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10 Best Made-for-TV Superhero Movies, Ranked


10 Best Made-for-TV Superhero Movies, Ranked


Hollywood loves a good superhero film. The blockbusters in recent years often have astronomical budgets. Whether that’s because of high salaries from A-listers (many of whom earned that status thanks to their involvement in said superhero flicks) or the cost of special effects and set design, these are not cheap projects to make. However, filmmakers and audiences seem to love them and often find a place in the year’s top-performing movies at the box office.




With such high-scale releases, superhero lovers may forget that they don’t need to hold out for theaters to see great films. Many action-packed, fun superhero movies never went to theater at all, and instead debuted into the world on the small screen. From the seventies to the 2010s, here are the best made-for-TV superhero movies of all time.


10 Ben 10: Alien Swarm (2009)

In the mid-2000s, Cartoon Network premiered an animated series called Ben 10. It spawned an entire franchise, including two live-action movies. Ben 10: Alien Swarm is the second of the real-life films, though many fans believe it was a step up from its predecessor.


We follow Ben Tennyson who, along with his sidekicks Gwen and Kevin, try to negotiate with black market dealers selling alien nanochips. They are attacked and a suspicious man escapes and finding him may be the key to holding off an alien infestation.

Sci-Fi x Superheroes

In comparison to the first live-action Ben 10 film, this one is a bit more mature in tone. Ben was ten years old in the first one and now is a teenager, allowing for a bit more complexity in the narrative. It’s not a classic superhero film where the powers come in the form of shooting off into the sky with a cape billowing behind them, but it’s fun nonetheless. The aliens and other sci-fi elements make it a nice addition to this space.

9 Black Scorpion (1995)


Darcy Walker in Black Scorpion is a police detective by day and a crime-fighting superhero by night. After the murder of her father, she decides holding a badge won’t be the only way she gets bad guys off the street. So she suits up in an outfit not dissimilar to Catwoman, though she calls herself the Black Scorpion. Her powers and heightened abilities come from the scorpion ring she wears that was given to her by her father.

Batman with Heels

Given its comedic nature, many viewers appreciated how Black Scorpion didn’t take itself too seriously. It is unapologetically silly and camp, taking inspiration from Batman and employing other tried and true superhero tropes. There are valid criticisms about the movie, including the hyper-sexualization of our heroine, and it certainly shows its age, but it has an undeniable charm.

Related: The Toughest Female Superheroes, Ranked


8 Six Million Dollar Man: The Moon and the Desert (1973)

The Six Million Dollar Man is best known as a television series that ran for five seasons during the ’70s. However, before the show came to be, three films served as pilots for the series.

The first of which, adapted from Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg and later subtitled The Moon and the Desert, was released in 1973, followed by Wine, Women, and War and The Solid Gold Kidnapping. All three films offer exciting stories that help audiences familiarize themselves with the protagonist and this world.

Old Show with Relevant Subject Matter

The series as a whole follows a former astronaut named Steve Austin was involved in a flight accident rebuilt with bionic parts. These implants give him superhuman strength. The films start with the accident and shows the slow progression of Steve figuring out how to cope with life now and gain control over his abilities.


Themes the show covered still resonate today, with people drawing comparisons to political situations all across the globe. Mark Wahlberg was set to star in a remake, though the fate of it is up in the air.

7 Witchblade (2000)

Witchblade is a comic book adaptation about a woman named Sara Pezzini. She is a homicide detective living in New York City who is shaken after the murder of her best friend. Frustration mounts when the person she believes is responsible walks away unscathed. Sara comes across a magical artifact while on a criminal pursuit. Not only does the object protect her, but it bestows superhuman powers on her.


Potential for More

This made-for-TV movie premiered on TNT and garnered an impressive viewership, prompting the network to develop a television series. Unfortunately, the series fizzled out quite quickly, but there’s still lots to love about the original.

Fans who loved the vibes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are sure to like this spunky protagonist and dramatic storylines. This is one film that could benefit from a remake with today’s advanced special effects. Despite some of the shots being clearly of its time, Witchblade will quickly pull viewers in and keep them there.

6 The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988)


If David Banner fans want to see what creatives can do with the superhero without hundreds of millions of dollars behind him, the 1999 television film The Incredible Hulk Returns, can be a great option. Banner’s story is similar to what we already know. He’s a scientist who turns into a green creature with extreme strength when upset. Actors Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno play Banner and the Hulk respectively.

