Long before DC matched a red cape with blue spandex and popularized the term "superhero," literary figures have been seeking new and exciting ways to save the day while introducing villains to their fists of justice. Spring Heeled Jack, Hugo Hercules, and The Scarlet Pimpernel may predate Marvel or DC by a fair few decades, but superheroes are inadvertently associated with both brands. A couple of campy but endearing TV series aside, comic books and cinema enjoyed a rather tumultuous relationship for the greatest part of half a century. For every Superman II or Tim Burton's Batman, Hollywood produced five Superman IIIs and Batman Forevers. If the protagonist owned a cape, expectations needed to be kept in check.
X-Men kickstarted the genre's rehabilitation, while Sam Raimi's Spider-Man proved superheroes had the potential to eclipse more conventional blockbusters. Nowadays, a few months seldom pass without a fresh superhero extravaganza landing in theatres. Following more than a decade of adventures, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is set to bring Phase 3 to a close with Avengers: Endgame. X-Men continues to spawn annual sequels and spin-offs, which tend to flip flop between awesome and awful. Superheroes have become mainstream enough to spawn a sub-genre dedicated to subverting tropes affiliated with Marvel and DC's traditional projects. Occasionally, the DC Extended Universe even produces a good film!
Oversaturation breeds contempt. A day shall pass when superheroes fail to complement the cultural zeitgeist, prompting a new type of blockbuster to emerge. Until then, Hollywood plans to milk heroes in latex and spandex until nothing is left!
Here are the 15 worst superhero movies according to Rotten Tomatoes (and the 15 best)!
Sitting with a respectable 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, 1981's Superman II serves as a fine albeit dated early model of the current superhero formula. In the span of just two years, The Man of Steel went from a prime example of comic books' adaptation potential to dooming the genre to B-grade schlock for the foreseeable future. Superman III is an absolute mess that only seems decent if compared to its even worse successor.
Despite bringing back Gene Hackman, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is a laughable attempt at a (cheap) summer blockbuster. The special effects are impressively amateurish, the plot is unabashedly stupid, and Jon Cryer portrays Luthor's nephew.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, Iron Man does not quite rank as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's magnum opus. Average scores aside, Robert Downey Jr.'s first turn as Tony Stark is undoubtedly Marvel's most significant project. Christopher Nolan and Sam Raimi had already produced a couple of decent flicks, but Batman Begins and Spider-Man exist within their own isolated bubble.
Along with working splendidly as a standalone project, Iron Man's commercial and critical success convinced Marvel to take a gamble and aim bigger than a trilogy centering around a single character.
Spoiler: Justice League and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice are not featured on this list's worst side. The DC Extended Universe has taken viewers on a rather bumpy ride, but one should not underestimate or forgot the superhero genre's legacy with scrapping the bottom of the barrel.
Jonah Hex was released in 2010, well after comic books solidified themselves as a respectable source for adaptations. Jonah Hex wastes a surprisingly brilliant cast on a boring, inconsequential, ugly, and confusing journey packed with about as much thrills as Wild Wild West. Megan Fox is too good for Jonah Hex, let alone Josh Brolin and Michael Fassbender.
The DC Extended Universe's star player also featured in the greatest female-led superhero film to be released. Captain Marvel is decent but lacks Wonder Woman's unique setting, thematic weight, and fascinating main character. In hindsight, considering the Amazonian easily steals the show in any of her three appearances, the backlash stemming from Gal Gadot's appointment as DC's iconic warrior seems utterly absurd.
If it were not for the horrendous third act, Wonder Woman could have presumably scored an even higher score than 93%.
Shaquille O'Neal was the man during the '90s! One of the NBA's undeniable legends, the lovable athlete lent his recognizable face and goofy smile to a number of side-projects. Shaq Fu is one of the all-time greatest "so bad, it's good" games, but 1997's Steel is simply a below average movie.
1997 was a pretty embarrassing year for superheroes in cinema and few came close to matching the sheer incompetence on display in Kenneth Johnson's DC adaptation. Steel looks like a TV special that somehow stumbled its way to theatres.
