The Ten Worst Superhero Movies of All Time

Posted on May 4, 2007 @ 8:04 am

Following up on my earlier countdown of top ten superhero films of all time, here are my picks for the worst of the worst. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know in the comments section.Worst Superhero Films

10. Superman III

This is the one with Richard Pryor, for those keeping score at home. There’s nothing quite like watching Supes play second banana to Pryor’s character, a computer savant who creates unstable synthetic Kryptonite by substituting tar for an unknown component in its mineral composition. That being said, this stinker is somewhat redeemed by the Evil Superman versus Clark Kent fight and the fact that the film’s “steal the fractions of cents left over after financial transactions” idea reappears as a subplot in Office Space.

9. Hulk

How do you screw up a Hulk movie? Apparently, you hire Ang Lee to direct it, cast Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, and make it as boring as possible. The only good things to come out of this snoozer were those foam “Hulk Hands” toys that were everywhere back in ‘03.

8. Captain America

A low-budget film from 1991, Captain America is just plain silly — right down to the rubber ears they glued to the side of Cap’s mask to create the illusion that his actual ears were sticking through. Stranger still is the fact that Cap’s archenemy, the Red Skull, is Italian instead of German. The Red Skull as a character essentially boils down to two defining traits: 1) he has a head that resembles a red skull and 2) he’s a frickin’ Nazi! Why make the guy Italian?

7. Steel

Shaquille O’Neal as Steel, a member of Superman’s supporting cast in the comics. Of course, the only connection between this film and Superman is the S-shield tattoo on Shaq’s arm. Honestly, Shaq is so bad here that he makes Michael Jordan’s performance in Space Jam look Oscar-worthy by comparison.

6. The Fantastic Four (1994)

The Fantastic Four movie released in 2005 wasn’t perfect, but it was leaps and bounds better than the version Roger Corman produced over a decade earlier. In fact, the 1994 version was never intended for release; it was made entirely so the studio could retain legal rights to the characters. Of course, The Fantastic Four eventually turned up at comic book conventions and on eBay, giving the world a peek at a literal joke of a superhero movie. Just check out the trailer if you don’t believe me. The special effects are a particular highlight, including a Human Torch that only “flames on” once in the entire movie and a Mr. Fantastic who stretches by means of a fake hand on a stick. Classy.

5. Batman & Robin

I suppose now is the time to insert the obligatory “nipples on the Batsuit” reference. Where should I begin with this one? Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s awful ice puns? Gotham City’s Day-Glo street gangs? That scene where Batman produces a Bat Credit Card from his utility belt (expiration date: “Forever”)? The codpieces? Actually, what bugs me most about Batman & Robin is a scene early in the film in which Robin is being pulled underwater by Poison Ivy’s plants. At one point, he surfaces for air before being pulled back under. What makes the scene ridiculous, however, is that Joel Schumacher just reuses the same shot of Robin coming up for air in reverse to show him being dragged underwater again. That’s just plain lazy, Joel. As bad as Batman & Robin is, however, it’s somehow still not the worst movie in the Batman franchise.

4. Elektra

Enough to make viewers long for the deep characterization and intricate storytelling of Daredevil. It’s like a bad episode of Alias, only Sydney gets to say “shit” at one point. Yay, PG-13!
Worst Superhero Films

3. Batman Returns

I know a lot of people love this film, but I’d rather sit through a dozen viewings of Batman & Robin than watch fifteen minutes of Batman Returns. Like Tim Burton’s first Batman film, Batman Returns is all doom and gloom, starring a Caped Crusader who doesn’t mind taking criminals’ lives. Meanwhile, the Penguin is no longer a high-society criminal, but rather a disgusting sewer mutant who, at one point, straps rockets onto the backs of penguins to bomb Gotham City. Worse still, the interplay between Batman and Catwoman is supposed to be sexy, but it instead comes off stilted and awkward in large part because: 1) Michelle Pfeiffer can’t act, and 2) Michael Keaton can barely move in the Batsuit. Not even Christopher Walken could save this one from Burton’s bizarre vision of the Batman mythos.

2. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

My favorite part of Superman IV is when Superman uses his heretofore unseen “Rebuilding the Great Wall of China Vision” after a portion of the monument is destroyed by Nuclear Man (groan). Low-budget and lame, I wondered what went wrong with this film even as a ten-year-old.

