Superhero movies are all the rage in Hollywood these days. Ever since the early ’90s, virtually every movie studio has been trying to get their hands on some sort of comic book hero, some of them settling for B-list heroes. That trend only skyrocketed after Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man hit the big screen in the early ’00s, not to mention the glorious reintroduction of the Caped Crusader in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005.
Although the shared universe trend has since taken over, superhero movies continue to enjoy their renaissance under the stewardship of producers like Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige and DC Films’ Geoff Johns. But just because some superhero movies — like The Dark Knight trilogy and The Avengers movies, and even recent efforts like Logan and Wonder Woman — have more than balanced out all the bad movies, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few duds over the years.
For every terrific superhero movie, there is probably one or two astoundingly terrible movies to counteract them. That’s the way the business works, unfortunately. In some cases, those bad superhero movies have effectively killed their respective franchises, while others have gotten lost somewhere along the way. In either case, it’s probably best that most people simply forget that they ever existed and just move on; hopefully, to a future franchise reboot.
Here are 15 Superhero Movies You Should Forget Ever Happened.
15. Batman and Robin
Aside from the original Superman series, the biggest superhero franchise prior to the turn of the 21st century was the Batman series, beginning with Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film. The movie was so successful that Warner Bros. commissioned a sequel, but instead of moving forward with Burton’s idea for a third installment, the studio had Joel Schumacher direct the third and fourth chapters, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, respectively.
It wasn’t long after Batman Forever released that the studio pushed Schumacher to move forward with Batman & Robin. He felt rushed, and that resulted in what is considered one of the worst superhero movies ever created. In fact, virtually everyone involved with the project has publicly apologized for the movie at one point or another. Batman & Robin‘s failure essentially killed the Batman franchise, and Warner Bros. was hesitant to move forward with another movie centering on the Caped Crusader for several years — that is until Christopher Nolan came along with Batman Begins, of course.
Following the release of Batman in 1989, Warner Bros. pushed Tim Burton to make a sequel, though he said he would only do it if the story intrigued him enough — and it did. His sequel, Batman Returns, had Michael Keaton reprise his role as the Caped Crusader. But instead of somehow bringing the Joker back for another round, Burton introduced audiences to other characters, namely Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman.
Pfeiffer was originally supposed to reprise her role in a spinoff Catwoman film, but once Batman Forever released, the spinoff fell by the wayside. It was stuck in development hell until the early ’00s, when Halle Berry boarded second time director Pitof’s movie in the leading role. Unfortunately, the movie was a massive critical and commercial failure, and it has since been referred to as one of the worst movies of all-time (not just worst superhero films, mind you). Perhaps it’s best if people forget about the movie entirely and hope for a much better depiction of the character in David Ayer’s Gotham City Sirens.
13. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Shortly after the conclusion of the original X-Men trilogy, 20th Century Fox decided to continue pursuing more mutant-focused films. Since Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine became one of the more popular X-Men characters on-screen, the studio used him as their launch pad for an entire series of prequels, which would center on the mutants’ origin stories. After being turned down multiple times, the studio finally found a director in Gavin Hood for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which also featured Ryan Reynolds’ debut as Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool (whose own Deadpool movie doesn’t acknowledge this film’s existence).
X-Men Origins: Wolverine released to heavy criticism from audiences and critics alike, many of whom felt that, barring the movie’s incredible opening scene, the film got most of the characters wrong (especially Deadpool), and that it opened too many plot holes within the overall X-Men continuity. Although it made some decent money at the worldwide box office, the film sent X-Men Origins: Magneto into development hell; it was eventually abandoned in favor of X-Men: First Class.
Long before Ben Affleck became Batman, he was Daredevil, the blind lawyer-turned-vigilante, in Mark Steven Johnson’s 2003 Daredevil movie. The project had been in the works for several years before finally making its way onto the big screen, though all those years stuck in development hell didn’t help the movie score big with audiences or critics. Despite being somewhat financially successful, Daredevil received mixed-to-negative reviews. However, the R-rated director’s cut that released the following year has since been praised by many people, including Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who co-produced the movie.
Now that Affleck has found himself headlining Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe as Batman, and since Daredevil has since found a new home on Netflix — and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Johnson’s movie has been all but forgotten, along with its one-time chance at producing a sequel.
11. Fantastic Four (2015)
Shortly after the release of Chronicle, Josh Trank had been hired to helm 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot, starring Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara as Invisible Woman, Michael B. Jordan as Human Torch, Jamie Bell as the Thing, and Toby Kebbell as Dr. Doom. Despite initial intrigue in the project, unfortunate production issues resulted in it being a critical and commercial failure, one that significantly misunderstood the source material.
