“I’ve always said that in the film world you have to pretend eight million people are gonna love it and in the art world, if eight million people love it, it’s really BAD. So it’s the reverse aesthetic, in a way.”
- John Waters (about films)
As a filmmaker and a movie fanatic, I personally have a love for “bad” movies. I think Showgirls is solid cinema, Troll 2 is genius, and didn’t most people actually like Napoleon Dynamite at one point?
One genre that has seen a fair share of bombs is the beloved comic book genre. We all have at least one comic book movie we love but almost everyone has at least 5 that they absolutely hate. This is why I took on the enthralling task of going through what some people would call the “horrible” comic book movies, hereby taking a good look at the ones that really missed the mark with the majority of viewers.
Listed from old to new, I will breakdown the best moments of the bad seeds starring your favorite superheroes; no decade is overlooked, no comic franchise is safe.
10. Superman And The Mole Men (1951)
In the first feature film for Superman and first time George Reeves took over the role as Superman, Superman And The Mole Men is certainly a product of ‘post World War II’ United States. The “Red Scare” caused fear to be at an all time high and the country had grown cautious of strange invaders; something that the serious tone of this film reflected.
Superman is portrayed very intense and mature here. George Reeves gives him a no-nonsense and combative persona; something he would slowly lose as he became a bit more family friendly.
What drags this film down is the inclusion of the “Mole Men”, furry bald-headed underground beings. Not coming from any established story and not adding anything new to the mythos, the little Mole Men distracted from what needed to be a solid debut for Superman. That would be saved until his proper rebranding in 1952 with his TV show, Adventures of Superman.
This is not the last time we’ll see The Man of Steel on this list.
9. The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)
Thought the recent films named The Amazing Spider-Man were the worst in the web swinging franchise? I'd advise you to take a look at this 70’s made-for-television movie for proof that it can get far more horrifying.
The Amazing Spider-Man from 1977 is by far the biggest offense to our neighborhood friendly Spider. While I can excuse most things like special effects and production quality when dealing with retro films, The Amazing Spider-Man delivers far below expectations. When you consider the release of Superman The Movie and The Incredible Hulk (TV Show) the following year, the low budget look of this TV movie is almost inexcusable.
The film still has some very funny over-the-top moments that you have to see at least once. The web shooting is laugh out loud funny, the building climbing effects are a must see, and the action scenes are cringe-worthy. The Amazing Spider-Man from '77 feels like a movie the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have loved to review.
8. Superman 3 (1983)
While I know Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is the most talked about and much despised blunder when it comes to Superman movies, I still feel that Superman 3 is the worst of the worst. Nothing can save this one, not even two Supermen.
With the absence of Lex Luthor and no Nuclear Man to help make it feel like a real “superhero” movie, this film nearly becomes a parody. The inclusion of Richard Pryor and a knockoff Lex Luthor never allow the film to feel like a serious attempt. The 'corrupted' Superman storyline also leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Looking back on it, it almost feels like the inspiration for the 'emo' Peter Park we see in Spider-Man 3.
The movie does have a few bright moments thanks to the legendary Richard Pryor but all those moments feel like replicates from one of his earlier films. Pryor plays a computer hacker who is trying to get the most out of his paychecks, a subplot that would have made for a hilarious movie in the mid-70’s starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder but not in a Superman movie.
7. Howard The Duck (1986)
A winner of 4 Razzie awards & awarded a 15% on review website Rotten Tomatoes, Howard The Duck is one of the most infamous movies on this list. The average comic book fan often ignores the film and it can be found on most “Worst Movie of All Time” lists, what a reputation!
Howard The Duck, the cult classic comic book film starring an anthropomorphic duck and produced by George Lucas, was an odd turning point for LucasFilms. George Lucas wanted to focus on producing film so he picked up movies like Labyrinth and this film to change things up a bit. I don’t think duck boobs were the changes Lucas was looking for though.
The hated 1986 film is technically the first film from Marvel Comics. They then waited nearly 12 years before making another attempt at a feature with their sleeper hit Blade in 1998. The effects that this film had on Marvel and their big screen movies are hard to ignore, though they have recovered in the last few years by becoming a global phenomenon.
6. Captain America (1990)
1990 was an odd time for the genre. The success of Tim Burton’s Batman hadn’t hit everyone yet, the Superman franchise was put to rest and The Incredible Hulk was pumping out TV movies; everyone wanted to see what the next move would be. So Marvel tried Captain America as a direct-to-video release to see what they could do with the brand.
