Top 10 Worst Comic Book Movies of All Time
For comic book loving movie goers, it really is a great time to be alive. For the first time in cinematic history, comic book movies are becoming a dependable staple in Hollywood’s stable, and moviegoers can expect a half dozen comic book adaptations to hit theaters each summer. Unfortunately, as recent release Dylan Dog: Dead of Night proves, a good portion of those movies are terrible. Well, that and after Superman Returns and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Brandon Routh is officially the comic book movie kiss of death. But I digress.
Much like any other kind of movie, there are always reasons why they fail. Most times, old Hollywood standbys like bad acting or lazy special effects can be blamed for such failure. In addition, there are any number of pitfalls that many comic book adaptations fall into, including things like drastically altering the subject matter or having Michael Cera in the lead role. In the end though, a select few of these cinematic bombs go beyond becoming simple box office kryptonite, and manage to join the ranks of some of the worst films ever produced.
Over many years, I have seen the worst of the worst of this cinematic Legion of Doom, and for your viewing pleasure, I have pieced together a list of what I think are the ten worst comic book movies ever produced. Taking movies based off of comic books and graphic novels, I chose them based purely off critical opinion, and as always, I only count films that I have personally seen. Without further adieu, here is my list for Top 10 Worst Comic Book Movies of All Time:
10) Captain America (1990)
While fans may wonder if Captain America: The First Avenger can truely do the hero justic, we can all rest easy it will do better than this piece of garbage. To be clear, the only reason this travesty did not earn a higher spot in the list is that it never saw widespread theatrical release in the USA, and I feel like that counts against it. Regardless, I have no doubt it earns a spot on this list, because after all, when a film about Captain America can’t even secure something better then a direct-to-video launch in the USA, you know there’s some serious issues with the movie.
Infamous for low quality and taking extreme liberties with the subject matter, this movie is painfully bad. The acting is hammy, the dialogue cheesy, and there really is no plot to speak of. In addition, the film has blatant political overtones – for example, Captain America telling the audience to support the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 – that add entirely new ways to make this movie unbearable. Filmed in Yugoslavia, I am entirely convinced that like most unspeakably vile things from the post-Cold War Balkans, this movie should be treated like a war crime.
9) Son of the Mask (2005)
The original Mask was the film that made both Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz household names, and remains a quirky, high energy comedy to this day. Like most Jim Carrey-less sequels released a decade after the original, it bears no resemblance to the original, wasn’t funny, and was one of the biggest critical failures of the last decade, to say nothing of it being a box office bomb.
The movie hosts a score of problems, including and obviously fake CGI baby and an equally annoying CGI dog. Yet the biggest issue is leading man Jamie Kennedy, who unlike Carrey, has no where near the comedic or acting ability to maintain the focus of the audience, and his turn as a loser cartoonist wasn’t exactly sympathetic in the first place. Somewhere along the way, they pull in deities from the Norse pantheon like Loki and Odin, making this film the biggest affront to my Scandinavian heritage since 2007’s Beowulf. Combined with a nonsensical story that somehow ties to tie all of this together, there is little wonder why critics brutalized the film and audiences ignored it.
8) Supergirl (1984)
Few prominent film franchises have seen more problems than the Superman series over the years. Superman was amazing, Superman II was good, Superman III was painful, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was cringe worthy, and the less I say about Superman Returns, the better. But when you are looking for a Superman stinker of Kryptonian proportions, not one can hold a candle to Supergirl.
Despite the rather pleasant bit of eye candy, this movie has been the black sheep of the Superman film family for good reason. Hammy acting, cheap special effects, and a weak and inconsistent story with plot holes a plenty. Even at it’s rare good moments, it feels more like a teen drama than a comic book movie, let alone part of the Superman franchise, and that kills Supergirl faster than a dose of Kryptonite.
