25 Forgettable '90s Superhero Movies Only Superfans Remember

The '90s was a difficult time for superhero movies.

Back then, big studios were desperate to cash-in on the appeal of the comic book heroes that kids and adults alike adored. Big name characters on both sides of the Marvel and DC Comics divide became hot property.

In some cases, like Batman, the results proved mixed, to say the least. In other instances, like Spider-Man, fans never got to see the results, with James Cameron among the big names to try and fail to get a movie starring the web-slinger off the ground.

The clamor was intense, with pretty much any and all notable characters considered for their own big screen adventure. So much so, in fact, that pretty soon any old superhero was getting a shot at the big time.

Sometimes they came from the pages of a lesser-known comic book like The Mask and went on to surpass their source material for sheer success.

Most of the time, however, these movies sank without a trace.

A select few are well worth revisiting, of course. Hidden gems lost in the sands of time. However, a lot of them are also pretty garbage.

For a wide variety of reasons, these movies have been lost in the shuffle... until now. Standing in stark contrast to the glut of perfectly polished Marvel movies arriving in cinemas today, these movies represent the roughest of diamonds.

From Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel to Mark Hamill’s often overlooked turn in The Guyver, here are the 25 Forgettable ’90s Movies Only Superfans Remember.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

The Troma cult classic kabukiman.
Start Now

25 Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

The Troma cult classic kabukiman.

This crazy superhero comedy was the result of a one-off collaboration between independent horror specialists Troma Entertainment and Japanese gaming giant Namco, who stumped up $1.5 million of the film’s budget off the back of the success of The Toxic Avenger in Japan.

However, while Namco envisioned a family-friendly Kabuki-themed superhero movie, Kaufman saw otherwise and set about injecting Troma’s familiar mix of over-the-top action and nudity into proceedings.

The result was Sgt. Kabukiman, a movie telling the story of NYPD detective Harry Griswold, who is bestowed with special powers after being caught in the cross-fire of an attack on a local Kabuki theatre.

In the ensuing firefight, a mortally wounded Kabuki master accidentally passes the ancient spirit of the Kabukiman to Griswold. He is soon transformed into Sergeant Kabukiman, an altogether different kind of superhero. 

Boasting unusual array of weapons rather than any specific powers, Kabukiman’s impressive arsenal includes heat-seeking chopsticks, poison sushi, and pyro projectile parasols.

The movie itself is a heady mix of gory violence, over-the-top action, and slapstick comedy.

All of which didn’t exactly sit well with Namco’s vision for the film, of course, and resulted in PG-13 and R-rated versions of the movie being cut.

24 The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer was writer and artist Dave Stevens’ homage to the popular Saturday matinee superheroes of the 1930s and 1940s and quickly garnered a following after debuting on the pages of Pacific Comics in 1982.

When Disney got on board in 1986, superhero movies weren't the bankable cinematic properties they are today.

That really wouldn't happen until Tim Burton’s Batman arrived in 1989. As a result, The Rocketeer went through various changes, leaving the project in development hell until the early '90s.

While Stevens and writers Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo wanted to make an adult-orientated tale set in the 1930s, Disney felt the film should be set in contemporary times and be as family friendly as possible, with a view to creating a line of toys.

A compromise was reached whereby the 1930s setting, complete with Nazis, gangsters, and Hollywood glamour, remained, albeit with a softer family tone.

There were similar disagreements about who would play the Rocketeer; Disney wanted to Johnny Depp while Stevens and director Joe Johnston preferred Billy Campbell.

The latter eventually won through, while Jennifer Connolly and then-James Bond actor Timothy Dalton were also cast in what remains an enjoyable, if somewhat lightweight, superhero romp.

Disney's soft approach to the movie didn't pay off at the box office though-- The Rocketeer was left trailing in the wake of Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that summer.

23 Spawn

Spawn Movie

This big screen adaptation of the Todd McFarlane's iconic '90s comic book series was the first major superhero movie to center on an African American character.

