'Unbroken' and 9 More Superhero Movies That Aren't Actually Action Movies

Superhero movies weren't always about fights and explosions.

It's natural to assume that a movie about a superhero (or superheroes) would be an action movie. To be fair, the vast majority are, as characters with superpowers can create plenty of exciting action sequences and explosive scenes. They're characters who often find themselves responsible for saving other people—or even the world—so battling some sort of dire threat usually involves just that: fighting.

But this is not always the case. As the following 10 films demonstrate, superhero movies can deliver satisfying stories about powerful heroes and villains without emphasizing the action. Some of the action below has a small amount of action here and there, but all of them end up offering more stories influenced by other genres, helping to increase the diversity of the superhero genre as a whole.

'The Batman' (2022)

Speaking of live-action Batman movies, 2022's Batman is far from the only film to portray the character in a darker way. Tim Burton's films stood in stark contrast to the low-budget, campy Batman of the 1960s, and Christopher Nolan's trilogy also aimed to bring the character into grittier times. Realm (especially 2008's "The Dark Knight").

But all of the Batman movies coming out before 2022 still feature action movies. Batman shifts gears by focusing on Batman's detective skills rather than his physical prowess, which means showing audiences a version of the character that doesn't get his hands dirty all that often. The slower pace, focus on solving a central mystery, and nearly three-hour runtime also mean this is a less exciting Batman than normal, but the change is welcome (and beneficial) ).

'Unbreakable' (2000)

With Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan successfully deconstructed the superhero genre before it completely dominated the film landscape. It's a down-to-earth and original look at the concept of superpowers, focusing on two men: one who seems nearly invincible, and the other afflicted by a disease that leaves his bones extremely brittle.

Unbreakable is not an action movie, but a tense psychological thriller that happens to have protagonists with unique physical conditions that remind them of superheroes/supervillains. It holds up well and benefits from committed performances from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles.

'Superman' (1978)

While Superman (1978) was the first - and the most iconic - superhero movie ever made, it's an astonishing experience watching it more than forty years after its release. That's mostly because it's a movie that's largely devoid of fights, which makes it a stark contrast to most modern superhero blockbusters.

However, this is far from a bad thing. If anything, it makes Superman better because its focus on saving people and preventing disasters rather than fighting bad guys makes it surprisingly wholesome. It's a thrilling film, with great moments and special effects sequences, even if it lacks "action scenes" in the traditional sense.

'The Toxic Avenger' (1984)

A gloriously chaotic mashup of horror, crude comedy, and superhero flick, The Toxic Avenger is a cult classic that remains Troma Entertainment's best-known release to this day. Make no mistake, though: this protagonist is definitely not a member of the better-known Avengers.

It parodies the typical origin story of a comic book hero, featuring a skinny young janitor who falls into a barrel of toxic waste, which turns him into a mutant with superpowers. Since then, he has become a lyncher, violently suppressing criminals and intimidating others. everyone who met him. It's certainly an acquired taste, but it clearly found an audience, as it spawned a franchise and has a remake currently in post-production.

'The Specials' (2000)

One of James Gunn's first (and unfortunately worst) films, The Special was an ultra-low-budget film with a cast full of superpowers and no real fights throughout. For most of the movie, the titular squad members sit around a house arguing about all sorts of things, and since they all have very big personalities, they're prone to conflict.

This is a novel concept, and there are brief bursts in the movie where everything is fine. It's entertaining when viewed as a precursor to better superhero comedies like Super (2010) or the Guardians of the Galaxy series, but otherwise isn't a particularly good non-action superhero movie.

'Sky High' (2005)

Sky High combines an adult high school movie narrative with a superhero character to relatively interesting effect. The protagonist adjusts to a new school, lives up to his parents, and battles a mysterious villain, all while dealing with the fact that he has yet to develop superpowers (which is Unusual in the movie world, considering his parents are legendary superheroes themselves).

It does feel like a film of its time, a bit hokey, but thanks to a good heart and surprising cast. The action is minimal, and it's more of a family/teen movie than one that features an intense, violent struggle between good and evil.

'The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special' (2022)

While the Guardians of the Galaxy movies typically offer an equal amount of comedy and action, the 2022 holiday special goes in a slightly different direction. The adventure here isn't about saving the galaxy, but about giving Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) a memorable Christmas.

Even though achieving this goal does involve a slightly dangerous mission centered on the kidnapping of Kevin Bacon, the 45-minute special is still surprisingly light on the action. It largely works, though, and fans can enjoy a nice, low-stakes adventure ahead of the potentially heavier, more intense Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. 3 was released.

'Chronicle' (2012)

For anyone who has ever questioned what an off-the-shelf superhero movie would look like, Chronicle is your answer. It centers on three high school friends who suddenly gain superpowers and document what they share The experience, which starts out exciting before things get darker, leads to violence and tragedy.

Even with the significant life-and-death stakes in Chronicle, its off-the-cuff presentation ensures that it always feels more like a psychological thriller than an action movie. It's a solid and unique take on the standard superhero origin story, and executes its simple premise in a straightforward and satisfying manner.

'The Iron Giant' (1999)

The Iron Giant features an unlikely superhero who breaks the mold by becoming a giant robot instead of a human (or humanoid). It might not jump out as a superhero movie, but given the titular character's arc throughout the movie, it arguably does, as he ends up saving a lot of people by the end of the movie. human life.

Hogarth, the young boy who befriends the Iron Giant and teaches him morality and humanity, is also arguably a hero, because without him, the Iron Giant would not have ended up sacrificing himself like he did. Overall, their relationship makes The Iron Giant a very wholesome animated film that's also an unconventional superhero movie without a lot of traditional action.

'Glass' (2019)

Glass is the sequel to Unbreakable and 2017's Split, linking the main characters from the two earlier films in one grand finale. It mostly takes place in a mental institution, where the three main characters interact and eventually confront each other, and because of that setting and premise, it feels like a very small-scale and claustrophobic superhero-themed movie.

It's a frustrating film at times, but its ingenuity and willingness to subvert expectations of the superhero genre is understandable. Even if it's not the sort of big, action-packed finale you'd expect from a final chapter to a trilogy, it at least has interesting characters and some strong performances. Plus, the fact that Glass is deliberately provocative means it's ultimately hard to forget, whether you end up loving it or hating it.

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