Okay, this first one is a little predictable, but we may as well get The Dark Knight out of the way first.Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy came at a time when the superhero movie market wasn't as saturated as it is right now, and it offered audiences a semirealistic, modern take on the Caped Crusader with an exceptional cast and crew behind it.The Dark Knight blends post-9/11 fears and pacey blockbuster storytelling to pit Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne against a terrifying threat, the Joker (Heath Ledger), whose only motivation is to cause chaos for the sake of chaos.Of course, Ledger's performance is nothing short of legendary and defined the Clown Prince of Crime for a generation — earning him a posthumous Oscar.The plot itself is much more complex and real than anything in the MCU, partly because it doesn't need to revolve around superpowers or cosmic beings to tell its story. Instead, just a cohort of incredibly well-written heroes, villains, and everyone in between. That's all without mentioning the sheer talent Nolan assembled behind the screen, as it boasts the likes of Hans Zimmer's hair-raising score, Wally Pfister's gorgeous cinematography, and the stunning story from David S. Goyer.Maybe it's because it came out at a time people couldn't go to theaters every week, or maybe it's the dynamic direction by Gina Prince-Bythewood, but Netflix's The Old Guard is a really tight comic book movie that never fails to keep the audience invested in its characters and its story.Taken from Greg Rucka's Image Comics series of the same name, it follows an immortal group of mercenaries who unknowingly shape history by getting involved in conflicts around the world.There's seemingly no reason behind their immortality and regenerative abilities, however, their powers will simply disappear without warning one day.The brutal action perfectly slots into the well-paced plot, and it's a genuinely interesting world to play in for two hours.The Old Guard introduces audiences to new characters, new mythology, and new ideas, all while delivering a gripping ride.It definitely stands head and shoulders over many recent Marvel movies, that's for sure.Another unconventional superhero movie imagines what it'd be like if someone in the real world tried their hand at being a costumed vigilante… And spoilers, it would hurt.Kick-Ass is based on Mark Millar's comic of the same name, and follows Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as a high schooler who wants something more out of life, and decides to patrol New York in the vein of Spider-Man.Dave's hyper-violent adventure is packed full of Millar's signature wit, violence, and profanity. Let's face it, a 12-year-old girl calling people the C-word every two seconds is highly memorable.It's a coming-of-age story that relishes the fact that it stands away from every other superhero movie ever made. The explosive action never holds back, which leads to some brilliantly choreographed fight scenes with some ass-kicking needle drops.It's a little similar to Deadpool thanks to its self-aware narration, but it's definitely its own beast.Plus, who doesn't want to see Nicolas Cage doing a Batman impression? Worth it.The bonus recommendation here is James Gunn's Super, which follows a similar homegrown vigilante that gets in too deep battling crime on his own.M. Night Shyamalan always knows how to keep audiences on their toes, and Unbreakable is no different. It follows David Dunn (Bruce Willis) who quickly realizes he has super strength and invulnerability when he survives a devastating train crash.It doesn't feature dramatic battles, flashy costumes, or even many special effects whatsoever. Instead, Shyamalan deconstructs the superhero genre through a realistic lens, while also exploring themes of morality and duty. Unbreakable is more than worth your time, especially considering it features a surprisingly nuanced performance from Willis as Dunn. And his dynamic with Samuel L. Jackson's Mr. Glass is nothing short of gripping. The fact that it doesn't feel like a superhero movie is arguably why it's so great. Of course, it sets up its own universe with 2017's Split and 2019's Glass.Hellboy is a superhero movie from horror maestro Guillermo del Toro. What's not to love?This gothic fantasy pits Ron Perlman's titular demonic monster hunter against Rasputin, who wants to unleash a horde of Lovecraftian monsters that would bring about the apocalypse, and it's downright gorgeous. The director's taste for horror helps bring this world to life in a visceral way so that it feels scary without needing to make the audience jump every two seconds.Del Toro also relies heavily on practical effects and creature designs, which is a breath of fresh air against the typical CGI-drenched punch-ups that fans are used to. What's also remarkable