If there’s one thing that Amazon’s acclaimed superhero series The Boys has brought to attention, it's that superheroes aren't just for kids. Say goodbye to your friendly neighbourhood Spidey or your Man of Steel, The Boys is here to mix the fantasy of superpowers with gore, swearing, sex and violence for a gleefully despicable viewing experience.
The Boys premiered on Amazon Prime Video in 2019, with a second season following in 2020, and it’s received high praise from critics and fans throughout, particularly from those who felt the superhero genre as a whole was growing stale. The adaptation of Garth Ennis’ graphic (in both senses of the word) novels brought a fresh, violent, yet uproariously funny approach to superheroes that, despite its juvenile humour and horrific fatalities, never fails to address deeper themes of family, racism, sexism, abuse of power and toxic relationships. This is what keeps The Boys endearing as it can balance the adult content with the adult themes, making it more than an excuse to show gratuitous violence.
If this sounds up your street but you are yet to watch The Boys, then definitely go and fix that as soon as you can. Familiarise yourself with The Seven, a superhero team akin to the Justice League lead by Homelander, a Superman parody with serious rage issues and an extreme Oedipus complex. On the other side are The Boys, a group of (mostly) superpower-less individuals all with personal vendettas against The Seven; here lead by Billy Butcher, a badass played (with a slightly ropey cockney accent) by Karl Urban. None of the characters in this show are inherently good, you’ll just have to figure out who to root for and who to hate (but also secretly kind of love watching).
Season three of the boys begins today, and once you’re all caught up you should try these similarly grown-up superhero shows.
Invincible (2021) - Amazon Prime Video
This animated superhero series received rave reviews for its stellar cast and brutal action when it launched on Amazon Prime Video last year. Both the show and comic books it is based on were written by Robert Kirkman who also wrote The Walking Dead, and it even shares a few cast members with the apocalyptic survival series including Steven Yuen, who plays the titular hero.
J.K Simmons, Sandra Oh, Mark Hammill, Zazie Beetz, Seth Rogan, John Hamm and Mahershala Ali also round out the cast, so expect to recognise a few voices. But a few words of warning: don’t get attached to their characters as Invincible has no problem with laying out a few heroes when the fists go flying. And when they do, you can expect some seriously brutal brawls – much like the ones found in The Boys – with heroes, villains and often the bystanders watching these epic showdowns often meeting grisly ends.
As with The Boys, Invincible also has a heart, with lots of family drama and twists to keep you invested between the bloodshed and destruction of property. Season one is available on Prime Video now (opens in new tab), and a second season is in the works.
Watchmen (2019) - HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video
Not to be confused with Zack Snyder’s feature length adaptation, HBO’s Watchmen is a limited series from Lost creator David Lindeloff, starring Regina King, Yayha Abdul Mateen II and Jeremy Irons.
This mind-bending, twisting narrative can spiral off into seemingly unrelated tangents, but it always pays off with shocking reveals and is a real treat when it comes to storytelling. There’s some seriously stunning cinematography in Watchmen, alongside a soundtrack that ranges from thumping beats to heart-wrenching strings from the brilliant minds of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, making this a great pick to test out your AV system.
As it’s a limited series, this is a one-season deal, but if you don't mind a slightly frustrating cliffhanger ending then Watchmen is a gripping, quality show that we heartily recommend. And you don't have to just take our word for it – this is a series that won no fewer than 11 Emmys. You can rent it now on Amazon Prime Video (opens in new tab) in the UK or using a VPN to access HBO Max (opens in new tab).
Harley Quinn (2020) - Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV
Another animated gem, this time from DC, Harley Quinn features the titular antihero in an animated action-comedy that is an easy and genuinely funny watch – although it's definitely not one for the kids. The humour is dark and raunchy whilst poking fun at everything from 'cancel culture' to some of DC’s most popular flagship heroes. In this regard, it shares a lot in common with The Boys in terms of its crude parody of the popular superhero franchises of today.
Harley Quinn also does a great job of adapting classic comic designs into its fairly simple but still great looking animation style, and with the likes of Kaley Cuoco, Alan Tudyk and Giancarlo Esposito voicing these iconic characters, Harley Quinn is a chilled watch that’s effortlessly funny and entertaining.
There are two seasons of Harley Quinn that are now available to rent on Apple TV (opens in new tab) and Amazon Prime Video (opens in new tab), but it also occasionally pops up on All 4 to stream for free so keep an eye out for that. A third series is in the works.