The Superhero Issue

The 15 best non-MCU Marvel movies

It can be hard to imagine a time before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but for decades, Hollywood tried (and mostly failed) to turn the House of Ideas’ creations into movie stars.

For almost a year now, I’ve been reviewing those movies for Inverse, and I’ve seen some bad ones, from the deadly boring to the batshit ridiculous. But every so often, I come across something great.

Here are the 15 best non-MCU Marvel movies worth checking out if you’re tired of rewatching Avengers: Endgame.

Captain America (1944)

I wouldn’t call this Captain America serial “the best,” but as Marvel’s oldest, live-action adaptation, it’s a fascinating look at superhero history. It drastically deviates from the original story — and there’s a lack of Nazi-punching — but it’s a fun deep-dive into Marvel’s archives.

Fantastic Four (1994)

Say what you will, but this is currently the best cinematic Fantastic Fourout there. It’ll have to do until the MCU gives us an improved FF film. It’s cheap, corny, and a bit disjointed, but it’s better than Fant4stic. You’ll get a chuckle, and this Dr. Doom is just delightful.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

It’s definitely not the snore-fest that was Ang Lee’s Hulk. This Hulk has far more action and an actual plot. Edward Norton gave a solid performance as a very believable and vulnerable Bruce Banner — at least until Mark Ruffalo came along.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

I know this movie gets the most hate out of all of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, and I concede it’s the trilogy’s weakest. But on the other hand, it’s not a dull film — people do remember it. I say check it out. You can at least make fun of emo-Peter.

Black Panther (2010)

Before 2018, Black Panther was sadly underrepresented. If you’re looking for more Black Panther material (especially after Chadwick Boseman’s death), check out this mini-series. The story is rather rushed and character development is a bit lacking, but visually, it’s pretty cool to see.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

He’s not Tom Holland, but Andrew Garfield gives a pretty great performance as our favorite web-swinger. He’s less nerdy and more wisecracking, but still enjoyable. And Emma Stone is an obscenely perfect Gwen Stacy. Best scene: Spider-Man vs. the Lizard in the school — flawless.

Blade II (2002)

Blade II learned from the success of the first movie, bringing the Daywalker back and giving the audience what it loved before: a dark superhero (who broods without being whiny), monsters galore, and plenty of supernatural violence.

Blade (1998)

Blade made vampire hunting cool — and disgusting, but in an awesome way. This is the movie that jump-started all the dark, brooding superhero movies of the 2000s, but actually executed it well. With monsters, kick-ass action scenes, and dark atmosphere, Blade is well worth your time.

The Incredible Hulk (1977)

This is the TV movie that started the famous series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as Dr. Banner/the Hulk. Despite straying from the original material, it’s the best stand-alone Hulkmovie. A solid story with engaging characters, this Marvel classic is worth a watch.

X-Men (2000)

Marvel fans may have mixed feelings about X-Men, but you can’t deny its impact on superhero filmmaking. Even if you didn’t like the plot (or dialogue), the casting choices were superb: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, and of course, Hugh Jackman, made this movie.

X2 (2002)

Personally, I think X2 is much more enjoyable than its predecessor — unusual for a movie series. The political and societal element of the mutant-human conflict is more pronounced, the stakes are higher, and there’s far more character exploration.

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool is crude, irreverent, repulsive, and hilarious. The Merc with a Mouth was done dirty in X-Men: Origins, but Ryan Reynolds wouldn’t give up on an authentic Deadpool. Fans will agree that Reynolds nailed this character flawlessly. Definitely recommend (but not for the kids).

Spider-Man (2002)

X-Men gave moviemakers a nudge towards superhero films, but Spider-Man was the push they needed. Fans flocked to see one of Marvel’s most famous heroes on the big screen for the first time, and they weren’t disappointed. An authentic, funny Spider-Man; a memorably psychotic villain; and a comic book-feel were just what fans wanted.

Logan (2017)

This was Hugh Jackman’s final performance in the iconic role of Wolverine, and he goes out with a bang. Logan is sad as hell — there are no laughs here — but it brings all the feels. The gut punches keep on coming. It’s wonderful and powerful, but it will almost certainly make you cry.

Spider-Man II (2004)

In Spider-Man II, we delve more into Peter Parker’s struggles as Spider-Man and he understandably questions if it’s worth it. We can see just how much his burden weighs on him. Dr. Octopus is also a compelling villain who you really feel for. A fun watch, but also an emotional one.

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