The Best Black Superheroes In Movies

Black superheroes are coming at you from left to right in Marvel and DC’s latest films. But there’s plenty more outside of the big two as well. From Halle Berry’s terrible accents as Storm to Chadwick Boseman’s epic portrayal of Black Panther, we’re ranking the 22 Best Black Superheroes in Movies.

'Black Panther'

Image via Marvel

'Black Panther'

Black superheroes are making big leaps onto the big screen.

After enjoying a black comic book renaissance in the past years through Marvel, DC and a plethora of indie creators, modern comic book fans are being blessed with black characters coming to life on film and TV.

Black Lightning premiered earlier this week to rave reviews and record-breaking ratings, and Black Panther mania is still in full effect as the film is squashing advanced ticket sales records ahead of its release date next month. She’s Gotta Have It star DeWanda Wise is also set to co-star opposite of Brie Larson, who’ll play the titular character in Captain Marvel. Fans speculate that Wise will take on the role of Monica Rambeau, who was the second iteration of Captain Marvel in the comics before becoming the superhero Spectrum. If that happens, she’ll be the most anticipated black woman superhero to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (pending Avengers: Infinity Wars’ final roster.)

Black superheroes have been putting in work on the small screen too. Marvel’s Luke Cage crashed Netflix when it dropped on the streaming platform in 2016. And the company is poised to do it again with an order of Raising Dion, a comic book adaptation that follows a black mom who’s raising a son with superpowers. Vixen and Blade also have shows on the streaming network CW Seed, while a Spawn reboot is reportedly in the works.

But we’re not here to talk about the small screen stars just yet. We’re focusing on the ones who’ve made it to the film world. (And no, there’s no Nick Fury because he’s more of a superspy than a superhero.) After years of living on the comic book pages, black superheroes are now consistently making cinematic debuts. But let’s not forget about the heroes that paved the way for these newcomers to shine either. Here are the 22 Best Black Superheroes in Movies.

22. Will.I.Am as John Wraith in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' (2009)

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John Wraith, also known as Kestrel, keeps it pretty simple—he's basically just a black Nightcrawler—but he held Wolverine down to the death, so he's good in our book. Extra points for the cowboy hat, which is probably the most restrained outfit Will's ever worn in his whole career.

21. Shaquille O'Neal as Steel in 'Steel' (1997)

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Say what you want about the corniness of Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel but this movie was a hit among ’90s kids. (Yes, this is another millennials thing). By combining the NBA phenom, superheroism and, uh..steel, the DC character, who’s real name is John Henry Irons, became a cult-classic among young fans. There were even action figures! But, in your defense, Steel has mostly been forgotten (a fact we’re sure Shaq is happy about). But while nostalgia may be the only thing making the film seem decent, one thing remains true: The soundtrack was pretty dope, with KRS-One, Ice Cube, B-Real, and Peter Gunz on the main track “Man of Steel.” Move over, Superman.

20. Michael B. Jordan as Steve Montgomery In 'Chronicle' (2012)

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We don't want to give away anything about Steve and whether he goes to the dark side or not, but we love that in his crew's more innocent stage of superpower abuse he uses telekinesis to move a white lady's red BMW so she thinks it was stolen, setting up the punch line "Yes, it was the black guy this time."

19. Tobar Mayo as Abar in 'Abar, The First Black Superman' (1977)

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Is there any way that such a random Blaxploitation hero wasn't going to make this list with a film title like that? Abar is the hero of the hood, one righteous stare away from leveling the '70s race relations playing field. Prejudiced cops—thwarted! Money-hungry preachers—swag deflated! Rich fat cats with no sympathy for the plight of the ghetto are fair game too. All we want to know is, where's the remake starring Samuel L. Jackson?

18. Edi Gathegi as Darwin in 'X-Men: First Class' (2011)

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Darwin, a.k.a. Armando Muñoz, has one of the coolest powers out of all the X-Men in that it's essentially limitless: He can instantly evolve and adapt to any situation and environment and alter his surroundings around him to survive. So we're still trying to wrap our heads around the fact that he was the only major death in First Class. If that weren't enough, dude got murked in, like, the first half of the movie. It's not easy being a black X-Man if your name isn't Storm, huh?

17. Omar Sy as Bishop in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' (2014)

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While Kitty Pryde sent Wolverine’s consciousness off into the ’70s trying to stop the Sentinels from gaining power, the rest of the X-Men crew had to defend the fort. This included Bishop, one of the younger mutants in the bunch, who has the powers to absorb massive amounts of energy and redirect it into blast attacks.

Although he didn’t get much screen time in his film debut, he certainly made an impact. Fun fact: Two of the Days of Future Past writers, Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn, originally thought about sending Bishop back in time instead of Wolverine.

16. Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm/Human Torch in 'Fantastic Four' (2015)

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The Fantastic Four are reportedly heading to the Marvel Cinematic Universe along with X-Men and other Fox properties. But before that landmark deal, Fox tried their hand at rebooting the Fantastic Four franchise. Although the film wasn’t received well, the creators stirred up emotions with their attempt in switching up the storyline by bringing in Michael B. Jordan as the traditionally white character, Human Torch. With the power of fire and flight, the Human Torch is an integral member of the dynamic team.

15. Damon Wayans as Blankman in 'Blankman' (1994)

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Although it was a superhero parody, Blankman is lowkey a classic. Damon Wayans stars as the titular vigilante hero who springs into action when his grandmother is killed by mobsters. The tragedy inspires him to become like his favorite superhero, Batman (except with less money.) With his reluctant sidekick, Other Guy (played by David Alan Grier), the two take on criminals in their neighborhood. Damon Wayans’ Blankman is also one of the few black superheroes in film that’s not based on a comic book.

14. Robert Townsend as Meteor Man in 'Meteor Man' (1993)

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Robert Townsend has always been doing it for the culture for decades, and he represented for black superheroes when he debuted Meteor Man in 1993. The titular hero gains his powers from (you guessed it) a green meteorite and is bestowed supreme abilities like flight, X-ray vision, laser beams, super strength, dog telepathy and telekinesis. With his new powers, the meek man becomes a force to be reckoned with as he defeats a local gang called The Golden Lords. There was also a short comic book run to coincide with the film.

13. Jacob Latimore as Bo in 'Sleight' (2016)

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Although it’s more of a superhero origin story, Sleight has all the makings to move forward with an epic superhero storyline in a sequel. In the film, the recently orphaned Bo learns how to control metal when he’s not selling drugs and performing magic tricks on the streets to support his little sister (Storm Reid). When he has to save his sister from a drug lord named Angelo, who is awesomely played by Dule Hill, he isn’t afraid to knock some bad guys out of the picture. And by the end of the film, it seems that he’s got a glorious new trick up his sleeve. Although Lattimore is starring in in Lena Waithe’s stellar series The CHI and Reid is starring in Ava Duvernay’s upcoming film A Wrinkle in Time, we hope they can make enough time to come back for a Sleight sequel. We wouldn’t mind if Hill reprised his role as well!

12. Halle Berry as Storm in 'X-Men' (2000-2014)

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Yeah, super strength, flight, invisibility — those are cool powers and all. But if we could control the weather? Let's just say those gray, rainy NYC weeks that leave our kicks collecting dust would be a thing of the past.

Despite all the power she wields, the dopest thing about Storm is that she's humble as hell. Our one complaint: Halle's horrible accent, and her even worse dialogue ("Do you know what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning?"), in the original X-Men films still makes us shudder. And we’re not even going to talk about her wigs. (Okay, that’s two complaints.) But now that Disney is set to buy Fox (, we’ll hopefully get a brand new Storm and a better hair team—preferably the same one that did Angela Bassett’s hair for Black Panther. Our suggestions for actresses? Tika Sumpter, Michaela Coel or How to Get Away With Murder’s Aja Naomi King.

11. The Marshall Family in 'Up, Up, and Away!' (2000)

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Seven years after Robert Townsend showed the world Meteor Man, he came back with the entire super family. Although it wasn’t the same character, Jim Marshall (Townsend) and his wife, Judy (Alex Datcher), had similar powers as the ’90s hero, including flight, super strength and advanced combat skills. But what made this fictional Disney family stand out are the stellar supporting characters, including their son, Scott, who had to deal with the fact that he might not have the genetic supergene while managing his family’s secret identity at school. Despite being powerless, he also has to figure out how to defeat the bad guys. Yikes. The film also stars Sherman Hemsley as the Marshalls’ grandad, a classic bratty sister, Molly, with heat ray and X-ray vision and a cool older brother, Adam, who has super speed.

10. Idris Elba as Heimdall in 'Thor' (2011-2017)

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He walks and talks softly, but he carries a big stick (pause). Idris Elba as the hulking Norse gatekeeper was the best piece of colorblind Marvel casting since Sam L. first sauntered into Tony Stark's apartment rocking that eye-patch as Nick Fury. Aside from one memorable fight scene (Loki totally didn't fight fair), Elba regrettably didn't have much to do during Thor. But in Thor: Ragnarok, Heimdall gained a bigger role as an Asgardian Moses, who led the Asgard citizens to safety while Hela laid waste to their homeworld.

