While there are several great comic book films, some are best forgotten – at least, according to IMDb.
Comic book and superhero movie adaptations are at an all-time high, and it’s never been a better time to be a fan of the genre. Audiences are lucky that there’s now such regard for these properties that there’s usually a respectful approach that’s taken to these beloved characters. Comic book movies continue to set new standards, but that doesn’t mean that the genre doesn’t also slip up.
Everyone loves to revisit the greatest accomplishments in comic book movies. However, the egregious misfires and forgotten embarrassments are sometimes just as fascinating. If nothing else, the very worst comic book movies can help future films from making the same mistakes.
Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is finally set to make his grand return to the MCU after teases alongside Spider-Man and She-Hulk. Before Netflix’s mature take on the street-level Marvel hero, there was Ben Affleck’s starring turn in 2003’s Daredevil. Daredevil has its share of defenders, especially with its Director's Cut, but it’s generally seen as a messy take on a popular property.
The film is inconsistent with Daredevil’s character, and Affleck’s brooding is much better as Batman. Colin Farrell’s heightened performance as Bullseye isn’t enough to save the early Marvel movie.
The New Mutants was shot in 2017, but released to a whimper in 2020 after Dark Phoenix had already come and gone. The New Mutants was an especially bitter loss since it was billed as a superhero/horror movie hybrid, but endless studio interference left the final film as a jumbled, over-edited mess.
The fresh approach looks at a bunch of mutants in a psychiatric hospital, unaware of their special status. Sadly, New Mutants has an exceptional cast of actors like Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, and Maisie Williams, all of which would be great in a comic book movie, but New Mutants wastes its potential.
2022's Morbius attempted to cash in on the surprising success of Venom's solo films, but Jared Leto's take on an anti-hero vampire is evidently not as captivating as Tom Hardy's "bromance" with a snide symbiote. Admittedly, Morbius features committed, campy performances from Matt Smith and Jared Harris, but there's not enough substance for this tired origin story to latch onto.
A subreddit’s worth of “Morbin’ Time” memes evidently doesn’t translate to box office results or an enviable mainstream reputation. Nevertheless, Morbius’s messy post-credit scene indicates big, confusing sequel plans.
Jonah Hex is a DC gunslinger who's found his way into Legends of Tomorrow, but 2010's feature film on the underrated character is an uneventful offering. Josh Brolin isn't bad casting for the supernaturally-inclined bounty hunter, nor is Megan Fox and John Malkovich as supporting players.
Jonah Hex amounts to a watered-down western with demons that feels like a rip-off of better movies rather than an introduction to a comic classic. A genre-bending Jonah Hex movie could be a huge success with the right director involved, but this movie’s failure makes it that much harder to get audiences excited for a new Jonah Hex project.
2003's Daredevil was enough of a success that it didn't inspire a sequel, but rather a spin-off entry that focuses on Jennifer Garner's sai-wielding assassin, Elektra. The 2005 movie pits Elektra against her employer, the mysterious Hand, after she refuses to take out her latest target.
Elektra gets the broader elements of this iconic assassin right, but the film is by-the-book action cinema that lacks any real voice. Jennifer Garner proved in Alias that she can lead an action vehicle and hold her own, but Elektra is not it.
Robbie Reyes’ version of Ghost Rider has properly come to life in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was anywhere close to fruition, there was a pair of Ghost Rider movies starring Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze.
The first Ghost Rider is directed by Daredevil's Mark Steven Johnson, but the sequel brings in Crank's chaotic directorial duo, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. This combination should have been a home run, but Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a messy sequel that lacks substance and arrives at a troubled time for comic book movies.
Marvel’s Fantastic Four superhero team is set to properly join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2025’s feature film, directed by Matt Shakman. This is not the first time that the quirky property has received a cinematic makeover, and 2015’s Fantastic Four incorporates all of the decade’s worst lessons.
Fantastic Four is a grim, joyless origin story that fundamentally misunderstands these playful characters. At one point, Josh Trank’s film was meant to function as a dark body horror piece akin to a Cronenberg movie, but studio interference and reshoots reduce it to a pointless disaster.
Batman is one of the most popular cinematic comic book franchises, and it’s been able to reboot itself more than any other series due to its simplistic nature and mainstream visibility. Joel Schumacher valiantly takes the Batman torch after Tim Burton’s two movies, but the latter of his efforts, Batman & Robin, destroyed the series until Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
Batman & Robin is just as neon-soaked and campy as its predecessor, but the presence of Robin, Batgirl, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Bane, turn it into a beyond-bloated affair. Strangely, it feels more like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie than a Batman film.
Michelle Pfeiffer and now Zoe Kravitz have done memorable work during their times as the famous Batman villain and frequent love interest. Catwoman definitely has legs as a character to spinoff into their own movie, and this almost happened with Tim Burton's take on the character before the decidedly less interesting Halle Berry effort from 2004.
There's barely any of the original character’s DNA in Catwoman, and Halle Berry's character is named Patience Phillips instead of Selina Kyle. It's an abuse of the Catwoman license, but it also doesn't do Berry any favors following her Oscar win.
It's easy to forget that 1997's Steel exists in the first place. The perplexing comic book adaptation is based upon one of the several potential Superman replacements that came about during the pivotal Death of Superman arc. Steel removes any of its Superman context, and focuses on a hi-tech suit of armor that turns John Henry Irons into a defender of justice.
It’s a generic 1990s action movie that never justifies its use of the DC Comics character. Steel is built upon Shaquille O'Neal's star power more than John Henry Irons' appeal.
NEXT: 10 Superhero Costumes That Were Better In Live Action Than The Comics
Daniel Kurland is a freelance writer, comedian, and critic, who lives in the cultural mosaic that is Brooklyn, New York. Daniel’s work can be read on ScreenRant, Splitsider, Bloody Disgusting, Den of Geek, and across the Internet. Daniel recently completed work on a noir anthology graphic novel titled, "Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Noir: A Rag of Bizarre Noir and Hard Boiled Tales" and he’s currently toiling away on his first novel. Daniel's extra musings can be found @DanielKurlansky on Twitter.