The 90s were a golden age for toys and action figures. Everything was extreme and had an attitude, and every single property that had the least bit of action in it was turned into a collection of action figures. If it had any appeal at all to kids, the licensing rights could be very valuable. This is how we ended up with great toys series such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men, but this is also how we ended up with toys using the likeness of lesser properties such as Street Sharks, Toxic Crusaders, and the Incredible Crash Test Dummies. These might have looked attractive to a kid’s hyperactive mind when looking at the back of a Sears catalog, but they certainly did not age well.
The sense of urgency of every creator of movies, TV shows, video games and comic books to turn their intellectual properties into licensed toys was such that the process of quality assurance was sometimes shortened, if not completely skipped over. Even for toys from popular series, some likenesses were less than accurate for secondary characters. For those that were made too rapidly, it was sometimes impossible to identify who was supposed to be represented once the packaging had been discarded.
We have assembled 25 of the most egregious examples of toys and actions figures which totally did not match their character. Most of these can be explained if we dig deep enough. When possible, we have included the companies’ reasoning. Still, some of these toys remain baffling, more than twenty years after their original production.
22 Chun-Li (GI Joe/Street Fighter)
I understand that Street Fighter was very popular in the 90s, and that GI Joe wanted a piece of that pie. What I don’t understand is why they couldn’t be bothered to modify their toys’ build at all? They tried to make existing GI Joe parts fit onto Street Fighter characters, and that’s how you end up with Chun Li wearing pants (which has never been her trademark) and looking like she got stung by bees. Even the drawing on the backing looks like the artist was described the idea of the character without ever seeing it in action.
21 Luigi (Super Mario Bros. Movie)
If you look at this picture of the line-up for the official toys of the Super Mario Bros. movie, you might think that these are some pretty solid action figures. Mario looks all right, so does King Koopa and the Goomba, but then… there’s Luigi. First of all, I never knew that John Leguizamo was that ripped. Second, the face is all wrong. The jaw is gigantic, the nose is too big, the lips are too full. I’m sure it’s a great likeness of someone, but this is not John Leguizamo.
20 Wolverine (Uncanny X-Men)
This 1991 action figure is based in the Uncanny X-Men comic. The characters have gone through several incarnations, and while they have always looked more or less the same, there has been some slight differences from one artists to another. Yet, I cannot remember Wolverine ever looking this decrepit. He has the face of someone who’s seriously lacking in self-confidence. Even the one in Old Man Logan did not appear to be this tired. He looks like Elvis is baffled as to why he suddenly grew some claws.
19 Sonya (Mortal Kombat)
Street Fighter was not the only fighting game that got a bad rap in the toys world. The Mortal Kombat series was also pretty bad. If a toy ended up looking like its intended likeness, it was most likely an accident. Here we have international law officer Sonya, depicted in that famous pajama of hers. I can understand if making a crop top was too much work for plastic molds of the mid-90s, but I feel like a better paint job would have solved half of the issues with this one.
18 The Penguin (Batman Returns)
When Batman Returns was released, the Dark Knight was so popular that the demand for toys based on the movie was huge. Kenner, the company tasked with creating the toys, wanted to save both money and time. Since they had already released Batman-themed toys in the past, they simply repainted some of the sculpts, which is how you end up with this Penguin action figure. Looking nothing like Danny DeVito, but still bearing the film’s official logo, young kids who got their Batman introduction from the movies must have been extremely confused.
17 Dennis Nedry (Jurassic Park)
This is in no way a knock on the actor who played Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park. He’s a fine comedian and very talented performer. However, I don’t remember him being this… fit, I guess. Or wearing a green turtleneck during the movie. Or sunglasses. Or gloves and a gun? What happened here? Did the toy company mix up a cool, secret agent version of Robert Muldoon with our nerdy computer programmer? All I know is that if Nedry actually looked like that in the movie, that Dilophosaurus wouldn’t have made it out of its enclosure.
16 Lara Croft (Video Game Super Star)
You would think that making an action figure based on a cartoon or video game would be easier than one based on an actual human being. You would be wrong. While this Lara Croft action figure gets a lot of things right in terms of paint job and body proportions, everything goes sideways when it comes to the toys’ head. In none of the Tomb Raider games do I remember poor Lara Croft being hit by Homer Simpsons’ make-up shotgun. And yet, here we are, with Ms. Croft looking like she got her face painted at the local fair.
15 Sheriff Of Nottingham (Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was certainly not a great film, but it still left its mark on the 90s because of how much effort went into it. Despite the dubious accents, the actors gave it their all, particularly Alan Rickman who played the villainous Sheriff of Nothingham with gusto.
You would think that this at least deserves a decent action figure, but no.
Instead, Mr. Rickman loses his beautiful curly mane and suddenly transforms into Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races. And yet, that’s not even the worst toy from that entire series.
14 Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible)
I don’t know what happened for Tom Cruise to be this surprised when they took a scan of his face for this action figure, but it must have been totally unexpected. Wait, didn’t you recognize the person being portrayed here? Believe it or not, this is supposed to be Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, from the first Mission: Impossible movie. That would have been a perfect toy if, at any point in the movie, Hunt hit a brick wall face-first at 100 km/h, but I don’t recall that happening.
13 Adam Maitland (Beetlejuice)
Can you believe that this action figure is supposed to represent a young Alec Baldwin? For the record, young Alec Baldwin did not look all that different from older Alec Baldwin; he was just a bit thinner. Still, this does not justify his official likeness looking like Stargate-era James Spader, if he had wandered into an early 90s skate park. I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to make the character look both totally rad and like a total dweeb at the same time.
