The anticipation for any DC movie had waned after the unsatisfactory Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. It lifted with Wonder Woman then dropped off a cliff with Justice League, evidently one of the worst superhero films EVER! Silver lining though: it isn’t THE worst of all time but not far off.
A common complaint I often hear is there are too many Superhero films. My response is always the same. If the standard of movie is high I don’t see the problem. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had perhaps its strongest year ever with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok, each individual and entertaining cinema. DC clawed back some credibility with the critical and commercial success of Wonder Woman but all that good will was destroyed by Justice League.
I wanted to write a review of Justice League but found myself getting too angry. The film had so much potential including a great cast and amazing characters, but the opposing directorial visions collapsed into a tonal mess with terrible CGI. I would honestly watch The Avengers: Infinity War trailer on repeat for two hours than sit through Justice League again.
So instead of a review I offer you a top 10 list of the worst Superhero films ever made…
Where to begin I wonder…..
10. Justice League (2017)
Perhaps this is too fresh to properly judge, but this is a huge disappointment. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not great but at least tonally consistent. Justice League is all over the shop with unforgivably bad CGI, a pointless villain, predictable plot, wasted supporting characters and a hash of ideas from two very different directors. It’s a disappointing mess.
9. Supergirl (1984)
This is the worst reviewed superhero film ever with a shocking 7% on Rotten tomatoes, but it is not top of this list. It is very silly and extremely camp with some terrible acting even from Faye Dunaway. As with all the films on the list, the script is nonsensical, but I do have a nostalgic memory of this film that makes its many flaws slightly more bearable.
8. Green Lantern (2011)
Ryan Reynolds has completely redeemed himself with the version of Deadpool he wanted to do. But first was this abomination. The CGI is terrible but Mark Strong does his best to save the un-saveable as this turgid mess rolls along to a conclusion no-one cares about. It would be generous here to describe both the writing and direction as clueless.
7. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)
Not a film with a subtle message as the script beats you over the head with its anti-nuclear proliferation stance. Whilst it may have failed in its attempts to warn humanity against nuclear proliferation it did teach the world how to end a franchise. This film makes Superman very boring and somehow appears cheap compared to its predecessors.
6. Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (2012)
Nicholas Cage’s second attempt to execute some demonic gravitas into the role, Spirit of Vengeance abandons its interesting desert setting and even makes the great Idris Elba look bland. Every time the film is struggling for ideas or direction (which is frequently) they just get Nic Cage to do some weird facial contortion. Yes, that is amusing as a YouTube clip, but not the basis for a whole film.
5. Elektra (2005)
A spin-off from a film no-one enjoyed (2003’s Daredevil) or wanted including those acting in it. Jennifer Garner is admirable in her efforts, but this was a film with no fan base and I am still not sure who it is aimed at. The attempt at melancholy is frustrating and inexplicably mixed with poor attempts at satire resulting in an conclusion without resolution or sense. And the action seems to be choreographed and edited by a child with attention deficit disorder as each shot only last seconds.
4. Fantastic Four (2015)
For me this remains the big failure of the current superhero film era. This is worse than both Batman v Superman and Justice League. It does have the background of a troubled production similar to Justice League. The film doesn’t have a third act it just ends with a sudden villain (not Dr Doom, he is something else). And the post production clearly suffered like Justice League as the CGI is terrible. This film has pretty much destroyed the director’s once exciting career after the unexpected hit Chronicle. The division between studio and director is clear to see on screen. You didn’t think the Fantastic Four could get worse than the campy previous attempts – you were wrong.
3. Steel (1997)
A ludicrous attempt to build a superhero film from a Superman-supporting character with an ambitious cast led by Shaquille O’Neal. Initially a laughable failure but by the end of the film it begins taking its multiple action sequences very seriously. But there’s no momentum and the laughter has faded into boredom. O’Neal’s vanity project showed his lack of acting credibility and the plot is just plain boring.
2. Catwoman (2004)
Yes this film exists. I know you may have wiped it from your memory but it’s worse than you remember. Surely the Oscar winner Halle Berry sacked her agent after this mess. Taking a hugely popular character and changing everything about her including her secret identity and origin was always going to struggle. The film looks terrible and sounds terrible with awful wooden dialogue. Catwoman is a limp dominatrix taking on the evil corporate overlords of a cosmetic company. This film is insultingly bad towards women and thank god we now exist in a world with the Wonder Woman film.
1. Batman & Robin (1997)
Easily the worst Batman film despite recent efforts. This film is also responsible for nearly destroying the entire superhero genre. Bat-nipples, need I say more. Leading man George Clooney has apologised not only for his relaxed portrayal, but this film in general. If you thought Supergirl was campy this is another level. Villains Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger seem plucked straight from the 1960s TV show complete with a zingy script including lines like “Let’s kick some ice” and “Batface and Birdbrain turned out to be much more resistant to my love-dust than expected”.
Over to you: what are the worst superhero films of all time?