A cycle of contemporary Hollywood films adapted from comic books and featuring heroic characters with superhuman powers. Superheroes have been part of the hinterland of US cinema since the 1930s, with characters such as Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Superman appearing in comic books, newspaper comic strips, radio serials, and television programmes. However, the dedicated, large-budget, special-effects heavy, superhero film is a relatively recent phenomenon, usually traced back to the New Hollywood blockbuster Superman (Richard Donner, 1978) and its sequels. The subsequent success of Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), which achieved a reimagining, or rebooting, of a pre-existing superhero character by combining adult themes, moral angst, and a dark, noirish mise-en-scene with high octane fight sequences, encouraged Hollywood producers to seek out similar superhero franchises through the 1990s. Films such as The Rocketeer (Joe Johnston, 1991), The Crow (Alex Proyas, 1994), and Blade (Stephen Norrington, 1998), struggled to emulate Burton’s success, but X-Men (Brian Singer, 2000), Spider-Man (Sam Raimi, 2002) and a further Batman reboot, Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005), ensured that the superhero film would become Hollywood’s commercially dominant genre in the 21st century (see also computer games).
To find superhero resources in the Library's collections, you can click on one of the subject headings below:
Articles and other writings about superhero films can be found in many publications. You can use Film & Television Literature Index to find relevant articles.