It’s fair to say that comic fans have been spoiled with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You might not agree with everything going on, but Marvel have yet to give us a true flop. That makes it slightly easier to forget about all those grotesque failures that litter the comic book cinema landscape.
Still, some of the worst films in history have managed to give us some great moments, even entire scenes that do their best to redeem the surrounding failure.
Even the worst comic book movies are hiding some real gems…and it’s up to you to decide whether they make the movie worth watching. Here is Screen Rant's list of 10 Great Scenes in Bad Superhero Movies.
10 Fantastic Four (2015) - Body Horror
This one is fresh in everyone’s minds, and has been so thoroughly stomped into the ground the imprint won't be fading for decades. In short, Fantastic Four gathered a talented cast, a monster budget and used it to serve audiences a film so heavily drenched in the bitter tears of everyone involved, it was impossible to even make out the plot.
However, if you were to pick a single redeeming scene from the Fantastic Flop, the accolades would easily go to the scenes showing the physical result of the team’s field trip to an alternate dimension. No other adaptation of the Fantastic Four has shown the effects on their bodies quite as vividly as this, and yet it makes sense. None of the four gained the ability to shoot lasers from their hands or read minds; each of their powers directly affect their bodies, and this is vividly shown in a series of scenes that use body horror to underscore the transformation. Reed’s skin ripples and expands, Johnny keeps exploding, Sue goes transparent and throws stuff around the place and Ben… is a big rock. It’s a series of dramatic transformations that are genuinely impacting.
And then you stop the film and watch something else, because that’s where the goodness ends.
9 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) - Silver Surfer Chase
The first major cinematic attempts at the Fantastic Four had all the advantages of a fairly decent Thing suit, a visually accurate Doctor Doom and not being directed by Josh Trank’s spontaneous fits of rage. Still, neither film was really what the fans were looking for.
Aside from the above, there are a couple of things that most people can agree on: the Silver Surfer looked very comic-accurate, and the chase scene at the start of the second movie was pretty great. Taking place over the skies of New York, we see the Human Torch give chase to the Silver Surfer, with a number of slick phasing sequences and well-done CG. The scene isn’t even particularly long, but it showcases the Silver Surfer’s abilities, including one nifty trick that has him phasing though his board and standing upside down in the middle of heavy traffic, instead of just…y’know, looking behind him. Because it looks cooler, you see.
It established the character as a dangerous and otherworldly threat, which would come in very handy around a hundred minutes later when we found out that Galactus had been turned into a big, stupid space cloud.
8 X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) - Opening Montage
This one has been obliterated via cosmic retcon, meaning that we really shouldn’t be worrying about it. And yet, at one time, it existed. DVDs of this film still sit on people’s shelves. And that’s terrible.
There is one scene, however, that kicks the film off with a flair that gave us false hope, and that’s the montage through history. After ‘lil Wolverine discovers his powers, becoming both a wanderer and then Hugh Jackman, he meets Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). The two of them are then shown in a fantastic montage through the ages, as their biological immortality allows them to live through every major event (mostly wars) since the 19th century. The scenes meld into one another as the two of them move from one battlefield to another, leaving behind one life after another and eventually ending up close to the modern era.
Sure, it defies already established canon by making Sabretooth and Wolverine super-best-buddies, and by presenting the former as an entirely different character to the one seen in the original X-Men…but dang, it’s a cool bunch of scenes, with some explosive transitions that show the power of a well-made opening. It’s just that you’d usually want a well-made opening to be followed by a well-made rest of the movie.
7 Superman Returns (2006) - Saving the Plane
Superman Returns is better than, say, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Yeah, that’s not saying much. The movie tried to mine for nostalgia while presenting a streamlined Superman figure, played by a miscast Brandon Routh (who works much better as Ray Palmer, anyway). Its version of Lex Luthor was a buffoon with goofy henchmen and a plan that was just plain bizarre (it was ‘make lots of barren wasteland, killing billions of people, and then sell that barren wasteland to the grieving masses’, in case you forgot). It wasn’t quite Man of Steel-level contentious, but neither was it Superman’s greatest adventure.
