Ten of the Worst Comic Book Movies Ever Made

What are some of the worst comic book movies ever? Find out here!

Believe it or not, we are in something of a golden age of comic books being adapted to film. It began when Bryan Singer, fresh off directing the overlooked and largely forgotten Apt Pupil, came out of left field and knocked it out of the park with X-Men. Suddenly we all got a taste of what it was like when a comic was adapted right, and with an ensemble cast of great actors (plus Halle Berry) to give us some emotional investment. And here was the crazy part: It didn’t have to be loaded to the gills with cheese factor to pull it off (minus Halle Berry). The humor was there, but it felt organic, not forced.

Since then we’ve had Spider-Man 2, Iron Man, The Dark Knight, The Avengers… I think we see where this is going. Comic book films have not only been done right, but been reinvented to get serious attention and critical acclaim in the last decade. But oh dear lord sweet baby Jesus… when it goes wrong, it goes really, really wrong.

This is my own personal top ten (or bottom, when you think about it) worst comic book adaptations, in alphabetical order. Why alphabetical? Because I like to save my numbers for films that earn them. These stinkers are best left in truck stop bathrooms only to be flushed from our memories, rather than graced with any numerical ranking that didn’t come stamped in its title.

Batman and Robin -
There’s really only been one villain so diabolical and cunning that he actually succeeded in killing the Batman for many years. His name is Joel Schumacher. Few movies shit the bed this hard, or with as little mercy. All of that atmospheric storytelling and complex characterization that came with Tim Burton and Michael Keaton is out the window. What remains is an overblown orgiastic neon light show full of corny one-liners and bat nipples. The only thing missing is the mayor of Quahog. In his stead, we get George Clooney, who is so sedate and out of shits to give or take that he personally offered a cash refund to anyone unfortunate enough to pay to see this guano. Is cash your only offer? You sure I can’t put the funds back on my Bat Credit Card? Ugh.

Captain America and Captain America 2: Death Too Soon
Reb Brown’s career could be summed up with a single scene.

If you want to remember Reb fondly, just stick to that moment of perfection from Death of a Soldier… and stay the hell away from the 1979 films that completely wasted this man’s talent. Yes, talent. Singular. As in, only one. Because Reb Brown never once does the only thing he does well as Captain America. He doesn’t yell, or even raise his voice. Reb Brown’s version of Steve Rogers is probably the biggest crybaby superhero you’ve ever seen. Combine the facts that the first film does not show the title character in costume until the 74 minute mark, he never once throws his trademark shield, there is only one fight scene in the entire movie, and you have the perfect ingredients for a milkshake of banality that would put even the most ardent insomniacs into a coma. Not even Christopher Lee popping up in the same-year sequel could save these films from being all but forgotten and buried like Count Dracula himself.

I have to blame Bryan Singer for this one. Sure, he had nothing to do with it, but he made two such incredible X-Men films that casting agents were able to overlook just how terrible Halle Berry was in them.

Her delivery of this one-liner, and all of her dialogue, in the first X-Men makes Tommy Wiseau look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Might be a bad example, but what the hell? I’m sticking with it. This movie is the perfect bad example of how to break a character down to the sum of her parts, bury those in a litter box, let cats piss all over it, then sift through it to try and find the pieces again. When they can’t even get the title character’s name right (Who in the hell is Patience Phillips?!), you know you’re in for a rough ride, and not the kind she gave Billy Bob Thornton in Monster’s Ball. Speaking of things I’d rather be watching, I’ll stick to The Dark Knight Rises to quell my thirst for hot cat burglars in skintight leather, thank you very much.

Fantastic Four
If there’s one franchise in desperate need of a revival, it’s the Fantastic Four. It started with the bombastically cheesy Roger Corman-produced shlockfest from the early 90s, which was nothing more than a rushed effort by Fox to keep their rights to the characters. Then it really came to a festering head with the Tim Story-directed flicks. Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself since I walked out of the theater in 2004: Whose mentally stunted cousin said to someone with money, “You know who ought to direct a Fantastic Four flick? The guy who made that Barbershop movie!” But then there’s the truly sad question: How did a film this awful still get a sequel, joining films such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in the short category of films known as “Why, God, Why?” So instead of just two films sodomizing our beloved heroic icons, we have three. Somehow I think this is where the whole idea of Jessica Alba in skintight spandex started to lose its appeal.

Howard the Duck
There’s something to be said about a movie that abandons all credibility before you even see the opening title. Before the narrator somehow says the phrase “Howard the Duck” without snorting into the microphone, we get a glimpse of what has to be one of the most horrifyingly wrong things ever put into a film marketed to kids.

Now that you’ve seen that, good luck sleeping tonight. The rest of the movie is just as creepy and awkward in ways that make you crave a bar of soap and a lock on the bathroom door. Lea Thompson, God bless her, does all she can to give a shred of credibility to her performance, but not even the Back to the Future trilogy in all its glory can erase my memory of her love scene with an animatronic duck. Some defenders of the film might say that said love scene was tastefully shot with silhouettes. I say that it makes it worse for the same reason murders off-camera in horror films are scarier: Your imagination makes it worse!! In fact, it almost makes it worse that the film is rather competently made, with a memorable score and detailed creature effects. Of course, what else would you expect from Lucasfilm? Wait, what? If only we knew that Howard was just the front man for the harbinger of doom to arrive in The Phantom Menace, maybe we would have quit with the Ewoks.

