Superheroes are more important now than ever.
The creation of the mighty Superman in 1938 helped launch the "Golden Age of Comic Books," and the Man of Steel's success led to more superpowered characters coming to life.
Fast forward to today and the superhero genre has taken over the entertainment industry.
Superhero films account for four of the ten highest-grossing films of all time at the worldwide box office, including Avengers: Infinity War (No. 4), The Avengers (No. 6), Avengers: Age of Ultron (No. 8) and Black Panther (No. 9).
And in 2018, six of the 10 biggest earners at the domestic box office just so happened to be superhero flicks — Black Panther (No.1), Avengers: Infinity War (No. 2), Incredibles 2 (No. 3), Aquaman (No. 5), Deadpool 2 (No. 6) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (No. 9).
That trend doesn’t look like it will be slowing down in 2019, either.
With the upcoming releases of Captain Marvel (starring Brie Larson), Avengers: Endgame (possibly the end of the line for Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and others) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (starring Tom Holland and a villainous Jake Gyllenhaal) — not to mention, new installments for Black Panther (with a potential return of Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger) and Guardians of the Galaxy (with what Chris Pratt calls a script that’s “off the chain”) in the works, we decided it was time to define the most important superheroes of all time.
What makes a superhero important? Some characters, such as Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Goku, Black Lightning, Storm,
Below we’ve ranked the 50 most important heroes, based on that criteria.
Let’s get started with No. 50…
One of the first Native American superheroes, Dani Moonstar — a mutant member of the X-Men crew — wields Uru metal (sorry about it, Thor!) and she rides an awesome white-winged horse named Brightwind. So, yeah, she definitely needs her own movie.
Captain Planet knows that he can’t exist on his own. The green-haired hero needs the help of five mere mortals to bring him to life. And his crew of devoted humans (the Planeteers) remind us that we must protect the Earth. It’s the only one we’ve got.
A murdered CIA agent who returns as an immortal hellspawn, Spawn proves that heroes come in all shapes and sizes... and even from the depths of hell.
Along with his superior fighting skills and a silver tongue, Star-Lord — aka Peter Quill — has the remarkable ability to unify a rag-tag group of heroes and turn them into the Guardians of the freaking Galaxy. Many superhero teams have failed to band together, while Star-Lord and his loser companions were able to save the universe multiple times.
The first black super-crime-fighter to be the hero and title character of a comic book, Luke Cage is a wrongfully convicted ex-con who develops superhuman strength. In 2005, Cage became a member of the Avengers. That's quite the upgrade!
Custer — the hero from the FX show Preacher — is on a mission to find God and punish him. Custer is an entertaining, Western hero whose only weakness is his code of honor. Infused with power by the creature Genesis, this preacher is able to make people do whatever he desires.
Created in 1939, Namor — along with Captain America and the Human Torch — was one of Timely Comics' three top heroes. Namor, who possesses superior strength and the ability to fly, played an important role in comic books as the medium’s first antihero.
After his family is murdered, Frank Castle has one purpose in life: revenge. He may be a violent antihero, but he's also, in the words of co-creator Gerry Conway, an important "critique of the justice system, an example of social failure."
Black Widow — aka Natasha Romanoff — debuted in 1964. She teams up with the Avengers, a superpowered team pumped full of testosterone. Someone has to keep those dudes focused on saving the world — while kicking some major butt on her own.
Colossus is a gentle giant... when the mood strikes him. Colossus might have an intimidating metallic stature, but he only uses his incredible strength in combat when it's absolutely necessary.
A princess of Wakanda, Shuri — who might just steal the show in Black Panther — has the smarts and inventiveness of Iron Man without the ego. In the comics, Shuri even assumes the role of Black Panther and ruler of Wakanda at one point.
Debuting in 1941, Aquaman might have been criticized for his perceived lack of power, but that's nonsense. Aquaman’s incredible strength and power are nothing to laugh at. The Justice League member also is able to control all aquatic life.
One of the most powerful superheroes, Rogue can absorb and emulate the powers of those she comes in contact with. Not to mention, Rogue's bad-girl-turned-good storyline is arguably the best in any comic book.
Kal-El's younger cousin has a lot going on. Supergirl must balance a career and a pretty intense love life. But she does it all while keeping National City safe, proving that superheroes are so much like us that it’s kind of crazy.
Stephen Vincent Strange is a former doctor who becomes Sorcerer Supreme in the Marvel comics. What's so important about Dr. Strange? Well, he’s just the primary protector of Earth, which is a pretty big deal.
And, in Avengers: Infinity War, he is the only one who has seen the "endgame."
Pilot Hal Jordan is an incredibly important hero. When his ring is equipped, Jordan is a member of the Green Lantern Corps that serves to protect the universe.
A big blue superhero with the power of telekinesis and matter manipulation, Dr. Manhattan might just be the most powerful being on this list, and he also has no weaknesses.
In the comics, Dr. Manhattan is so powerful that he helps the United States win the Vietnam War.
Thor is more of a god than a superhero, sure, but once he beamed to Earth, the hammer-wielding Asgardian really came into his own. Even when pushed out of his comfort zone, Thor always finds a way to electrify.
The Hulk is incredible for so many reasons. A physically weak man who can transform into a muscular green humanoid with superhuman strength, the Hulk exemplifies how difficult it is balance who you are with who you are meant to be.
Debuting in 1991, Deadpool is a deformed mercenary with superhuman fighting and healing abilities. And he might just be the most entertaining superhero. Whenever he breaks the fourth wall, Deadpool proves not every hero needs to be taken
Although she's been known to be a supervillain and nemesis of the Caped Crusader, Catwoman has evolved into a hero. She became a protector of Gotham, and she was an ally to Batman in The Dark Knight Rises.