Action movie specialist Michael Jai White stars as Al Simmons, a former government assassin who is betrayed and destroyed only to be resurrected as Spawn, the intended leader of Hell’s army.

White went through up to four hours of make-up every day to transform into Spawn, including a fully glued-on bodysuit, painful contact lenses and a mask that restricted his breathing. It really wasn’t worth the effort.

Though Spawn was a modest box office hit with takings of $87.8 million off the back of a budget of $40 million, it attracted largely negative reviews.

Part of the responsibility for that rests on the movie's director Mark A.Z. Dippé. As an established visual effect whizz in Hollywood, best known for his work on Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park, Dippé was seen as the ideal choice to bring the distinctive style of McFarlane’s drawing to screen.

Spawn boasts plenty of striking visuals, with John Leguizamo’s transformation into the obese clown demon "The Violator" being a major triumph.

The movie is ultimately are let down by a weak script though and some odd acting choices, including Martin Sheen’s hammy take on the comic book’s signature villain Jason Wynn.

22 Dr. Giggles

Dr Giggles is based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name.

Dark Horse Comics made its first foray into the world of film with the cult horror comedy Dr. Giggles.

With the popularity of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees on the wane, Dr. Giggles seemed like the perfect dark-humored anti-hero to help usher in a new era for slasher movie fans.

Dr. Giggles was written and directed by Manny Coto, who would go on to serve as showrunner on both 24 and Dexter.

It stars the late character actor Larry Drake as the titular madman, who embarks on a bloody rampage across a small town after escaping from a mental asylum. He soon takes a shine to Jennifer Campbell, a teenage girl with a heart condition played by Charmed's Holly Marie Combs.

Full of dark humor and gruesome imagery, Coto actually had to cut down much of the movie's more extreme content to even get an R-rating. It didn’t help the movie score big at the box office, though, with many reviews oblivious to the film’s intentionally dark comedic tones.

Dr. Giggles may have been brandishing his own bizarre form of medical 'treatment' on the screen but, much as with Freddy Krueger, fans were supposed to be cheering on his every slice and dice.

Released in October 1992, Dr. Giggles made more than $8 million at the box office but has been largely overlooked ever since.

21 The Meteor Man

Meteor Man Movie Scene

The Meteor Man was way ahead of its time. Written, starring, and directed by Robert Townsend, whose work regularly engages in issues surrounding race, it attempted to address some of the concerns facing African Americans at the time, albeit in a clunky more comedic, way.

Townsend plays mild-mannered Washington D.C. school teacher Jefferson Reed. Jefferson teaches in a neighborhood terrorized by a local gang.

He ends up being struck by a stray piece of meteorite after attempting to rescue a woman being harassed and awakes to discover that the accident has given him a string of special abilities.

Jefferson can now fly, has x-ray laser vision, super strength, lightning fast speed, super hearing, super breath, telekinesis, healing powers and the ability to absorb a book’s entire contents just by touching it. He can also communicate with dogs.

It doesn’t take long before the newly-christened Meteor Man sets about cleaning up the streets. Substance houses are shut down, robberies are prevented, and he even gets the Crips and Bloods to work together on rebuilding the community.

As a disjointed mishmash of comedy and social commentary, The Meteor Man does boast a formidable ensemble cast including James Earl Jones, Sinbad, Maria Gibbs, Don Cheadle, Eddie Griffin and, bizarrely, Bill Cosby as a mute vagrant.

As something of a cult classic, it's still a fun, if slightly flawed, effort.

20 Blankman

Damon Wayans in Blankman 1994

Damon Wayans brought his distinctive brand of humor to the superhero genre with the 1994 spoof effort Blankman.

Lambasted by critics and audiences on initial release, the movie has since enjoyed a second life on video and TV.

It’s not without its charms either, with Wayans proving a likable lead as Darryl Walker, the absented minded professor and avid Batman fan who decides to fight crime in his neighborhood after his grandmother's life is taken.