Regardless of FOX's tendency to ruin a trilogy with an infuriating final entry, a dozen X-Men Origins: Wolverines cannot take away the vital role mutants played in rescuing superheroes from C-Movie purgatory. Prior to 2017's R-Rated adventure, Hugh Jackman's solo outings left something to be desired. Thankfully, Wolverine went out with a bang rather than a whimper.
Fueled by Deadpool's success, Logan beats down the superhero until the only thing left is a tired old man who just wants these annoying kids to stay off his lawn. Logan is the definitive Wolverine cinematic story.
Ben Affleck and superheroes have an unfortunate habit of drawing out the worst in each other. Even though the Director's Cut improves significantly upon the theatrical version, Daredevil is forgettable and frequently silly. Despite the name in the title, to the film's detriment, Jennifer Garner's Elektra hogs much of the limelight. It is almost like 20th Century Fox planned to create a spin-off!
Do not let its ranking fool you, Elektra is the most boring entry on this list. Does anyone remember the story? Garner is a capable enough actress, but she is stuck portraying a protagonist who never comes across as anything more than a minor character.
At long last, Pixar's highly anticipated sequel to 2004's The Incredibles dropped in 2018. Falling short of the astronomically lofty bar set by its predecessor, Incredibles 2 is nevertheless a fun action-packed ride with animation's beloved crimefighting family. Unsurprisingly, Pixar's animation is magnificent, while the original's humor remains largely intact in the sequel.
While the narrative mainly elects to retread familiar ground, Brad Bird's sequel possesses enough charm to cover any lulls in the story. Incredibles 2 might not quite be incredible, but Pixar's blockbuster is still very good.
Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever substituted Tim Burton's grim aesthetic and darker tone with neon lights and Jim Carrey hopping all over the place like an energizer bunny. Batman & Robin takes the preceding film's worst components and magnifies them by a hundred.
Batman & Robin single-handedly turned the Caped Crusader into a joke. Superheroes were already considered a gamble, but 1997's puntastic commercial and critical flop turned the sub-genre into a parody of itself. George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the only two whose careers survived to rise another day.
A placing so perfect, we almost suspect Rotten Tomatoes planned for this exact situation!
Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight marked a turning point in Hollywood's relationship with superheroes. Batman Begins stands as Bruce Wayne's definitive cinematic origin story and reinstated the eponymous hero in the public's good graces. Grounded in something resembling reality and bolstered by a slew of memorable performances, The Dark Knight is arguably the first superhero flick to transcend comic books.
The Dark Knight works as a crime drama, action thriller, or a psychological character study. Christopher Nolan's project is about more than just a superhero.
Melissa Benoist's Supergirl needed a season to affirm itself as a worthwhile extension to Kara's mythos, but the later seasons justify sitting through some growing pains. Following three (commercially) successful Superman movies, Kal-El's cousin earned a big-budget debut and instantly cemented herself as one of the least convincing superheroes to grace the big screen.
Supergirl is the cinematic equivalent of a moldy block of cheese. Marvel's modern flicks boast the occasional groan-worthy line, but none of them come close to matching Supergirl's talent for inflicting second-hand embarrassment.
40 years and a couple reboots later, the Man of Steel's debut is yet to be surpassed by any of DC's subsequent attempts to reinvent the Kryptonian. Richard Donner's Superman and its sequel infamously endured a great deal of studio meddling, leading to the release of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut in 2006.
1978's Superman cannot be fairly compared to The Dark Knight or Iron Man. The movie's lethargic pacing may be off-putting for unfamiliar viewers, and Christopher Reeve's eponymous hero is noticeably devoid of substance if compared to recent crimefighters. Analyzed in context, Superman fully earns its 94% average score.
Marvel's first family should stay as far away from Hollywood as feasibly possible. Time and time again, history has shown the Fantastic Four to be incapable of translating to film without leaving a trail of tears in its wake. Infamously dissed by the movie's own director prior to its release, Josh Trank's Fantastic Four squandered any goodwill the director succeeded in accumulating through Chronicle.
Desperately striving to be a gritty modern re-telling of a license primarily known for not taking things too seriously, Fantastic Four is a miserable experience for everyone involved.
