When most people think of fan films, they think of some low budget garbage with bad sound, worse acting, and no plot. Some of the most famous fandoms are in the genres of fantasy and science-fiction, which boast incredibly detailed costumes, most of which you’d think would be impossible to duplicate in a fan film. It turns out that with enough devotion and funding, fan films can actually be cinema quality, and the costumes, whether they belong to Klingons or Orcs, Jedi or superheroes, can be as good as anything you’ll see in a major studio production.
Most of the films contained in this list wouldn’t be possible without major contributions from hundreds of fans, but money isn’t everything. Without skilled makers, sewers, and wardrobe heads with an eye for plucking the perfect costume piece from obscurity, these films wouldn’t look as impressive as they do. By the look of the costumes in these fan films, you’d think that their budgets were more than what they were. From recreating Predator costumes with painstaking detail, to spending hours painting a martial artist to look exactly like Darth Maul, there’s no costume too daunting for the fan with the commitment to seeing their favorite fandom flourish.
15 BATMAN: DEAD END
The great thing about fan films is that they can take certain creative license that studio films can’t. In Batman: Dead End, which premiered at San Diego Comic Con in 2003, the Caped Crusader comes face to face with enemies from two other franchises he would never confront on the big screen.
While hunting a recently escaped Joker, Batman realizes that he’s not the only one doing the hunting, and that he’ll have to fight for his life or become the prey. In a dark alley he encounters two of the deadliest villains in science fiction; the Xenomorph and the Predator. And they’re not alone! The level of detail, down to the beads on the Predator’s mask, the exoskeletons of the Xenomorphs, and The Joker’s makeup is top quality.
14 SUPER POWER: BEAT DOWN
Due to the nature of legal and publication rights to certain characters, we never get to see beatdowns between the Power Rangers and the X-Men, Batman and Darth Vader, or any other great mash-up of franchised mascots. Super Power: Beat Down is Bat in the Sun’s answer to our prayers. It’s a web series that features standoffs like the aforementioned, except that villains face off against villains, and heroes face off against heroes.
Each episode of Super Power: Beat Down lets us see our fantasy fight, and at its conclusion, viewers can cast their votes for who they want to see featured in the next match. The costumes look amazing (read, everyone at Xavier’s mutant high school, especially Nightcrawler), and resemble classic comic versions, while they sound like them too (Wolverine!).
13 CROFT: A FAN FILM
Among fans of the Tomb Raider franchise, reactions have been mixed about the origins-story film set to debut later this year, starring Alicia Vikander as the intrepid Lara Croft, who doesn’t have the skill set of the original games but must acquire it in order to survive an inhospitable island.
12 DEATHSTROKE: ARKHAM ASSASSIN
Intended as something of a precursor to the video game Batman: Arkham Origins, Deathstroke: Arkham Assassin is a fan film by Chris and Larry White and GoingNowhereShow Productions that features the assassin front and center . When Black Mask puts a bounty on the Dark Knight’s head, Deathstroke shows up to his lair and proceeds to demonstrate exactly why he should get the gig.
Though the film is only about eight minutes, it’s an intense eight minutes, and gives fans of Deathstroke a solid look at a character who has taken down no paltry amount of DC heroes. It’s bloody, violent, yet also artistic. The costumes aren’t cheesy, the fighting is top notch, and the performances by both Deathstroke and Black Mask are compelling. You’ll want more!
There once was a Power Rangers adaptation so good, the powers that be that owned the rights to the franchise did everything they could to wipe any trace of it from the face of the Earth. This would be that Power Rangers film which, luckily, you can view bootlegged on Youtube. Adi Shankar, who also produced The Punisher: Dirty Laundry, gives us an exceedingly gritty take on the colorful teenage after school show.
Set years after the Power Rangers have disbanded, it follows the Pink Ranger Kimberly (Katee Sackhoff) and the Red Ranger (James Van Der Beek) as they attempt to make sense of the life being a child soldier has wrought. Taking quite the detour from the television series, this fan film is full of sex, drugs, nudity, violence, and death. All of the costumes look much better than the television show or even the newest Power Rangers film.
10 JUDGE MINTY
The supreme law enforcement hero Judge Dredd of 2000AD comics, has gotten ample screen time in both the ‘90s, where he was played with authoritarian aplomb by Sylvester Stallone, and with a reboot in the ‘00s, with grim detachment by Karl Urban. One was campy and fun, the other gritty and grounded. But Judge Dredd isn’t the only Judge in town with a story, and in 2013, Judge Minty got to tell his tale.
The fan film Judge Minty follows Minty, an aging Judge in Mega City, as he gets caught in a shootout on patrol and then subsequently gets shot, before finally being forced to take the “Long Walk” because of his impaired reaction time. As so many have before him, he will bring justice to a land without law. The costumes are almost direct clones of those used in the Stallone version made by Versace.
9 NIGHTWING: THE SERIES
DC has already put a major motion picture adaptation of Nightwing on its lineup of superhero movies, but it may be a long time before we see Dick Grayson in action what with Batman bogarting the spotlight. For now, fans can enjoy the supremely watchable webisodes from Nightwing: The Series.
Beginning with a first season that contains five episodes, Nightwing’s origin story is revealed, culminating in him leaving Batman behind and forging a new superhero life for himself in Bludhaven. Familiar characters in the Batverse pop up, such as The Joker and Barbara Gordon, which help to make the series feel legit. The costumes are some of the best interpretations of Nightwing yet, and until he gets his own movie, this is a great addition to Gotham world building.
