Mystery Men (and Women)by grendelkhan | created - 15 May 2013 | updated - 21 Oct 2013 | Public
These are movies and tv shows featuring superheroes, masked mystery men/women, or costumed adventurers (and some supercriminals). I'm mostly sticking to costumed and superheroes, but reserve the right to throw in heroic figures like Tarzan and James Bond, who transcend the normal man. I've also throw in a few villains and some legendary heroes who greatly influenced masked heroes. I'm mostly skipping the direct to video films, as I have only seen a few.
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1. The Gentleman Burglar (1908)
Crime, Drama, Short
The Proposal: The gentleman burglar walking with his lady love. They admire the grandeur and beauty of nature. He proposes and she accepts. She does not suspect his occupation. Turning Over... See full summary »
First cinematic appearanceof Arsene Lupin, the gentleman thief. Lupin is a supercriminal and starred in a series of popular short stories, where he is an anti-hero, often pitted against nastier criminals, much like Britain's Raffles. He even faces off against Sherlock Holmes, sort of, until warned off by Conan Doyle's lawyers. There would be multiple Lupin films, a tv series, and it also insppired the manga Lupin III.
Not Rated | 54 min | Crime, Drama
Inspector Juve is tasked to investigate and capture an infamous criminal Fantomas.
Silent serial, featuring the French supercriminal. Fantomas was a sensation at the turn of the century, inspiring an American serial, a series of films in the 60s, and most of the supercriminals that followed, as much as Moriarty and Fu Manchu.
3. Les vampires (1915)
Not Rated | 421 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
An intrepid reporter and his loyal friend battle a bizarre secret society of criminals known as The Vampires.
French silent serial, about a gang of supercriminals, led by the enigmatic Irma Vep. She appears in a leotard "bat" costume, which would influence many hero and villain costumes to come.
4. Judex (1916)
300 min | Adventure, Crime
A twelve part serial following the adventures of the masked vigilante Judex as he fights against criminals led by the corrupt banker Favrauxom.
Brilliant silent French serial about a cloaked avenger, operating from a secret lair. Judex predates The Shadow and other cloaked pulp heroes, and the serial was later remade as a film, in the 60s. The plot is relatively the same.
5. Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1917)
70 min | Adventure, Crime, Romance
Gentleman burglar Raffles tries to get his hand on a priceless pearl.
Raffles was a little slower getting to the screen than his French counterpart, Lupin. he was also a gentleman thief, who is usually at odds with worse criminals, along with his aid, Bunny. The pair are a sort of criminal Holmes and Watso. Raffles was usually played by a suave actor, including John Barrymore, Ronald Coleman, David Niven, and Anthony Valentine (in a tv series).
6. Tarzan of the Apes (1918)
Not Rated | 73 min | Action, Adventure
The plot follows the novel more closely than does any other Tarzan movie. John and Alice Clayton take ship for Africa. Mutineers maroon them. After his parents die the newborn Tarzan is ... See full summary »
Votes: 538 | Gross: $1.00M
The first Tarzan film, featuring Elmo Lincoln. To me, Tarzan, as written, personifies a superhero, though within his jungle world. His abilities are greater than any Olympic athlete. I will not list every Tarzan film, but will try to highlight some of the notable ones.
7. The Mark of Zorro (1920)
Not Rated | 107 min | Adventure, Romance, Western
A seemingly idiotic fop is really the courageous vigilante Zorro, who seeks to protect the oppressed.
Douglas Fairbanks stars as the masked hero of Old California. The film did a lot to lighten the tone of Johnston McCulley's creation, which was a bit darker. As with Tarzan, I will list notable Zorro films, but not all.
8. Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
Not Rated | 242 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Arch-criminal Dr. Mabuse sets out to make a fortune and run Berlin. Detective Wenk sets out to stop him.
Introduction of the German supercriminal, from Fritz Lang. Norbert Jacques created the character in his novel, but Lang and Thea von Harbour made him something more. Another template of the super criminal. Lang would return to Mabuse in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse; and, in the 60s, The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse. There was also a series of German films in the 60s, following Lang, but never at the same level.
9. Belphégor (1927)
In the Louvres museum ,the phantom appears in the middle of the night ,in search of something in the dark corridors.
Early serial with Renee Navare, as a phantom who haunts the Louvre (wonder where that idea came from). In reality, it is a master thief who is stealing art treasures. Belphegor would later star in a French tv series.
10. Raffles (1930)
72 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama
A distinguished English gentleman has a secret life--he is the notorious jewel thief the press has dubbed "The Amateur Cracksman". When he meets a woman and falls in love he decides to "... See full summary »
Votes: 618 | Gross: $1.00M
Ronald Coleman stars as the debonair thief, this time.
11. Dracula (1931)
Not Rated | 75 min | Fantasy, Horror
The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.
Bela Lugosi stars in this classic horror film. Dracula is another influence on the potrayal of supervillains, especially supernatural ones. He is oneof the early bad boys, giving the villain a romantic air. Of later Dracula films, the Hammer ones are the best.
12. Frankenstein (1931)
Not Rated | 70 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
An obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.
Votes: 53,781 | Gross: $12.00M
The seminal adaptation of Marry Shelly's novel. Boris Karloff plays the sympathetic monster. Frankenstein would influence many a monster in the comics, particularly the Hulk (which also threw in Jeckyll and Hyde), not to mention notions of mad scientists.
13. Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
Passed | 100 min | Action, Adventure, Romance
A trader and his daughter set off in search of the fabled graveyard of the elephants in deepest Africa, only to encounter a wild man raised by apes.
Johnny Weismuller begins a long streak of Tarzan films, with Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane. These, along with the Hal Foster and Burne Hogarth comic strips, did more to make Tarzan a household name than even the books.
14. The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
Passed | 68 min | Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi
Englishmen race to find the tomb of Genghis Khan before the sinister Fu Manchu does.
Boris Karloff stars as the evil doctor, a proto-super criminal and embodiement of the "yellow peril." There was a serial, The Drums of Fu Manchu, then a series of films, starring Christopher Lee. the first film, The Face of Fu Manchu, is by far the best.
15. Tarzan the Fearless (1933)
Unrated | 200 min | Action, Adventure
In the African Jungle, a group of Europeans come across the fabled white man who was raised by apes. Tarzan takes an immediate liking to the blond Mary Brooks and rescues her during a nasty... See full summary »
Serial version of Tarzan, featuring Buster Crabbe, who completes the truimvirate of the greatest adventure strip heroes. Herman Brix would also play Tarzan in this era.
16. The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)
Not Rated | 97 min | Adventure, Drama
A noblewoman discovers her husband is The Scarlet Pimpernel, a vigilante who rescues aristocrats from the blade of the guillotine.
The Baroness Orczy hero is brought to life in this version from the 30s. The Pimpernal uses various disguises to save aristocrats from the guillotine, along with his league of assistants. Raymond Massey is excellent as the villain, Chauvelin. The Scarlet Pimpernal inspired the dual identity and the masquerade as a less than heroic figure, used by Supmeran and Batman, in their civilian guises.
17. Flash Gordon (1936)
Approved | 245 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Alexis Zarkov visit the planet Mongo to thwart the evil schemes of Emperor Ming the Merciless, who has set his planet on a collision course with Earth.
This one is also debatable, but Flash excels at everything, so he's here. This first serial had a feature film budget and it shows, though the spaceships had to turn around a lot. Some of the performances and costumes are a bit dodgy, but the serial is loads of fun and follows the first couple of years of the comic strip relatively faithfully. Two sequels would follow; but, I'll just lump the series together. These serials would inspire a certain Californian to create his own space opera adventure and even the opening title crawl.
18. The Bold Caballero (1936)
Approved | 67 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
The Commandant is making life rough for the colonials in Spanish California. While trying to help, Zorro is charged with the murder of the new Governor, but in the end he triumphs over the evil Commandant.
Early Zorro "talkie," though not in the same league as The Mark of Zorro.
19. Dick Tracy (1937)
Approved | 290 min | Action, Comedy, Crime
A master criminal called The Spider puts the famous detective's brother under a hypnotic spell and turns him against Dick.
Not strictly a superhero, but the comic strip inspired so many elements of later comic heroes, like Batman's Rogues Gallery. The serial would also inspire stunts in the Indiana Jones series, and some footage was reused in Fighting Devil Dogs.
20. The Shadow Strikes (1937)
Approved | 61 min | Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery
Lamont Cranston assumes his secret identity as "The Shadow", to break up an attempted robbery at an attorney's office. When the police search the scene, Cranston must assume the identity of... See full summary »
One of two short films with the Shadow, but it isn't in the same league as the pulp hero or the radio version.
21. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
PG | 102 min | Action, Adventure, Romance
When Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard's absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.
Votes: 41,267 | Gross: $3.98M
Errol Flynn stars as the legendary outlaw, in what is still the finest version. I include Robin Hood because he is the inspiration for many of the elements of the superhero, especially ones like Green Arrow and Hawkeye.
22. The Lone Ranger (1938)
Approved | 264 min | Western
CHAP. 1, HI YO SILVER: An outlaw leader planning to take control of Texas after the Civil War kills Colonel Jeffries, a man empowered to levy taxes, and assumes his identity. His men then ... See full summary »
Republic serial that adapted the masked radio hero. Unfortunately, they changed a lot of it, to the point that the original negatives were destroyed and only foreign prints survive.
23. The Spider's Web (1938)
Passed | 300 min | Crime, Action, Drama
A crime fighter known as The Spider battles a villain called The Octopus, who is out to sabotage America and install his own government.
Movie serial, based on the pulp hero. Norvell Paige, one of the pulp writers, contributed to the strip. The character isn't nearly as wild as in the pulps, but he has a unique mask and cape, with white webbing on it, influencing the later Spider-Man. A second serial would follow.
24. The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938)
Approved | 204 min | Adventure
The US marine corps must battle a would-be world conqueror who uses electricity as a weapon.
Not so much a superhero film as a supervillain one. The Lightning is one of the most memorable villains in all serials, and would go on to inspire Darth Vader. He also flew around in a wicked flying wing (via stock footage from Dick Tracy). Some of the cliffhangers were also recycled footage.
25. The Saint in New York (1938)
Approved | 69 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Simon Templar, the Saint, is brought to New York. His search for the identity of "the Big Fellow" takes him through many dangerous situations.
