Avengers: Infinity War is officially in theaters. I can’t tell you about the film itself yet because I want you to see it for yourself. To celebrate, I thought I would do this special post counting down the best and worst that the comic book movie genre has to offer. At one point, movies based on these characters were considered box-office poison and now, they’ve spawned billion-dollar franchises. For comic fans, seeing these characters that they’ve read about be adapted on the big screen is a dream come true. Sometimes, it goes well, other times, they don’t. And we’re here to celebrate them all. Some of these films, I’ve already done reviews on, so I’ll be very brief on them. Also, like all lists, this is all my opinion only. So let’s start off with the worst that comic book movies had to offer.
But first, some dishonorable mentions
- Superman III
- Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance
- Green Lantern
- Jonah Hex
- Son Of The Mask
- Blade: Trinity
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
- Spider-Man 3
- The Spirit
And now onto the worst.
Batman & Robin
Release Date: June 20, 1997
Director: Joel Schumacher
Yep, we’re starting with an obvious one. Backstory: when Batman Returns didn’t make as much money as the first Batman and parents complained about that film being too dark for their kids. So they kicked Tim Burton to the curb and hired Joel Schumacher, who brought a lighter, goofier tone to the franchise with Batman Forever. It was a success and then he made Batman & Robin. This nearly killed the superhero genre. While Batman Forever is one of those so-bad-it’s-good movies, Batman & Robin is just plain bad. Schumacher went a little too far with the camp. A lot of the jokes fall flat and the puns? Oh, God, those puns. The worst comes from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze. Don’t play a drinking around the ice puns in this movie for the sake of your liver and life. And the fucked-up thing is that they utilized his tragic backstory from Batman: The Animated Series. It’s hard to be invested in this dude when he’s dropping such gems like, “You know what killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age.” The other characters are pretty much self-parodies of themselves. George Clooney’s Batman is a low-rate Adam West, Robin whines too much and is a punchable dickhead, Bane is a dumb musclehead, and Poison Ivy? Man, Uma Thurman could’ve made this work, but she didn’t have the material to back her up. Obviously, this film is trying to be like the 60s Batman, but it just didn’t have the same charm and plus, Schumacher’s flamboyant, over-the-top directing style makes it look like a bad cartoon. I put Batman & Robin low on the list because while it is bad, there’s much worse films out there and I can see someone enjoying this in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Release Date: May 2, 2014
Director: Marc Webb
Every time I watch this movie, I started liking it less and less. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a perfect example of putting too many eggs in one basket. Sony was hoping that this film would be a smash success and kickstart a cinematic universe of their own because they want a piece of the Marvel cake. Well, as you can see, it didn’t work out well for them because Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not so amazing. First off, the plot is an overstuffed mess that doesn’t even resemble a cohesive story. A lot of these subplots feel like teasers for movies that will never happen. Also, the villains suck. The filmmakers made the same mistake as Spider-Man 3 in putting in too many villains. First, you have the Rhino reimagined as Paul Giamatti playing a Russian stereotype who operates a rhino mech. Then there’s Jamie Foxx as Electro who goes from a tragic exiled figure to a cartoony bad guy. And then there’s the Green Goblin.
You know? As silly as Willem Dafoe’s Goblin is, at least he wasn’t… this. And they killed off one of the best parts of the Marc Webb Spider-Man movies in Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. Yeah, it was an iconic moment in the comics, but it doesn’t have the same impact here since they didn’t earn it. Just like when Batman v Superman introduced Doomsday and killed off Superman. Well, at least Spider-Man is back home where he belongs in Marvel.
Release Date: August 1, 1997
Director: Mark A.Z. Dippe
Spawn is the creation of Todd McFarlane for Image Comics. Al Simmons is a soldier who was murdered and was reborn as a scarred Hellspawn to lead an army against Heaven. But Simmons decides to use his powers for justice instead. Man, this movie should’ve been a lot better than it was. You have the first non-Marvel/non-DC film about an African American superhero and it was rated R. But what we got is an over-violent schlock-fest with piss poor writing, bad editing, and horrible effects. Spawn’s design looks pretty cool and John Leguizamo’s The Violator did get some laughs out of me. But the rest of the characters are either bland or dumb. The villains’ motivation makes little sense, whether it’d be Martin Sheen’s character who got him killed or the Devil himself. Did I ever mentioned that the effects suck? Seriously.
