Though they’ve been a staple of pop culture for almost a century, superheroes remain as popular as ever. Maybe it’s the potential for large-scale stories of good versus evil, or maybe it’s the vicarious thrills we get from seeing our favourite heroes flying through the sky or shooting lasers from their eyes. The sad reality, though, is that many of these movie superheroes actually have incredibly tragic stories.

Not all modern superhero stories are gritty and dark, but many of their primary characters have at least some dark tragedy in their past. Often, this is used as part of their backstory: a horrible defining moment that spurred them to become a hero. For others, the heroism came first, and tragedy followed – for these, the darkest times are actually a result of their heroism. Others still face terrible or difficult existences simply due to the nature of their powers. With all that in mind, here are 9 of the most tragic movie superheroes.

9. Batman

Batman’s sad backstory is well known: his parents were murdered in front of him as a young boy, and so he grows up to fight crime and keep the city of Gotham safe. Armed only with gadgets and a lifetime of intense training, Batman is one of the most relatable heroes there is. Or, maybe not – the reason he’s placed so high on this list is that Batman being relatable is actually a lie.

While witnessing the murder of his parents was undoubtedly traumatic, Batman’s life simply isn’t as tragic as many other heroes. He has billions of dollars in the bank, every gadget and luxury he can imagine, and an incredible mansion to rattle around in on his days off crime fighting. In other words, his immense wealth takes the sting out of his tragic backstory.

There is another sad element to Batman’s life though. He is often shown to be so heavily obsessed with ridding Gotham of crime that it often becomes unhealthy, and in many stories his crusade costs him much more than he’d have hoped. This generally prevents Batman from enjoying his wealth and privilege, so he’s still pretty tragic overall.