Marvel hasn’t always been a cinematic giant. In fact, up until “Blade”, “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” DC Comics ruled the big screen. Even though Marvel ushered in a new era of superhero films in the late 90s with the aforementioned hits, when they did get things wrong they knew how to screw it up…or rather the studio’s that owned their characters’ rights did. Continuing Marvel Month I decided to look at a few movies that Marvel probably wants you to forget. These are my picks for the Top 10 Worst Marvel Movies of All Time.
For this list I only looked at Marvel films released theatrical in the United States, so the original “Punisher” from the 1980s and the 1990 release of “Captain America” as well as the unreleased “Fantastic Four” movie are all irrelevant here. To ensure that this list wasn’t just a collection of MY personal least favorite Marvel films any film on this list had to have a Rotten Tomatoes score of 59% or worse, which makes it a “Rotten” film by the websites rating meter, and from there they were graded with a combination of quality, personal preference, and justice to the characters and/or source material in mind.
Also seeing as some Marvel property franchises included several bad movies I limited myself to one films per series, so for example only one films EACH from the “X-Men” trilogy, the “X-Men” prequel series and the “Wolverine” trilogy can be included as these are all different series within the same franchise. Reboots are counted as a new series altogether so two films featuring the same heroes can also make this list under those circumstances. It should also not surprise you that no MCU films will be featured on this list as their lowest graded film, “Thor: The Dark World”, is at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes.
What do you think is the worst Marvel film to date? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list.
10. “X-Men: The Last Stand”
Relatively praised by critics (compared to others on this countdown), no list of bad Marvel movies could be completed without “The Last Stand”. The third and final film in the original “X-Men” series, this train wreck sidelined the franchise for years leading to the eventual prequel reboot that gave much needed new life to the property. “The Last Stand” is infamous for its poor take on the Dark Phoenix storyline from the comics and failed to do one of the most legendary X-Men opponents justice as a result. Fans despised this movie and it was a low point for the series as a whole and we can only hope the planned retelling of the Dark Phoenix saga in the prequel series next year will undo the damage. Despite its 58% Rotten Tomatoes score, “The Last Stand” was a failure to the fans and the legacy of the first two movies that started the superhero boom. However, it’s far from the worst “X-Men” movie in a franchise with multiple different series that will have a few more entries on this list still to come…in fact…
9. “X-Men: Apocalypse”
Two “X-Men” films in a row. Just like the first series, the reboot series of “X-Men” films that essentially wiped the original timeline clean off the map also faltered in its third outing scoring a measly 48% on Rotten Tomatoes making it the second worst reviewed live-action “X-Men” films in the entire franchise. As with “The Last Stand”, “Apocalypse” also failed to do justice to a worthy villain as the megamutant that provided the film with its name was downgraded significantly in both power and design from his comic book counterpart. Overall the story was lazy, leaning heavily on the success and tropes of past films as well as the emotional depth of tired storylines, and failed to truly capture the epic nature of Apocalypse as a threatening villain. Overall it was a movie without heart or conviction that felt muddled and out of place when compared to its predecessors earning it even less love than “The Last Stand”. The irony is the characters in “Apocalypse” even make a joke about the third movies always being the worst, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts that has now become a hilarious example of cinematic irony.
8. “Fantastic Four (2005)”
I debated heavily which of the first two original “Fantastic Four” movies I was going to add to this list but went with the one more hated by critics. The first “Fantastic Four” movie from 2005 was as bland an origin tale as you could imagine, scoring 27% on Rotten Tomatoes and failing to do much justice to any of the characters or the villainous Doctor Doom. While there were some highlights, including the then somewhat-revolutionary makeup to bring The Thing to life and Chris Evans memorable take on Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, there’s actually very little superhero action in the entire film which is composed mostly of gags and infighting between the four heroes and sets up a lackluster final battle that makes Doctor Doom look like a useless puppy. The superhero genre has grown a lot since this infamously bad film, and the funny thing is some fans actually DO like it and once another film focusing on Marvel’s first family was released others probably didn’t think this one was quite as bad either…more on that film later.
7. “Blade: Trinity”
The Marvel world owes “Blade” heavily for legitimizing the company’s ability to bring its heroes to the big screen effectively, but that doesn’t forgive this uninspired closer to the vampire hunter’s trilogy. “Blade Trinity” was a huge step down from the first two films in the series and, as a result, is the third third-movie to be featured on this list. With a deserving 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes this low point for the franchise couldn’t match the punch of the first two despite the added star power of Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel. Considered “campy” and “incoherent” “Trinity” leaned too heavily on the success of the previous films and the popularity of its titular hero and suffered as a result, giving us a movie without a heart, soul or unique identity and effectively ending the “Blade” franchise as other superhero films shined. Over the years it has gained more respect from fans due mostly to the joy they experienced from the first two and the legacy of the character, but in the end “Trinity” still stands as the film that sidelined Marvel’s original cinematic franchise hit.
6. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”
Yes, believe it or not this film is worse than “Blade Trinity” and “Fantastic Four” despite having a higher rating of 38% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s not the critics that bring this third and final “X-Men” film to my list to this point. No, this movie that kicked off a trilogy of Wolverine-centric films makes this list for its infamy among fans more than anything else. Despite bringing several popular X-Men characters to the big screen for the first time, including the Blob, Deadpool and Gambit, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” failed on nearly every level including it’s depiction of those characters. With more style than substance, this much-despised movie is one many fans have tried to forget and leaned more on Hugh Jackman’s lead character and the fact that fans will turn out for anything with Wolverine’s name on it than actually producing a complex and interesting take on the hero’s origins. If nothing else this film completely murdered Deadpool, in more ways than one. Thankfully both Deadpool and Wolverine have been the subject of far superior films since, but this one still leaves a bad taste in the mouth of many who recall it as one of the finest examples of insulting the source material with careless writing and overuse of creative license.
