Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Every 2021 Superhero Movie And TV Show Ranked

Despite several movies being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was still a banner year for new superhero content. Some theatrical hits were released simultaneously to streaming, while some streaming originals were always intended for Disney+ or HBO Max. But high-profile tentpole blockbusters can't be slowed by world events, and the likes of Marvel, DC, and others all had major new releases hit screens this year.

Several members of the Avengers got their own shows in 2021, while the Justice League returned for a remix thanks to a rabid fan campaign. Several hit indie comics got long-awaited adaptations, and a few new animated kids' shows sprang up too. Not all were successful though: Some disappointed and will be quickly forgotten, while others soared and may go down as all-time classics. But which were which? 

From big screen superhero blockbusters to streaming originals, here's our ranking of all the new superhero movies and TV shows that bowed in 2021.

22. Thunder Force

You'd be forgiven for not remembering this one even existed, as it came and went with little fanfare early in 2021. Surprisingly though, the Netflix Original superhero comedy "Thunder Force" had an all-star cast that included Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Pom Klementieff, and Jason Bateman. The movie takes place in a world where, in 1983, all manner of criminals were gifted with superhuman powers by a blast of cosmic radiation. Ever since, ordinary people have been unable to stop their crime sprees until two best friends reunite and use a special formula to power themselves up to super-heroic levels. 

The movie tries to mix up a few different genres, and does well when it's a buddy comedy, but the superhero action schlock and rom-com elements never really gel with the parts that do work. Critics seemed to agree it didn't work as a comic book spoof either, which was better served by movies like "Hancock" or even DC's "Shazam," which poked fun at superhero tropes in their own way with better characters, more interesting stories, and bigger laughs. If you want a comic book comedy, check out one of those again instead of this one.

21. Jupiter's Legacy

The first show to come from Netflix's deal to acquire comic book writer Mark Millar's "MillarWorld" in 2017, the streaming network bet big on "Jupiter's Legacy," an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name. The series followed a superhero family with a lineage stretching back to the 1930s, when the first generation received superpowers while hiding away on a remote island. Now, almost 100 years later, that first family of heroes — who are nearly immortal — have become the elder statesmen mentoring a new, younger group of heroes who can't seem to compare to their ancestors. Though it's well made and full of some strong performances, the show failed to find an audience, and critics were equally unkind, describing it as a nonsensical mess of a story that couldn't live up to its lofty premise.

Seen as Netflix's response to rival Amazon's adult superhero hit "The Boys," it unfortunately didn't deliver anything as interesting or as good. Though it was cancelled after its first season, star Josh Duhamel, who played The Utopian, hopes to reprise the role in another series.

20. Birdgirl

It's been almost 15 years since the end of "Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law" — the comedic spoof that mined old Hanna Barbara characters to create an animated satirical mashup of superhero movies and legal dramas — but its first spin-off series, "Birdgirl" launched in 2021. Running six episodes and airing on Cartoon Network like its predecessor, "Birdgirl" followed the daughter of Phil Ken Sebben, Harvey Birdman's boss, who fights crime as her alter ego Birdgirl and steps in to replace her father as the head of his law firm after his death. 

Paget Brewster reprises her role as Judy Ken Sebben from the first series, and she's joined by the like of Tony Hale ("Arrested Development") and Rob Delaney ("Deadpool 2"). Continuing the original's surrealist style, "Birdgirl" was perhaps inspired by the likes of Netflix's own animated animal satire "BoJack Horseman," which itself felt like a spiritual successor to "Harvey Birdman." Nevertheless, "Birdgirl" was met largely with indifference from reviewers, although Indiewire was positive on the series, calling it "one of TV's most chaotic shows" while applauding its fast-paced, madcap stories, fun characters, and all-star cast. 

19. Spidey and His Amazing Friends

Directly inspired by the classic 1980s cartoon that is still fondly remembered today, "Spidey and His Amazing Friends" currently airs on Disney Jr. and is in many ways a fresh take on the old series. Once again Spider-Man is teamed up with two friends, but replacing Iceman and Firestar are Spin (Miles Morales' Spider-Man, with a new name so kids don't get the two heroes mixed up) and Gwen Stacy as Ghost Spider/Spider-Gwen. The show is comprised of a series of computer-animated shorts aimed at toddlers, and full of appropriately kid-friendly action and adventure. 

Each episode is comprised of two stories that run about 10 minutes each, and see the trio take on classic Spider-Man villains like Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin. Some episodes feature guest stars from Marvel's large stable of heroes, with appearances from the likes of the Incredible Hulk, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. Bright, colorful, and wonderfully animated, it doesn't get high marks from comic book diehards, but has been nonetheless well-reviewed by parents of its young target audience for its wholesome stories and message of teamwork.

