Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an unstoppable genre powering through every form of media it can see (with its enhanced eyesight, of course). It’s been 70 years since the George Reeves-starring Adventures of Superman and its famous introduction wowed TV audiences. Leaping a building to the 21st century, superheroes are now dominating popular culture more than ever before.
It doesn’t look like the capes are going anywhere anytime soon, either. Just as they exploded in comic books during the Golden Age of comics, they’re irrepressible on screen. Superhero movies dominate the box office, led by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, also known as the most successful franchise in movie history. On the small screen, diverse superhero series seem to debut every year, and while not all of them fly, some of them positively soar.
It’s not all about DC and Marvel, the two publishing powerhouses that have dominated comics for decades, although there are plenty of their heroes and villains to be found on Netflix. You’ll find many of the hugely successful DC-based Arrowverse series on Netflix after they built a formidable prime-time superteam on The CW over the course of the past decade.
Marvel’s partnership with the streamer resulted in several exclusive superhero series between 2015 and 2019. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage met a mixed reception as they built to the Defenders limited series. However, two seasons of the spin-off The Punisher was an expected bonus. All those series are set to leave the streamer soon, possibly for a place on Disney Plus in the future.
That will leave even more room for diverse superhero shows from around the world. The spandex is truly stretched between comedy and drama in this selection. Here are the best superhero shows you can catch on Netflix right now.
The Umbrella Academy (2019-present)
Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s comic series was released by Dark Horse Comics between 2007-8 and 2018-19, but it’s arguably been surpassed by its Netflix adaptation. The tale of superpowered siblings who reunite after the death of their father only to discover dark secrets that threaten the world is one of the streamer’s great transfers. A quirky and dysfunctional tale of responsibility and growing up, it naturally has dashes of X-Men and Doom Patrol (which Way would later write), but this distinctive, brilliantly cast, and superbly produced show remains one of the best superhero series on Netflix.
Jupiter’s Legacy (2021)
This is the first high-profile opening series from Millarworld, the comic imprint created by comic legend Mark Millar that Netflix snapped up in 2017. It was a significant statement, but despite the imprint’s ambitious slate of projects, it hasn’t made much of a splash so far. Jupiter’s Legacy used its big-budget superheroes to explore a profound message: When explorers gain mysterious superpowers and take on the responsibility of protecting the world, how do they pass that on to the next generation? It’s a fascinating idea, but Jupiter’s Legacy could have been better-paced in its first and only season, as there was a sense that the best was yet to come. Legacy’s story may have ended abruptly, but the universe lives on in Millarworld anime Supercrooks, with more to come.
I Am Not Okay With This (2020)
Superpowers collide with a coming-of-age story in this darkly awkward series adapted from Charles Forsman’s comic by the makers of Stranger Things. Sydney Novak is the teenage girl who has to contend with family drama, the boy next door, a crush on her best friend, and, oh yes, some dangerous new abilities. Despite earning strong reviews for its irreverent drama, those powers weren’t enough to overcome the pandemic and it was cut short after just one series. Still, it’s well worth a look, particularly for the lead performances of Sophia Lillis and Wyatt Oleff (previously seen in It) and music from indie legend Graham Coxon.
The Neighbor (2019-2021)
This Spanish superhero comedy adapted the comic series El Vecino by Santiago García and Pepo Pérez. It’s earned three seasons so far from its superheroic situation comedy. Javier is an ordinary man who inherits incredible powers from a dying alien. While he masters these new abilities as the superhero Titan, with the help of a neighbor, he also has to avoid his suspicious journalist ex-girlfriend. Part of The Neighbor’s charm is its low budget, but that’s more than made up for by a sharp script that has earned it a firm fanbase. It’s a show that reminds us with extraordinary powers come the same responsibilities you had before you got them.
Raising Dion (2019-present)
Based on the comic by Dennis Liu, Raising Dion shifts the traditional focus from a 10-year-old manifesting superpowers to the effect on Dion’s mother. Widow Nicole is struggling to raise her son as a single mom without the added drama of keeping her son safe and his secrets hidden. This Georgia-based production has gone down well, with a second season released in Feb. 2022.
Warrior Nun (2020-present)
This fantasy is loosely based on Ben Dunn’s manga comic book of the same name and makes the most of filming around Andalusia, Spain. Developed initially as a film, it found its legs as a series. Ava Silva is the orphaned teen who wakes up in a morgue with a divine artifact buried in her body and new powers that include invulnerability and levitation. As she embarks on a quest to protect the Earth from demons, Ava becomes a person of interest in both heaven and hell. Warrior Nun’s dense mythology and exposition can weigh it down without some of the levity of similar series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but its excellent choreography, cast, and potential have earned it a second season.
This Italian series takes its superhero spin to a metaphorical extreme. Omar is a second immigrant who can turn invisible. While the outside world acts like he doesn’t exist, he uses his power to take on the property developers who want to take the public housing that is the only world he and other children know. This series was adapted from I Was Never My Age, the novel from former self-published author Antonio Dikele Distefano.
An anime update of the Japanese phenomenon that has captivated audiences since the 1960s, Ultraman is another series that concentrates on the passing of the superhero mantle. This time, it’s been 50 years since the extraterrestrial light giant of the title saved the earth and its human host Shin Hayata has long forgotten the role he played. When his son Shinjiro reveals that he has inherent superpowers, the past opens up and the young man takes on the mantle so the hero can soar again. Ultraman looks to the future as much as it ticks many nostalgic boxes.
Wu Assassins (2019-present)
Here’s another show that mines its emotional core from great powers falling unexpectedly on the shoulders of an unassuming recipient. In Wu Assassins, San Francisco chef Kai Jin is drawn into a long line of assassins when he’s gifted enhanced martial arts skills by a mystical spirit. Can he stop the ancient and deadly powers of Wu Xing from falling into the wrong hands? Wu Assassins has earned more respect for its action sequences than its plot, although it makes the most of lead Iko Uwais’ acting chops and martial arts prowess. The standalone film Fistful of Vengeance followed the first season in Feb. 2022.
It’s strange that Norse mythology is enjoying something of a resurgence these days considering that it’s all around us, from English language days of the week to Thor’s groundbreaking fourth starring role in the MCU. The neat plot of the ominously titled Ragnarok has the gods of the Norse pantheon reincarnated as inhabitants of a coastal town in Western Norway called Edda. That’s a name that will be familiar to fans of Northern mythology, as will many other beats in the fantasy drama that unfold. At the heart of Edda is the factory-owning Jutal family, disguised giants who are ravaging the area with pollution. It’s up to teenager Magne ⏤ a reincarnated Thor ⏤ to stop them, along with avatars of Odin, Freyja, and Tyr. Of course, Loki’s there as well as Magne’s half-brother. This one is worth catching up on before it airs its third and final season.
Other superhero series you might like
Netflix can help you catch up on these colossal superhero shows from DC and Marvel that premiered on different networks:
- Legends of Tomorrow
- Black Lightning
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
If you’re looking for more kid-friendly superhero series, these are also available on Netflix now:
- Henry Danger
- Kid Cosmic
- Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
- Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir
- Stretch Armstrong
- The Thundermans