Trank’s reboot failed to spawn the sequels that the studio wanted, and it garnered perhaps the worst critical reception for a modern superhero movie. Upon its release, many fans expressed the desire for the superhero team’s theatrical rights to return to Marvel Studios, thereby allowing the Disney-owned studio to use the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although that seems like a long shot, Simon Kinberg has admitted that comic book fans might not give them another shot at getting the characters right.
10. The Green Hornet
Sony Pictures has been banking heavily on Spider-Man running the comic book movie side of their studio for years, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t delved in other superhero movies before — or, at least, tried to. In 2011, Sony-owned Columbia Pictures attempted to adapt The Green Hornet onto the silver screen, starring Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, aka the Green Hornet, and Jay Chou as his sidekick, Kato.
For those that don’t know, the Green Hornet is an iconic masked vigilante who was created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker — the same guys behind the Lone Ranger character — in 1936. The character has been adapted into various mediums over the years, with Michel Gondry’s 2011 movie being the latest adaptation. Despite having some intriguing imagery and action sequences, the Green Hornet movie failed to live up to expectations, and critics noted that the movie struggled to find its footing between being an action-vigilante movie and a slacker comedy. Since there are currently plans to reboot the franchise with Gavin O’Connor directing, it’s likely best to forget the Rogen/Gondry adaptation ever happened. Most moviegoers already have.
From an audience perspective, the entertainment world can appear to be a fluid industry, with people moving interchangeably between films, television, and video games. After all, talented actors and producers can perform their jobs in either medium of storytelling. However, it’s not always an easy transition for athletes and singers to transition from their established careers into acting. Sometimes, people like Will Smith strike gold, whereas others like Shaquille O’Neal make several attempts, yet fail to come out on top.
Among those many movies and TV shows was Steel, in which he played the eponymous superhero, aka John Henry Irons. Based on the DC Comics character of the same name, Steel burst onto the comic book scene in the early ’90s as one of Superman’s replacements, following the Man of Steel’s heavily publicized death in the Death of Superman story arc. Steel’s film adaptation wasn’t only chastised by critics and fans alike, but it was also an enormous box office failure, grossing only $1.7 million on an estimated $16 million production budget. Needless to say, it has been long forgotten except for those rare, brave souls who’ve actually seen the movie — and it’s high-time they forget it as well.
The ’90s were a strange time for superhero movies. Lots of Hollywood studios attempted to get in on the comic book movie craze, including New Line Cinema, who backed Mark A.Z. Dippé’s Spawn adaptation, based on the character of the same name by Todd McFarlane. Starring Michael Jai White as the eponymous antihero, Spawn released in 1997 to overwhelmingly negative reviews, though it did manage to pull in $87.8 million at the worldwide box office against a production budget of $40 million.
Despite taking liberties with the source material, Spawn wasn’t the superhero movie that audiences wanted, and that’s why it became a black mark on an otherwise popular character’s portfolio. Instead of moving forward with another installment, there have been plans to reboot Spawn, though McFarlane has stated that he wants full creative control before he decides to actually go through with the reboot. Judging by how poorly received the last adaptation was, it would probably be in the best interest of the film if the character’s creator was in charge this time around.
7. The Spirit
Frank Miller is an iconic comic book writer and artist, someone who helped usher in the modern age of comic books in the ’80s and ’90s with titles such as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Daredevil: Born Again. Aside from working on already established characters, Miller had a great deal of success delving into his own characters and stories, such as 300 and Sin City. He also liked to dabble in filmmaking, however. Rather than follow-up his Sin City movie with another installment, Miller adapted Will Eisner’s The Spirit onto the big screen, starring Gabriel Macht as the eponymous hero.
Just like the Green Hornet, not every superhero character comes from Marvel Comics and DC Comics, the industry’s two big-name publishers. Despite having a stellar cast — which consisted of Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson before their MCU days — The Spirit bombed at the worldwide box office, and critics lambasted the movie for its lack of originality and unnecessary fluff. Plus, the acting wasn’t up to par with other superhero movies that were releasing around the same time.
6. Spider-Man 3
Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies are considered some of the greatest superhero movies ever created, and they continue to impress to this day. Spider-Man 3, however, failed to live up to the same standards as the first two installments, thanks to ridiculous plot points (as well as cringe-worthy moments) and the unnecessary inclusion of certain enemies, namely Eddie Brock, aka Venom.
