As you can probably tell, we here at CBR love superhero movies and TV shows. There’s nothing like seeing the character you’ve only seen on paper brought to life, especially when the portrayal is faithful to the original. Unfortunately, when you have characters that popular, someone is going to try to rip it off. That happens all the time, even with legitimate movies and comic books, but sometimes it goes in different directions. Some of the ripoffs have been subtle with name and costume changes. Since some countries are less strict about copyright laws than others, that’s allowed some local movie studios to make their own versions without changing the name or costume.
The results have been all over the map. While the film industries in many other countries don’t have the budget or breadth of talent to make it work, some superhero ripoffs have actually been really good. A different take on the character has introduced whole new ideas that made them fun to watch. Other versions have been awful with bad costumes, nonsensical plots and no respect for the source material. CBR has decided to travel the world in search of the very worst and very best international superhero ripoffs.
15. BETTER: BURKA AVENGER
Wonder Woman has long been seen as the champion of women around the world, as well as one of the first and most popular archetypes for all female superheroes. Yet for all her positive qualities, there’s something that’s been criticized over the years, which is that she’s more interested in fighting criminals than injustice against women and the fact that she’s a white woman who doesn’t break racial boundaries.
In 2013, Pakistan set out to fix that with the Burka Avenger. In the animated series, a school teacher at an all-girls school lives a secret life as a superhero who wears a burka instead of tights while fighting. She doesn’t just fight crime, but targets abusers of women. Not only does the Burka Avenger break stereotypes of women and erroneous preconceived notions about Muslims, she also defends her gender, all in one awesome package.
14. BETTER: BLACK LIGHTNING
A young teenager gets superpowers and uses them for his own benefit until his selfishness leads to the death of someone he loves. Yeah, that’s not the origin of Spider-Man. That’s Black Lightning. When you think of Black Lightning, you’re probably thinking of the DC comics African-American superhero who recently earned his own TV show, but it’s also the name of a 2009 movie from Russia.
Black Lightning is obviously inspired by Spider-Man but differs because it’s about a young man who gets a flying car instead of a radioactive spider bite. Yet Black Lightning has more heart than the 2002 Spider-Man movie because it’s a labor of love, not a multimillion dollar Hollywood blockbuster. It also has a superhero with a flying car which (you have to admit) is more original than a super-strong hero who swings from a rope.
13. BETTER: SUPAIDAMAN
In 1978, Marvel licensed Spider-Man to a Japanese company to adapt into a TV show. The show took the concept and made Spider-Man unrecognizable, starting with the name Supaidaman. In Supaidaman, the hero got his powers from an alien from Planet Spider instead of a radioactive spider, including super-strength and being able to stick to walls. The biggest change is that he also had a spaceship that turned into a giant robot known as Leopardon.
You would think Marvel wouldn’t be happy with Spider-Man turning into a giant robot character, but you’d be wrong. In fact, Marvel and even Stan Lee (the co-creator of Spider-Man) loved the show for its cutting-edge special effects, martial arts and stunts. Leave it to the Japanese to realize Spider-Man was cooler with a robot!
12. BETTER: THE HEROIC TRIO
What would be better than Wonder Woman? Three Wonder Women. That’s probably how the 1993 Hong Kong action movie The Heroic Trio started, a movie about three female superheroes who banded together to fight an evil force attacking their city. One who used swords and throwing knives was even named Wonder Woman in the original version, but was changed to Shadow Fox in the English dub. She was joined by the tough bounty hunter Thief Catcher and Invisible Girl, who was turned from the Evil Master.
What weapons does Wonder Woman usually have? A magic lasso? Bulletproof vests? An invisible jet? Take a look at three women with martial arts skills, shotguns, and a robe that turns them invisible. That’s a major upgrade. It’s an awesome movie, and predated the Wonder Woman movie by over 20 years.
