With the release of the latest version of Hellboy this week, we take a look at where the three films rank from worst to best. Mike Mignola's half-demon hero Hellboy has been a comic book staple since 1993, becoming the unofficial mascot of Dark Horse Comics as well as ranking as one of the genre's most beloved characters of the past three decades. The sardonic demon on the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) has appeared in numerous comic books, straight-to-DVD animations, video games, and crossovers, winning over countless fans with Mignola's blend of pulp horror, Lovecraft, black humor, and 1930s action-adventure serials. But for general audiences, Hellboy is probably still best known for his appearances on film.
Over the past fifteen years, audiences have been given three Hellboy movies. The first two are within the same continuity and both directed by Guillermo del Toro, ended without del Toro being allowed to make his 3rd movie, while the most recent iteration is an attempt to reboot the franchise with a new lead, new characters, and a more adult-oriented tone and R-rating, directed by Neill Marshall. But how do they all rank against one another? While the Hellboy films haven’t had the same cultural impact as some of their predecessors or influenced those in their wake in the same way Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton did with their takes on Batman, they still represent a big step forward for auteur-driven superhero cinema.
The newest Hellboy movie starring David Harbour as Hellboy was reportedly subject to major behind the scenes issues and is expected to mark a Hellboy franchise low at the box office. But where does it fall among the best or worst of the franchise? We’re ranking the three big-screen Hellboy movies from worst to best. Whether you degree or disagree with our ranking, let us know in the comments what Hellboy film is your favorite and which one should be sent to the fiery pits of the underworld.
- This Page: Hellboy (2019)
- Page 2: Ranking the del Toro Hellboy Movies
3. Hellboy (2019)
The latest iteration of Hellboy, directed by The Descent’s Neil Marshall, as of the writing of this piece has a low 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The number isn't all that surprising given how long the studio held out on lifting the review embargo for it, but it's still one hell of a stumble for a movie that fans had, at the very least, solid expectations for. While the film itself isn't the catastrophic train-wreck that number would suggest, it is still by far and away the weakest of the Hellboy movies.
What this Hellboy has going on in its favor is a game cast, many of whom are sturdy character actors and genre regulars who know a thing or two about elevating middling material to the level of watchable. Ian McShane is exactly the sort of father figure you want slinging F-bombs at you, while Milla Jovovich is obviously having the time of her life as an evil witch. David Harbour of Stranger Things fame certainly has the physicality and sardonic line delivery to be a great Hellboy, but he’s clearly struggling under some odd make-up changes and isn’t given a fleshed out character arc to work with.
Indeed, there’s something oddly incomplete about the entire film, with big chunks of story feeling left out on the cutting-room floor and character developments that jump from A to Z in a flash. Harbour has talked about aspects of the character, like how Hellboy can't have a sexual relationship with a human, but the weight of the concept is entirely absent from the final product, and it lacks the emotional resonance of the previous other films, which were savvy enough to put the heart of the narrative front and center with these creatures, human or otherwise.
The Hellboy reboot is R-rated, which is mostly evident through an increased amount of bloodshed and swearing, but it adds nothing to the story and feels like a kid playing dress-up with dark toys. Some of the jokes land but Hellboy himself cannot help but feel soulless when all Harbour is given to do is fire off one-liners in place of a personality. It’s impossible not to compare the film to the del Toro duology, especially when those films are so alive with style and achingly detailed visuals and this film has some seriously shoddy effects and a lot of bloodshed instead of true world-building. One can’t help but get the feeling this Hellboy wants to be more like Deadpool than its source material, but even Deadpool knew you need something more than profanity and pop culture gags. It’s not a worthless viewing experience, but Hellboy seems like a film nobody had any fun making (and going by some of the rumors that have emerged about the production, it seems as though that may have been the case).
Page 2 of 2: Ranking the del Toro Hellboy Movies