Making a superhero movie is tough. Making a good superhero movie is tougher. With all the studio politics, producer input, arguments over who gets credit for what, and the simple fact that making something that does not reflect the source material will lose the trust of swaths of moviegoers before they step foot in the theater, it’s kind of amazing we get anything that is worthwhile. It’s even more shocking that we get great, even classic, blockbuster films based on comic properties.
But even at their best, these films have issues. Sometimes those issues pertain to the pacing or casting or, depending on what era they were made in, their special effects and costume choices. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to these foibles when everything surrounding them is elevating the film as a whole. But there are some moments in superhero films that are downright unforgivable, moments so bad they almost become what the films are known for. These moments don’t turn great films bad, but they do tarnish them. It’s like having a Ferrari with a scratch on the hood. People are impressed, but the thing everyone’s eyes lock in on is that dumb dent. So here are 15 eye-rolling, cringe-inducing dents in great superhero movies.
15. “C’MON LET’S GET NUTS!” IN BATMAN
Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman was a monumental achievement. It pioneered the idea that comic book movies (and by proxy, comics themselves) were not just for kids. It was dark, brooding, and portrayed The Dark Knight in a manner that was completely removed from the ’60s Adam West version people were familiar with…well, almost. Some goofy aspects that made the ’60s series so entertaining were brought over, but how they were conveyed clashed with the gothic tone of the film.
Most notably is Bruce Wayne’s infamous freak-out/intimidation tactic right before Vicky Vale is kidnapped by The Joker. It’s a strange choice, one that makes the audience question if Wayne is the brilliant tactician he is in the comics or just a guy with dumb luck. “C’mon, let’s get nuts” has become such a point of parody in the Batman Universe that even The LEGO Batman Movie couldn’t leave it alone.
14. THROWING THE “S” IN SUPERMAN II
Special effects can often have a very short shelf life. What looked amazing 30 years ago usually looks silly to modern day audiences. However, if the context of the effect is solid it can usually be forgiven. After all, Bruce the Shark from Jaws looks about as much like an actual great white as Richard Dreyfuss looks like tough guy, and by no means does this ruin the film.
However, some special effect scenes from classic movies are equal parts ridiculous and confounding. Such is the case in Superman II, in which Christopher Reeve as the titular hero throws a projection of his “S” emblem at Kryptonian baddie, Non. It makes us wonder what on Earth (or on Krypton for that matter) the filmmakers were thinking. It’s moments like this that make his hard to put this classic sequel on a pedestal, even the outstanding Richard Donner cut.
13. STORM VS. TOAD IN X-MEN
Bryan Singer’s X-Men was a huge achievement for comic book movies, but it was not without its flaws. Despite having some inspired casting decisions, great set pieces, and a tight narrowed vision of a sprawling universe, there is one scene in particular that hurts to watch.
In the final act of the film, the X-Men square off against the Brotherhood of Mutants. And while it feels as if Wolverine does most of the heavy lifting during the climactic battle, Storm gets a chance to flex her muscle as she confronts Toad. What should have been a character highlight quickly becomes one of the biggest jokes within the X-Men film franchise due to one infamous line: “”You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else…” Or maybe what really happens is cringe-worthy dialogue that causes the audience to groan in disbelief.
12. BLAKE OUTS BATMAN IN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
The Dark Knight Rises is a great film living in the shadow of a colossal one. Unfortunately, the film can never truly escape this despite harboring some amazing moments within its nearly three-hour runtime. One issue that Christopher Nolan’s Batman swansong suffers from is a scene between Bruce Wayne and a young police officer by the name of John Blake, who is portrayed by the insufferably charming Joseph Gordon Levitt.
During this scene, Blake tells Gotham’s most famous billionaire he knows he’s Batman. It’s a startling revelation, or at least it would be if there one scrap of hard evidence Blake could provide. Instead, Blake knows Bruce is the Dark Knight simply because, they were both orphans, which is silly. While this may be analogous to Tim Drake’s discovery of Batman’s identity in the comics, there are some leaps of logic that are impossible to accept with Blake’s case.