18. Aquaman: King of Atlantis

Launched on HBO Max this past October, the animated miniseries "Aquaman: King of Atlantis" is set firmly in the cinematic DCEU after the events of the first "Aquaman" film from James Wan — yet really doesn't look or feel anything like it. Instead, the three-part series is an off-the-wall comedy along the lines of "Adventure Time" or "The Regular Show" that gives the DC hero a comedic facelift, as the newly appointed monarch must prove he has what it takes to rule the aquatic kingdom. 

Though it's nothing groundbreaking for children's TV or superhero animation, it successfully follows in the footsteps of shows like "Teen Titans Go!" and "Lego Marvel Superheroes" in mixing superhero fun and kid-friendly comedy. Praised for high quality animation and sharp humor, it may have been a departure from the expected, but some critics felt that its differences from the movie proved to be one of its strengths. Audiences seemed to have responded positively too, with the parental website Fatherly.com handing it a glowing review for giving kids and families an underwater adventure they could all enjoy.

17. Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Though not highly acclaimed, the first "Venom" movie proved to be a crowd-pleasing monster flick, and its sequel, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" upped the ante by introducing another fan favorite character from the comics. Adding serial killing symbiote Carnage, newly installed director Andy Serkis managed to outdo the violence and intensity of the first movie in spite of a PG-13 rating. Picking up where "Venom" left off, death row inmate Cletus Kasaday is awaiting execution for his crimes when he's interviewed by Eddie Brock. Antagonizing the reporter, Kasaday provokes the Venom symbiote into showing itself and uses the opportunity to absorb a piece of the alien creature, turning him into an even more violent and crazed monster called Carnage.

The "Venom" sequel received mixed reviews from critics, but better ratings from audiences for its interpretation of the symbiote storyline, and the introduction of one of Marvel's most violent villains. It was a hit at the box office too, where it has so far secured the third highest domestic gross of 2021, and Hollywood's fourth highest global take.

16. Zack Snyder's Justice League

The long awaited director's cut that came into existence thanks to the rabid enthusiasm of DC's biggest fans, "Zack Snyder's Justice League" was released direct to HBO Max as a six-episode mini-series. Offered in both black and white and color, and released in 4:3 format, the series was a unique vision of the film that had been chopped up and cut down by the studio four years earlier for theaters.

Though it proved very different, with a new villain in Darkseid, revamped VFX, and expanded screen time for several key players, reviews were split on whether it was an actual improvement over the theatrical version that had been completed and cut by "Avengers" director Joss Whedon. Entertainment Weekly claimed it was "just as bad and twice as long" as the 2017 edition, while Richard Roeper said it was "more fun the first time." On the other side, IGN's review proclaimed that "it's hard to overstate how much more enjoyable this version of 'Justice League' is."

15. Hit-Monkey

Based on a more recent, lesser-known Marvel comic that debuted in 2010, the animated series "Hit Monkey" is a Hulu original animated series that opens on a for-hire assassin named Bryce. After his employer betrays him and leaves him for dead, he flees to the mountains where he comes to live among a group of snow monkeys who take him into their tribe. One of the monkeys learns from Bryce to be an adept killer himself and is banished. But after he leaves, Bryce's enemies return, killing the human hitman and the entire tribe of primates. Now haunted by Bryce's ghost, the exiled killer snow monkey sets out to get revenge on the murderous assassins who wronged them both. 

With an animation style reminiscent of the pop satire "Archer," the series has a similar tone and attitude, but with a brutality and intensity like few other animated series audiences have ever seen. Its all-star cast includes Jason Sudeikis ("Ted Lasso"), Olivia Munn ("X-Men: Apocalypse"), and George Takei ("Star Trek"). Reviews praised its unique story and fun action, but knocked it for not doing as much as it could have with its lead monkey protagonist. 

14. Marvel's M.O.D.O.K.

We'd say "M.O.D.O.K." was the most unexpected character to receive their own series in 2021, but we just covered "Hit-Monkey." Patton Oswalt stars as the voice of the villainous oversized head of the mighty Marvel mastermind, leader of Advanced Idea Mechanics, and scourge of almost no hero out there. Marvel's animated answer to "Pinky and the Brain," the series gives us a man named George Tarleton, who experiments on himself and becomes the brilliant but big-headed M.O.D.O.K.: the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. Sitting atop the inept terrorist organization A.I.M., the acronym'ed evil-doer sets out to conquer the world. 

