With the success of Black Panther and more black heroes on our large and small screens, you might think that black superhero movies are something new. This genre of black films goes back to the 1970s.
The black superpower movie is popular today, but some older films deserve recognition, too. Let’s look at black superheroes over the last 45 years.
Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther tops the list of the best black superhero movies and the best Marvel movies. This first action superhero film with a primarily black cast and black lead character earned over $1.3 billion worldwide.
The late Chadwick Boseman played T’Challa, the lead character and the son of Wakanda’s king. After his father’s death, he travels to Africa to claim Wakanda’s throne.
He has to rally his people to fight with him to regain a Wakandan artifact and keep their ancient and powerful technology out of the hands of those who would use it for destructive and greedy purposes. In fighting to save Wakanda’s culture and people, he also fights to save the world.
Talented black actors Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, and Danai Gurira are only a few people who star with Boseman in this fantastic black superpower movie. Marvel plans a sequel that will undoubtedly be a hit, too.
The Meteor Man (1993)
This black superpower movie is a comedy with a young Robert Townsend as a meek schoolteacher who becomes a hero. Fans of black superhero movies and black movies, in general, won’t want to miss this one with its multi-talented cast.
Robert Guillaume, Marla Gibbs, James Earl Jones, Bill Cosby, Eddie Griffin, and Luther Vandross star with Townsend, making the film a black who’s-who of the 1990s.
Townsend plays a teacher in Washington D.C. who’s mild-mannered but brave enough to try to rescue a woman from gang members who’ve terrorized his neighborhood for a long time. He saves the woman and flees from the gang to save his life. A green, glowing meteorite slams into him as he runs.
The meteorite transfers powers to him on impact. After he wakes in the hospital, he has a long list of superpowers. Some are traditional superhero gifts like telekinesis, strength, speech, and X-ray vision.
Other powers are there for comic effect or story plot, like touching a book and absorbing its contents or communicating with dogs.
Meteor Man fights the gang that plagues his neighborhood and cleans up the D.C. streets.
Spawn isn’t a typical black superpower movie because Spawn isn’t a typical superhero. This movie is one of the first films with a black actor playing a comic book superhero.
Marine Al Simmons dies by the hand of Wynn, his superior officer, and makes a deal with a demonic force to come back to earth to seek revenge. He also has to stop Wynn from carrying out a plan that will cost millions, perhaps billions, of lives.
Spawn is an anti-hero who gains his powers by seeking revenge. He becomes a true hero by stopping the villain and saving the world as we know it.
Michael Jai White played Spawn, a character who has to fight a villain who also gained powers by making a deal in hell. Spawn saves the world and the people he loves then remains on earth to fight other evil forces.
People who don’t read comic books and only know the movie might not realize that Spawn was one of the most well-loved characters in comic books. The film is one of the rare R-rated superhero movies aimed at an adult audience.
Blade was a character who appeared in 1974 in one of the Marvel Vampire Tales comic books. Blade and its sequels are horror movies and superhero films.
Blade’s powers come from the vampire who bit his mother during his birth, but the way he uses his vampire nature makes him a bonafide superhero. He follows the hero’s journey and uses his abilities to fight other vampires and save humans and the human way of life.
Like most great superheroes, Blade’s heroism comes with cost and sacrifice. He fights the vampire inside himself and refuses to prey on humans.
Wesley Snipes played Blade in the original film and two sequels: Blade II and Blade: Trinity. The movies and the character were successful enough that Blade became a 2006 TV series.
Will Smith starred in several action and science fiction films in the 1990s and 2000. This film represents his rare turn as an anti-hero.
He plays a reluctant superhero who’s an alcoholic and unconcerned with his reputation or the problems he causes. He saves a man determined to help him improve his reputation and become a real hero worthy of admiration.
Hancock is a character who woke up in a hospital with amnesia and superpowers. He turned to alcohol and anger to get through life and doesn’t appreciate having to help people with the powers he never wanted.
Eventually, he meets another superhero like him, played by Charlize Theron, and pieces click into place.
Hancock is one of the black superhero movies that turns some movie tropes on their heads and shows a superhero from a new perspective.
Abar: The First Black Superman (1977)
Abar might not be the best black superpower movie, but it was so proud of being the first it put that distinction in its title.
This film appeared during the Blaxploitation era in the 1970s when stereotyped characters and storylines intended to draw in a black audience. Blaxploitation films, despite their stereotypes, often told moving black stories and gained a following.
This movie follows the story of a black scientist tired of the racism he and his family suffer after moving into an upper-class white neighborhood. The doctor doses himself with a superhero potion and gains telekinesis and super strength, among other powers, to seek revenge.
The racism in the film is extreme, with two white women instantly assuming the couple must be the maid and butler for the white family moving into the house. One goes so far as to scream about how she’ll burn down the house before she lets them move in.
