10. Hulk (2003): It’s a simple idea. Scientist gets blasted with gamma rays and turns into a gigantic, super strong monster when he’s angry. How hard is that to mess up? Director Ang Lee succeeded with spectacular results.
He turned the simple origin into a confusing tangle of pseudo-science involving nanotechnology and bioengineering, gave Bruce Banner the most convoluted childhood in movie history, and had the Hulk fighting a giant poodle. The special effects were awesome, but Lee manages to almost ruin that by having most of the Hulk’s appearances occur at night, obscured by shadows. Give Ang Lee points for the Hulk tank fight in the desert, but the rest was botched. Thankfully, this one got a do-over.
9. Steel (1997) All you need to know about this movie is that Shaquille O’Neal stars in it. If that isn’t enough to dissuade you, picture Shaq in a metal suit of armor that looks like it was made of tin foil and old car parts.
While we can understand getting rid of the character's Man-of-Steel origin, they completely ignored the attempts by the source material to give the character dignity and honor. His Fortress of Solitude is in a garbage dump and his high-tech armor looks like it was made by Sandford and Sons. The plot, a bewildering story about gangs using high-tech weapons to take over the city, falls flat at the same time it uses every cliche in the book. Directed by legendary television producer, writer and director Kenneth Johnson, this film is one and only theatrical movie credit and it shows. "Steel" probably would have made a better television pilot and spared us the price of a ticket.
8. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003): One of the most brilliant graphic novels ever made seemlessly and effortlessly combining comic books with the great literary work of history. Take that idea, take away the deep characterization, intrigue, mystery and originality and you get this movie. The producers were so out of touch with the purpose of the comic that they shortened the name to "L.X.G." to make it "hip and cool" ignoring the irony of the old style Victorian language.
This film wouldn't have been so bad except they changed pretty much everything they could think of. They left most of the main characters except Crawly Griffin as "The Invisible man" (who was changed to another man because of legal reasons), but they lacked the moral ambiguity and complexity from the novel. The plot eliminated 90% of the ingenious plot twists instead replacing them with new plot twists that made little sense. The special effects were dubious at best with a giant rubber suit substituting for the in-human bulk of Mr. Hyde (where's CGI when you really need it). After this movie, the star veteran actor Sean Connery went into retirement from film-making. The movie is that bad.
7. Captain America (1990): Total ineptitude is the only way to describe this film. They took the best Captain America villain, the Red Skull", and wasted him. Steve Rogers (Captain America) is a skinny guy with absolutely no leading man qualities and his costume is an ill-fitting rubber jumpsuit. The plot is non-existent and unnecessarily convoluted. No love for the original leads them to make bizarre changes like plastering bad wax makeup on an Italian actor (instead of German) only to switch to a lumpy flesh-colored makeup ten minutes into the film. Just awful.
6. Supergirl (1984): Let’s be honest. Supergirl has never gotten much respect in comic book circles. Maybe it’s the skirt. Maybe it’s the “Superman’s cousin” thing. But she deserved better than this. This movie claims that another spaceship left Krypton around the same time Superman did. Oddly enough, no one noticed or mentioned it until now. This movie was mostly forgettable, but we think the fact that the villain is a phony witch who gains real mystical powers is a sign of how bad it was. Lex Luthor, she wasn’t. Plus, no Superman. What’s up with that?
5. Watchmen (2009): Another bad translation of a classic Alan Moore comic. Unlike “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s” liberal use of the source material, this movie’s sin is the opposite problem – being too faithful to the original graphic novel. It took a twelve-issue miniseries with dozens of characters and a story spanning thirty years and tried to cram it all into a few hours. The result was a mess of unexplained events, flashbacks, storylines that go nowhere, and vaguely defined characters. The bad acting didn’t help. The best way to enjoy this film is to watch the trailer a hundred times.
4. Batman & Robin (1997): A movie so bad that it almost killed an entire movie franchise. It’s hard to know where to begin with how bad this movie was. Do we go with the nonsensical art design (neon-lit guns)? The cheesy dialogue (“The Iceman Cometh!”)? The weird costume decisions like big erect nipples on the Batman suit and funky red hair on Poison Ivy? The odd casting (George Clooney playing George Clooney in a Batman costume, Uma Thurman doing a bad Mae West impression)? A storyline taken from a cartoon with none of the emotional impact? Horrendous interpretations of the characters (Bane turned into a zombified thug, Mr. Freeze doing a sing-a-long with “Jack Frost”)? The only decent thing about this movie is the ice special effects.
3. Fantastic Four (2005): Yeah, it made a lot of money, but was any fan of the comic really happy with it? This movie camped it up almost as much as “Batman and Robin,” but with less style. Goofy characters, a weak romantic subplot, Jessica Alba cast solely for the way she looks in tights, and a Doctor Doom with electrical powers made true fans of FF cringe. We hear they’re making a dark reboot of the series, but the one thing this movie proved is that the Fantastic Four have really silly powers. I mean, stretching? Turning invisible? I’d like to see “dark” versions of that.
2. The Return of Swamp Thing (1989): The original "Swamp Thing" (1982) was awfully good. Meaning it's heart was in the right place, but the special effects and acting were awful. Plenty of unintentional laughs, but the scene where Swamp Thing is trying to create a formula to reverse his transformation is genuinely heart-breaking. On the other hand, the sequel tried to put a positive spin on becoming a walking salad bar by lightening his mood and adding a love interest with Heather Locklear. The "Un-Men", hybrid animal mutations created by the cloned villain Arcane tried to be true to the comic, but in the end just looked cheap.
1. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987): With all due respect to Christopher Reeve, this was arguably the worst Superman film ever made...at least without Richard Pryor anyway. Christopher Reeve agreed to put the suit back on on two conditions: One, allow him to use Superman to push his political philosophies on nuclear weapons and war. So, the cast Lex Luthor as the world's worst arms-dealer selling nuclear-powered super-villians to racial sterotypes from around the world. Two, he didn't want to wear the flight harness that allowed them to shoot the amazing flying effects, but crushed his testicles in the process. The most immediate consequence of this is that his flying scenes look like he was filmed lying on a table shot straight at the camera. The other problem with this approach is that apparently this was still too much work for him so they recycled about five minutes worth of video and looped it over and over again through the film. This film had overdone and hackneyed acting set to cheap special effects. A laughable plot with holes Superman could throw the moon through (an actual plot element) and the guest appearance of Jon Cryer. It barely made the list, but we were split on The Shadow (1995) so this won out.
What do you think?
BONUS LINK: Read our list of the Top Ten Best Comic Book Movies of all time.