Comic book fans are living in a golden age of film and television adaptations of their favorite stories and characters. It can almost bee too much to even keep up with at times.
However, for every comic property that makes it to the big screen, there are even more that never see the light of day. Even the superhero movies that do make an impact and go on to become classics have often had a lengthy development process, shifting through very different creative directions before finally making it to the screen.
Spider-Man, X-Men, and Iron Man, for example, had all been in development since the late 1980s. Directors like James Cameron, Stuart Gordon and Kathryn Bigelow had all been attached to these films at various points, as well as stars like Michael Biehn, Bob Hoskins and Tom Cruise.
Many, many movies have been announced at various points that, for whatever reasons, just never made it to completion. For the purposes of this list, we’ll be counting every live-action film adaptation in Marvel’s history, from the MCU to the X-Men franchise to as far back as the live-action Incredible Hulk spinoffs and beyond.
Here are the 15 Canceled Marvel Movies You Never Got To See.
Long before the MCU, even long before any big screen versions of Hulk in general, his cousin She-Hulk came very close to getting her own film. The adaptation was going to be directed by B-Movie legend Larry Cohen, famous for things such as Q: The Winged Serpent, Maniac Cop, God Told Me To and The Stuff.
If his name sounds out of place for a superhero film, just remember that three Spider-Man flicks were helmed by the director of The Evil Dead, not to mention Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange or Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing.
Cohen’s She-Hulk came so close to being a reality that Brigitte Neilsen, who was set to star as She-Hulk and her alter-ego Jennifer Walters, went as far as to appear in a promotional photo shoot as the character.
The film falling apart was even more disappointing considering that this was coming right on the heels of cancelled plans for a She-Hulk TV series, not to mention a scrapped idea for an Incredible Hulk TV movie that would have included the character.
14 The Incredible Hulk/Spider-Man Crossover TV Movie
Marvel’s first live action interpretations of their characters came about in the mid-to-late 1970s. Several characters were given their own TV movies and those that were successful wound up launching entire series.
Only Incredible Hulk had any kind of long-lasting success, with Spider-Man being the only other to even lead to a show. Even after Hulk ended, fans wanted to see more of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as Banner and Hulk, respectively.
Hulk began appearing in TV movies in the late 1980s that brought in other Marvel heroes for feature-length team-up efforts. Incredible Hulk Returns introduced Thor, while Trial of the Incredible Hulk brought in Daredevil.
It seemed natural to reintroduce Nicholas Hammond’s Spider-Man at that point, and the movie was not only planned, it would have been the first live-action appearance of the black costume, which Spider-Man was wearing in the comics at the time.
13 Power Pack
In 2000, Marvel entered a deal with Artisan Entertainment to turn 15 of their properties into live-action movies, TV series and direct-to-video projects. Power Pack was a part of this lineup, which is noteworthy as Marvel had been developing a live-action Power Pack TV series for some time.
They even went as far as to film the pilot for the show, which was intended to air Saturday mornings on NBC. Ultimately, the pilot wasn’t picked up and the show wasn’t heard from again until Marvel’s apparent plan to retool Power Pack into a feature film for Artisan.
While that never happened either, plans were announced as recently as last month to try once more to bring Power Pack to the big screen as part of the MCU. Only time will tell if this will prove to be the attempt that makes it.
12 The Silver Surfer
Interest in a Silver Surfer film began in 1991 when students approached Marvel for permission to use the character in a short film that would prove the effectiveness of CGI in creating a realistic silver human figure.
It apparently caught the company’s attention, as Seven screenwriting Andrew Kevin Walker turned in a script for The Silver Surfer in 2000. The character eventually made his big-screen debut in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. That movie ends with what looks like a clear attempt to set up the Surfer for his own spinoff.
That’s exactly what Fox and Marvel were planning on, immediately hiring comic scribe J. Michael Stracynski to write the script. He described his movie as a sequel, but also said that it would explore the Surfer’s origin. For reasons largely stemming from lack of box office and critical success of the Fantastic Four franchise, Fox’s solo Silver Surfer never materialized.
