As a comic book lover, it has been interesting to me to see how various storylines and characters have been translated from the comics and other adaptations into film. Of particular interest, is how they show the powers of the different heroes in relationship to one another. I remember reading comics hoping for a superhero showdown, but in recent films like Batman vs. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, and the Avengers films, these hero v. hero matchups have become commonplace.
As such, I thought it would be fitting to make a list of the 15 Most Powerful Superheroes to be Featured in Film. Not only does this provide a new perspective on the heroes and their powers, but it also eliminates many obscure overpowered heroes who too often litter the comic book storylines. Thereby, this list will feature the 15 most powerful heroes of prominence, and will include all those you would expect, as well as hopefully some surprising entrants. This article is heavily based on the heroes’ respective powers, but also significantly relies upon examinations of hero to hero conflicts. Thereby, giant conglomerate superhero movies like Captain America: Civil War, and the Avengers films are cited habitually. Despite this, I have tried to reserve some love for those heroes who stand alone in their films. All information related to the various characters and storylines of these films are based on the first-hand experience of the author. Some specific facts and dates about the films are taken from the Marvel Comics and DC Comics movie web pages, respectively.
15. Wolverine: X-Men Franchise
It’s hard to include a character on this list who gets beat up as often as Wolverine does, but that fact that he’s still kicking after all those ass whoopings earns him a spot here. A big part of this is obviously his amazing healing powers (I think that people undervalue just how immense this power is), but Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine is just plain tough in his own right. Throw in an indestructible skeleton and a pair of razor sharp adamantium claws, and Wolverine just sneaks into our list here at #15. Also the trailer for Logan looks too plain awesome not to include here.
14. Batman: Batman vs. Superman
Many of you may be surprised to see Batman on this list of powerful superheroes in film because, well, he doesn’t actually have any powers. However, after recently watching Ben Affleck‘s Batman in Batman vs. Superman, I just had to find a place for him on this list. Admittedly, there are a lot of problems with this film, but one of the areas where it is most successful is in making the Bat seem a worthy opponent for Superman. Not only were they able to accomplish that, they actually (spoiler alert) had him defeat the Man of Steel. Defeating such a legendary hero was enough for Batman to inch onto this list at #14, even without any real powers.
13. The Thing: Fantastic Four Franchise
Out of every superhero team, the Fantastic Four has had perhaps the most tumultuous relationship with film. The first film in 2005 was canned critically, but still had some success at the box office; while the two later installations didn’t fare well in either aspect. One element of the Fantastic Four comic which I think has been translated well into film, is The Thing’s status as the group’s enforcer. Sue and Reed are the brains of the operation, while Johnny is the likable hothead (no pun intended). As such, this leaves a lot of the heavy lifting to Ben Grimm aka The Thing. There aren’t many things that are quite as terrifying as knowing that it is clobbering time! Consequently, he’s the only member of the famous team included on our list at #13.
12. The Winter Soldier
For those of you who have seen Captain America: Civil War (and for those of you who haven’t, I suggest you do as soon as you get the chance), you may have noticed that the Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan, seems almost invincible for much of the film. Created as the Soviet rival to Captain America, the Winter Soldier had to be built strong enough to match (and hopefully defeat) Cap. In this vein, he has very similar strength and speed, along with a mechanical arm which appears to give him some advantage. Within the Civil War film alone, the Winter Soldier fights Cap, Iron Man, Black Panther, and Black Widow, all with some degree of success. That’s a list worthy of one of the most powerful superheroes in film.
11. Spiderman: Captain America-Civil War
For years it was hard to gauge just how powerful the film version of Spiderman was supposed to be because his films exclusively featured him as the sole hero. There was no point of reference. However, this changed recently with the introduction of the Spiderman character into the Avengers universe (side note: Tom Holland plays a very believable Spiderman and I am very excited for the stand alone film). In Captain America: Civil War, Spiderman holds his own with a plethora of Avengers, including Cap himself, cementing himself within the upper echelon of Marvel characters and as one of films most powerful superheroes.
10. Captain America: Captain America and Avengers Franchises
I like to think of Captain America as the superhero all other superheroes are based on. Chronologically the first mainstream hero of the Marvel universe, Cap directly set the stage for a variety of heroes ranging from Black Cat, to the Incredible Hulk. I think Cap’s leadership abilities and moral fortitude may sometimes overshadow his abilities as an overall hero, but his battles with the likes of the Red Skull (Captain America: the First Avenger) and Iron Man (Captain America: Civil War) show how strong he can really be. If the films decide to delve deeper into the mysteries of Captain America’s shield (like has been done in the comics), this may serve to boost his powers and find a spot for him even higher on our list.
9. Magneto: X-Men Franchise
Luckily the Michael Fassbender version of Magneto in recent X-Men adaptions is somewhat of a hero, allowing me to sneak him onto our list here. While Magneto’s power is fairly simple to understand (control of all metal), I think all the X-Men films do a good job of showing just how substantial this power can really be. In X-Men: First Class, Magneto not only (almost) single-handedly builds a school, but he also raises a whole submarine out of the ocean. He goes on to perform similarly awesome feats in X-Men 3 (Golden Gate Bridge), and X-Men: Apocalypse (plane). These awesome scenes are enough to override his sometimes villainous tendencies and earn him a spot on our list.
