The MCU has already taken inspiration from many film genres, but future Marvel movies and shows can still explore other kinds of stories.
- The MCU has explored a variety of genres, but there are many others it has yet to delve into, such as Western, murder mystery, satire, cosmic horror, musical, rom-com, cyberpunk, period piece, workplace comedy, and mockumentary.
- The MCU could incorporate new genres by adapting their tropes to an original superhero movie or show, even in far-away worlds and different eras.
Otherwise, the MCU could adapt comic book storylines that already make the most of specific genres, including the Elizabethan
and the cyberpunk
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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has explored a variety of genres throughout the years, but there are many others that the MCU is yet to fully delve into. Just like the comic books the franchise is based on, the MCU is composed of hundreds of wildly different characters, all influenced by wildly different sources of inspiration. From Iron Man’s futuristic technology to Doctor Strange’s mystical magic, to Black Widow’s spy career and Kang the Conqueror’s mind-twisting time travel, Marvel’s multiplicity of tones and genres are part of what makes its larger-than-life stories so appealing.
As the Multiverse Saga’s Phases 5 and 6 expand the MCU with new characters and concepts, the franchise continues to touch upon other fresh genres. For instance, Phase 4 releases such as the meta-comedy She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and the classic horror Werewolf by Night couldn’t be more visually and narratively different from each other, and the otherworldly Loki and Eternals are extremely far away in tone and scope from the rather grounded action-adventure Hawkeye. Still, there are many other kinds of story the MCU is yet to adapt.
Two non-MCU Marvel movies have taken inspiration from the Western genre: Ghost Rider, which pays homage to the original Spirit of Vengeance Carter Slade with scenes set in the desert; and Logan, which follows an old Wolverine as he struggles with the end of his prime during a trip through arid, sun-beaten locations. The MCU hasn’t used any evident Western influence in a superhero story so far, and Logan makes it difficult for Marvel Studios to adapt the Old Man Logan universe without causing unfair comparisons.
However, the MCU could still toy with the Western genre, if not by adapting characters like Carter Slade or storylines like the cowboy-themed Marvel 1872, then by adapting the Western genre’s tropes to an original superhero movie or show. Even in far-away worlds and different eras, tropes like the lone-wolf bandit, the train heist, the bounty-hunting adventure, and the scorching desert can keep the Western alive. Perhaps a sci-fi/western Planet Hulk MCU adaptation could capture what successes like The Martian could and failures like John Carter couldn’t.
9 Murder Mystery / Detective Noir
The MCU has challenged its whimsical fame with the gritty Captain America: The Winter Soldier, while the highly popular Netflix Marvel TV shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones have put a fresh spin on the superhero genre with their titular street-level vigilantes. However, Marvel hasn’t fully dived into a full-fledged murder mystery or detective story yet. Tropes such as the inexplicable cadaver, the conflicting hypotheses, and the protagonist’s deduction-based genius intellect are what make Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot stories so captivating, as the stakes depend on the slow-burn, cerebral unraveling of a limited number of murders.
Coupled with visual cues from the film noir genre such as hard shadows, backlit characters, and high-contrast black-and-white cinematography, a Marvel murder mystery could provide a breath of fresh air in between world-ending threats. Characters on the low end of the power level spectrum could benefit from a smaller-scale story with a very defined narrative and visual style. But even if the MCU required higher stakes, a future MCU movie or show could transfer the same concepts to something like Original Sin, a 2014 comic book storyline where Nick Fury and the Avengers investigate the off-panel murder of Uatu the Watcher.
8 Historical Period Piece
Although the MCU has explored many different eras, no previous movie or show has been a fully fledged period piece. Captain Marvel relished in 1990s nostalgia, Eternals visited various key eras in human history, and Captain America: The First Avenger is the closest Marvel has been to a historical film due to its detailed representation of WWII-era music, wardrobe, and even sepia-inspired cinematography. But the MCU can still dive deeper into a specific era, with a plot as reliant on its setting as Gladiator or Les Misérables. One way Marvel Studios can achieve this is by adapting Marvel 1602, a reality where all famous Marvel characters inhabit the Elizabethan era.
Otherwise, the MCU can set an entire movie or show in one historical period and intertwine reality with fiction through a fully original storyline. The many Black Knights, Moon Knights, vampire hunters, and Iron Fists throughout the ages offer countless possibilities for new MCU titles, and Kang the Conqueror’s trips through time can open the door for sci-fi historical dramas. A movie where Rama-Tut opposes Khonshu and awakens Apocalypse, for example, could fill this void and help push the MCU’s overarching story forward at the same time.
7 Cosmic Horror
Cosmic horror, focused on gargantuan entities and unconceivable abominations beyond human understanding, has grown stronger in Marvel Comics in recent years. Marvel’s King in Black and Immortal Hulk storylines have expanded Venom and Hulk’s lore with the introduction of ethereal concepts like the eldritch substance The Living Abyss and the hellish dimension The Below-Place. Instead of straightforward scientific explanations for their existence, Marvel leaves most of their mysteries to the readers’ imagination, which makes these concepts even more ominous.