Every bit the light-hearted comedy you'd expect from a series animated to look like "Robot Chicken," it's full of incisive gags and scathing wit. Originally intended to be the start of its own animated shared universe on Hulu, those plans have since been put to bed, but "M.O.D.O.K." still stands as a fun and irreverent black comedy worthy of a watch. 

13. Eternals

If "Guardians of the Galaxy" was thought to have opened the door to the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then "Eternals" is the one that blew down the walls entirely. The film introduced mainstream audiences to the world of the Celestials, Eternals, and Deviants created by comic icon Jack Kirby and inspired by "ancient aliens" theories that had become popular in the 1970s. Revealing a universe ruled over by a planet-destroying race of beings called Celestials, we meet their creations on Earth, the Eternals: powerful immortal beings who have lived among humans for thousands of years. It's a wild ride full of big ideas and loads of new backstory — punctuated by plenty of big superhero action and a handful of genuine surprises — that could change the way some view the MCU.

Though it currently holds the record for lowest Rotten Tomatoes score for a Marvel movie, and the only one to received a "rotten" rating, audiences clearly weren't as down on the film as critics. Its 78% audience score on the aggregate site once again illustrated the disconnect between fans and critics, with audiences seeming to embrace the film's grand cosmic story and dense mythology.

12. Super Crooks

The second series to emerge from Netflix's acquisition of Mark Millar's back catalog, the streaming giant would have more success with the anime series "Super Crooks" than with the flop of "Jupiter's Legacy." Rather than simply adapting the comic for the screen though, Netflix produced a prequel series that preceded the events of the comics. Whatever the formula was, it paid off with a successful action-adventure anime that's a superhero version of "Ocean's 11," as a motley crew of super-villains team up to stage a daring heist of a big-time casino. The story pits the super-powered gangsters against the casino's owner, who happens to also be the most powerful villain around.

Created by a star-studded team of anime alumni that includes writer Dai Sato and director Motonobu Hori (who both worked on "Cowboy Bebop"), "Super Crooks" proved to be a satisfying mix of superhero action and anime storytelling. The 13-episode series garnered good reviews, with IGN calling it "one of the biggest anime surprises of the year." A live-action sequel is already on the drawing board.

11. Black Widow

Originally slated to hit theaters in 2020, "Black Widow" was repeatedly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and eventually released in July 2021. The long-gestating solo film finally gave the spotlight to Marvel Studios' first female hero, who was introduced in 2010's "Iron Man 2." Surrounding actress Scarlett Johansson was a stellar cast that added David Harbour, Florence Pugh, and Rachel Weisz to the Romanoff family, while facing off against actor Ray Winstone as head of the Black Widow program.

A simultaneous "paid premium" release on Disney+ and a subsequent lawsuit from the actress caused unnecessary controversy off-screen, but the film itself was an effective superhero thriller that — while not groundbreaking — gave audiences the big screen action they were looking for. Some felt it was underwhelming, and it's possible that it would have played better if released earlier. It then might have been appreciated for its lower stakes as a refreshing breather from what would have been the recently-released, universe-shattering "Avengers: Endgame." Nonetheless, the movie gave Black Widow some sorely needed attention and backstory, and introduced her sister Yelena Belova to the MCU, a new face that would return for the Disney+ series "Hawkeye," and who looks to become a major player moving forward.

10. Superman and Lois

Spun off from their appearances on "Supergirl," Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch star as Superman and Lois Lane in the first TV series for the pair since the 1997 conclusion of "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." Just as that show brought a '90s sensibility to the characters, so too does "Superman and Lois" bring a 2020s flare to the hero's mythos, with bigger action and bigger drama. It also brought something new to the table by making Clark Kent and Lois Lane into parents raising a pair of teenaged sons, with the added complication that one of them has recently discovered he's inherited his father's incredible superhuman powers.

More than a show about superheroes, it's about being working parents balancing the needs of their kids with the tremendous responsibility of being a hero with a greater purpose. Reviews have been strong, with some commenting on its portrayal of the classic "boy scout" Superman in a way that the recent films may have failed to capture, while still making him relevant for the 21st century. A second season will premiere early in 2022.

9. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

The second live-action Marvel series to premiere on Disney+, "The Falcon and The Winter Soldier" had a lot to live up to after "WandaVision" came out of the gate and wowed audiences with its trippy high-concept premise and cinematic feel. Beginning where "Avengers: Endgame" left off, "The Falcon and The Winter Soldier" opens with the surprising twist that Sam Wilson has surrendered the Captain America shield, feeling the mantle of the Avengers hero isn't meant for him. His old friend Bucky Barnes is angry about this, and the pair spar over the legacy of their former friend Steve Rogers. But when the government recruits its own new "Captain America" to wield the shield in the form of complicated anti-hero John Walker, and they simultaneously discover a sinister terrorist plot, the duo must work together to get the shield back and reclaim the Captain America identity — which ultimately goes to Sam.

With some surprise appearances by new MCU characters like Isaiah Bradley and his grandson Eli, U.S. Agent, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a villainous counterpart to Nick Fury who is seemingly recruiting her own team of heroes, "The Falcon and The Winter Soldier" moved the "Avengers" story forward in unexpected ways, in a unique spy thriller only Marvel could make.

8. The Suicide Squad

After Disney made the mistake of axing James Gunn from "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," he was quickly scooped up by Warner Bros. and "The Suicide Squad" was the result. A bombastic, over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek action thriller sequel to 2016's underwhelming "Suicide Squad," it brought back a few key players from the first movie but was largely a new roster of villains-turned-heroes, including Idris Elba as Bloodsport, John Cena as Peacemaker, and David Dastmalchian as Polka Dot Man. Margot Robbie once again is a delight as Harley Quinn, as the team of ex-cons is brought in to do a job for Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). But when they discover things are not what they seem, they take it upon themselves to save a village from a giant alien monster called Starro.

"The Suicide Squad" has everything that worked about the first film and fixes everything that was wrong with it at the same time, adding in James Gunn's uncanny ability to blend vulgar humor with genuine heart and soul. Disney would rehire Gunn for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," but couldn't pry him from the DCEU entirely, as he's spearheading a spin-off series, "Peacemaker," debuting in 2022 on HBO Max.

7. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Debuting in theaters in 2021 was "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," a movie that was originally planned as part of Marvel's first phase in 2005, alongside the likes of "Iron Man," "Captain America" and "The Incredible Hulk." It would take more than 15 years to come to life,which was probably for the better, as its unique superhero story may have been harder to pull off when Marvel was still finding its footing. Combining elements from across the Marvel Universe, including its lead villain in classic Iron Man foe The Mandarin, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" finally gave fans a version of the big bad they wanted to see, played here by Hong Kong legend Tony Leung in his long-awaited Hollywood debut.

Starring Simu Liu as Shang-Chi — the son of the Mandarin who hopes to escape the shadow of his tyrannical father — and surrounded by a cast that included comedian and rapper Awkwafina, Ben Kingsley, the iconic Michelle Yeoh, and newcomer Meng'er Zhang, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" combined a superhero origin story with fantasy, martial arts, and crime noir elements to produce something new and different that audiences embraced wholeheartedly. It earned the highest domestic gross at the box office until "Spider-Man: No Way Home" came along in December.

6. WandaVision

The first MCU series on Disney+, "WandaVision" followed Wanda Maximoff's (Elizabeth Olsen) road to recovery after the events of three Avengers movies. Having lost her brother in "Age of Ultron" and forced to kill her true love, Vision (Paul Bettany), in "Avengers: Infinity War," Wanda struggles with her mental stability and loses control of her powers. Inadvertently warping reality, she turns an entire community called Westview into a fantasy world for herself, mind-controlling innocent people and putting her at odds with government agency S.W.O.R.D., which has its own shadowy motives. Inside Westview, Wanda and Vision live a life based on comedy sitcoms she watched as a child, but when another powerful woman reveals herself, things are no longer a laughing matter.

Reviews lauded Marvel's attempt to do something unique and different with the series, and it lived up to its lofty goal of giving audiences a big budget Marvel movie on TV. It introduced several key characters to the MCU, and even garnered a spin-off in the upcoming "House of Harkness." Not without its detractors, "WandaVision" was criticized for generic action sequences and red herrings that frustrated fans, but still remains one of the best-reviewed superhero shows of the year. 

5. What If...?

Marvel's "What If...?" was a long-running comic book series that had fun with a variety of alternate outcomes of popular comic book storylines. The animated adaptation posits what might happen if Peggy Carter became Captain America, or if Thor hadn't learned humility. With most of the MCU's star voice talent reprising their roles — including Hayley Atwell, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, and Benedict Cumberbatch — Marvel successfully mixed top-tier animation with Hollywood A-List talent to produce a series as polished and stylish as it was exciting. But what surprised most fans was that these stories weren't just hypothetical; by the end of the series it was clear that the ending of "Loki" opened the door to the multiverse, and the nine stories told in "What If...?" take place in alternate parallel worlds that actually exist. 