That said, we’ve never seen the caped crusader pull off his signature plane-saving manoeuvre in quite such a spectacular fashion. Not content for Superman to just fly underneath the plane, push it very hard and gently set it down on the ground, the movie’s version of the scene has him ripping off the wing and more or less trashing the plane before managing to land in the middle of a sports field while the plane obeys the laws of physics (for once) and begins to crumple under its own weight. The fact that it happened with a massive audience tops the whole thing off nicely.
In this one scene, we see Superman’s role perfectly encapsulated in a way that not even Man of Steel was able to portray: he tackles giant obstacles and saves lives. The whole thing just felt like a golden-age throwback brought to life, which is really what people want a whole Superman movie to be like.
6 Spider-Man 3 - Sandman
Real talk: Spider-Man 3 was a disappointment. It’s perhaps not the worst of the comic book movie bunch, but compared to the previous two, it was a huge let-down that did its best to crush the hopes and dreams of its viewing audience by forcing them to watch Peter Parker dance-strutting. Because that’s what you do when you turn evil. You dance-strut in public. The rest of Spider-Man 3’s problems have been thoroughly dissected elsewhere, but this one deserved special mention, lest anyone make this mistake again.
And yet, we have one character - a villain, no less - who was brilliantly realized. Laying aside all the ‘actually, this guy killed Uncle Ben, whoops, whaddyagonnado?’ nonsense, Flint Marko as Sandman was a highlight of the movie. Dunked in a magic sciencey sand tank and mutated into a grainy monstrosity, we’re treated to a heart-rending scene where Marko wills himself back to life for the sake of his daughter. The rest of his scenes show the power of CGI when used correctly, with Spider-Man punching right through Sandman’s body and shoving his face up against a train, all presented so beautifully they almost make you forgive the dance-strutting. Almost.
Helping matters is Thomas Haden Church's resemblance to his comic book self, as well as the contrast between the well-done Sandman and complete kibosh that was Venom.
5 X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - Magneto Lifts the Bridge
X-Men: The Last Stand can be a fun movie if you’re able to switch off your brain and enjoy all the lasers and punching. Unfortunately, it overall goes the way of the Spider-Man trilogy, rounding off a solid series of movies with an ending that substituted character development for a metric tonne of shoehorned mutants. Some of them have porcupine spikes. Those are the bad ones.
A few scenes could be cherry-picked from The Last Stand and enjoyed by themselves, but the one that dwarfs them all is Magneto, played with all the Shakespearean wonderfulness of Ian McKellan, lifting a huge chunk of the Golden Gate Bridge and flying it all the way over to Alcatraz, polishing the whole thing off with a bridge-related one liner that would’ve been ridiculous coming from literally anyone else. It’s a brief sequence, but it shows exactly what Magneto is willing to do to accomplish his goal, and that includes tearing up major landmarks instead of just flying his army over on random bits of metal.
The whole thing is so visually stunning it mostly stops you from wondering why he didn’t just dump the entire bridge on the island, killing absolutely everyone and finishing the job in about three very mushy seconds. But that would’ve left no opportunity to rehash a terrible, Juggernaut-related internet meme, and that's unacceptable.
4 Blade (1998)- Nightclub Fight
Blade came along early in the era of comic book movies, before X-Men made people believe in the cinematic potential of proper superheroes with costumes and ridiculous codenames. Blade is a Marvel character, but it was entirely possible to watch the movie without knowing that…in which case it became a bizarrely violent, oddly-shot vampire flick that barely seemed to graze any kind of source material.
Once again, love or hate the film, it opens with a unique visual style that lets you know exactly what you’re in for. What starts out as a standard rave scenes quickly turns macabre when the sprinklers start to rain blood. And the clubbers seem oddly okay with it. The rest of the scene may come off as bizarre, but the horror factor is in full play as we’re given grotesque close-ups of the blood-soaked faces, all of which have their fangs trained on the only living person in the room. Cue the arrival of Blade, all pristine leather and resting grump face that slowly turns to a grin as he spends the next couple of minutes doling out spin kicks and shotgun blasts. Then he pulls out a sword, and the beat-down intensifies until vampire remains are falling like raindrops.
