Moviegoers have come a long way since the X-Men franchise ushered in a new era of superhero films way back in 2000. It’s hard to believe that the studio was so sure that the vast majority of viewers wouldn’t be able to embrace the marvelous mutants in costume that they chose to forgo them altogether.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it happened – whether it was Sony’s Spider-Man franchise or The Dark Knight trilogy – by the time Marvel Studios released Iron Man in 2008, audiences were ready for a faithful comic book adaptation. Ever since, Marvel and DC have been doing their best to one up one another, with varying results.
Despite the constant concern of superhero fatigue, audiences can’t seem to get enough of these spandex clad champions. Last month we published a list of female superhero films we’d like to see. Hopefully, next month’s Wonder Woman will go a long way in proving that a female superhero is more than capable of carrying a movie.
While the importance of more comic book movies centering on women shouldn’t be underestimated, there are still plenty of awesome male characters that could inject some much needed new perspective into this admittedly crowded genre. Here are 15 Male Superheroes Solo Movies We Need to See (And Who Should Star In Them).
15 Wonder Man – Nathan Fillion
Fans of both Nathan Fillion and Wonder Man were crushed when the character rumored to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 never showed. However, Fillion's close relationship with director James Gunn leaves the door open for an appearance in GotG 3. Although the character could potentially show up in an Avengers film down the line, a Wonder Man movie might be even better.
Making his first appearance in 1964 in Avengers #9, Simon Williams started out in league with Baron Zemo. He betrayed him at the last minute though, protecting the Avengers instead. Williams seemingly gave his life and his brain patterns – which went into the creation of Vision – but, of course, later returned. He has plenty of story to tell, from his reluctant turn as a villain to his Hollywood journey as both actor and stuntman.
While it is true that Williams doesn’t get much attention, who better to make him a household name than Fillion? The actor is beloved, and has proven both his comedic and dramatic chops. If anyone can get people invested in Wonder Man, it’s Nathan Fillion.
14 Martian Manhunter – Andre Braugher
Forget Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. J'onn J'onzz is the real power in the Justice League. Appearing first in Detective Comics #225 in 1955, the Martian Manhunter is probably the most powerful being in the DC Universe. J’onn is able to shapeshift, become intangible, even invisible. He’s also telepathic and telekinetic – which allows him to fly – not to mention his strength, speed, and enhanced senses.
So what actor possesses the necessary gravitas to play such a fascinating and imposing character? Well, the answer would have to be Andre Braugher! Although the actor has an extensive resume in film and television, at this point, audiences know him best as Captain Ray Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
The Martian Manhunter has appeared in both Smallville and Supergirl, but J’onn deserves a place in the DCEU. His heartbreaking origin story could easily be translated to film and Braugher is the best choice to bring him from page to screen.
13 Sentry – Alexander Skarsgard
Robert Reynolds was created for the eponymous 2000 Marvel Knights miniseries, written by Paul Jenkins – who dreamt up the character with Rick Veitch – and drawn by Jae Lee. The Sentry was a superhero whose history had been woven into the fabric of the Marvel Universe and yet, he had somehow been forgotten by everyone, including himself.
So how had a hero who proved unbeatable, even to Galactus, been forgotten? The problem was that the Sentry was unstable and his heroic acts were systematically decimated by the Void, another personality manifested by Reynolds. It was the looming threat of the Void that forced the Sentry to erase all evidence of his existence. The miniseries began with a mystery, as Bob Reynolds, a middle-aged average Joe, awoke with some of his memories intact.
All in all, the Sentry’s tale could make for an incredible cinematic journey and he would be an excellent add to future Avengers lineups. Alexander Skarsgård has proven that he is capable of expertly portraying characters both heroic and monstrous, which is necessary for the role of this conflicted individual. Aside from Skarsgård’s impressive acting abilities, let’s be honest, he definitely looks the part!
