The hot new TV trend is the superhero genre. It feels like you can’t change the channel without stumbling upon one of these. Netflix and The CW are currently competing to see who can have more superhero programming with Fox and ABC trailing slightly behind.
It feels like there’s a 4-way crossover every other week between The Flash, Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. While many of these shows are incredible, not every superhero show is great. Some have started off strong, but gotten too convoluted or “out there,” whereas other shows have gotten stronger with each season. See which of the current superhero shows on TV and streaming services are the best and which fail to live up tp the genre.
Someone really, really wanted Inhumans to happen. But it probably should have just stayed on the drawing board. It is about Black Bolt, the enigmatic, commanding head of the Inhuman royal family and King of Attilan but the rocky road the show had before it aired on ABC overshadows it.
It was originally supposed to be a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but was scrapped from the infamous Phase Three lineup without too much explanation as to why. It was then adapted for TV, though the first two episodes were also released in IMAX.
But really, the big issue with Inhumans is the writing. It’s far too melodramatic and the writing style isn’t supportive enough of the angle they’re trying to take, so it comes across as bad. Seeing ABC has such a limited number of superhero shows, you’d think they’d have put out a stronger front with their most recent show, but it is just not a good series as the ones it’s competing with. Hopefully, they switch things up!
15. Iron Fist
Before Iron Fist even hit Netflix, it was clouded by controversy. There was a very heated debate over whether or not the show creators whitewashed the main character (and some supporting cast) and that led all the way up to the show’s premiere. Iron Fist isn’t Marvel’s most interesting hero, but the success of Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones had left hope for Iron Fist. But the hope is long gone for this show. The writing isn’t at the level of the companion shows. It felt more of a childish take on martial arts, and not a show centered around a character who is skilled. The episodes are simply not compelling enough for viewers to want to watch the next episode. #sorry
14. The Gifted
The Gifted is a show that honestly should have come around sooner. In a TV world crowded with already-established superheroes, this show’s storyline is refreshing. The show follows a family who decided to go on the run when their two children begin to display mutant abilities. It isn’t in any way bad, though it is a show that makes you feel a bit confused about the X-Men timelines. Given how varied timelines are for X-Men in film, and now that Disney owns X-Men, it is unclear what possibilities are available to The Gifted. While this storyline seems new compared to other superheroes, we’ve already seen hostile governments in the X-Men world. This show does, however, seem to have a lot of potential, so it could easily move up the list one day.
Gotham has gotten a lot of flack over the years. Some of it is with merit, while other criticism has been unwarranted. On quite a few occasions, the writing and plot for Gotham have been truly awful. The show isn’t entirely consistent either. But where Gotham has failed, there has been a success as well. Cameron Monaghan‘s portrayal of Jerome Valeska is exceptional. The show has yet to confirm if Jerome is really the Joker, but we feel like we all know. Gotham follows Bruce Wayne from childhood until his teen years thus far. Depending on how long the show runs, we could see some real Batman moments. The good thing about Gotham is each season is themed, so if you don’t like a current theme, there will be something new soon enough.
12. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Oh, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Not only is your show’s name a mouthful, but it is also like setting yourself up for disappointment. Once you get over the fact that the Legends are not the superheroes we know and love from Arrow and The Flash, it is easier to get into this show. The first season started off slow, which makes it a little tough to get into, seeing as there are so many characters and moving pieces. But by the end of the first season, the show had found its narrative and the second season was a vast improvement over the past. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow can still get caught up in the past (quite literally) but it is making strides in the Arrowverse.
11. The Tick
Who’d have thought a TV show based on a Tick superhero would ever be a thing, let alone make a list like this. But it is and it did, and it isn’t the worst show on the list. In fact, it is pretty entertaining. The best part about The Tick is that the show acts as a parody of other superhero films and TV shows. The fact that everything takes place in “The City” helps play on some superhero tropes we see time and time again makes the audience feel even more involved in the storylines. The heart of the show is found with Arthur, a mild-mannered accountant, who becomes an unsuspecting ally of The Tick.
10. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did not have the strongest start. Instead of feeling like a standalone show, it came across as supplemental content between movies in the MCU. However, where that hurt the show, it also did a great job of showing how the rest of the world is impacted by the big moments that occur in the MCU (RE: The Battle of New York).
Though this is an issue that the show still often faces, the later seasons have finally found their footing. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally feels like its own show, with plots that aren’t a direct set up for something that happens in the MCU or a direct result of those movie events. It is a good way for a TV show to tap into the many, many storylines that exist in the Marvel universe.
9. The Defenders
Now, while Iron Fist doesn’t work as a standalone show, The Defenders still works. Ever since the first episode of Daredevil, it was pretty imminent that The Defenders would happen. Still, we got all four shows leading up to it. It is always great to watch something we’ve been waiting for finally come together. Jessica Jones working with Matthew Murdock is TV gold. When these four superheroes realize their goal to save their beloved city is too big a task to do alone, they understand they need to team up.
The overall plot for this show is why it isn’t closer to the top of the list, as The Hand’s bid for total domination isn’t quite as well-written as the villains we’ve seen on Jessica Jones and Daredevil. And that is pretty much a waste of Sigourney Weaver‘s time, even though she was excellent as this show’s villain.
