Hardly a week passes by without the movie-going public at least hearing about some new costumed avenger getting his or her own movie or even just popping up in another superhero’s franchise.
What were once considered by the general public and Hollywood as goofy, colorful stories for kids are now the fuel for some of the biggest blockbusters studios have to offer, as well as some of the more serious and dramatic vehicles for respected filmmakers.
It all seemed to change when Marvel began the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008’s Iron Man. Modeling their films after the interconnected comic books they are derived from, Marvel found audiences were thirsty for the mythology of superheroes, and they were ready to watch previously hard-to-sell characters like Thor and Captain America save the world side by side.
That same year, Christopher Nolan premiered what many consider to be his masterpiece, The Dark Knight. It provided a counterpoint to the well made, but light-hearted Iron Man. Knight proved comic book movies could be taken with the seriousness some more hard edged writers like Alan Moore and Frank Miller injected into the inked paper books in the 80s and 90s.
Those two movies changed the landscape. Now it’s hard to find more than a few days in the summer when a big blockbuster, caped crusader, world-saving flick isn’t ruling the box office. It’s also hard to find material (even darker material) wooing audiences and critics that isn’t derived from the picture and word bubble model (TV’s The Walking Dead and the upcoming Preacher, for example).
However, before there was the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Walking Dead or DC’s edgier takes on their own material, comic book movies struggled to find directors and writers that could really understand their appeal. Before 2008, comic book movies were generally considered easy to digest, bland material with little to no heart and with very little chance of truly exciting critics or audiences. Here’s a look at the 15 worst comic book movie adaptations ever.
And let’s remember: making a movie is hard work. No one sets out to make a bad movie (though it can be arguable sometimes), and bad movies can be just as enjoyable as good ones if the right mood hits, so enjoy these monstrosities of film!
15. Elektra – Didn’t Like Daredevil? Well, You Won’t Like This Either!
Before there was Agent Carter or the upcoming Wonder Woman, another famous female comic book character graced the screen.
Elektra, a spin-off of the much derided Daredevil, took Jennifer Garner‘s character into her own mercenary adventures. What could have been a bold game-changer turned out to be just a dull endeavor.
The film did nothing to help the cause that more women should be headlining their own action franchises. That, however, had little to do with Garner’s performance and was mostly due to the fact that the character of Elektra had little to do with Frank Miller’s famous anti-hero or even much to do with the character previously seen in Daredevil. This movie made people miss Ben Affleck‘s version of the horned hero from Hell’s Kitchen.
14. Catwoman – Why, Halle Berry, Why?
There seemed to be little reason for Catwoman to exist except to showcase an attractive, Academy Award-winning actress walking around on rooftops half-naked in a catsuit. The movie, directed by someone amazingly daring to be credited as simply Pitof, was terrible. It flopped at the box office not even touching its $100 million production budget with its worldwide box office take.
Catwoman didn’t fare better with critics either. Generally mocked by most as a laughable low point in all the actors’ careers, it scored less than 9% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Halle Berry was later a good sport about the awful black mark in her career. She showed up later in the year at the Razzie Awards in person to accept her award for Worst Actress.
13. Jonah Hex – Movie Is As Ugly As That Face
If a case of beer is handy, Jonah Hex can actually be a lot of fun. It’s a movie that flirts with the thin line between terrible filmmaking and “so ridiculous, it might be genius” territory. Unfortunately, the former wins out in the end.
This is a movie that runs at about one hour and twenty minutes. It’s so thin that one wonders why anyone even bothered with a story. The screenplay by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (the Crank movies) and the oversight by super-fan director Jimmy Hayward actually ensure that there are a handful of ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek, violent moments that seem lifted straight from one of the spaghetti western-inspired comics.
However, the movie reaches a point very fast where it just goes off the rails, and one can feel the effect of the much publicized re-shoots seeping through the screen like that awful ooze from The Stuff. Except it doesn’t taste good and it’s not addicting.
Josh Brolin headlined this movie at the height of his big Hollywood comeback, and he fits the scarred anti-hero very well, but even he can’t save this film from itself. It’s a mess of a flick that clearly the studios and the producers had no faith in.
