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R-Rated Superman Stories We'll Never Get To See On The Big Screen

Superman fans won't have to wait long for their favorite hero to have another solo film, as James Gunn's upcoming "Superman" movie, "Superman: Legacy," is finally starting to come together. Not only is David Corenswet set to play the iconic DC hero, but other major hero castings have been announced — including Nathan Fillion as Guy Gardner's Green Lantern and Edi Gathegi as Mr. Terrific. Gunn's take on the Man of Steel will likely take the character back to his good-hearted heroic roots and touch on story inspirations that are more heartfelt and wholesome. So, it's safe to say that some of the darker, more mature storylines won't be touched on with this new Superman — or possibly ever. 

Despite Superman generally being depicted as a caring and hopeful hero, there are comic storylines in DC's history that see him act more as a villainous monster or deal with crushing tragedies. Some of them are so violent, disturbing, or genuinely shocking that they wouldn't be able to avoid earning a hard R-rating — likely keeping them from appearing on the big screen entirely. Truthfully, some of these dark "Superman" stories are so gnarly and nasty that they would probably never get greenlit. But that doesn't mean we can't look them over and discuss why these R-rated narratives will probably never make it to the big screen — especially in live-action.

Superman: The Dark Side

At this point, pretty much everyone knows Superman's origins. After Krypton is destroyed, Kal-El is sent flying through space until his ship crash lands on Earth. From there, he's given the Earth name Clark and raised by Martha and Jon Kent — which causes him to adopt a stronger connection to humanity. However, some non-canon Elseworld stories alter Superman's origins and see him become something much more evil. One of the more iconic evil Superman Elseworld stories is "Superman: The Dark Side — a three-issue comic storyline released in 1998 that saw Superman raised by one of DC's most daunting villains. 

After landing on Apokolips instead of Earth, Superman is raised by Darkseid. He becomes a more villainous incarnation who shares his adoptive father's vision to destroy New Genesis — the world of the New Gods. While it would be incredible to see Superman don the incredibly dark and foreboding suit he wears as Darkseid's disciple, this evil version of Superman is too inhumane and heartless to bring to the big screen. With someone like Darkseid being his greatest influence, Superman spares no mercy on anyone that gets in his path and goes to destructive lengths to achieve Darkseid's goals. Frankly, an adaptation of "Superman: The Dark Side" would involve gory bloodshed, dark depictions, and unimaginable destruction that audiences simply aren't ready to see, so it'll probably never happen. 


Fans already got to see what happens when the MCU mixes its madness with zombies with "Marvel's What If...?" It's unlikely that DC fans will be as lucky since the "DCeased" storyline is chock full of intense gore and gut-wrenching moments that'll keep it from hitting the big screen. When Cyborg accidentally releases a horrifying variation of the Anti-Life equation onto the world, most of the human population and some of DC's most notable heroes become infected, zombie-like monstrosities hellbent on violence and devastation. Most of "DCeased" sees absolute anarchy and carnage unfold as Superman — before becoming infected himself — attempts to keep things from falling apart. This means he has some tense faceoffs against these bloodthirsty and violent zombies.

These fights are so gory and gut-wrenching that it's tough to believe they'd be able to be fully captured on the big screen. Superman and The Flash's fight is especially gory, as Superman is forced to fly right through Flash to stop him — which causes bones, blood, and guts to spread through the air as Flash literally explodes. Things get even more vicious when Superman finally gets infected and becomes such a devastating force that his son Jon is forced to stop him from destroying humanity. While "DCeased" would be epic to see be brought to life on the big screen, its endless bloodshed and horrifying devastation will likely stop it from happening.

Superman: Red Son

Another Elseworld story that saw Superman become more ruthless after landing somewhere other than Kansas is "Superman: Red Son" — when Superman worked alongside Russia in the Cold War. After Russia introduces Superman to the world as an aide to their efforts, the world spirals into a devastating and destructive arms race that sees Superman fight alternate depictions of DC's greatest heroes and villains. Aside from the sheer controversy that would come from a "Red Son" adaptation due to the current political climate surrounding Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, other aspects of this story are too graphic and contentious in their own right for live-action.