11 Iron Fist
After the release of X-Men in 2000, the floodgates opened in terms of the possibilities of bringing Marvel’s near-infinite array of heroes to the big screen. This was a kind of success they had never seen before. Iron Fist was part of the same deal as Power Pack.
Writer John Turman was hired to write the script, while Ray Park was hired to star as Danny Rand/Iron Fist. While Ray Park was mostly known as a stunt actor at the time, he had just seen some breakout success as Toad in X-Men and (especially) as Darth Maul in Star Wars –Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Kirk Wong was hired to direct in 2001, pre-production began around that same time, then Wong left and was replaced by Next Friday and Dr. Dolittle 2 director Steve Carr. Eventually, the delays piled up and the film never materialized and Iron Fist was later announced as part of the Netflix lineup of original series.
10 Blade 4
While X-Men kicked off the comic book movie boom, the company’s first big-screen hit was Blade. That paved the way for X-Men, which then paved the way for everything else.
Blade was based on a pretty obscure character at the time, familiar only to fans of Tomb of Dracula and kids who had seen Spider-Man: The Animated Series. But it quickly blossomed into a successful franchise. Blade Trinity was not nearly as big of a hit as the first two, though, which led to some question about where a sequel could go.
Initially, the plan for a third Blade would have shown Blade on his own in a world run by vampires. That did not carry over into a fourth film as the working relationship between Wesley Snipes and writer/director David Goyer completely dissolved on Trinity.
Instead of a fourth entry, fans got Blade: The Series instead. Snipes has confirmed recent talks with Marvel, though, and Kate Beckinsale even revealed that there have at least been discussions about a crossover with the Underworld franchise.
9 The Amazing Spider-Man 3
While a modest hit, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tried to take on too much by attempting to kickstart a shared universe almost entirely on its own. The feature devoted much of its running time to setting up both Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Sinister Six, neither of which ever wound up seeing the light of day.
At the time, Marc Webb hinted that the third film would see Norman Osborn return from apparent death as the Green Goblin. He even dropped hints that Kraven the Hunter might make his way into the movie as well.
It’s unclear exactly what the concrete plans for the third would have been, but most of them sound completely insane, including Spider-Man using his blood to attempt to revive the people in his life who had died. Cooper’s Green Goblin would definitely have taken center stage as the primary antagonist.
With both Paul Giamatti and Dane DeHaan saying they were returning as Rhino and Harry Osborn, it’s entirely possible the third movie would not have debuted a single new villain.
8 Werewolf by Night
In 2004, Marvel made a deal for some of its more horror-centric characters to be brought to life as Sci-Fi Channel original films. The first (and last) of these was Man-Thing.
Its immediate follow-up was meant to be Werewolf by Night, based on the comic of the same name about a man named Jack Russell who is cursed from birth to become a werewolf. Chocolat scribe Robert Nelson Jacobs turned in a draft for a possible big-budget version, but nothing ever came of it.
Man-Thing scribe Hans Rodionoff penned the initial script for Werewolf by Night. Even though it was rewritten by Jacobs, Rodionoff claimed in an interview in Fangoria #242 that his script was 90% intact.
It’s unclear exactly what stopped Werewolf by Night from becoming a reality or if fans will ever see the character get the live action treatment.
7 Daredevil 2
Despite lukewarm reception, Daredevil definitely set itself up for a sequel. With Kingpin finding out Daredevil’s secret identity at the end of the movie, promising that he would return, writer/director Mark Steven Johnson was attempting to set up an adaptation of the “Born Again” story which is widely considered to be the best Daredevil story ever told.
Michael Clarke Duncan expressed interest in returning as the Kingpin in the sequel. It was even rumored that the villain Mr. Fear would make an appearance as well.
Eventually, the studio lost interest in a sequel, especially after the spinoff film Elektra performed so poorly.
This led to a number of attempts to reboot Daredevil, with Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night director David Slade eventually coming in to helm the project, which never got off the ground. Things ultimately worked out for the best, as fans were finally treated to Netflix’s Daredevil original series.
6 The Incredible Hulk 2
It’s worth noting that both of Hulk’s big-screen solo movies tried and failed to spawn sequels. The sequel to the 2008 movie is more noteworthy, though, as it’s one of the rare cancelled MCU projects.