12 Jamie Madrox – Taron Egerton
If Legion proved one thing, it’s that an amazing X-Men adaptation doesn’t necessarily require any X-Men. Jamie Madrox, aka the Multiple Man, has been around since 1975, when he appeared as an antagonist in Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4. Madrox is able to create any number of duplicates and later reabsorb them, along with their memories and any skills that they have acquired. He often sends his “dupes” on learning missions for everything from languages to trades. Aside from that, each carbon copy is a distinct aspect of his own personality, meaning that they could be fun loving, depressed, or even murderous.
The best Madrox story for a film would undoubtedly be Peter David’s 2004 miniseries and the X-Factor series that spun out of it. The story centers on the P.I. firm formed by Madrox, along with Wolfsbane, Siryn and Strong Guy, among others.
The perfect actor to bring Jamie Madrox to life would have to be Taron Egerton. Egerton’s star has been on the rise since Kingsmen: The Secret Service – the sequel drops in November – and this charismatic actor is no stranger to transformative roles. Egerton’s experience makes him uniquely suited not only to play Madrox, but all of his dupes as well.
11 Etrigan – Christopher Eccleston
Jason Blood dates back to Demon #1 in 1972, which was written and drawn by comics legend, Jack Kirby. This enigmatic character, whose past that is mysterious even to him – partially because he has more than one origin – has been around since the 6th century, when Merlin forever bound his soul to Etrigan, the Demon.
Jason Blood’s story is a tragic one, with Etrigan vacillating from villain to hero. Because these two powerful psyches are trapped together, it is difficult to tell who is influencing whom. However, after centuries of coexisting, they have, for the most part, managed to find balance.
Christopher Eccleston has an impressive resume in film and television, having been both the 9th Doctor and Malekith the Accursed. He has a long history of doing justice to complex characters and we already know that he is capable of acting under a ton of makeup. Plus, can’t you hear him uttering Etrigan’s trademark witty rhymes?
10 The Great Machine – John Hamm
While probably the least known book on this list, Ex Machina (no relation to the film) was a brilliant series by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris that ran from 2004-2010. The comic follows Mitchell Hundred, who was a civil engineer until a freak accident granted him the ability to communicate with and control machines.
Mitchell becomes the world's first superhero, dubbing himself The Great Machine. He was a true champion to NYC, even saving the 2nd tower on 9/11. After The Great Machine retired, Mitchell was elected mayor. Ex Machina is more politics than capes and cowls, but explores areas of both that would be entirely new ground for a superhero film.
Although in many ways Mitchell Hundred represents not only the kind of superhero we need, but the kind of politician as well, he wasn't perfect. Mitchell was an incredibly flawed man, but that's what made him so relatable.
The actor portraying Mitchell Hundred would need to be able to play both sides of him and Jon Hamm is just the man for that job. He is incredibly charming and has fantastic range as a performer. Besides, who wouldn't vote Jon Hamm for mayor?
9 Starman – Richard Madden
Although JSA member Ted Knight is a fine hero, his son Jack would make for a much more compelling film. Jack made his first appearance in 1994 in Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #1. While his father’s alter ego fascinated him as a child, as a rebellious teenager, Jack eschewed everything about his dad's superhero lifestyle. His brother David took up the mantle instead, but after his murder, Jack was forced into the family business.
In 1994, James Robinson and Tony Harris's Starman was an incredibly fresh take on the genre and also happened to reinvigorate a property that fans no longer cared about. Jack was a reluctant superhero, partially because of his daddy issues, but also because he thought that it was really lame. So much of Jack Knight's story is about how the past informs the present, which is something that everyone can relate to.
We can think of no one better to portray Jack than former Game of Thrones star Richard Madden. Madden has both the presence and the prestige to bring the character to life. Plus, let's be honest, the guy was born to play a superhero.
8 Miracleman – Damien Lewis
In 1982, Alan Moore began writing a long-forgotten character named Marvelman. His landmark take on the 1954 Mick Anglo character was trapped in legal limbo for decades, with Marvel finally gaining the rights in 2009. Moore's postmodern take on Marvelman, renamed Miracleman, has become one of the most celebrated comic runs in history.