Superman being brought up during the Soviet Union's growing tensions with the U.S. post-WWII makes him a much more intimidating and merciless force, and his protective desires for the USSR make him do some terrifying things to shut down detractors. Nearly every fight in this story is full of vicious fury and brutal bloodshed, and some gruesome assassinations embody the tense feud of the time. There's also a pivotal moment where Batman takes his own life to act as a martyr, which would be tough to pull off on the big screen without substantial backlash. Sure, "Red Son" was adapted into a well-received animated film in 2020, but its brutality and subject matter make it tough to bring to wider audiences. 

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The Multiversy: Mastermen

DC's "Multiversy" storyline delivered tons of madness in the DC multiverse and featured many chapters on different Earths that contained unique spins on everyone's favorite DC heroes. One of those chapters — titled "Mastermen" — saw Superman raised by Adolf Hitler, becoming a game-changing force for the Nazis known as Overman — ultimately helping them win WWII. Overman not only displays a vicious power that has him lead an alternate Justice League full of nefarious variants of DC's most notable heroes, but he attempts to build a utopian world on the ashes of genocide and devastation. 

To depict Overman accurately, a live-action film adaptation would have to display some grounded horror and atrocities that audiences might not be ready to see paired with their favorite DC heroes. Not to mention, the mind-breaking guilt Overman suffers due to the death of his cloned sister Overgirl — an alternate version of Supergirl — would be so depressing that it might be too much for audiences to handle. Also, the finale — which features the sudden deaths of millions and sees Overman's utopia turned to ash — is unimaginably devastating. "Masterman" is a multiverse story with too much carnage and horror to effectively bring to a live-action adaptation without catching a lot of flak. Plus, there would surely be some controversy over seeing Superman as a Nazi on-screen.

Bump in the Night

Plenty of Elseworld stories reimagine Superman as an evil entity who uses his powers for destructive purposes. But there's one where Kal-El's dark turn happens as soon as he lands on Earth. The 2017 Halloween short story "Bump in the Night" sees Martha Kent attempting to survive against a powerful entity who lands on her farm, eventually revealed to be a young Superman. From Jon's gruesome death at the beginning to how Martha is physically broken throughout her cat-and-mouse game with Kal-El, "Bump in the Night" has brutal gore and raw horrifying power that DC probably isn't willing to bring to the big screen. Plus, ironically, James Gunn has already kind of beaten DC to the punch in bringing "Bump in the Night" to life with 2019's "Brightburn," which he produced.  

Given how similar that film's concept is to "Bump in the Night," the short story likely inspired it. It also provided a very similar experience with plenty of bloody kills and terrifying moments with its own young superpowered person who eventually kills his parents. Since "Bump in the Night" has pretty much been covered by "Brightburn" and sets a bloody standard that DC probably wouldn't try to reach, it's safe to say that "Bump in the Night" will just remain a cool horror short story. 


Although the "Injustice" storyline has become incredibly popular over the last couple of years, being utilized in comics, video games, and even a so-so animated flick, it's doubtful that this incredibly violent and cold story centered on Superman becoming evil will ever make it to the big screen. After the Joker causes Superman to kill a pregnant Lois Lane, Superman kills him by punching a hole right through his chest. It's a bloody and brutal moment that changes everything, as Superman goes on to lead a controlling regime over humanity, causing others to create a revolt to take him down. 

Superman is depicted as a ruthless tyrant in "Injustice" and holds nothing back in decimating anyone and anything that stands in his way. With him causing destructive chaos that kills innocent civilians to display his power, even murdering other heroes like Shazam, who pose a threat or show insubordination, this Superman might be too gnarly for DC to depict in live-action. Honestly, the Superman in "Injustice" is akin to Homelander from "The Boys," so he'd hold nothing back in unleashing his destructive rage and power. While it might seem cool in concept to have the evil Superman flying around on the big screen, he'd probably be way too violent and unbridled in his cold rule for DC to stomach. 

