What a year 2022 turned out to be for superhero content. Although the MCU‘s Phase Four has proven to be a mite more divisive with the fandom than Kevin Feige would probably prefer, it can’t be denied that Marvel lovers were more spoiled for choice this year than ever before, thanks to a range of movies, TV series, and standalone specials releasing these past 12 months.
Meanwhile, over at the Distinguished Competition, we all know DC is currently in the middle of some major refurbishing, but the franchise still treated us to a handful of acclaimed productions set across the many worlds of its multiverse in 2022. And let’s not forget those superhero projects set in their own distinct universes, the standout being a certain R-rated Amazon smash-hit show.
As for what are the very best comic book-flavored offerings of the year, the We Got This Covered team has put our heads together to determine the answer. Here are our picks for the finest superhero movies and shows of 2022, ranked by release date order. Oh, and there’s one major notable absence from our list, which may surprise some Marvel fans. See if you can spot what it is…
This past year was not easy for fans of DC. Amid complete restructuring within the company’s hierarchies, movies were shelved, others flopped, and a number of television shows saw their plans cut short on account of budget constraints. One of the victims was The CW’s Batwoman, which aired its third and final season in 2022. As part of the Arrowverse, Batwoman did not have an easy run, after having to replace its leading lady, but season three saw Javicia Leslie truly come into her own as Gotham’s caped crusader. By taking on Batman’s gallery of rogues, the season felt like a tribute to the heroine’s iconic comic book history, while simultaneously offering this new group of characters a chance to make a name for themselves in DC lore. Ryan and Sophie broke barriers with a romantic storyline between two Black women that made the hearts of fans soar, break, and soar again. The show, the cast — Ryan, Alice, Mary, Sophie, and Luke, are already thoroughly missed. — Francisca Tinoco
Marvel’s streaming content may get all the press, but DC Studios has outperformed the House of Ideas by leaps and bounds in the television department, with Peacemaker leading the way.
Following directly on the heels of The Suicide Squad, this is quintessential James Gunn storytelling. We have his trademark obscure, quirky protagonist in Chris Smith, aka the Peacemaker, who — like many of Gunn’s characters — is a lovable, socially inept, overgrown child with an abundance of inappropriate one-liners. The series has the greatest intro and theme song in all of television, complete with the worst/best dance choreography you’re bound to find anywhere.
What truly makes Peacemaker standout among a crowded field of superhero options is the show’s heart. Although not necessarily an Emmy frontrunner, John Cena delivers the goods as the titular hero on his path to redemption. His comedic timing is spot-on, but where he shines is in the more vulnerable moments as the character grows.
The overall cast performances are wonderful, but the real scene stealer is Robert Patrick as neo-Nazi supervillain White Dragon. As despicable as his character is, Patrick is simply captivating in the role. By the end, you can’t wait to see Auggie get his comeuppance, but you hate to see Patrick leave the show. Spoiler alert: he’ll be back for season two as a figment of Peacemaker’s imagination. — Matt Tuck
Matt Reeves proved he was the right person to direct The Batman. The story had a nice blend of comic book inspirations and fresh takes that made it feel innovative without trying to break the wheel. We saw the cost of shirking one’s responsibilities and how negligence can have inadvertent consequences that can create a monster. The story had tremendous acting from all involved and Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of a hero having to defeat his own nihilism made him the perfect Batman for this new generation. — Ethan Alexander
Just five years ago, I wouldn’t have expected Marvel Studios to bring someone like Moon Knight to life. The worst problems the past on-screen Marvel superheroes had were bad or absent parents, a lonely and/or difficult childhood, and the weary burden of saving the world. But Moon Knight doesn’t fall in the black-and-white spectrum the MCU operates in. His morals are often questionable and being an out-and-out superhero isn’t really on his list.
What further sets the series apart, and undoubtedly elevates it, from the redundant MCU land is how it respectfully yet openly approaches the topic of trauma and Marc’s Dissociative Personality Disorder. Moon Knight isn’t afraid to explore the darkness defining its antihero’s history or shining the light on it in ways which have been previously deemed objectionable in the ever-expanding cinematic universe of Marvel. — Apeksha Bagchi
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
If you are a Sam Raimi fan, you understand why Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of the best superhero movies of 2022. Raimi managed to dip into his horror roots to turn the film into a remix of everything great about his prior work. Scarlet Witch was easily the most terrifying she has ever been in the MCU. Plus, we managed to get some great cameos, finally introducing the X-Men and the Fantastic Four into the multiverse. Ultimately, it was a fun follow-up to the original film, with Scarlet Witch and America Chavez being welcome additions. — Tristyn Akbas
In an era where the MCU has lost some steam and the DCEU struggles to gain it, Amazon’s adaptation of The Boys continues to be one of the best entries in the genre, thereby allowing it to dominate screens both big and small. Its third season introduces great new characters, sees Antony Starr’s Homelander become even more unhinged, and somehow manage to level the playing field between those with powers and those without while also not making things too easy for the heroes we know, love, and actually care about. The legacy studios and publishing houses could learn a thing or two. — Evan Pretzer
Thor: Love and Thunder
Move past the measured critiques being slung at the Mighty Thor’s fourth installment, which comes in the also much-critiqued Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we arrive at a wonderful destination — enjoyment.
That’s right, Thor: Love and Thunder was enjoyable. As a superhero movie, as a comedy, as a black comedy, as an action movie, as a fantasy movie, and yes, even as a dramatic, grief-driven vengeance movie. Perhaps that the film does so many things so well is the critique itself. The elegant and whimsical director Taika Waititi stuffed a few too many genres and storylines into this epic adventure, which meant there wasn’t enough space to fully bring all the elements to a fulfilling conclusion. We were left wanting more (way more) of Christian Bale’s Gorr, going from quivering to quaking after losing his daughter, way more of the hijinks and slapstick that made Ragnarok so popular, way (way) more of Natalie Portman heroic/tragic duality, way more, well, Thor.