12. Steel – No Slam Dunk Here
Former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal in a movie called Steel based off of a DC comics character. You in? Me neither. I’d rather pop in Kazaam and pretend I’m a kid again.
This movie, for some, easily fits the bill for “so bad, it’s good.” How could it not? Just take a gander at some of the more than ridiculous stills from the film.
Shaq’s wooden acting couldn’t save this mediocre, cheap looking comic book movie. It felt like a hollow attempt at a novel idea to some producers out there: your favorite sports superstar as a hero for geeks!
Steel is a step below mediocre on all levels; the kind of Hollywood endeavor that makes you tire of the Hollywood machine. Shaq in that silly costume may provide a few chuckles today, but Steel’s failure to connect with critics and audiences was no laughing matter then.
The movie did get an award nomination though. Shaq was nominated for Worst Actor at the Razzies. He “lost” to Kevin Costner for The Postman. Congrats, Steel.
11. Judge Dredd – “Dredd”-Ful
Before there was the cult film Dredd in 2012 with Karl Urban capturing the scowl of authoritarian police officer Judge Dredd, there was Sylvester Stallone‘s strange take on the material.
Without much sense of the satire from the comic books, not many memorable action scenes and a lead actor that couldn’t seem to stop showing his face (something Dredd never does in the comics), Judge Dredd ended up being a very mediocre action movie borrowing a very popular comic book character’s name.
Stallone later admitted to the faults of the movie saying: “I do look back on Judge Dredd as a real missed opportunity. It seemed that lots of fans had a problem with Dredd removing his helmet, because he never does in the comic books. But for me it is more about wasting such great potential there was in that idea; just think of all the opportunities there were to do interesting stuff with the Cursed Earth scenes. It didn’t live up to what it could have been. It probably should have been much more comic, really humorous, and fun. What I learned out of that experience was that we shouldn’t have tried to make it Hamlet; it’s more Hamlet and Eggs.”
10. Man Thing – A Mediocre TV Movie
The story behind Man Thing is 10 times more interesting than the movie itself, as is usually the case with terrible films. According to director Brett Leonard, the original movie pitch was for something closer to the darker Marvel comic. His pitch was for an unusual monster movie that didn’t abide by the normal cliches of the genre.
Thanks to endless rewrites at the behest of the studio, the movie barreled forward with a script 180 degrees from the original writing. Actors ended up playing completely different roles, and the movie became just a simple “hunt the monster down in the woods” tale. Instead of a tale from the monster’s point of view at all, the final movie was nothing but a mediocre, cliche TV movie of the week. How appropriate that the studio ended up dumping the film onto the Syfy channel where it went mostly unnoticed. Mostly.
9. Ghost Rider – Just As Bland As Nicolas Cage’s Acting
Before Nicolas Cage was the butt end of jokes and king of VOD mediocre movies, he was the Ghost Rider. It was a role he seemingly had a passion for. They needed to cover up his Ghost Rider tattoo before filming.
It’s too bad that passion didn’t translate through the screen. Despite a healthy box office performance, the Sony film was received poorly by fans. The movie took hits for not being dark enough, the CGI was criticized and Cage was, of course, a little too bland.
The movie was received so poorly, in fact, Sony’s next Ghost Rider feature (still featuring Nicolas Cage) was an all around reboot of the story. Seeing the sequel, which includes some off the wall and crazy sections from directors Neveldine/Taylor (Crank movies), further proves the failure of the first movie. It’s just downright bad. For being a movie about a guy with a flaming skull, there sure was a lot of sitcomy sections of film. Plus, Cage had a weird habit of eating jelly beans. Not sure about that one…
8. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – The Movie That Even James Bond Couldn’t Save
Sean Connery hated the experience of making this movie so much, he retired from acting. There’s even a nasty rumor he punched director Stephen Norrington on set.
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is another movie on this list that could have been great. Scratch that; it could have been phenomenal. The source material was written by the great Alan Moore (Watchmen), and the story revolved around different mythical figures (Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde) becoming a team of pseudo anti-heroes.