Miracleman deconstructed the superhero genre, which is something that Moore would continue doing in his later work as well, most notably in Watchmen. His run on the book has influenced countless writers over the years, with so many aspects of that story becoming comic book staples. In a career full of influential and unforgettable stories, Marvelman remains one of Moore's finest.
Damien Lewis has played vastly different characters across film and television, with his most well-known roles being in Life, Homeland, and Billions. Moore’s tale begins with a middle-aged man plagued by migraines and nightmares, who no longer remembers his superhero past – at least not while he’s awake. Lewis has proven brilliant at portraying conflicted characters with complex motivations and Michael Moran would be the perfect role for him to tackle next.
7 Moon Knight – Hugh Dancy
Werewolf by Night #32 marked the first appearance of Marc Spector in 1975. Before becoming the vigilante known as Moon Knight, he was a prizefighter, a marine, a CIA agent, and a mercenary. Spector fights in the name of the god Khonshu, who he believes was responsible for his salvation.
There are obvious parallels between Moon Knight and Batman. They are both wealthy men witout superpowers, who fight crime with gadgets, and are driven by vengeance. Aside from that, Marc Spector and Bruce Wayne are very much the masks, while Moon Knight and Batman are their true identities. However, Marc’s fractured psyche has caused him to spiral into actual madness, whereas Bruce isn’t literally crazy. It is this character study that makes Moon Knight such a fascinating read, because it is difficult to know how reliable a narrator he really is.
Hugh Dancy knows a thing or two about playing such a role from his tenure on the brilliant, but canceled too soon, Hannibal. His character, Will Graham struggled with his own sanity on a daily basis, all the while attempting to catch a vicious killer. If anyone has the innate ability to capture Spector’s mental instability while making him sympathetic, it’s Dancy.
6 The Spectre – Pedro Pascal
The Spectre made his debut in More Fun Comics #52 in 1940. He was co-created by Jerry Siegel, who also co-created Superman. Jim Corrigan was a murdered cop, who was refused access to the afterlife and instead was sent back to earth in order to eradicate evil. He later became a member of the Justice Society of America. The character was reinvented during the Silver Age and given a major power upgrade, which made the Spectre nearly omnipotent.
There are any amount of riveting moral quandaries that could be explored in a film centering on the character responsible for doling out vengeance. The Modern Age version of the Spectre, in particular, asked a lot of difficult questions regarding when retribution is actually warranted.
Pedro Pascal became a fan favorite as Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones, portraying a character who thirsts for vengeance. Narcos saw him cast in the role of Javier Peña, a DEA agent intent on taking down Pablo Escobar. Both of these parts amount to invaluable experience for bringing the Spectre to life, making Pascal an excellent choice for the role.
5 Namor – Lewis Tan
Namor has been around longer than any other hero on this list, making his first appearance in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly in 1939. Rumors have been circulating about a live-action adaptation for years, but the Sub-Mariner has yet to see the silver screen.
Apparently, Marvel “mostly” owns the rights to the character, so he could be introduced into the MCU. While Namor has been closely associated with the Fantastic Four and the X-Men (owned by Fox), he also has ties to another well-known superhero group: The Defenders. Although that moniker is now being used for the Netflix team, Namor still has history working with the Hulk and Doctor Strange. He was also a member of the Illuminati – how cool would that movie be?
Many people, including Tan himself, were upset that the actor was not cast as Danny Rand in Iron Fist. He instead played Zhou Cheng in the Netflix series. Tan was only in one episode, but he was a standout. Marvel could easily cast him as Namor. He’d be the ideal candidate to play the Sub-Mariner. There are several other actors who have played minor roles in the MCU that have then gone on to play major ones, so Tan should not be discounted on those grounds.