The feature definitely set itself up for a follow-up as fans can see Samuel Sterns beginning his transformation into The Leader after an encounter with Hulk’s blood in his lab. Tim Blake Nelson did indeed sign on to return as Sterns/The Leader in a possible sequel, but it simply never materialized.
Although Incredible Hulk is still considered a key part of MCU canon, the recasting of the lead actor led to concepts for a stylistically different sequel, possibly taking on the Planet Hulk arc.
Reasons largely stemming from Universal’s co-ownership of the character have prevented any kind of attempt at further solo Hulk sequels, so fans will get to see elements of Planet Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok instead.
5 The Sinister Six
While a head-scratching concept to begin with, if done right, Sinister Six could have been a much more enticing project than the proposed Amazing Spider-Man 3.
While it’s almost cringe-worthy to think about a movie about Spider-Man villains without Spider-Man in it, there are a wealth of superhero features out there and the idea of doing a super villain team-up movie would have at least been different. The talented Drew Goddard at the helm wouldn’t have hurt, either.
Sinister Six was proposed as a kind of heist movie, with these very different villains coming together and being forced to work together despite their clashing personalities. Marc Webb revealed that Chris Cooper’s Norman Osborn would have been resurrected to step in and lead the ensemble. When Spider-Man joined the MCU, the project was canned.
4 Fantastic Four 3
Although Fox’s first two attempts at Fantastic Four are not the most beloved, they’ve gained some fans after the even worse 2015 reboot. Tim Story would have returned for a third time to direct the feature, which would have once again seen Julian McMahon return as Victor von Doom.
Jessica Alba also expressed an interest in introducing Reed and Sue’s son, Franklin Richards. Michael Chiklis also said that Ben’s relationship with Alicia Masters would have seen greater focus.
Perhaps most interestingly, Story said that the third movie would have seen the first live action incarnation of Black Panther, who he said would have ideally been played by Djimon Hounsou.
Had the film happened, Marvel would not have retained rights to the character, likely making Black Panther’s MCU appearances and upcoming solo film an impossibility.
3 Spider-Man 4
While Spider-Man 3 was not a huge success with critics or fans, it is still the highest grossing Spider-Man movie to date, so a reboot was not immediately planned.
Instead, Sony tried to bring back Sam Raimi to work on a fourth movie, but it just didn’t happen. A script was written, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were both set to reprise their roles. John Malkovich was cast as The Vulture with Anne Hathaway as Felicia Hardy, who would become the Vulturess instead of Black Cat.
Sam Raimi amicably parted ways with Sony when it became clear that he would not be able to meet the deadline with a film he was happy with, so he walked away and the studio pushed The Amazing Spider-Man (a reboot script they had already commissioned) into production.
2 X-Men Origins: Magneto
With Fox believing they had truly ended the main X-Men series with The Last Stand, the plan was for X-Men Origins to kick off a series of solo origin stories, obviously beginning with Wolverine.
Somewhat puzzlingly, the next character after Wolverine was to be Magneto. David Goyer was hired to write the script, which would see a younger Magneto hunting down Nazis before eventually meeting Charles Xavier.
It was tough to tell the origin story of Magneto without bringing in Xavier and, at that point, eventually telling the origin of the X-Men in general.
Because of that, the project was cancelled and evolved somewhat organically into X-Men: First Class, in which Magneto’s journey is front and center and many of those Nazi-hunting plot elements are clearly intact. Goyer’s vision for the project was very different, though, and much darker.
In some ways the only outright cancelled movie in the MCU to date, the cancellation of Inhumans remains a big deal. It was announced as part of Marvel’s upcoming slate when they revealed all of their release dates through 2020.
Out of all those titles it is still the only one to be completely removed from the schedule. Originally planned for November of 2018, it was pushed back to 2019 when Spider-Man joined the MCU. Later, it was removed entirely.
Apparently, Marvel eventually decided it would be better suited as a television series rather than trying to fit it in among their already packed release schedule. Taking into account that Inhumans had already been introduced on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it made perfect sense.
Unfortunately, Inhumans is one of the worst-reviewed things Marvel has released in decades, with the show apparently being cancelled before the end of its first season.
Are you disappointed that these Marvel movies never got made? Let us know in the comments!