11. DENIED REUNION IN THE INCREDIBLE HULK
The Incredible Hulk (2008) is the least talked about entry in the MCU. Presumably because of the actor swap from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, which makes the film feels somewhat disconnected. That’s not to say it’s a bad by any means. The film was leaps and bounds better than Ang Lee’s Hulk and it was closer in tone to the television series from the late ’70s.
But there is one moment in The Incredible Hulk that feels out of place. After finally getting some alone time with his main squeeze Betty Ross (played by Liv Tyler), Banner shares a moment of passion with her. This moment is ever so fleeting when Banner’s pulse rate alarm starts going off causing him to shove Betty away. The scene is played for laughs, but when you mull it over, it’s quite tragic.
10. “…ICE SKATE UPHILL” IN BLADE
Blade was arguably the coolest vampire hunter film released in 1998, which was due in part to Wesley Snipes charismatic and ultra-hip take on the titular superhero. In the era of black leather costumes, stoic heroes, sunglasses, and hyperkinetic martial arts action, Blade stood head and shoulders above its peers while never taking itself too seriously.
Blade himself was a man of few words, an attribute that was the butt of many jokes within the film. However, when he did speak, it was with purpose or to say something cool…with the exception of one line. Look, not every triumphant one-liner has to be good, but it helps if it at least makes sense. In the case of Blade’s infamous line “Some [expletive deleted] always trying to ice skate uphill” it missed on both accounts.
9. THAT ARCHIMEDES SCENE IN WATCHMEN
Zack Snyder’s 2009 adaptation of Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ monumental miniseries, Watchmen is nothing if not divisive. Some fans see it as the closest to a true translation audiences will ever get, while others find it an abomination that tarnishes the comic’s good name. But no matter what fans think, good, bad, or indifferent, there is one thing they can all agree on: the Silk Spectre and Night Owl love scene really pumped the brakes on the whole film.
While their intimacy aboard Night Owls’ ship, Archimedes, only took up about a minute of screen time, its over-the-top nature and eye roll-inducing punctuation makes the scene stick out like a sore thumb. To make matters worse is the use of Leonard Cohen’s classic song “Hallelujah.” It’s a musical selection that only heightens the lunacy of the scene instead of making it a cathartic moment as it should have been.
8. FINAL WORDS IN LOGAN
Logan, Hugh Jackman’s swansong as the reluctant father figure and grumpy mutant Wolverine has been praised by fans and critics across the globe. The dark tone and gritty realism of the film’s violent world captivated audiences and subverted comic book movie tropes. But there was one moment that felt completely forced and felt almost as if it was taken from a Hallmark Channel movie.
The relationship between Logan and Laura (X-23) in the film was shaky and never added up to emotional climax of their short-lived father/daughter dynamic. As Logan dies he holds his “daughter’s” hand and utters the melodramatic line “so this is what it feels like…” While comic nerds are often rife with cynicism, even causal fans would be hard-pressed not to find this felt hokey, unless Logan was referring to having a tree branch puncture your organs.
7. THE PENGUIN’S FUNERAL IN BATMAN RETURNS
Leave it to Tim Burton to make the Penguin a horrifying monster instead of the vertically challenged gangster he is in the comics. Batman Begins double downed on Burton’s uber-gothic vision of the Batman universe and gave us probably the most underrated on-screen villain The Caped Crusader has ever faced.
Danny DeVito’s portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot is equal parts terrifying and hilarious. Every sick, twisted thing that comes out of the Penguin’s mouth was either black bile (literally), snark, or humorous threats that he would make good on. It’s a shame, though, that his exit from the film was not great. When Cobblepot bites it, a team of his emperor penguins carry his body into the sewers in a strange burial at sea ritual. Now, even if the physical logistics of this scene made sense, it would still come off as silly and out of place.
6. TURTLE IN A TRENCH COAT IN TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1990)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) was a childhood staple for kids who watched the animated series or read the decisively more violent comics. While the setting and some of the action was closer to the comic (albeit somewhat sterilized for a PG film), the humor and fun mirrored the cartoon.
