We live in what many consider to be a golden age for superheroes on the silver screen. Since there are so many superhero movies being produced, you're bound to find some terrible characters along the way. Despite their rich comic book history, some characters just don’t translate well to the screen or are just mangled along the way. Sometimes the script is to blame, while other times it's entirely the actor’s fault.
To be clear, this list only deals with current superhero movies, meaning that any series that has ended will not appear on this list. Although it's tempting to include some of those as well, due to the amount of sinfully bad characters in older comic book movies, the list only pertains to superhero movies that are in the midst of their series. You won't find anyone from X-Men Origins: Wolverine on this list, because the Wolverine film trilogy is finished. A warning to those who aren't up-to-date on their superhero movies: there are a lot of spoilers for the DC, Marvel and X-Men film universes. So with that in mind, let's look at the 15 worst characters in current superhero movies.
15 THE JOKER
Warner Brothers had a huge dilemma on their hands when it came to The Joker after Heath Ledger's iconic performance in The Dark Knight. Rather than shelve him, Warner Brothers decided to include him in their new film universe but they couldn’t just rehash the same thing. Instead, they went in a completely different direction with the character and wrote him as a glorified gangster complete with pimpmobile, grills and prison tattoos in Suicide Squad.
It feels as if Jared Leto is trying too hard and it shows. From his antics on set, it was clear that he was attempting a wholly original performance, but that couldn’t be further from what happened. Despite the physical differences, he is clearly trying to emulate Ledger (through his voice and mannerisms) rather than make The Joker his own. The Suicide Squad script didn’t do him any favors either as the characterization turned out to be very poor.
14 ROCKET RACCOON
What could be funnier than a genetically modified wisecracking raccoon? As it turns out, plenty. People enjoy that he acts the opposite way one would expect a cute little raccoon to act, but subverting conventions doesn’t make a great character. Although there are definitely some things we can appreciate about the character, the overall feeling we get while watching him is that he's a little corny. We can certainly sympathize with his troubled past, which is definitely the most interesting part of the character, but that doesn’t make him any less annoying the rest of the time. Practically every line he says is so cheesy and cliché that it's hard to believe he gets so much love from fans.
Beyond a few heartfelt moments with Groot and Yondu, he’s a really boring character. Maybe this has to do with Bradley Cooper’s performance, who shouts every single one of his lines. Use your inside voice, Rocket.
As much as Will Smith can be a charismatic actor that can be very charming and funny, he can't add any warmth to the stale Suicide Squad script. Rather than playing off of Will Smith's charm, the movie makes Deadshot out to be entirely forgettable and boring. It's telling that Deadshot is one of the main characters of the film, yet he still feels like one that's been underwritten.
The audience is constantly reminded that the Suicide Squad are the bad guys (although we never see them do much of anything that’s really bad), yet the film also portrays Deadshot as a hitman with a heart of gold that just wants to be there for his daughter. This is supposed to humanize him, but it only makes you wonder how many idiotic tropes can they stuff into this movie.
12 JEAN GREY
One of the casualties of X-Men: Apocalypse’s poor use of characterization is Jean Grey. The audience is given little of her backstory, and all we know is that she has horrible visions about the future and the other students are scared of her power. However, we never actually see her lose control. The only thing that comes close is at the end of the movie when Xavier tells her to use her full power to take down Apocalypse. Over the course of the movie, she doesn’t come to terms with her powers or learns how to control them better, because the filmmakers have to save that for the sequel. So in the end, she's left with absolutely no story arc.
Sophie Turner doesn’t do much to help this situation as her acting can only be described as flat. She delivers her lines very monotonously and just doesn’t seem like she’s putting much effort in the role.
11 JONATHAN KENT
Jonathan Kent is supposed to be Superman’s moral compass. He is supposed to be there for Clark in his time of need, when all seems lost and he needs someone to inspire him. At the end of the day, he ultimately represents Clark’s humanity. For some reason, Jonathan does the exact opposite in Man of Steel. Rather than show Clark the nobility of heroism, he constantly tells his adopted son that the world isn’t ready for him so he cannot show his powers. He spends the entire movie trying to convince Clark that saving others is bad for his own safety. But heroism is about risking yourself for the good of others. It’s about being able to face the evil in others, to hope when there is no hope left.
