LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 18: The marquee at the El Capitan Theatre is seen during Marvel Studios' "Eternals" premiere on October 18, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
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News and Analysis

The Seven Worst Superhero Films And Why


Over the last two decades, there have truly been some popular and profitable superhero movies, dominating box offices around the world. While our last list covered the seven best superhero films in the genre, for this one we look at the seven worst films in the last 20 years.

Admittedly, this is an unscientific list and these movies come from a variety of studios like Marvel, DC Warner Bros., Paramount, and 20th Century Studios. Place them in whatever order you choose, however, we think you’ll agree we all deserve our money back regardless of which studio they came from. 

Let’s start with number seven and work our way to the bottom.

#7 “Fantastic Four”

The first offering is the campy 2005 action/adventure movie “Fantastic Four” from 20th Century Studios. Directed by Tim Story, a “group of astronauts” gain “superpowers after a cosmic radiation exposure and must use them to oppose the plans of their enemy, Doctor Victor Von Doom,” a description on IMDb read.

Moviegoers and critics roundly hated this film, giving it a 45% and 28% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes. One moviegoer wrote, “If you like your superhero stories campy and cheesy (which some people do), you’ll find plenty to enjoy…If you don’t, you’ll be greatly dissatisfied by this odd attempt at bringing the Fantastic Four to life. You’ll be wondering whether human people actually made this movie or if they put the formula into a computer and let it come up with a script.”

Film critic Roger Ebert titled his review “Fantastic flameout” and his comments seemed to echo those of other critics.

“…But perhaps we need not concern ourselves with the plot of the movie, since it is undermined at every moment by the unwieldy need to involve a screenful of characters, who, despite the most astonishing powers, have not been made exciting or even interesting,” Ebert wrote. “The X-Men are major league compared to them.”

Chris Evans, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, and Ioan Gruffudd lead this haphazard cast of superheroes that brought 20th Century studios, to date, more than $333 million during its lifetime.

#6 “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice”

Directed by Zach Snyder, “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” hit the big screen in 2016 and fans were excited to see just which one of their favorite superheroes would come away a victor from the battle, but the storyline fell flat.

“Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs,” a description on IMDb read.

Unfortunately, fans and critics alike agreed the highly-anticipated DC Warner Bros. film was not great. Moviegoers gave it a 63% popcorn score, while critics gave it a 29% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes.

One critic noted, “I wish I could tell you more, but honestly it’s all just a blur of pretentious speeches about what lurks in the hearts of men and noisy fight scenes and nonsensical dream sequences.”

Despite the film having a less-than-satisfying story, DC Warner Bros. earned more than $873 million at the worldwide box office during its lifetime.

#5 “Wonder Woman 1984”

Following the huge success of 2017’s “Wonder Woman,” DC Warner Bros. asked Patty Jenkins to once again direct the female superhero-led film. Despite the return of Gal Gadot, as Diana Prince, aka, Wonder Woman, and Chris Pine, the 2020 film didn’t set any records at the box office.

While “WW” centered around Wonder Woman’s battle to find and destroy the Greek god Of War Ares with a WWI backdrop, this time Diana’s in the 1980s with her new nemesis Cheetah played by Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal, playing Maxwell Lord.

“Diana must contend with a work colleague, and with a businessman whose desire for extreme wealth sends the world down a path of destruction, after an ancient artifact that grants wishes goes missing,” according to a description on IMDb.

One writer noted, “While the characters and emotional gravitas are strong, the overall plot, pacing, and tone are too all-over-the place to really work as a cohesive whole. And the 2½ hour runtime felt a bit like a drag, especially in the second act.”

The 2017 film earned more than $822 million over its lifetime worldwide. In comparison, “WW1984,” to date, has earned DC Warner Bros. a little over $169 million at the box office.

#4 “Eternals”

Marvel’s new superheroes finally hit theaters in October 2021, after the COVID pandemic forced the film to be shelved in November 2020 and again in February 2021. Director Chloe Zhao’s attempt at making superheroes out of such stars as Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, and more ended up falling flat with fans.

In this film, “immortal beings” called Eternals discover their real purpose isn’t protecting human life from Deviants, as they were led to believe for all time, and instead, discover that they were created to allow for the growth/birth of a celestial which will mean the destruction of everything on the planet.

“The end of one life … is the beginning of another,” Arishem the Judge tells one of the Eternals, at one point.

Critics widely panned this film, giving it a 47% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes. One movie reviewer wrote, “Regardless of Zhao’s (and Marvel’s) intentions, ‘Eternals’ is a parade of faces without experience, a movie that reaches back and forth through history and comes back empty-handed.”

Kit Harrington, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, and more round out this Marvel movie that earned Disney Studios more than $402 million during its run in theaters.

#3 “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Three years after the very popular “The Avengers,” the highly-anticipated sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron” hit theaters and despite the teaming up on the big screen again of Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, and others, it is not considered one of Marvel’s greatest films in the genre.

“When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s mightiest heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plan,” a description on IMDb read about the 2015 film.

“There’s only one path to peace, the Avengers extinction,” Ultron threatens our superhero team, at one point.

One critic noted, “Hardcore fans will find enough to enjoy here, but I found the pace at times slow, the visual effects somewhat disappointing (particularly compared to The Winter Soldier) and the story less than engrossing.”

Directed by Joss Whedon, the film includes Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, and Robert Downey Jr. It ended up earning Disney studios more than $1.4 billion worldwide during its lifetime.

#2 “Thor: The Dark World”

The same year, Marvel released “Thor: The Dark World” from director Alan Taylor, who rose to fame after directing episodes of “Game of Thrones.” The sequel to the popular 2011 movie “Thor,” “Dark World” did not translate to success for the superhero film led by Chris Hemsworth who plays the god of Thunder, Thor.

“When the Dark Elves attempt to plunge the universe into darkness, Thor must embark on a perilous and personal journey that will reunite him with doctor Jane Foster,” a description on IMDb read.

“In the first film [Thor] learned both humility and the important lesson that a king doesn’t seek out battle for his own amusement,” one writer noted. “Here he’s trying to balance his duty to the kingdom with his love for a human, someone from a different realm who will only live a fraction of his lifetime.”

The UK Sunday Times opined that despite the movie’s title, “the only dark things about this world are the long, dull speeches and terrible costumes.”

Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston round out the cast and helped to bring Disney $644,783,140 at the worldwide box office to date.

#1 “Iron Man 3”

Released in 2013, Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” was a disappointment after the massive success of the first “Iron Man” in 2008 from actor-turned-filmmaker Jon Favreau. Robert Downey Jr. once again takes on the role of billionaire inventor Tony Stark, who transforms into the man in the ironclad suit to defeat the latest form of evil.

Directed by Shane Black, Iron Man has enjoyed years of success, never looking back at his wilder days, until now when it finally catches up with him, in the form of genetically engineered humans, with a fatal flaw.

“When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution,” a description on IMDb read.

“Previously the series has been one of the more grown-up superhero franchises, but “IM3″ is aimed straight at middle school,” one critic wrote. “Gone are all of the actual ideas (such as Tony’s robust defense of capitalism), gone is the witty dialogue, gone is anything like character development.”

Despite the film’s less than great story line, Paramount Pictures and Marvel still killed it at the box office and earned more than $1.2 billion globally to date.

This story has been edited for clarity.

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