Asking what superpower a person would love to have is a fun pastime many have taken part in. The answers can depend on factors like age, but usually, it boils down to whether or not a superpower is cool or useful.
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 stay alive and save the day.
Updated by Scoot Allan: There are a number of incredible abilities and superpowers that have been seen in comic books or in movies and TV, from classics like X-Ray vision to odder abilities like the ability to consume all kinds of matter. As new heroes and villains are introduced in new storylines all the time, new powers are introduced and old abilities are reimagined — making it hard to determine which superpower truly is the best.
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25 Photoreflexive Memory Or Photographic Reflexes
Characters like Marvel's Taskmaster have made great use of their ability to replicate any move or skill with photographic reflexes. This ability is similar to eidetic memory which allows people to recall any detail or scene from their memory with perfect clarity. Taskmaster uses his photographic reflexes to observe and master any fighting move or skill he witnesses and replicate it perfectly.
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Taskmaster used his gift to become a highly paid mercenary before he decided to teach the skills he learned in a school for henchmen. While this power isn't able to stand up to more destructive abilities, it has many uses in the real world that would make starting a new job or learning how to defend oneself much easier.
24 X-Ray Vision
One of the most well-known superpowers is X-ray vision, the ability to see through solid objects or people. Of course, X-ray vision is real. Hospitals use machines which look through human flesh, but can't see through bones, so it presents an image from inside the body.
At the airports, X-ray machines peer inside 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 the same superpower? It's cool, but in terms of offensive capabilities, relatively worthless in most cases outside of seeing danger waiting before walking through a door.
23 Heat Vision And Optic Blasts
Heat/Laser vision is a superpower, allowing someone to shoot lasers from their eyes at an opponent, a wall, or just about anything else. What makes this power a positive or negative is the control the person has over it. Superman can turn his heat vision on or off when he wants to use it.
Cyclops has a similar eye blast that is more concussive than heat, but he can't turn it off. He uses a visor which allows him to control the power, but if he loses said visor, there is no control over its devastation. Regardless, heat/laser vision is a great offensive power and can turn the tide of any battle when aimed at the right target.
While there are some abilities like super-strength that are often shared among a few different heroes, something like wall-crawling or the ability to stick and adhere to surfaces is restricted to a few heroes like Spider-Man.
There is a certain level of escape and freedom that comes with the ability to run up walls or hide on the ceiling, but there isn't much practical use of the ability as a hero without additional superpowers. Without super-strength, climbing a skyscraper could be grueling work and leave little juice in the tank to fight a villain, but it could be fun for extreme sports lovers.
For the uninitiated, "intangibility," is the ability to alter one's atoms in such a way that they can walk through walls, or alternatively, let things like bullets pass through them harmlessly. This isn't a worthless power and can be invaluable when it comes to defending oneself in a fight, as someone like Kitty Pryde has demonstrated repeatedly.
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Getting into locked rooms, evading bullets, or running from the action are just a few ways intangibility aids a person in battle. In comics, most intangibility comes with the added benefit of shorting-out machines. There is also the threat of solidifying one's arm in someone else's head, but that would come at great cost.
20 Body Manipulation
Body manipulation takes on a lot of forms, such as Reed Richards stretching powers or Plastic Man's ability to morph his body into various shapes. The ability to alter the size or length of a body part has various uses, but it may not be as big a deal as it first appears.
Reed may stretch and do interesting things with his body, but his main power is not his stretching, but his intelligence. Plastic Man is mostly a joke character, although 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, it entails a totally different idea. For someone like Mystique, shapeshifting is simply taking on the form of another person, usually for covert missions. It is a power best used to fool people and isn't too great for actual combat.
When it comes to someone like Beast Boy, shapeshifting is much more valuable in battle 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 increased power. It's useful, but only with the set of skills necessary to implement it effectively.
18 Enhanced Senses
Daredevil is perhaps the exemplar of super-enhanced senses, even though he is missing one — sight. However, his other hyper-powered senses are invaluable when it comes to fighting and winning battles. Of course, that is also dependent on the hero being skilled at hand-to-hand combat.
Another great example is 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 compliment these enhanced senses.
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 immortals who can't die, like Death itself. Thanos is also cursed by Death to live forever. However, his immortality is just a curse which causes him to live on and rue his constant defeats.
Over in DC Comics, Vandal Savage is immortal, but he has died a number of times. He always returns as an immortal, but if an immortal can still die and taste defeat, that power does little to help them win and only aids them in returning for another shot in the future. The other downsides of immortality include outliving loved ones and spending eternity alone.
16 Cosmic Awareness
Marvel heroes like Captain Mar-Vell and his children Genis-Vell and Phyla-Vell have all been gifted with an ability known as Cosmic Awareness. Due to the overwhelming amount of knowledge which comes with the superpower, cosmic awareness threatened to drive each of them crazy.