Leslie Charteris' criminal/adventurer Simon Templar comes to life, with Louis Hayward in the role. There would be a series of films, with George Sanders taking over the role.
26. Buck Rogers (1939)
Approved | 237 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy
A 20th Century pilot named Buck Rogers and his young friend Buddy Wade awake from 500 years in suspended animation to find that the world has been taken over by the outlaw army of Killer Kane.
I debated whether to include sci-fi adventure heroes, but Buck was close enough to count, in my book. Buster Crabbe plays this take on Rip Van Winkle, awakening in the 25th Century, where he fights would-be despots and other nogoodniks. It's pretty entertaining, to boot.
27. Mandrake, the Magician (1939)
Approved | 215 min | Action, Adventure
Mandrake and his assistant Lothar are working the cruise lines and make the acquaintance of Professor Houston who has developed a radium energy machine, which is much coveted by a masked Crime Lord known as "The Wasp".
Movie serial based on the comic strip hero. Mandrake mesmerized his opponents, though it seemed almost like real magic in the early strips. The hero was created by Lee Falk, who also thought up The Phantom.
28. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
Approved | 85 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller
The master sleuth hunts his archenemy, Professor Moriarty, who is planning the crime of the century.
Following the Hound of the Baskervilles came this film, both with Basil Rathbone, the definitive Holmes. Great intrigue and mystery. Holmes is the superdetective and Moriarty would be the template for all supercriminals.
29. Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939)
Passed | 212 min | Action, Western
The masked hero leads a fighting force to fight a villian who plots the conquest of The Republic of Mexico.
First Zorro serial from Republic, which features legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt as the masked hero. Canutt recreates the stagecoach stunt from John Ford's Stagecoach, which would be repeated in The Legend of the Lone Ranger and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Republic did several more Zorro serials, but each was less like the original character.
30. Raffles (1939)
Approved | 72 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime
Man about town and First Class cricketer A.J. Raffles keeps himself solvent with daring robberies. Meeting Gwen from his schooldays and falling in love all over again, he spends the weekend... See full summary »
It's David Niven's turn in the tuxedo, continuing the tradition from John barrymore and Ronald Coleman.
31. The Saint Strikes Back (1939)
Passed | 64 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Simon Templar, the Saint, travels to San Francisco to solve crime mysteries within the police department.
George Sanders takes over the role of Simon Templar and continues for several films, before becoming another detective, The Falcon. Saunders oozes charm as Templar and was always good in these kinds of things.
32. The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Approved | 94 min | Action, Adventure, Romance
A young aristocrat must masquerade as a fop in order to maintain his secret identity of Zorro as he restores justice to early California.
Tyrone Power stars in the best rendition of The Fox. Power excels as both foppish Diego and the hero Zorro, while Basil Rathbone is perfect as the sneering villain. This has one of the better duels at the climax. It was later remade as a tv movie, in 1975, starring Frank Langella.
33. The Green Hornet (1940)
Approved | 258 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama
A newspaper publisher and his Korean servant fight crime as vigilantes who pose as a notorious masked gangster and his aide.
The first of 2 Universal serials, featuring the radio hero. The Hornet is a masked crimefighter who passes himself off as a criminal, aided by his manserveant Kato. Kato was Japanese, originally, but was made Filippino during the war and Korean here, played by Keye Luke (blind Master Po on Kung Fu). It's a bit unique in that each chapter focused on the pair defeating a different group of criminals, who are part of a bigger syndicate, providing the connection across chapters.
34. The Shadow (1940)
Approved | 285 min | Action, Crime, Drama
The Shadow battles a villain known as The Black Tiger, who has the power to make himself invisible and is trying to take over the world with his death ray.
Movie serial based on the pulp hero, created by Walter Gibson, under the house name Maxwell Grant. The Shadow debuted as the host of the Street & Smith mystery radio program, then gained his own pulp series, radio show, and this serial. he would go on to appear in a series of short films and a tv pilot, before returning as Alec Baldwin.
35. Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940)
Approved | 267 min | Adventure, Action, Crime
A mad scientist plots the domination of America and only the masked hero, The Copperhead, can stop him.
Intended as a Superman serial, National (DC) passed on the idea. The hero was retooled into the Copperhead, a man in a chainmail hood. The villain got top billing, though.
36. The Green Archer (1940)
Approved | 285 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
The struggle over the Bellamy estate ends with Michael Bellamy accused of murder and killed on the way to prison, while his brother, Abel Bellamy, takes control of the estate for his own nefarious plans.
Serial based on the Edgar Wallace novel. This archer works in secret, via secret passages within a mansion. He does predate the Green Arrow, though Robin Hood inspired both.
37. The Green Hornet Strikes Again! (1940)
Approved | 293 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
A wealthy publisher uses a disguise and calls himself the Green Hornet to fight crime in his city.
Kato is the same; but, we have a new Hornet. As before, each chapter is essentially a new adventure, breaking from serial tradition.
38. Superman (1941)
Passed | 10 min | Animation, Short, Action
The Man of Steel fights a mad scientist who is destroying Metropolis with an energy cannon.
The Fleischer cartoons are wonders to behold, visually, and the stories are mostly good (if occassionally racist). This Superman couldn't yet juggle planets and had to earn his victories. These are great little stories.
39. Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)
Passed | 216 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
To protect a magic talisman from being used for evil, a teenage boy named Billy Batson is given the power to become an adult superhero, Captain Marvel, with a single magic word: "Shazam!"
The Big Red Cheese is brought to life by Republic and Tom Tyler. This one is played straight and it is tremendously entertaining. Cap even throws a thug off the roof and shrugs off being hit by a conveninetly placed engine block. The villain is a standard masked serial villain, rather than Sivanna or Black Adam. If you only ever watch one movie serial, make it this one.
40. Spy Smasher (1942)
Passed | 215 min | Action, Adventure
Alan Armstrong, aka Spy Smasher, battles a Nazi villain known as The Mask, who heads a gang of saboteurs determined to spread destruction across America.
The second Fawcett hero to reach the silver screen. Spy Smasher is a masked hero/aviator trying to stop The Mask, a Nazi agent. Spy Smasher's gyrosub doesn't appear, but there is a flying wing, which would inspire the similar fight in Raiders of the Lost Ark. This another of the really great serials, making Fawcett the most successful comic publisher, when it came to cinematic success: 100% (2 for 2).
41. Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942)
Passed | 71 min | Action, Adventure
Tarzan and Jane go to New York to rescue Boy after he is kidnapped into a circus.
Tarzan comes to New York is this nice departure for the series, transplanting the jungle hero into an urban environment. Definitely one of the superior Weismuller films.
42. Captain Midnight (1942)
Passed | 270 min | Action, Adventure
Secret Service Major Steel (Joseph W. Girard), is one of the few men in America aware of the fact that Captain Albright (Dave O'Brien) is also Captain Midnight, daring masked aviator ... See full summary »
Movie serial, based on the popular radio and comic book hero. Our intrepid captain is one of several aviator heroes, and one of the most popular. The serial is fairly average, devoid of any really memorable stunts. There was a tv series, which was standard fare for the period.
43. Batman (1943)
Approved | 260 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
Japanese spymaster Prince Daka operates a covert espionage organization located in Gotham City's now-deserted Little Tokyo which turns American scientists into pliable zombies.
The Caped Crusaders come to the cinema in this serial from Columbia. Lewis Wilson was a bit on the pudgy side, and the Batmobile is just a regular sedan, but there is a Batcave, though they keep their costumes in a filing cabinet. The question is whether it is under C for "costume" or U for "unifrom;" or T for "tights?"
44. The Masked Marvel (1943)
Passed | 197 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
A superhero called The Masked Marvel battles Japanese saboteurs intent on blowing up America.
Original hero from Republic. The Marvel is a masked crusader who is fighting a gang of saboteurs, with the hook that he is one of 6 men. The body is played by Tom Steele, who also appears as a thug, in one chapter. He ends up chasing himself, up a flight of stairs.
45. The Phantom (1943)
Passed | 299 min | Action, Adventure
Professor Davidson and his niece Diana Palmer search Africa for the Lost City of Zoloz, reputed to be the source of a large hidden treasure. Also searching is a local crook, Singapore Smith... See full summary »
The Ghost Who Walks was brought to life by Columbia and Tom Tyler. Again, Tyler is physically perfect for the role and there is a pretty darn good script. Stock footage gives it more scope than many serials. The wolf Devil is replaced by a german shepherd.
46. Captain America (1944)
Approved | 244 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Superhero Captain America battles the evil forces of the archvillain called The Scarab, who poisons his enemies and steals a secret device capable of destroying buildings by sound vibrations.
The sole cinematic outing for Timely Comics (the future Marvel). This Captain America isn't a supersoldier, but a masked crusading district attorney. The script wasn't originally intended to be for Cap; rather, there is some belief it was written for Fawcett's Mr. Scarlett, who was a masked, crusading district attorney. It's not a bad serial, but it isn't Cap. He also only has red and white stripes on his abdomen, not on his back.
47. Enter Arsene Lupin (1944)
Approved | 72 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
A rich but naive young woman is in possession of some priceless jewels. She doesn't realize it, but a gang of jewel thieves does.
US production, directed by Ford Bebe, from Universal. Lupin had already appeared in several French films, including one in 1937, which was a big hit.
48. The Shadow Returns (1946)
Approved | 61 min | Comedy, Crime, Mystery
People are literally flying off balconies to their deaths as Lamont Cranston, aka the Shadow, tries to make sense out of a confusing jumble of murders, disappearances, jewels that aren't ... See full summary »
Kane Richmond takles over as the hero, but it still isn't more than a pale imitation. Richmond stared in two more Shadow films.
49. Superman (1948)
Approved | 244 min | Sci-Fi
Superman comes to Earth as a child and grows up to be his home's first superhero with his first major challenge being to oppose The Spider Lady.
Kirk Alyn stars as the Man of Steel, but a cartoon does all of the aerial work. A decent serial, with Carol Forman as the villainess, a nice twist on the usual antagonist.
50. Batman and Robin (1949)
Approved | 263 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
The caped crusaders versus The Wizard, black-hooded mastermind.
Robert Lowery takes over as the Dark Knight Detective, though he doesn't fair much better than Lewis Wilson. The villain isn't much, either.
51. The Lone Ranger (1949–1957)
30 min | Western
The adventures of the masked hero and his Native American partner.