The movie we ended up with was a messy, bland movie that seemed rushed and was mostly a waste of time. It had almost no relation to the comic and everyone seemed to be having a bad time on screen. Audiences could easily relate.
7. Blade: Trinity – Was Prison Better Or Worse, Mr. Snipes?
Blade: Trinity is a movie that should have worked. Marvel’s one sustainable franchise pre-Iron Man was that of their vampire slaying Blade. Wesley Snipes headlined the franchise through two sizable R-rated hits, one of which was directed by none other than Guillermo Del Toro.
A third film was a no brainer. And handing the directing reigns to David Goyer (who wrote the first two) seemed like a no brainer as well. Something went wrong however. Despite a winning story pitting Blade against the vampire of all vampires, Dracula, Blade: Trinity ended up being an odd third installment. It flopped at the box office and had critics and fanboys scratching their heads. What happened to the dark Blade we all knew and loved? Blade: Trinity was little more than a mediocre action movie that essentially stripped Snipes’ Blade of everything we knew and loved.
Supporting actor Patton Oswalt later helped to clarify the situation slightly. He claimed Snipes was difficult to work with, refusing to communicate with the director or cast members choosing instead to surround himself with bodyguards and communicate through post-it notes he would sign as “Blade.” He also spent very little time on set choosing to let his double fill in most days and spent his time in a more “relaxed” fashion in his trailer.
Snipes didn’t have a good time either on set, apparently. He later filed a lawsuit against the studio and director claiming his input as a producer was largely ignored, and the movie suffered as a result. Sounds like nobody had a good time making this thing.
6. Green Lantern – CGI Was Laughable
Ryan Reynolds is one lucky man. Sure, he’s had iffy luck in the department of comic book movies. Every one of them he’s lent his name and talents to has flopped with critics and audiences alike (three of them are on this list: RIPD, Blade: Trinity, Green Lantern). However, the luck comes from the fact that Reynolds is now two steps away from GOD territory with nerds and comic con goers everywhere. He’s now the face, voice and biggest supporter of the much anticipated Deadpool movie coming out next year. The flick is gaining interest and support from film fans and comic fans because of its originality and faithfulness to the source material.
However, I suppose you got to work on a few clunkers before you find the diamond in the rough. Green Lantern was one of those clunkers for Reynolds. The movie didn’t set fire to the box office, and it certainly didn’t gain any sort of major following from fans. Plans for the already in development sequel were scrapped right after this movie limped its way out of theaters.
The movie itself is everything that is wrong with comic book movies. While ignoring most of the more interesting aspects to the Lantern comics, Green Lantern was a snoozefest that seems like it was written at midnight by someone running on four hours of sleep and Big Macs. The CGI was also beyond laughable.
The movie has such a bad reputation, the makers of Deadpool decided it was worth almost breaking the fourth wall for. In the trailer for the forthcoming film, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is about to be turned into the monstrosity that is Deadpool, and he takes time for the smart-ass remark: “And please don’t make the super suit green…or animated!” Ouch.
5. RIPD – Rest in Peace, RIPD
RIPD should have worked, I suppose. Jeff Bridges headlined the film with Reynolds, the story had a nice throwback Men in Black feel to it and there was ample room for the mix of action and comedy comic book fans love. Instead, the film is a bit of a mess. Even Bridges isn’t that interesting in the picture. Now, that is hard to do.
RIPD is about two detectives who just so happen to be dead and belong to the RIPD (the rest in peace department). Their job is to hunt down souls trying to avoid death or escape the effects of the afterlife. Bridges’ basically phones the movie in doing a half-hearted impression of his earlier phenomenal performance as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Reynolds just seems lost since the writing is so thin and unsure of itself. The movie is too goofy in parts and too serious in others. And the two are surrounded by cartoons. Not bad CGI, but cartoons. A very bad comic book movie, indeed.