11. BETTER: ITALIAN SPIDER-MAN
Not all international superhero rip-offs end up turning out that well, which is why Italian Spider-Man is so great. It started out as a short trailer by an Australian film company for a movie that didn’t exist until the audience demanded that it really exist. Thus, the full movie was made. Italian Spider-Man reimagines the hero as an overweight guy in a domino mask and red turtleneck sweater with a crudely drawn spider on the chest. Somehow, he manages to be the greatest hero of all time.
Don’t believe us? How about Italian Spider-Man outrunning a motorcycle? Or winning a surfing contest against his arch-enemy? Or summoning an army of penguins to attack his enemies? And let’s not forget transporting himself anywhere guys are catcalling women to punch them in the face. Let’s see the regular Spider-Man do that.
10. BETTER: LA MUJER MURCIELAGO
Is there anything that can make Batman even better? Superpowers? More gadgets? What if Batman was a hot female wrestler in a bikini? If you’re thinking “no,” then you’re probably right, but someone disagreed. In 1968, a Mexican movie was released called La Mujer Murcielago which translates to The Bat Woman. We know you’re probably thinking “There’s already a Batwoman,” and you’d be right. Just go with it.
In Mexico’s take on Batman, the Bat Woman is a secret agent, superhero, and wrestler. She chases after a mad scientist who’s using wrestlers to make hybrids of humans and fish. It’s a zany ride with a beautiful hero and absolutely no respect for logic or self-control, which makes it a fun movie. It’s definitely more camp and fun than 1997’s Batman and Robin ever tried to be.
9. BETTER: THREE FANTASTIC SUPERMEN
You can almost hear the pitch meeting that created 1967’s Three Fantastic Supermen. One Italian goes, “There’s a movie coming out called Superman. How can we top it?” And the other says, “We’ll have three Supermen!” In this version, when an FBI agent has to stop a mad scientist (are there any other kind?), he teams up with two friends put on masks, capes and bulletproof suits to get the job done.
With its bad special effects, corny plot and bad acting, how can we call this a better movie than Superman? Because the actors did their own stunts, including jumping out of a second-story window and into moving cars. No green screen or wires, just dedication and skill. Knowing you’re seeing real people risking their lives beats a guy lying on his stomach in front of a fan.
8. BETTER: SHAKTIMAAN
In 1997, India introduced its own version of Superman called Shaktimaan. Shaktimaan was about a nerdy newspaper photographer who used mystical training and meditation to control the natural elements and become a superhero. Through his fight against evil, Shaktimaan tries to bring peace to the world.
Shaktimaan was the first Indian superhero and captured the nation’s culture in a way Superman never captured the culture of the United States. Shaktimaan was steeped in the Hindu religion and Indian traditions, and became much more than just India’s version of Superman. The special effects were thin and the show was obviously made for kids, but for many Indian children and adults, Shaktimaan made an impact bigger than Superman did in their country and maybe even in the West.
7. WORSE: GUARDIANS
In 2012, Marvel’s The Avengers hit the big screen like a nuclear bomb, shattering all expectations of what a superhero movie could be. With its roster of popular superheroes, action-packed scenes with cutting-edge special effects, it was inevitable that someone would try to copy it. One Russian film studio tried in 2017 with Guardians, an openly pro-Soviet movie about a team of superheroes created during the Cold War.
The movie imagines a secret project to create genetically engineered heroes including a man who can control rocks, another hero who wields a sickle, a woman with the power to turn into water, and a scientist who can turn into a bear. While this sounds pretty cool on paper, Guardians was a disaster, so bad it drove the studio into bankruptcy. Then again, you can’t beat a were-bear with a machine gun.
6. WORSE: ALYAS BATMAN EN ROBIN
In 1989, the big-budget Batman hit movie screens, so of course, people wanted to rip it off. One country who tried is the Philippines where a comedian Joey de Leon made his own version parodying the Caped Crusader called Alyas Batman en Robin. The movie was packed with Mexican comedians playing the Joker and other classic characters, but Warner Bros didn’t find it so funny. In fact, the studio hit the movie with a lawsuit that delayed the release for years.
