Comic book movies are the biggest trend in entertainment right now, but the same genre that has brought us The Dark Knight Trilogy, The MCU, DCEU, and a growing number of comic book TV show universes, had to follow a long, winding road to where it is today. And that road was paved with quite a few bumps
These days, every fan has his/her own traumatic memory of the comic book movie that burned them so bad they're still nursing the scar. So decided to add up that collective therapy bill, by pulling together the 10 worst comic book movie adaptations.
Rules: We're only counting the movies that made it to theatrical release, and films that sprang directly from comic book origins.
So if you want that failed Fantastic Four movie from the '90s, or a film like The Shadow (which started as a radio serial) - look elsewhere. In the meantime, here are the 10 Worst Comic Book Movie Adaptations.
Honorable Mention: Captain America (1990)
If you had a problem with Captain America: The First Avenger then you need to go back and watch this 1990 attempt to bring the character to the big screen, and gain some perspective.
Captain America (1990) is on the list with an asterisk because it was only released in UK theaters, and bombed hard. Matt Salinger (as in son of author J.D. Salinger) starred as Captain America, with Castle actor Scott Pauling playing Red Skull.
Everything about this Captain America looks low-rent and terrible, even by '90s standards. Feel lucky if this one never made it onto your radar (before now, of course. Sorry.)prevnext
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be great. It had a bonafide star leading man in Hugh Jackman, the success of the X-Men movie trilogy boosting it up, a fan-approved cast and character lineup, and a mythos that was practically tailor-fit for a big-budget movie. After that easy win, Fox planned to have a whole X-Men Origins film franchise to coast on.
By now, comic book movie fans all know X-Men Origins: Wolverine as that crushingly disappointing movie that was so corrosive that it screwed up the continuity of the entire X-Men movie franchise, and killed Ryan Reynolds' dream of playing Deadpool for over half a decade afterward.
How could something so simple to get right, go so wrong?prevnext
Many DC fans were absolutely ecstatic in the late 00s when it was announced that a Green Lantern movie was happening. Fans got even more excited when they learned that the movie would be based on the 21st century reboot of the character, which had been overseen by comic book writer Geoff Johns. The casting of Ryan Reynolds in the central role of brash, smart-ass pilot Hal Jordan was just icing on the cake.
And yet, despite everything it had going for it, Green Lantern turned out to be an epic disappointment. Director Martin Campbell had successfully reintroduced James Bond to the modern era, twice (Golden Eye, Casino Royale), yet his take on Green Lantern was a choppy, cheesy, travesty that can hardly be called a sensible film. Co-stars Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are a serious couple now, but all that chemistry must've happened off screen, because they were painfully stale as Hal Jordan and his love interest, Carol Ferris.
Instead of being the fantastical launch of the DC movie universe, Green Lantern set it back so far that DC/WB is still scrambling to catch up to rival Marvel Studios. Thanks to Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds can now laugh about this horrible comic book movie misstep along with the rest of us.prevnext
Elektra had a shaky start making it to the big screen. Jennifer Garner was a featured part of the 2003 Daredevil movie starring her eventual husband, Ben Affleck - but while the pair had sparks fly between them onscreen, that chemistry didn't really work magic on the audience.
When Garner got to star in her own Elektra movie in 2005, the fanbase wasn't exactly thrilled, but the end result was worse than anyone could've imagined. A sappy "assassin with a heart of gold" story, some lame action and an overall vibe that felt like nothing close to the Marvel comics heroine...
Let's just say it's a good thing that the MCU Elektra has come along to push the 00s version further out of memory.prevnext
Jonah Hex is another DC Comics movie from the confused era of the late 00s/early 2010s that also spawned Green Lantern. And, like GL, Hex was a film that had enough going for it that it should've easily made its way to a nice box office return. Only somehow, sh*t went way sideways.
The cast was pretty stacked (Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender and Megan Fox), but director Jimmy Hayward couldn't steer the movie to where it was anything but a generic and cheesy superhero origin story with lame action. Considering the rich history of cinematic westerns, Jonah Hex really shot itself in the foot by not blending more of the genre's best storytelling ideas into the superhero movie formula.
This failed and forgettable comic book movie remains one of the more ripe candidates for reboot (but perhaps as a long-form TV western this time?). Until then, the TV version of Jonah Hex will pop up in the upcoming second season of Legends of Tomorrow.prevnext
The Spirit got made when comic book creator Frank Miller was at the height of his Hollywood popularity, having had two of his comic book creations (300 and Sin City) adapted into successful Hollywood films. By Hollywood logic, having two different directors adapt his work (and a little time behind the camera himself), entitled Miller to helm his own big-budget comic book movie passion project. Bad idea.