8 STREET FIGHTER: ASSASSIN’S FIST
Love for a franchise can make a fan film stand out because of attention to detail and appreciation for the source material. It can also get the blessing from the company responsible for creating the source material , ensuring anything in the fan film is considered canon. Such is the case with Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist, a web series based on CAPCOM’S beloved Street Fighter game.
What began as a short fan film Street Fighter: Legacy, creators Joey Ansah and Christian Howard wanted to continue the adventures of Ryu, Ken, and Akuma, and now their stories are official. Airing in 2014, the 12 mini-webisodes can be viewed together to create one immersively beautiful full length movie. The martial arts are poetry in motion, and the costuming is both luxurious and practical without a trace of camp.
7 BATMAN: CITY OF SCARS
From the same production company that brought you Super Power: Beat Down, Bat in the Sun brings you Batman: City of Scars, starring Kevin Porter as the Caped Crusader. A moody noir-like piece, the half hour fan film explores the relationship between the Batman and The Joker, from the Joker’s escape from Arkham Asylum, to their confrontations in the streets of Gotham as the Clown Prince of Crime lays waste to it and its citizens.
The film explores the perplexing dilemma of whether or not Batman, who has sworn to never kill, would have been better off killing the Joker when he had the chance. The costume that Porter wears is impressive, somewhere between Christian Bale’s and Ben Affleck’s Batsuit, and he brings menace and quiet fury to a role that demands a lot of philosophical introspection.
6 DARTH MAUL: APPRENTICE
If you, like all discerning cinephiles also think that Darth Maul was the best thing about the Star Wars prequels and thought he should have been on screen a whole lot more, Darth Maul: Apprentice is the fan film for you. Thanks to the blood, sweat, and Jedi tears of T7 Productions, you get damn near 20 minutes of Maul serving some Sith beatdown to Jedi padawans and masters alike.
The Sith Lord himself is played by Ben Schamma, who grimaces and sneers exactly like Ray Park in Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. In fact, under the heavy makeup and horns (that took two hours to recreate), you can’t tell the difference. Schamma’s moves, a flurry of black cinema-quality Sith robes, are every bit as fluidly aggressive as Park’s, having also trained extensively in martial arts.
5 THE HUNT FOR GOLLUM
It’s hard to imagine a fan film that can capture the spectacle and grandeur of the Lord of the Rings movies. The Hunt For Gollum not only succeeds, but manages to tell a unique story based on the appendices of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. The plot entails Gandalf sending Aragorn on a quest to stop Gollum from revealing secrets about The One Ring to Sauron before the Fellowship was created.
The budget of the Lord of the Rings movies was hundreds of millions of dollars, and this fan film only had $3,000. Nevertheless, it debuted at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival in 2009 to rave reviews. Adrian Webster, who plays Aragorn, bears an incredible resemblance to Viggo Mortensen, and the costumes are incredible reproductions of those seen in the Fellowship of the Ring, especially the orcs!
4 PRELUDE TO AXANAR
With an intended budget of $10,000, and an ending Kickstarter budget of $101,000, Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar is the impressive Star Trek fan film that premiered at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con. Shot like a documentary, it follows the reports of Star Fleet officers as they recount the Battle of Axanar, a major clash between the Federation and the Klingons.
While most would concur that not until the new Star Trek films did the franchise not look cheesy, this fan film looks every inch a big budget production. It starred Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica fame, J.G. Hertzler of Deep Space Nine, and Tony Todd of Next Generation (and Candyman!). All the costumes, from the Starfleet officers, to the Vulcan diplomats, and the Klingon warriors look exactly like they did in the series of the ‘90s.
3 MORTAL KOMBAT: LEGACY
Like Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist, Mortal Kombat: Legacy is a web series based on the popular video game franchise. Two terrible Mortal Kombat movies were made in the ‘90s to the disappointment of fans (they didn’t get Raul Julia), so things looked bleak for a proper Mortal Kombat homage.
Following the lives of several main characters, fans get glimpses of their origins as well as their backstories, as they prepare for several tournaments. With two seasons to its name and a third on the way, there has been talk of a film adaptation based on its success. The short episodes, when watched together, play out like a gorgeous feature length movie, with resplendent fight choreography, compelling dialogue, and movie-quality costumes.
2 TROOPS: A STAR WARS FAN FILM
Ever wonder what the day in the life of a lowly stormtrooper is like? Ever wonder what it would be like if stormtroopers marched to the theme from Cops? Troops: A Star Wars Fan Film explores these and important questions. It premiered at the San Diego Comic Con in the summer of ‘97, just after the Star Wars: Special Edition films had been released to theaters, and was created by Star Wars nerds Kevin Rubio, Shant Jordan, and Patrick Perez. It has quite the fan base, and is considered one of the best fan films ever made.
With cameos from characters and alien races spanning the breadth of the Star Wars galaxy, it has the feel of the movies as well as the look. The costumes are amazing replications of those seen in the film, especially dozens of stormtrooper kits.
1 THE PUNISHER: DIRTY LAUNDRY
Is it a fan film if it stars the lead on which the fan film was based? Survey says, yes, especially since it’s almost ten years after the fact. Thomas Jane played Frank Castle, the titular character in the 2004 film The Punisher, and was convincing as a war veteran who lost his entire family in a gangland crossfire.
In 2012, a short film came out called The Punisher: Dirty Laundry, and Thomas Jane once again reprised his role. An innocuous trip to the local laundry mat in the wrong side of town turns into a heinous bloodbath as Castle tries to balance leading an ordinary life with his desire to punish those who do wrong. The costumes are naturally great because, well, they’re the same ones Thomas Jane used in the original, and they fit him like a glove.