Blankman’s other big asset is his fantastical array of home-made gadgets that include bulletproof clothing and a talking robot sidekick called J5.

Soon enough, Blankman is doing battle with the man behind his grandmother’s passing, the cartoonish mobster Michael 'The Suit' Minelli (Jon Polito).

Intended, in part, as a takedown of tabloid news shows like Hard Copy and Inside Edition, the film eventually sees Darryl strike up a romance with Robin Givens’ television anchor Kimberley Jonz.

Too many of the movie's gags miss the mark, though, with Wayans adopting a quickfire approach to comedy that means plenty of jokes, but a select few hitting the mark but most sailing miserably wide.

Blankman is notable for featuring the feature film debut of Greg Kinnear, though, who plays the part of 'Talk Show Host' in the movie.

19 Doctor Mordrid

Jeffrey Combs in Doctor Mordrid.

The Marvel movie that never was. Doctor Mordrid actually started out as an intended big screen adaptation of Dr. Strange. Director and producer Charles Band had actually purchased an option to make a Dr. Strange movie, but it had expired before production could begin.

Rather than scrap the project entirely, Band had the script rewritten to include original characters that were similar but not the same as the ones from Dr. Strange.

Using some of the initial concept art created by Jack Kirby the result was Doctor Mordrid. Produced by Full Moon, who had made their name with the Demonic Toys horror franchise and several more adult titles, the studio recruited Re-Animator star Jeffrey Combs to play the part of Doctor Anton Mordrid.

He's a wizard who spends his days alongside his trusted pet raven Edgar Allan, studying criminal psychology and the dark arts of the occult.

However, when friend-turned-arch-nemesis Kabal (Brian Thompson) returns to Earth with a plan to enslave humanity, he’s forced into action.

Teaming up with neighbor, police consultant and love interest Sam (Yvette Nipar) the pair do battle with Kabal, culminating in a museum-based showdown involving reanimated dinosaur skeletons (it sounds better than it looks).

Though the effects haven’t aged well and, at 74 minutes, the movie is a little on the short-side, it remains an enjoyably simplistic superhero effort.

18 Black Scorpion

Black Scorpion

Black Scorpion was produced by Roger Corman for Showtime and has all the hallmarks of a film made by the low budget cult movie legend.

The presence of model-turned-actress Joan Severance in the title role is an indication of that. Taking inspiration from the campy, exaggerated tone of the Adam West Batman series of the 1960s, Black Scorpion is also full of scene-chewing acting and exaggerated performances-- all created for comic effect, of course.

The story centers on Darcy Walker, a police detective by day who spends her nights fighting crime disguised as the superhero vigilante Black Scorpion.

Like Batman, she doesn’t have any special power per se, instead relying on her fighting skills, strength, agility and a variety of crime-fighting gadgets including her own specially equipped car.

Originally conceived by Corman as a female superhero vehicle to counter the glut of male-led movies arriving in the '90s, Black Scorpion’s costume, which features a black bustier, thigh-high boots with steel spikes, a mask, and little else undermined that notion.

Severance’s notoriously wooden performance didn’t go down well with critics either though the movie is largely regarded as a harmlessly silly Batman rip-off and did spawn a sequel.

Black Scorpion II was released in 1997 and was followed by a short-lived TV series in 2001. By then, the creators had seen sense, replacing Severance with Michelle Lintel in the lead role.

17 Blade

Wesley Snipes as Blade in Blade

New Line Cinema had been considering a lighter, more comedic, adaptation of the Marvel Comics favorite until writer David S. Goyer got involved in the project.

From the off, Goyer saw Wesley Snipes as the ideal actor to play the brooding vampire hunter on the big screen, despite the studio previously putting Denzel Washington and Laurence Fishburne forward as viable candidates.