Characters use racial slurs against black and Hispanic people constantly, and the news even reports on a black family moving into the neighborhood because it’s such a shock for the people who live there.
The film is low-budget with acting and dialogue you can expect from that type of movie. The racism reaches near parody levels, but the point it makes is undeniable.
Despite those things, you can enjoy the movie as a representation of the sociopolitical atmosphere at the time and appreciate what it set out to do.
If Batman, with no superpowers beyond his technology and determination, is a superhero, then Bo Wolfe is a superhero, too.
Jacob Latimore plays Wolfe, a street magician who implants an electromagnetic device into his arm. With the gadget, he appears to make metal objects float and dance in the air, amazing the people who watch him.
He takes care of his younger sister because their parents have died. Wolfe soon realizes that the quick way to make money is to sell drugs. He steals from his dealer to take his sister far away from the city where they can start a new life without selling drugs or dealing with the everyday dangers near their home.
Wolfe suffers from this decision. He has to use his magic device and sleight-of-hand skills to fight off the drug lord who wants his head. He also must become a hero by stopping a man who makes life miserable for everyone in the area.
X-Men led to several sequels, a reboot film with its own sequels, animated stories, and other media. The franchise began as a Marvel Comic called The X-Men in 1963.
The black superhero in the X-Men franchise is Storm, a weather-controlling character who first appeared in 1975. Ororo is the daughter of a Kenyan princess who can perform sorcery. Her parents die when she’s only six, and she becomes a goddess figure to a tribe in the Serengeti.
Professor Xavier recruits her into the X-Men to teach her to use her abilities for good. Storm uses these abilities in all the X-men films, making her a real black female superhero.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Marvel Studios loves its Spider-Man franchise, especially since the character was folded into the Avengers films and became part of the powerhouse MCU series that has kept Marvel at the top for years.
Marvel finally gave us a black Spider-Man in this animated movie. The movie doesn’t rehash Spider-Man’s well-known origin story. Instead, Spider-Man dies early in the film.
Miles Morales, a black and Puerto Rican teen, loves Spider-Man and is heartbroken. His father, a policeman, only saw Spider-Man as a dangerous vigilante. Miles, played by Shameik Moore, learns how to become the new Spider-Man because Peter Parker, an aged Spidey from another dimension, decides to teach him.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a box-office success and a critical favorite. Marvel plans to produce two sequels, so you can look forward to enjoying more adventures of the first black Spider-man.
Fantastic Four (2015)
Fantastic Four features black superhero Johnny Storm, known as the Human Torch.
The Human Torch is a Marvel Comics character who first appeared in 1961. In this film, Johnny Storm teleports to the second dimension. While there on Planet Zero, he and his friends gain superpowers and become the Fantastic Four.
Storm, played by Michael B. Jordan, gains pyrokinesis, flight, and strength. He becomes a military asset and uses a specially made suit to control his powers and avoid bursting into flames when angry or upset.
The Human Torch is part of the ensemble and is instrumental in defeating the friend they thought died in the second dimension who returns, calling himself Doom, to seek revenge.
Shaquille O’Neal plays John Henry Irons in this black superpower movie about a man who creates a suit of armor to fight a man selling weapons technology to shadow governments.
Irons designs weapons. A coworker named Burke creates a demonstration that backfires and leaves Iron’s friend and colleague Susan Sparks in a wheelchair.
Burke goes rogue, so Sparks and Irons create a steel suit that will protect him so he can stop Burke before the weapons get into the wrong hands.
Fast Color (2019)
Fast Color is one of the rare black superhero movies with a female superhero. The lead character, Ruth, suffers seizures that cause earthquakes. Her mother can see mysterious color flashes and assemble matter with her mind.
Ruth’s mother and daughter have to help her understand and use her powers. Family trauma and a mother’s love for her daughter lie at the heart of this unique black superpower movie.
Daman Wayans, co-creator of the hit TV variety series In Living Color, plays Darryl, a sweet and innocent inventor who’s the exaggerated version of a nerd, complete with tape holding his eyeglasses together.
When Darryls’ grandma dies at the hands of the Mafia, Darryl becomes Blankman, a superhero without powers but a lot of ingenuity. Blankman is a low-budget Batman, with a costume made from red, long underwear, and a raincoat he treated to make it bulletproof.
The story features comedy instead of realistic superhero action, but it pokes fun at the genre and makes some good points about some aspects of superhero life.
David Allen Grier plays a key role. If you enjoy In Living Color and the other films these two actors starred in together, you should get some good laughs out of Blankman.
Best Black Superhero Movies Ever, Final Thoughts
From racially charged to silly and from dark to serious and hopeful, black superhero movies run the gamut. Unfortunately, only a small number of black superheroes exist, but with the success of this genre, the list of films will get longer.
Whether you prefer traditional superheroes, anti-heroes, or a dose of comedy with your science fiction, you can find a black superpower movie to enjoy on this list.