1. Catwoman

Film exec: “Hey, remember how Halle Berry almost ruined the X-Men movies with her awful performance as Storm? Well, how does this idea sound? We’ll cast her as Catwoman! Only it won’t be the Catwoman from the comic books or Batman Returns. It won’t even be set in Gotham City! This is an all-new Catwoman, a heroine with feline superpowers! Oh, and remember that shiny black costume Michelle Pfeiffer wore as Catwoman? We’ll replace it with something far skimpier, but decidedly less sexy. The audience will eat it up with a spoon!” Someone should revoke Halle Berry’s Oscar for this debacle.

That’s it for Apropos of Something’s countdown of the ten worst superhero movies of all time! As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback in the comments — especially if someone wants to mount a vigorous defense of Catwoman. ;)

Posted by Jess | Filed Under Geek, Pop Culture |

51 comments so far...

  1. Fuzzball May 4, 2007 8:46 am

    I heartily applaud this list, but I’d make Batman & Robin the number one worst of all time. Not that I like Catwoman at ALL, but I have yet to see ANYTHING as bad as B&R. :D

  2. Chris May 4, 2007 8:51 am

    Have to disagree with the inclusion of Batman Returns. Sure it in no way stacks up against the first Burton film (and especially against Nolan’s) but it has its merits. For one, the lack of bat-nipples.

  3. Jess May 4, 2007 8:56 am

    @Chris: I don’t know…that scene where the Penguin seizes control of the Batmobile using one of those quarter-operated Batmobile children’s rides from outside your local supermarket circa 1990 is pretty hard to swallow. ;)

  4. Brett May 4, 2007 9:04 am

    The only saving grace for Halle Berry and Catwoman was her acceptance of her Razzies. Done with class and the open acknowledgment that she still got paid when all is said and done.

  5. Jeff May 4, 2007 9:07 am

    The Hulk? No wai!

    Yes, the film was seriously non-canon, but it had something to it that I really liked. It had a sense of scope to it that invoked some of the earlier Hulk books (back before they made him part of the Avengers or whatever). I don’t know if it was Lee’s unconventional presentation (which I really did like) or if it was something else, but it really took me back.

    And Sam Elliot as General Ross was just perfect. Can anyone deny that it was destiny? :)

    I’d disagree with you about Batman Returns … but I can’t.

  6. Thom May 4, 2007 9:36 am

    I have to say that I appreciated the direction of the Hulk. That’s not to say that I enjoyed the film, but I honestly did like the style Ang Lee was using to direct it. And while I would probably replace Batman Returns with either Blankman or The Meteor Man (certainly not James Earl Jones’ finest hour), the rest of the list is solid.

    I still remember getting together with one of my best friends to see Batman & Robin on the big screen. We knew it would be awful, and just made fun of it the whole time. Then it ended up on HBO the first semester we had cable in college and I watched the thing like 20 more times! “Everybody chill” indeed!

  7. Jess May 4, 2007 9:44 am

    @Jeff: I actually liked Lee’s comic book-inspired visual style, but I thought Hulk was just way too boring. The gamma-irradiated dogs and Nick Nolte didn’t help matters, either.

    @Thom: I was helping schedule events for new student orientation one semester as an undergrad, and I came up with the great idea of taking the incoming class of 100 or so students to a drive-in movie. Unfortunately, the movie in question was Batman & Robin. I can’t believe I subjected so many people to that movie. In fact, I’m surprised the UN hasn’t brought me up on human rights charges stemming from the incident yet.

  8. Monster May 4, 2007 10:57 am

    No way does the Hulk belong on this list. Even if the movie was boring in many parts, the action was great. However, I never could figure out how his pants grew to be 20x their size when he changed into the Hulk. And besides, was the movie really any more boring than the original TV show?

    As for Batman Returns, I was so disappointed when that came out. I loved the first movie, and then Tim Burton made this. One scene I will always remember because of how stupid it was… Batman played a CD of Penguin going off about something during a press conference, and then he scratched it like it was a record. I think pretty much everyone knows enough about CDs to know that’s not remotely possible. Sure, a lot of impossible things happen in movies, but that was just ridiculous.

    Speaking of Batman (the first one), most people probably don’t know this, but the novelization of the movie was actually better written than the movie itself. It’s funny, my friend and I were so anxious to see it that we read the novelization before the movie came out. I don’t know if this was in the original script or what, but in the book, when Batman attacks some criminals on a rooftop, he holds one over the side of the roof and the criminal says “Who do you think you are? You don’t own the night”. Batman replies “I am the night”. In that scene in the movie, the criminal says “Who are you?!” and Batman replies “I’m Batman”. I always thought that was so lame (especially since Batman didn’t name himself, the press did).

