It’s an age-old pastime of comic book and movie fans alike — ranking the worst of the worst. Here’s our list of the worst comic book film adaptations ever. We even broke format and included an extra flick past our Top 10. We’re sure you have some stinkers to add as well …
10. Spawn (1997)
We’ve like to give it an ‘A’ for effort — and ‘Spawn’ had its moments — but something as epic as Todd McFarlane’s angel of death anti-hero needed a budget MUCH larger than it got. How can we have a Spawn that runs around without his trademark cape most of the movie? This is not a character that a PG-13 rating should limit. All was not lost for Spawn though, the HBO cartoon series was appropriately dark, gritty and ahead of its time.
9. Masters of the Universe (1987)
Dolph Lundgren — who in theory is perfect to play a superhero of some kind — is going to show up a couple of times on this list, here’s his first contribution. Cheesy 80s effects? Check. Characters that come nowhere close to resembling their comic book/cartoon selves? Check. Boring film that should have been awesome? Checkmate.
8. Barb Wire (1996)
The 90s were not a good time to be a comic book fan at the multiplex. This loose remake of “Casablanca” (set in a strip club) was one of the larger profile indie comics to make it to the big screen (along with The Crow, Tank Girl, The Mask, etc.), thanks in part to its lead Pam Anderson. And where most comic book adaptations fail to be honest about their source material, at least ‘Barbwire’ came out guns blazing with an R rating. It’s just that beyond that opening credits sequence they didn’t do much with it that mattered.
7. The Punisher (1989)
He’s back! Dolph Lundgren returns to screw up a slam dunk — The Punisher. There were already so many loner-with-gun flicks in the 80s, all they really had to do was paint a big skull on Dolph’s chest and let him go to town, but nooooooo! In fact, the skull NEVER shows up. The one thing that literally sets this one-dimensional character apart from the a-holes in ‘Death Wish’ and any number of Clint Eastwood films isn’t even present! Not to be too harsh on 1989’s ‘Punisher’ … He’s had two more silver screen outings since that have only moved the needle marginally, with 2008’s ‘Punisher: War Zone’ coming closest to matching its comic book counterpart.
6. Superman III (1983)
Superman fights a computer and a miscast Richard Pryor. Enough said really, but let’s remind everyone that this film is the follow-up to one of the greatest comic book movies of all time — Superman II. Let that sink in for a minute. After watching Superman do battle with General Zod and company, Warner Brothers followed up a kick-ass superhero battle for the ages with a comedian and a Commodore 64. No Lex Luthor, barely any Lois Lane, and a nicotine/tar (!?) kryptonite that creates an ‘evil Superman’. The evil bit sounds better than it was. Major fail.
5. Catwoman (2004)
Golden Raspberry Hall of Famer ‘Catwoman’ is more than famous. It’s infamous. Panned by critics and audiences alike, Halle Berry had the unenviable task of trying to make us forget the much better Michelle Pfeiffer from ‘Batman Returns’. We still remember. Den of Geek has a great write-up on this turd, check it out.
4. Steel (1997)
We love Shaquille O’Neal — and honestly, he was the perfect choice to play John Henry Irons — but this is a far cry from the DC Comics character it’s suppose to represent. The story and villain are lame, the suit is worse and don’t get us started on the hammer … Steel is a character so closely connected with Superman, it would be interesting to see if he could make a return as a spin-off out of whatever this ‘Justice League’ mess Warner Brothers is trying to do with their DC Comics properties now. We won’t hold our breath.
3. Batman & Robin (1997)
So much has been written and said about the fourth installment in the original Batman series, what more could we possibly add? Let’s just let Cinema Sin’s “Everything Wrong With Batman & Robin In An Awful Lot Of Minutes” hilarious YouTube video do the talking for us …
2. Captain America (1990)
Thank God Marvel erased the memory of this dud with their recent movies, because this one did a lot of unnecessary damage to our young brains when it came out. Where to begin … An Italian Red Skull (for no reason)? Rubber ears on Cap (for no reason)? A routine where Captain American not once, but TWICE, has a someone pull a car over he’s riding in so he can act like he’s sick, and then outrun that driver (stealing his car) when he also gets out to check on the Star-Spangled Avenger (for no reason)? Ugh.
1. Hulk (2003)
Great Betty Brant (Jennifer Connelly), great General Ross (Sam Elliott), terrible Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) and even worse Hulk (baby-faced CGI!?). Director Ang Lee (whose other films we love) seemed to understand the psychology of what made Banner/Hulk tick, he just didn’t understand what fans wanted — and it wasn’t daddy issues, ‘Hulk Dogs’, and a boring script. Hulk is a force of nature (not actually fighting the forces of nature like in the finale), and should have been smashing everything in sight, not getting in touch with his feelings. Ed Norton’s ‘Incredible Hulk’ in 2008 went a long way towards fixing what was almost big screen suicide for the Green Goliath in this movie, and Mark Ruffalo’s version in ‘The Avengers’ four years later finally gave Hulk fans the adaptation they deserve.
Honorable Mention: Howard The Duck (1986)
Long considered one of the worst movies ever made period, we have to admit something … We were kinda impressed they were able to bring this one to life without CGI. The movie itself is bland, but Howard at least kinda looked cool (small duck bill aside). And who the hell thought of all the possible comic books to bring the big screen, THIS was the one that should be picked? Wait, George Lucas? The guy that created Jar Jar Binks and decided Greedo shot first? Never mind. Feel free to insert this one somewhere between ‘Batman & Robin’ and ‘Hulk’ above.