Non-Superhero Movies About Characters With Superpowers

List Rules
Vote up the movies that could almost be superhero origin stories.

Superhero movies have become so saturated in modern culture, it's easy to forget there are narratives involving characters with superpowers that don’t fit into that popular sub-genre. Even without containing the expected tropes of the superhero genre, these films often share similar story elements. The most significant of these is a character with a special gift or ability distinguishing them from others. Sometimes they are the only ones with superhuman skills, while other times there are opposing forces or individuals with the same powers. 

Some superhero narratives approach the subject non-traditionally, with more realism or subtlety than usual. Unbreakable initially presents the superpowers ambiguously and Chronicle depicts them in a found-footage format, but both are still framed with superhero terms and tropes. On the other hand, these films have few official connections to the sub-genre beyond the remarkable abilities the characters possess. Some of them were made before the popularity of superhero films had exploded in pop culture, while others intentionally avoid similarities. Even when the reason for a character’s superhuman abilities has similar explanations, such as being an alien or the subject of scientific experiments, the narratives take a distinctly different path from traditional superhero films.

  • 1
    548 VOTES

    The Character: John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan), a wrongly convicted prisoner on Cold Mountain Penitentiary's death row, which is also referred to as “The Green Mile.”

    The Power: Coffey has the remarkable ability to heal others by taking their sickness into his own body. The death row inmate is even able to bring a beloved pet mouse back from the dead with his power, though it drains him of energy.

    How It’s Used: Despite John's imposing stature, he is sensitive and incredibly empathetic, choosing to use his powers to help others rather than himself. After healing prison guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) of a bladder infection, he is smuggled out of prison to heal the warden’s wife of a terminal brain tumor.

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  • 2
    315 VOTES

    The Character: Lucy Miller (Scarlett Johansson) is an American student forced to transport an experimental synthetic drug to Europe while studying in Taiwan. 

    The Power: When Lucy has a massive dose of the drug released into her bloodstream, she develops special abilities that include mental and physical strength, telepathy, telekinesis, and also becomes impervious to pain.

    How It’s Used: At first Lucy uses her new powers to escape the captors who forced her into trafficking and decides to continue using them to find the rest of the drug supply. After telepathically retrieving the location of the rest, she intercepts and injects the remainder, completely transforming her body into a supercomputer with the ability to travel throughout time. Lucy uses this power to visit the oldest ancestor of mankind, also often also referred to as Lucy.

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  • 3
    265 VOTES

    The Character: Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is an intelligent 6-year-old girl, despite her abrasive and often abusive family. Comforted by the knowledge she receives from books checked out of the local library, Matilda convinces her family to attend school. 

    The Power: Facing the mistreatment of her family and the tyrannical principal of her elementary school, Matilda reveals telekinetic abilities useful in standing up against the unfair treatment. 

    How It’s Used: Matilda uses her powers to protect herself and her fellow classmates from the evil principal, physically removing her from the school following threats of violence. 

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  • 4
    284 VOTES

    The Character: Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), a bullied high school girl who is raised by an abusive and religiously extremist mother (Piper Laurie).

    The Power: As Carrie enters puberty, she develops telekinetic abilities, which her mother admonishes as a sign of evil. 

    How It’s Used: When Carrie is pushed to her breaking limit by bullies at her high school prom, she lashes out with the newly discovered telekinetic powers. Locking all her classmates in the school gym, Carrie unleashes the full force of her power on them, causing a fire to eliminate her perceived tormenters. While the actual bullies escape, Carrie dispatches them by making their car crash, before returning home to kill her own mother. 

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