Snipes had spent several years trying to get an adaptation of Black Panther off the ground to no avail, so was only too happy to take on the role of Blade. The result was a movie far too often overlooked in discussions concerning the best comic book movies of all-time.

Undoubtedly a product of its time, as the opening vampire techno rave highlights, Blade nevertheless paved the way for many of the superhero movies that were to follow.

Fox, for example, only pushed forward with their plans for the X-Men after seeing the success Blade enjoyed.

Ably supported by a cast featuring Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, Donal Logue and Udo Kier, Blade also benefitted from the distinctive style of director Stephen Norrington.

As a special effects whizz who had proven himself a dab hand with science fiction infused visuals in his previous movie Death Machine, he would go on to suffer the ignominy of helming the disastrous movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

He hasn't directed a movie since.

16 Star Kid

The superhero movie Star Kid.

Star Kid seemingly served as a superhero vehicle for Joseph Mazzello, the child-turned-teen star best known for his roles in Jurassic Park and The River Wild, at the time.

Mazzello plays shy seventh-grader Spencer Griffith, whose life changes after a mysterious meteorite crashes in a local junkyard.

Eager to explore the crash site, Spencer discovers the meteor is actually a small spaceship carrying an exoskeletal-suit with artificial intelligence capabilities.

Bonding with the AI, who he dubs Cy, Spencer soon dons the suit to become Star Kid. Soon enough he’s tackling the bullies that once made his life hell, rescuing his crush from danger and engaging in any number of amusing escapades.

Things take a turn for the serious, however, when a member of an alien insectoid race known as the Broodwarriors arrives on Earth, looking for trouble.

Suddenly, Star Kid has a fight on his hands and it’s going to take more than a super-powered exoskeleton to win through this time.

Coming off as an odd mix of Iron Man and E.T., Star Kid bombed at the box office, making back just over half its initial £12 million budget, despite the movie's positive message to young kids and family-friendly tone.

15 The Shadow

The Shadow Movie with Alec Baldwin

Creating a movie based on the character that served as the inspiration for Bob Kane’s Batman should have been a relatively straightforward process.

However, if there’s one thing 1994’s The Shadow definitely isn’t, it’s straightforward. Directing by Russell Mulcahy, who made his name on the equally baffling Highlander, The Shadow is certainly an impressive visual spectacle.

Based on the crime-fighting series that spawned countless movies, pulp novels and even a radio show from the 1930s onwards, the movie saw Alec Baldwin step into the titular role, where he fares well, it must be said.

Baldwin is Lamont Cranston, a New York playboy turned dangerous opium dealer who is captured and converted to become a crime fighter by Tibetan monks.

He’s taught the power to manipulate others with his mind and returns to the Big Apple to clean house.

Little does he realize but his old nemesis, Shiwan Khan is also in town. A direct descendant of Genghis Khan and fellow mind manipulator, Shiwan has a cunning plan to build an atomic bomb and somehow use it to take over the world.

As a striking if flawed movie full of interesting ideas, The Shadow boasts a first-rate supporting cast that includes Penelope Ann Miller, Ian McKellen, and Tim Curry.

It’s also pretty muddled in terms of the plot though, while John Lone adds little as Shiwan Khan.

14 Barb Wire

Pamela Anderson in Barb Wire

Arguably the strangest remake of all-time, this Dark Horse adaptation starring Pamela Anderson borrows its plotline, almost wholesale, from Casablanca, for reasons unknown.

Set during the imaginary Second American Civil War of 2017, Anderson’s Barb Wire is a nightclub owner and all-around renegade, fighting the good fight in a world full of Mad Max-style sleazoids.

Things get a little tricky Barb when he ex-lover Axel Hood turns up on the scene alongside his new fugitive wife Corrina Devonshire.

Director David Hogan lets the camera linger on Anderson’s physique a little too much throughout Barb Wire, which was supposed to mark the first of several movies starring the Baywatch icon.

