Movies & TV

The Anti-Superhero Superhero Club: 5 Atypical 'Hero' Films

'Hero' is a term we use loosely.

Everyone loves a good superhero film. Marvel’s billion-dollar box offices are proof of that. The Avengers, X-Men, Justice League—all these hero ensembles feed our fantasies that the world will be saved, good will triumph, and fairies exist. But that’s just what they are—fantasies. 

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s not just a proverb, it’s a fact engraved in the universe. Marvel and DC see the best in their heroes, and so do we, but if actual superhumans did exist in our midst, there’s a slim chance they’d be as chiseled as Superman or as morally upright as Captain America. Let’s face it: History has proven that humans like to play with fire. In all likelihood, too much power and ability given to one person might just turn them into a monster, a maniac, or worse—a misogynist.

And with our luck, these films and shows portray the type of "heroes" we’d probably be served: 

1| The Boys

The Asshole. This R18 Amazon Prime show is equally brilliant and infuriating. The Seven, this show’s version of the Justice League, is a power-drunk group of superheroes owned and managed by a billion-dollar company that capitalizes on their superhero status (like Disney, only evil). The show’s heroes are crude, arrogant, self-absorbed, and downright misogynistic—a prime example of how power can only corrupt.

2| Brightburn

The Monster. DC’s Superman is based on the premise that the alien baby that landed in Kansas was categorically good. Brightburn challenges that narrative, questioning what would happen if luck didn’t play in our favor and the baby turned out to be evil. Brightburn is a “What if?” superhero horror film that drives home director David Yarovesky’s point: “The cake is not real. Santa Claus is your parents. And if an alien baby lands in the woods, run for your f*cking life."


3| Watchmen

The Radical. Probably the tamest, but most ominous type of anti-superheroes on this list, the radical heroes in Watchmen exist on nihilistic extremes. It’s an intelligent, scary approach to the anti-superhero as they revise the immorality of murdering and deceiving millions for the sake of the “greater good.” The comics and show try to answer the question: Who watches the Watchmen?

4| Suicide Squad

The Maniac. To quote George R.R. Martin, “Madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin.” And for the members of the Suicide Squad, their coins landed on the side of madness. The levels of crazy of these heroes/villains range from slightly unhinged to batshit crazy. Aside from their proclivity for bad decisions and narcissistic personality disorders, they all share a notable criminal status. Despite the fact that they managed to save the day, it’s hard not to forget that some of them are mercenaries, thieves, killers, and cannibals.

5| Split

The Beast. If you thought Suicide Squad was mad, get a load of this one. M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable dark superhero and psychological horror trilogy explores what would happen if an uncontrollable superhuman was on the loose. Some would argue that Split and Glass are villain origin stories, but a deep dive into Kevin Crumb/the Beast’s character would find that the multiple personalities of the one individual are symbolic of the never-ending battle between the human and the alter ego. Kevin is the hero of this story, while the Beast, his 24th personality, is his arch-villain—the evil inside him that he tries to shield the world from.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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