Ranking the best superpowers of all time

Superheroes, whether they be Marvel or DC, are the myths of contemporary times: a slew of flawed, ordinary folks, endowed with mesmerizing abilities that give them the responsibility to defend the world from alien invasions, killer robots, a purple-skinned dude with a reality-altering golden glove … you know, the whole "great power" thing.

Not all superpowers are such a gift, of course. Just ask Rogue from the X-Men how much she likes her life-absorbing mutant abilities, or consider the array of C-stringers with useless powers like ripping their own arms off. However, the vast majority of feats that so many of these characters can pull off are the stuff that kids have dreams about, and while some of the best superpowers out there are obvious — who wouldn't enjoy being able to breathe underwater? — others are quirky, cool, weirdly useful, and perhaps a lot more complex to manage than you might expect.

Put those muscles to work

Superhuman strength is, perhaps, the most obvious power on this list. The vast majority of superheroes out there can perform feats of herculean power, because saving the day is a whole lot easier when your muscles have the capacity to throw cars, lift mountains, or even bicep curl a helicopter, as good ol' Captain America demonstrates above. Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter cited her character's enhanced strength as the superpower she'd most like to have in real life, according to Page Six, and it's easy to see why: aside from breaking locks or stopping buses, Jessica's ability to punch holes in concrete often comes in handy when she goes wandering down sketchy streets. 

Everybody loves strength achievements — just look at all the groupies arm wrestlers have — and so, humans have compared muscle sizes since the paleolithic era. Currently, the world's strongest human is young Icelander Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, better known as the Mountain on Game of Thrones, who also holds the world record for heaviest deadlift, coming in at 1,041. That's impressive, but if you want more Marvel-style strength feats, you'll have to look elsewhere in the animal kingdom: the horned dung beetle, according to the BBC, is capable of pulling 1,141 times its own weight. That's the equivalent of a 200-pound human carting a little over 114 tons!

Now you see 'em, now you don't

Cloaking into your surroundings is another classic superpower that humans have discussed over the campfire for centuries, and it's been a staple in science fiction since the 1897 H.G. Wells novel The Invisible Man. In comics, of course, the top heroes to rock this power are Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four, and more recently, Miles Morales, whose seemingly mood-based camouflage abilities played a key role in 2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

In practice, invisibility would probably be the number one superpower for any special agent: it would let you get in and out of anywhere, undetected. You could attend secret meetings, watch suspects, and make recordings without anyone knowing. The tactical usefulness of such an ability has led to much theorizing about how it could be made possible in real life, according to Quartz, with many scientists trying to figure out ways to achieve the effect by bending light around physical objects. So far, the researchers at Duke University have come the closest, with their invention of an "invisibility cloak" that hides objects from microwaves, albeit, not the visible eye. 

Run like the dickens ... or freeze time?

There's a good reason that speedsters like the Flash also tend to be so quick-witted, quick-thinking quipsters. For one, if you could move through the world that fast, can you imagine how soul-crushingly slow standing in line at the DMV would feel? Two, as Futurism points out, the Flash's ability to physically survive one of his lightning jogs would also require that his brain processes information just as rapidly: when he runs, his reflexes need to catch every mosquito and speed bump, or he'd die just as fast.

That said, in recent years, cinema has re-imagined super-speed, to the point where it has arguably become a totally different superpower. For example, Wired theorized that Quicksilver from the X-Men movies doesn't actually run fast, per se, so much as he has the power to warp time. As demonstrated in a number of hilarious sequences, Quicksilver can process things at an "ordinary" speed while everyone else creeps at a snail's pace … but when he's not showing off, he's able to partake in regular conversations, with non-speedster people, as if he's experiencing time at the same speed they are. The power set exhibited by the DCEU Flash in Justice League was also more time-warping than super-speed, but that may change in future movies.

Enhanced senses

Daredevil's powers are understated, sure. However, when you stop to think about them, they'd be ridiculously useful to have in real life, even if you weren't a lawyer in Hell's Kitchen … or, you know, a red-clad vigilante. 

