21st Century Film’s Best (Non-Super) Heroes

In the 21st century, cinematic heroes have been overrun by comic book superheroes. It’s hard to think of some of our more ordinary characters as particularly special when the likes of Batman, Iron Man, etc. are flying all over IMAX screens saving their respective cities and worlds with near superhuman efforts. Superheroes have taken over the cinema. Yet when you think back on some of the action and adventure films that stand out from the last 15 years, there are actually a number of heroes who have made an impression without coming from the pages of a Marvel or DC comic book.

Here’s a look back at some of the 21st century’s best non-comic film heroes.


Achilles may be a mythological character, but because he predates Marvel and DC by some 3,000 years, he qualifies as a unique hero in modern film. Brad Pitt’s portrayal of history’s (or mythology’s) greatest warrior in the 2004 film Troy was breathtakingly fun, even if it bordered on ridiculous at times. He stormed a fortified beach by himself, beheaded a gold statue of Apollo, took down Hector of Troy, and fell in love in the process—and looked good doing it. The real tragedy of Troy is that in the midst of an endless heap of comic movie sequels, the nature of the Trojan War story prohibits a sequel that could feature Achilles. At least there’s a funny little arcade game that lets you embody the character (it’s actually kind of addicting).

James Bond

Suffice it to say Daniel Craig brought enough excitement back to the character of James Bond that he now feels like one of the true heroes of 21st century film. Craig’s Bond is as vulnerable as Batman and as bruising as Iron Man while still maintaining the charms and amusement of the Bonds of old. And he’s not done yet. Just recently BBC and other sources reported that the next installment, titled “SPECTRE,” will reach the cinema late in 2015!


If you don’t remember the 2007 film version of Beowulf, you may want to re-watch it. It’s utterly absurd, sure, but it also provides one of cinema’s most “super” non-comic book heroes. Unfortunately, as with Achilles, Beowulf is more or less forbidden from having a sequel because of his roots in actual literature. But, also as with Achilles, the film version of the character can still be enjoyed in a few gaming adaptations. InterCasino hosts a Beowulf-themed game, which you can play here, and it features a “Grendel Attack” along with a version of the epic fight between Beowulf and a terrible dragon. It’s actually a pretty impressive way to enhance a more straightforward slot experience, though for the more traditional gamers out there, Ubisoft‘s “Beowulf The Game” (For Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3) was actually a great deal of fun.

Jack Sparrow

Yes, the last few Pirates Of The Caribbean movies abandoned the cleverness of the original in favor of cheesy stunts and outright ridiculousness. However, if you somehow manage to sit through them all—the third one is actually pretty good—Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow never loses his charm. He’s delightful in his flaws and really is one of the least capable heroes in a generation of film obsessed with all-powerful protagonists. There’s value in that, and hopefully Cap’n Jack will regain some glory in his upcoming fifth installment.


The upcoming Hobbit film looks awesome and will finally mark the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s way-too-long adaptation of the Lord Of The Rings prequel—a short book that he turned into three movies. But one reason this prequel trilogy never quite captured the magic of the LOTR films is that it doesn’t have Aragorn. One part rugged and reluctant hero, and one part shining white knight, Aragorn is one of the most compelling characters in 21st century film, and he’s a genuine improvement on his persona in the classic books. That’s blasphemy, I know, but it’s true!

Katniss Everdeen

Finally, there’s Katniss Everdeen, who jumped out of the decidedly average writing that comprises The Hunger Games trilogy in the form of Jennifer Lawrence, who has stolen our hearts and dominated the box office. A fearsome warrior who prefers to be a sacrificial lamb given the chance, Katniss is riveting largely because of her disdain for what she’s so good at. A review of the latest Hunger Games film (currently in theaters) in the Christian Science Monitor correctly points out that “as an actress, Lawrence has grown beyond this sort of thing,” and there is indeed something vaguely “cheap” about the narrative. Yet, Lawrence is so good and her character’s plight so bleak that she almost can’t help but become a superhero.




Go-Go Dai Gaijin Boy
Author: Go-Go Dai Gaijin Boy View all posts by
I hail from south Florida, watch anime, play Magic, I'm some what of a gamer and I read comics. I sometimes like a good horror movie every now and then. Zombies, vampires and werewolves are overrated.

Leave A Response