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Likewise, the MCU could start throwing characters into the depths of the occult. A Doctor Strange sequel that fully dives into the mind-bending nature of Dormammu’s Dark Dimension or a horror-movie approach to Galactus’ immense size, for instance, could provide a break from the safe tone of the usual superhero conflict and instead explore complex concepts like infinity, eternity, evil, and consciousness. The body horror aspects of Hulk’s transformations, which he shares with movies like The Thing, also offer untapped potential for a cosmic horror story set in the MCU.
Like the Western, the Musical movie genre hasn’t fully returned since its Golden Age of Hollywood heyday. However, hits like 1978’s Grease and Disney’s many animated movies have proved that popular musicals are still possible. While Joker: Folie à Deux takes a dark and satirical approach to the musical format over at DC, Marvel could try its hand at a bright, high-energy musical Special Presentation. There’s no better candidate for a Marvel musical than Dazzler, the Disco superhero who weaponizes music and embodies its physicality. Drawing inspiration from movies like Grease, Flashdance, Footloose, and Xanadu, a Dazzler Special Presentation could be one of Marvel’s most unique releases.
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5 Romantic Comedy
Romance has been a staple of the superhero genre since its early days, but the title of a “rom-com superhero” movie or show remains unearned. Romantic comedies are known for their lighthearted tone and comforting structure, where two characters do their best to overcome a series of unlikely obstacles that keep them apart. Unlike a full-blown superhero movie like Spider-Man: Far From Home or a show like WandaVision, a superhero rom-com would have to focus on the lead couple’s relationship, with their will-they-won’t-they dynamic taking center stage over a villain’s world-ending threat. Couples such as Rogue and Gambit or Wiccan and Hulkling would be perfect candidates for such a story.
4 Superhero Genre Satire
With the superhero genre dominating Hollywood for several years now, parodies and spoofs are bound to rise as a response. Superhero satire stories such as Kick-Ass, The Boys, and Invincible have made a name for themselves by both indulging and criticizing superheroes, flipping the genre’s typical characteristics on their head. Now that Marvel movies have broken the fourth wall with the Deadpool movies and She-Hulk: Attorney At Law‘s meta comedy, it doesn’t seem unlikely for Marvel to engage in some self-deprecating humor. After all, Marvel characters such as Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck have accomplished just that in the comics with their comically exaggerated approach to genre tropes.
The mockumentary genre isn’t as big as other popular movie genres, but it’s certainly an especially clever one. It follows the same format as a regular documentary, using archive footage, narration, and seemingly serious research, but its subject is either fictional or painted in a completely different light. Similar to Peter Parker’s self-shot Captain America: Civil War footage, an MCU mockumentary could follow a comedic Marvel character as they investigate an Avenger’s daily life. A more serious take on the mockumentary genre would be an adaptation of Marvels, a comic book storyline centered on human photographer Philip Sheldon, who documents the unseen reality of the Avengers’ chaotic battles.
2 Workplace Comedy
The MCU’s potential for a workplace comedy like The Office or Brooklyn Nine-Nine has remained untapped despite close opportunities across the years. Agents of SHIELD could have explored the organization’s regular operations with a world full of superheroes and supervillains in the background. But while its popularity is undisputed, Agents of SHIELD quickly dropped its original concept to give its characters more standard superhero storylines with superpowers and world-ending stakes galore. Similarly, She-Hulk: Attorney At Law used its legal workplace as a background rather than its main setting.
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The MCU could deliver a real workplace comedy, or any kind of procedural story for that matter, with the help of organizations like Damage Control, the Dora Milaje, the Ravagers, or even Xu Xialing’s new Ten Rings. Unlike regular superhero movies and shows, the core of the story in an MCU workplace series would rely on the mundane lives of its characters, contrasted with the often extravagant world outside their job. From cleaning up the Avengers’ battlegrounds to dealing with their legal repercussions, a workplace comedy within the Marvel Cinematic Universe could finally reveal what regular people really think about superheroes.
The MCU has used hard sci-fi concepts since the beginning, and movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and the Iron Man trilogy have drawn inspiration from cyberpunk to various degrees. However, the MCU is yet to debut a full-blown cyberpunk story, characterized by the contrast between pessimistic, dystopian societies and highly advanced, utopian technology. The best way to fill that void would be with a Marvel 2099 movie or show, which could explore brand-new versions of established characters facing the advantages and hardships of the far future. Since Sony owns Spider-Man 2099, the MCU could follow cyberpunk versions of characters such as Moon Knight, Punisher, and Doctor Doom.
Key Release Dates
- The Marvels Release Date: 2023-11-10
- Deadpool 3 Release Date: 2024-05-03
- Captain America: Brave New World Release Date: 2024-07-26
- Marvel’s Thunderbolts Release Date: 2024-12-20
- Blade (2025) Release Date: 2025-02-14
- Marvel’s Fantastic Four Release Date: 2025-05-02
- Avengers: The Kang Dynasty Release Date: 2026-05-01
- Avengers: Secret Wars Release Date: 2027-05-01