8. The Vision: Avengers Franchise
The problem with the film version of The Vision is that he isn’t shown prominently enough for me to tell exactly what his powers are, however, whatever they are they seem pretty badass. Originally just a robotic husk, The Vision is given life from the gem previously powering Loki’s staff in the first Avengers film. Among other things this gem apparently gave him the power to shoot laser beams from his forehead powerful enough to take down War Machine (see Captain America: Civil War). I’d say that’s powerful enough to earn him a spot on our list.
7. The Phoenix: X-Men Trilogy
I might get some flack for putting The Phoenix on this list since in the only movie she’s featured in she’s almost entirely a villain, however, she’s also the alter-ego of Jean Grey (who’s a hero) so it counts right? Regardless, the Phoenix is one of the most powerful characters in the comic book world and this was appropriately carried over to the film version of the character. Meant to be the secret weapon of Magneto on his usual quest for world domination, The Phoenix destroys everything in her path until Wolverine (on his fifth layer of skin) eventually finishes her off. One of the most epic moments of the original X-Men trilogy, this scene couldn’t have happened if The Phoenix wasn’t such a powerful character.
6. Superman: Batman vs Superman
The hero of Metropolis was ultimately going to find himself on this list somewhere, however, many of you might be surprised to find him so low on our rankings. The first reason for this is probably the bias of a writer who just never quite got into the Superman character. However, an even more relevant reason is that recent film writers have done their best to create a Superman who’s not quite so overpowered. For example, in the recent Batman vs. Superman film, we see Superman not only get defeated by Batman, but also “killed” by the villain Doomsday. These facts keep the Man of Steel from being higher on this list, but his wealth of powers and overall reputation kept him from falling off this list entirely.
5. Scarlet Witch: Avengers Franchise
The inclusion of Scarlet Witch here at #5 is not only based on previous films, but also as a projection of what’s to come from the character. In the comic books, Scarlet Witch’s powers progress over time, making her one of the most powerful Avengers, and evidence from recent films suggests a similar evolution is in store for the film version of Wanda Maximoff. Despite not yet reaching her full potential, Scarlet Witch has already held her own against Iron Man (The Avengers), and #8 on our list The Vision (Captain America: Civil War). Her showings in these super-powered showdowns, as well as the potential for a power increase are enough to earn her a spot on our list at #5.
4. Professor Xavier: X-Men Franchise
Admittedly, even in new X-Men films where the Professor is younger, his physical attributes are not overly impressive. However, his psychic abilities are so impressive as to override all this, and find him a spot on our list. Not only is the Professor able to read the thoughts of others and project his own thoughts into their mind for a radius of more than 250 miles, he is able to use his psychic abilities to actually control the actions of another person. For instance, Magneto’s trademark helmet was created to counteract Xavier’s extremely powerful psychic ability. Analyzing these abilities, added to the incredible things the Professor is able to do when connected to Cerebro, (a machine found in the bowels of Xavier’s school which amplifies his already powerful psychic abilities) it’s easy to see why the leader of the X-men deserves such a high spot on this list.
3. Thor: Thor and Avengers Franchises
It seems that the current film creation of the Marvel universe relies a lot on alien “artifacts” to explain the various strange happenings going on in the world (see Marvel’s Agents of Shield). As such, an actual alien like Thor would have to be portrayed as immensely powerful himself. Such has been the case so far with movies containing the Norse god of thunder. Gifted with superhuman strength and speed, combined with the abilities to fly and control lightning, Thor is definitely one of the more powerful Avengers. Throw in his intricate knowledge of all things Asgardian (as well as other worlds), and you’ve got one of the most powerful heroes.
2. The Silver Surfer: Fantastic Four 2
One of the biggest faults (and there were many) of the Fantastic Four sequel was that the villain was the almost unstoppable, gigantic alien, Galactus. To counteract such a powerful villain, the writers introduced an almost equally overpowered hero, the Silver Surfer. In the comic books, the Surfer is able to build his strength to almost incalculable levels and he is nearly indestructible. If this weren’t enough, the warrior previously known as Norrin Radd has many secondary powers which only augment his strength. Despite the fact that the Silver Surfer was only fleetingly featured in a single (and admittedly terrible) film, his incredible strength, and the fact that he was able to take down Galactus earns him a spot on this list at #2.
1. The Incredible Hulk: Avengers Franchise
Those of you who are familiar with the comic book Hulk know that he’s no slouch, however, the way that he has been portrayed in the two Avengers films was even more over the top. Essentially the Avengers’ secret weapon, the Hulk (expertly played by Mark Ruffalo) is a virtual nuclear bomb, capable of devastating anyone in his path. Whether it be a matchup against Loki, Ultron, or even his fellow heroes; throughout these films Hulk is habitually handing out beatdowns to all who oppose him. For this reason, he finds a spot high on our list at #1. Puny god.