is that Hellboy captures the exact same atmosphere as Mike Mignola's original comics. It feels grimy and scrappy, unlike the usual polished slick look of most superhero adventures. However, the less we say about the 2019 reboot, the better.Pixar beat Marvel to the best Fantastic Four movie ever made with The Incredibles.Argue against it all you like, but it follows similar themes to what Marvel's First Family deals with in their 60-plus years of comic book storytelling. The family dynamic, the guilt over their powers, villains of their own making, it's all there. So yes, this entry does feel like cheating a little bit, but it is still its own thing from Pixar and director Brad Bird.And it also stands on its own two super-powered feet with a beautiful animation design that pops right out of the screen, a stunningly designed world, and a talented cast of voice actors that bring the Parr family to life. The Incredibles' self-aware streak also makes it a delight for older audiences as well as kids thanks to Edna Mode (Brad Bird) and her brilliant superhero costume critiques… NO CAPES! Perfect.Although the found footage format is usually reserved for the horror genre, director Josh Trank managed to make it work for his superhero movie, Chronicle.The film follows a trio of high schoolers who stumble on a mysterious object underground that gives them telekinetic abilities.There's something about seeing superpowers from this perspective that makes the adventure more exhilarating — especially in moments where they're flying and dodging planes in the sky.But it also weaves in a devastating story about corruption as the boys grapple with their power and the great responsibility that comes with them.It also features an electrifying performance from a younger Dane DeHaan, who stars opposite Michael B. Jordan and Alex Russell. And it comes in with a tight 83-minute runtime, so it doesn't outstay its welcome.Watchmen is probably the most divisive entry on the list — largely because its director, Zack Snyder, always seems to end up being a contentious point among comic book fans.The 2009 movie is based on Alan Moore's iconic graphic novel from the 1980s, and Snyder took a completely faithful approach to the source material (aside from its ending).The lengthy epic imagines an alternate version of the 1980s, and the level of detail in it is just superb. For starters, its opening montage is fascinating as it shows just how different the US is because of the intervention of superheroes. Sure, the slow-motion action scenes get a little too much at times, but at least it has a distinctive style rather than Marvel's uniform color grading, cinematography, and action scenes. Because it leans so heavily on Moore's original work, it toys with themes of nuclear paranoia, nihilism, and corruption.Admittedly it won't be for everyone, but it's bold enough to go against the grain.A second Batman movie on the list? Warner Bros. really has dedicated plenty of time to explore all aspects of the Caped Crusader on the big screen over the years. And one of his best adventures is the 1993 animated movie, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.The movie follows the Dark Knight as he deals with a mysterious new vigilante in Gotham City, but it's also a character study of what makes Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) tick. It looks at his internal struggle between leaving the cape and cowl behind to pursue happiness or keeping the vow he made to protect the innocent.Yes, it's a feature-length spinoff of Batman: The Animated Series, but just because it's a kids' cartoon doesn't mean it can't explore mature themes and storylines.This is all without mentioning just how gorgeous Mask of the Phantasm looks, with its neo-noir atmosphere and rich character designs. Conroy and Mark Hamill have never been better than as Batman and the Joker. It's just perfect.Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a fascinating piece of cinema, because it follows a washed-up actor, Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton), who previously played a comic book hero in his heyday, but struggles to find work in the present.Obviously, the film has a meta angle to it since Keaton is well known for playing Batman in the late 1980s and early 1990s (although he's anything but washed up). But it's a captivating drama about the relationship between Hollywood actors, the characters they play, and how the lines blur between them in the public eye. It's not a typical superhero movie in any sense, since Birdman only appears as a figment of Riggan's imagination throughout the story, but it's a refreshing approach to the genre as a whole, while also touching on fandom and popularity. If Keaton's excellent performance isn't enough, he's joined by Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, and Andrea Riseborough.