    Also, it’s kind of cheating to put the old Fantastic Four movie on here, since it was never even meant for distribution.

  9. Hiale May 4, 2007 11:26 am

    Michelle Pfeiffer can’t act? your credibility just flew out the window. moron.

  10. Chris May 4, 2007 11:28 am

    How about you take out Batman Returns and add Mystery Men? That was a steaming pile.

  11. jmanna May 4, 2007 11:40 am

    Brought to you by the Society of non sequitur Non-sequitors:

    Happy No Pants Day! I like cheese! Let’s ride bikes…

  12. jmanna May 4, 2007 11:44 am

    The hulk was boring. The CGI was subpar. I didn’t care about the characters and the whole Daddy Dearest story line was just…dumb. Does Spawn count as a superhero? I hated Spawn.

  13. Jess May 4, 2007 12:31 pm

    @Monster: I’ve always been curious about the Hulk’s pants situation myself. How is it that the legs always end up frayed and tattered when he turns into the Hulk, but the waistband magically expands. Those are some impressive purple elastic-waisted slacks, if you ask me.

    @Hiale: Grease 2.

    @Chris: Aw…I kinda liked Mystery Men. William H. Macy’s character was just hilarious.

    @jmanna: I think the “Does Spawn count as a superhero?” debate has been raging ever since Todd McFarlane introduced the character back in the early 1990s. ;)

  14. Aptiva Dave May 4, 2007 1:05 pm

    Yeah, what about Spawn? Or the Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie? Or Tank Girl or The Son of the Mask?

  15. Veronica May 4, 2007 1:28 pm

    What jmanna said. How is it that Spawn isn’t on this list?

  16. Jess May 4, 2007 1:32 pm

    @Aptiva Dave and Veronica: Spawn was definitely bad, but really not really much worse than its source material. Let’s just say it’s hovering in the imaginary #11 spot.

    As for Tank Girl and Son of the Mask, I think of those more as “comic book movies” than “superhero movies.” If there’s a difference, that is…

  17. gonz May 4, 2007 1:57 pm

    Don’t know if this counts as a superhero but he is in marvel comics. You gotta add “Nick Fury” starring everyones fav shirtless drunk David Hasselhoff. Also I know I will get some hate for this. After just seen Spiderman 3. It teeters towards this this list. The story was weak. Should of made a one hour short with the action scenes instead.

  18. Aptiva Dave May 4, 2007 3:02 pm

    Oh, and here’s another bad one: The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin. And The Phantom with Billy Zane.

  19. parker May 4, 2007 5:23 pm

    Captain America should get one point for casting J.D. Salinger’s son as Cap.

  20. Hiale May 4, 2007 8:45 pm

    Jess: Grease 2 was awful yes, but that was one of Michelle’s first roles for godsakes. Michelle got RAVE reviews for Batman Returns, and even though alot of the films she has been in the past few years weren’t that good, her performances always get great reviews.

    3 time Oscar nominee, 6 time golden globe nominee, National Board of review winner, ny film critics circle winner, la film critics winner, BAFTA award winner, etc, etc.

  21. metalmom May 4, 2007 9:37 pm

    When did this turn into the “michele pfeiffer fan club” for cripes sake? And “Nick Fury”?? Puh-leeze!

  22. Thom May 4, 2007 9:43 pm

    Hey, I liked The Shadow AND The Phantom… I’m just a sucker for that old school style…

  23. Chris May 4, 2007 10:24 pm

    Was the Shadow even a superhero? What was his ability? To remain invisible from moviegoers? *rimshot*

  24. Jess May 5, 2007 6:58 am

    @gonz: Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to track down a copy of the Nick Fury movie, so I figured I’d leave it off the list. I trust that it’s just as awful as it looks, though.

    @Hiale: To each their own. I personally thought Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance was one of the major weak points of Batman Returns. Script and direction are always possible culprits, but I had trouble detecting anything remotely resembling chemistry between her and Michael Keaton (who I feel is one of the other major weak points of the film). If she were in a better film, it would be easier to overlook. In the midst of Batman Returns, however, it just pulls things down even further. Maybe they should have added a reprise of “Cool Rider” from Grease 2 to lighten the tone a little.