8. The Punisher
Fans of Frank Castle got their first taste of this Marvel-Netflix take of the character back in 2016 when he first appeared in the second season of Daredevil. Jon Bernthal‘s portrayal of the Marine veteran-turned-vigilante was perfect on Daredevil and we get an even further dive into his psyche on The Punisher.
There have been several failed attempts to portray Frank Castle on the big screen, which makes its small screen success even more significant. Jon gives a very compelling performance as the damaged character who is trying to avenge the death of his family after they were brutally murdered. The Punisher is a riveting show that will compel viewers to keep watching, even if it feels nothing like your typical superhero show.
Arrow started off really strong. Stephen Amell plays a very broody and tough Oliver Queen. This is the show that started the Arrowverse empire on The CW (obviously). Since then it has gotten two direct spin-offs and one spin-off that started on CBS and moved to The CW. However, Arrow has had its share of pitfalls and straight-up failures during its six seasons.
Season three and four were rough goings, with the flashback sequences in season four being hard to watch because they were just. so. boring. Thankfully, season five and six have proven to be a return to the show’s roots and already had better crossover episodes with other shows in the Arrowverse. Arrow is much darker than The Flash or Supergirl, but the darkness is what carries the show. Here’s to things looking up again for Arrow!
Now, hear us out. Compared to Arrow, Supergirl sometimes feels like a show meant for teen girls when it comes to darkness and problems. Then again, when you are literally the girl of steel, some things just aren’t that serious. The great thing about Supergirl is that Kara Danvers doesn’t care about looking silly. She is still learning about her powers and saving her city. She also hasn’t let her dating life completely ruin the lives of those around her (looking directly at you Barry Allen & Flashpoint).
In the two and half seasons we’ve seen so far, Kara has had an incredible amount of character growth and she’s proven how dedicated she is to the people she loves and the people she protects. Supergirl is a refreshing show in a swarm of dark and cryptic superhero shows.
5. Luke Cage
Like quite a few of the shows on this list, we got a taste of the main character on a show before their own. We first met Luke Cage on Jessica Jones and we loved him then. Our love comes thanks to the charismatic way that Mike Colter plays the hero. Much like Superman, Luke Cage has super strength and unpenetrable skin.
After his failed relationship with Jessica Jones, Luke tried to rebuild a quiet life for himself, but he was forced to come out of the shadows. The show has some amazing moments, as it was topicality poignant and the core and supporting cast are incredible. Some elements of the storyline are whacky and downright weird, but the show as a whole is a compelling watch.
4. The Flash
The Flash would be even higher on this list if it weren’t for the fact that Barry Allen keeps screwing things up. At first, Flashpoint was a pretty interesting storyline where we could learn all of the repercussions from Barry’s actions, but eventually, the story and all of Barry’s mistakes got tired.
Many fans of Arrow tuned in to watch The Flash but didn’t expect it to live up to its TV predecessor. The Flash quickly established Barry Allen as more than just “the fastest man alive,” but also a genius with a team of supportive and powerful friends. In fact, Flash’s core friend group and their interactions are what make this show so good. It has been entertaining for fans of the show to watch Barry grow from mentee to mentor, working with Jesse Quick and Wally West. Season four seems to be bringing the show back up to the level we remember from seasons one and two, so let’s just pretend season three never happened, okay?!
After all this talk about the Netflix superhero shows, did you expect Daredevil to wind up anywhere else on this list? The first season of Daredevil is still some of the best original content we’ve seen from Netflix. Vincent D’Onofrio plays a seemingly straightlaced Kingpin who slowly becomes incredibly unhinged throughout the first season. Charlie Cox‘s Matthew Murdock quite obviously blows Ben Affleck‘s portrayal of the character out of the water. The fight sequences, as Matt first begins working as a vigilante and throughout the rest of the show are incredible and show the character’s growth. While the first season of this show was much better than the second, the second season is still better than quite a few shows on this list. Daredevil is also the founding point for that The Defenders linkup and wouldn’t hold up without this how.
2. Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones is one of the most universally loved Netflix series, as well as superhero shows. Jessica is a superhero that not many knew of or had high anticipations for. When this show debuted on Netflix, it spread like wildfire. We’ve only gotten one full season of the show and yet it is still so strong on its own. Krysten Ritter does an amazing job of playing her character. Jessica acts as if she doesn’t care about anyone when the truth is that she really has to act this way not to be swallowed up by the despair of what she’s seen in her life. No one could portray this the was Krysten does. David Tennant also stars playing a brilliant and poised villain in the first season. If season two of Jessica Jones is even half as good as season one, every other show on this list is in big trouble.
The best of all the shows is the least talked about. Everyone hypes up the shows from Netflix and The CW, poor Legion isn’t getting the credit it deserves. That hasn’t kept it from being amazing so far, though! Legion might be hard to follow at times, but the cast, visuals, and music make it an entertaining ride.
This show brought X-Men to TV in a new and entirely different way, as it looks nothing like the flashy X-Men films we’ve seen so far. It takes us into the slightly schizophrenic superhero, David Haller, known as Legion. Legion isn’t just a good superhero show, it is smart and incredible television.