The project Miller pined for was none other than The Spirit, the cult-favorite classic comic book character first created by industry icon Will Eisner in the 1940s. As a long admirer of Eisner, Frank Miller attempted to The Spirit justice onscreen, but in his inexperienced hands what we got was a messy attempt to make "living art" out of Miller's already messy design aesthetic.
The characters were absurd (like Samuel L. Jackson's villain, "The Octopus"); few had ever heard of leading man Gabriel Macht; and seeing Miller's over-the-top violence and questionably misogynistic sexual overtones live onscreen was not at good look. At all. Since then, Hollywood has backed away from the idea of Frank Miller, film director. Lesson learned.prevnext
Tank Girl is one of those movies that's so bad it's fun - but that doesn't make it any less the disastrous comic book movie that it is. Featuring a crazy directorial style and questionable performances from fine actors like Lori Petty (OitNB), Malcolm McDowell, Naomi Watts and Ice-T (in dog-face), the movie is an absurd ride from start to finish.
The comic book by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin gained acclaim for its punk influences and surrealist, psychedelic overtones. Tank Girlthe movie is just a hot mess of a flim, perfectly suited for drinking games and/or acid trip viewing.prevnext
Barb Wire was one of the comics launched during the heyday of Dark Horse Comics in the '90s. It starred a bar tender/bounty hunter named Barbara (or "Barb Wire) and had the edge and sexual overtones of your average Dark Horse title. It's understandable that there would then be a movie adaptation that tried to cash-in on sex and edge, rather than coherence or substance.
Look up "sex and edge" in a '90s dictionary and you're likely to find a picture of Pamela Anderson. Barb Wire was a big showcase for the Baywatch actress, and came with the added lure of seeing Anderson in the buff on the big screen. That was enough to give this film a "cult-following" as a right of passage for young boys to become men, or horny Baywatch viewers to have an extra thrill. But beyond that, Barb Wire never need be viewed.prevnext
Steel was a character who came during the '90s "Death of Superman" story arc - one of four "New Supermen" who filled the Man of Steel's void. Of the four, Steel was an unlikely choice for a solo movie hero, but music industry icon Quincy Jones wanted him on the big screen and helped make it happen in 1997 - with NBA star Shaquille O'Neal in the lead role as Steel.
Not only was the film ridiculous from conception, the filmmakers doubled-down on the risk by cutting the Steel character and his mythos free from their Superman ties. The result was director Kenneth Johnson creating a film that had an NBA star (and all the bad acting that came with) walking around in a silly-looking costume, performing bad action sequences onscreen.
By today's standards, Steel looks like a fan-film funded by a celebrity bankroll. Which is pretty much what it is.prevnext
Christopher Reeve and the Superman movies of Richard Donner are now legend; the two Superman movies that came after Donner, not so much. Superman III pulled in Richard Pryor for a bizarre story about Superman taking on an evil supercomputer, but Superman IV: The Quest for Peace managed to sink even lower, hitting rock bottom as the worst Superman movie in the entire series; and to some people, one of the worst films ever.
The plot is pretty silly (Lex Luthor shoots Superman's DNA into the sun to create a nuclear-powered Superman); the special effects are terrible; and the script is full of cheese. That Reeve had a big creative hand in the film makes it that much worse, as this would be the last piece of his onscreen legacy as Superman, before the terrible accident that confined him to a chair for the remainder of his life.
Our Superman deserved better.prevnext
No one knows why Catwoman exists. The film was made in 2004, and has zero to do with Batman, Gotham City, or any DC Comics mythos, beyond the name. It was a showcase for Halle Berry, but like so many superhero movies of the early '00s, it was more fluff than substance.
Berry chews every piece of scenery in sight, with Sharon Stone keeping pace as the film's "villain." Worse yet, there's a thin and totally superficial feminist message tacked on to the film, in which Berry's Catwoman antics are supposed to represent female empowerment. Instead, Catwoman depowered the idea of female superhero movies for years to come.prevnext
Batman & Robin
This is the one; the lowest of the low. you can sight all the failed '90s superhero films you want; all the goofy '60s and '70s films you want; all the dark mistakes of the 00s. None of them almost brought down the most successful superhero on the big screen, and crippled his presence in the cinema for nearly a decade. No comic book film has made bigger travesty of its character and material than Batman & Robin.
Director Joel Schumacher has already apologized for the film; actor George Clooney has apologized for the film; and things went so far as death threats being issued. But hey, Arnold Schwarzenegger had fun!
Batman & Robin is a shame that will probably never die. Some scars just never fade.