The Dark Knight, Marvel's The Avengers, and Spider-Man 2 could not convince the Academy to acknowledge superheroes. For all its accomplishments, Wonder Woman failed to surmount this obstacle. Black Panther rose to the challenge and drove the typically blockbuster-phobic Academy to take notice.
As of March 2019, Black Panther is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's highest rated movie. Personal preference aside; Chadwick Boseman's solo turn tells an interesting story, possesses a fun and memorable cast, while injecting a touch of diversity to the genre.
In an alternate reality, a Catwoman solo project ushered in a brave new era of unconventional superhero flicks starring something other than white male actors. Halle Berry's Catwoman is not that film.
Quickly edited to hide the poor stunt work and choreography, Catwoman's plot centers around an evil cosmetic company led by Sharon Stone, although the movie is primarily preoccupied with providing an excuse to stick Halle Berry in her embarrassing costume. Batman & Robin is unintentionally funny; on the other hand, Catwoman is simply boring.
Only something truly special holds any hope of standing out among masterpieces such as Up, WALL-E, and Toy Story 2. The Incredibles has a convincing case for being Pixar's greatest creation, and such a claim is not made lightly. Directed by Brad Bird, 2004's animated blockbuster pays homage to superheroes while subverting certain tropes associated with the sub-genre.
With each passing year, appreciation for The Incredibles only seems to grow. Incredibles 2, which scored a high enough score to rank among Rotten Tomatoes' greatest superhero movies, is nowhere near as brilliant as its predecessor!
Marvel may be setting the pace in recent years, but the company's earliest attempts at cinematic adaptations are better left forgotten. Unfortunately for 1990's Captain America, YouTube's nostalgic-themed reviewers have long memories and broad fanbases.
Somehow failing to live up to Howard the Duck or 1989's The Punisher, Captain America is too stupid to hate. Starring Matt Salinger as a confused Steve Rogers and Scott Paulin as the Red Skull, Captain America feels like baby's first attempt at creating a movie. Nobody wants to be here, but we will happily yell encouragements from the cheap seats.
Listed as a double-feature due to the obvious similarities between the two movies, Return of the Caped Crusaders takes the cheesy characters of Adam West's Batman series and drops them in a setting reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. The humor's mileage varies depending on a viewer's familiarity with the classic TV show; however, the absurdist comedy packs a sizable enough punch to entertain newbies.
Regardless of the higher rating, Batman vs. Two-Face is arguably the lesser of the two films and repeats quite a number of the gags introduced by its predecessor.
Jim Carrey's The Mask only holds a passing resemblance to its comic book inspiration. Eliminating all of the source material's grotesque violence and tweaking Stanley Ipkiss' persona to adhere to conventional standards of a traditional superhero, The Mask delivers a fun albeit goofy ride.
Son of the Mask is an abomination apt at giving children or adults nightmares. Bad sequels are almost to be expected when none of the key players make a return, but few actively insult their audience's intelligence like this atrocious horrorshow.
Taking home the Oscar for 2018's Best Animated Feature Film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse supersedes Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming as the wall crawler's cinematic masterpiece. Assembling various iterations of the hero in a gorgeously animated version of New York, Into the Spider-Verse embodies comics wholeheartedly and authentically.
In the future, discussions partaking to fully realized adaptations of comic books will inadvertently present Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as the standard to beat. Sony Pictures dropped the ball with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but 2018's cartoon is a pretty decent apology.
Speaking about Sony Pictures, the studio's Zoom tends to be confused with the previous year's Sky High, another film revolving around a superpowered family. Starring Kurt Russell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Bruce Campbell's chin; Sky High's superpower is an impressive ability to be immediately whipped from someone's memory. At the very least, Sky High is not Zoom.
Zoom can effortlessly pass for a Disney Channel TV movie. Unfortunately, Tim Allen's comedy earned a theatrical release and shockingly flopped at the box office.
Nowadays, Frank Miller's reputation is about as spotless as one of Gotham's alleyways, but there was a time when the writer's name merited respect. Even more so than 1988's Batman: The Killing Joke, Miller's The Dark Knight Returns instigated an industry-wide shift towards examining the people underneath the masks. Whether this change proved to be for the better is a point of contention, but that does not take anything away from The Dark Knight Returns.
Split into two parts, 2012's The Dark Knight Returns is about as perfect of an adaptation as realistically possible.
