Superhero movies have been around since the end of World War II, starting in the '40s with serials or chapter-based movies hitting local theaters starring a variable fantasy hodge podge of cartoon or comic book-based characters, as well as those out of the science fiction magazines of the era. In the '40s, kids in the United States got to see the likes of Flash Gordon, Batman, Superman, and Captain America all up on the big screen in glorious black and white. What sets these early superhero films apart from today's big-budget bluster and flair was the lack thereof. In the '40s, there was no CGI or computer-based special effects that were able to be used to enhance their stories, so the movie-makers of the '40s and the '50s set forth to develop tricks that could be implemented inside of the camera while hey shooting such things as matte-shots via stop-motion film-making.
While Superhero films have improved since their conception in the early '40s, there are quite a few that stand-out as being must-see entries into the cannon of superhero feature films. In particular, starting in the late '60s, audiences saw the likes of Spiderman appearing as well as Batman. And all throughout the '70s, audiences were treated to their favorite comic book superheros up on the big screen or on television in shows like Wonder Woman or The Incredible Hulk.
What follows is a list of our favorite Superhero or Superhero-esque movies of the late '70s and '80s that many haven't seen. All represent a certain time in movies when the inability to lash into CGI special-effects meant that as a storyteller you needed to get really creative.
DOCTOR STRANGE (1978)Made-For-TV in 1978, CBS's Doctor Strange film, based on the original Marvel character created by Steve Ditko originally aired on the network at the end of the '70s. The late '70s Doctor Strange movie had the blessing of Stan Lee and, in fact, he spoke in an interview in the mid '80s about how much he liked the movie even though the television movie didn't do well in the ratings, which subsequently caused it to only be a movie and not become a television series, which was what was hoped of it originally at the network.
DARKMAN (1990)While, not a comic book hero with a cape, or from another planet for that matter, Darkman was written by writer/director Sam Raimi, who is most famous for bringing Spiderman back to the big screen in the early 2000's as well as his cult-horror movie franchise The Evil Dead. Darkman, while sporting elements of superhero style (he wore a mask and a cloak/cape) was an anti-hero would set out to take revenge on some villains who had attacked him as a scientist years prior. Darkman, also known as 'Peyton Westlake', had invented a special synthetic skin which could be designed through a computer program to resemble anyone that the wearer wished. Horribly disfigured, Westlake impersonates all of the villains who had once attacked him, killing them off one-by-one.
SUPERFUZZ (1980)Again, while not a comic book hero that originated from the pages of Marvel or D.C., Superfuzz, a film released in 1980 is about a police officer, who once exposed to radiation while in the middle of a chase of a criminal, develops crazy superpowers that assist him in fighting crime and putting away the bad guys. Superfuzz is a fun movie, and one that many haven't seen because, being made in 1980, is fairly older, and isn't readily available. But it is worth seeking out, as it's very funny, and the superpowers that Superfuzz develops are kind of hilarious.
BATMAN: THE MOVIE (1966)Forget about The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins or the Tim Burton and Michael Keaton Batman--this is the Batman movie. Coming to theaters on the success of the hit ABC television series of 1966, Batman, starring Adam West (Family Guy's Mayor) and Burt Ward battle against the united super-criminal front of Gotham that includes: The Riddler, The Penguin, The Joker and Catwoman. This is the television series and feature-length Batman movie that kick-started the Batman craze that has continued on today. A classic of campy-humor. Best Scene: Batman is lowered down into shark-infested waters on a ladder via a helicopter, only to come out of water with a shark having swallowed his leg.
THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE(1983)
A superhero movie, not only that, but a superhero movie-musical-comedy! Starring Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Christopher Lee (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy), The Return of Captain Invincible was made in Australia. The story: Fantasy author Terry Pratchett pens a superhero story about a Captain America-meets-Superman type who is accused by the government of participating in post-WWII communist activities. Basically, the movie-within-a-movie. No, there are so CGI sequences of our hero saving a airplane who's engine has just gone out--this is a little superhero movie that focuses in on the human elements.