There is no denying that Marvel and DC Comics release the biggest amount of great superhero movies on a regular basis. On the Marvel side, there are the very lucrative Avengers films, the critically-acclaimed Thor: Ragnarok, as well as the films who manage to succeed by every measure, such as Black Panther. On the DC side, there are Oscar-worthy films like The Dark Knight, profitable projects such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and also critical and commercial blockbusters like Wonder Woman. However, Marvel has occasionally failed its fans, and DC is no stranger to criticism.
When it comes to superhero movies outside of the Marvel and DC spectrum, we occasionally get to watch exciting projects such as Hellboy, Unbreakable, The Incredibles, and RoboCop, which show that you do not necessarily need decades of published graphic novels or a major comic book company behind you in order to be successful. However, more often than not, superhero movies from non-Marvel or DC properties turn out to be disappointing, exposing the studios that try to capitalize on a genre that they do not understand through characters that audiences do not care about.
These are the 16 Worst Superhero Movies (That Aren’t Marvel Or DC).
16 THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER
1994’s The Crow starring Brendon Lee became a cult hit that has withstood the test of time. Directed by Alex Proyas – who went on to direct 2004’s I, Robot – and written by David J. Schow and John Shirley, the film was based on James O’Barr’s superhero comic book series of the same name, and became one of Miramax’s three big hits from that year, along with Pulp Fiction and Clerks.
However, as sequels started to get greenlit with literally no one from the original production team behind it, the franchise failed to succeed. 1996’s The Crow: City of Angels and 2000’s The Crow: Salvation were badly received by audiences and critics, but even those films managed to be better than what would come later, 2005’s The Crow: Wicked Prayer, which ultimately became the franchise’s very last installment.
15 THE PHANTOM
The 1980s and 1990s were great decades for Billy Zane: two Back to the Future installments, Titanic, and Twin Peaks. He was enjoying an all-time high demand. But among those incredible successes, the actor starred in a big-budget superhero film called The Phantom, which came with the extraordinarily unimpressive tagline “Slam evil.”
The Phantom had a very poor performance at the box office, failing to even reach $20 million domestically.
Despite the claims from Paramount that the movie did very well on VHS and DVD sales, a planned sequel – rumored to have Catherina Zeta-Jones in the cast – never actually happened.
With the commercial and critical success of 2008’s Iron Man and The Dark Knight, the studio discussed possibly rebooting the franchise, but the plans never got off the ground.
14 SKY HIGH
Before outright buying Marvel, Disney decided that it should develop its very own superhero franchise, which was certainly prompted by the massive success that Sony was having with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.
Disney’s Sky High was released in 2005 starring Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston. It was about a high school for teenage superheroes, which at once gave audiences a Harry Potter/Hogwarts feel while still also trying to capitalize on the superhero genre. On paper, it was a win/win concept for the studio. However, the story of Will Stronghold going to class at Sky High was not compelling enough for audiences, which prompted the film to receive lackluster reviews and weak box office earnings.
A year later, the Disney Channel beat its own parent studio with the release of High School Musical, which became a much more successful high school-based franchise than Sky High.
1997’s Spawn, which has an 18% score on Rotten Tomatoes, is largely lauded as one of the worst superhero movies of all time.
This live-action adaptation of an otherwise incredibly interesting and compelling character was directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé, whose credits included extensive visual effects work in movies such as Jurassic Park and The Abyss. The film’s writer, Alan B. McElroy, had previously written Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and later became known for the independent horror franchise Wrong Turn, which spun six installments.
A commercial and critical failure, the Spawn cinematic franchise did toy with the possibility of a sequel, which was never brought to life.
Despite never being officially canceled, that version of Spawn 2 is probably never going to happen, and for good reason. Creator Todd McFarlane is hard at work on a reboot, however.