Funeral for a Friend

The "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" ending delivered a notable homage to the "Death of Superman" storyline but didn't go the extra mile to also adapt the "Funeral for a Friend" arc for a reason — it's super depressing. "Funeral for a Friend" picks up immediately after Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday and touches on other characters' reactions and struggles without him there. With Superman no longer around, the crime rate in Metropolis skyrockets, and it's tough for anyone to step into his giant shoes as a hero. For "Funeral of a Friend" to be adapted, DC would have to completely devastate audiences almost the entire time since its primary focus on characters like Lois Lane and the Kents is very gutting. 

Lois is obviously distraught after Superman's death and desperately struggles to continue without him — which is rough to watch. Jonathan Kent's self-blame over his adoptive son's death causes him to nearly die himself, and the way Martha is in utter shock will make anyone want to cry just thinking about it. Even the reality of seeing someone as innocent as Jimmy Olsen take pictures of Superman dead on the ground will instantly evoke tears. The aftermath of Superman's death that "Funeral for a Friend" provides is undoubtedly captivating and powerful but likely too depressing for DC to dedicate a film for. 

Superman: American Alien

At face value, the "Superman: American Alien" storyline might seem like a pretty standard Superman origin story, as it depicts his upbringing and leads to his rise as a hero. However, it's got a lot of gritty undertones, fights, and depictions that'll likely only inspire other origin stories rather than be fully adapted in its own right. With Clark having to learn about his powers that suddenly alter his way of life, he makes plenty of brutal mistakes along the way, and his early days are much more gruesome. His attempt to stop a group of junkies results in a horrifying moment of him slicing one of their arms off with his heat vision. While other narratives might try to play this off for laughs just to ease the tension, "American Alien" really amps up the horror of this moment — something that most Superman origin stories would be too afraid to do. 

Plus, there's a pretty rough fight between Clark and Batman, which would be tough to bring to live-action. If you need any more reason to believe that "American Alien" isn't getting adapted, it was written by Max Landis — who has notably faced sexual assault allegations. DC probably wouldn't want to be caught in the controversy of that, meaning that "American Alien" stands a better chance at being an inspiration for other adaptations than getting an adaptation of its own. 

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For the Man Who Has Everything

With a mix of sci-fi horror and heartbreaking story turns, it's unlikely that we would see a story like "For the Man Who Has Everything" brought to life on the big screen. After Justice League members arrive at the Fortress of Solitude for Superman's birthday, they find that the villain Mongul has implanted a strange plant onto Superman — known as Black Mercy — which imprisons Superman in a deep fantasy. While this story might not sound all that hardcore or traumatizing, "For the Man Who Has Everything" has many eerie moments that audiences wouldn't be ready for. First and foremost, the Black Mercy is so visually unsettling that it would be downright disturbing to see it latched onto Superman's chest. 

Plus, as Superman starts to snap out of his fantasy, he's forced to tell his son Van-El that he isn't real and he's leaving. By the time Superman does this, he's already dealt with several disturbing sequences with his father and an alternate Krypton, so this story is full of rough moments for the Man of Steel. Even the ending with Mongul being trapped in a fantasy by the Black Mercy is deeply unsettling. There are a lot of nightmarish fantasies and gut-wrenching turns that'll keep "For the Man Who Has Everything" from getting a big-screen adaptation. 

Superman: Brainiac

Brainiac is probably one of the most-requested villains that fans want to see in a live-action "Superman" movie, but maybe the reason he hasn't been picked yet is because his most iconic storyline with Kal-El is so psychologically damaging. After Superman discovers one of Brainiac's drones in Metropolis, he searches for the real version of the evil world conqueror but finds much more than he bargained for. There's something truly mind-bending and horrifying about how Brainiac is depicted in "Superman: Brainiac" that it's tough to believe DC would go all the way in bringing his monstrous mentality and planet-collecting habits to life. 

The story's artwork is also immensely eerie at times, and it's one of the more realistic Superman horror stories we've gotten. Also, Superman's fights against Brainiac are so brutal that there's no way to tone them down without losing the impact of what makes them so memorable. More importantly, the final death in the story will leave viewers a total mess, and it's unlikely that DC would fully commit to making that moment as crushing as it needs to be. Perhaps Brainiac could make his way to the big screen eventually, though it probably won't come with a definitive adaptation of "Superman: Brainiac."