4. Hulk – Hulk Smash! Hulk Suck!
It’s hard to believe Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) once made a comic book movie. It’s even harder to believe it was 2003’s Hulk. Before Edward Norton took a stab at a solo Hulk feature, and Mark Ruffalo perfected the role in The Avengers, Ang Lee directed his version of the big green monster everyone wants to see angry.
Eric Bana starred as Bruce Banner/ The Hulk, and Universal put their weight behind the movie giving it a prime summer release date.
The reception, however, was mixed at best. Failing to light up the box office the way previous comic book hits like Spider Man had, the movie also earned mixed marks from critics and fans. Some critics thought it could be too silly and cartoony in sections while fanboys criticized the changes to Hulk’s origin and the lackluster CGI of the big green guy.
This one makes the list because we’ve since seen The Hulk done more than right since then. This movie was all wrong and nothing but wasted potential, especially with Ang Lee behind the camera. The only reason to go back and watch this dud would be to help yourself appreciate Ruffalo’s version of the character that much more.
3. Fantastic Four – The Flat Four
It’s hard to believe a comic book movie from just this year is making this list, but Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four just leaves us with no choice in the matter. Trank’s original pitch for the movie sounded intriguing to say the least. He was going to take some of the more silly heroes from Marvel comics and give them a realistic approach. He wanted to make a Cronenberg-esque sci-fi horror movie about what it would be like to be cursed with superpowers in the world we exist in now.
Like I said, interesting to say the least. However, plagued with bad press and whispers of production troubles, Fantastic Four debuted at the box office and faded quickly. Nobody wanted to see the movie. They just wanted to talk about the behind the scenes trouble.
Reportedly, Josh Trank clashed with the studio on many occassions, and the movie clearly suffered as a result. It’s amazingly the worst reviewed Marvel movie on Rotten Tomatoes. The flick itself is aggressively mediocre. It has moments that border on brilliance, but they hurt more than anything because they give us too brief glimpses at the strange and unique movie we could have gotten.
Even Trank lost hope in the movie before its release. He tweeted out before his film hit theaters: “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.” Ouch.
Trank’s Fantastic Four makes the list because it wastes more potential than any other comic book movie. It had the ingredients to be great, but clearly mishaps behind the scenes turned thought provoking ideas into one of the flattest comic book movies to ever hit the silver screen.
2. The Fantastic Four – Worst Marvel Flick Ever
That’s right. Marvel’s first family has the distinct pleasure of gracing this list twice. And, trust me, if this list were The 20 Worst Comic Book Movies Ever then those two Tim Story directed, Jessica Alba starring movies would make the cut as well.
Maybe the famous foursome isn’t meant for the big screen. Every attempt has been muddled and just plain bad. None have been worse, however, than what seems like the purposefully awful The Fantastic Four.
Produced by Roger Corman for a sleek $1 million, the movie was reportedly made so a producer would not lose the film rights to the Marvel characters. The film is so cheap and awful, it was never even officially released.
Since its completion, the flick has gained a certain notoriety among comic book and film fans. A documentary was even made about the absurd production.
You can find the movie in various forms online, but it’s a tough one to get through. Unless you have alcohol and friends readily available, don’t even bother. The movie looks like it was filmed in a basement with Halloween costumes, and the script seems to be an exercise in purposefully bad writing.
At least Josh Trank can say his Fantastic Four was better than this sad movie.
1. Batman & Robin – Holy Bad Movie, Batman!
To make it through the first 10 minutes of Batman and Robin is bordering on an act of bravery. The movie is a ridiculous, overlong toy commercial that destroyed Tim Burton‘s Batman franchise.
The movie still haunts director Joel Schumacher to this day. It’s a silly, empty film that seems like it was made by robots rather than human beings. From Arnold Schwarzenegger hamming it up as Mr. Freeze, to George Clooney wasting his talents, to Batman and Robin literally ice skating, the film is just all wrong.
It’s a movie that should be studied by anyone making a comic book movie so they know exactly what not to do. Case in point: nipples on the Batsuit.
George Clooney reportedly keeps a poster of the movie in his house where he can see it everyday to keep himself humbled.