The Marvel Cinematic Universe has proven how to make superhero movies that are both quality entertainment as well as box office successes. While the MCU has a few misses, it has a much higher success rate than other studios pumping out superhero films. Of course, most movies have both detractors and defenders battling online in an endless war, but everyone can agree there are some movies too bad to ignore. Then again, there are always people who want to see the worst of the worst to discover those “so bad it’s good” films.
That is especially true when it comes to comic book adaptations. The movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes isn’t always the most accurate representation concerning quality films, but it does serve as a good indicator when it comes to the best of the best and the worst of the worst. While film critics can be harsh, when a movie gets a score below 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, you can be sure it is something to either avoid entirely or watch out of morbid curiosity. With so many great movies to catch up on, here is a look at 15 of the worst reviewed superhero movies of all time according to Rotten Tomatoes scores.
15. BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE – 27%
Batman V Superman is probably the most divisive movie on this list. Most critics and fans alike know that the film is bloated and tries to do too much in its already long running time. The biggest argument is the portrayal of Batman as a killing machine and Superman as a painfully unheroic character. Some fans love the gritty “reality,” while many others didn’t buy into it at all.
The biggest problem is the script. Batman wants to kill Superman because he might go bad. Doomsday was just shoe-horned into the end. Zack Snyder threw in dream sequences just to homage Red Son, Injustice and Dark Knight Returns. There was way too much bloated fan service, and that resulted in damaged goods. Luckily, Wonder Woman came along and proved there might be hope in the DCEU.
14. SUICIDE SQUAD – 25%
Suicide Squad was a chance for the DCEU to show that its creators learned from the mistakes of Batman V Superman. The movie was a step in that direction but suffered from other problems that caused it to fall short of anything produced in the MCU. Unlike BVS, the biggest problem with Suicide Squad was a script that was paper thin.
Suicide Squad has its positives, but those were just the characters that lived in the world. Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Jared Leto’s Joker and (shockingly) Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang all had their moments to shine. However, the entire movie consisted of an extended, fun intro that then dropped them into a situation where they had to fight to survive, without giving the audience a reason to care. The DCEU was trying too hard to make something different from BVS, but moved too far in the other direction.
13. BLADE TRINITY – 25%
Blade: Trinity might well be the least polarizing movie on the list, as well as the last to rank higher than 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. The problem is that this was a film trying to do too much, the same problem that killed the original Batman franchise. After a good first movie and a spectacular second effort, Blade: Trinity tried to force new characters into the plot for a possible spinoff opportunity.
Sure, Ryan Reynolds was fun as Hannibal King, but fans wanted to see Blade as the hero of his movie and he was pushed off to the side for the new heroes. There are things to like about the film, but it was an empty shell compared to what came before. It also doesn’t help that Wesley Snipes seemed to be phoning his performance in and the fight choreography was dull and uninspired.
12. SPAWN – 18%
It seems strange that the Spawn movie came out in the same year as the fun Spawn animated television series. However, where the TV show succeeded, the film failed miserably on almost every conceivable level. The CGI and special effects were huge (and now very dated) distractions. The vision of hell, the shape-shifting antagonist Clown (Violator), and Spawn using his powers were all pretty awful, and only succeeded in shining a harsher light on the film’s flimsy story.
Not everyone hated Spawn. In a puzzling review, Roger Ebert gave the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars and called it an “experimental art film.” That’s one interesting way to describe the movie. Another way to describe it is overly violent just to be violent and barely coherent with no sense of direction or story.
11. GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE – 17%
The first Ghost Rider movie was bad, with a poorly told story and Nicolas Cage being Nicolas Cage. However, the sequel was so much worse, and its brutal Rotten Tomatoes score shows how low the franchise dipped with Spirit of Vengeance. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor did such a great job on Crank before coming to the superhero adaptation that it made the failure so much more disappointing.
Cage leaned way too far into this movie, taking Johnny Blaze and turning him into a lunatic, while the CGI was a huge letdown once again. The biggest crime was a boring movie that took away the sense of uncontrolled frenzy in which Neveldine and Taylor are specialists. The duo had a chance to take the original Ghost Rider movie, which was boring itself, and crank it up. Instead, they just killed the entire franchise.
10. THE SPIRIT – 14%
Frank Miller watched Robert Rodriguez make Sin City, which was about as faithful a comic book adaptation ever could be. Miller then decided he could do the same thing and set out to try to replicate what Rodriguez did in Sin City with The Spirit. The problem is that Miller does not have the knowledge or talent of Rodriguez when it comes to filmmaking.
There are way too many problems with The Spirit to name here. Perhaps most glaring is that Sam Jackson plays one of the most ridiculous villains in any superhero movie, opposite Gabriel Macht as a cardboard cutout of a superhero. The visuals are dynamic and inspired but the story is campy and distinctly uninspired, and that is what drags the entire concept down.
9. JONAH HEX – 12%
One day, Josh Brolin will find his comic book franchise. The guy has played Thanos in a limited role in the MCU, a young Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black 3, Dwight in the second Sin City movie, and is about to star as Cable in Deadpool 2. Brolin might be trying to atone for his sins for playing Jonah Hex in his first comic book movie.
The movie was a hard sell to begin with, featuring a DC Comics character set in the Wild West that few people outside of comic book collectors even knew existed. The problem here is that the movie is only loosely based on the Jonah Hex comics and instead just seems like a hodgepodge of ideas from the supernatural aspects of the series. Unfortunately, the film never cares enough about the character or the story to piece together a cohesive narrative.
8. STEEL – 12%
Steel was an interesting hero when he first appeared in DC Comics. Initially one of the replacements for Superman after the Death of Superman storyline, John Henry Irons became an interesting character over the years on his own. However, for some reason, NBA star Shaquille O’Neal thought that this Superman supporting character would be a great chance for him to showcase his “acting skills.”