No Bells and Whistles

This iteration of the Hulk is a follow-up to The Incredible Hulk television show that ran from 1978 to 1982. In the film, Banner believes he found a cure for his condition but has to fight against Thor as he searches for it. The small budget allotted to most TV movies is apparent. One Reddit user commented that Thor’s hammer looks like, “a basic hammer that you’d find at Home Depot.” Still, the actors do a fantastic job humanizing each character with charismatic performances. Stream on Pluto.


5 Generation X (1996)

Generation X is an often forgotten installment in the X-Men franchise. It follows a group of teenagers who attend a school for mutants.

Jubilation Lee finds herself in trouble yet again when she fails to control her fireworks power. She’s offered a spot at the school where she gets to know her peers. They are instructed not to venture off school grounds, as the townspeople fear and despise them. But Jubilee has more than that to fear once a mad scientist begins haunting her and her friends’ dreams.

Fell Into Oblivion

Fans of the recent Wednesday series on Netflix will likely enjoy this blast from the past. Not only do you get a semi-secluded boarding school setting, but when the kids venture out into the town it still feels claustrophobic in the best way. Not many people warmed to Generation X at the time, so it faded out quickly. Yet if people want to bask in pure ’90s nostalgia through the eyes of superpowered teens, this is a great bet.


4 Up, Up and Away (2000)

Disney Channel Original Movies have left a mark on each generation since the first one premiered in 1997. It gave us countless hits such as High School Musical, The Cheetah Girls, and Descendants. Up, Up, and Away follows a teen named Scott who’s a member of a superhero family. Problem is, he doesn’t have any powers. But during the film, it’ll be up to him to save everyone.

Remember This DCOM

Up, Up, and Away didn’t have quite the same reach as the aforementioned films, but it still had the DNA of an early 2000s DCOM. Cheesy acting? Sure. Ridiculous plot? Absolutely. But loves of heart, charm, and plenty of laughs to go around.


There’s a brainwashing plot and a bank robbery before the midpoint, so viewers surely won’t be bored. As lovers of Disney’s Encanto can attest, it’s intriguing to follow the “odd one out” in a family and Scott Marshall is the perfect protagonist for the silly but endearing family film. Stream on Disney+.

Related: 20 Disney Channel Original Movies You’ve Probably Forgotten About

3 Firebreather (2010)

Firebreather is another animated superhero film, though the CGI style here makes it a bit more unique. Based on a comic, it revolves around a boy named Duncan who moves to a new town. Fitting in is hard enough under normal circumstances, let alone when you’re a half-human, half-dragon hybrid like Duncan. As a war between humans and creatures known as Kaiju approaches, Duncan may have to make a choice between which half of himself to side with.


Lackluster Animation, Vibrant Characters

Despite being the most recent film on this list, the animation doesn’t hold up amazingly. Ignoring that, there’s quite a fun story underneath. We have Duncan who has enough personality to entertain on his own, but the colorful cast adds a lot of energy to the film. Even the bullies who viewers are absolutely not rooting for are at least fun to watch.

2 Teen Titans: Trouble In Tokyo (2006)

Unlike some of the entries here that went by unnoticed, many have likely heard of Teen Titans: Trouble In Tokyo. The made-for-TV film was an extension of the popular Cartoon Network series Teen Titans, which itself was based on a DC comic of the same name. The movie centers on a superhero team, the Teen Titans, who are attacked by ninja Saico-Tek. They defeat him and head to Tokyo where they get wrapped up in conflict with Saico-Tek, his master, and the police.


New Setting, Same Great Team

Showcasing these beloved characters in a new location, and one as cool as Japan, alone gave it so much appeal. In addition, it forwarded many of the romantic and platonic relationships between several of the characters. But what makes it great is that even if you’re jumping into it without knowledge of the series, you’ll still be able to follow along and enjoy. Rent on Apple TV.

1 Spider-Man (1977)

Long before the internet was involved in heated debates about whether Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland was the best Spider-Man, there was Nicholas Hammond. Spider-Man (1977) was the pilot for The Amazing Spider-Man series which aired on CBS.


The setup is the same—Peter Parker is bitten by a spider and gets spiderlike abilities. Peter’s focus then shifts to stopping a criminal who uses mind control to commit crimes like robbing banks. But this villain’s next scheme—to manipulate people to commit suicide lest he receives a ransom—is his most diabolical yet.

Why It’s Great

If fans go in thinking this is a rehash of the comic books or similar to the later Spider-Man films, they’ll be disappointed. We don’t get the classic villains we know and love, and the tiny budget is apparent in many ways. But on its own, this is a solid superhero film. It’s impressive how the action shots and big sequences turned out considering the limitation in resources.

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