Asking what superpower a person would love to have is a fun pastime that we have all taken part in. The answers, of course, all depend on the age of the person asked. Kids might choose cool powers like flying or superhuman strength or even X-ray vision. However, once these kids become adults, a conversation at a local bar might have guys choosing invisibility, mind-reading and teleportation, although they also are likely to want X-ray vision just as much. Interestingly, all those powers are tame compared to the most powerful superpowers that heroes and villains possess.
Sure, choosing a superpower based on personal gain is the most significant factor in these debates. However, when moving to the realm of superheroes and villains — both in comics and movies — the best superpowers are the ones that will help a person win a battle and save lives. When battling supervillains, gods and demons, a person needs the most powerful abilities to win and stay alive. This is why a character like Hulk, Professor X, Doctor Strange and Thanos will always triumph over someone like Plastic Man or Jubilee. With that in mind, here are the 25 best superpowers of all time, ranked!
20. X-RAY VISION
At the bottom of the list is none other than one of the most well-known superpowers of them all: X-ray vision. The power is, quite simply, the ability to see through solid objects or people. Of course, X-rays vision is real. Hospitals use machines that look through human flesh, but can’t see through bones, so it presents an image from inside your body.
At the airports, X-ray machines see inside your luggage and reveal the shape of items inside the bags. So, if doctors and TSA agents have access to X-ray technology, why does it matter if Superman has that same superpower? When it comes to comics, writers just let a person with X-ray vision see through, behind or inside anything. It’s cool, but in terms of offensive capabilities, relatively worthless in most cases outside of seeing danger waiting before walking through that door.
19. HEAT/LASER VISION/OPTIC BLASTS
Laser vision is a superpower that allows someone to shoot lasers from their eyes at an opponent, a wall, or just about anything else… but you probably figured that out. What makes this power a positive or negative is the control the person has over it. Superman can turn his laser vision on or off when he wants to use it. He also has complete control over it, so he can amp it up and shoot a hole through a tank or lower it and pop off a doorknob.
Cyclops, while not technically a laser (it is an optic blast), has a similar power but has no control over turning it on or off. He does have the visor that allows him to control the power, but if he loses said visor, there is no control over its devastation. Regardless, this is a great offensive power in a fight and can turn the tide of any battle when aimed at the right target.
For the uninitiated, by “intangibility,” we mean the ability to alter your atoms in such a way that you can walk through walls, or alternatively, let things like bullets pass through you harmlessly. This isn’t a worthless power and can be invaluable when it comes to defending yourself in a fight. However, unless there is another power involved, all this does is keep a person(or persons) alive.
X-Men: The Last Stand tried to make the power look cool when Kitty beat Juggernaut by phasing through walls and making him look dumb before he knocked himself out. However, outside of getting into locked rooms, keeping bullets from killing you, or just running from the action, there are few ways that intangibility aids a person in battle. However, most intangibility in comics comes with the added benefit of shorting-out machines. There is also the threat of solidifying your arm in someone’s head, but that would of course come at great cost to you.
17. BODY MANIPULATION (GROWTH AND STRETCHING)
Body manipulation takes on a lot of forms, but in this case, we are just talking about the ability to alter the size or length of a body part. So, think about Reed Richards stretching powers, Plastic Man’s ability to morph his body into various shapes, or Ant-Man’s ability to shrink or grow. Of course, each of these powers has different uses, but are they really that big of a deal?
Sure, Reed can stretch and do interesting things with his body but his main power is not his stretching, but his intelligence. Ant-Man and Wasp can shrink, but they also control insects and have the blasting rays they can shoot. Plastic Man is mostly a joke character, though he stands as the one argument that these powers have limitless permutations. That outlier aside, there’s a reason that Mr. Fantastic is often seen as the least (physically) powerful member of the Fantastic Four!
While shapeshifting is a form of body manipulation, we list it differently here because it is a totally different idea. For someone like Mystique, shapeshifting is just taking on the form of another person, usually for covert missions. As seen in the original X-Men movies, it is a power best used to fool people and isn’t that great for actual fighting.
When it comes to Beast Boy, it is much more valuable in a fight because he can morph into a dinosaur or rhino and keep the powers relative to his new size. However, at the end of the day, shapeshifting usually doesn’t offer the increased power like Beast Boy. It’s useful, of course, but again, only with the set of skills necessary to implement it effectively.
15. ENHANCED SENSES
Daredevil is perhaps the exemplar of super-enhanced senses, even though he is missing one — sight. However, his other hyper-powered senses more than make up for it, and are invaluable when it comes to fighting and winning battles. Of course, as is a running theme on this list, it is dependent on the hero being skilled at hand-to-hand combat. For Daredevil, it also includes hearing a person’s heartbeat and using his heightened senses to help spot imposters in battle.