Jonathan died in vain because he refused to let Clark to reveal his powers to save him from a tornado. This depiction of the character goes against absolutely everything he represents in the comics.
Mystique, as portrayed by Rebecca Romijn in the first X-Men trilogy, was a total badass. The same cannot be said for Jennifer Lawrence’s character in the prequels, whose role throughout the films has been very confusing. Her decision to join Magneto at the end of X-Men: First Class made little sense within the context of her history with Xavier. Xavier, who took care of her since childhood, was just hit by a ricocheting bullet and she coldly decides to leave his side and join Magneto. Her childhood friend might die and she thinks this is the best time to abandon him, which makes absolutely no sense.
By the time Lawrence appears in X-Men: Apocalypse, it's clear that she’s not invested in this gig anymore. Mystique has flip-flopped so many times between Xavier and Magneto by that point that it’s really bizarre that she ends up leading the X-Men, a position normally reserved for Cyclops.
9 LEX LUTHOR
Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a lesson in what not to do when playing Lex Luthor. He is manic, twitchy, eccentric and, worst of all, really annoying. In short, everything Lex Luthor should not be. These tics might have worked well for Eisenberg in other roles like in The Social Network and Zombieland, but he lacks the charm, stoicism and wit that make Lex who he is.
In BvS, his ingenious diabolical plot is to get Batman to fight Superman to the death. Keeping with the tone set by the rest of the terrible script, his plot backfires in the most ridiculous way possible: Batman realizes that both he and Superman’s mothers share the same name which makes him (somehow) realize that Superman was good all along. Lex had a backup plan in Doomsday, which in itself is an extremely dangerous risk as he doesn’t know what this creature is capable of or if he can control it.
Within Marvel’s cinematic universe, Thor has always been the least interesting character. Hopefully Thor: Ragnarok changes all that, but for the time being he remains a boring character trapped in lame solo movies. That’s not to say Chris Hemsworth isn’t a capable actor, as he does have a few funny moments, like when he asks a pet shop clerk for a horse or when he is completely shocked when Vision hands him Mjolnir. Thor is just uninteresting, and he fairs a lot better in an Avengers setting.
The problem with the Thor films is that they take themselves a little too seriously. We understand that Thor is supposed to be the straight man in this situation, while other characters react to his strange stature as a god, but the uber-seriousness of every character in Asgard make Thor’s boring status even more noticeable.
Henry Cavill may be wooden at times, but at the end of the day he wasn’t in charge of writing the lousy scripts he was provided, and you can’t really do much as an actor if there is nothing interesting on the page. Many have criticized the DC Extended Universe of being too bleak and it lacks the light-heartedness that makes the Marvel Universe so fun. They are quick to point the finger to Superman as proof that DC needs to lighten up a bit. The optimism and wonder of Christopher Reeves is gone, replaced by grit and darkness. This is a Superman that doesn’t smile.
But I suppose he doesn’t have much to smile about. As discussed earlier, his adoptive father taught him all the wrong lessons. Clark gets reprimanded for doing the right thing, like saving his schoolmates when their bus crashes in a lake. No wonder he’s such a mess, but hopefully that will change in Justice League.
6 RONAN THE ACCUSER
Ronan the Accuser is a radical Kree who refuses to abide by the peace treaty between the Kree and Xandar in Guardians of the Galaxy. He forges an alliance with Thanos who will destroy Xandar in exchange for the Infinity Stone that is in Peter Quill’s possession. Ronan’s motivation for destroying Xandar is summed up in one line of dialogue: “I do not forgive [the people of Xandar] for taking the life of my father, and his father, and his father before him. A thousand years of war between us will not be forgotten!" The audience never witnesses the war he discusses and the hardships he had to face, so there is absolutely no reason to empathize with him.