The Lone Ranger gets a proper adaptation, featuring Clayton Moore, for the episodes that count. Moore had previously played heavies at Republic, and is joined by Jay Silverheels as Tonto. This is what most people think of when they hear the name The Lone Ranger, thanks to years in syndication.
52. King of the Rocket Men (1949)
Passed | 167 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
Jeff King in his experimental rocket suit battles the evil Dr. Vulcan.
The first of three films featuring the rocket-powered hero and by far the best. A hidden villain, known as Vulcan, is killing off personnel at a research company and the Rocket Man must stop him. The serial was later adapted as a painted comic book at Innovation, by Christopher Moeller, in anticipation of the Rocketeer film.
53. Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)
Approved | 252 min | Sci-Fi
Superman battles Lex Luthor who is using a teleportation device and a new identity as Atom Man in his criminal plans.
Second Superman serial is notable for the film debut of Lex Luthor. It's not quite as fun as the first outing.
54. Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)
Not Rated | 58 min | Action, Drama, Family
When underground beings explore the surface world from a deep oil well and inadvertantly cause a panic, only Superman can prevent a tragedy.
Theatrical pilot for the Superman tv series, featuring George Reeves as Superman/Clark Kent. reeves plays it mostly straight, though with a bit of a twinkle in the eye. Phyllis Coates is Lois.
55. Mask of the Avenger (1951)
83 min | Adventure, Drama, History
During the European revolutionary fervor of 1848, Italian Captain Renato Dimorna tries to avenge his father's death, goes against the corrupt local military governor Larocca and prevents an Austrian military invasion.
Odd little mix of Zorro and the Count of Monte Cristo, featuring John Derek as the hero and Anthony Quinn as the villain. Quinn is the only thing keeping this from being a stinker.
56. Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom (1952)
Approved | 242 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Based on a successful comic book that began in 1941, the Blackhawks were seven flyers who banded together during WW II to fight the Nazis. After the war, they continued to fight evil where ... See full summary »
I'm stretching my definition a bit, but Blackhawk was a kind of supersoldier/aviator, who led a Foreign Legion of the air. This serial comes off rather bland, though it features Kirk Alyn as the hero. the just couldn't match the scope of the comics, on a serial budget. The Blackhawks eventually did become superheroes, in one of the most misguided revamps in comic history. It didn't last, thankfully.
57. Adventures of Superman (1952–1958)
TV-G | 30 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
The Man of Steel fights crime with help from his friends at the Daily Planet.
The Superman tv series is one of the highlights of 50s television. Reeves potrays a tougher Clark kent than in the comics, while Noel Neill, from the 2nd season onward, is the epitome of the 50s Lois. The only thing that would have made it better would have been villains from the comics, rather than generic hoods. Point of trivia: in the pilot, on Krypton, we geta glimpse of a few costumes from movie serials, including Captain Marvel and Captain America, and at least one Flash Gordon outfit.
58. Radar Men from the Moon (1952)
Approved | 167 min | Action, Sci-Fi
Strategic targets on Earth are being destroyed by an unknown weapon. Government security head Henderson suspects it's an "atomic ray" originating from the moon! He assigns Commando Cody, ... See full summary »
Second Rocket Man serial, with the hero now called Commando Cody. It's a bit boring at times, leading to its savage treatment by early MST3K. The name would resurface in Revenge of the Sith. It would also be used for the tv series.
59. Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952)
Approved | 167 min | Action, Sci-Fi
The invaders come to Earth to create an H-bomb to blast Earth out of orbit so that Mars can take its place.
Third Rocket Man serial, with alien invaders. It's mainly notable for one of the aliens: a very young Leonard Nimoy.
60. Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (1953– )
30 min | Sci-Fi
It is the near future as seen from the perspective of the early 1950s. Earth is in radio contact with civilizations on planets in our solar system, as well as planets in other, distant ... See full summary »
Cody got a tv series, such as it was.
61. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Approved | 127 min | Adventure, Drama, Family
A ship sent to investigate a wave of mysterious sinkings encounters the advanced submarine, the Nautilus, commanded by Captain Nemo.
Votes: 24,085 | Gross: $28.20M
Disney's classic adaptation of Jules Verne's masterpiece. Captain Nemo is one of the proto-supervillains, the man who is saving the world from itself. He is more anti-hero than villain, influencing characters like the Submariner, Doctor Doom, and many others. Also, for all of the jokers out there, the title refers to the distance travelled by the Nautilus, not the depth.
62. The Shadow (1954 TV Short)
25 min | Short, Adventure
Lamont Cranston, a psychiatrist on retainer to the police department, is asked to assist in the Case of the Cotton Kimono murder investigation. Lamont and his girlfriend Margot Lane are not... See full summary »
Pilot for a potential series starring The Shadow, but it did not succeed.
63. Flash Gordon (1954–1955)
30 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Space hero Flash Gordon and his crew of the Galaxy Bureau of Investigation patrol space, battling space monsters, power-mad alien dictators and other threats to the stability of the universe.
TV series featuring Steve Holland. It is notable for two things: one, it used footage of a post-war Berlin, showcasing the bombing damage of the war. Second, Steve Holland would act a a model for James Bama, for the covers to the Bantam reprints of Doc Savage.