Alas, this effort was so poorly received that Anderson never fronted a big budget movie again. It’s not difficult to see why. The painful truth is that she is too lightweight to anchor a big budget movie and this was the film where fans realized it once and for all.

Every line, every look, and every moment on the screen is devoid of feeling or intent.

This is a shame too, when you consider how much fun everyone else seems to be having their respective roles.

As a silly and highly camp sci-fi affair, Barb Wire still falls firmly into the category of so bad it is good.

13 The Fantastic Four

The story behind Roger Corman’s virtually unknown 1994 movie version of The Fantastic Four is as interesting as the movie itself.

Never released theatrically, Stan Lee once claimed that the only reason the low budget movie was made in the first place was that executive producer Bernd Eichinger wanted to retain the rights.

In making the movie on a shoestring budget, the theory goes that they were able to keep them with a view to making a bigger budget version later down the line.

Eichinger and Corman have always denied this though. An alternative theory suggests that Avid Arad, who was a lower level Marvel executive at the time, purchased the rights to the movie because he didn’t want Marvel to be associated with a low-budget production and subsequently had it buried from the public eye.

It’s since popped up on YouTube and Dailymotion though and, while undoubtedly rough around the edges, may actually be the best Fantastic Four movie to date.

This says as much about the three movies that have followed.

If you can get past the low-fi effects and sets, the film itself is a silly but enjoyable watch. The largely unknown actors behind The Fantastic Four, meanwhile, do an excellent job with limited material.

It’s just a shame that no one really got to see it.

12 Captain America

When Menahem Golan left low budget movie specialists Cannon Films in 1989, he negotiated a severance deal that gave him the film rights to Captain America.

Cannon had been working on a couple of Marvel films at the time, including Spider-Man, but had so far failed to get a single project off the ground. Golan would have more luck in sole charge of the 21st Century Film Corporation.

Based on a script previously put together for Cannon by Stephen Tolkin, Golan recruited Cannon filmmaker Albert Pyun to direct while Matt Salinger was cast as Steve Rogers.

The son of author J.D. Salinger, Matt landed the part after Val Kilmer turned down the chance to join the low budget project.

Initially set in the 1940s, the movie saw Captain America go up against a revamped version of classic villain the Red Skull.

Subsequently frozen in the ice for several decades, Cap is then thawed out in the present day to protect the President of the United States from a crime family opposed to his environmental policies.

Shelved for nearly two years, despite earning a positive review from Stan Lee, Captain America was eventually released straight-to-video in the US in 1992 and has been largely ignored as a sloppy, low budget oddity ever since.

It’s still worth seeing at least once, though.

11 The Guyver

The Guyver Dark Hero

Based on the Japanese Manga character of the same name, The Guyver told the story of Sean Barker (Jack Armstrong) a young man who discovers a mechanical device called 'The Unit' that is capable of merging with his body to turn him into a super-charged cyborg hero.

He’s ably supported by CIA Agent Max Reed, played by Mark Hamill, who is trying to stop the suit from getting into the hands of a sinister corporation called Chronos.

It soon becomes clear to Barker, Reed and Barker’s girlfriend Mizki Segawa (Vivian Wu) that Chronos’s intentions are not good.

They want the suit as part of a scheme to genetically engineer monsters capable of terrifying the world. Worse still, the shadowy figures behind Chronos may not actually be human themselves.

Though the creature effects in the film have stood the test of time, Armstrong’s weak central performance has not, while the insistence on injecting humor throughout the movie doesn’t quite work because the quips and one-liners really aren’t up to standard.

Hamill gives it his all though with his over-the-top performance making this a worthwhile watch for any Star Wars fans out there.

It’s just a shame that so much of the movie is pretty bland and forgettable by comparison.

10 Orgazmo

Trey Parker in Orgazmo.

Something of a precursor to their Broadway hit The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone had originally intended Orgazmo to be a musical. Made just before they hit the big time with South Park, the film was intended to have more in common with their previous effort Cannibal! The Musical.