All things considered, RoboCop has mostly spawned acceptable sequels or remakes. Obviously, the first is rightfully recognized as a genre classic and holds up reasonably well for a 30-year-old film. RoboCop 2 admittedly fares significantly worse, although the sequel is watchable.
In a genius attempt to appeal to a wider audience, RoboCop 3 dropped the franchise's typical R rating for a PG-13. Hopefully, MGM sold billions of action figures, as the studio definitely did not create a good film. Considering the fourth entry never came to fruition, it is safe to assume RoboCop 3 disappointed in every area.
Zorro has been on countless swashbuckling adventures, with some dating back to the silent era. Antonio Banderas' 1998 revival stands shoulder to shoulder with the greatest of them; however, according to Rotten Tomatoes, The Mask of Zorro does not quite rank among the top tier.
1940's The Mark of Zorro owes a lot to Tyrone Power's convincing turn as the masked vigilante. Along with just offering a highly entertaining adventure, The Mark of Zorro features one of cinema's best swordfights in Zorro's final duel against Captain Esteban.
Casting Terminator 2: Judgement Day's Edward Furlong as the titular spirit of vengeance, The Crow: Wicked Prayer is another uninspired remake of Brandon Lee's The Crow. Replacing the gothic city with a brightly lit small town, Wicked Prayer uses over-the-top violence in a desperate attempt to distract viewers from the fact the story lacks anything resembling a narrative drive or interesting characters.
Choosing Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Angel to portray the main villain sounds interesting on paper, but nobody has ever accused The Crow: Wicked Prayer of being interesting.
Forget Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DC Animated Movie Universe is home to the real Batman and Superman. Launching with 2013's Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, more than ten films have been produced and Warner Bros. seems set to continue expanding the universe for quite a while longer.
The Flashpoint Paradox, Batman vs. Robin, Batman: Bad Blood, and Constantine City of Demons: The Movie are all sitting pretty with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, in all fairness, reviews are relatively scarce for each project. Nevertheless, the DC Animated Movie Universe earned a spot on this list.
Although never in with a shot of ranking among cinema's top superheroes, The Toxic Avenger scored a respectable 70% from critics. Defying all logical expectations, 2000's Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV brought the franchise to a satisfying close with a surprisingly effective sequel that earned the same score as the original film.
Apparently, Toxie experienced a slump for 1989's sequel, which earned the coveted 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Due to a relatively small sample size of eight reviews, The Toxic Avenger: Part II cannot be fairly labeled as one of the truly worst films of all time. Personally, Toxie trounces Halle Berry's Catwoman and Salinger's Captain America any day of the week.
Anime fans will be happy to know a sequel to My Hero Academia: Two Heroes has already been announced. Based on Kōhei Horikoshi's ongoing manga and Bones' highly regarded anime series, Two Heroes takes place between the latter's second and third seasons. While the story can be chalked up as filler, the movie does not pull any punches in terms of action or character moments.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly made a considerably wider splash than Two Heroes, and Saiyans are basically superheroes. However, only one of these two recent anime secured a spot among the genre's best performers.
Max Steel is fascinating. Based on a line of toys by Mattel and a couple of animated TV series, Max Steel feels like it should have been released as a double feature with 1997's Steel, and that has nothing to do with their similar names. The fact this adaptation came out in the same year as Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, and Doctor Strange is insane!
Want a more fun way to spend two hours rather than sitting through Max Steel? Watch Suicide Squad or X-Men: Apocalypse, two other superpowered trainwrecks released during 2016. Alternatively, we recommend mindlessly slapping toys together until all that remains is a collection of scattered plastic limbs.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, 2010's Batman: Under the Red Hood is the greatest superhero flick to ever movie. Taking into account many fans consider Batman: The Animated Series to be beyond reproach, the top spot going to a cartoon starring the Caped Crusader should not come as too shocking of a surprise. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker are also fantastic in their own right.
If 2019 has anything to say about it, this ranking could very well be in store for a shakeup. By this time next year, any one of Shazam!, Hellboy, Avengers: Endgame, Dark Phoenix, and Spider-Man: Far from Home may feature on a similar list. Hopefully, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is not the one to give way.