Another great example is Taskmaster, who has such heightened senses that he can watch a hero fight and immediately have the skills to replicate everything he witnessed, or Spider-Man, who has his very own “spider-sense” which warns him of danger. These powers aid a superhero or villain in a fight immensely, but like other lower ranked powers, the superhero or villain also has to have other powers or enhanced fighting skills in order to supplement this superpower.
Immortality is a nice superpower to have if a person really doesn’t want to die. The only problem is that — in some cases — an immortal can still die. There are those immortals that can’t die, like Death itself. Thanos is also cursed by Death to live forever. However, while he can’t die, Marvel Comics has proven that he can still fall in defeat, making his immortality just a curse that causes him to live on and rue those defeats.
Over in DC Comics, Vandal Savage is immortal but he has died a number of times. Of course, he always returns as an immortal, but if an immortal can still die and taste defeat, that power does little to help them win battles and only aids them in returning for another shot in the future.
13. ABSORBING POWERS
When looking at absorbing powers, there are two different forms and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious form is the superpowers of The Absorbing Man. The villain absorbs the qualities of whatever he or she touches. For example, if someone with the ability touches a diamond, that hero becomes almost unbreakable. If they touch steel, their attacks are devastating. If they touch water, they can slip away and out of a fight almost unseen.
The second kind of absorbing power is even more powerful but has a very clear disadvantage. Rogue can touch any other person and gain their powers — but also gains part of their memories as well. The clear disadvantage here is that she can almost kill the person she touches. It also means that she can’t touch anyone without sucking the life from them. However, in a fight, it is a very valuable power to possess. Of course, this power necessarily depends on there being other powers around.
Much like immortality, regeneration is another superpower that helps a person live forever but doesn’t do much to help a person win a battle. However, what it does accomplish is allowing a person to last longer in a fight — something immortality does little to aid the hero with. The biggest examples of this superpower are Wolverine and Deadpool.
If either Wolverine or Deadpool gets stabbed or shot in a battle, that wound almost immediately heals up, keeping them in the fight longer than anyone else. However, there are downfalls to regeneration. If Wolverine gets his head chopped off, he is out of action until it slowly rebuilds. If Wolverine is trying to save someone or work with the X-Men, he suddenly becomes worthless while his body heals. His regeneration keeps him alive, but it is his claws and fighting skills that win the fights.
Invisibility is a basic superpower that has no real offensive uses but can help supplement other powers and works great for defensive fronts. At the true basis of the power, it allows the user to make themselves and possibly other things invisible to the naked eye. There is a downfall, and that is the ability of someone with heightened senses to know they are there.
However, the ability to make other things invisible is invaluable. The Invisible Woman could use her powers to make someone else invisible and let them sneak up on an opponent. She could make a special weapon invisible, allowing a sneak attack as well. She can also make herself invisible and go on covert missions. Of course, Sue Storm’s variation of this power is that much more powerful, as she can create invisible mental constructs, easily making her the most powerful member of the FF.
10. FORCE FIELDS
Speaking of Sue Storm (in our last entry), her ability to create force fields is one of the best defensive superpowers of all-time. While the Invisible Woman can disappear from visibility, a stray gunshot will still kill her. However, she also has the power to generate a force field which can protect her and anyone inside it from anything outside of the most powerful attacks.
Black Lightning in DC Comics also has this ability but in a different manner. Instead of creating the invisible force field protecting people, Lightning is able to create an electrical force field, while Magneto is able to do the same with a magnetic force field. These are incredible superpowers that help set up a defensive perimeter, but only work if there are also additional powers to fight back offensively as well, or if the force fields can be used offensively, like cutting off someone’s oxygen supply or using them as constructs, as we described earlier.
Flying is one of the most typical superpowers available for most heroes and even those that can’t fly can make up for it with other devices — be that in the form of jet packs or hover disks (we’re looking at you, Mister Miracle). However, being able to fly without using any special devices gives any hero or villain an advantage over those stuck on the ground.
Flight is useful for many things and isn’t just related to battling supervillains. A hero who can fly can get places much quicker than anyone outside of speedsters or teleporters. Heroes can use it to get to high places others can’t. A hero can use it to fly out of a trap or danger if escape is the only answer. It is also one of the best ways to get across the oceans to other crisis areas. Also, let’s be real here, it is the ultimate form of superhero wish fulfilment — not being bound by the forces of gravity!
At its base, just like intangibility or flight, teleportation is all about freedom of movement. It can mean getting into a locked room or somewhere else that a person is not meant to go. It an also mean tactical placement during battle, or equally, the ability to enact tactical retreats. It may not look like much of an offensive power, though getting forcibly phased into solid rock would definitely ruin your day. It also means that you can move in the blink of an eye, thus, it could be argued, being better than super speed!