Blindness aside, Daredevil can hear, smell, touch, taste, and "radar sense" his way through the world in a manner far more developed than any regular human being.  When it comes to touch, for example, Screen Rant points out that he can feel the ink letters embossed on a printed page, and thus read non-Braille writing simply by passing his finger over the text. Pretty cool. When it comes to smell, he can recognize any person in a crowd, track them from miles away, know what they ate for dinner last night, or pick up on scents that might've attached to their jacket during that sketchy meeting at Josie's Bar. You also can't drug or poison a super-sensor, since they'll taste every ingredient that touches their tongue. Then there's enhanced hearing, which allows Matt Murdock to listen to a person's heartbeat, rendering him a human lie detector. To finish it off, his radar sense allows him to perceive all objects in his vicinity, which is difficult to depict on film, but highly useful in combat.

Now, when you combine all these abilities with martial arts training, the end results are some of the best "hallway fight" sequences in cinematic superhero history. Good stuff. 

Teleportation, the ultimate escape route

Don't like where a situation is headed? If you're Nightcrawler, no worries. Just "bamf" right out of the room, and go do something you enjoy somewhere else … provided you've seen the room before, of course, so you don't wind up with your leg stuck in a wall. 

Now, the reason that Kurt Wagner's powers work is that he actually transports his body through another dimension, and then pops out in a location of his choosing. That means his molecules don't actually disassemble, as such: he just drops in and out of a portal. In the non-comics world, no such convenient transport dimension has been found. That means that if science ever does figure out how to make teleportation a reality — presumably more along the lines of a machine like in Star Trek, rather than a mutant power — it will pose some weird ethical quandaries, according to How Stuff Works. Namely, if a teleportation machine worked similarly to fax or television, the person who reappears in a new location would be a perfect duplicate of the original person, meaning that John Doe would actually have been murdered and cloned, rather than "teleported." A messy debate, for sure. But hey, at least it's better than what happened to Seth Brundle in The Fly 

Ice powers? Nah, call it 'cryokinesis'

If you're a comics newbie, one of the first things that's going to really confuse you is when die-hard Marvelites prattle on and on about how Iceman, of all characters, is one of the most powerful X-Men. Seriously, Iceman? The dude who rides ice bridges and freezes ponds? 

They're right, though. Iceman is classified as an Omega-level mutant, and that's because his true power is cryokinesis, AKA the ability to control moisture itself. Consider: moisture is everywhere, from the air you breathe to the sweat running down your forehead, and Iceman can manipulate it down to a molecular level. If he got angry, that means he could freeze the blood going into a person's brain. He can stop fire-powered mutants from even activating their powers. Most insanely of all, Iceman can physically cause another human being to evaporate into seeming nothingness … and, if he feels like it, bring them back. Whoa!

Now, if you're wondering why you've never seen Bobby Drake do any of this psychedelic stuff, there's a reason. A big part of Iceman's character arc has involved self-confidence issues, and his emotional struggles with accessing his full potential. If and when this guy comes back in the MCU X-Men reboot, though, expect to see some crazy-cool feats of water.

Turning into a white hole

Carol Danvers is a superhero known for being so powerful that an entire alien armada is more concerned with shooting her down from the sky than they care about every other Marvel superhero on the ground. Impressive, for sure. Not only can she scare away entire fleets, but she had to sit out much of Avengers: Endgame because of her ability to wipe out most bad guys in five minutes flat.

Understanding why Captain Marvel is so powerful, though, is a bit more complex than explaining the Hulk's green muscles. The key to Carol's powers, as explained by Newsweek, is that she's basically able to become a human white hole — the reverse of a black hole — which is referred to as her Binary form. In cinematic terms, you know Carol's gone Binary when she powers up, pulses energy from her eyes, and blows up spaceships. This form tend to only emerge on special occasions, according to Screen Rant, but it gives her control over the entire electromagnetic spectrum. She can also pull insane stunts like controlling gravity or moving at the speed of light. No wonder she's such a boss. 

Be whoever you want (but don't expect anyone to trust you)

The endlessly useful possibilities offered by shape-shifting powers, like those wielded by Mystique or the Skrulls, are too numerous to list. Need to break into the bad guy's top secret corporate offices? Just make yourself look like that bad guy, and voila. Undercover information needed? Change your face. Trying to confuse and manipulate someone to do your bidding? Just pretend to be one of their friends.

