30 superhero movies with secret (and not-so-secret) political messages

Superhero movies, once considered a risky commercial venture, have gone on to become one of the most popular and lucrative genres in cinema. They’re everywhere. Behind all of the explosions, lasers, and villainous monologues, however, there often lies a serious political statement. Let’s not exaggerate, they’re no Dr. Strangelove, but many of our favourite superhero movies have boasted political messages that you might not have even noticed… until now.

30. Superman (1978)

Released in 1978, Superman took his first cinematic flight in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Watergate. The film openly acknowledges the cynicism of its era, before instead presenting a noble hero that represented the embodiment of everything that America once stood for – “truth, justice and the American way”.

What’s more interesting is that Superman is an alien immigrant who embodies these cherished values, overcoming his own personal tragedy as an example to those disillusioned by recent events. At one point, the Man of Steel tells love interest Lois Lane “I’ll never lie to you.” You know, unlike those rotten politicians.

29. X-Men (2000)

The numerous open references to the Holocaust aside, the entire X-Menuniverse is a commentary on racial tension. Two heroes with strong, decent beliefs take very different approaches to their cause, the question of mutant equality being a direct metaphor for the American civil rights movement. Director Bryan Singer once told the BBC that “Professor Xavier was Martin Luther King and Magneto was Malcolm X, and these were two men who had very strong, decent beliefs, but had taken different roads.”

“The irony of that, and the moral ambiguity of that, intrigued me,” explained Singer, saying that X-Men “was a step beyond simple crime-solving, superhero action. It was much more socio-political, and in that way exposed more truth.”

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