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Cosmic awareness is an attunement to the universe allowing characters like Mar-Vell to intuitively understand the fate or destiny of individuals or events in relation to the universe's purposes. This gift can guide their actions to do the most good and be in the right place at the right time.
15 Power Absorption
There are different forms of power absorption, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious form is the Absorbing Man's, able to absorb the qualities of whatever he touches. For example, if someone with the ability touches a diamond, that hero becomes almost unbreakable. If they touch water, they can slip away and out of a fight almost unseen.
The second kind 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 and can potentially kill the person she touches. A character like DC's Parasite has even become addicted to the power he absorbed from strong heroes like Superman.
Much like the shapeshifters who alter their body's outer appearance or even their form entirely, a size-changer like Marvel's Giant-Man or DC's Atom each has a lot to offer the superhuman community. Hank Pym uses his Pym Particles to either shrink his body as Ant-Man or to grow to incredible heights as Giant-Man, giving him a powerful edge in battle.
However, The Atom is able to go sub-atomic by tapping into the energy of a white dwarf star, allowing him to knock out his opponents by going into their bodies and interrupting blood flow or even traveling through phone lines alongside other sound molecules.
13 Healing Factors And Regeneration
Much like immortality, regeneration is another superpower which helps a person live forever but doesn't do much to help a person win a battle. However, what it does enable a person to last longer in a fight — something immortality does little to aid the hero with. The most famous examples of this superpower are Wolverine and Deadpool.
If either Wolverine or Deadpool gets stabbed or shot in battle, the wound almost immediately heals up, keeping them in the fight longer than anyone else. However, there are downfalls to regeneration. If Wolverine is seriously injured, he is out of action until it slowly rebuilds. And Deadpool's healing factor is locked in a constant state of rebuilding which affects his sanity.
Invisibility is a basic superpower that has no real offensive uses but can help supplement other powers and works great for defense. At the true basis of the power, it allows the user to make themselves and possibly other things invisible to the naked eye. Miles Morales has a camouflaging stealth mode which renders him invisible — a skill he uses both offensively and defensively.
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 execute covert missions. Invisible Woman's ability is extremely powerful when paired with her addition power: creating invisible force fields.
11 Force Fields
Invisible Woman's 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 has the power to generate a force field that can protect her and anyone inside it from threats outsides.
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Magneto can pull off the same stunt with a magnetic force field, while Booster Gold's suit is equipped with a powerful force field to protect himself. These incredible superpowers help set up a defensive perimeter, but force fields can also be used offensively, cutting off someone's oxygen supply or using them as constructs.
Flying is one of the most typical superpowers available for most heroes. Even those who can't fly can make up for it with other devices — be that in the form of jet packs or hover disks. 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 reaches destinations much quicker than the average person. Flying is also one of the best ways to get across the oceans to other crisis areas. To top it all off, flying is the ultimate form of superhero wish-fulfillment — not being bound by the forces of gravity!
At its base, just like intangibility or flight, teleportation is all about freedom of movement. It allows one to get into a locked room or somewhere else a person isn't meant to go. Teleportation assists tactical placement during battle, or equally, the ability to enact tactical retreats. However, there is also the constant fear that the user could fatally teleport their body into solid matter.
Although it might look cool when Nightcrawler *BAMFs* from location to location during battle, his teleportation doesn't matter as much as his hand-to-hand fighting skills (or a combination of both). The benefits of teleportation largely depend on the savviness of its user, but it is undeniably useful to a solo hero or team member.
8 Electrical Manipulation
There are many different facets of a superpower like electrical manipulation, demonstrated by heroes like DC's Black Lightning or villains like Marvel's Electro. While the most obvious example is the ability to shock and zap people with stored electricity, characters like Black Lightning can use their control of electricity to create powerful force fields.
Electro has learned a number of interesting tricks over the years including the ability to transform completely into energy and travel quickly along electrical lines or tap into power sources for a fast recharge. Other characters like Milestone's Static are able to create an electromagnetic field to manipulate metallic items just like magnetism.
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 or his cousin She-Hulk can 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 fistfight?
For the most powerful superheroes in the world — such as The Hulk and Superman in his earliest forms — super strength can propel a hero across miles when they can't fly. When it comes to fighting, superstrength 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 Rolodex.
Being super strong is a great superpower to have during battle but being invulnerable is arguably better. While Superman can win most fistfights, it helps that bullets bounce off him without him even noticing. Luke Cage possesses the same quality. He is big and strong, but those pale in comparison to his impenetrable his skin which makes him just about unbeatable.
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There are some heroes, such as The Hulk, who have suffered injuries and cuts but are mostly invulnerable to conventional damage. When it comes to invulnerability, a person is never out of a fight and can keep plugging away towards victory.