The story behind the film is more interesting than the movie itself. Steel was supposed to be a spinoff from the Death of Superman movie that Kevin Smith and Tim Burton were trying to make. That movie never came, but Warner Bros. made Steel anyway. In what comes as no surprise, O’Neal’s acting was horribly cheesy in Steel, and he wasn’t even memorable enough to win a Razzie for the performance.
7. SUPERMAN IV – 12%
It is curious that Christopher Reeve got a chance to make a fourth Superman movie after Superman III, a film where he took a backseat to comedian Richard Pryor. However, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace came out four years later and finally put the nail in the coffin of this cinematic run for the Man of Steel. What went wrong with this movie was the producers and director shooting a little too high when it comes to what makes Superman a hero.
In an era where the Cold War had everyone scared of a nuclear war with the USSR, Superman IV had the Man of Steel set out to save the world by destroying all nuclear warheads, making some ask what he couldn’t do. Add in a very cheesy villain in the Nuclear Man and some of the worst special effects in the entire series — many of which were rehashed and reused — and this was the movie that killed Superman.
6. BATMAN & ROBIN – 10%
Bat nipples and bad puns destroyed the Batman franchise that Tim Burton built. Not all the blame can go to director Joel Schumacher, although he takes a lot of flack for adding the nipples to the bat costume and changing the origins of major characters. However, as Chris O’Donnell has said in interviews, Batman & Robin was not a movie – it was an advertisement to sell toys.
That is what Batman & Robin ended up being – an ad for Happy Meals and action figures. Arnold Schwarzenegger took a character that could have been sympathetic and turned Mr. Freeze into a meme. The movie ruined both Bane and Batgirl. In fact, the entire film was a joke, made for little kids whose parents thought Batman Returns was too adult oriented.
5. ELEKTRA – 10%
Daredevil was a much better movie than a lot of people gives it credit for. Yes, it was the Director’s Cut that showed everyone its positive traits, but it doesn’t deserve the flack it receives. However, the spin-off movie Elektra deserves all the ridicule that comic book fans throw its way. The movie barely hits double digits on Rotten Tomatoes, and the brutal reviews are almost all on target.
Jennifer Garner did her best with the role but couldn’t match her action heroine skills from the TV show Alias. Instead, she trudged through an insulting superhero movie that included ham-fisted dialogue from a script that lacked humor and took the comic book world of Elektra way too seriously. The only thing that saved this one at all was the fact that people still remembered how bad Catwoman was.
4. FANTASTIC FOUR (2015) – 9%
The third movie to attempt to adapt the Fantastic Four (the fourth if you include the unreleased Roger Corman film) is also the worst rated on Rotten Tomatoes. The sad thing is that underneath the brutally scored movie is a decent story begging to get out. After going campy with the first two Fantastic Four films, Fox decided to darken things up for this one, and that was never the way to go with the First Family of Marvel Comics.
Fox hired director Josh Trank, who made a spiritual sequel to his original superhero movie Chronicle using The Fantastic Four. The film changed their origin to more align with the Ultimate Marvel Universe, and things started off well at first. However, the plot imploded horribly with a terrible portrayal of Doctor Doom and a ridiculous representation of The Negative Zone. Trank and Fox blamed each other, and the fans suffered, but arguably not as badly as its Rotten Tomatoes score.
3. CATWOMAN – 9%
It is almost hard to believe that there are superhero movies on Rotten Tomatoes with lower scores than Catwoman (but don’t worry, there are). Warner Bros. knew how to make a Catwoman character that fans could love, as is evident by Batman Returns. Even the version in the campy classic television show remains beloved by fans all over the world. However, what the Halle Berry-led production brought to Catwoman was an insult to the character and made even Batman & Robin look good in comparison.
The heroine in this movie is Catwoman by name only, and her entire origin and persona are nothing like the DC Comics character. Add in terrible dialogue and cringe-worthy scenes where Catwoman acts like a real cat — loving catnip and hissing at dogs — and the movie becomes unbearable. Catwoman is the one superhero movie where the producers did absolutely everything wrong.
2. CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990) – 8%
Before Blade and X-Men, the only superhero movies that achieved any success were from the DC Comics universe. However, that wasn’t for lack of trying. There was the Fantastic Four movie by Roger Corman that never saw the light of day. There was also a Captain America movie that starred Matt Salinger, the son of legendary author J.D. Salinger, in the lead role.
The origin story is the same as Captain America: The First Avenger, with Steve Rogers becoming America’s first and only super soldier before heading off to fight The Red Skull in World War II. The movie then tries to tie the Red Skull into the assassinations of John F. Kenney and Martin Luthor King Jr. before Captain America returns to save the day. The special effects were created on a made-for-TV budget at best, and the acting was as bad as it gets, directed by B-movie icon Albert Pyun.
1. SUPERGIRL – 7%
The lowest rated, most brutally-scored superhero movie on Rotten Tomatoes is a spinoff of a franchise that was already starting to come off the tracks. After Superman III failed to light up the box office, the producers decided to make a Supergirl spinoff movie to try to revive the franchise. Superman II and III director Richard Lester refused to touch it, and Christopher Reeve refused to cameo in it. Seeing the final result, they had to feel satisfied with their choice.
Helen Slater was one of the least interesting heroes in superhero movie history, and even great actors like Peter O’Toole and Faye Dunaway were unable to help raise the material above cheesy at best and horrifyingly embarrassing at worst. It was nice to see a studio try to create a female-led superhero movie in the ‘80s, but some fans assume that Supergirl killed any other attempts at that effort for almost two decades, as unfair as that may be.
Do you think any of the above Rotten movies actually have some artistic or entertainment value? Let us know in the comments!
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