The film industry has embraced Superheroes from the beginning. The general idea found in television that the public seems to prefer stories about fictional heroes than the adventures of real heroes has been borne out at the box office. The highest grossing superhero-related films have always been about heroes that were created directly for the screen or were based on characters appearing in comic books, while most films about real heroes have been box-office bombs.
The very first films about Superheroes were created shortly after they began fighting crime in America's cities. From the start, they were usually adapted into Saturday mantinee movie serials aimed at children. The first was The Adventures of Captain Marvel in 1941. Serials such as Batman (1943), The Phantom (1943), Captain America (1944), and Superman (1948) soon followed. Very rarely did these films attempt to portray the adventures of real heroes, with the only example being The Adventures of Barnstormer and Tailgunner from 1945. The serial was a flop, and is today notable only for the fact that the actor playing Barnstormer was Caucasian, when the real Barnstormer was an African-American.
The decline of the Saturday matinee serial, and the turmoil among superheroes caused by the House Committee on Unamerican Activities put an end to superhero motion pictures with the exception of The Adventures of Batman and Robin in 1955 (made up of episodes of the television series of the same name starring George Reeves) in 1955. The 1966 film Superman, starring Adam West (an extension of West's Superman television series) opened the door for similarly camp, B-movie superhero parodies as Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1967) and The Wild World of Batwoman (1971), which was more a softcore porn sex romp than a superhero film at any rate.
Richard Donner's 1978 film Superman, starring newcomer Christopher Reeve as Superman, was the first major feature film featuring a superhero, and was a critical success as well as a commercial blockbuster. To this day it is considered one of the finest films in the genre. Superman opened the floodgates, and was soon followed by such films as Batman, The Punisher, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, Champions, The Shadow, Captain Marvel, The Crow, Aquaman, Starman, The Legion of Justice, and Super Sentai Rocket Extreme".
Though the number of superhumans behind the scenes has risen, relatively few real Supers are on the screen. The best known exception is British actor Jonathan Steel, who went from being an indestructable stuntman through a few turns as a character actor, and who is, according to rumor, being considered as the next James Bond. The irony that the last James Bond film, Permanent Daylight, featured the British super spy squaring off against an indestructable assassin, is not lost.