  25. Tim May 5, 2007 1:37 pm

    Michelle Pfeiffer was great as Catwoman, in my opinion. She played the part extremely well, - a bit theatrical but at the same time believable in the role. Her transformation/rage scene and mask party scene were both excellent and recalled often by fans.

    Grease 2 was Michelle Pfeiffer’s first large role. It wasn’t a great part, but she had to take what she could get. Her more noteworthy roles (once she had options) were films such as: The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Liasons, and The Age of Innocence, as well as many more.

    Finally, I believe the chemistry between Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Keaton in there roles was excellent. I really enjoyed the part where he sees her in the street looking at some glass display and their short dialogue (including something like “You kind of have a dark side to you, don’t you?” -”No darker than yours Bruce.”).

    I don’t know, I just felt Batman Returns was quite good and Michelle did an excellent job as Catwoman.

    If Batman Returns should be bashed, it should really be because of the penguins and rockets and baby napping and all.

  26. Datadog May 6, 2007 12:13 am

    Or mostly because it was a very disgusting and morbid way to make a Batman movie. But I will give out props on the Catwoman costume. Sex-ay!

    I feel like Adam West’s Batman movie actually belongs on the top spot for both of these lists.

  27. Skibi May 6, 2007 4:23 am

    This guy must be a fucking retard. Saying Michelle Pfeiffer isn’t a good actress just proves this guy knows nothing about movies. Everybody does bad movies for gods sake. Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson have all mad really horrible films. Does that mean they are bad actors? No. You should have included the new Fantastic Four movie. Jessica Alba, there is somebody who can’t act.

  28. Fuzzball May 6, 2007 9:28 pm

    I must admit to loving Michelle Pfieffer. Having said that, I also love Keanu Reeves. *dreamy sigh*

  29. Bionicsneer May 7, 2007 2:52 am

    Of these, I’ve only seen Hulk and Batman and Robin. If the rest are typical of this dreck, I’ll be sure to avoid them.

  30. [...] his The Ten Worst Superhero Movies of All Time, Jess had the audacity to claim that Miss Pfeiffer can’t act. Bah! some people were wont to [...]

  31. Jeff Schiller May 9, 2007 10:46 pm

    I consider myself a superhero movie fan, but of this list, I’ve only seen 4 in their entirety. I agree with the Superman picks and from clips I’ve seen of Batman & Robin, I would agree with that too.

    I thought Hulk was a lil boring, but I still liked it enough to keep it out of my “worst of all time” list. Same goes for Batman Returns - the first four films just kept getting worse and worse though (so by that logic, I would put Batman Forever on there before Batman Returns).

  32. Broady May 15, 2007 3:32 pm


  33. kai May 29, 2007 2:05 am

    Michelle Pfeiffer was the best thing in Batman Returns….can’t act? What a load of bull!

  34. Marcus June 16, 2007 6:30 am

    You can’t forget about Dick Tracy. I wish we could go back and shoot whoever made Dick Tracy.

  35. Jared June 17, 2007 10:28 am

    No one has mentioned “Masters of the Universe” with Dolph Lundgren, poor Dolph what ever happened to his career, so many movies yet you don’t hear of him now. i saw MOTU when i was 5 years old and thought it was great. like i said i was 5 years old.

  36. Jacob June 23, 2007 7:43 pm

    “Batman Returns” doesn’t belong in the list mainly because it didn’t destroy the franchise. It received mixed reviews and was a box office success. The movie had too much of Tim Burton’s style interepting it. “Batman and Robin” did derseve because the movie had a horrible plot and way too much of Joel Schumacher’s style. If you think “Batman Returns” deserves to be on this list then you must think “Supergirl” is a cinema masterpiece.

  37. richard June 24, 2007 12:37 am

    i agree with most of those movies, but i think you are missing the most gayest and idiotic movie of all time. PHANTOM. yes PHANTOM with BILLY ZANE. this movie was sooo awful that i had to remove the VHS and destroy it so the horrific acting will not puncture the eyes of unsuspecting individuals. Its sad if you think about it, Billy Zane is awful in every movie and serial. He sucked in titanic, charmed, and even zoolander. How can you not act well when you are playing yourself. I don’t understand how these awful actors are making money from their movies.