4 Swamp Thing – Clancy Brown
Swamp Thing was an excellent horror comic written by Len Wein and drawn by the amazing Bernie Wrightson. He made his first appearance in House of Secrets #92 in 1971. Alan Moore took over at #20 of Saga of the Swamp Thing when the character was revived in the '80s. The comic’s horror roots were kept intact, but were then steeped in existential philosophy. Swamp Thing turned out to not be Alec Holland at all, but rather, a plant who merely thought that he was a man. Although Swamp Thing has already seen several live-action incarnations, none of them attempted to adapt Moore’s seminal run on the book, which is easily the most cinematic in scope.
Swamp Thing would most likely need to be a motion-capture performance – possibly with someone entirely different cast as Holland – so the voice is paramount and who has a more rich and resonant delivery than Clancy Brown? The actor has been in everything from Carnivale to Lost, and has also done a ton of voiceover work. Aside from that incredible voice, Brown is an accomplished actor and would undoubtedly do Swamp Thing justice.
3 Animal Man – Rahul Kohli
Animal Man debuted in Strange Adventures #180 in 1965. Buddy Baker is another example of a largely forgotten character who was revived by a fresh take from a brilliant writer, in this case, Grant Morrison. His run in the late ‘80s completely reinvigorated Animal Man.
Morrison, an ardent supporter of animal rights and a vegetarian himself, used the book to champion his own causes. Animal Man was the perfect platform for Morrison's beliefs. Buddy Baker is able to take on the characteristics of any animal, even those that have become extinct. With those abilities, it’s natural that Baker would be empathetic towards all members of the Animal Kingdom.
Rahul Kholi is best known as Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti on the criminally underrated iZombie. He imbues Ravi with so much heart, making him so impossibly warm and charming that you’ll wish he were your best friend. That’s the kind of actor needed to portray Buddy Baker. He has to be able to be an everyman, a family man, and most importantly, an Animal Man. Kholi would be perfect.
2 Batman Beyond – Dylan O'Brien
While many people were happy with Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the Dark Knight in the divisive Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the news regarding his reprisal of the role has had its ups and downs, with no release date or plot details in sight. What better way to remedy this than to bring Terry McGinnis into the DCEU? He could even be introduced in a film featuring Ben Affleck as the grizzled Caped Crusader.
Batman Beyond was a beloved animated series that ran from 1999-2001. It featured a Bruce Wayne who had reluctantly hung up his cape and cowl, after suffering a heart attack. Decades later, Terry took up the mantle in his stead, at first opposed by Bruce, but then taken under his wing.
Maze Runner star Dylan O’Brien has already shown up on our Nightwing casting list, but he would also be a wise choice for McGinnis. Either way, get this guy to play someone in the Bat-Family! He has already proven that he can both portray a hero and carry a franchise. Plus, he definitely looks the part.
1 Miles Morales – Abraham Attah
Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, Miles Morales came swinging into Marvel Comics in 2011 in Ultimate Comics Fallout #4. Although, aside from crossover events, he has spent most of his time in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, Miles was recently brought into Earth-616 in the wake of Secret Wars. He also played a pivotal role in Civil War II.
Although there was an online campaign for Donald Glover – part of the inspiration for Miles – to be cast in The Amazing Spider-Man, we have yet to see a live-action Spider-Man who isn't Peter Parker. Miles is a completely different character who deserves at least one feature film, if not more. Bendis has written plenty of material that would make for a great movie. At least he’s getting his own animated movie, scheduled for release December 14th, 2018.
Abraham Attah, a 16-year-old actor from Ghana, blew audiences away with his performance in Beasts of No Nation in 2015. He already has a role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is coming out July 7th, so fans have been speculating that perhaps Miles Morales is coming to the MCU after all. However, on IMDB his character is listed as Abraham. Whether this is a misdirect remains to be seen, but here’s to hoping that Attah will be portraying Miles.
What male superheroes do think deserve their own movie? Let us know in the comments!