With the affordability of film recording technology and special effects software in this modern era, it’s easier than ever to make quality movies without all the trappings of a studio or big budget films. One area that has particularly flourished with this greater access is fan films; now, die hard fans of a character don’t have to sit idly by and wait for others to make their ideas come true, but can now put their own ideas and stories to film.
Fan films have found varying degrees of success, and have slowly come to be recognized as a legitimate form of filmmaking, with even well known actors and actresses getting in on the action. With all the fans making these films, there are some that rise above the rest. With that in mind, here are the 12 Best Superhero Fan Films.
12. Judge Minty
This fan film is longer than most, clocking in at nearly half an hour, but it’s well worth the watch. Not as well known as Judge Dredd by most fans, William Minty has been policing the streets of Mega City One for his whole adult life, until a lapse in judgement almost ends his life. With age slowing him down, he can either retire from street duty and teach at the academy or walk into the lawless wasteland of the Cursed Earth and attempt to bring order to the people there. Minty chooses to take that long walk.
While it focuses on a character that many casual fans probably aren’t familiar with, this fan film is still tons of fun. It exposes viewers to more of the Judge Dredd world, while also featuring some solid fight sequences and an intriguing ending. If you’ve got half an hour to kill and want to see something outside the typical superhero fan films, give this a shot.
11. Spider-Man: Eclipse
In Spider-Man: Eclipse, Spider-Man has been captured, and the way out isn’t going to be an easy one. Fighting his way through an army of ninjas, Spider-Man does eventually get free, but not without taking some heavy damage in the process. After waking up at home with Mary Jane taking care of him, Spider-Man is again called to help out, as something much more dangerous than a few ninjas looks to threaten New York.
With some great fight choreography in the film, along with some of the humor that Spider-Man is well known for and a nice little moment with Mary Jane, this fan film is one well worth checking out. While some of the special effects don’t look as good as they could (remember folks, these shorts are usually shot on an almost non-existent budget), this is still a worthwhile watch for fans of the web-slinger.
10. Batman: Dead End
First appearing at San Diego Comic Con, this fan film doesn’t deal with just Batman, but also lets the Dark Knight meet and fight both the Alien and Predator. When Batman (played by actor/cosplay veteran Kevin Porter) corners the Joker in an alley, the fight is cut short when Joker is dragged off by an Alien. Batman and the xenomorph tussle briefly before the creature is killed by a Predator, who then also trades blows with Batman. The fight and film end with Batman left standing between opposing groups of Aliens and Predators.
Batman has faced off against both the Aliens and Predators in the comics before, so it is only right that the three would eventually meet in a fan film. While Batman may have plans in place to take down pretty much every superhero and villain in the DC Universe, he probably hasn’t planned too much for the two alien races he’s about to face off against.
9. Venom: Truth in Journalism
Eddie Brock doesn’t seem quite like the likely topic of many fan films, but Adi Shankar, producer of many fine fan films, and director Joe Lynch put their own spin on the character. In something of an homage to Man Bites Dog, the film sees Brock traveling around with a film crew detailing all of his supposed exploits. It’s something like a found footage supervillain origin story.
While there’s not a whole lot of the actual Venom symbiote seen in the film, there’s plenty of hints and nods in the film to various parts of Brock’s origins as Venom and parts of his story. It’s a fan film that’s a little experimental and not quite so straightforward as many others, but still well worth a watch. Towards the end, we even get a little cameo from Daredevil villain Bullseye, as Brock and the foreign film crew stumble onto some weird things in a back alley.
8. Deadpool: A Typical Tuesday
While the Ryan Reynolds Deadpool movie was long in production hell before eventually being released and making roughly a bajillion dollars, the fans were making Deadpool films of their own. A great example of that is Deadpool: A Typical Tuesday.
A fan film that really embraces the source material (much like its big-budget counterpart), this sees a captive Deadpool break free of the rope binding him and using his word balloons to kill his captors. After the escape, Deadpool heads out to a mercenary job and start doing what he does best: killing loads of people while saying ridiculous things. Complete with plenty of gunshot wounds, quips, and a love of Mexican food, Deadpool works his way through the bad guys standing in his way and towards his target.
The way the film embraces the weirdness that is the character and the appearance from Domino makes this a great Deadpool fan film. In the dark times before Ryan Reynolds finally got his movie made, this was about the best thing fans could hope to get.
7. The Death and Return of Superman
Part Drunk History, part fan film, this sees Max Landis telling us the rough events of the Death and Return of Superman comic storyline, while drinking. There’s plenty of swearing as viewers get to relive one of the oddest storylines in comics as Superman finally meets a foe who is capable of killing him, and multiple Super-People pop up to take his place after he seemingly bites the big one.
Comic storylines are never weirder than when someone explains them to other people, and this is a prime example of that. Doomsday’s origins are so odd, as are the heroes that pop up to replace Superman. The fan film features actors such as Elijah Wood, Elden Henson, and more playing various characters involved in the storyline, making for a lot of weirdness, as we see Foggy Nelson himself sporting silver body paint and foam spikes. Interestingly, Landis’ initial statement that no one cares about Superman seems suspect, now that he’s writing a Superman comic, but we’ll let that slide.