How does one get away with CGI so cheap-looking in the 90s? For reference, Terminator 2 came out in 1991 and Jurassic Park came out in 1993 and the CGI in those two still look great two decades later. Spawn was released in 1997 and it looks like shit. At least Blade comes out the year after to make up for this.
Release Date: June 20, 2003
Director: Ang Lee
You’d think making a Hulk movie would be easy, but if you go by Ang Lee’s try at it, you’d wouldn’t think so. The man behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would give us a weird (but not in a good way), honestly boring film. The editing gives me a headache, especially the transitions. It’s one thing to be stylistic, but you’re never given enough time to digest certain scenes. And in between the transitions are scenes of talking and sitting. What is even the tone of this film? The main appeal of the Hulk is seeing Bruce Banner’s Jeckyll & Hyde struggle as he turns into a green monster every time he’s angry. Here, it’s hard to get invested because of how bland the characters are and the Hulk moments are brief and disappointing. Also, gamma poodles. While 2008’s The Incredible Hulk wasn’t that great of a movie, it portrayed the Hulk WAY better than this crap. You wouldn’t like me when I’m bored.
Release Date: August 15, 1997
Director: Kenneth Johnson
Shaquille O’Neal as a superhero. I don’t think I need to say anything more. Also, this film came out in the same year as Batman & Robin and Spawn. 1997 is a cursed year. So, yeah. Steel. This is a character whose aesthetic is inspired by John Henry and is associated with Superman. Well, you wouldn’t know about the latter if all you knew about Steel came from this movie because they don’t mention Superman anywhere in this cheese fest. The only good performance in this movie is Steel’s best friend in the wheelchair. Everyone else just sucked, especially Shaq. The dude does not have an acting bone in his 7’1 body. And his Steel costume is terrible. It looks like it’s made out of plastic and rubber. Also, Shaft himself Richard Roundtree is in this. Seriously. Unsurprisingly, the movie bombed and was left to be forgotten in the wasteland of shitty 90s films. Thank goodness Black Panther exists.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Release Date: May 1, 2009
Director: Gavin Hood
Legend has it that if you say the words “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” you can hear a fanboy raging somewhere. This movie pissed a lot of people off. Aside from extending Wolverine’s overexposure, 20th Century Fox dropped the ball big time. The plot is very by-the-numbers and uninteresting. The special effects are pretty bad. Two words: CGI claws. The first time you see Wolverine’s metal claws, they look so fake. How does one go backwards that quickly? While Hugh Jackman was trying and I like Liev Schreider’s Sabertooth, the other characters are either bland or forgettable. Hell, most of them don’t even serve a purpose besides a glorified cameo. In this movie are The Blob, Gambit, a young Cyclops, and will.i.am as a teleporting mutant not named Nightcrawler. I seem to forgetting someone, but who? Hmm…
Oh, yeah. That abomination above. That’s supposed to be Deadpool. And they sewed his mouth shut. The one trait that makes Deadpool who he is, the Merc With The Mouth, and they sewed his fucking mouth shut.
Well, it only took Fox 7 years to get Deadpool right and it would take 8 years for them to make a good Wolverine movie. The best thing to come out of this movie is the video game (for XBox 360).
Superman IV: Quest For Peace
Release Date: July 24, 1987
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Oh, Superman. What have they done to you? Never has there been a film series that went downhill this sadder than the Christopher Reeves Superman movies and the worst of them is the fourth one, Quest For Peace. First off, the film looks incredibly cheap. It’s like they originally had a bigger budget, but then it was cut in half and the remaining half was cut in half. And the results are unfinished effects, cheap green screen, and recycled footage from other films. This is just pure laziness. Just as bad is the writing. Superman decides to prevent a nuclear war by gathering all the world’s nukes and throwing them into the sun. This, inadvertently, creates a new threat in Nuclear Man, which Lex Luthor helped create from a strand of Superman’s hair. There’s also some subplots which feels like filler and a lot of plot holes. And then there’s this line, which sums up the shittiness of the film.
There will be peace when the people of the world want it so badly that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them
You know? I get what the filmmakers were trying to do since this was made before the end of the Cold War, but with the way they handled this subject matter, this is a gross oversimplification at best and a spit to the face at worst. I mean, come on. There’ll be peace when people want it so badly? What the hell, Superman? Should’ve called you Jerk Of Steel for that.