After it was finally released in 1991, Alyas Batman en Robin turned out to be a disastrous and unfunny film that disappointed comedy lovers and superhero fans alike. It’s hard enough to make a good parody to begin with but making a parody of a parody just never works.
5. WORSE: DARIYA DIL
The Internet knows it as Indian Superman, but the real source of this hideously bad parody/homage to Superman is a movie called Dariya Dil. Dariya Dil (also known as Sacred Heart), an Indian romantic comedy released in 1988. Most of the attention goes to a musical number where a man and woman are dressed as Superman and Spider-Woman.
If you wanted to mess up Superman, it’s hard to do a better job than Dariya Dil. Not only are the costumes ill-fitting and cheaply made, the actors defy all laws of gravity during the flying sequences. We know you’re thinking, “Flying already breaks the laws of gravity.” That’s true, but these two somehow manage to fly sideways and upside down. They even dance on thin air, all with their feet firmly planted as if on solid ground.
4. WORSE: BETMAN
If it exists, there’s an adult version of it. That’s a solid rule and 1973’s Betmen Yarasa Adam proves it. It’s a Turkish movie about a knock-off version of Batman and Robin trying to stop a criminal who’s killing people in the fashion industry. However, this is a randier version of the Dark Knight who smokes, uses a gun, and goes to strip clubs. He’s more interested in cheating on his girlfriend than he is fighting crime.
The movie is really a softer version of the kind of movies you’d watch late at night on Cinemax. It’s pretty awful, especially when you consider that the restrictive media in Turkey at the time meant that almost no one there would have known who Batman was, making this their first exposure to the crimefighter.
3. WORSE: JAMES BATMAN
What do you get when you cross a bad movie ripping off James Bond and a bad movie ripping off Batman? You get James Batman, which sounds like a joke but is actually a Filipino movie from 1966. With the title James Batman, the movie went right to the core of the concept. When an evil terrorist organization threatens to destroy the world with nukes, secret agent James Bond and Batman are sent to stop them.
Both Bond and Batman were played by the same actor, even though they’re supposed to be working against each other and finally teaming up to stop the villains. As you can imagine, combining the spy and superhero genre doesn’t work as well as it should, especially when Catwoman and the Joker show up. Overall, it’s an ambitious but ugly mess.
2. WORSE: BATHMAN DAL PIANETA EROS
For some reason, people look at Batman and think, “That guy needs to get more action.” Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have any complicated special effects and Batman costumes are cheap and available, but there have been a lot of adult spoofs of Batman, few worse than Bathman Dal Pianeta Eros. No, that’s not a typo. In this movie, his name is Bathman. Yeah, this movie doesn’t even get the basic elements right, imagining “Bathman” an alien from the planet Eros.
Bathman and his sidekick Bathbaby are trying to stop criminals ravaging young women. Somehow, that mostly involves Bathman riding around on a bike in the countryside. There are bad jokes about homosexuality, a weird robot and an alien villain who can’t figure out why Bathman is fighting crime instead of chasing women. The actual movie makes less sense than that summary, so we’ll leave it at that.
1. WORSE: 3 DEV ADAM
When it comes to bad international rip-off movies of superheroes, the Citizen Kane is 3 Dev Adam. Released in Turkey in 1973, the movie is about a shieldless Captain America teaming up with a ripoff of a real international superhero, the Mexican wrestler Santo. If that’s not confusing enough, the main enemy is Spider-Man, who’s somehow a supervillain in this story instead of a superhero. Spider-Man doesn’t stick to walls or shoot webbing or wear his costume. Instead, he has a different costume and uses guinea pigs for weapons.
But wait, there’s more! Santo and Captain America ditch their usual non-violence to kill Spider-Man many times, but he comes back every time. Turns out there’s more than one Spider-Man! This movie is crazy and fun in a weird way, but it definitely doesn’t hold up against the originals.
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