However, if you've noticed a common theme with any of these goals, it's duplicitous intent. As fun as shape-shifting powers might be, they'd also forever paint you as a shady character, since your entire M.O. revolves around pretending to be other people. It's no surprise that whenever the notion of shape-shifting powers has appeared throughout history, as recorded by Mythology.net, it has usually involved some deceptiveness, whether by North America's Skinwalkers or the uncomfortable flirtations of Zeus. And hey, Mystique, for her part, is not exactly the most trustworthy Marvel character out there, to put it lightly.

Subconscious telekinetic probability manipulation

Yeah, sure, Domino's powers are confusing. However, they'd sure be great to have in real life.

See, Deadpool can knock Domino's "good luck" power all he wants, but a more accurate name for her abilities is "subconscious telekinetic probability manipulation," meaning that as she goes about through the world and does her business — particularly when it involves high-stakes action scenes — her low-grade telekinetic powers subconsciously alter the environment to make events turn out in her favor. In practice, this means that everything she tries to do will probably turn out well for her, and badly for her opponents, no matter how far-fetched the scenarios might be. It's like a reverse Final Destination, on steroids. A side benefit to having good luck powers, as Polygon points out, is that Domino can afford to just go with the flow, be relaxed about danger, and pretty much do whatever she wants, since the odds are good that it'll (almost) always turn out well for her.

Breathing underwater

If you've ever been a competitive swimmer, or just love activities like scuba diving and snorkeling, you've probably wished — at least once in your life — that you were Aquaman. Forget drowning nightmares, and ditch the tank: Whenever Arthur Curry wants a nice adrenaline rush, all he has to do is dive to the bottom of the ocean, where he can spend hours checking out anything from hidden treasures, to shipwrecks, to bizarre life forms that most humans don't even know exist. 

Now, the ability for humans to perform "liquid breathing" using a synthetic substance called a perfluorocarbon (PFC) is surprisingly possible, according to Gizmodo, as seen in the James Cameron movie The Abyss. However, for a truly amphibious person like Aquaman to function in real life, the entire makeup of his body would have to be dramatically different from that of a land creature like you, and gills are just the first part. For one, his body needs to find a way to deal with the bends. Osmotic pressure is another obstacle. Also, considering his lack of fur or blubber — unlike manatees and elephant seals, Arthur Curry is one ripped dude — his mammalian body might have some difficulties with the cold temperatures he'd face at the ocean floor. But hey, you know, comics

Unlimited storage space

X-Men comics have featured a lot of unusual characters, but there might be nobody as outright weird as Doop. This little green dude is allegedly the product of some Cold War weapons project that went awry, and since hooking up with the Xavier Institute, he's become something of a cult favorite. 

Doop possesses a lot of wacky skills, from projecting psychic shields to being a world-class photographer. Definitely his coolest superpower, though, is his ability to put any object, of any size, inside his gelatinous body, thereby storing it inside a mini-dimension called Doop Land. No, for real. Doop Land allows him to pocket anything from suitcases to crowds of people to ladders, just through stuffing them inside his mouth … or, uh, by poking holes in his emerald-toned flesh. It's similar to how video game characters can somehow pocket 800+ items in their inventory at a single time, except Doop has a super powered explanation.

Spider-Sense is tingling

Individual powers aside, Spider-Man has the coolest power "combo" out of anyone: each of his weird abilities perfectly complement one another. However, the web-slinger's number one spider-power — and definitely the most ethereal of them all — is his precognitive ability to detect any signs of danger. Now, in real life, it would take time and practice for you to master this ability, which is why Tom Holland's version of Peter had to wrestle with it a bit before going full throttle against those drones in Spider-Man: Far From Home. That said, once you'd earned your stripes, having a spider-sense would be a really neat way to avoid traffic accidents, pratfalls, injuries, and so on for the rest of your life … as long as you don't, you know, get tangled up with killer goblins, symbiotes, and octopuses.

Actual spiders don't quite have Peter's psychic skills, but interestingly enough, the Verge says there is some real life basis for the "Peter tingle." It depends on the species, but spiders do possess elongated hairs known as trichobothria, which are used to detect airborne vibrations, and thus, warn them of impending threats.

Don't like the weather forecast? Change it

So far, if there's any X-Men character who hasn't gotten the proper screen time, it's Storm. For one, as comic fans will tell you, Ororo Munroe is easily one of the best characters in the entire Marvel catalog. Two, there's some crazy potential in her ability to control the weather, which really hasn't been explored enough. 

