Pre-WWII superhero movies you didn’t know existed!


Superhero movies now, with technology and CGI, have become quite mainstream. Movies are now easy to make and with themes beyond possible. But there was a time when tech support wasn’t available, yet superhero movies were made. They weren’t as common, but some filmmakers had the courage to use the available equipment and make movies. These films are no longer as popular due to their technical inferiority. But they present the marvels of cinema. Here’s a list of pre-WWII superhero movies you didn’t know existed.

The Mask of Zorro (1920)

The Mask of Zorro

The famous masked vigilante made his first appearance in the serialized novel The Curse of Capistrano (1919) by Johnston McCulley. After that, he was part of movies, TV shows, theater productions, comics and video games. He is also said to be the inspiration behind DC’s Dark Knight. His first screen appearance was in The Mask of Zorro (1920). Actor Douglas Fairbanks played the lead role. According to film historians, the film is a milestone in the development of the action-adventure genre. The film has been remade twice.

Don Q, Son of Zorro (1925)

Don Q, superhero son of Zorro
Don Q, son of Zorro

After the huge success of The Mask of Zorro, Fairbanks returned for a sequel to the film. This time the actor played the son of his character in the previous film. The son follows in his father’s footsteps to become a masked vigilante. Zorro also appears at the end of the film, which allowed Fairbanks to play a dual role. While the first film was set in California, the sequel takes us to Spain. Where Zorro’s son, Ceaser, goes to school. He is accused of murder by a romantic rival. So fakes his death and hides, wearing a mask to conceal his identity.

Flash Gordon (1936)

Flash Gordon superhero
Flash Gordon

In 1934, the Flash Gordon comic came out. He told us the story of a titular hero, living on a planet called Mango, as he battles the evil ruler, Ming the Merciless. Flash eventually defeats Ming in the 1950s and returns to Earth. He then becomes an astronaut who travels to other planets. The series was considered one of the most influential comics of all time. In 1936, the superhero got his first movie, it was the second highest grossing movie of the year.

Flash Gordon’s trip to Mars (1938)

Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars superhero
Flash Gordon’s trip to Mars

The cast of the first film, all reprising their roles in the fifteen-chapter sequel, Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars. The film was a low-budget production, as it also contained archival footage from its prequel. This film also proved to be a box office success. But the radio program “The War of the Worlds” had sown panic among listeners who did not realize that it was a fiction. Orson Welles had to publicly apologize for the confusion caused by his radio production.

The Spider’s Web (1938)

Spider's Web superhero
The spiderweb

A pulp magazine superhero, The Spider, was a millionaire playboy who had his own brand of vigilante. He fought against the underworld in New York and left a red dot on the foreheads of those he killed. The Spider’s Web was the first film based on the pulp series. The violence was toned down in the film, and her costume was changed a bit. It was a resounding success with audiences and critics. Stan Lee’s Spider-Man is inspired by this character.

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