12 BULLETPROOF MONK
Veteran music video director Paul Hunter had his theatrical debut in 2003’s Bulletproof Monk, a glossy superhero movie starring Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Chow Yun-fat and American Pie’s Seann William Scott. Budgeted at over $50 million, the film was unable to even make $40 million, and has a 23% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
On the music side, Paul Hunter directed the likes of Snoop Dogg, Aaliyah, Eminem, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Marilyn Manson, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell, and Jamie Foxx in several music videos from the 1990s to the 2010s. In the business of movies, however, the failure of Bulletproof Monk was apparently big enough for the director to take a step back and focus on his area of expertise.
11 MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND
It was 2006 and romantic comedies were still at an all-time high. Fox envisioned a rom-com starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, got Wanda Sykes and Anna Faris involved, and came up the following twist: the main guy’s ex-girlfriend has superpowers.
Aside from the misogynistic tone throughout the entire plot of the film, My Super Ex-Girlfriend is just a weak film by virtually every standard.
It was received poorly by critics, earned very little at the box office, and went on to become a very forgettable movie that attempted to capitalize on the superhero genre.
Considering that both volumes of Kill Bill had just been released in 2003 and 2004, it is somewhat baffling that Uma Thurman chose to sign on to such a weak and problematic project like My Super Ex-Girlfriend.
Starring Tim Allen and Courteney Cox, 2006’s Zoom shared a couple of similarities with the ill-fated Sky High, which had premiered a year before. The film was essentially about experienced superheroes training super-powered teens, who were played by a young Kate Mara – who would later become the House of Cards, The Martian, and Fantastic Four superstar – and Kevin Zegers, who later thrived in the horror genre.
Zoom’s lackluster special effects and weak performances resulted in a $12 million box office performance, which was less than a fifth of its $75 million budget.
Taking into consideration that Sony was at the time enjoying the blockbuster results of 2002’s Spider-Man and its 2004 and 2007 sequels, Zoom was undoubtedly a massive commercial disappointment for the studio’s projects in the superhero genre.
9 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014)
The 1990s installments of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles struck the right balance between seriousness and camp, making the characters appealing to children – who were the target audience of the film – and properly transforming the cartoon property into a live-action project.
Then came along 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was arguably influenced by the success of the Transformers cinematic franchise and thus turned these humorous superhero turtles into somber CGI characters that were unappealing to look at and uninteresting to follow.
Both the 2014 reboot and its 2016 Out of the Shadows sequel were poorly received by audiences and critics alike.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a score of 22%, which is among the lowest in the entire history of the franchise.
8 MAX STEEL
Starring Ben Winchell in the title role, 2016’s Max Steel was a live-action adaptation of the famous Mattel action figure of the same name. It was brought to life as a superhero sci-fi project that had the unreasonable budget of $10 million, which explains much of its shortcomings.
Max Steel redefines all concepts of what a bad superhero movie is.
It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and, even two years later, it has only earned $6.2 million at the domestic and international box office. In a review, Variety’s Joe Leydon called the film “A half-baked, time-wasting curtain-raiser for a superhero franchise that is never, ever going to happen.”
Mattel, the toy maker, is currently working on the live-action adaptations Monster High (with Universal) and Barbie (with Sony).
7 PAPER MAN
2009’s Paper Man, otherwise known as Unlikely Hero, was a pre-Green Lantern failure for Ryan Reynolds in the superhero genre. The actor played an imaginary hero called Captain Excellent, which was summoned by a struggling writer portrayed by Jeff Daniels. In the cast was also Emma Stone, whose career would blow up a year later with the release of Easy A.
Written by Kieran Mulroney, who would later work in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and the 2017 Power Rangers reboot, Paper Man made $13,000 at the box office. You read that right: thirteen thousand dollars.
Despite clearly being an independent film that had no intentions of becoming a blockbuster, Paper Man was deemed a major commercial and critical failure.
It wasn’t until 2016’s Deadpool that Ryan Reynolds would finally launch a successful superhero franchise on the big screen.
