Superhero films have been in the limelight for so long it’s hard to forget that just about a decade ago they were something that generally both audiences and comic book fans feared. It was a time before Marvel Studios introduced their cinematic universe and everyone was fighting to play catch-up. Back in those days, superhero movies weren’t connected by shared universes. The idea that you had to wait until the end of the credits for a post-credit stinger was completely foreign.
In those days, not terrible was a badge of honor and every character was clad in black leather trying their best to hide their comic book roots and forge a connection to the S&M leather spandex and trench coats made popular by The Matrix. In those days, most superhero movies sucked. Studios didn’t get them, but fans held out hope and watched them anyway because when you throw a starving man a moldy sandwich he’s gonna enjoy each and every morsel. We’ve gone through the best of the worst to pick out some of our favorite superhero movie flops. So while you’re enjoying Batman vs. Superman and Captain America: Civil War, look back and be thankful that we don’t have to deal with these turkeys clogging up our cineplexes anymore.
10. Jonah Hex
Released on June 8, 2010, Josh Brolin stars as the title character, Jonah Hex. The film also stars John Malkovich, Megan Fox, and Michael Fassbender. Jonah Hex severely failed at the box office, opening at #7 during its debut weekend with only $5,379,365 in 2,825 theaters, averaging $1,904 per theater. The film ended its theatrical run on August 12, 2010, grossing only $10,547,117 in total on a $47 million budget. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 12% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 145 reviews, with an average score of 3.5/10.
9. Superman Returns
This film, directed and produced by Bryan Singer, stars Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, and Parker Posey. Roger Ebert called Superman Returns a “glum, lackluster movie in which even the big effects sequences seem dutiful instead of exhilarating.” He also felt that “Brandon Routh lacks charisma as Superman,” surmising that he “may have been cast because he looks a little like Reeve.”
Hulk stars Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, and Nick Nolte. The film explains the origins of Bruce Banner and how he became the Hulk. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle reviewed the film, saying it “is more thoughtful and pleasing to the eye than any blockbuster in recent memory, but its epic length comes without an epic reward.” Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly agreed, saying, “a big-budget comic book adaptation has rarely felt so humorless and intellectually defensive about its own pulpy roots.” With a final North American gross of $132.2 million, it became the largest opener failing to earn $150 million.
7. The Incredible Hulk
Yes, another Hulk movie made the list. This 2008 film follows scientist Bruce Banner, now Edward Norton, as he desperately seeks a cure for the gamma radiation that contaminated his cells and turned him into the Hulk. This one barely passed the first Hulk film and equaled the smaller budget of the first film. Christy Lemire of the Associated Press found that “the inevitable comparisons to Iron Man, Marvel Studios’ first blockbuster this summer, serve as a glaring reminder of what this Hulk lacks: wit and heart. Despite the presence of Edward Norton, an actor capable of going just as deep as Robert Downey Jr., we don’t feel a strong sense of Bruce Banner’s inner conflict.”
Consider Daredevil part of the Ben Affleck Dark Ages. You know, the time when almost every movie Affleck touched was horrific. He stars as blind attorney Matt Murdock who fights crime as Daredevil alongside Elektra, played by Jennifer Garner. Variety’s Todd McCarthy considered it “a pretender in the realm of bona fide superheroes.” Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C- and called the story “sloppy” and “slipshod”, saying “Daredevil is the sort of half-assed, visually lackadaisical potboiler that makes you rue the day that comic-book franchises ever took over Hollywood.”
As if Daredevil wasn’t bad enough, a stand-alone Elektra film somehow got greenlit. In its opening weekend, it ranked 5th, taking $12,804,793. Domestically the total gross was $24,409,722, at the time the lowest for a movie featuring a Marvel Comics character since Howard the Duck. Based on 150 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Elektra earned a 10% out of 100%, indicating a “rotten” rating.
This 2004 film stars Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Benjamin Bratt, Lambert Wilson, Frances Conroy, and Alex Borstein. Berry plays Patience Phillips, a completely new character who takes over the antiheroine’s Catwoman name. The film grossed $82 million on a $100 million production budget. On Rotten Tomatoes, Catwoman has a rating of 9% with a review that reads, “Halle Berry is the lone bright spot, but even she can’t save this laughable action thriller.” The film appeared on the list of Roger Ebert’s most hated films.
3. Spider-Man 3
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film only 2 out of 4 stars, saying, “for every slam-bang action sequence, there are far too many sluggish scenes.” Critic James Berardinelli felt director Sam Raimi “overreached his grasp” by allowing so many villains in the film, specifically saying, “Venom is one bad guy too many.” The movie has become so laughable over time that emo Peter Parker—the nickname given to Parker when he is affected by the symbiote substance—has become an internet meme.
2. Green Lantern
Poor Ryan Reynolds. While people are eagerly awaiting his return to superhero movies as Wade Wilson in 2016’s Deadpool, he once played the Green Lantern and probably wishes he could forget it. This film holds a 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said, “Green Lantern is bad. This despite Ryan Reynolds’s dazzling dentistry, hard-body physique and earnest efforts, and the support of fine performers like Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, and Angela Bassett.” However, the worst part of the film was the Green Lantern’s animated suit, which was actually made fun of in the newest Deadpool trailer when Wilson says, “Please don’t make the super-suit green. Or animated.”
1. Fantastic Four
The 2015 cast of Fantastic Four should have seen the warning signs everywhere. The 2005 film that stars Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis was a commercial success but the critics panned it. It holds a 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with a review that reads, “Marred by goofy attempts at wit, subpar acting, and bland storytelling, Fantastic Four is a mediocre attempt to bring Marvel’s oldest hero team to the big screen.” Yet somehow they made a sequel and then tried to reboot the franchise. Maybe Fantastic Four is just not meant to be on the big screen.