Really, you could probably just watch these movies for the fights alone.
3 Ghost Rider (2007) - Police Chase
The premise of a guy with a flaming skull for a head who deals out anti-justice by staring at people really hard was already a pretty difficult one to film. It didn’t help matters when they tried to convince us that Nicolas Cage was Johnny Blaze, hotshot motorcyclist, and then tried to make us interested in a fight between him and some skinny emo demon kid. The movie was outlandish enough, but the hackneyed plot and poor performances all around made it a comic book movie best left in the dust of Marvel’s early attempts. Iron Man would only be a year away...
An argument could be made that Nicolas Cage’s portrayal is the most entertaining part of the movie, though to pick out a scene that can actually be taken semi-seriously, the police chase springs to mind. It’s less of a chase and more of Ghost Rider screwing with everyone, but he proceeds to defy physics by riding right up the side of a building and leaving a flaming trail in his wake that slices windows in half and generally causes amusing mayhem. Our intrepid not-hero then rides right off the edge of the skyscraper, pausing for an epic slow-motion moment of changing-flinging awesome, before riding right back down, landing with a massive shockwave and sitting in the middle of the debris like he’s waiting to be awarded a perfect 10 in the ‘needlessly-destructive wrecking of the place’ event.
It’s all very dumb. But in terms of sheer, comic-book escapism, it gets the job done just fine.
2 The Punisher (2004) - Frank Castle vs The Russian
The Punisher has never been the cheeriest of Marvel's ‘heroes’. While Spider-Man quips during fights, Frank Castle is much more like to fill the silence with even more brutal murder. The 2004 film The Punisher took that concept and ran with it, creating a film so devoid of fun you wonder if the entire cast and crew were undergoing therapy during production. It’s at a Daredevil level of gritty, though lacking the compelling drama that made Daredevil watchable.
However, a few of the film’s action sequences are worth a watch, chiefly Frank Castle’s fight with a burly bruiser known only as "The Russian." Context is barely important (the Russian is trying to kill Castle because he was sent by a guy who ran over his wife and child with a truck at a family reunion because… yeah, context isn’t important), but the fight sees Castle swinging on chains, flinging around knives and chucking grenades while the Russian just keeps coming.
The use of environment in this scene reaches Bourne levels of creative, and while there’s a ridiculous element to the Russian’s google eyes and the accompanying operatic score (seriously), the whole thing just blends together in a bizarre mix that makes it one of the most memorable fight scenes you’ll ever watch.
1 Batman Returns (1992) - Batman and Catwoman
While the original Batman films have their high points, it’s safe to say they’ve been outclassed in terms of showing Batman’s ability. Christian Bale’s portrayal was the first time was saw Bruce Wayne trained to be the ultimate fighting machine and not just some actor in a suit that prevented him from turning his head. Batman Returns, in retrospect, is a strange mix of comic book silliness and noir that would be outright rejected by today’s audience. After we’ve had Heath Ledger as The Joker, Danny DeVito suddenly starts looking a whole lot less threatening.
On the flip side, the portrayal of Catwoman by Michelle Pfeiffer was a high-point of the entire franchise. Her rooftop meeting with a wounded, ultra-scowly Michael Keaton Batman portrayed the relationship between the two characters in a scintillating scene that bounced between provocative and dramatic in a heartbeat. Sure, it’s a tad weird that Catwoman’s kiss took the form of a lick…but that’s her character in a nutshell. Catlike. The frenemy relationship between Dark Knight and Cat Burglar has always been undefinable, and Pfeiffer’s seductive acting makes the scene stand out all the more intriguing.
Hear her roar indeed.
Know any truly great moments hidden in really bad movies? Leave us a comment!