7) Jonah Hex (2010)
It’s generally a good rule of thumb when making a comic book movie to avoid using characters the typical man on the street has never heard of, because the results are rarely, if ever, good. Jonah Hex proves no exception, and the DC cult classic character spawned one of the worst films of the last few years. The film may have been doomed from the start with all of the drama on set easily surpassing anything found in the movie. Script rewrites, massive re-shoots, lots of friction between writers Neveldine and Taylor, and a replacement director in Jimmy Hayward, who’s only prior work was Horton Hears a Who, these problems were only made worse by the fact the film completely tanked at the box office, for good reason too.
Despite the valiant efforts of Josh Brolin, the acting is abysmal, coupled with the fact it seems like everyone in the film is poorly attempting to use the hokiest Southern accent they can muster. John Malkovich gives a career worst, and Megan Fox’s turn as a hooker makes her performance from Jennifer’s Body look like an Oscar-worthy performance. The pacing is manic, barely clocking in at 81 minutes, and despite the brief length, the film’s story is unfocused and hard to follow. The end result is a rushed, poorly performed and made film. On the bright side, this may be the movie that ends Megan Fox’s career. Hope leaving the Transformers franchise was worth it!
6) Dragonball Evolution (2009)
I’ve been a fan of Dragonball and Dragonball Z since childhood, and as my fan-requested review last August shows, I have several choice words to say about this movie, and not one of them is a good one. Sharing little to nothing with the series it’s based on, what artistic liberty did not destroy, shoddy acting, poor casting, lack of a central story, and cartoonish special effects will.
I gave a far more in depth look at the problems with this movie last August, so for the sake of brevity, I will try and focus on the main ones. The entirety of the cast puts no effort into their performance. The special effects are poorly done, to the point you can literally tell when they are using green screens. Despite being based of a series famous for it’s brutal over-the-top fight scenes, there really is not that much action in the movie, and when there is, it’s laughable. Worst of all in my opinion, the liberties taken with the story and characters results in the most extreme mutilation of beloved childhood icons this side of a Joel Schumacher movie. The end product is a mess that will give most moviegoers headaches and send Dragonball Z fans into a Super-Saiyan style rage.
5) Steel (1997)
As much as I admire him as an athlete, it’s usually a good rule of thumb to start heading for the hills when you see Shaquille O’Neal’s name in the movie marquee, and Steel proves to be no exception. After several comic book movies bombed, this particular dud was what critics hailed as the movie that ‘killed the superhero movie’. As anyone who has watched it knows, there is some merit to that statement.
The movie is based on the comic series following a hero by the same name of the movie, who in addition to being the DC Comic’s version of Iron Man, is he one of the few black superheroes aside from Nick Fury and the Green Lantern. So it is rather unfortunate that the whole of the cast is an unending string of black stereotypes, with Richard Roundtree (Shaft, if you didn’t know) giving a particularly heartbreaking performance. Of course, no one in the movie gives a worse performance than O’Neal, who has given the world what may be the most non-heroic superhero ever put to film. The director of the movie had only done made-for-TV films prior to this, and it really shows with all of the cheesy special effects, cliche-ridden dialogue and poor pacing. On the plus side, Shaq didn’t rap.
4) Howard the Duck (1986)
While some fans of the work of George Lucas argue whether or not his career began going downhill with Return of the Jedi or The Phantom Menace, most people, myself included, think it was dead the instant Howard the Duck hit movie theaters. Widely hailed as one of the worst movies of all time (Then again, most of the films on here could be contenders for that), it was a box office and critical failure, and a sad forewarning of what we could expect from George Lucas in the future.
Based off of a cult classic comic book that served mainly as a social satire, the movie follows an anthropomorphic duck named Howard, who after being sent from his home planet to Earth against his will, tries to find a way home, meets and begins a romance with a struggling singer (a human singer I might add) and stops an intergalactic evil from attacking Earth. Does that make any sense? Of course it doesn’t, and combined with the lousy acting and completely unconvincing looking Howard, who almost beats Jar Jar Binks for most annoying character Lucas ever produced. Well, Almost. In any event, they really laid an egg with this one, and a rotten one at that.