Howard The Duck
Release Date: August 1, 1986
Director: Willard Huyck
Probably one of the weirdest films on the list and one you might not have realized was based on a comic. I’ll admit that I know very little about Howard The Duck, but this movie made me not want to find out more. This is the product of Lucasfilm and executive producer George Lucas after the original Star Wars trilogy. So the story is that a duck from a universe of anthropomorphic ducks comes to our real world and is trying to find his way back while befriending a rock singer played by Lea Thompson. This sounds less like a comic book movie and more like a cartoon. But don’t let your kids go see it because there is some adult content in it. Not R-rated content (well, except for one, which involves a naked female duck in the shower), but not exactly kid-friendly either, which gives the film a bizarre tone. Oh, and there’s some bestiailty implications in the relationship between Howard and Lea Thompson. The less said about that, the better. I don’t know what else to say about this film. It’s just bizarre.
Release Date: August 7, 2015
Director: Josh Trank
Not to start off with a pun, but this film was doomed from its inception. The main reason why Fant4stic was even greenlit in the first place is because 20th Century Fox were desperate to keep the rights of the Fantastic Four away from Marvel. Controversy followed this film like a magnet from the director to the casting to all of the stylistic choices that were made. And all of fandom’s concerns rung true because this Fantastic Four movie is a fantastic failure. Not only did it bomb, but it was a bad movie. I wouldn’t have an issue with a darker, more grounded approach if it wasn’t attached to the Fantastic Four, whose stories are basically wacky sci-fi adventures. Even without that, we’re left with a film that’s joyless, dull, and REALLY boring. The characters are bland and act nothing like the characters we know and love. What’s even worse is that even though the Four are supposed to be like a family, no family-like chemistry exists in this film. The effects look like something straight out of a SyFy movie. When a Roger Corman film from 1994 has better effects, you’re doing it wrong. The pacing is way off, starting slow in the first half and then after they get their powers, goes really fast in the second half. And this is where the reshoots stand out the most because it breaks the continuity of the film. Fant4stic pretty much destroyed the Fantastic Four’s reputation and made them more irrelevant. With Disney’s acquisition of Fox, the Fantastic Four could be returning home, which means that in the future, there’s a chance that Marvel will reboot the franchise and make it part of the MCU. Let’s hope that happens because the first family of comics deserves better than this.
And finally, the worst comic book movie of all time IS…….
Release Date: July 23, 2004
Man, where do I even start? This… this is a legend among legends. Not only do people consider it one of the worst comic book movies in existence, but they also consider it one of the worst movies ever made period. And guess what? I’m one of those people. This stinking pile of kitty litter has been in development hell for years and went through many different revisions and actresses. Seems Halle Berry became the unlucky woman to don the catsuit for this trainwreck. For some strange reason, instead of Selina Kyle, this Catwoman is named Patience Phillips, a human welcome mat who dies and is brought back to life by a bunch of cats and then develops cat-like abilities and attributes. Everything about this movie screams “dumb” and not even the good and fun dumb, either, but the kind of dumb that makes you question everything you see, ruining your viewing experience. The acting? Terrible. The editing? Terrible. The writing? Double terrible. Not one person in this film acts like a rational human being. The Catwoman suit looks like a cheap hooker outfit. The villain, Patience’s boss, has a nonsensical plan to sell specialized make-up that deteriorates your skin if you don’t use it frequently and if you do use it frequently, it gives you unbreakable skin. There’s also the detective, Benjamin Bratt, who Patience falls in love with and is dumb as bricks. Seriously, you’re a detective and you couldn’t figure out who Catwoman is even when the clues are so obvious that Helen Keller herself can put two and two together. You see what I mean when I say that the movie is dumb? It would be a miracle if there’s ever a comic book movie that out-sucks this. Catwoman, the worst comic book movie of all time.
We’ve gone through the worst, now let’s look at the best.
First off, some honorable mentions.
- Superman II
- X-Men: First Class
- Guardians Of The Galaxy/Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol. 2
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
- Tim Burton’s Batman
- X2: X-Men United
- Captain America: The Winter Solder
- The Mask (yes, this movie is based on a comic book)
Now to start the list.