  38. Michael September 14, 2007 9:20 am

    I would have added The Flash and Hellboy and a few others but for the Hulk…it was waaay to loaded up with romance and less on action but at least he was the right size and the effects were pretty good for CGI.
    Hell, look at Thing in FF……..MIchael Chiklis….all 5 feet playing a character that should be about 8 feet tall????
    They didnt even try. They could have gotten big actors with personality.
    Hell, if they were going to just cover him up with rocks….they could have used almost anyone that could act. When is someone gonna use Nathan Jones or Conan Stevens for a decent superhero role that doesnt require heavy acting?

  39. [...] read more | digg story [...]

  40. armuha23 November 19, 2007 3:41 am

    i was a little shocked at this list. partly because i forgot about a couple of these, and also because of the comments on some of these great movies that do NOT belong on this list. Batman Returns should be on the top 15 list, not this one. if you look at this movie and cannot apprecieate the genius of burton and the greatest bruce wayne ever(keaton), then you do not have the right to make a list of any sort. i think that the one comment about mystery men, blankman, and meterman should bump hulk, batman & robin, and elektra(shes way to hot in this movie for it to be bad) off this list. also with spidy 3 out, my god! i couldnt help myself from crying at his “jazz” scene. spidy3 made me happy for bootlegging.

  41. armuha23 November 19, 2007 3:46 am

    dick tracy was fantastic! And how can anyone have the nerve to say anything about the catch phrases in batman nd robin. i applaud them for trying to bring back those phrases that made batman so popular. if you say anythig bad about the lines, then you are dissing adam west, and if you diss the west u deserve to be punched in the face.

  42. Sean michael November 20, 2007 3:34 am

    Oh come on leave Batman returns alone begins was ALOT worse then it i mean the scarecrow was just a dude with a potatoe sack on his head Returns is very underated but i will have to say that Batman and Robin should be number 1 errrr those ice puns they still keep me up at night.

  43. raul December 2, 2007 5:31 pm

    some one out there is not a real super hero freak first capt. america is a regular guy not a mutant with super powers,the hulk movie could not be more phoney every one knows the hulk is to die on a fall from an aeroplane plus he does not get bigger with anger but stronger. so if you want to see a bad hero movie try lightspeed by stan lee.

  44. Spiderswing432 December 3, 2007 6:29 pm

    Batman Returns to me is the second best Batman movie, second only to Batman Forever. I like Forever more because it looks people had fun making it, and that is one of the weak points in Burton’s Batman films, I know Batman is supposed to be gloomy and dark, but those films were mostly slow and dull. I thought Pfeiffer was great as Catwoman, better than Halle too.

    And there are many reasons to hate the Fantastic 4, but I did like the action, the effects, and the humor was succesful most of the time. But I long for a day when the Fantastic 4 gets a serious adaption, not some bad comedy (it is bad comedy sometimes, the humor is slapstick).

    As for the rest of the list, I agree with it. Write more articles soon, I love reading them!

  45. Spiderswing432 January 18, 2008 9:10 pm

    I meant the Fantastic 4 2005 adaption in my last comment.

  46. Sean michael January 27, 2008 12:41 am

    Count yourself lucky you have even seen cap america here in australia you can’t evevn find a video of it on ebay even thought its prob one of the worst movies in the world i still wanna see it:(

  47. nosuprises March 17, 2008 3:31 pm

    im prob gonna get some flak for this, but spiderman 3 anyone? kudos to the action sequences, but i cant believe how much they’ve dumbed down the series and simplified its characters, (i geuss to appeal to a wider audience of ever-shrinking attention spans.) they give spider-man the emotional depth of a 5 yr old, and some of the dialogue was so cheesy (even by comic book standards) i had to laugh. also, Batman Returns should be replaced by Daredevil, ben affleck absolutely killed that franchise.

  48. Patrick April 21, 2008 11:30 pm

    @ raul, Capt. America actually is a superhero thanks to the U.S. Government’s Super-Soldier Serum.

  49. Ken Bendor May 31, 2008 3:06 pm

    “Michelle Pfeiffer can’t act???” How about “you can’t get laid in a women’s prison fully armed with pardons, cock-stain!”

  50. jason July 8, 2008 2:38 pm

    i agree with most of your selections. i just think the Hulk movie gets a bad rap. There’s no way it’s worse than

    Supergirl, either of the first two punisher movies, or Red Sonja

  51. M August 13, 2008 11:46 pm

    I’m still stuck on how in the world could ANYBODY like BATMAN & ROBIN over any other BATMAN film.

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