3) Batman and Robin (1997)
Words fail to describe the levels of seething hatred your average fan of the Caped Crusader feels toward this movie, yet as anyone who has seen this movie can attest, there is strong reason to support their crusade against Joel Schumacher’s heresy against Batman.
For a franchise widely known for it’s dark and gritty stories and brooding antiheroes, its no wonder that the colorful and campy approach was met with enormous backlash from the fans, to say nothing of reactions to the gratuitous gay innuendo coming from the Dynamic Duo. Overall, the cringe worthy moments include everything from Alicia Silverstone’s awful performance as Batgirl, the repeated padded rubber butt-shots and ever-larger nipples on the costumes, an unceasing torrent of bad puns and awful one-liners, a convoluted story, and the Bat Credit Card. It’s really no wonder that this movie killed the Batman franchise for close to a decade, and it took the careers of a fair portion of the cast with it, and to this day, Schumacher has the tendency to apologize for the movie whenever the subject comes up.
2) Catwoman (2004)
You know you’re in trouble when a movie that has Halle Berry walking around in leather for most of the film earns the number two spot on a ‘worst comic book movie’ list. And yet, here we are, with one of the worst movies of the last decade, few people would debate that it is anything but a stinker of the first degree. Almost from the beginning, people were expecting this film to have issues. Ranging from letting an inexperienced Frenchmen calling himself Pitof helm the director’s chair a $100 million dollar movie to the backlash against the admittedly gaudy costume design, these complaints were quickly compounded once the film hit movie theaters.
The movie is almost a step by step guide on how to ruin a comic book movie, taking the flaws that sank other films and running miles with them. The dialogue and acting range from laughably bad to painfully so, a fact made all the sadder when you note that there is an Oscar-winning actress in the star role, and an Oscar-nominee playing the villain. The story was ridiculous, ranging from the villains being the cosmetics industry to changing the lead character from an eccentric cat burglar to a whip-wielding cat-empowered woman with a penchant for bondage gear. As for the cinematography, it’s one of the worst shot films of the last twenty years.
Not too surprising, but the movie bombed, both critically and financially, and the following explosion wiped out the careers of close to everyone involved. But when you stop to consider that one such causality was Halle Berry, one of Hollywood’s most talented actresses, you realize what really set this movie apart from your typical awful comic book movie was it took many of the flaws that many of them have to new heights. To this day, the film regularly makes the rounds on lists of the worst movies ever made, and deservingly so.
And what is the worst comic book movie of all time?
1) Tank Girl (1995)
For those of you who have never heard of this movie, praise whatever Deity you choose to follow. For those of you who have, be aware that I have shared your suffering having sat throughout his train wreck myself. In any case, it is a horrendous example of how everything can go wrong with a comic book movie, and plenty of additional lessons in awful film making to go with it.
Based on a short lived British comic book series that has already on the fringe to begin with, the movie has enough flaws that I don’t even know where to start. The acting is abysmal, easily a career worst for all involved, and it was a career-ender for most of them; Lori Petty’s turn as the namesake Tank Girl alone is both extremely aggravating and completely unlikable. Both the story and special effects work are poorfully done and painful to watch.
Yet in the end, what earned it the number one spot was all the needless crap in the movie, ranging from senseless costume changes and scene transitions consisting of clips from the comic book, and the most terrifying obviously fake rapping kangaroos this side of Kangaroo Jack, one of whom is played by Ice-T. That and not one, but two horrific and drawn out musical numbers that both have no bearing on the plot line at all.
Tragically enough, the film has garnered a small fan base that managed to turn it into a cult classic of sorts. Of course, these days, even dreck like A Serbian Film can manage to find enough shit-hungry masochists to get an audience, so I’m not too surprised. Regardless, Tank Girl is in my humble opinion, the worst comic book movie ever produced.