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Director: Patty Jenkins
We start off with the best thing to come out of the DCEU, Wonder Woman. With Batman having 8 movies and Superman having six (not counting BvS for both), a Wonder Woman movie was WAY overdue and it delivered. It finally ended the stigma of female-led superhero movies that was set by Supergirl, Elektra, and Catwoman. It brought color and hope to the gloomy DCEU as we see Wondy’s origin story unfold. This makes me feel like I’m watching a Superman movie. Hell, Wonder Woman acts more like Superman in the DCEU than Superman himself. Gal Gadot just nails this character and she makes the role her own. The action scenes are amazing. You see Wondy’s warrior spirit shine. The way it handles the themes of war and how it’s not always so black-and-white, good-vs-evil was brilliant. If it wasn’t for the Snyder-esque CGI slugfest that was in the third act, I would’ve called this a near-perfect film. If DC ever want to succeed in the future and make good films, they need to look at this film as an example.
Release Date: April 2, 2004
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Hellboy is one of my favorite comic book characters outside of Marvel and DC and it’s all thanks to this film. Guillermo Del Toro, the director, is really good at stylized fantasy and he was perfect for Hellboy. The character is a demon with a right hand of stone who works for a government agency that specializes in the paranormal. It’s one kickass monster smash-fest. Ron Perlman plays Hellboy and he just embodies the character look and personality. The makeup artists did a fantastic job here along with the use of practical effects. I enjoyed the sequel, The Golden Army fine enough, though I was disappointed that we weren’t gonna get a Hellboy 3. Instead, the series is getting rebooted next year. Kinda sad, but I’m gonna wait to see where they go.
Release Date: May 2, 2008
Director: Jon Favreau
The movie that started the MCU, the first Iron Man was really special. It was Marvel Studios’ first stab at starting a cinematic universe and they nailed it on the first try. Thr action is really thrilling and the actors are all phenomenal. The best thing about this film is Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. he embodies the character so much that it’s hard to imagine anyone play the character besides him. Thanks to a near-death experience, Stark goes from an egotistical rich asshole to a selfless rich asshole with a mission to undo the negative actions of his company. And how could we forget about the post-credits scene that set the stage for the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve watched Iron Man more times than I could count on my fingers and I’ll watch it many more times again.
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Director: James Mangold
Ladies and gentlemen, the best X-Men movie to date and it only has two X-Men in it. Funny how I initially wasn’t looking forward to Logan because of Wolverine overexposure and the fact that the other Wolverine movies weren’t that great. But it surprised the fuck out of me. They made Logan an R-rated movie, meaning you see a lot more blood and gore, which makes sense for a guy who has metal claws come out of his hand. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart play an aging Wolverine and Xavier, who are both past their prime and are closer to death. They see the future of mutantkind in Laura a.k.a. X-23. This story place in a bleak dystopian future where mutants are dying out and there’s little to no hope. It plays out less like a comic book movie and more like a Western, which is clear in the cinematography. There’s also the feeling of closure with this film as it’s the last time we’ll see Jackman and Stewart play Wolverine and Xavier and (hopefully) the last time we see Wolverine. Props to 20th Century Fox for taking a risk and making a movie like this.
Release Date: June 30, 2004
Director: Sam Raimi
I once said that Spider-Man: Homecoming was the best Spider-Man movie. But I might have jumped the gun a bit because I just rewatched Spider-Man 2 and it’s still amazing. No pun intended. It does have the same corniness as the other Sam Raimi films and I still don’t like Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, but (outside of Homecoming) it captures the heart and feel of Spider-Man. We see Peter Parker’s struggles with his love life, finances, and even his powers. We also have one of the best and most tragic villains in Alfred Molina as Doctor Otto Octavius A.K.A. Doctor Octopus, a brillaint scientist driven mad by his own inventions. The effects have also improved from the first movie and make for some great action scenes like the train fight. With this and the first Spider-Man movie, Raimi was on a roll with these Spider-Man movies. Then that third one came out and fucked things up. Oh, well.
Release Date: May 4, 2012
Director: Joss Whedon
What can be said about The Avengers that hasn’t already been said? It was the big event movie that Marvel has been building up to since Iron Man and now, we see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes team up for the first time. It’s the perfect summer film featuring some of our favorite Marvel characters. The story is basically a bunch of heroes team up and take on a threat, and it masters it. Joss Whedon’s gift is the way he does character interactions and the interactions in this film are great. Every hero has at least one badass moment and Loki was the perfect villain for them to go up against. The battle in New York is one of the best third acts in a comic book movie thus far. It was the event that the previous five MCU films have been building up to and it paid off and it was the first to build up to what would become Infinity War.