Sure, Thor can bring down lightning down on people, but Storm's weather manipulation extends to snow, hail, tornadoes, hurricanes, and that's just a start. She can freeze an enemy in place just as easily as she could bake them in the hot sun or send them spinning into the eye of a hurricane. Combat tactics aside, Ororo's daily life is also way different than anyone else's: weather is something she can play around with, rather than an unbeatable obstacle, meaning she never has to worry about getting rained out of a beach day. On the other hand, too much weather manipulation could cause property damage, flooding, or droughts, so restraint is necessary. Plus, in the Marvel Universe, being a weather reporter must be an insane job, when any battle between the X-Men and Apocalypse might cause snowstorms to descend over the Sahara desert.

Regardless, the cinemas need more Storm, and her crazy powers are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Time to warp reality

Scarlet Witch's powers can sometimes be a bit hard to comprehend, but there's a good reason that MCU head honcho Kevin Feige thinks that she's one of the only Avengers who could take down Thanos by herself, according to Slashfilm

Glowing red lights aside, what Wanda does is tap into something called "chaos magic," as described by PopSugar, which she then controls to suit her needs. In a regular battle, this can come across as energy bolts or manipulating matter around her, but at her most powerful, Wanda is able to reshape the fabric of reality itself, basically transforming the universe according to her desires — whether conscious or subconscious. This is great for winning fights, and great for narrative purposes … but not so great for a regular human being's mental stability. For an example of how chaos magic can go badly, Gizmodo points to the whole storyline wherein Wanda's powers "created" twin children belonging to her and the Vision who didn't really exist. Creepy. So yeah, while chaos magic powers are pretty epic, they're not necessarily something you'd want to have.  

Healing any wound

Part of what makes you root for Wolverine is that — behind the tough demeanor, adamantium claws, and funky hairstyle — he's actually a really vulnerable dude. His loved ones always get killed, his body gets experimented on, and everywhere he goes, somebody is either shooting bullets into his chest or throwing him off a cliff. These things certainly hurt like crazy, and the only thing that keeps this scrappy fella going is his nifty "healing factor," which allows him to recover from mortal wounds in mere moments.

Not only is this one of the best powers a person could ever have, it's also not such a stretch to imagine it existing in real life. So, it's no wonder that researchers at Harvard University are trying to make it reality. Of course, rather than studying comic books, these scientists have instead examined the three-banded panther worm, known for its ability to regrow parts of its body within a few days of amputation, according to Science

Unbreakable skin

A spider-sense is a great way to avoid injuries. A healing factor will ensure that you recover from such injuries, if they do happen. Face it, though: If you had to choose between having those powers, or simply walking around with Luke Cage's bulletproof skin, what would you choose? Right, it's an easy decision. 

Whether Luke is clutching a grenade in his palm or bouncing bricks off his chest, Luke (almost) never gets so much as a scratch, since his epidermis is as strong as titanium steel. The same can't be said for his hoodies and T-shirts, of course, as he has memorably complained about on several occasions, but hey. Probably the only real downside to invulnerability is that on the rare occasions where something goes wrong on the inside, and Luke requires surgery, it's incredibly difficult to cut him open with anything other than a specialized medical laser. No fun, but considering that Luke can take blows from the Hulk and walk away without a scar, it seems like a decent trade-off. 

All of electricity, at your fingertips

You've gotta feel bad for Electro, even if he's a jerk. The dude should be a Magneto-level threat, but his self-confidence issues are so bad that he always wastes his time robbing banks and getting knocked out by some punk kid with spider-powers. Admittedly, Max Dillon's "everyman" problems are a big part of his appeal, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be awed at the sheer scale of what he's capable of: Aside from firing lightning bolts from his hands, Electro can black out entire cities, transport his body through power lines, zap into a room without warning, and even create localized electromagnetic storms

While Electro isn't too hot at realizing his potential, there are plenty of other electricity powered characters who do a better job. One of the most notable is Static, of Static Shock fame, who uses his powers for quirky things like flying around on a manhole cover. Thor is the king of blasting people with lightning bolts. Miles Morales has some limited electricity powers, which he calls Venom Strikes. On the DC side, of course, there's Black Lightning, as well as the Superman villain Livewire.