12 Raiden (Mortal Kombat Movie Edition)
Let’s go back to the world of Mortal Kombat for this one. The big difference between video games Raiden and movie Raiden is that they thought that putting a white wig on Christophe Lambert would make him look more mature and wise than his video game counterpart. The toy version obviously wanted to strike a balance between “wise” and “powerful thunder god”, so they took angry video game Raiden and gave him Lambert’s white hair. The result: Something that I like to call “Richard Gere is upset”.
11 Bola Attack Mariner (Waterworld)
We go from one Kevin Costner vehicle to another, with Waterworld. At the time the most costly movie ever made, Waterworld was a disappointment at the box office, and also in the toy boxes of children everywhere. With only a small number of characters actually being noteworthy, the movie’s official series produced a number of variations of Kevin Costner’s main character.
All of these toys were slightly off from the real thing.
The main problem seems to be that the toy makers obviously thought Costner has more hair than he actually does. The second issue is that they obviously mistook him for MacGyver.
10 Ahmed Johnson Farmer (WWF STOMP Series)
Has anyone at Jakks ever seen Ahmed Johnson? He was the most shredded, muscularly gigantic man the WWF had seen since the 80s. One thing he did not look like was an angry Karl Malone. This toy makes it seem like Ahmed Johnson has been fasting for weeks, and that obviously put him in a very foul mood. When you compare such an atrocity to the meticulously detailed figure the WWE puts out on the market these days, this is downright primitive.
9 Edgar Friendly (Demolition Man)
The Demolition Man toy series did a fairly accurate if somewhat caricatural job with Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. Their characters, while not identical, carry their likeness adequately through clothing and facial expression.
The same accuracy did not propagate to Edgar Friendly.
The character is played by actor and comedian Denis Leary who, unlike his action figure, has a beard, almost no muscle to speak of, and is mostly treated as comic relief. Oh, and he most definitely always, ALWAYS, has his pants on.
8 Peter Pan (Hook)
This is supposed to be Robin Williams from the movie Hook. If you remember the movie, Williams portrays a middle-aged, down-on-his-luck version of the character. For his action figure, he got upgraded to smirking, roguish, hair-slicked-back Peter Pan. Somehow, that’s the best-looking Robin Williams action figure of the whole collection. There was also a variant called “Swashbuckling”, which outfitted him with a puffy vest, a scarf, and a bandana. It was less Peter Pan and more “playwright on vacation”. At least they got Rufio right.
7 Captain Steven Hiller (Independence Day)
No, this is not an action figure of Carl Weathers in Predator. This is supposed to be Independence Day’s Will Smith, at a time when he was right out of the Fresh Prince. Sure, he would eventually gain muscles, but Will Smith was always a pretty tall and lanky guy. This toy is making him look like a stocky boxer who may or may not be training to take on Rocky. Really, the only thing they got right in the entire portray is the mustache. Great work on the facial hair, guys.
6 “Chaos Effect” Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park)
I know that the internet is currently in love with Jeff Goldblum, and that his character was basically the best thing about Jurassic Park, but we have to be honest. He was never built like a superhero. This looks more like a neon yellow Superman than our lovable Dr. Ian Malcolm. This is all the more baffling because they actually got Goldblum’s likeness down pretty good for the second series, as well as for the follow-up Lost World licensed toys. Plus, I really don’t know why everyone in the 90s was giving gigantic guns and armors to action figures, no matter how peaceful the character was.
5 Mr. Furious (Mystery Men)
Mystery Men was kind of a flop when it came out in 1999, though it eventually became a cult hit. Still, it was a movie about superhero, so it did get a line of toys based on its characters. This is how we ended up with a Mr. Furious action figure, based on the character played by Ben Stiller.
Though he does look furious, the toy looks more like the singer from Papa Roach circa Last Resort.
The PVC trench coat is super 90s, however, and could have easily been recycled in a series of figures based on The Matrix.
4 David Levinson (Independence Day)
If you thought Will Smith was the only one to get his face messed up through the official Independence Day action figure series, think again! This time, it’s Jeff Goldblum’s turn to have his character completely misrepresented. David Levinson is supposed to be an IT guy, some kind of pacifist who would rather tinker with computers than shoot at something. Yet, they gave him a gun and a permanent itchy trigger finger. Plus, there’s the unfortunate fact that they also made him look like Woody Allen.
3 Arctic Assault Guile (Street Fighter Movie Series)
Also from the Street Fighter movie series comes this version of Guile, which I must remind everyone, was portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme. There are two main problems with this action figure. The first one is that it looks more like Ivan Drago than good ol’ JCVD. The second issue is that at no time in the movie does Guile go anywhere near the Arctic. In fact, the whole movie takes place in the jungle near Thailand. So even is this looked anything like The Muscles From Brussels, it would be a mystifying idea.
2 Bob The Goon (Batman Movie)
Bob the Goon might not be a household name, but he is a fairly prominent character from the first Tim Burton Batman movie, being the Joker’s main henchman and all. While he does look a little rough around the edges on film, he does not look at all like his official action figure.
That toy looks like Hulk Hogan fell on hard times.
It looks like your uncle that casually rides a motorcycle on weekends. It doesn’t even manage to look like the interpretation of the character that’s been drawn on the cardboard.
1 Robin Hood With Long Bow (Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves)
The title of worst Robin Hood action figure would go to this baby, Robin Hood himself. This toy is supposed to represent Kevin Costner. My wife thought it was John Travolta. To make things worse, this toy is only a repaint of another famous archer, Green Arrow, from a previous series of action figures. Not only couldn’t they be bothered to create a new toy for what was supposed to be the biggest action movie of 1991, they couldn’t even make a head that looked like the real thing. The whole process screams of laziness.