Home » Ranking the Super-Hero Movies, Bottom to Top: 95-81

Ranking the Super-Hero Movies, Bottom to Top: 95-81

Okay, I’m going to do something completely non-controversial for my first post in awhile; I’m going to rank all the super-hero movies I can think of from bottom to top. I’m including DC and Marvel movies, all studios from Sony and Fox to Warner Brothers and Cannon. You’ll see X-Men and Supermen, (I’m going all the way back to the Donner Superman. DC needs all the help it can get.) Swamp Thing and Ghost Rider. If it fits the super-hero category, it will be on the list.

For purists, there are lots of comic book movies that don’t quite fit the super-hero genre, and I’m going to leave them out for the most part. For example, Dick Tracy is a comic book movie, but the detective isn’t really a super hero. I might do a round-up post when this is all done, but I want to concentrate on the heroes for this series.

What’s really cool to me is that there are 95 movies on this list, and I could have included more (Is Godzilla a super-hero?) to get to an even 100, but just the fact that there are so many super-hero movies took me a little by surprise. Super-hero movies have been around for awhile.

My method of ranking was pretty simple and entirely subjective. In order to avoid having to fight my way through comparing, say, Deadpool, with Days of Future Past, two completely different movies in tone, structure and content, I decided to order these movies by deciding which I would rather watch. So sure, there are some box office turkeys that climb higher on the list than others, and some big budget epics hang out in the bottom, but it all comes down to which movie I would rather watch.

So, let’s get started.

95. Superman 4: The Quest for Peace

Pretentious and preachy, this final installment suffered from a low budget, poor writing, indifferent direction, and Jon Cryer. Apparently, the producers figured Cryer rhymed with Pryor, and that was good enough for them.

It wasn’t good enough for anybody else.

94. Son of the Mask

When you lose Jim Carrey, you’ve lost everything that made the original movie worth watching.

93. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

This gets the nod over Son of the Mask for a couple of reasons. First, no Jaime Kennedy. Second flaming skull riding a motorcycle….gotta love it! Third, Idris Elba, who would go on to show better judgement in his role selection. Ghost Rider was one of my favorite comics back in the day. After this mess, I broke out some back issues to remind myself of what GR is supposed to be.

92. The Return of the Swamp Thing

Wes Craven, who directed the original cult classic, was replaced by Jim Wynorski, who, based on the results of this film, went on to direct The Hills Have Thighs, The Witches of Breastwick, and all five Bare Wench Project movies, not to mention The Devil Wears Nada. Unfortunately for him, Return of the Swamp Thing featured no nudity, meaning he was way out of his element.

91. Catwoman

The first movie in the list that isn’t a direct sequel is a mess. I grew up on the Batman TV show, so Julie Newmar, Lee Merriweather, and Eartha Kitt were my introduction to Catwoman. While the show hinted at the attraction between Catwoman and Batman, it wasn’t until I started reading comic books that I discovered the long history between the two.

This movie features none of that. It was almost as if a completely different story had a few aspects of Catwoman grafted onto it to try and make it marketable.

The transplant did not take.

90. Batman and Robin

So much fail with so much promise. This movie is more or less an example of how to waste potential. George Clooney and Joel Schumacher apologized to fans after this travesty that ended the Batman franchise until it was rebooted eight years later. The director wanted to go in one direction, while the studio wanted something else, and in the end, nobody was happy with what came out.

It was just too busy. Batman and Robin not getting along, Alfred dying, two new villains with origin stories, and Batgirl all in one movie. But the worst part from a comic fan perspective was the destruction of Bane as a character.

And those flying surfboards? Please!

89. Batman Forever

In this third Batman flick, Val Kilmer brought a brooding intensity to Bruce Wayne that Michael Keaton lacked. His Wayne was more cerebral. Unfortunately, Kilmer played Batman exactly like Bruce; brooding intensity. Nicole Kidman added almost nothing as Bruce Wayne’s therapist and love interest. Jim Carrey was, well, Jim Carrey. And Tommy Lee Jones was almost certainly asking himself what in the hell he was doing there.

On the positive side, Chris O’Donnell neatly avoided the traps of playing the Boy Wonder, making a credible Robin. Also, the movie avoids the grimness of the first two, lightening the tone without getting into full on camp, like Batman and Robin.

88. Supergirl

This movie reminds me a lot of Catwoman. It could have been and should have been so much better. As it was, this was the movie that convinced the Salkind’s to walk away from Superman and sell the series to the Cannon Group.

A witch? Really? That’s the best enemy for Supergirl they could come up with?

87. Howard the Duck

The picture kinda says it all, doesn’t it? The scary thing is not only was this movie produced by George Lucas, but it was the first Marvel property to make it onto the big screen as a feature film.

86. Superman Returns

I’m a little conflicted having Superman Returns so far down in the list. It wasn’t a bad movie so much as it wasn’t a Superman movie. Brandon Routh did a fine job playing Christopher Reeve, and that was part of the problem; he was supposed to be playing Superman. It didn’t help that the script spent far too much time dealing with the newer, chick-friendly, emo-Clark/Supes instead of dealing with

Lex Luthor and his plot to rule the world, or just get a good deal on real estate.

85. Superman 3

This movie is proof that drug use will rot your brain. Somebody in Hollywood came up with the idea of combining two hot properties, Superman and Richard Pryor. And they were able to convince Warner Bros. studios to spend millions of dollars making it a reality.

Don’t do drugs, kids. Bad things happen. Like Superman III.

Clearly, the writers were overcome with their own brilliance and never spared a thought for how to make it work. The tone of the film is uneven, the comic notes jarring with the dramatic sequences.

Two things elevate this movie on the list. Annette O’Toole as Lana Lang is a welcome foil for the annoying Lois Lane, and the scene where Superman splits in two and the Clark Kent persona wins the battle for Superman’s soul is crucial, demonstrating that it is Clark’s humanity, not his Kryptonian power, that makes him a Superman.

84. Elektra

Such a good looking movie. Such a disappointment. Fans were hoping that one of the few bright notes of Daredevil would be able to redeem the Man Without Fear, or in this case, the Man Without a Part. Instead, Elektra, after her resurrection, goes chasing after the Hand, a league of Assassins who are after a little girl for no particular reason.

83. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

A lot of folks will disagree with my putting it this far down. It did well at the box office, got good critical reviews, and most felt it was as good as the original. I felt like it was too simplistic and formulaic. The original was something new and different. Here, it felt like we were checking off boxes on the “movie-maker’s guide to sequels.”

82. Blade 3: Trinity

The worst of the Blade trilogy. Wesley Snipes is good, and Ryan Reynolds isn’t too bad, but Jessica Biel? No. Just no. The movie is all about fighting Dracula, or Drake as he’s called here. Whistler dies (again) and his daughter brings Blade into the Nightstalkers, a vampire hunting militia. Yeah, it makes about as much sense as it sounds. Decent visuals, but ultimately shallow.

81. The Punisher(1989)

This was a hard one to see in theaters as the studio fell apart after making the movie. It was released directly to video a couple of years later. Given it’s history, it isn’t as bad as it might seem. Dolph Lundgren brought a physical presence to the role that suited the character. The film was dark, like the comic book itself, and while the effects were poor, the fight scenes were appropriately harsh. Tame by today’s standards, they were pretty brutal for their time.

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