Superhero movies are exploding onto the market today, but that wasn’t always the case. There were many plans being made in the past for numerous comic book movies, but the problem was that a lot of them never saw the light of day. The very few that we got in the early 2000s and late 90s were diamonds in the rough. At that time, there were many concepts and ideas floating around that got a little more attention; then before we could ever get any taste of what they would be like, the projects vanished.
Those who’ve been following comic book movies for years can recall at least one film that we’d heard about and then was canceled. It happens all the time in all mediums, and superhero movies are no different. Directors drop out, franchises are rebooted, and films are poorly received by the public. Due to the high-stakes nature of this facet of entertainment, it’s easy to see why there have been so many dropped projects and ideas.
Unfortunately, the movie world hasn’t been too kind to comic book properties in the time that they’ve been around. Because of this, there were some truly amazing projects that got scrapped when all was said and done, leaving us to only speculate at what could’ve been on the big screen.
You’ll never see these 15 insane superhero movies. You only get to dream of the results, whether good or bad.
15. Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman
Joss Whedon, as Screen Junkies puts it, is the “god of the nerds.” He was the one in charge of the superhero masterpiece known as The Avengers and also directed Avengers: Age of Ultron. Despite this, he has also played his hand at the DC side of things. Other than the Batgirl movie he is directing, he was previously tied to a film project starring Wonder Woman herself.
There aren’t too many details about the film other than a premise. Reportedly, it was going to be set in the present day and would follow Diana Prince as she adjusted to life in the human world as she related to Steve Trevor. It’s unclear what that film meant for DC’s slate, but the project ended up being scrapped for unknown reasons. Because it was scheduled in the mid-2000s, the film was pitched long before the DCEU ever came to fruition. Unfortunately for Warner Bros, Joss had a clear vision for what he wanted the movie to be, and now that the actual DCEU has launched, people are skeptical of the upcoming Wonder Woman movie helmed by director Patty Jenkins. Would it have turned out differently as Joss Whedon’s project?
14. Batman Vs. Superman
Batman and Superman didn’t always have great films backing them up, and while they still don’t necessarily have great films now, the films were decidedly even worse back then. Warner Bros was struggling after the disasters known as Batman and Robin and Superman Returns. They needed something else to put DC heroes back on the map, and Andrew Kevin Walker had the perfect idea: bring both of DC’s most iconic heroes back to the formula in one fell swoop.
The project was nicknamed Batman Vs. Superman (not to be confused with Batman V Superman) and brought into production. There were a lot of ideas going into the film, but Walker was ready to head up the entire thing and make it work. Warner Bros loved the idea and supported him from the beginning. The plot was going to avoid any origin stories and dive right into a conflict that involved both Metropolis and Gotham City. (Suffice it to say, no Martha plot lines were going to be present.) Unfortunately, the Batman Vs. Superman movie didn’t land despite the few teases from Warner Bros. Instead, what hardcore DC fans got was Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. And that movie could’ve been so much better.
13. Justice League Mortal
Other than having Batman and Superman fight each other several years ago, Warner Bros was very ambitious with a project centered around the Justice League. The movie titled Justice League Mortal was supposed to release in 2009 and began production in 2007. There were big plans for the film to include many of DC’s heavy hitters, like the Flash and Wonder Woman. However, as you might imagine, the film didn’t continue with production because of many unfortunate delays and events that occurred.
The ending of the project wasn’t due to Warner Bros disliking it. As a matter of fact, they worked closely with the directors to make sure that the movie turned out perfectly. Instead, there were several hiccups, which included setbacks like the writers’ strike that halted production to a painful crawl. Furthermore, casting became a nightmare, and names were never completely attached to the film. The movie was inevitably delayed, and there were some disagreements as to how the filming should be handled. All of these problems caused Warner Bros to drop the film altogether. Imagine how different the world would be had Justice League Mortal been completed. It would’ve come out one year after Iron Man. The MCU might not have been as popular as it is today.
12. The Sinister Six
When Sony decided to reboot the Spider-Man franchise, they decided to take the Marvel route as far as their future plans were concerned. They wanted to build a film universe out of Peter Parker and had some serious ambitions for other projects. Among them was the Venom Carnage movie and The Sinister Six. The latter was the one most talked about as the studio was more focused on finishing it. They spent a lot of time setting it up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (on the orders of Sony themselves). Unfortunately, this served to the film’s detriment, and people caught on very quickly.
After the film became a critical flop, Sony still had plans to finish their Sinister Six movie. The lineup was supposed to include the Green Goblin, the Rhino, Doc Ock, and the Vulture. From there, the team was to be integrated into the Spider-Verse and eventually go toe to toe with Andrew Garfield‘s Spider-Man. While it was a prime example of the studio wanting to make more money, if Sony had allowed the film to be contained, it could’ve been a smash success.
