Superhero movies are inescapable. Love it or hate it, the genre has flourished in the past decade through the success of Marvel, DC, and box-office-friendly cinematic universes. It may feel like every superhero has already gotten an expensive movie adaptation, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only has cinema barely scratched the surface of comics, but there are plenty of superhero movies that don’t make it to theaters.
Loads of superhero movies have been delayed, rewritten, or stuck in development hell for ages. These include everything from big-name superheroes to the most obscure characters in comics. Some of these failed films are pretty well-known: everybody expected Tobey MacGuire to get a fourth Spider-Man film, and even the campy Schumacher Batman movies had planned sequels. For this list though, we’ll be looking at some of the lesser-known canceled projects and fishing out as many details as we can.
If you thought that there were enough superhero movies in Hollywood these days, then you’re in for a surprise. If you want more superhero movies in Hollywood, then you might be depressed some of these will never see the light of day.
Here are 20 Canceled Superhero Movies You’ll Never Get To See.
20. Justice League: Mortal
If 2017’s Justice League disappointed you, you might have been yearning for this canceled project. Director George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) almost helmed the first major Justice League film in 2009. It was unceremoniously canned due to an inflated budget, the 2008 Writer’s Guild Strike, and the shoot locations moving from Austrailia to Canada against Miller’s wishes.
Mortal featured the lineup from the Justice League animated series and included characters like Wally West, Aquaman, Talia al Ghul, and Maxwell Lord as the villain. The cast featured Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Anton Yelchin as the Flash, Common as Green Lantern, D.J. Cotrona as Superman, and Hugh Keays-Burne as Martian Manhunter. It even set up a sequel, where the League would have gone up against Starro the Conqueror. The movie had no cinematic universe built around it, but it was brimming with potential.
19. The Amazing Spider-Man 3
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was Sony’s overstuffed attempt at creating a cinematic universe, with teases to sequels and spinoffs that would never come to fruition. The third entry would have been equally bloated: rumored to feature every villain in the Sinister Six, a Venom story arc, the return of Chris Cooper’s Norman Osborn, the return of Peter’s father, and the return of Shailene Woodley’s Mary Jane (who was cut from TASM 2).
Story details are scarce, but it supposedly would have focused on Peter Parker’s blood again (seriously?), as he uses it to to revive his dead loved ones. Emma Stone was set to reappear as a clone of Gwen Stacy, and Dennis Leary was to return as Captain Stacy in some capacity.
18. Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max
Back in 2008, David S Goyer was at the helm of a Green Arrow movie. Surprising, right? Even before cinematic universes or the Arrow television series, the emerald archer was being prepared for a big-screen debut in a prison break thriller.
Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max would have seen Oliver Queen framed for a high profile crime and thrown into Super Max, a high-tech prison for DC supercriminals. The movie would see Ollie with only his wits about him, making tenuous alliances with his rogues gallery to break out. Super Max would feature tons of cameos by DC Universe villains, including the Joker, Lex Luthor, and the Riddler.
17. Superman Lives
This failed project has been well-documented, and continues to bewilder fans. Tim Burton almost created an adaptation of The Death of Superman, starring Nicholas Cage and featuring villains Doomsday, Braniac, and Lex Luthor. After several script rewrites, the project failed to make it off the ground and was instead shelved in favor of another canceled Superman film, Superman: Flyby.
Superman Lives flaunted Burton’s gothic style, and included some bizarre additions to the Superman mythos. Scripts had Lex Luthor and Braniac fusing into a cyborg called “Lexiac”, Clark wearing a living suit called “K” that would reconstruct his dead body, and even a plot point that would have Clark Kent’s soul enter Lois Lane’s body and impregnate her — with Clark Kent.
16. X-Men Origins: Magneto
Before Wolverine’s standalone trilogy, X-Men Origins: Magneto would have told the story of Erik Lehnsherr’s younger years, as he survived the reign of the Nazis and eventually hunted down those who tormented him and his family. This was developed alongside X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was produced quicker as it became the more profitable concept.
The project would have explored Erik’s early friendship with Charles Xavier, and his evolution into the titular Magneto. Apparently Sir Ian McKellen was to reprise his role, and the studio would use de-aging CGI to make him look younger.
This expensive process, as well as the 2008 Writer’s Guild Strike, likely led to the film’s time in development hell. Its premise was reworked and the project eventually evolved into X-Men: First Class.
15. Hellboy III
There are plenty of reasons why Hellboy III didn’t and won’t happen. While the first two movies were hits, they were still seen as cult films that didn’t have the mass appeal most studios were looking for. The franchise just barely predates the success of superhero cinematic universes, as well as the “acceptable” R-rated comic book films like Kingsman or Deadpool.