Approved | 225 min | Adventure
Trapper Nat Coleman and government agent Ted Arnold come upon a plot to take over an African nation. Its leader, Caliph Abdul el Hamid, has been exiled from his country and replaced by a ... See full summary »
This was supposed to be a Phantom sequel but King Features nixed the idea. So, they just altered the costume, slightly, gave him a new name and sent him off. It can't hold a candle to the real thing.
65. Zorro (1957–1959)
30 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
Don Diego de la Vega opposes the corrupt tyrants of Spanish California as the masked swordsman, Zorro.
Guy Williams stars as the hero, who is more crusader for justice than revolutionary, in this Disney series. This was the Zorro for the Babyboomers.
66. The Adventures of Arsène Lupin (1957)
104 min | Crime, Mystery
Arsène Lupin, the multifaceted gentleman thief, steals two masterpieces from the President of the Council. Some time later, posing as Monsieur Gilles, a winegrower who is marrying his only ... See full summary »
One of the more successful later adaptations of Lupin.
67. Invisible Avenger (1958)
60 min | Action, Crime, Drama
Lamont Cranston, aka The Shadow, investigates the murder of a New Orleans bandleader.
A pilot for a potential Shadow tv series, which did not materialize. It was released as a film, made up of two episodes whioch had been filmed. It had a 1962 re-release under a different name.
68. Gekkô kamen (1958– )
30 min | Adventure, Action, Mystery
Japan's first superhero TV show, in which a caped/masked avenger fights assorted evil in modern-day Tokyo.
Star: Kôichi Ôse
Japanese tv series, featuring a motorcycle-riding masked hero, who debuted earlier in a manga. It was hugely popular and would go on to inspire Kamen Rider.
69. Le fatiche di Ercole (1958)
Approved | 107 min | Adventure, Fantasy
The muscular Hercules performs his Labors, sails with the Argonauts, and romances the fair Iole.
Votes: 1,469 | Gross: $5.00M
Steve Reeves debuts as Hercules, one of the original superheroes. The mythical Herc was actually a nasty little SOB, who incurs the wrath of Hera. This Herc is grade A, prime beef. It would launch multiple Hercules films, with a variety of musclemen in the role.
70. Horror of Dracula (1958)
Approved | 82 min | Horror
Jonathan Harker begets the ire of Count Dracula after he accepts a job at the vampire's castle under false pretenses.
Christopher Lee stars as the vampire and Peter Cushing is the vampire hunter. This version would prove highly influential and advances the Van Helsing character more than the Lugosi film. It would lead to things like Marvel Comics superb Tomb of Dracula and Blade.
71. Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959)
Approved | 88 min | Action, Adventure
Four British villains raid a settlement to obtain explosives for use in a diamond mine. In doing so they nearly destroy the settlement, so and Tarzan pursues them to their mine.
Gordon Scott is Tarzan, but it's one of the criminals that makes this one special: a pre-James Bond Sean Connery.
72. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Approved | 87 min | Horror, Mystery
When a nobleman is threatened by a family curse on his newly inherited estate, detective Sherlock Holmes is hired to investigate.
Peter Cushing stars as Holmes, while Christopher Lee is Bascombe. Excellent film.
73. Tarzan the Magnificent (1960)
Approved | 82 min | Action, Adventure
Tarzan must escort his prisoner Coy Banton out of the jungle to the authorities. The boat is blown up by Coy's father and brothers. In addition to Coy Tarzan must now lead five more of the ... See full summary »
Gordon Scott's last Tarzan also introduces the next Tarzan, Jock Mahoney. Mahoney is a villain in this one. Great action and actual jungle locales made these superior to previous efforts.
74. Neutrón, el enmascarado negro (1960)
72 min | Action, Drama, Mystery
Neutron, a masked wrestler/superhero, battles a gang of crooks who are plotting to steal a secret formula.
Neutron was another luchador turned superhero in a film series, featuring Wolf Ruvinski as the hero, who did not exist in the ring, prior to the films.
75. Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse (1960–1962)
30 min | Animation
Star: Dal McKennon
Rather stiff cartoon series about a Batman-derived set of cat and mouse heroes. Considering that cats and mice are natural enemies, the pairing doesn't make sense. Batman co-creator (Bill Finger was responsible for quite a lot of it) Bob Kane was involved in this.
76. The Phantom (1961 TV Movie)
The Phantom, along with canine companion Devil, investigate wicked doings at the plantation of Mrs. Harris.
Pilot for a potential Phantom series, but it was not picked up. Lon Chaney Jr. appears as one of the thugs.
77. The Avengers (1961–1969)
TV-14 | 60 min | Action, Comedy, Crime
A quirky spy show of the adventures of an eccentrically suave British agent and his predominately female partners.
What started out as a detective series became something more. It is nudged in that direction during the Honor Blackman era, but fully enters the superhero realm with Emma Peel. Steed and Peel are the perfect crimefighting duo, with inventive adventures and tons of fun. They would also inspire the Hellfire Club in the X-Men.
78. Master of the World (1961)
Not Rated | 102 min | Sci-Fi, Adventure
In 1868, an American scientist and his team become hostages of fanatical pacifist Robur who uses his airship Albatross to destroy military targets on Earth.
Vincent Price stars as Robur, Jules Verne's sciene pirate of the air. This Robur, however, is more like Nemo than his literary counterpart, as the film mixes elements from both Verne novels; Robur the Conqueror (aka Clipper of the Clouds) and Master of the World. The film is pretty good, except for a rather bland Charles Bronson as the hero, Strock.