Being able to psychically swap bodies with a badass dinosaur

Some superpowers are obvious. Others are based on myths and legends. And then, there are those superpowers so outside the box that, well, they break the box entirely. For an example of the latter, you can't get much zanier than Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, the lovable partnership between a preteen super genius named Lunella Lafayette and her best pal, a crimson-scaled Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yeah, and you thought the Guardians of the Galaxy were weird? Pfft. 

If you're wondering how these two got paired up, well, Moon Girl (who earned her nickname due to her constant daydreams and brilliant inventiveness) accidentally transported her dino pal into the present day, as described by Gizmodo, and the two oddballs immediately formed a psychic link. Now, being telepathic best buds with an intelligent T-Rex is cool and all, but the best trick up Lunella's sleeve is that when she experiences strong, angry emotions, it initiates a neuralkinetic transfer, wherein she and Devil Dinosaur switch bodies. This allows her to stomp bad guys in dinosaur form, and even speak English through dinosaur lips, though it also has the weird side effect of her own body getting inhabited by her sharp-toothed friend, for the duration. Still awesome, either way.

There's nothing more powerful than telekinesis

At first glance, telekinesis doesn't seem like the be-all and end-all of superhuman abilities. Lifting objects with your mind? Sure, it's useful for the next time you have to move to a new apartment, but is it really that powerful?

Well, ask Jean Grey. Or don't, actually, because if she's gone full Dark Phoenix, she'll be ready to throw a car at your house, shatter the walls around you, throw your body across the continent with a flick of her finger, choke out your lungs, or — if you've really pissed her off — simply de-atomize you into nothing. Yeah, the last part is probably the scariest. When Jean hits her peak, as pointed out by Bustle, she gains the ability to manipulate all forms of matter, organic or inorganic, on a subatomic level. She can form, destroy, and/or reform objects according to her wishes. When you pair that with Jean's already impressive telepathic skills, it results in a force of nature that is pretty much unstoppable … and thus, a person that you better hope is on your team, if they aren't blowing up planets or leveling cities.

When will these people learn how to fly?

While super strength is ubiquitous across these costumed folks, the most iconic superpower of all is flight. And hey, the credit for that goes to Kal-El, the last son of Krypton, and the progenitor of all contemporary superheroes. Amusingly enough, it took Superman a few years of comic stories before he learned how to fly, according to Gizmodo, but soaring through the skies has definitely evolved into his primary shtick. After all, there's a reason that 1978's classic Superman: The Movie advertised itself with the tagline, "You will believe a man can fly."

That said, if a person were to really fly like Superman, it would necessitate a few other superpowers to go with it, according to Salon, which is the only reason flight doesn't nab the coveted number one spot on this list. Most importantly, if you're going to flap through the clouds, you'll want some measure of invulnerability to protect you from insect collisions, birds, airplanes, and drones. Also, as Iron Man found out when he first took his suit on a test flight, you'll also need to figure out a way to deal with that high altitude problem, so you don't freeze to death. 

Now, to be fair, flight would definitely be the most fun superpower ever. However, if you didn't have the secondary abilities to make it work, you might never make it back to the ground in one piece.

The mind-blowing power of telepathy

If you've ever seen a list of the most powerful superheroes that doesn't list ol' Charles Xavier near the top, well, somebody hasn't been paying attention. Frankly, Professor X's powers are so off the charts that many X-Men stories have to find excuses to have him poisoned, trapped, or put in a coma, to make sure that he doesn't just go in, wipe the bad guy's mind, and call it a day.

Now, being exposed to the thoughts and feelings of millions of people, on a daily basis, is eventually going to make you either a nutcase or a serene, wizardly sage. Thankfully for the Marvel Universe, Charles is (usually) portrayed as the latter … because if he wasn't, the whole world might go south, real quick. As Screen Rant points out, Xavier's powers allow him to do a lot more than simply read minds: he can learn other languages — even extraterrestrial or animal ones — in moments, cloak himself from the perception of others, "freeze time" by locking everyone around him in stasis, implant or remove memories from other people's minds, and even transfer his consciousness into another body. 

While Xavier isn't the only comic book telepath, he's certainly the one who shows 'em all how it's done. Based on his example, telepathy ranks as the number one superpower, and it's hard to imagine anything topping it anytime soon.