Director Guillermo del Toro seemed consistently busy with other movies, such as his brainchild Pacific Rim or his brief tenure on The Hobbit before Peter Jackson stepped in.
In the end, the finale to del Toro’s trilogy has been canned. Instead of another Ron Perlman-led sequel, a reboot entitled Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen has been green-lit starring David Harbour of the beloved Netflix series, Stranger Things.
14. The Sinister Six
Another bi-product of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Sinister Six was spinoff-sequel hybrid that would have been released before the third entry in the series. Little is known about the spinoff, and the best look anyone has ever gotten at the film is from an Easter egg.
A secret teaser was hidden in the credits of TASM 2. If moviegoers were to use the Shazam smartphone app during the film’s credits, they would be treated to an Alicia Keys song playing over quick glimpses of the villains featured in The Sinister Six project. Weird, yes, but original.
The imagery in the teaser is so hard to make out that the lineup is still unclear, but now that Spidey has merged with the MCU, it’s safe to say that the Amazing-verse is dead, along with The Sinister Six.
13. Batman Beyond
After the horrendous Joel Schumacher Batman films, Warner Bros. was looking for a way to recover the Bat’s rep. Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, two of the masterminds behind the DC animated universe, pitched a Batman Beyond movie to the company as way to reboot the franchise. Like their beloved cartoon of the same name, the film would have followed Terry McGinnis, a teen who teams up with an older Bruce Wayne to become the Batman of the future.
Dini, Burnett, and director Boaz Yakin finished a script for the film in the summer of 2001, but their reboot fell by the wayside. Yakin eventually left the project, and Warner Bros. opted to reboot the franchise years later with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005.
12. Tarantino’s Iron Man
Jon Favreau’s Iron Man is a genre game-changer, but audiences were lucky the movie was even made to begin with. Development of a live-action Iron Man dates back to as early as 1990, before the rights were even back at Marvel. The project was on hiatus for many years: its scripts were constantly rewritten, studios kept on selling the IP, and it passed through countless directors’ hands. One of those directors happened to be Quentin Tarantino.
When the rights to the character were over at Fox in 1999, Tarantino was approached to both write (technically rewrite) and direct an Iron Man film. Details are so scarce that the project likely didn’t go further than that, but how can we pass up the prospect of a profane. witty, likely R-rated Iron Man movie?
11. Tim Burton’s Catwoman
Before Tim Burton left the Batman franchise, he floated the idea of creating a Catwoman spinoff. Michelle Pffeifer would reprise her role as Selina Kyle and go on her own set of anti-heroic adventures in Burton’s Batman universe. Sadly, the finished script coincided with the release of the maligned Batman Forever, which sent the project into development hell for several years and robbed the world of a Burton-helmed Catwoman movie.
As time passed, Burton exited, Pffeifer dropped out, and the production slowly evolved into an action film that bore few similarities to the character it was based on. In 2001, news resurfaced about the spinoff, with Ashley Judd and Nicole Kidman in the running for the titular role. Eventually, Halle Berry was chosen to star and Catwoman was released in 2004 — and we all know how that turned out.
10. James Cameron’s Spider-Man
Once upon a time, James Cameron almost directed a Spider-Man movie. Before the Sam Raimi trilogy, a mid-90s Spidey project was in development that had multiple different scripts and even a treatment by Cameron himself.
It took many liberties with the character’s history, changing names, characterizations, and origin stories of both its hero and villains. One script had Arnold Schwarzenegger as Doc Ock, another had appearances from altered versions of Sandman and Electro, and at one point Leonardo DiCaprio was rumored to star.
9. Superman Flyby
When Superman Lives fell apart, a script by J.J. Abrams was put into production in 2002. Superman Flyby and would be a reboot for the character. and pass through many directors’ hands before it was canceled. New villains were created for the movie in the form of Kata-Zor and Ty-Zor, winners of the Kryptonian civil war and direct relatives to the man of steel.
The film was relatively far into production and was even in the middle of auditions before it was halted. Even back in 2002, Henry Cavil was one of many actors considered for the role, and he even performed a screen test with Flyby‘s prototype Superman suit.
8. Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One
Darren Aronofsky’s unfinished Batman film was far from traditional. With a script written by comic book legend Frank Miller, the film was to reboot Batman with major alterations to his mythology.
Bruce Wayne would be homeless instead of rich, never travel the world, and build a friendship with local auto-mechanic named “Al” who would supply the Batmobile. The Batcave would be an old subway tunnel, Catwoman would have been a dominatrix prostitute, and Commissioner Gordon would be a man on the edge of suicide. Even the Batsuit would look vastly different, being made of little more than a cape and a hockey mask before upgrading to something more recognizable.