However, when pitching the idea to prospective investors, the pair quickly realized the story was unusual enough without the addition of songs throughout. They aren’t wrong either.

Orgazmo tells the story of Joe Young (Parker) a naïve young Mormon who ends up being recruited to act in the adult movie industry.

He soon becomes dismayed by the dark dealings going on behind the scenes, however, and decides to take his on-screen adult-themed superhero character into the real world to clean things up.

Featuring cameos from several notable adult performers including Ron Jeremy, the film is an amusingly childish cacophony of fart and sex gags.

Though it’s less polished than the duo’s sports spoof comedy Basketball, Orgazmo takes a lot more risks.

It’s a funny movie too, even if plot-wise it’s all over the place with scattergun gags aimed squarely at Hollywood, the superhero genre and, of course, adult movies.

9 Tank Girl

The movie poster for Tank Girl

Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl surely ranks as one of the most distinctive yet cruelly overlooked superhero movies of the 1990s.

A vibrant, eye-catching adaptation of the popular British comic book character that first debuted in 1988, Talalay first took an interest in the property after her stepdaughter passed her an issue while she was shooting her directorial debut Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.

Having acquired the rights, Talalay then rebuffed an offer from Disney to make the movie, opting to go with MGM who promised to keep the comic’s adult themes intact.

Lori Petty was handpicked for the role, with Talalay convinced she embodied the character best in her own chaotic private life. Malcolm McDowell was also cast as the movie's main villain while Iggy Pop featured in a cameo role.

Coming off like a hip version of Mad Max, the movie follows the adventures of Petty’s Tank Girl, one of only a few survivors on a dystopian Earth fighting a mega-corporation that controls much of the planet’s remaining water supply.

A superhero movie for the counter-culture generation, Talalay’s hyper approach to the source material makes for a striking, if occasionally chaotic experience, though it should be stressed that the movie went through significant cuts.

As another box office dud, Tank Girl has undergone critical reappraisal since. It’s still regarded as a crazy movie by most accounts but one worth seeking out.

8 Darkman

Darkman - Best Non-Marvel & DC Superheroes

When Sam Raimi was unable to secure the rights to either Batman or The Shadow in the early 90s, he decided to do something bold: create a superhero of his own.

The result was Darkman, which was based on a short story Raimi had written that paid tribute to the Universal horror icons of the 1930s.

Raimi had originally wanted his old Evil Dead buddy Bruce Campbell to star in the film but Universal Studios wanted a bigger name and Liam Neeson was brought in to star. It proved a shrewd move.

Neeson shines as Peyton Westlake, a scientist working on a new type of synthetic skin for burn victims but struggling to get it past a flaw that causes the skin to disintegrated after 99 minutes of use.

Just as he makes a breakthrough in his research, however, he is attacked and presumed deseased.

Westlake, miraculously, survives but is left disfigured beyond recognition. After pioneering treatment leaves him with enhanced strength and immune to physical pain he sets out to exact revenge on the people that burned him alive.

Featuring Frances McDormand as Westlake’s girlfriend Julie Hastings, Darkman was well received by critics and a modest box office hit.

It also spawned two straight-to-video sequels and, more significantly, served as a test run for Raimi, who would later return to the genre with Spider-Man.

7 The Phantom

billy zane phantom superhero actors never sequel

A movie version of Lee Falk’s famous comic-strip, The Phantom, had been in the offing for some time prior to the release of this 1996 effort starring Billy Zane.

Sergio Leone was the first to show an interest, going as far as writing a script and even scouting locations for the movie. The movie never materialized, though.

Gremlins director Joe Dante was the next to show an interest, having developed a tongue-in-cheek take on the character as part of a script written with Jeffrey Boam in the early '90s.

The movie came within weeks of starting production too, only for studio bosses to pull the plug at the last minute. When it restarted, Dante was unavailable and Free Willy director Simon Wincer was drafted in his place.

