From 2013’s Man of Steel to last year’s Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, the DCEU has built a reputation for polarizing audiences and critics. However, things are looking up for next month’s Wonder Woman, which is already generating some positive twitter buzz from early screening reactions. Although director Patty Jenkins’ big screen adaptation of Diana Prince has the potential to be one of the better DC outings yet, there are a long list of films that haven’t been quite so lucky.
The DC brand has been pumping out cinematic adventures for decades and, like any other gigantic studio, they’ve pushed out their fair share of stinkers. Below you’ll find the worst of the worst that DC has to offer, either for their terrible casting choices, lackluster special effects, cockamamie scripts, or a combination of all of the above. They will range from modern-era comic book movies to films going back to the ’60s. The only criteria will be that the movies had a theatrical release.
So get ready to scrape the bottom of the cinematic barrel, here are the 15 Worst DC Movies Ever Made.
15. Suicide Squad
Kicking off our list is last year’s Suicide Squad, a film we admit isn’t as bad as critics made it out to be, but isn’t exactly the greatest movie either. Starring Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, the story brings together a ragtag group of DC villains in order to stop an apocalyptic villain, who threatens to tear apart the entire world.
Unfortunately, it’s that gigantic scope that ultimately sabotages Suicide Squad. Admittedly, we like the characters; it’s fun to listen to Killer Croc’s straight-faced one-liners and watch Deadshot pal around with Harley Quinn. It’s not the characters that tank the movie, but their overly-complicated mission that sucks any enjoyment out of the experience.
Suicide Squad doesn’t learn from the DCEU’s past mistakes, opting to go with an overblown story rather than a more contained one that would have benefited the group dynamic. In the end, Suicide Squad comes across as messy and flat; mistakes that the eventual sequel and Gotham City Sirens will hopefully avoid.
14. Batman Forever
Sure, Batman Forever is not the train wreck that was Batman & Robin (more on that later), but Batman Forever was the beginning of the slippery slope that the Batman franchise was about to drop off of. Director Joel Schumacher transformed the property to almost unrecognizable levels of camp reminiscent of the dark days of Adam West dancing to the Batusi.
Whether it’s Val Kilmer’s uninspired performance of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, the toxic color palette of Gotham City, Tommy Lee Jones’ cartoonish portrayal of Two Face, or Chris O’Donnell’s annoying take on Robin, things only get worse as the movie drags on with pointless love interests, sloppy dialog, and one laughable fight sequence after another.
It’s not all bad, though. There are minor redeeming qualities in Batman Forever, such as the new Batmobile, Jim Carrey’s crazed performance as the Riddler, and Elliot Goldenthall’s thunderous soundtrack. Still, the negatives far outweigh the positives, making this Bat-flick one of the silliest in the franchise, and that’s counting the 1966 movie.
13. Red 2
While it doesn’t feature recognizable names like Batman or Superman, action/comedy Red was a sleeper hit in 2010. Starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich as an old team of black-ops agents looking to clear their names, the movie is a fun ride filled with some brisk action sequences, dark comedy, and undeniable chemistry between the core group of players.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of its sequel released in 2013. While the first movie is silly fun, Red 2 becomes more personal, focusing most of its runtime on the fractured relationship between Bruce Willis’ Moses and Mary-Louise Parker’s Sarah. The dynamic between the characters feels surprisingly flat, despite Malkovich’s best attempts to keep the funny going with his wacked-out, paranoid persona of Marvin. Not even the addition of Korean film icon Byung Hun Lee is enough to save Red 2, a film which boils down to mindless entertainment at worst.
12. Superman III
It’s always disappointing to see a superhero franchise fall apart after the first few movies, and nothing falls apart quite as quickly as the Superman franchise with Superman III. While the first two installments featuring Christopher Reeve were a hit with both audiences and critics, the third film (directed by Richard Lester) marked the beginning of the end.
The story involves Superman battling an evil businessman, who plans to rob banks using an undetected computer virus (the same scheme used in Office Space). The businessman enlists the talents of computer genius Gus (a miscast Richard Pryor) who cooks up some synthetic kryptonite laced with tobacco tar, which splits Superman into a good Clark Kent and evil Man of Steel (what?!).
With its silly story, ridiculous villains, and decision to cut Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane almost completely out of the story, Superman III falls spectacularly short of reaching the height of its predecessors. Shockingly, it still doesn’t come close to the worst Superman movie of all time, which we’ll be getting to later on.
11. Green Lantern
Before Ryan Reynolds became a national treasure with last year’s Deadpool, he was the face of one the biggest DC disappointments of all-time: Green Lantern. The movie is so bad that Reynolds has publicly apologized for it. Originally slated to kick off the DCEU, Warner Bros. and DC pulled the idea faster than a speeding bullet once they realized the magnitude of the candy-colored disaster that they had on their hands.
