Superhero movies have been the unquestioned juggernauts of cinema box office since the early 2000s. Thanks to advancements in CGI and VFX, filmmakers are finally able to take the larger-than-life narratives of superhero stories out of comic books, and put them up on the big screen in grand action adventure movies. But while Hollywood takes superhero movies much more seriously now, the genre itself leaves plenty of room for comedy. After all, there is nothing wrong with occasionally poking fun at the more ridiculous aspects of superhero film culture, or showing its lighter side. Let us take a look a few such movies that ably mine the comedy from superhero stories.
Few superhero movies are as pathbreaking as 2016’s Deadpool. In fact, the movie was considered so revolutionary that Hollywood refused to green light it for a decade until someone leaked test footage from the film on the internet. All of this is because Wade Wilson aka Deadpool is a superhero unlike any other. A trigger-happy assassin with regenerative ability and a fourth-wall-breaking style of humor.
It is this last trait that makes Deadpool so unusual, and his adventures such a laugh riot. The first Deadpool film takes full advantage of this with a quippy, self-aware script that mercilessly skewers comic book movie tropes in hilarious ways. Wade is the definition of an irreverent protagonist, and he keeps up a never ending running commentary on his own superhero adventure that can range from crude and funny to poignant, yet still funny.
9 Thor: Ragnarok
After the second Thor movie opened to underwhelming reviews, fans were ready for a new take on the MCU’s God of Thunder. And boy, did they get it with filmmaker Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok. Suddenly the Shakespearean pathos that had defined the previous two Thor movies was gone, replaced by a colorful and rowdy episode of Flash Gordon on steroids.
Chris Hemsworth is having the time of his life playing this new version of Thor as a well-meaning himbo overwhelmed by the entry of his evil and powerful sister Hela. A bunch of supporting characters also get to shine in comedic makeovers including Loki and Odin. Thor: Ragnarok was hailed for shaking up the MCU formula, and showing a new side to the God of Thunder.
8 Guardians of the Galaxy
No one movie has done more to define the direction of the MCU than Guardians of the Galaxy. Before the movie, the MCU had great diversity to its projects, but Guardians proved so popular with audiences and critics alike that the MCU unofficially made it a rule that all future movies would feature quippy protagonists, tongue-in-cheek humor, and lots of self-aware references.
But no other superhero movie has ever quite managed to do what filmmaker James Gunn did with Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequels. The series uses humor as a mere cushioning for genuinely tragic events. Despite a heavy subject matter involving a team of space criminals going up against a planet-destroying megalomaniac, Guardians of the Galaxy manages to keep the laughs coming from start to finish thanks to its “Hangover movie within the Star Wars universe” vibe.
7 The Suicide Squad
After finding great success in the MCU, filmmaker James Gunn lent his talents to the flailing DCEU. Instead of going after the big names, Gunn chose to revamp the relatively obscure Taskforce X in The Suicide Squad. Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Suicide Squad deals with a group of criminals trying to complete a mission for their own selfish ends.
Once again, Gunn is able to make cutthroat criminals into likable leads thanks to heaping doses of R-rated humor. We also get a pretty well-thought character study of the various members of Taskforce X, so the humor flows from the situations the characters find themselves in instead of taking the easy route of simply making a mockery of the characters for the sake of comedy.
6 Mystery Men
Before the MCU was a thing, superhero movies were still a rare trend, and most superhero features were cheaply made, low-budget affairs. 1999’s Mystery Men takes advantage of this fact to tell a story about b-grade superheroes struggling to fulfill their calling in the face of an uncaring world that considers them losers instead of messiahs.
Mr. Furious is a street-level hero who wants to move up into the superhuman big leagues with his equally low-level vigilante pals. When the dastardly super villain Casanova Frankenstein gets out of imprisonment, his first target is the city’s premier superhero, Captain Amazing. Mr. Furious and his friends hatch a plan to rescue Amazing from Casanova. But to out-muscle the super villain, they will need to rally together every existing superhero through a hilarious recruitment and training process.