Release Date: December 15, 1978
Director: Richard Donner
On the poster of this film, it says “you’ll believe a man can fly” and for what they could do in 1978, Richard Donner succeeded in that notion. Superman is a film that I believe has one of the best portrayals of the character outside the comics. Most of that is thanks to Christopher Reeves’ portrayal of the titular character, where he successful plays a mild-mannered reporter and a symbol of hope. We see Superman’s origin story going from a refugee baby from the dying planet of Krypton to being raised by the Kents in Kansas to eventually working for The Daily Planet in Metropolis and becoming Superman. The effects for the time have held up pretty well, especially the flying scenes. Gene Hackman is a perfect villain as Lex Luthor. This was before Luthor was reinvented as a shady businessman, so he was still a mad scientist. There is some dumb moments like Lex’s plan to use a missile to trigger an earthquake that destroys California and Superman reversing time by reversing the Earth’s rotation. Still, those moments don’t take a way from a great film.
Captain America: Civil War
Release Date: May 6, 2016
Director: Anthony & Joe Russo
I’m really impressed by the Captain America movies. This is one of those film series where every installment is better than the previous. The First Avenger was a fun WWII piece, Winter Soldier was a kickass spy thriller, and Civil War is a great drama. We see the Avengers having to deal with the consequences of their actions as the world’s governments pass a legislation requiring them to register for oversight. This splits the team into two factions: the pro-registration side led by Iron Man and the anti-registration side led by Captain America. Both sides have valid reasons for their standing and they both clash over it. It does exactly what Batman v Superman tried to do, but better. Hell, it’s better than the Civil War comic itself. The airport fight is one of the best fights out of any comic book movie. The Russos just know how to shoot an action scene and the action in this film is just excellent. I’m glad that they were chosen to do Infinity War. This was also the film that introduced both Black Panther and Spider-Man. It’s amazing how this film juggles this many characters, but keep it focused on Captain America since it is his movie. Captain America: Civil War, the best MCU movie until…
Release Date: February 16, 2018
Director: Ryan Coogler
I can already sense the eye-rolling. “Really, B-HOP? A film that came out 2 months ago this high up on the list?” Well, deal with it because this is my list and there’s no way in hell I wouldn’t talk about Black Panther. As a black nerd, this movie means a lot to me. A movie about a black superhero with a mostly black cast, black writers, and a black director and it’s great. I love the world of Wakanda and the fact that an African nation, its people, and its culture aren’t depicted as stereotypes. We see T’Challa take the throne as the king of Wakanda and figure out how to be an efficient leader. The women of Black Panther stole the show from Okoye and the Dora Milaje to Shuri to Nakia. We also have one of the MCU’s best villains in Killmonger, a man who’s driven to liberate his own people, even through draconian methods. It’s not just that he thinks he’s doing the right thing, but he changes our hero as well. The action scenes are really cool with the exception of the final battle. Still, Ryan Coogler came through and gave us not just another great film for the MCU, but a film for the culture that black people can be inspired by and people of all backgrounds can enjoy. There’s a chance I might be overrating it a bit because it’s only been out for a few months and more viewings might knock it down a few spots on the list, but the one thing that will never change is my love for it.
I would do a build-up, but by this point, you all already guessed what was going to be number one, so let’s get into it.
The Dark Knight
Release Date: July 18, 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
We started with Batman, now we end with Batman. By now, it’s pretty much a cliche to put this film at number one, but how could I not? It’s been a decade since The Dark Knight came out and it has seen itself in damn near every list of the best films of all time. It transcends the comic book movie genre and made more people realize that these films can be more than just popcorn flicks. The cinematography is great thanks to the work of Christopher Nolan. The action scenes are really thrilling and most of it was done without CGI, which is very impressive. The acting is phenomenal all around: Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Cane as Alfred, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, etc. People make fun of Christian Bale’s Batman voice (myself included), but I thought he was a good Batman.
But the real star of the film is the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. Holy shit, is this one creepy Joker. His version of this classic villain is more of a psychotic anarchist who’s all about bringing chaos to the world and he’s a perfect foil for Batman. Ledger gave it his all with this role capturing the Joker’s derangement. It was nice to see him win an Oscar for his performance, even if he wasn’t around to receive it. What else can I say? The Dark Knight is in a class of its own in terms of comic book movies and it deserves every praise and accolade it got. The Dark Knight, the best comic book movie of all time.
Next week, I review Avengers: Infinity War. There’s so much to unpack there.