Sadly, some of the jokes didn’t land and never transcended into so “bad it’s good” territory. One of these cringe-inducing gags involved misanthropic hero, Raphael as he navigates the streets of New York City (yes, the most populated city in the United States) in a trench coat. It’s a lazy sight gag that could be forgotten if extras in the film didn’t comment on it. Winking to the camera is fine and all, but there’s no need to rub our noses in it.
5. “HOW IRONIC, TONY!” IN IRON MAN
Man, some of those early Marvel Cinematic Universe villains were not great. And even the ones who were cool, were often killed off before fans could get to know them. But the biggest letdown and arguably the one huge flaw in the inaugural MCU film, Iron Man, is Iron Monger (aka Obadiah Stane), the villainous, cantankerous yin to Tony Stark’s yang.
Jeff Bridges certainly brings his A game to the role, but the dialogue he’s given once Stane introduces his own armor and reveals himself as the true enemy of the film isn’t great. Any bad guy who starts a short yet sinister soliloquy with the words “How ironic, Tony!” before stating their plans (in this case, it is to kill Tony Stark; nothing too crazy) have transcended the Bond Villain status and graduated to disposable character territory. It’s a stain on an otherwise amazing film.
4. “I’M NOT WEARING HOCKEY PADS” IN THE DARK KNIGHT
Is The Dark Knight arguably the greatest comic book movie ever made? Yes. Does it posit a world where you can almost believe Batman could exist? Yes. Are there great performances, iconic characters, intriguing plotlines, and an intricate web that doubles as a crime story and superhero film? Yes. Should Batman tell jokes? Well, no.
In the first act of The Dark Knight, before Bruce Wayne gets a more ergonomic Batsuit, Batman gets in a tiff with Jonathan Crane and a few copycat Batmen. The Caped Crusader handles business like a pro and when questioned by one of his costumed followers as to why he can’t also be Batman, Bruce replies, “I’m not wearing hockey pads.” Certainly, a multi-million street tank, elaborate gadgets, or advanced martial arts expertise would have been better examples. Or maybe Bruce should have just said nothing. It would have been more in character.
3. FLYING THE OTHER WAY IN SUPERMAN
This one is tough. Richard Donner’s Superman is iconic. From the score to Christopher Reeves’ performance to the flying scenes, so many aspects are celebrated and deservingly so. And while a lot of the film’s performances and special effects do come off as silly by today’s standards, it’s easy to see past these flaws and revel in the charm the movie has to offer. After all, this is essentially the godfather of all superhero films and invented the structure that would be an industry standard for the genre.
However, there is one aspect of Superman that makes eyes roll and teeth grit in how ridiculously awkward and terrible it is, one moment that even the passage of time can’t forgive, and that is Superman reversing time by making the Earth rotate in the opposite direction. It’s beyond silly and just plain dumb, making any good will the film had melt away.
2. FLIPPING THE CLAW IN X-MEN
Situational comedy in comic book movies is pretty much expected at this point in the game. When an audience sits down to watch superheroes knock around bad guys for two and a half hours, they expect to get some laughs (unless we’re talking about DC films). But in the early days of the comic book movie explosion, the jokes were not always refined.
In X-Men, most of the humor was pretty natural (albeit meta at times), but there are some jokes that are pretty bad. One of these would be when Wolverine give Cyclops the middle finger, but with his claws. It’s a crass display that does nothing to further galvanize the disdain between the characters. However, its biggest crime is that it’s just not funny.
1. “I HAVE A PLAN: ATTACK” IN THE AVENGERS
The Avengers was the culmination of several years of hype and fan service that launched the MCU into the stratosphere and garnered their first billion dollar hit. It’s the type of film that many adult fans of Marvel comics never thought they’d ever see. This was more than just some sort of team-up film. This was an event. And even though the plot was a simple MacGuffin story, the way these beloved characters interacted and engaged in jaw-dropping action turned even the more cynical fanboy into a little kid again.
But there is one thing that drips with cringe in The Avengers and it’s the only line in the film that deserves groans from the audiences. During an exchange between Captain America and Iron Man, Cap suggests they have a play of attack. Tony snarks back with “I have a plan: attack.” Yup, he actually said that… Cue crickets.
Which of these scenes made you cringe the most? Let us know in the comments!
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