5 Superhero Movie (2008)
Parody movies were all the rage during the 2000s, following in the footsteps of the immensely popular Scary Movie franchise. Just about every popular genre had its corresponding parody, and for the superhero genre, that parody was 2008’s Superhero Movie. The film takes aim at Marvel and DC Comics features through the story of Rick Riker, a character with Batman’s origin and Spider-Man’s general backstory.
Rick is a teenager living in a modest home, who gets bitten by a radioactive dragonfly and consequently develops superpowers. The rest of the movie introduces various parodies of Norman Osborn, the Fantastic Four, Professor Xavier and the X-Men. Bonus points for an early appearance by future comedy superstar Kevin Hart as Rick’s best friend, and the late, great Leslie Nielsen playing a demented version of Uncle Ben.
Animated superhero movies are not as plentiful as live-action ones, but the animation medium often lets storytellers go all out with superhero stories in a way live-action can’t. This is the case with Megamind, which plays out like a Superman movie that is not yet another origin story. Metro City is home to Earth’s greatest protector Metro Man, but also the greatest super villain, Megamind.
After a series of attempts, Megamind is finally able to defeat Metro Man and take over the city. But he soon realizes that life without his arch-nemesis is very boring. Thus, Megamind sets out to create a new superhero who will be able to oppose him. Unfortunately, the new “hero” is anything but heroic, and soon Megamind finds himself in a battle for his life and the very principles of super villainy that have dictated his entire career.
3 The Incredibles
Marvel has yet to make a compelling Fantastic Four movie. But Pixar already beat them to the punch with The Incredibles. In an alternate reality, superheroes are commonplace. So much so that the government is forced to enact a law that requires heroes to reveal their true identities and give up their vigilante ways. Mr. Incredible and Elasti-Girl are two such super humans who give up their super heroics and settle down to a life of domestic bliss.
Cut to a decade later, and Mr. Incredible is thoroughly bored with his humdrum civilian life. When he gets offered a chance to become a superhero again in secret, Mr. Incredible jumps at the opportunity. But things are not what they seem, and soon Mr. Incredible’s wife, daughter, and son are dragged into a sinister plot filled with romance and intrigue.
2 The Lego Batman Movie
Ever since Batman Begins, Hollywood filmmakers have been in a race to see who could make live-action Batman darker and more edgy. But the animated side of DC Comics knows that Batman does not always have to be a super-serious edgelord. The Lego Batman Movie addresses this topic very well with a movie that pokes fun at the “serious” Batman movie tropes while still telling a heartfelt story about the Caped Crusader.
During a routine crime-foiling mission, Batman hurts Joker’s feelings by declaring that the villain is not an important part of his life. Thirsting for revenge against the insult, Joker schemes of a way to enter the Phantom Zone and rally an army of villains from different universes. It is now up to Batman and his new sidekick Robin to band together with Gotham PD to take down Joker’s sinister coterie of super villains. The movie also gets bonus points for the funniest Batman song ever made.
1 The Mask
Jim Carrey is not the kind of guy you think of for a superhero role. But Carrey did star in the very successful superhero movie The Mask. Carrey plays the role of hapless bank employee Stanley Ipkiss, who one day stumbles across a magic mask that gives reality-bending powers to its wearer. Thus, Ipkiss transforms into the green-faced sprite known simply as The Mask and proceeds to wreak havoc on his city.
The film makes perfect use of Carrey’s almost superhuman physical comedy chops by turning him into a live-action cartoon character. The actor also expertly plays the natural-born loser Stanley in a way that differentiates him from The Mask but still manages to keep his part of the story funny. You also get what has been so far the only (and very catchy) song and dance number in a live-action superhero movie, unless Deadpool decides to take up the challenge in his next movie.
There is nothing wrong with occasionally poking fun at the more ridiculous aspects of superhero film culture, or showing its lighter side. Read More