6. Batman: The Demon in the Dark
People really love making Batman fan films. Maybe it’s that Batman is one of the few actual human heroes, even if he is a billionaire with crazy weapons. This fan film sees a group of villains, the Secret Six — Bane, Catman, Giganta, Deadshot, Banshee, and Scandal — trying to carry out a job and evade Batman in the process, along with appearances from a ton of other DC characters like Black Adam and Green Lantern.
The film is set within the Nolan film universe, somewhere between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, when Batman is still seen as something of an urban legend and the characters act as such. With the wide array of characters that it features and the overall high quality of effects and acting, Demon in the Dark is definitely one of the better Batman fan films out there.
5. Superman: Classic
Something a bit different than the other fan films here, Superman: Classic (and its sequel Bizarro: Classic) is an animated short that harkens back to the Golden Age of Superman, when things were a bit sillier and the colors were a bit brighter. While the film is quite short, just about a minute, it has Superman act a different than what we’ve become used to in the current films. He and Lois have fun half-arguing conversations, he’s fighting giant robots, and not a single neck gets snapped.
While the distinctive animation can be spotty in places, the humor calls back to the Fleischer Superman cartoons and makes for an overall fun experience. Plus, any short that lets us hear Lois Lane call Clark Kent a “pussywillow” is worth watching.
4. Batman: Puppet Master
One of multiple fan films that plays within the Dark Knight universe created by the Christopher Nolan films, Puppet Master picks up months after the death of Harvey Dent, with Batman still a wanted fugitive. He’s pushed to his limit as a crime wave hits Gotham and he’s brought into a showdown with the serial killer Victor Zsasz, a man who’s been released from Arkham Asylum by a mysterious figure. Gotham’s new crime boss, Scarface, has a meeting with FBI agent Edward Nigma, who’s bent on making sure that Batman is brought to trial for his perceived crimes, but Nigma seems to know that Dent isn’t as saintly as everyone else thinks.
Nolan’s Batman universe is one that seems ripe for expansion (we just can’t get enough) and this film using characters like Zsasz, Scarface, and Nigma is something that would be a lot of fun to see in an actual movie. While some of the pieces of the film, like that Nolan Batman voice, are less than great, a lot of the ideas contained within are well worth checking out.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing, as the makers of this Power Rangers fan film found out. Taking the over the top and ridiculous ’90s show that most of us grew up watching and putting a dark and gritty spin on it might not seem like something that would work, but it worked quite well for this film.
Producer Adi Shankar was already pretty well known for some of the fan films he’s produced, but this one took things up a notch, by not just playing with pre-established characters, but taking those characters and completely changing the world in which they exist. In the fan film, we’re plunged into a future where the Power Rangers lost the war they’d been recruited to fight. Now Rocky, the Red Ranger, is hunting the remaining Rangers for the Machine Empire.
With well-known actors like James Van Der Beek and geek queen Katee Sackhoff, this fan film has a little more credibility than most, but it’s the production quality that really sells it. Particularly notable is a fight scene involving the Black Ranger, one that involves a ton of hard-hitting. Rocky’s hunt for the other Rangers also touches on something most probably overlooked while watching the original Power Rangers: that aliens were using child soldiers to fight their war.
2. The Dark Knight Legacy
One of the more unsatisfying parts of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is the decision by Bruce Wayne to give up the Batman mantle and retire to Paris with Catwoman. What happens to Gotham without their shadowy protector is something that never really gets answered in the films.
The folks at Machinima set out to answer that hanging thread with The Dark Knight Legacy, a fan film that picks up after that final film in Nolan’s trilogy and introduces a new protector for Gotham, one that doesn’t have quite the same reluctance to kill as Batman once did. With Gotham under the protection of the Red Hood and with the introduction of Nightwing, the film looked to expand into more of the Batfamily. The fan film got a lot of buzz and was picked up by a number of news sites when it first released, with many seeing it as a fun, and appropriately grim, way of continuing the Dark Knight mythos.
The makers of the film even tried to get funding for a feature length movie spinning out of the short, but were quickly shut down with a cease and desist from Warner Bros. It doesn’t matter how good your movie is when you start trying to get money from it and it’s based on someone else’s IP, it turns out.
1. The Punisher: Dirty Laundry
While the 2004 film was far from perfect, a lot of people loved Thomas Jane’s turn as Frank Castle aka the Punisher. After Jane left the sequel over creative differences, it seemed unlikely that we would ever see him don the skull painted vest again.
It turns out that we would get more of Jane as the Punisher with the 2012 fan film Dirty Laundry, produced by Adi Shankar. The short was simple enough in its premise, featuring the Punisher beating up some thugs (and straight up murdering a few others) while he’s doing his laundry and giving their victim a chance at revenge. Unlike most of the films on this list, this one features recognizable actors like Ron Perlman and Thomas Jane. Like the other films, it was made by fans who love the character and really just wanted to see more of the character on the screen.
The short got enough praise and attention that many fans called for Jane to come back for another Punisher movie off the strength of this short alone. Despite the push, Jon Bernthal would be the man tapped to play Frank Castle the next time around. Still, this is quite possible the finest entry into the collection of the Punisher films, even if it isn’t official.
BONUS: All of the Super Power Beat Down
Seriously, just go watch them all. They’re outstanding.
Did we leave out your favorite fan film? Let us know in the comments,