Now, it might look cool when Nightcrawler *BAMFs* from location to location in a battle, but it isn’t his teleportation that matters as much as his hand-to-hand fighting skills (or a combination of both).However, it can be used to great effect and could change the course of every battle. As ever, though, this largely depends on the savviness of its user, but it is undeniably useful to a solo hero or especially one in a team.
7. SUPER STRENGTH
Super strength is one of the best superpowers to have in a fight. If a giant robot starts destroying the town, a super strong superhero like The Hulk can just smash it to pieces or rip it apart. If a powerful villain like Darkseid shows up on Earth, someone like Superman is needed because who else can really go toe-to-toe with the conqueror of worlds in a fist fight?
If a superhero needs to get into a building or through a wall, super strength allows them to punch the hole needed to get through (take THAT intangibility). For the most powerful superheroes in the world — such as The Hulk and Superman in his earliest forms — super strength can even propel a hero across miles even when they can’t fly. When it comes to fighting, super strength is one of the most important superpowers to have, which is probably why most heroes have at least a smattering of it in their power roladex.
Being super strong is a great superpower to have when it comes to fighting, but being invulnerable is arguably better. While Superman can win most fist fights, it also helps that bullets bounce off him without him even noticing. Luke Cage is the same. He is big and strong, but the fact that nothing can penetrate his skin makes him just about unbeatable.
There are some heroes, such as The Hulk, who has suffered injuries and cuts before, but is mostly invulnerable to conventional damage. As mentioned when talking about regeneration, that power is worthless outside of survival because a hero like Wolverine could get blown to pieces and eventually regenerate. When it comes to invulnerability, a person is never out of a fight and can keep plugging away to victory.
5. SUPER SPEED
Super speed is easily one of the most powerful abilities in comic book history. Being the Fastest Man Alive, the Flash is the most powerful speedster in comics and has proven to have control of not only super speed but the ability to use it to travel through time. Flash has also used his powers to alter and change an entire universe, as shown in Flashpoint — and that alone makes it a very dangerous power.
Superman has used his super speed, in conjunction with flight, to actually reverse time and save Lois Lane’s life in Superman: The Movie. Take a look at X-Men: Days of Future Past to see how a superhero like Quicksilver can alter an entire fight using his super speed. This is easily one of the best superpowers of all time and has very few negatives holding it back.
4. TIME TRAVEL
Who would not want to control the nature of time; to go back and change things that went wrong or to travel to the future to see what would happen if you made a given choice. On top of that base usage, the variations and permutations of this power are near infinite in scope — emulating super speed by jumping around in time, arming yourself with the right tools to go back and win a battle you previously lost, transporting your enemy to the end of time and then blinking back. You would be as unto a god if you had the power to control time. There are, of course, drawbacks.
As we all learned in Back To The Future and other cultural touchstones, messing with the time stream is a very dangerous game. Take a look at Krypton, where Brainiac is trying to stop the birth of Superman. Of course, while that creates yet another timeline, it will destroy the lives of a lot of people in one of them. Time travel is very dangerous, no matter how cool it seems to go back to the future… but think of the possibilities in battle!
People might have watched the Stephen King movie Carrie and came away with the thought that telekinesis was a power worthy of the best superheroes. When it comes to telekinesis, the hero or villain is able to move things around with their mind. It is possible someone having the debate in a bar might love the idea of using their brain to levitate another drink to their table, but it is also a nice power to have in a fight.
Jean Grey was one of the earliest Marvel heroes to use telekinesis and it comes in handy when a person can throw large or deadly objects at an enemy in a fight. A person with this power could also likely throw their enemy into a wall or otherwise use it to hold them down. It is a good offensive weapon, but the hero needs something to throw and the mental strength to really take advantage of it.
When debating the most powerful superheroes in the world today, Professor Charles Xavier sits at the top of many lists. One of the most powerful telepaths in the world, Xavier can use his powers to read minds, but his most powerful ability is altering or erasing someone’s memories, or simply making them do what he desires. Xavier has done more damage to other people’s brains than most supervillains in comic book history.
Add in heroes like Martian Manhunter or Jean Grey and you have people who can alter an entire battle or even change the course of the world with just their minds. It is a scary power and one that can destroy everything if left unchecked. As powerful as this is, there are too many variables that can corrupt a telepath.
1. ELEMENTAL CONTROL
Elemental control comes in many forms, and it is clear that some are nowhere near as powerful as others. Two examples on the weaker end of the spectrum are the ability to control fire and ice. The biggest examples are from Marvel with Iceman and The Human Torch. Both have proven to be incredibly powerful, although it all depends on who is writing them.
More powerful is Thor, who, as the god of thunder, can control the weather. However, if a person can control all the elements, that superhero could become the most powerful character in the world. Storm comes closest, as she can control the weather and atmosphere to an almost limitless degree, and is one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe. When a person can control the elements, there is little that can get in their way.