3 Best On-Screen Superhero Role Models for Boys

Of course we don’t want our kids to think they can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but let’s face it: Children of all ages have been looking up to unattainable superhero standards for decades. Ever since the proto-superhero, The Phantom’s debut in 1936 was followed by Superman in 1938, stories of the otherworldly derring-do have dominated comic books, films, TV, and the Internet.

It would be nice if our boys looked up to more realistic heroes like Barrack Obama, but let’s face it: The President never wears spandex, and he can’t fly through the sky without Air Force One. Kids are drawn to pure entertainment, and for the most part, it’s harmless fun – especially when bolstered with responsible parenting.

Not all superheroes are so super (the genre is becoming more and more adult with each passing Oscar season), but here are three fellas we love.


2002, PG-13

Spider-Man is the alter ego of Peter Parker, a shy guy who shares many qualities with the obvious choice for the top spot: Superman. But we chose Peter Parker because in his day-to-day life, he’s slightly more germane than Clark Kent. Peter Parker / Spider-Man has strong family values, having been raised by his wise and gentle Aunt May and Uncle Ben. He’s a very responsible young man, and a self-taught superhero whose number one lesson to kids is to do good with the power you’ve been given.

The first Spider-Man feature film came out in 2002. In it, Tobey Maguire plays the title role, and he’s a New York high school student who is considered a geek because he’s brainy and wears glasses. Everyone has fun at his expense, from the popular boy to the bus driver.

Parker’s only friend is rich kid Harry Osborn (James Franco), and they are both vying for the affections of Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst). Parker gets the superhero treatment once he's bitten by a genetically engineered spider and its DNA somehow meshes with his, imbuing him with amazing abilities. There are five major Spider-Man movies made, with a reboot planned for 2017.

The Incredibles

2004, PG

Robert “Bob” Parr, also known as Mr. Incredible, is the protagonist of the 2004 hit animated feature The Incredibles. He’s a good role model because he’s got a great character arc: He starts off as selfish and self-serving, but the power of good and the good of his family, opens his eyes to reality that being kind is its own reward. Also, he shows that a familial support system is paramount to lasting success.

In the movie, The Incredibles are a family of “supers,” five folks with special powers who are desperately trying to fit in with the 9-to-5 suburban standard of living. Prior to a series of events that forces them to hang up their tights, Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen (Holly Hunter) Parr were superheroes: Mr. Incredible and Elasti-Girl, a golden couple who saved the world. Their children — Violet, Dash, and Jack — all have powers, but have never been allowed to use them.

Life is fine, but unincredible. But when a mysterious stranger named Mirage secretly conscripts Bob for a potential mission, the old glory days sing a siren song he can’t deny. The Incredibles 2 has been announced for a 2018 release.

Harry Potter

2001, PG

Harry Potter may not be a traditional superhero, but he’s got all the traits: He’s a caped crusader, he’s got a sad past, he’s got powers, and he’s a defender of good against evil forces. Also, the fact that he’s a child makes him that much more relatable to youngsters.

In the first film, we meet 11-year-old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) just as he is destined to become the greatest wizard the world has ever known. He’s being raised by non-magical relatives, and life is pretty dull indeed. But when carrier owls start delivering the friendless Harry mail, his Aunt and Uncle will not allow him to see the what’s inside.

“Who would send me mail?” Harry wonders. Turns out it’s an invitation to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Harry’s great adventures take place. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) was just the first in a series of many films (which get progressively darker as Harry gets older and the audience grew up along with him).

What are some of your favorite superhero role models on screen? Share them with us in the comments below!

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