79. Santo contra cerebro del mal (1961)
70 min | Adventure, Action, Sci-Fi
The first of the Santo lucha films. El Santo was a popular lucha libre star who was brought to the screen in a series of movies, pitting the grappler against monsters and evil doctors galore. Santo had actually been a rudo, or villain, but he was all hero in these and would spend the rest of his career as a technico, or hero, in the ring. The success would inspire other lucha fims, with the character rechristened Samson in the US. Santo contra las mujeres vampiro is probably the best known, as Samson vs the Vampire Women, as seen on MST3K.
80. La furia del ring (1961)
95 min | Action, Drama
Blue Demon makes his debut in movies. This rival of El Santo would go on to star in a series of films, and several teamups with Santo and Mil Mascaras. He was the better wrestler of the two.
81. Dr. No (1962)
PG | 110 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller
A resourceful British government agent seeks answers in a case involving the disappearance of a colleague and the disruption of the American space program.
Votes: 125,416 | Gross: $16.07M
Sean Connery debuts as James Bond, superspy. These are far more than espionage thrillers, sharing more elements with superheroes. The villains are grandiose and bent on world conquest, with only James Bond in the way. The films would launch the spy-fi craze, leading to The Man From UNCLE, The Wild Wild West, Matt Helm, Derek Flint, and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. Goldfinger is generally considered to be the highpoint of the Connery run, but I prefer You Only Live Twice. I wont go into all of the films, just the personnel changes.
82. The Saint (1962–1969)
50 min | Action, Crime, Drama
Simon Templar, a wealthy adventurer known as The Saint, travels around the world in his white Volvo P1800S.
Roger Moore stars in this seminal tv series, featuring Sion Templar as a pseudo-spy/troubleshooter, more than criminal/detective. The series made Moore a star and led to James Bond.
83. Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963)
Not Rated | 92 min | Action, Adventure
The spiritual leader of an oriental country is dying. The leader's evil brother Khan is plotting to prevent Kashi, the youthful heir, from assuming his rightful position. Tarzan is summoned... See full summary »
Jock Mahoney takes over the role, but a bout with disentary weakened his physique. Woody Strode provides an excellent villain, and the two have an epic contest, culminating in a sword duel on a net, suspended over boiling cauldrons.
84. The Mighty Hercules (1963–1966)
30 min | Animation, Action, Adventure
The adventures of the heroic demigod of Greek mythology.
Cartoon series featuring the slab of beef. The animation was stiffer than H-B, but it was a fairly popular series.
85. Underdog (1964–1973)
TV-G | Animation, Action, Comedy
The adventures of a rhyming canine superhero.
One of my all-time favorite cartoon series. Our hero is the humble Shoeshine Boy, but when danger arises, he swallows his super vitamin and transforms into Underdog, protector of the innocent. The stories were inventive and the great Wally Cox provided the rhyming voice.
86. Fantomas (1964)
G | 100 min | Comedy, Crime, Adventure
Criminal mastermind Fantômas, a man of a thousand faces, is unhappy with Fandor, a journalist whose written a fictive interview of him. He kidnaps Fandor, threatens to kill him, but first ... See full summary »
First of 3 films with the supercriminal, Jean Marais playing the villain and the hero. The first one is excellent, and the other two are pretty good. It features elements inspired by the Bond series.
87. Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators (1964)
99 min | Adventure, Comedy, History
The story of Spartacus and 10 other gladiators who rebelled against the bloody coliseum sports. They escape and are faced at every turn by Roman soldiers bent on taking them back to the ... See full summary »
There were three Ten Gladiators films, but this is the best. the group is a sort of gladiatorial Justice League, laying the smackdown on evil villains. The fights are less convincing that he WWE, but they are fun.
88. Belphegor (1965– )
180 min | Thriller
A mysterious phantom appears in the Musée du Louvre in Paris at night. Neither the guards nor the police are able to arrest it. A curious young man tries to break the ice and discover what drives the creature and the background activities.
French tv mini-series with the super criminal, who masquerades as a phantom inside the Louvre. It proved very influential on later French writers, leading to Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier to create the Tales of the Shadowmen anthologies, featuring characters from French pulp literature and elsewhere, and the French Wold Newton Society.
89. The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
Not Rated | 89 min | Action, Crime, Drama
Grisly strangulations in London alert Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard to the possibility of the fiendish Fu Manchu may not be dead after all, even though Smith witnessed his execution. A ... See full summary »
By far the best of the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films. Nigel Green makes for a great Nayland Smith, while the film has plenty of intrigue and mystery. The setting is a strange mix of the 20s and the 60s, but it works pretty well. The sequels became increasingly worse, until low rent director Jess Franco was producing films so horrible that the gang at MST3K got involved. Lee knows how to play a villain, though.
90. Attack from Space (1965 TV Movie)
76 min | Action, Sci-Fi
Benevolent aliens from the planet Emerald send superhero Starman to protect Earth from invasion by an evil alien race called the Spherions. When Starman arrives on Earth, he discovers a ... See full summary »
These are English dubs of a Japanese serial, featuring an alien superhero fighting monsters and criminals. The action is lively, even if the costumes aren't very convincing.
