The 5 Best Superhero Movies That Are Not Part of the MCU

When it comes to superhero movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has cracked the code — pumping out high-octane and character-driven films that appeal to critics and audiences alike… and perform well at the box office

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart sitting at Comic-Con
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart speak at the 20th Century Fox panel during Comic-Con International 2013 at San Diego | Albert L. Ortega / Contributor

From Iron Man to Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame, the MCU is home to some of the most celebrated superhero films of the last two decades. Yet, that doesn’t mean that non-MCU super films have always fallen short. Some hold their own against the Robert Downey Jr.-catalyzed cinematic scape. 

1. ‘The Dark Knight’

While DC superhero films tend to disappoint — Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman: 1984, The Green Lantern, etc. — The Dark Knight preceded all these misfires. And, Christopher Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader remains one of the most celebrated interpretations to date. Not to mention, Heath Ledger’s joker, which earned the actor a posthumous Oscar, is utterly chilling. 

Critics hailed the film, noting that it was bleak, complex, dark, and grounded despite being set in a superhero world. Some noted that, at times, it didn’t even feel like a “superhero” movie, as it defied the typical, family-friendly and black and white, good vs. evil approach previously tied to such films. 

2. ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ 

X-Men: Days of Future Past aimed to right some wrongs that came with the upsetting finale to the original X-Men trilogy. Yet, it did so without feeling forced. The film was business-minded — aimed at rerouting the franchise — but it worked. The movie is vibrant, well-acted, suspenseful, and emotional. And, it completely wins in the fan service department. What could be better than seeing Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier talk to his younger self portrayed by James McAvoy? 

3. ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2019. The movie perfectly transferred the absorbing and fantastical nature of comic books to the screen; the graphics even felt like they were a comic illustrator’s cinematic vision. 

The colors and the thrilling action sequences were paired with an absorbing narrative that was relatable and relevant, bringing current socio-cultural issues into the fray without veering into preachy territory.  

4. ‘Deadpool’

You can’t talk about superhero movies outside the MCU without mentioning Deadpool. What could beat the R-Rated Merc with a Mouth taking down the baddies while cracking obscene jokes? Reynolds perfectly captures the man’s dark humor, internal conflict, and trauma. The movie is funny, profane, and downright dirty — perfect for all the adult superhero fans in the room. 

5. ‘Logan’

Logan beautifully bid farewell to two characters who defined the X-Men franchise from the beginning — Charles Xavier and Logan. Their dynamic took center stage — a relationship that began with hesitation and transformed into one defined by trust and admiration. Their relationship and the need to protect a new Weapon X pushed the movie forward. It was easily one of the most emotional and character-driven superhero films ever created.


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