Given the ridiculous number of superhero movies getting churned out by Hollywood every year – about three per annum in the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone – it’s surprising that any superhero movie goes unproduced at all, but it does happen. Whether it’s because the attached talent dropped out in the middle of pre-production or the producers were unable to secure the necessary funding or there was an issue with the rights, some comic book-based blockbusters just aren’t meant to be.
It can be a shame sometimes, because plenty of exciting movies have gotten lost in development hell. So without further delay, here are 10 unmade superheroes that we really want to see.
10 Jack Black’s Green Lantern
Warner Bros. once hired Saturday Night Live veteran Robert Smigel to write a script for a Green Lantern movie that would’ve been an action comedy. Jack Black was set to star as the cosmic superhero, using his powers to create ridiculous things like Pikachu and a giant condom.
The film was canceled when fans reacted negatively online, but as Paul Rudd and Chris Pratt have proven, casting comedic actors as superheroes can easily work out, and it couldn’t have been anywhere near as bad as Ryan Reynolds’ dreary, more serious Green Lantern affair that was unleashed on theaters in 2011.
9 X-Men: Fear the Beast
Byron Burton was working as an assistant to John Ottman, a composer and editor for Fox’s X-Men movies, when he came up with a Beast spin-off. Ottman was skeptical at first, but he got on board when Burton turned in a solid draft.
The script has since been released online as the Fox/Disney merger made chances of it getting made extremely slim. Fear the Beast was set in the late ‘80s and comprable to John Carpenter’s classic chilly horror thriller The Thing. It would’ve ended in a big showdown where the Beast teamed up with a recasted Wolverine.
8 Spider-Man 4
Although Sony’s meddling screwed up Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, they meddled even more in the pre-production for Spider-Man 4, which was reportedly setting up a new trilogy, all following Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker through various stages of his life and his superhero career.
Raimi ended up quitting Spider-Man 4 because he didn’t want to make the movie that Sony wanted. He planned to use the Vulture and Black Cat as the villains, while Bruce Campbell would’ve cameoed as a Raimi-ized version of Mysterio in an opening montage.
7 Hellboy III
Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman struggled for years to get their third Hellboy made. The first two were adored by critics and fans alike, with Perlman owning the role and del Toro nailing his on-screen adventures. They had a script for a threequel, but the studio wouldn’t agree to the budget so it went unproduced.
Instead, we got the terrible reboot earlier this year starring David Harbour that was rated R for the sake of being rated R, filled with cringeworthy humor and dreadful CGI effects, and lacked the heart of the del Toro/Perlman movies.
6 Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man
Ant-Man is a perfectly serviceable superhero origin story with a lot of funny moments. However, it doesn’t have a personal directorial stamp like Wonder Woman or Aquaman do. It simply fits the MCU’s house style, which it turns out was Marvel Studios’ plan for the movie all along.
Marvel originally hired Shaun of the Dead’s Edgar Wright to helm Ant-Man but in Wright’s words, “I wanted to make a Marvel movie, but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie.” Ant-Man is good but in Wright’s hands, it could’ve been great.
5 Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max
Because the CW series starring Stephen Amell has become the definitive on-screen version of the Green Arrow character, we’ll probably never get a Green Arrow movie, which is a shame. David S. Goyer and Justin Marks once wrote a script for a movie called Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max, in which Oliver Queen would be framed for a crime he didn’t commit and have to escape from a high-security prison filled with supervillains.
Some elements from the script made it into season 7 of Arrow, but that’s not the same. This could’ve been an awesome big-screen comic book adventure.
4 Blade 4
Wesley Snipes was the perfect casting choice for Blade and his movies were among the first modern superhero blockbusters. A planned fourth movie would’ve been set in a post-apocalyptic future inhabited with vampires, with Blade struggling to survive as the last man on Earth, a la I Am Legend.
Unfortunately, Wesley Snipes and director David S. Goyer’s contentious relationship, as well as the critical and commercial failure of Blade: Trinity, led to the movie being canceled. Perhaps this idea can be revived when Blade joins the MCU in Phase 5, played by Mahershala Ali, if he’s introduced via the multiverse.
3 Batman: Year One
Warner Bros. was once developing a film adaptation of Batman: Year One, Frank Miller’s acclaimed and gritty reimagining of the Caped Crusader’s origin story. Darren Aronofsky, the visionary filmmaker behind such gems as Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, was hired to direct and write a script with Miller.
Aronofsky said, “Toss out everything you can imagine about Batman! Everything! We’re starting completely anew.” When Aronofsky dropped out, The Matrix’s Wachowski siblings were brought on board, but unfortunately, the movie that would’ve been a comic book-ier version of Batman Begins with an R rating never got made.
2 X-Men Origins: Magneto
Sheldon Turner wrote a draft for X-Men Origins: Magneto when X-Men Origins: Wolverine was being intended as the first in a long line of X-Men Origins spin-offs. The critical and financial failure of the first on led to Magneto’s movie getting called.
Turner described his script as “The Pianist meets X-Men,” as it took the story back to Magneto’s early life in which he lost his mother during the Holocaust. This was touched upon in the first X-Men movie’s brief prologue, but this would’ve been a feature-length spin-off and it could’ve been very interesting.
1 Superman Lives
Perhaps the most famous unproduced superhero movie is Superman Lives, with its troubled production being being the basis for a feature-length documentary. It was going to star lifelong comic book fanatic Nicolas Cage as Superman, with Tim Burton directing in his signature gloomy style and similarly comics-obsessed Kevin Smith writing the script.
Producer Jon Peters forced Smith to include certain characters and set pieces in the script, purely so that they could be merchandised, so it’s hardly surprising that it fell through. Still, a Superman movie written by Smith, directed by Burton, and starring Cage would’ve been awesome.