91. The New Adventures of Superman (1966–1970)
30 min | Animation, Sci-Fi
Superman protects Metropolis and the world from a variety of threats while working at the Daily Planet as Clark Kent.
Filmation returns Superman to animation and also launches their studio. Bud Collyer, who voiced the character in the theatrical shorts and the radio seres is back. Lex Luthor is around, as well. The animation is stiff, even compared to Hanna-Barbera, but the stories are lively. Superboy would appear as a secondary segment. The success of the cartoons would lead to other DC heroes joining the Man of Steel on Saturday mornings.
92. Batman (1966–1968)
TV-G | 25 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
The Caped Crusader and his young ward battlle evildoers in Gotham City in a bombastic 1960s colorized and updated versions of the 1940's black and white tv show based of the comic book hero's exploits.
TV series that launched a phenomenom. The first season is great, with excellent stories and some really funny gags. The second season is mostly good, but the shine is coming off. The third season is only made tolerable by Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, but the stories are pretty weak. Despite revisionist history, this series actually boosted sales of the comics, though they took on the campy tone, after having just re-established the character in more serious stories. The camp didn't last and Batman got serious again, to the point of being grim, by the 80s.
93. Batman: The Movie (1966)
Approved | 105 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime
The Dynamic Duo faces four supervillains who plan to hold the world for ransom with the help of a secret invention that instantly dehydrates people.
In between season 1 and 2, the producers created this theatrical film. the budget allowed them to produce the Batcopter, Batboat, and Batcyle, for use in the tv series. All of the big villains team up, though Lee Merriwether becomes Catwoman (Julie Newmar was filming another movie). There is a nice little romance here, though the plot is way over the top. You can't beat the bomb scene, though. I first saw this as a kid and it was a thrilling adventure. The comedy comes through more as you get older.
94. Space Ghost (1966–1968)
TV-Y7 | 30 min | Adventure, Animation, Sci-Fi
The adventures of a space superhero who can become invisible and his sidekicks.
The success of the Batman would inspire H-B to create their own masked hero. Alex Toth got the job and he hit it out of the park. The series features exciting adventures and great villains, though the best stuff was early on. It wrapped up with a multi-part epic, with Space Ghost's enemies teaming up as the Council of Doom. Space Ghost encounters other H-B heroes, like Mightor, the Herculoids and Shazzan.
95. Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966)
Not Rated | 90 min | Adventure
The international criminal Vinaro enjoys sending explosive wristwatches to his enemies. Here he kidnaps ten-year-old Ramel whom he thinks can lead him to the lost city of gold. Tarzan ... See full summary »
Ex-NFLer Mike Henry takes over as Tarzan, who is portrayed as a globetrotting protector. Here, he comes to investigate a kidnapping. The success of James Bond would inspire this take on the jungle hero.
96. Modesty Blaise (1966)
119 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
A spy spoof in the 60s tradition featuring the comic book heroine Modesty Blaise set in the Italian Mediterranean.
The James Bond phenomenom spawned this comic strip heroine, who is an ex-criminal turned freelance troubleshooter. The film, however, is a campy romp with little to do with the adventure heroine, apart from the names. It's a fine piece of 60s camp, but not a good Modesty Blaise movie.
97. Frankenstein, Jr. and the Impossibles (1966–1968)
30 min | Animation, Family
Three cartoons packed into one half hour. Frankenstein Jr. was a robot constructed by a boy-genius to fight crime, The Impossibles were undercover agents disguised as a rock group.
Another lively H-B adventure/comedy series. Frankie was a robot, controlled by Buzz Conroy, in a take-off of Johnny Sokko. Ted Cassidy (lurch on the Addams Family) provided Frankie's oice. The Impossibles were a rock band, ala the Beatles, who also had super powers and fought crime, though these were played for laughs.
98. Adam Adamant Lives! (1966–1967)
50 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi
Edwardian adventurer Adam Adamant is frozen alive in a block of ice by his arch-nemesis The Face in 1902 ; in 1966 workmen discover him and he is revived, perfectly preserved... but ... See full summary »
Adam Adamant was a Victorian gentleman hero, who finds himself frozen and awakened in the 60s. He continues his heroic ways, while grappling with a changed world. Unfortunately, much of this series is lost and is not available in the US.
99. The Green Hornet (1966–1967)
TV-PG | 99 min | Action, Crime, Sci-Fi
A newspaper publisher and his Asian valet/martial arts expert battle crime as the feared Green Hornet and Kato.
Van Williams starred as the hero, but everyone tuned in to see Bruce Lee as Kato. The series was spawned by Batman, but played it straight, much aided by Lee's martial arts skills. There was a two-part crossover with Batman, on his show; but, the series only lasted one season. Every attempt at revival has hinged upon the role of Kato, rather than the Green Hornet.
100. Our Man Flint (1966)
Unrated | 108 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
When scientists use eco-terrorism to impose their will on the world by affecting extremes in the weather, Intelligence Chief Cramden calls in top agent Derek Flint.
Votes: 5,035 | Gross: $16.00M
Derek Flint is a polymath, but with a rebellous streak. he is a sort of superspy Doc Savage, he refuses weapons, using his multifunction lighter instead. There were two Flint films and a tv pilot, but this is the best. I've singled him out as he shares more with the pulp heroes than Bond.