Green Lantern makes the cardinal mistake of trying to load too much into the two-hour runtime. So much is thrown at the audience that it’s hard to keep up, resulting in an uneven and disjointed narrative flow. Only making things worse is the deviation from the source material, particularly with supervillain Parallax, who is reduced to nothing more than an ugly scrambled egg.
Sure, the special effects may look cool, but they can only carry a movie so far. We hope that the eventual Green Lantern Corps. will deliver a better adaptation of the green hero.
10. Swamp Thing
Director Wes Craven is known for revitalizing the horror genre not just once, but twice during his career, with A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. He’s regarded as one of the most important directors of the horror genre, but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t had his fair share of misfires too, including 1982’s Swamp Thing, based on the DC comic of the same name.
The story follows Dr. Alec Holland, who tries to create a new species of plants that can survive in harsh conditions. But something goes wrong, and he accidentally transforms into Swamp Thing, a plant-like monster that looks like Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk draped in seaweed.
Fans of Craven will tell you that Swamp Thing is a fun B flick, and it is, but that doesn’t mean we’re blind to all of its faults. Despite some solid directing, the movie suffers from a flat, boring script, and the effects, while comically campy, just don’t hold up. Still, it’s not as bad as the eventual sequel that we got (which might pop up further down the list).
9. The Losers
The plot follows a CIA Special Forces team who are betrayed and left for dead on their latest mission. The group makes plans to settle the score after they’re joined by a mysterious operative (Guardians’ Zoe Saldana) with her own agenda. Together, they travel across the globe in search of the mysterious Max, the shadowy figure determined to throw the world into a high-tech global war.
Unfortunately, the film suffers from a lack of wit and an onslaught of clichés. The hysterical hero, the dapper villain, the geeky tech (which we’re just not buying with Evans); they’re all front and center. On top of that, the PG-13 rating forces The Losers to constantly pull punches when it comes to the violent shoot-outs and fight scenes. It’s not a terrible movie, but we just wish that it had done a little better given its potential.
8. Jonah Hex
We’re starting to scrape the bottom of the DC cinematic barrel, and close to that bottom is 2010’s Jonah Hex starring Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, and John Malkovich. Set during the days of the American Civil War, Brolin plays Hex, a remorseless bounty hunter who is tasked with taking down a terrorist.
Known for his animated work on Pixar classics, director Jimmy Hayward proves that he’s completely out of his element with this DC-adapted disaster. The film was torn apart by critics, who accused it of being crude, noisy, mindless, and wasting the talents of Brolin, Malkovich, and Michael Fassbender. Worse yet, the film was a financial catastrophe, costing roughly $47 million to make and not even grossing $6 million on its opening weekend.
With a juvenile runtime of just 81 minutes, a muddled plot, stilted dialog, and uninteresting action sequences (the gatling gun scene is a particular letdown), Jonah Hex is a mindless blockbuster that won’t even entertain the most jovial moviegoer.
7. Superman and the Mole Men
Serving as a trial-run for the 1950s televised series The Adventures of Superman, Superman and the Mole Men had the honor of being the first theatrical film ever made based on a DC character. However, it’s far from the best. When reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane journey to the small town of Silsby to cover the inauguration of the world’s deepest oil well, they discover a race of small, bald humanoids who have climbed to the surface. It is up to Superman to stop this supposed threat.
Superman and the Mole Men was shot in just 12 days on a studio back lot… and it shows. The production values by today’s standards are laughably cheap, but it’s important to remember that it was made in a time where technological advancements weren’t what they are today. This was before special effects teams could convince audiences that a man could fly. Still, Superman and the Mole Men is not really a movie that holds up and, thanks to its pure cheese factor, earns a spot on this list.
While the 138 minute director’s cut is a slight improvement, there’s no getting around the fact that 1984’s Supergirl is a super-stinker. Originally set to tie into the Superman films, Christopher Reeve was scheduled to make an appearance in the movie, but bowed out at the last minute.
It’s a good thing he did, because Supergirl is an unimaginative, disjointed movie from start to finish. It’s a narrative mess, jumping all over the place, while never resolving the main conflict of saving Supergirl’s dying planet (which she forgets all about by the third act). Instead, we’re treated to awkward scenes of Kara Zor-El going school and trying to get romantically involved with humans.
The real tragedy of Supergirl is the fact that it’s filled with fantastic actors who are completely wasted, including a very confused Peter O’Toole, a very stilted Mia Farrow, and a Faye Dunaway performance so campy that it makes Jim Carrey’s Riddler seem Shakespearean by comparison.