Speaking to Den Of Geek, Dante later criticised the finished movie for failing to nail the tone of their original script.

"Nobody seemed to notice it was written to be funny, so it was – disastrously - played straight," he said.

The Phantom tells the story of a painfully white descendant of a line of African superheroes, who travel to New York to stop a wealthy criminal genius from obtaining some magical skulls.

Coming off like a so-bad-its-good version of Indiana Jones, Zane gives it his all as The Phantom but it’s Treat Williams who steals the show as over-the-top villain Xander Drax.

6 Nick Fury: Agent of Shield

David Hasselhoff Agents of SHIELD

Long before Samuel L. Jackson made the role of Nick Fury his own, David Hasselhoff had a crack at bringing the Marvel character to life, with unintentionally hilarious results.

Made in the wake of the similarly disastrous Baywatch Nights spin-off, Nick Fury: Agent of Shield was originally intended as a feature-length episode of a TV series centered on the character.

Also featuring one of the future stars of The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills, Lisa Rinna, the film has become something of a guilty pleasure thanks among fans thanks to some shoddy special effects and the presence of The Hoff.

It must be noted that Hasselhoff actually makes a pretty good Nick Fury, at one point unleashing the quip: "Guys like you tend to cling to the bowl no matter how many times you flush."

He even claimed to Yahoo that Stan Lee once told him he was the "ultimate Nick Fury" adding that it was "the greatest compliment ever."

It’s unclear whether Lee has seen the resulting movie, though he is thought to have served as a consultant on the character.

The movie is also notable for being written by Blade and Batman Begins scribe David S. Goyer who has all but disowned the film since. Definitely one for the hardcore Marvel fans.

5 Steel

Shaquille O'Neal in Steel

One of the cheesiest superhero movies of the 1990s, Steel biggest flaw is its lead actor, Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was at the peak of his powers when he was approached to star in this adaptation of the DC Comics character.

He’d enjoyed some moderate success starring alongside Nick Nolte in the William Friedkin basketball drama Blue Chips a couple of years prior. But that was a basketball movie.

The first indication Shaq wasn’t cut out for the movie business would come with 1996 family comedy Kazaam, in which he took on the role of a magical genie. That was nothing compared to Steel, though.

The movie sees O’Neal take on the role of John Henry Irons, a weapons designer who teams up with paralyzed co-worker Susan Sparks (Annabeth Gish) to construct a special suit of armor to fight crime.

Steel is born and he’s about to face his biggest challenge yet: Judd Nelson. Playing the part of crazed rival arms manufacturer Nathaniel Burke, Nelson has an absolute blast and there’s a lot to like about this film.

Written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, the creator of V, The Bionic Woman and the Incredible Hulk TV series, it’s an enjoyable enough adventure.

However, Shaq is no leading man and Johnson knew it. “He's not an actor,” he told Vice, years later. "Yes, he was a big persona and a great role model for kids and all that, but he's no movie star." He isn’t wrong.

4 Generation X

Generation X movie

The 90s was a strange time for Marvel. Keen to expand into the world of TV and film, they explored a wealth of new projects, most of which fell by the wayside.

Generation X was viewed by Fox as an opportunity to bring the X-Men universe to the small screen without deploying some of the group’s better-known characters, who could be saved for a major motion picture.

In that sense, the show could have served as a precursor to the current run of Netflix Marvel shows, if it had lasted.

However, it didn’t last. Generation X didn’t get further than a feature-length pilot. Repackaged as a TV movie, there’s still enough going on to keep Marvel fans happy. The show featured familiar characters like Emma Frost, Jubilee, and Banshee along with a few less familiar faces from the fledgling comic book series.

There was Mondo, who is able to take on the physical properties of whatever he touches. Skin who, well, has special stretchy skin and Buff, a woman with an abnormal amount of muscle mass.

Coming off like an X-Men movie directed by Batman Forever’s Joel Schumacher, the movie sees the gang learning their craft before taking on Matt Frewer’s Doctor Russel Tresh, doing his best Jim Carrey impression.