Two animated movies with sympathetic villains as protagonists came out in 2010: Universal/Illumination’s Despicable Me and DreamWorks’ Megamind. The former went on to become a multi-billion-dollar franchise from four films, having already greenlit two more sequels. Megamind, on the other hand, became DreamWorks Animation lowest-grossing animated film of the 2000s.
Granted, Megamind was far from a commercial failure, but it was certainly outshined by the massive success achieved by Despicable Me, which, despite not being a film about superheroes, had an awfully similar premise. I
n 2011, the then-CEO of DreamWorks Jeffrey Katzenberg admitted that this project had been a failure, saying that movies such as Megamind, Shark Tale, and Monsters vs. Aliens “All shared an approach and tone and idea of parody, and did not travel well internationally.”
5 THE SPECIALS
The Specials was a 2000 comedy about the daily lives of a group of superheroes. It was written by James Gunn, who would later become one of the most important figures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to his work in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and directed by Craig Mazin, whose writing credits include the third and fourth installments of Scary Movie, the second and third parts of The Hangover trilogy, and Identity Thief.
Despite having a clearly talented team behind it and actor Rob Lowe as a protagonist, The Specials was not well-received commercially or critically, even if taking into consideration that it was a mostly independent film.
It grossed slightly over $13,000 at the box office and has since been referred to as a low point in James Gunn’s career.
4 THE METEOR MAN
Comedian Robert Townsend wrote, directed, produced, and starred in 1993’s The Meteor Man, which was budgeted at $30 million but made $8 million at the box office.
The film is about a teacher who is struck down by a green meteorite and gains superpowers from that incident. Despite its comedic tone and somewhat big budget for the 1990s, the movie was largely panned by critics, which has contributed to its 29% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Robert Townsend produced most of the projects he acted in, such as Hollywood Shuffle, The Parent ‘Hood, and The Five Heartbeats, but none of them bombed as significantly as The Meteor Man. This was a prime example of an entertainment star attempting to enter the superhero genre without necessarily understanding what it would take to create a successful franchise.
Special is a 2006 satire dramedy about a comic book fan who starts to take experimental antidepressant pills and gains superpowers from them. Despite Michael Rapaport’s committed performance and the important and intelligent themes the film was trying to tackle, the lack of a proper budget was an unhelpful element that deterred the movie from achieving its overall purpose.
Also starring in Special were Josh Peck, who was enjoying his success on Nickelodeon’s Drake & Josh, and Paul Blackthorne, who plays detective Quentin Lance on Arrow.
Jeremy Passmore, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, later worked in 2012’s Red Dawn starring post-Thor Chris Hemsworth, the Bruce Willis projects The Prince (2014) and Vice (2015), and in the very successful Dwayne Johnson disaster movie San Andreas.
2 JUDGE DREDD
Unlike 2012’s Dredd, 1995’s Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone turned the comic book character Judge Joseph Dredd, into somewhat of a running joke. Created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, the franchise is set in a dystopian future in which judges serve the roles of the police officers, jury members, and actual executioners.
Judge Dredd is largely considered one of Sylvester Stallone’s worst films and one of the worst superhero movies of the 1990s. The project’s box office performance barely recouped the money spent on its $90 million budget, and its very low Rotten Tomato score of 17% tells the story of how critics received it.
When speaking about the film, John Wagner, who created the character, has stated that “They told the wrong story.”
1 SUPERHERO MOVIE
Despite being a clear parody of superhero movies that had no intention of being taken seriously, Superhero Movie failed to be good on its own terms in the same way that parodies such as Scary Movie had previously succeeded.
Starring Tracy Morgan as Professor Xavier, Craig Bierko as Wolverine, and Marisa Lauren as Storm, Superhero Movie was directed by Craig Mazin and written by Robert K. Weiss and David Zucker, all of whom had collaborated on Scary Movie 3 and Scary Movie 4.
The film premiered in 2008, which is the same year that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man.
However, because the MCU was still not the success it is today, Superhero Movie was mostly a spoof on the blockbuster superhero movies from the early 2000s, such as the Spider-Man and X-Men trilogies.
Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments!