the movie was a disaster in the eyes of critics, it still earned a cult following, mostly due to Halle Berry’s portrayal of Selina Kyle, which was considered one of the best for a very long time.
Her transformation into Catwoman is considered by many one of the best personality changes besides The Fly. The action was pretty good, and although the script was considered weak back in the day, Catwoman is a movie that aged surprisingly well with many fans, and to this day, Halle’s portrayal of this cult character remains iconic.
This concludes our list of the best superhero movies with black leads. We hope you have enjoyed our list, and considering the fact we update our content frequently, you should revisit this article as we plan to expand the list.
Considering that the superhero genre remains highly popular, we will certainly add new titles to this blog post that are sure to catch your eye and attention. If you are a fan of Spiderman comics, check out our latest article about his most iconic encounters with Green Goblin and the outcomes that came with them.