It’s enjoyable enough but you can see why the show might have struggled to find an audience.

3 The Crow

Brandon Lee in The Crow

Alex Proyas’ skilfully crafted adaptation of James O’Barr’s 1989 comic is most remembered for the passing of lead actor, Brandon Lee.

The movie star son of Bruce Lee passed away after being struck by a defective blank during a stunt gone wrong. Filming was delayed while Proyas and the production crew decided what to do next.

With much of Lee’s part in the movie already in the can, they opted to complete production through a combination of script rewrites, digital effects and a stunt double (future John Wick writer and director Chad Stahelski).

It’s a testament to Proyas’ skill as a filmmaker that, despite all those obstacles, The Crow ranks among the most underrated superhero movies of its decade.

A dark and stylish film that transports viewers to a seedy, Gothic urban landscape, The Crow is Batman by way of Blade Runner.

The movie tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee) a musician brought back from the afterlife to wreak bloody revenge on the gang that ended his life and the life of his fiancée.

It also features a career-best performance from Lee as the brooding but compelling central turn that will have fans wondering what could have been long before the credits roll.

As a sleeper hit upon release, The Crow has spawned three sequels and a TV show. None have come close to matching the original but then none of them had either Proyas or, obviously, Lee.

2 Mystery Men

Mystery Men

The end of the decade saw superhero films become increasingly subversive. Mystery Men was the result. Adapted from Bob Burden’s Flaming Carrot Comics, it boasts an impressive cast of comedic talent.

Hank Azaria, Eddie Izzard, Ben Stiller, and Janeane Garofalo were all at the height of their collective powers at the time. The premise, about a group of lesser superheroes who must combine their unimpressive powers to save the day, also seems ripe for gags aplenty.

However, something was rotten in the state of Denmark. Directed by Kinka Usher, who had made his name directing commercials and would return to advertising after this experience, the film doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.

Azaria previously claimed to A.V. Club the cast constantly argued over the comedic tone of the movie, which may explain the odd combination of witty one-liners and repetitive fart jokes.

At one point, things got so bad Stiller reportedly tried to be released from the film following an argument with Greg Kinnear, according to Flickchart.

For all that tension, it’s a surprisingly middle-of-the-road movie. Not messy, per se, but certainly lacking in the compelling characters or engaging plot that would have been needed in order to spawn a franchise.

Ultimately, the movie's signature soundtrack song, "All-Star" by Smash Mouth, ended up overshadowing events on the screen. So we’ve kind of got Mystery Men to thank for that.

1 The Death Of Incredible Hulk

The passing of beloved Incredible Hulk star Bill Bigsby in 1993 rendered this 1990 made-for-television movie the final chapter in the Hulkster’s TV adventures.

Rumour has it that plans were afoot for another installment, The Rebirth of the Incredible Hulk, just prior to Bigsby passing, which only adds to the film’s poignant feel.

Part of a three-movie revival of the series that originally ran from 1978 to 1982, the previous two installments had featured Thor and the Daredevil.

This effort had been expected to include additional Marvel characters.  Both She-Hulk and Iron Man were touted for possible appearances.

In the end, they went with a more straightforward story. It that saw Bigsby’s Bruce Banner cross paths with a  spy as he attempts to rid himself of the curse of the Hulk forever.

Kenneth Johnson wasn’t involved in the three movie versions. The V creator had played a crucial role in the TV series's but was left out of these plans. The films suffered as a result.

While the first two installments enjoyed solid viewer numbers, this final chapter proved a disappointment and hindered the chances of a return. Bigsby’s passing eventually extinguished those chances.

Despite the film’s flaws, it’s sad conclusion and the fact it marks the end of Bigsby’s tenure make it worth seeking out.


Are there any other superhero movies from the '90s that most fans have forgotten about? Sound off in the comments!

More in Lists