11. Superman Lives
Let’s start with the obvious entry here. Superman Lives has gone down in fame (or infamy) for being a movie that got very far into production but was then dropped. For those of you that don’t know, Superman Lives was a movie about the Man of Steel directed by Tim Burton (who previously created Batman and Batman Returns). Warner Bros liked his work and wanted him to jump on this new project. However, from the get-go, it was clear that something wasn’t right. Burton cast Nicolas Cage in the role of Superman. While that might be decent, they decided to let Cage keep his long hair, making for a very strange look for the last son of Krypton.
Despite this, the studio egged on Burton’s work, and Superman Lives made it very far into production. However, there was a lot of backlash over choosing Nicolas Cage as the titular actor. There were also a lot of internal problems as the project moved along. Because of these issues, Superman Lives was inevitably canceled, and to be honest, we’re pretty happy that it was. Imagine what Superman’s legacy would be like if Nicolas Cage had portrayed him.
10. Jack Black’s Green Lantern
As you’ll see a few times on this list, studios feel that it’s a good idea to take fairly well-known superheroes and give them their own comedies. Before you get horribly appalled at the idea of Jack Black playing the Green Lantern, they were intending for it to be a joke of sorts. That being said, we’re fairly glad that this project never saw the light of day.
After Robert Smigel’s (Hotel Transylvania) success with other projects, Warner Bros approached him with the idea of a funnier take on Hal Jordan. The director then began work on a screenplay with Jack Black in mind as the lead character. While it’s never been released to the public, we can only imagine the kinds of weird jokes and humor that would be present throughout the film. Production moved forward a bit to the point where it was even leaked to the public. However, after this move, Warner Bros gave the entire production a second thought and decided to scrap it altogether. Instead, they wanted a more serious interpretation of the character, which gave us the Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds. Are we wrong for wondering if Jack Black would’ve been better?
9. Spider-Man 4
Sony had a smashing success with Sam Raimi‘s first two Spider-Man films. But as we would come to find out, Sony loved to intervene and place their own ideas into movies. This is what led to the travesty that was Spider-Man 3. Sandman, the New Goblin, and Venom were all contenders for the wall-crawler (the last of which was added by Sony fairly late into production). Despite how critically panned the film was, Sony still felt they could make bank on the franchise and made plans for Spider-Man 4.
Vulture, Carnage, and Mysterio were all names thrown around as antagonists for the film, but the project ended up being scrapped. The reception to Sam Raimi’s trilogy was much colder due to the public’s general dissatisfaction with the third entry in the series. Sony then decided that they wanted a clean slate and went another direction. This led them to reboot the franchise and put together The Amazing Spider-Man. Needless to say, this didn’t fix Sony’s problems. The company interfered once more in the franchise and overstuffed The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This mistake led them to make a deal with Marvel so they could give the wall-crawler the film he deserves.
8. Bill Murray’s Batman
For some reason, Warner Bros was very willing to experiment with many different genres with regard to many of their superheroes. The Green Lantern character was not the only one to experience this. Many years ago, they actually tried to create a Batman movie starring Bill Murray. What made this choice much more confusing was the fact that the studio was intending to create a dark and gritty interpretation of the character, while Murray is mostly known for his comedic skills. This led many people to believe that the film was supposed to be much funnier than audiences were expecting.
Based on more information that we received about the project, it seems that they were right. This Batman movie was veering into the campy territory, reminiscent of the 60s Batman which starred Adam West. Many writers were asked to deal with the script, but after about nine of them passed it up, Warner Bros scrapped the idea altogether. Instead, they decided to settle on the dark take on the character and pulled in Tim Burton to put something together, which ended up with us getting Batman (1989), starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
7. Catwoman Starring Michelle Pfeiffer
Tim Burton struck gold with Batman back in 1989. It wasn’t long after that success that he crafted Batman Returns. This sequel brought in Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. While both actors brought excellence to their roles, it was Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance that Tim Burton was much more interested in. He wanted to explore Catwoman’s motivations in that universe and thought that a movie starring her would work very well.
Considering the fact that Warner Bros loved Tim Burton’s work and wanted to keep him around, it wasn’t long before they greenlit the project. Burton began work on the beginning details for Michelle Pfeiffer to return as the titular cat burglar. Unfortunately, Tim Burton eventually dropped out of the Batman universe, and the project was scrapped. However, Warner Bros was still interested in the film and decided to create the Catwoman movie starring Halle Berry. If you haven’t seen it, count yourself among the blessed. The film was a disaster on many levels and only makes us wonder that much more about how much better a Catwoman movie with Tim Burton and Michelle Pfeiffer would’ve turned out. Put in some Batman references, and they would’ve had a sure winner.
Don’t be confused with the DC Comics character of the same name. The Sandman movie was set to adapt the Sandman comic from Vertigo (under the publishing name of DC). The comic starred a character named Morpheus who lived in a dimension among other personifications of abstract principles, like Death, Desire, and Destiny. Morpheus gets captured by a dark wizard for 70 years. After breaking out, he scours the world searching for revenge.