Ninja Turtles 3
Do I even need to talk about this one? The legacy of Ninja Turtles 3 is so infamous, its failure so disastrous, that if you put a gun to my head and said I had to watch this or Batman and Robin, I would tell you to pull the trigger. Twice. The mere mention of this movie raises memories in my head so jaded with fanboy fury, that all I can do is just start spouting questions that piss me off. Why do the turtles talk like their animatronics got struck by lightning? How did the filmmakers completely forget the rogues gallery of colorful villains from the comics and TV series when they decided to give us Mr. Miyagi’s samurai cousin and a gay British concubine? Why is Michaelangelo only in one fight scene in the whole movie when he was everyone’s favorite turtle? Why does Splinter look like he just got removed from Richard Gere’s ass? Why am I still wasting my time writing about this piece of crap? I’d rather watch a movie about Rocky Balboa’s pet turtles, Cuff and Link. At least then, maybe Casey Jones would be given something good to do. That’s another thing that pisses me off: If you get a great actor like Elias Koteas to be in your movie, LET HIM DO SOMETHING! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Son of the Mask
When I first heard that Jamie Kennedy made a one-sided documentary emasculating hecklers at comedy shows, the first and only thought in my head wasn’t Michael Richards screaming racial obscenities. That was my second thought. My first was: “Dude, you starred in Son of the Mask.” The Mask with Jim Carrey is one of the most beloved and quotable films of the 90s. To this day, I can recite whole passages of dialogue from that movie. But Son of the Mask? This film isn’t just unfunny; it’s horrifying. If you thought that the creepy CGI baby in Breaking Dawn was the stuff nightmares are made of, let me tell you, it is the Snuggles bear compared to this monstrosity. There are some images in your life so scarring that, once you see them, you can’t un-see them. This frigging baby is up there with Cruising’s Crisco-fisting, Kathy Bates’ nude scene from About Schmidt, and the animal killings in Cannibal Holocaust. It’s that bad. Next time Jamie Kennedy is in town doing standup comedy, I’m just gonna wait until he bows at the end, then chuck a DVD of this ball-crushing blitzkrieg at his skull. I’ll see you in the kitchen with a knife.

The Punisher (1989)
Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher should have been a match made in physicality heaven. Not only is the guy massively built, but he does most of his own stunt work on top of having a master’s degree. So why is it that he chose to play Frank Castle like a heroin addict in dire need of a fix? And why does he love making gun sound effects with his mouth while gunning down a room full of slot machines? It pains me to say it, because I consider myself a fan of Ivan Drago, but this has to be one of the worst portrayals of an iconic character in cinema history. That, by itself, would’ve been bad enough, if not combined with extraordinarily lazy filmmaking. Do we ever see a different angle of the Punisher riding his motorcycle? The motorcycle shots in this movie are the drug-addled cousin of the flying shots in Superman 4. Throw in a wasted performance from Lou Gossett, Jr., who still looks stunned he’s found a movie as bad as Jaws 3D, and you have a very bitter pill for fans to swallow. Is it good or bad that the best incarnation of this character didn’t happen until Thomas Jane gave us a self-financed short film called Dirty Laundry? See for yourself and you decide.

If you thought Kazaam was too intellectual for a film starring an over sized basketball athlete with shoes larger than a Smart car, then we have the movie for you. The character of John Henry Irons is well known to Superman fans as the steel mill worker who constructed a suit of head-to-toe armor to combat crime after the other Man of Steel fell at the hands of Doomsday. He was a complex character with an innate capacity for good. Yeah, you can forget all about that, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the movie. The director of Short Circuit 2 decided to make him into the Sanford and Son version of Tony Stark, and put him into a costume so embarrassing that Satan wouldn’t accept it as a Halloween present if you offered it with your soul. I mean, just look at this!

That sums up the whole thing. I’m done! I don’t need to say anymore!

Superman 4: The Quest for Peace
Say what you will about the new Marvel movies. They’re usually fantastic entertainment, but will frequently have small things like logic and physics taking a backseat to the action. Superman 4’s producers put logic in the front seat, and then disabled its seatbelt so that when they crashed this train wreck into a brick wall at the speed of sound, the first casualty would be logic. Right next to Christopher Reeve’s career, and Gene Hackman’s dignity. There is an ineptitude on display in Superman 4 that is almost miraculous. Not only is the story bad enough to sink the film on its own, but it’s dragged even further into the sewage abyss by some of the most hilariously awful special effects ever put on screen, a super villain so ridiculous you’ll wind up checking your drink for hallucinogens, and awe-inspiring amounts of boredom interspersed with jaw-dropping disbelief that you’re watching something that was actually released in theaters. This represents the complete, utter, and craptacular ruination of what was once the flagship of comic book movies. I would say that you have to try to make something this horrible, but really, all you have to do is let Cannon Films make it.

- Blake O. Kleiner