With the X-Men finally saying goodbye (until the inevitable MCU reboot), fans of the chosen family and their epic adventures may well be feeling sad about the lack of X hyphenated entertainment on their screens. Luckily, due to the collective being one of the most influential pop culture inventions of the last century, there are plenty of films and a couple of series that offer up something to fill the X-shaped hole in your soul.
My Hero Academia
This anime adaptation of the manga series of the same name had to come first on our list as it’s as close to Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters as you’re ever going to find outside Westchester County, NY. Set in a reality where super-people with powers known as “Quirks” are revered as celebrities, this series focuses on Izuku, a Quirk-less kid who suddenly finds himself given powers by the most famed hero of all. We follow Izuku to the U.A. High School, which—just like Xavier’s—trains the next generation of superheroes. Chosen family, high school drama, and high action make My Hero Academia a must-watch for X-Fans.
My Hero Academia is currently available on Hulu.
The Darkest Minds
Based on a popular YA novel, The Darkest Minds slipped under many radars as it failed to reach the lofty heights of teen films like The Hunger Games and Twilight. For X-Men fans, though, this tormented tale of oppression, fascistic government oversight, kids with powers, and ultimately rebellion will likely appeal. In tone, it’s closer to Logan than the more family-focused X-Films. It stars Amandla Stenberg as a superpowered young woman who has to hide her true strength in a world that fears her.
The Darkest Minds is currently available on HBO.
Midnight Special doesn’t have a school of young heroes but it is a film that—just like the X-Men—deals with the concept of superpowers and the people who exploit and protect those who have them. Set in rural Texas, the story centers on a young boy called Alton and the men (including one Michael Shannon) who are trying to save him from an apparent doomsday cult that wants to harness his powers. Midnight Special also works as an interesting reflection of the world that Charles Xavier wants to create, where boys like Alton would never have to go on the run or rely on the kindness of others.
Midnight Special is currently available on Cinemax.
One of the defining features of the X-Men comics and the more recent films has been the relationship between Charles Xavier and his friend-turned-enemy Erik Lehnsherr. It’s a dynamic that launched a thousand ships and inspired multiple frenemies in pop culture. Death Note is an example of another such relationship as Light Yagami finds a book which can kill people simply by writing their name and is hunted down by a mysterious young detective named L. This engaging battle of wits is at the center of the brilliant cult supernatural anime.
Death Note is currently available on Netflix, Hulu, Tubi, and Vudu.
Thelma is a startling Scandinavian offering that leans into one of the most popular X-Men themes: the repression of teenage sexuality. In the comics, the X-Men’s mutations are an allegory for puberty and the changes that we all go through as we hit the teenage years. Thelma extrapolates this with a searing exploration of a repressed young woman who gains strange powers that manifest with extreme seizures when she falls for a girl in her university.
Thelma is currently available on Hulu.
Rumiko Takahashi is one of the most influential and prolific cartoonists of all time and Ranma 1/2 is a great example of her narrative power. Though the plot about a young boy who falls in a magical well and transforms into a young girl anytime he gets wet may not seem similar to the X-Men, the sprawling sequential story is a radical subversion of the gender binary that explores teenage growth and changes through the lens of strange superpowers. It’s also really good.
Ranma 1/2 is currently available on Hulu and Vudu.
Another anime entry, this detective series offers up an intriguing mystery perfect for fans of Days of Future Past as a young man learns he has the power to travel into the past and decides that he’s going to save the life of a friend who was murdered when he was a child. Chilly, thoughtful, and addictive, Erased is reminiscent of the beloved Claremont-era X-Men where the stories were elevated by topical themes, superior character work, and, of course, wonderful art.
Erased is currently available on Hulu.
Though this entry stretches the definition of superpowers, the Anne Hathaway-starring flick is, just like X-Men, a solid example of fantasy storytelling that surprises you with the deeper themes underneath. After an alcoholic young woman, Gloria, heads back to her hometown and reconnects with an old friend, she realizes that giant kaiju-like monsters that are appearing in cities are controlled by her and others like her. The real story here, though, is about abusive relationships, their power, and how to escape them.
Colossal is currently available on Hulu.
This critically acclaimed but criminally underlooked movie about three generations of black female superheroes does what X-Men has always tried to. One of the biggest flaws of the X-World is that it’s ostensibly built on the idea of mutants as an allegory for the Civil Rights movement but without consistently centering black people, or many marginalized groups at all. Fast Color subverts this by centering black women and their experience of superpowers and everything that comes with them.
Fast Color will be available on Digital as of June 18.
Chronicle is a direct descendant of the X-Men and many of the other comic books that we all grew up on. Though it’s essentially a remake of Katsuhiro Otomo’s amazing anime Akira, it still takes a lot from the classic comics: a group of teens with strange powers, two best friends who end up driven apart by their powers, and a lot of tragic unnecessary death. Also, shoutout Michael B. Jordan, who does such a good Johnny Storm impression here he actually got cast as Johnny Storm in the doomed Fant4stic movie.
Chronicle is not currently streaming, sadly.
Preceding My Hero Academia by a decade, this fresh family flick has cult status amongst fans with Kurt Russell killing it as Steve Stronghold, one of the world’s most powerful heroes. The film centers on his son, Will, who gets a place at the titular academy for young supers. Fluffy, fanciful, and filled with fun superpowered hijinx, Sky High taps into some real classic era X-Men vibes with a Silver Age silliness that’s impossible to ignore.
Sky High is not currently streaming either.
Images: Crunchyroll, Faliro House Productions, Nippon TV, Motlys, Studio Dean, Fuji TV, A-1 Pictures, Voltage, Neon, Codeblack Films, 20th Century Fox, Buena Vista Productions.