An interesting comic book property, it’s no secret why this character would fit on the big screen very well. For a while, it was heavily teased that this movie would become a real thing, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt headlining the lead role. However, both he and the director dropped out because they had some creative differences with the movie. Since then, Sandman has been in a state of limbo. Nobody is sure where it’s going to go next, but it’s likely that the project as a whole will be canceled and we’ll never get to see such an interesting and insane movie. It seems that the projects that get scrapped are mostly the ones that we want to see.
5. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man
Marvel had a lot of plans regarding Ant-Man for the MCU. They originally wanted to open the franchise with the Hank Pym version of the character but decided that Tony Stark would be a better fit. However, they knew that they wanted to include the character in their universe and quickly signed on Edgar Wright (Yes Man), a beloved director, to headline the project. However, there were several delays over the years that made people wonder if we would ever get to see the Ant-Man movie at all.
The short answer is yes and no. Edgar Wright eventually dropped out of the project, and the reigns were handed over to Peyton Reed. While this was sad overall, Reed did everything he could to keep the foundation of Wright’s draft intact. A heist and Scott Lang’s time as the superhero in question were two ideas that were ripped straight out of Wright’s original vision. While the Ant-Man we received wasn’t bad by any means, it was a fairly lukewarm movie in the MCU. It makes fans of the character and the franchise wonder how differently the project would’ve turned out had Edgar Wright never left.
4. Green Lantern 2
The second Green Lantern movie on this list is in direct relation to the film starring Ryan Reynolds. After seeing how Marvel began weaving the framework for their own cinematic universe, DC wanted to attempt a similar thing. However, instead of headlining it with well-known properties like Batman or Superman, DC and Warner Bros agreed that they would kick it off with the Hal Jordan Green Lantern. While this sounded like a decent idea on paper, it didn’t come together, and the movie was critically panned with very few people who actually loved it.
What made the blow worse for Warner Bros and DC was the fact that they initially planned to have a direct sequel to the movie. They teased it by including a scene at the end credits where Sinestro gained a yellow ring and turned into the villain we know and hate from the comics. Unfortunately, Green Lantern 2 was inevitably canceled because DC wanted a better starting point for their own cinematic universe. Several years later, we got Man of Steel. While it was undeniably better than Green Lantern, it still divided enough people to reduce the interest in the DCEU. They just couldn’t catch a break.
3. Batman Beyond
Prepare yourself for a final trilogy of Batman movies that you’ll never get to see. The first that will be discussed here is Batman Beyond. After the travesty of Batman and Robin, Warner Bros needed a new angle to ensure that the Dark Knight would be popular once more. To get ideas, they looked to the animated side of their spectrum and discovered that the show Batman Beyond was a hit among critics and fans alike. After several discussions, they felt that the show would translate into a movie very well.
Production began with Boaz Yakin (Remember the Giants) set to be the director. The movie was supposed to adapt many of the story beats in the comics like a grizzled Bruce Wayne and the much more capable Terry McGinnis. However, the project never really went anywhere, and it wasn’t long before the entire thing was scrapped. Considering the fact that Batman Beyond was one of their top shows, perhaps they didn’t want to taint the audience’s opinion of it if the movie failed to succeed. If that’s the case, then we’ll give them credit for keeping the integrity of the show alive.
2. Batman Year One
Frank Miller is a titan when it comes to comics. He singlehandedly managed to reinvent Batman’s character after all of the comics that came out. Creating both The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, Frank Miller placed himself as one of the greats with regard to superhero stories. At the time that Batman: Year One came out, Warner Bros was again trying to come up with a new angle on the Batman franchise. Seeing the success of Miller’s work, they decided that the dark tale of Batman: Year One would be the way to go.
They quickly signed on Miller to work on the script alongside Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream). The two worked together very well and quickly came up with a violent, rated-R version of the character. However, the higher ups at Warner Bros weren’t confident with this direction and attempted to make a lot of changes to the script. It wasn’t long after this that Miller and Aronofsky both dropped out of the project sending Warner Bros back to square one. Keeping in mind the legendary success of Batman: Year One, it’s sad that the comic never became a live-action movie. It’s an animated movie, though.
1. Batman Triumphant
Warner Bros, for some reason, kept throwing bones to Joel Schumacher in the Batman franchise. He began with the lukewarm Batman Forever before moving on to the universally hated Batman and Robin. Despite the horrendous failure that movie was, Warner Bros was still interested in giving Schumacher another project to work on. They wanted a sequel to Batman and Robin, and it ended up being titled Batman Triumphant (or Batman Unchained depending on whom you ask).
The intent with this movie was to bring the franchise back to its darker and more serious roots, similar to Tim Burton’s work. Production began, and Schumacher began getting names for the movie. He intended to use the Scarecrow, who would trap the Dark Knight in Arkham Asylum and make him go insane. However, after Batman and Robin got all of its negative reviews, George Clooney decided that he would never play Batman on screen again. Joel Schumacher then chose to take his leave from the Batman franchise as a whole. Because of this, and not the studio’s better judgment, that Batman Triumphant never saw the light of day.