With Disney (NYSE:DIS) set to start its own streaming service this year, it will cease to add its newer releases to Netflix’s (NASDAQ:NFLX) streaming platform. Among the key losses to NFLX’s library will be new Marvel superhero movies. Although some Marvel standouts like Black Panther (2018) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017) will remain on Netflix for at least some of 2019, upcoming Marvel films will not be added to Netflix and many of the older Marvel films were already removed at the end of 2018.
But even without Marvel films on Netflix, there are still plenty of strong options out there for those who cannot get enough superhero action. Netflix has a number of great comic book movies that aren’t from Marvel. While some of these movies might not feature characters who are household names like Iron Man and Thor, they often manage to pack a more powerful punch through unique storylines with darker tones than most films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (There are numerous comics in the Marvel universe that also have grittier overtones).
As such, people looking to satisfy their superhero fix should consider these three comic book movies on Netflix.
Although it’s not as groundbreaking as Alan Moore’s 1986 graphic novel, Watchmen (2009) — directed by Zack Snyder — still manages to set itself apart from most other superhero films.
Set in an alternate reality where President Nixon has been elected for a third term and an eclectic group of vigilantes — the Watchmen — sets off to fight crime together, the film adaptation of the graphic novel manages to retain most of the source material’s visual splendor all while putting its own spin on the base content. Watchmen is loaded with impressive special effects that still hold up 10 years later and sequences of over-the-top violence that exceed that of the original graphic novel.
Long story — the film is more than three hours long — short, the Watchmen gather to solve the murder of one their own, and they eventually uncover a much more sinister plot that forces each of them to question their morality.
While the film adaptation of Watchmen doesn’t quite succeed at humanizing its heroes as much as the graphic novel, nor does the historical premise of its alternate universe hold the same weight today (most of the events take place during the Cold War), it still presents its heroes as deeply flawed people rather than nearly perfect, “traditional” superheroes.
This gritty element — along with the darker philosophical questionings that accompany its conclusion — makes Watchmen one of the standout superhero movies to watch on Netflix today.
Hellboy (2004), directed by Guillermo del Toro, is another strong name among all the comic book movies to watch on Netflix. While it’s not as dark and gritty as Watchmen, Guillermo del Toro — director of visual stunners like Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) — makes up for this lack of thematic darkness with a highly stylized vision of an atypical hero in Hellboy.
For those that are unfamiliar with Hellboy, he is a large red demon who was initially summoned by Nazis in World War II but was rescued by Allied forces and trained to be a weapon against supernatural forces. Add to that a few layers of quirkiness — an inclination toward sawing his devil horns off to look more human and an appetite for pounds of pancakes — and you have a more humorous character than any hero found in Watchmen.
To top it all off, Hellboy, played by Ron Perlman, oozes 80’s action-hero bravado, which often gets him into more trouble as he faces numerous creatures manifested from dark occult practices. If you’re looking for an endlessly action-packed comic book movie that’s less brooding than Watchmen and more along the lines of what you might find in Marvel superhero movies, then Hellboy is an ideal pick.
While it might not be as thought-provoking as Snyder’s film, Hellboy more than makes up for it with a unique spin on the typical superhero action film, making it one of the best superhero movies to watch on Netflix that isn’t under the Marvel mantle.
The Crow (1994), directed by Alex Proyas, portrays a world that resembles the grittier tones of Watchmen while retaining the more direct, in-your-face action momentum of Hellboy. But the real reason it makes it on this list of comic book movies to watch is that it does all of this while presenting its core narrative as more of a modernized gothic fairytale. And rather than being a standard superhero film that focuses on a hero’s superpowers or entire origin story, The Crow centers on a revenge narrative.
Netflix users searching for a comic book film that pays homage to its source material but doesn’t require them to be avid fans of the comics to enjoy it should consider The Crow.
Unlike many other heroes, Eric Draven, played by Brandon Lee in his final performance, is an undead hero who is both incredibly dangerous and tragic. Draven is a rockstar who was murdered by criminals and has risen from the dead to seek vengeance upon those who killed him and his fiancée.
What all of this means cinematically is that the audience is gifted with a wonderfully dark world and a main character who doesn’t take himself too seriously despite the permanent macabre filter that overlays almost every scene in the film.
Although the film features a constant barrage of gothic imagery and rock’n’roll attitude, these elements are intertwined with genuine moments of reflection, sadness and joy, making The Crow a comic book movie that gives new life to an otherwise standard action film narrative.
Robert Waldo has been a web editor for InvestorPlace since 2016. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.