9. Anthony Mackie as Falcon in 'Captain America' (2013-2016)

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As Captain America’s BFF (when Bucky with the good hair isn’t around, that is), Falcon is one of the best sidekicks in the MCU. In addition to their inside jokes (“on your left”) and being a reliable running buddy, he’s always got Cap’s back, even when it means taking on the government (and Iron Man) as they do in Captain America: Civil War. But aside from that, Falcon is kind of cool as he navigates flying with his mechanical wings. And if the comic books are any indication of what happens in the films, we may see Falcon pick up the Captain America moniker for himself one day.

8. Ray Fisher as Cyborg in 'Justice League' (2017)

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Although Justice League was a bust, one of the standout characters was, surprisingly, Cyborg. After Cyborg’s dad (Joe Morton), who works for B613 S.T.A.R. Labs, tries to bring him back to life, he ends up making him more machine than human. However (spoiler alert), by the end of the film it seems that Cyborg is not only gaining a mastery of his skills, he’s growing to accept his new state of body, which makes us all the more excited about his upcoming stand-alone film.

7. Don Cheadle as War Machine in 'Iron Man' and 'Captain America' (2010-2016)

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While Terrence Howard served as Iron Man’s partner-in-suit, War Machine, in 2008’s Iron Man, it was Don Cheadle who picked up the mantle for the rest of the franchise. In that time, Cheadle has embodied the witty, epic-storytelling superhero (even though he doesn’t get the cheers he’s looking for). While Vision’s energy beam left the War Machine paralyzed in Captain America: Civil War, we have high hopes for the hero, especially because we see him flying about in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer.

6. Will Smith as John Hancock in 'Hancock' (2008)

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Yet another example of a great character in an iffy movie. The idea of a drunken, irresponsible, foul-mouthed, reluctant superhero is simply fantastic, and the fact that the Fresh Prince himself landed the role was the cherry on top.

The first half of the movie is extremely satisfying, like Bad Santa with special effects. Then it goes slightly downhill after the inevitable but still disappointing taming of the beast and a murky romantic twist. Hey, at least they cut this weird-ass scene out.

5. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in 'Thor: Ragnarok' (2017)

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Tessa Thompson is a scene-stealer as the last living Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. The heavy-drinking, unflinching, sword-wielding warrior gave viewers a badass worth caping for. And with a dark backstory that alludes to her fellow Valkyrie lover sacrificing her life to save her, she can only go up from here. All in all, we’re definitely hyped to see her in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

4. Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther in 'Captain America: Civil War' (2016)

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Ahead of Black Panther’s solo film in February, Marvel debuted the character on the cinematic screen in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. In the mix of Captain America’s drama with Iron Man and Bucky, Black Panther stole the show with amazing one-liners, relentless chase scenes and a killer bulletproof suit. Needless to say, there’s a reason people are already declaring it the greatest movie of all time and planning out the snacks to sneak into the theater when Feb. 16 rolls around.

3. Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone in 'The Incredibles' (2004)

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Mr. Incredible's ice-slinging right-hand-man is always down to ride, and he's chiller than a Sunday afternoon (yes, the pun was intended). Except for when you hide his super-suit. We need a romantic comedy spin-off starring Mr. and Mrs. Frozone, stat. But in the meantime, Incredibles 2 is set to be released in theaters this summer, so we’re likely to see more of the ice crusader. (And hopefully, he’s found a more convienent place for his super-suit.)

2. Michael Jai White as Spawn in 'Spawn' (1997)

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As a character, Spawn, a wrongly murdered secret agent who games the Devil into returning him to Earth with hellified superpowers and armor, is the shit. Todd McFarlane's source material is an excitingly fresh anti-hero tale. But the inevitable film adaptation was, well, underwhelming.

Michael Jai White as the titular demon with a good heart was solid, but the rest (like John Leguizamo's bizarre performance as a demon clown), not so much. Did Martin Sheen lose a bet with a studio exec or something? Luckily, we’ll be getting a Spawn reboot from Blumhouse (the same production company behind Get Out, Purge and Split.) 

1. Wesley Snipes as Blade in 'Blade', 'Blade II', and 'Blade: Trinity' (1998-2004)

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That's right, the number-one most stylish vampire in the game is also the number-one all-around coolest black superhero. Nobody holds a candle to Blade's unwavering dedication and sheer badassery, not to mention the fact that his weapon of choice is not fangs, but a sword. And now that Wesley Snipes is out of prison (and melanin is making us think that he might be a real-life non-aging vampire), he could definitely reprise the role and pick up the long leather coat again. It could be another solo venture or a team-up with Blade’s daughter, whose film is reportedly in the worksWe’re not picky!

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