Written by: Sara P.
Edited by: Chris
Visual by: Issy
Superhero movies have shaped popular culture for decades. Ever since the 1978 release of Superman, the first major big-budget film featuring a superhero, they have grown into a sensation beloved by generations of moviegoers. Notably, the Marvel Cinematic Universe holds the position of the highest-grossing film franchise, with its worth surpassing 22 billion U.S. dollars. The popularity of superhero movies was once again proven when, upon its release in 2019, Avengers: Endgame became the highest-grossing film of all time, replacing Avatar, which had held the spot for nearly a decade.
So, what makes superhero movies attractive? How are they able to draw in viewers by the millions? At their core, superhero movies provide a medium for us to pursue an escape from reality. The Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, for instance, presents viewers with a fantastical world in which the forces of good and evil are clearly defined. This is in contrast with the real world, where the line between right and wrong is often blurred. We are also drawn to the idea that a single being, or a group of select beings, possess the ability to solve the world’s problems. In the real world, however, it is difficult to find clear solutions to the issues that people around the globe face today. Thus, through superhero movies, we find comfort in the knowledge that regardless of what happens during the movie, in the end, everything will be resolved.
Superheroes are also extremely popular role models. A superhero is the embodiment of what many aspire to be: unique, special, powerful beings that transcend normality and rise above all others. “I admired a Japanese character called Anpanman when I was young because I thought it was so cool that he would always fly to places to save people in need,” said sophomore Aoi. Erin, another sophomore, also had a superhero she looked up to as a child. “I liked Wonder Woman because she played a large role in female empowerment,” she said. At the same time, superheroes also struggle with problems that all of us in the real world are familiar with. For example, in Spider-Man: Far From Home, the protagonist spends the majority of the movie awkwardly trying to express his feelings to his crush, garnering the audience’s endearment. As such, viewers are able to find solace and strength in a character that is relatable, yet always manages to do the right thing in the end.
Ultimately, there are many reasons why superhero movies hold such a prominent place in popular culture around the world. They target our desire for a simpler world with simpler solutions, and provide young viewers with relatable yet capable role models. As superhero movies continue to expand their fantastical worlds, they will no doubt continue to attract new generations of fans who seek entertainment and refuge in their heroes.
“Avengers: Endgame Overtakes Avatar as Top Box Office Movie of All Time.” BBC News, BBC, 22 July 2019, http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-49069432.
Bowden, Mark. “Why Are We Obsessed With Superhero Movies?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 July 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/06/opinion/sunday/ant-man-wasp-movies-superheroes.html.
Kupiainen, Mason. “Why Do We Love Superhero Movies?” Ball State Daily, 5 Feb. 2020, http://www.ballstatedaily.com/article/2020/02/why-do-we-love-superhero-movies.