Perhaps Waititi and company had so many superb ideas and loved working together to such an extent it became a bit too much. In the end, though, it was definitely enjoyable, which is still plenty enough for a movie to stand on without needing to whittle it away and project comparisons upon it. — Habeab Kurdi
While offerings like Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and Ms. Marvel handily showed that Marvel was still the 600 pound gorilla to be reckoned with when it comes to comic book properties, it must be pointed out that one of the biggest and best loved successes of the year came from a DC title: The Sandman.
Only a few years ago many deemed a faithful to the source material TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic 1989-1999 comic series all but unfilmable, but in 2018 The Dark Knight screenwriter David S. Goyer managed to convince Gaiman himself to help lead a team to bring the project to life. Scoring a production deal with Netflix, the team has managed to weave Gaiman’s visions of the King of Dreams, Morpheus, into one of the network’s smash hits of 2022 and its blend of folklore, myth, horror, and even a pinch of superheroes has landed a fanbase bordering on the rabid. And though Netflix was predictably ploddish in greenlighting a second season, production has begun on the next series of adaptations, meaning The Sandman may well become the ruby in Netflix’s crown over the next few years. — Beau Paul
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
2022 was overflowing with fresh superhero releases, but none managed quite the heights of Disney Plus’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. The spectacular MCU series delivers a delightful spin on the tried, true, and tired superhero genre, which Marvel has been absolutely beating to death over the last few years. Instead of offering up yet another flavor of the same character arcs, storylines, and quippy dialogue, She-Hulk presents a unique, charming formula that separates it from the bulky Marvel fold. Unabashedly feminine and dripping with modern references and pop culture admonishments, the series very nearly bites off more than it can chew, but somehow manages the mouthful. It’s certainly not for everyone — a fact that the series doesn’t shy from — but for the broad audience willing to stomach its tongue-in-cheek humor and references that will heavily date it on future rewatches, it’s hard to beat the charm, humor, and seamless style of She-Hulk. — Nahila Bonfiglio
Werewolf by Night
Out of all the projects served up by the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year, only I Am Groot managed a shorter overall runtime than the Werewolf by Night Halloween special. Nevertheless, in just 53 minutes, the debut of Elsa Bloodstone and the titular cryptid in the MCU managed to claim the top spot in quite a few hearts of fans, my own included.
Perhaps what’s so special about Werewolf by Night is what it represents for the now-shattered limits of what territory the MCU can inhabit. The franchise’s first foray into streaming, WandaVision, quickly gave us a hefty sneak peek of what the MCU is capable of when there are no theatrical pressures afoot, but Werewolf by Night cranked it up immeasurably. With a classic monster movie black-and-white aesthetic, an easy record for proper gore in any MCU project, and its experimentation with a brand new medium in the form of a single television special, Werewolf by Night showed us how ferociously the superhero genre can gel with not only other types of genre fiction, but with the most under-utilized realms of creativity as well.
Indeed, from here on out, suffice to say that Kevin Feige’s imagination could realistically bring just about anything into the light of the day, and we can’t wait to see what Marvel Studios surprises us with next. — Charlotte Simmons
Kamen Rider Black Sun
The phrase “gritty reboot” tends to send shivers down fans’ spines, as it is far too easy to create a show that, despite being superficially more adult, ends up feeling more childish. However, Kamen Rider Black Sun shows that the concept can work really well if the writers have something to say. Taking the core concepts from 1987’s Kamen Rider Black and bringing them into the modern age, Kamen Rider Black Sun is a nuanced look at race, politics, power, and the role of a hero in a world that’s becoming increasingly fractured. Mix this with a fantastic soundtrack and classic tokusatsu action scenes, and you get one of the year’s most fascinating superhero shows. Pulse-pounding, horrific and tragic all at the same time, Kamen Rider Black Sun is a fantastic look at what the genre can do. — Jonathon Greenall
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
If there was one theatrical event that Marvel fans spent all of 2022 anxiously awaiting, it was undeniably Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. To many of us, this wasn’t just another Marvel movie ⏤ it was an unexpected send-off to someone who left us far too soon, forever altering lives both on- and offscreen. Wakanda Forever was tasked with saying goodbye to Chadwick Boseman, honoring his legacy, and doing the impossible task of setting up someone else to take up the Black Panther mantle, all while introducing an all-new big bad in the form of Namor and guiding beloved characters like Nakia and Okoye through their unthinkable new realities. The film may have been a showcase for Shuri, but it was the entire cast’s emotional assembly that made it stand out as a true Marvel original. Even if the film’s run time did temporary damage to our bladders, that post-credits scene was a heart-wrenching game-changer and worth the price of admission alone. There was no better way to honor the one and only Boseman, whose handprint will forever remain on the beating heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and whose legacy will now be carried on by his tribe of supremely talented castmates. — Josh Conrad
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
The best Christmas gift Marvel could’ve given us this year was the first solo project for Star-Lord and his crew for the first time in *checks watch* five whole years. Thankfully, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special proved to deliver everything promised on the tin — a welcome return to the team’s crazy cosmic corner of the MCU that married James Gunn’s typical irreverent humor with as heartwarming and cozy a vibe as you could ask for from a festive special. The story may be slight, but with a welcome focus on Mantis, Kevin Bacon stealing the show, and some catchy songs from The Old ’97s, The Holiday Special was the whole package. Now we just need Marvel to make this an annual tradition. — Christian Bone