The film was marketed for a younger demographic but filmed for completely different demographic. The film starts with an Italian sequence, complete with Italian subtitles and then it is followed up with a machine-gun filled shootout. Not exactly something the average 11 year old can easily get into. It’s also revealed in the film that Red Skull had something to do with the Kennedy assassination. Amazing children’s entertainment…
Nonetheless, Captain America is a great look back for Marvel Cinematic Universe fans so they can see how far their favorite superheroes have come.
5. Batman & Robin (1997)
The “Holy Grail” of bad comic book movies.
Nothing will top Batman & Robin.
In the second Batman film by Joel Schumacher, Batman & Robin took the film to new campy heights, etching its name in film history.
George Clooney takes the reigns of Batman after a one and done performance by Val Klimer. From his famous George Clooney delivery to his nipple bat-suit, he is the centerpiece of this movie. However, Clooney isn’t the only offender in this movie. In the greatest miscast of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Mr. Freeze who seemingly only speaks in ice puns. The rest of the cast includes Uma Thurman playing what feels like a drag queen version of Poison Ivy, Chris O’ Donnell following up his horrid Robin performance from Batman Forever, and finally Alicia Sliverstone as Batgirl…because it was 1997.
The cast isn’t even the worst part about the movie. The product placement, the extreme sexual close-ups of the Bat family getting dressed, the dull script, and distracting set pieces all add to why this film is hailed as one of the worst of all time.
4. Catwoman (2004)
Catwoman is the Showgirls of comic book movies: Heavily sexualized, female-led, and a major sore subject to all movie lovers.
Halle Berry stars as Catwoman, a character known for her connection to Batman and the world of Gotham....but not in this film. The only thing this movie is connected to is 7 Razzie nominations and a place on Roger Ebert’s most hated films list.
This solo movie adaptation of Catwoman has been talked about over and over again in the film community; from the video game like special effects to Halle accepting a Razzie for her role as the title character, Academy Award in hand.
But somehow, the movie found a small cult following. American LGBT channel LOGO has been known to marathon the movie. Even the campiest & worst reviewed of films will still find a place with some people.
I should also admit I own this movie on DVD…
3. The Spirit (2008)
Frank Miller is a comic legend. He has worked on everything from the re-invention of the Daredevil comic series to the famous “The Dark Knight Returns”; Miller deserves his title as one of the kings of comics. In 2008, he nonetheless committed a crime against cinema and comics, so bad that he deserves to lose his place in the comic book hall of fame. Why, you ask? He released his first solo directing effort titled The Spirit.
Borrowing the visual style of 2005’s Sin City and given a solid cast, The Sprit took everything and turned it up to a 100. The film feels more like a Grindhouse film from the 1970’s than something released the same year as Iron Man and The Dark Knight.
If the plot was a bit more coherent and the characters were more memorable, this film would have found a niche market. The Spirit sadly just feels like a dull attempt to capitalize on the success of Sin City and 300.
2. Jonah Hex (2010)
I know it would be expected that Green Lantern would probably make this list but I think Jonah Hex is far more of a sin against film than Green Lantern. I knew Green Lantern was going to be bad from the start but this film had the makings of a great piece. It had interesting source material with a cult following, a solid 47 million dollar budget, and fine actors…what went wrong for the film in the eyes of critics and filmgoers?
Jonah Hex features a stacked cast of Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, and Michael Shannon with good side attractions like Megan Fox and Will Arnett. Most comic book movies would kill for a well-rounded cast like that but something just didn’t connect. Everyone just seem to phone it in, never going that extra mile that could have driven the film to the much needed “so bad it’s good” category.
The movie just falls flat but there is something about the source material that still shines through, getting you through the film, if only barely alive.
1. Fantastic Four (2015)
Fantastic Four is one of the films with a much talked about production that already hinders the film before it even gets to viewers. It’s happened before, but Fantastic Four has taken a serious beating as of late.
The newest inclusion of the Fantastic Four franchise tries to mature the tone of the film. By removing any of that hokey fun from the 2005 film, the studio wanted to change the way the Fantastic Four was looked at; much in the way Batman Begins shifted the entire Batman franchise. The removal of the obvious jokes and desaturated color palate separated this version from the other much-hated Fantastic Four films, something that somehow pissed off the fans even more.
Upon viewing the film, I think the biggest offense is how mediocre it is. It’s not bad enough to be laughable but it doesn’t shine either. The only thing that makes Fantastic Four even notable is on-set controversy between the studio and director.