Stellar reviews have made it among the highest rated of any MCU project to date on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and audience response has lead to rumors that Marvel may resurrect some of the characters we met in the series in live action. Already, the trailer for "Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness" has confirmed we'll see the dark version of the former Sorcerer Supreme.

4. Loki

Tom Hiddleston finally got the lead role he deserved as this self-titled six-episode series gave Loki the spotlight after years of playing second fiddle to Thor and the Avengers. Fans weren't disappointed, with Hiddleston delivering another star turn as a new version of the God of Mischief, picking up right where we saw him in "Avengers: Endgame" after stealing the tesseract. Pursued by the Time Variance Authority, a group of cosmic time-keepers who need to extinguish the growing alternate timeline, he is recruited by agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) to track down and "prune" yet another version of Loki who's out causing chaos in the time stream. When the two Lokis meet, however, it leads to an unlikely partnership that could spell the end of the MCU as we know it.

Possibly the most important story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in recent years, it helped set up an entirely new saga, introducing the long awaited temporal despot called Kang The Conqueror in a wholly unexpected way. Thrilling, delightful, and satisfying in a multitude of ways, "Loki" showed how important the new Marvel shows on Disney+ are going to be to the ever-expanding movie universe. A second season was announced in the closing credits of the final episode, likely bowing in 2022.

3. Invincible

From the creator of "The Walking Dead" came the Amazon original animated show "Invincible," based on the long-running superhero comic series that debuted back in 2003. Set in a twisted, adult-oriented, Marvel-esque world where heroes kill and violence is bloody and visceral, the series follows a teenager named Mark Grayson, the son of Omni Man, the most powerful hero on the planet. Mark soon discovers that he has inherited his father's powers and he's quickly given a superhero identity just as his father's teammates are mysteriously murdered. When it's revealed that his father is actually a villainous harbinger of alien invasion, sent to Earth decades before to prepare the planet for takeover, Mark is forced to take sides.

A faithful adaptation of the comic book, "Invincible" is a grim, vengeful take on popular superhero cartoons, and received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike. Reviews applauded the series for its strong voice performers — led by Steven Yeun and J.K. Simmons — its high quality animation, and complex storyline that's delivered with as much nuance and maturity as any live-action series.

2. Hawkeye

The fourth Marvel live-action series to debut in 2021 on Disney+ is arguably the best, and reviews have so far agreed. With a less complicated concept than "WandaVision," a more straightforward plot than "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," and a more grounded story than "Loki," the six-episode series centered on the Avengers' archer and proved a perfect holiday treat for Marvel fans. The series sets the stage for things to come when a new hero emerges in the form of young archer and Hawkeye fan Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), who unwittingly gets involved in a criminal hunt for Clint Barton's one-time alter ego Ronin. The pair are forced to face down the "Tracksuit Mafia," deal with Natasha Romanoff's vengeance-seeking sister (Florence Pugh), and come face to face with Vincent D'Onofrio as the Kingpin, reintroduced back into the MCU in one of the most highly anticipated reveals of the year.

Full of revelations and twists that will reverberate through future movies and MCU shows for years, "Hawkeye" gave us the version of Clint Barton that fans — and star Jeremy Renner — have been waiting for. With holiday vibes and plenty of outmatched-hero action, it felt in some ways like Marvel's version of "Die Hard," and proved a can't-miss choice for anyone looking for a good, streamlined action series.

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" may be the third film in the webslinger's current standalone series, but in many ways it's also "Spider-Man 8," the culmination of every live-action "Spider-Man" film that's come before. When Spider-Man needs help to make everyone forget his secret identity, his fellow Avenger Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) casts a spell that goes horribly wrong and opens up a rift in the multiverse that pulls in villains from other realities. Along with Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin, Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus, Jamie Foxx's Electro, Thomas Haden-Church's Sandman, and Rhys Ifans' Lizard, the heroes from those earlier films arrive in the form of surprise appearances by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as their respective Spider-Men.

It's an epic blockbuster in every sense of the word, a rousing superhero action movie that even manages to find room for Charlie Cox's Matt Murdock in his long-awaited MCU return, as well as appearances from J.K. Simmons' J. Jonah Jameson and even Tom Hardy's Venom. Some have knocked it for a logic-bending premise and some muddled plotlines, but even those critics give it glowing praise, and it's hard to deny it's anything but a crowd-pleasing joyride that more than lives up to the hype.