5. The Return of Swamp Thing
We know we said the first Swamp Thing is bad, but 1989’s The Return of Swamp Thing is so abysmal that it makes the original look like The Dark Knight in comparison. Wes Craven’s absence is enormously felt, with Jim Wynorski taking over directorial duties. Campier, sillier, and dumber than the original, the result is nearly two hours of comic book cheese that dulls the senses and makes you regret taking another trip down this murky bayou.
The movie’s attempt at a story involves Swamp Thing battling Louis Jourdan, a villain who died at the end of the first movie (we never get an explanation of why he’s still around). With rubbery action, laughable effects, and pointless scenes from Heather Locklear, who seems to be posing in every shot, most of the film is simply unwatchable. By the time the third act rolls around, The Return of Swamp Thing gets so bizarre that it becomes a parody of itself, and not in a good way.
4. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
What can be said about Superman IV: The Quest for Peace that hasn’t already been said? Should we mention that it single-handedly killed the Superman franchise for several decades? Do we reference that it has one of the dumbest villains in all of comic book movie history? Should we talk about how the radiation-charged Nuclear Manis created by combining nothing more than a follicle of Superman’s hair and the sun?
Yes, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is all of that and more. It’s one of the biggest missteps in DC history, containing too many ridiculous plot failures to count (the Man of Steel decides to destroy the world’s cache of nuclear arms at the request of a 12-year-old boy). It defies physics and logic more than a Fast and Furious movie, adding in cheesy effects such as Superman’s cape fluttering in the non-existent breeze of outer space. It’s a disaster that sets the bar for everything that superhero sequels should strive not to be.
“When I’m good, I’m very good. When I’m bad, I’m as bad as I wanna be.” This quote perfectly conveys how low DC adaptations can sink, and none sink lower than 2004’s Catwoman. As the brainchild of director Pitof, Catwoman exploits the sex appeal of star Halle Berry while leaving everything else, including story, characters, and even action sequences, to fall by the wayside.
After Michelle Pfeiffer’s complex turn as Catwoman in Batman Returns, audiences couldn’t believe the downgrade of Halle Berry’s stilted performance. The main person to blame for this disaster is director Pitof, who completely rewrote the character of Catwoman, hoping DC fans won’t notice. The movie is bogged down with one silly scene after another, with absolutely no depth given to any character.
Patience Philips (no longer Selina Kyle) never questions her new found cat-like powers. At the same time, Sharon Stone plays a one-dimensional villain whose sole goal is to build a successful cosmetics company. Add some disjointed action scenes and a laughable script on top of that, and you get Catwoman in all of its embarrassing glory.
Okay, we admit that 1997’s Steel starring Shaquille O’Neal is monstrously entertaining from start to finish, but that’s only because the movie is so horrible, so laughably juvenile, that it almost passes as a self-parody. It’s a film that you have to constantly remind yourself is not a satire; that a studio actually went out of their way to drop millions of dollars on a big-budget superhero flick with Shaq as the title character. What was DC thinking?!
It’s almost flabbergasting to think that there was someone behind the camera during this movie that had to have said, “Cut! That was great!” That person was director Kenneth Johnson, and we have him to thank for nearly two hours of campy debauchery as Shaq suits up in a clearly plastic suit, utters cringe-worthy one-liners, and blasts bad guys with horrendous special effects. Character backstories are ignored, the plot makes no sense, and throughout all of it is Shaq’s awkwardly soul-sucking attempts at onscreen charisma. It doesn’t get much sillier than this.
1. Batman & Robin
We know we said it doesn’t get much sillier than Steel, but the obvious exception to that rule is Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, a movie so mind-numbingly stupid that it easily nabs the top spot on this list. This is the dark age of DC cinema, a time when Batman’s costume came equipped with nipples, when popular comic book villains like Bane were reduced to mindless goons, and when Arnold Schwarzenegger rattled off more ice puns than his kill-count in Commando.
With cringe-worthy dialog, grotesque looking production sets, and ham-fisted acting across the board, Batman & Robin is like the perfect storm of pure cinematic garbage. Stories of its awfulness have become a part of Hollywood legend. From Alicia Silverstone’s uninspired Batgirl (hopefully Joss Whedon will do the character justice) to Uma Thurman’s cartoonish Poison Ivy, every performance is like nails on the chalkboard. Don’t even get us started on Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze.
With enough terrible one-liners to sink the Batman franchise ten times over (“Chicks dig the car“), a story that is ludicrously insane, and incoherent action scenes that involve ice skating, Batman & Robin is truly the worst DC outing that’s ever been made, and hopefully, ever will be.
Can you think of any horrendous DC movies that should have been on our list? Let us know in the comments!