7. Neil Gaiman And Guillermo del Toro’s Doctor Strange
Doesn’t this sound like the perfect combination? While 2016’s Doctor Strange turned out to be a perfectly fine Marvel movie, writer Neil Gaiman and director Guillermo del Toro excel at working fantasy and science fiction storytelling, so we can’t help but wonder what a Sorcerer Supreme movie might have looked like with their dark sensibilities.
This project wasn’t ever more than an enthusiastic pitch from the creators, but apparently Marvel wasn’t interested. Gaiman has been vocal about his enthusiasm for the idea on Twitter, but del Toro claims it was never more than a passing conversation between the two. This entry makes the list regardless, because come on — this sounds amazing. Hopefully the two visionaries will team up on something else in the future.
6. Peyton Reed’s Fantastic Four
Director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Ant-Man) once wanted to take Marvel’s favorite family in a more heartfelt direction. He was originally set to direct 2005’s Fantastic Four but sadly left the project due to creative differences. Reed originally wanted a family comedy instead of a paint-by-numbers superhero movie.
Reed’s version already had the team established as big time superheroes. The team would have been popular celebrities, but the plot would focus on the family dynamics between them in their private lives. It still would have been lighthearted and sci-fi, but more focused on the four as people with relationships, and not just freaks in tights.
Seeing as they’re the fab four of superheroes, screewnwriter Doug Petrie once referred to the project as the superhero equivalent to “A Hard Day’s Night” — a wonderful idea for a franchise that simply hasn’t taken off.
5. The Wachowskis’ Plastic Man
Despite his obscurity, Warner Bros saw potential in a Plastic Man movie way back in the ’90s. The original script was an over-the-top comedy written by the Wachowskis, and would feature several changes to the hero’s origin story. They changed his name, made his powers the result of a science experiment, and created villains and secondary characters specifically for the movie.
News about the project went silent for many years, until it resurfaced in 2008. The Wachowskis were still attached (now confident in CGI as shown in their Speed Racer adaptation), and Keanu Reeves was set to star as Plastic Man.
Back in 2011, reports surfaced about Warner Bros. hiring writers for a Hawkman film. As out-of-left-field as it sounds for 2011, a logline for the script did makes its way across the internet at the time. Described as “part INDIANA JONES/THE DA VINCI CODE, part GHOST”, the film would be an origin story for Carter Hall and likely feature Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman as his love interest.
No reports on the project have come out since, with Hawkman’s only live-action appearances being relegated to Smallville and the Arrowverse television shows The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.
3. Cannon Film’s Spider-Man
If James Cameron’s Spider-Man sounded weird, wait until you learn about this hot mess. In the ’80s, Marvel sold the character’s cinematic rights to Cannon Films, a studio famous for low-budget B-movies. They bought Spidey with little knowledge of the character and the intent to make a horror-inspired monster movie around him.
The first draft of the film made him a mutant experiment seeking revenge on his mad-scientist creator. Stan Lee eventually stepped in to overhaul the script, turning it into a typical Spidey vs. Doc Ock story, which didn’t stick as directors changed the project before dropping in and out. Despite the behind-the-scenes chaos, stuntman Scott Leva was apparently cast as Peter Parker, before the movie found itself in the hands of James Cameron.
2. Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman
Before Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman took the world by storm, a script by Joss Whedon was floating around at Warner Bros. in 2006, and was nearly considered for production.
While Jenkins’ take on Wonder Woman focused on Diana’s journey away from home as a hopeful and empowering hero, Whedon wanted to tell the story from the perspective of Steve Trevor. Needless to say, this may have meddled with the hero’s inherently feminist roots and message, which made Whedon the subject of major backlash when his script was leaked online earlier this year.
Despite some similarities to the final film, it did have quite a few differences that comic book fans would likely enjoy seeing in the future. It featured Spearhead and Strife as the villains, a battle with a giant robotic chimera-creature, and even the invisible jet.
1. The OTHER Batman Vs Superman
Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice released in 2016, but the concept had been waiting at Warner Bros. for many years prior. All the way back in 2002, Akiva Goldsman wrote a script for Batman vs Superman (note the “vs” instead of the “v” from Snyder’s film).
The premise remained mostly the same, though with a larger emphasis on the rivalry of the two. A retired Batman would be grieving the loss of his loved ones — Alfred, Dick, Gordon, basically everyone — while Superman would be dealing with his recent divorce with Lois Lane.
Similar to the movie we actually saw, Batman vs Superman would feature a convoluted scheme by Lex Luthor that got the two to fight (a plot involving the Joker and a made-up love interest for Bruce). In the end, the Bruce and Clark would set aside their differences and team up against the villainous Lex, as they do.
This was canceled when Warner Bros. decided to focus on solo films before superhero crossovers. Imagine that!
What canceled superhero movies did we miss? Are there any that you would like to have seen? Leave a comment down below!
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