Catwoman proves that no one – superhero or otherwise – is 100-percent anything.
Yes, she’s a super-stretchy superhero. But she’s also a mother, which is pretty much like being a super superhero. While others are out protecting society, Elastigirl does all of this while simultaneously keeping her family safe and, for the most part, happy.
In the comics, Janet van Dyne is an incredibly smart scientist who doubled as a superheroine. She even came up with the "Avengers" name.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Wasp — who might be even more powerful than Ant-Man — is so important that she earned co-billing in the Ant-Man sequel.
Scott Summers, the force beam-shooting hero, embodies the X-Men vision by dedicating his life to helping fellow mutants and mankind.
The Powerpuff Girls gave kids something that they've never seen: a spectacular team of pint-sized female crimefighters. Blossom, Bubbles,
Jessica Jones might have superpowers, but that’s not what makes her one of the most important superheroes of all time. She hung up her cape – so to speak – in order to become a private investigator who represents powerful people like herself. Jones shows that being a typical superhero isn’t the only way to make a massive difference.
The difference between the Green Arrow and traditional heroes, such as Batman and Superman, is that he is able to dedicate himself entirely to vigilantism and philanthropy. Green Arrow is often the moral compass of the DC heroes.
A superhero who can travel between dimensions, America Chavez aspires to be like her two mothers, who perished saving their home planet. Oh yeah, Miss America is also unfazed by bullets. And she's a lesbian. Let all her awesomeness sink in.
Katherine Anne “Kitty” Pryde has quite the resume. Along with having the power of intangibility, Kitty was the youngest mutant to join the X-Men team, she was one of a handful of women on
Following the rise of a local gang, a retired superhero — who can manipulate electricity — turned high school principal returns to fight crime. Jefferson Pierce shows how difficult it is for a vigilante to balance family life with protecting a city.
You might not have heard of her, but Isis is an iconic superhero. The Secrets of Isis was the first American live-action superhero show to feature a female lead. In the show, a schoolteacher just so happened to be the powerful Egyptian goddess Isis.
Even before her film debut drops and she presumably saves the Avengers' butts, Captain Marvel can be counted as pretty darn important. Debuting in 1967, Captain Marvel has had multiple iterations, but one thing stays the same: Carol Danvers is ultimately dedicated to duty and honor. The hero with cosmic powers should play a major part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward.
A mutant with the powers of telekinesis and telepathy, Jean Grey — you might know her as Phoenix or Dark Phoenix — doesn't fear anything... especially death. She has taken a dirt nap more than once, and yet she comes back to use her powers for good again and again.
Marvel Comics wouldn't be what it is today without the Human Torch. Debuting in October 1939, Jim Hammond is one of Timely Comics’ three signature characters, along with Captain America and Namor the Sub-Mariner.
The unquestioned leader of the X-Men, Charles Xavier worked tirelessly to create a world where humans and mutants can co-exist. Professor X's intelligence and discipline prove that being the biggest, strongest and fastest hero can only take you so far.
Created as a weapon of war in the secretive Project X, the adamantium-infused Wolverine is a massively conflicted hero. Logan is trying to create a war-free world, where, if he's successful, his strengths will essentially become useless. Although he might be conflicted, Wolverine's loyalty is never questioned.
The quasi-vampire became the first Marvel comic book superhero successfully adapted to the big screen. Without Blade, many of the big-money summer movies we know and love might have never been made. Blade’s success also helped popularize both superhero and vampire film genres.
You might know the Flash as Barry Allen, but the first iteration of the hero was Jay Garrick. In 1956, DC Comics rebooted the character as Allen. It was the first re-imagining of a character in comic-book history.
The Man Without Fear is the rare superhero who also suffers from a disability: the loss of sight. Daredevil has raised awareness for people who struggle with impairments. This hero also helps give ordinary folks the power to focus on their strengths and abilities, instead of their weaknesses.
A notorious ladies man with an outrageous ego can save the world, too. Tony Stark uses his billions for good, sure, but it’s his heart of gold that makes him essential.
Based on a classic Chinese character and initially appearing in a Japanese magazine, Goku is one of the most well-known Asian-created superheroes ever. Here's what makes Son Goku even better: He has an absolutely amazing attitude. He's cheerful, sure, but he won't hesitate to use his super-strength.
Let's detail all the reasons why Storm is super important: she's clearly the coolest mutant in the X-Men, she can control the weather, she's a freaking princess, she's well-traveled, she's a style icon, and she’s one of the few black superheroines in existence.
The mantle as the "first Avenger" comes with many honors, including the being one of the most important heroes. Steve Rogers shows that loyalty and honor can take you far — along with superhuman strength and speed, of course.
This Marvel Comics star is the first black superhero in mainstream comic book history. That’s a pretty big deal, people. Not to mention, Black Panther is the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
The first non-hero superhero, the Caped Crusader has no super abilities, but he does have a dope utility belt, a flawless physique, and a remarkably developed detective mind. He's the first hero to have his own base of operation — the dimly lit but awesome Batcave. And, unlike many other superheroes, Batman refuses to kill... most of the time.
Spider-Man, easily one of the most relatable superheroes ever, transformed into a hero by accident. The smarty-pants science student didn't ask for this tremendous responsibility, but he’s facing it head-on with those big bug eyes.
Here's what makes Wonder Woman so, well, wonderful: she showed the world that she's just as intelligent and competent (and powerful) as her male counterparts.
Though Superman may not be the first true superhero -- both The Phantom and Zorro predate the Man of Steel -- he still defines the genre. By 1941, Superman appeared in six different comic books, had his own radio show, newspaper strip, and an animated cartoon series.
Without the widespread popularity of Superman, there’s a chance that the rest of the heroes we’ve grown up with would be non-existent... or, at least, super boring.