Ronan’s one redeeming quality is that he can be the butt of a joke. We're referring to the scene at the end of the movie where Peter Quill distracts him by challenging him to a dance-off while Rocket fixes the Hadron Enforcer gun so Drax could fire it at him. Beyond that, he's just another generic villain bent on ruling the universe. Boring.
Incubus is the brother of Enchantress and his powers include looking like a terrible CGI gummy bear, while attacking people with tentacle arms and helping his sister create the Eyes of the Adversary which are soldiers who act as their minions. Like most villains on this list, his goal is world domination because his sister told him that’s what they have to do. Basically he’s evil and magical and because he was a god among men, he feels he deserves to be recognized and has a right to destroy the world. He is a gimmick and nothing more.
You would have thought that by 2016, film studios would have finally understood that cookie-cutter villains with paper thin motivations and faceless henchmen just don’t pass for good characters anymore. Hopefully this is a trend that will end in future superhero movies.
4 MALEKITH THE ACCUSED
"Who?" you may be asking yourself. Exactly. No one remembers him because he was the forgotten villain of Thor: The Dark World. Malekith is the leader of the Dark Elves, although he looks more like a vampire than anything. Malekith fought a battle with Bor, the father of Odin, after trying to unleash the Aether (an Infinity Stone) on the Nine Realms. He lost the battle and Bor safeguarded the Aether in stone, but Malekith escaped and remained in suspended animation until the Aether resurfaced so that he could once again attempt to accomplish his evil plot of destroying the Nine Realms.
The main issue with Malekith is that he perfectly encapsulates the problem Marvel has with their villains: he’s generic. Like all of Marvel’s bad guys, he's motivated by hatred and a hunger for power, which doesn’t make for a very compelling villain. It also explains why you probably don’t remember him. He’s just a reason for Thor to spring into action rather than a foe with any intellectual depth or actual menace.
One of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s biggest mistakes was to include the CGI disaster that is Doomsday. When the first trailer revealing Doomsday was released, many fans believed that he was in a primitive form and would mutate or become more menacing throughout the movie, but that was not the case.
In the comics, Doomsday was genetically engineered monster born in pre-historic Krypton. His creator provided him with a very limited motivation: hatred and an appetite for destruction. He was Superman’s most fearsome foe, and when he made his first appearance in the comics, he was the only supervillain who could actually go toe-to-toe with Superman in terms of his physical strength and his super powers. In fact, he actually killed Superman in "The Death of Superman" story arc. Rather than remaining closer to the character’s rich source material or give him any agency or backstory, the writers reduced him to a Lex Luthor science experiment that has very little screen time.
2 EMMA FROST
In X-Men: First Class, January Jones plays Emma Frost, a powerful telepath who can transform her body into a flexible diamond. She is a trusted friend of Sebastian Shaw and member of the mutant supremacy group known as the Hellfire Club. Most fans agree that Frost ended up being one of the worst characters in the movie.
If Jared Leto was trying too hard, January Jones is at the other end of the spectrum: she’s just not trying at all. Her delivery is really bland and monotonous, and she has a stiff screen presence. She gives the impression that this is just a paycheck for her, but I don’t really blame her for not putting in the effort. Emma Frost has always had a ridiculous costume, and in this film she acts as gratuitous eye candy and nothing more.
Enchantress is a witch that possessed archeologist Dr. June Moone. Amanda Waller catches wind of the metahuman and obtains her heart so that she can control the witch. One glaring problem is that it is never explained how Dr. Moone is able to take back control of her body before Amanda Waller obtains the witch’s heart. The movie is so quick to zip through each character’s backstory that they forgot to patch over the obvious plot holes.
What can be said about Enchantress that hasn’t already been said about Incubus? Not much. And that’s the problem. She is supposed to be the main villain of the movie, but she doesn’t have much more going for her in terms of characterization to set her apart from Incubus. It’s telling that people were not even sure who the villain of Suicide Squad actually was until the release of the movie and the marketing team didn’t bother to make her a focus of any advertising.
Think Thor is actually better than Iron Man? Were you legitimately terrified by Suicide Squad's Enchantress? Hit us up in the comments and let us know what you think!