I did consider adding “Daredevil” to this list, but there just wasn’t enough room and I couldn’t put it lower than the film that followed it. “Elektra” was a standalone somewhat-sequel to “Daredevil” and while I personally can find many redeeming factors to the divisive “Daredevil” film, “Elektra” is a lot harder to defend. With a disastrous 10% on Rotten Tomatoes “Elektra” suffered from a bland story, uninspired writing, forgettable villains, and completely wasted The Hand as a worthy adversary while Jennifer Garner all but phoned in her second take on the sexy heroine whose complexity was completely watered down. Since this film we’ve gotten a much better interpretation of the character on the small screen via Netflix, but this cash grab film remains one of Marvel’s worst that many would like to forget. “Daredevil” might have been a divisive movie at best, but it was nowhere near as bland and boring as this spinoff which took an incredibly promising heroine and an opportunity to be Marvel’s first female-led hit and squandered everything it had going for it.
4. “Punisher: War Zone”
Another Marvel character done more justice on the small screen than the big screen, Punisher has had three live-action movies, two that hit theaters, made about him and the second in the 2000s is the one that makes this list. “Punisher: War Zone” is a cash grab if there ever was one. With a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, this might have been the R-rated movie the anti-hero needed, but it’s not the one he deserved. Another film with bland writing and a lack of effective storytelling, “War Zone” felt out of date and out of place ignoring the continuity of its predecessor and instead going for a more over-the-top, heartless and violent depiction of the hero with none of the complexity or depth to back it up. There’s nothing really redeemable about this Punisher here, the character or the movie, unless the violence of the character is all you came to see. The previous film gave us a version of the Punisher and one that had more humanity and was more relatable, memorable and charming. Sadly this film failed to capture any of that and gave us the Punisher character studio executives thought we wanted phoning it in every step of the way.
3. “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”
Speaking of over-the-top cash grabs don’t be ashamed if you didn’t even know this movie existed considering it went in and out like the wind in 2012. The first “Ghost Rider” film wasn’t exactly a gem itself, but the second film that followed it several years later was Sony’s attempt to utilize the character before Marvel could repossess the rights to the Ghost Rider and it felt like a rushed job as a result. Nicholas Cage returned as the daredevil stunt rider turned flame-skulled superhero but even for Cage’s acting style this film felt lazy and unfocused with a poor script, subpar visual effects that tried to look cool but didn’t and little respect to the deeper, darker elements of the hero despite the story trying to tackle a less family-friendly presentation. “Spirit of Vengeance” wasn’t memorable, it wasn’t warranted, and it really wasn’t wanted by fans who already saw Sony fail to do the character justice once before. Thankfully, like many others on this list, the character saw redemption and was reverted back to Marvel after this film flopped before being reborn in the MCU television spinoff, “Agents of Shield”.
2. “Howard the Duck”
While DC Comics was wracking in the bucks and critical praise early on with hits like “Superman” and “Batman”, Marvel’s appearances on the big screen started really really REALLY bad with a film that is legendary for its poor quality and quirky nature. That film was “Howard the Duck”. With a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes the film is still one of the most legendarily bad superhero and comicbook movies ever made. What keeps it from topping this list is that strangely enough “Howard the Duck” still has its fans, but its outdated suit acting, its odd hints towards bestiality, its completely over the top, corny and out there script and story, and let’s not forget the “duck boobs” have all made it infamous as an example of how a superhero movie can go completely wrong. It would be quite a while before studios had the courage to try to bring C-level superheroes to the bigscreen again, but to “Howard the Duck’s” credit it does have a legacy. The character himself has become a cult icon and even made an appearance in “Guardians of the Galaxy”. All this considered, there’s no getting around the fact that “Howard the Duck” has received near universal credit as one of the worst Marvel and comic book movies ever made, but many, including myself, would argue there is one that’s even worse.
1. “Fantastic Four” (2015)
Regardless of what you might think of any film on this list, none has received more hatred and criticism than this train wreck. Released ten years after the first “Fantastic Four” movie and sporting the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score on this list, with a miserable 9%, the 2015 reboot “Fantastic Four” is by far the worst film based on a Marvel property and, like others on this list, was the result of a studio trying to bleed whatever they could from a franchise property before the rights reverted back to Marvel. Plagued by now-legendary production controversies, “Fantastic Four” was scarred by studio interference and even its director disowning the project, and all of this helped doom the movie before it even premiered. After it hit the big screen fans came to realize it was just as bad as promised with an uneven tone, horrible costume designs, a lack of any concern for the source material, no chemistry among its leads, and, once again, a horrible interpretation of one of Marvel’s most legendary villains Doctor Doom. Largely considered not only one of the worst superhero movies ever, but one of the worst mass-distributed movies of the 2010s to date “Fantastic Four” is legendary for all of the wrong reasons and you’d be hard pressed to find any fan who finds anything remotely redeemable about this project. It’s sad that Marvel’s First Family has had such bad luck on the big screen and it’s movies like this that have people believing that maybe, just maybe the original Marvel team is just too difficult to do justice on the big screen.