If any movie on this list has redeemable qualities, though, it’s Spider-Man 3. However, considering that Sony rebooted the series with Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man — and then again with Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe — it’s ostensibly best to forget Raimi’s third installment in favor of remembering everything that was great about his first two movies. It’s truly unfortunate, mostly for fans of Raimi’s original trilogy, that there wasn’t a fourth chapter to reclaim the series’ prestige.
5. Green Lantern
Not long after Ryan Reynolds made his controversial debut as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he took on the role of Hal Jordan in Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern movie in 2011. Despite significant interest in the movie, it failed to generate positive vibes from critics or audiences, though many people did praise its use of visual effects (just not the suit).
Rather than move forward with another installment, Warner Bros. decided to cancel plans to use the movie to launch a DC Comics shared universe and leave that burden up to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel — or, more accurately, Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. At the moment, the DCEU’s Green Lantern Corps movie is scheduled to release in 2020, which is set to feature more than one Lantern.
Hopefully, things go smoother this time around. And since there is no chance at seeing Campbell’s Green Lantern movie receiving a sequel, especially since Reynolds has gone back to playing Deadpool, deleting this one from your memory bank is probably in your best interest.
Not long after appearing in Daredevil, Jennifer Garner was given her own spinoff movie as Elektra Natchios. Directed by Rob Bowman, Elektra released in 2005 and became a critical and commercial failure for the studio. It marked the third major female-led comic book movie to amount to a pile of dirt critically as well as at the worldwide box office — the other two being Jeannot Szwarc’s Supergirl and Pitof’s Catwoman.
Much like the aforementioned Man Without Fear, Elektra has moved on. She has since joined Netflix’s corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing in Daredevil‘s second season as well as the upcoming team-up series, The Defenders. Considering that 20th Century Fox has distanced itself from the Daredevil/Elektra movies, it’s best if audiences do the same (if they haven’t already forgotten about them; in that case, just keeping doing what you’re doing, folks).
3. X-Men: The Last Stand
Unfortunately, when it comes to comic book movies — and, well, most blockbuster movies in general — the third installments in most trilogies tend to fall below expectations. It’s not something that was unique to Spider-Man 3 (though that movie probably caught the most flak); it happened to X-Men: The Last Stand as well. Since Bryan Singer chose to direct Superman Returns in the mid-’00s rather than return to direct a third X-feature, Brett Ratner helmed the third and final installment in the original X-Men trilogy in his stead. The Last Stand became the first movie in the series to adapt specific comic book story lines, namely Joss Whedon’s Gifted and Chris Claremont’s Dark Phoenix Saga.
The problem was, the movie didn’t adapt the stories well at all, and the events of that film have since been erased thanks to Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, so there’s quite literally no reason to even remember that movie anymore. Furthermore, franchise writer-producer Simon Kinberg has expressed interest in giving the Dark Phoenix Saga another shot, and it appears that that story may be the focal point of his upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse sequel, currently titled X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
2. Ghost Rider
When the prospect of Nicolas Cage playing Superman didn’t pan out, that didn’t discourage the actor from pursuing other superhero roles. Cage made his debut as Johnny Blaze, aka Ghost Rider, in Mark Steven Johnson’s 2007 movie. Despite his previous attempt to bring Daredevil to life on the big screen, Johnson was given a second chance at making a comic book movie, this time with Columbia Pictures. Although it wasn’t the adaptation that critics nor fans were looking for, it earned enough money to spawn a sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. It wasn’t enough, though, for Columbia Pictures to maintain the theatrical rights to the character, which reverted to Marvel Studios in 2013.
Just as with Daredevil and Elektra, Ghost Rider recently made his debut within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there has already been talks of potentially giving the Robbie Reyes version of the character his own TV series — though ABC may want to see how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to perform before attempting to move forward with another spinoff.
1. Superman: Quest for Peace
Richard Donner’s original Superman movie, starring Christopher Reeve as the eponymous hero, is universally considered one of the greatest and most influential superhero movies ever released; it revolutionized the comic book movie genre long before Tim Burton’s Batman came along. After the third installment came out, most of the people involved with the series felt that it had run its course. Unfortunately, Cannon Films thought different, so they acquired the rights to the series and produced a fourth movie — Superman: Quest for Peace — that effectively killed the franchise until Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns released almost 20 years later.
Rumors have suggested that the studio’s budget had run dry, so they resorted to releasing an unfinished movie with the hopes of capitalizing on the franchise’s popularity. If nothing else, Superman IV is a prime example of how something as terrific as the original Superman movie series can eventually crumble down in the pursuit of more and more sequels. At some point, it’s better to call it a day while you’re still on top, something that more studios are starting to take note of when it comes to superhero franchises.
What other superhero flicks are best left forgotten? Let us know in the comments.
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