Two things quickly become evident when putting together a list of the 100 Best Superhero Movies of All Time. First, this is the Golden Age for such films, a decade where technology, long-unrequited fandom and surging popular awareness have all combined to thrill moviegoers and make Hollywood billions of dollars. Second, it’s still fair to say that most superhero films are not that good. There’s no real contradiction at play here. The niche just lacks the pedigree of its fellow movie genres. Though superhero comic books may have started to make a dint in popular culture 75 years ago (give or take), technology only crossed over from hindrance to enabling force in the last 20 years or so. As a result, while curating a 100 Best Westerns of All Time or 100 Best Documentaries of All Time list requires the exclusion of arguably good films to select the best 100—for superhero movies? The pickings get slim after 40. In fact, the real challenge for this list was choosing amongst the dreck (some of it beloved dreck!) that would fill out the bottom half. It turns out it’s much easier to argue for or against a top 10 film’s exact placement (and frankly, compelling arguments could be made for almost any of our top 5 as deserving the #1 position), than weighing the relative “merits” of Masters of the Universe, Swamp Thing and Elektra.
This also means the bottom half of this list will change swiftly compared to, say, The Best B-Movies of All Time. In fact, it’s a safe assumption if there are 15 superhero movies in the next three years, at least 14 of them will knock numbers 86-99 off this list. (Our #100 is a bit of a wild card.)
Finally, some criteria. To be considered for this list, a film must possess at least two of the following three qualities: 1) It must involve costumed shenanigans, 2) It must involve a superpowered protagonist and/or 3) the protagonist must exist in a world where the supernatural/extraordinary is demonstrably present. These criteria are why meta-commentary films like Kick-Ass and Super are not on this list. And it’s also why some films with pulpy characters like Zorro, Tarzan and Conan are not, while others like The Phantom are. (Zane’s costume combined with the Skulls of Touganda do the trick.) Admittedly, the lines gets blurry. Also absent from this list is any consideration of foreign superhero films. That’s not because some are not worthy—especially given the movie quality issue mentioned at the top—it’s just an area we’d rather get better versed in before pouring into this list. Next year, perhaps.
100. The Fantastic Four (1994)
Not appearing on this list: The abortive 2015 Fantastic Four, all copies of which need to be purged off the face of the Earth if our species is ever to be forgiven for its transgressions. Granted, the two Tim Story Fantastic Four films do appear on this list, but I’ll let you in on a secret: If you’re only ever going to watch one Fantastic Four movie (which would be wise), you should really make it this one. No, the “Corman Fantastic Four” (only produced, not directed by the legendary B-movie maker) doesn’t have much of a budget behind it. And no, the film wasn’t deemed worthy of an actual release, being shelved for decades until it finally leaked online. But man, this film has heart. It’s a truly sincere take on translating the adventures of Marvel’s First Family into an all-ages superhero movie, and at times it’s significantly more enjoyable and competent than one would expect from a cast of unknowns and a shoestring budget. Do the costumes look good? Not quite, but they do look accurate to the comics more than any of the subsequent films, especially in their portrayal of a grandiosely gesturing Dr. Doom and the frankly impressive-looking Thing. The special effects, on the other hand, are absolutely horrendous, but in a way that will inspire smiles and laughter rather than disgust. Corman’s Fantastic Four has the simpleminded optimism of a 15-minute Saturday morning cartoon, stretched into a feature film, and its cheerful sincerity is infectious. Fire it up on YouTube, where it’s been uploaded in full, and you might surprise yourself by hanging in there for a full 90 minutes. —Jim Vorel
99. Punisher: War Zone (2008)
A neon noir reveling in vulgarity, Punisher: War Zone may be the nastiest Marvel movie the company’s ever put their name behind (counting Deadpool), mostly because of Ray Stevenson, who plays Frank Castle with enough gnarled dread to make any of film’s levity seem well earned. Director Lexi Alexander of course doesn’t shy away from the franchise’s patented superhuman hyper-violence—witness more than one fully collapsed face within the course of three minutes—and her sense of space in otherwise straightforward action scenes is pretty impeccable. All in all, it’s tasteless, gross, visceral, endlessly surprising and totally without expectation—it is, in other words, the kind of superhero movie “they” just don’t make anymore. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not. —Dom Sinacola
98. Elektra (2005)
So many of the films in the lower regions of this list are here because of an inability to capture the comic book aesthetic on screen. Some fall short in casting, budget/special effects, or in even an understanding of the spirit of the source material. Rob Bowman’s Elektra fails the old-fashioned way—bad dialogue and a sub-par script. It’s also guilty of some of the other, more typical faults: the plot is hardly what any fan of the character would consider “classic Elektra.” On the other hand, in her turn as Elektra, Jennifer Garner justly escapes the condemnation Ben Affleck got for his go at Daredevil, and the action scenes and cast of villains have some moments, but none sustained enough to replace the feeling on the viewer’s part that even if this film was a box office bomb which landed with a critical thud, it might not have missed by as large a distance as many others on this list. But, hey, a miss is a miss, and much like the Man without Fear, Elektra would just have to wait for Netflix for her next iteration. —M.B.
97. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The initial prequel/spin-off from the lucrative X-Men franchise is memorable for all the wrong reasons. It has plenty going for it—it features the most popular character from both movie and comics, played by Hugh Jackman in what was already considered a definitive portrayal, and it introduced Wade Wilson—Deadpool!—played by Ryan Reynolds. What did it do with this potential? Ah, squandered like only Hollywood can squander. Jackman still delivers a solid performance, but in what has become a classic superhero film blunder, Reynolds’ proto-Deadpool has his power set completely, unnecessarily changed and, worst of all, his mouth sewn shut. With The Wolverine representing a marginal improvement and the forthcoming Logan looking like it may be the best of the three solo films, it seems pretty much guaranteed X-Men Origins: Wolverine will represent the nadir of the Jackman era. And in the next 2-3 years (or however long it takes to release another 13-14 superhero films), this particular nadir won’t be on this list at all. —M.B.
96. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Despite the 2005 film’s mangling of Doctor Doom (Julian McMahon), it was still possible for fans of Marvel’s first family to get excited for the sequel. The introduction of the Silver Surfer and the world devouring cosmic being he served had a ready-made three-act structure thanks to the trilogy of comics (Fantastic Four #48-50) that served as its source material. Bring in the Silver Surfer (Doug Jones/Lawrence Fishburne) in the first act, battle and barely “win” in the second only to have the much greater threat revealed, then battle the big G himself, Galactus, in the third. No way that can be messed up, right? Wait, Galactus is what? Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) just randomly gets all the powers of … really? Sigh. What makes all this sting worse is the knowledge that this abomination means this particular classic tale has been “used up.” Even if Marvel does eventually manage to reboot and do the FF right, they will probably not redo this story—at least not for decades. Dammit. —M.B.
95. My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006)
One could argue that it is more difficult to spoof a genre when you lack a sufficient number of decent examples of that genre to play off of. From that perspective, it may have been too early for Ivan Reitman’s film to hit home in 2006. Then again, My Super Ex-Girlfriend is not really that concerned with the superheroing—it’s more about using superpowers to spice up a rather cliché relationship drama. Ultimately, the whole “what if your jealous, possessive girlfriend had superpowers” schtick is not so much explored as it is lazily and obviously applied. That makes My Super Ex-Girlfriend a rather poor example of a superhero film, and regardless of the presence of Uma Thurman and Eddie Izzard, it’s not that rewarding of a relationship drama, either. —M.B.
94. Batman (1966)
The Adam West Batman film offers the sort of gleeful insanity you need to inflict upon modern comics fans who are unaware of its existence, because once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget it. With a plot that defies any attempt toward description, it’s the height of camp, featuring incredible performances by Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin and especially the great Burgess Meredith, as the Joker, Riddler and Penguin respectively, in a team-up to take down the caped crusader and his dopey ward (Burt Ward, that is). The film is just a string of jaw-droppingly silly moments, one right after another—the “shark-repellent bat spray” gives way to Penguin’s bird-shaped submarine, and into the two full minutes of West running around with a giant bomb held over his head, unable to find a place to dispose of it. There isn’t a more campy or joyful superhero movie on this entire list. But be warned—Batman ’66 is best paired with your booze of choice. —J.V.
93. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2004)
Some truly bad films merit an extra measure of ridicule for how badly they squander the promise of their source material. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Based on the critically beloved series by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, the film has an intriguing premise (thanks to Moore)—what if the characters of Victorian literature’s most fantastical works were real people? Add an early example of a big studio’s embrace of the steampunk aesthetic, and Stephen Norrington’s film certainly has potential, but it wastes little time slipping into an increasingly incomprehensible plot. By the film’s end, fans of the series got to leave the theater knowing they have just seen a bad film that pretty much guaranteed a good version of the material would not be seen any time soon. It would also be Sean Connery’s final role before retiring from acting. It feels like that should be held against the movie, too. —M.B.
92. Masters of the Universe (1987)
To at least partially understand the dismal failure that was the live-action film adaptation of the popular toy line/cartoon, it helps to know the history of the schlockhouse film studio, Cannon Films. (By the way, if you’ve never seen the documentary at the link, it’s as fascinating as it is funny. And it’s very funny.) On the surface, it seemed like an unbeatable proposition: Hugely popular sci-fi/sword and sandal IP, perfect casting for the hero and the heavy, and all-star production design and SFX teams. So how the hell did this thing manage to open third in the box office, and then quietly disappear altogether after a couple weeks? Put simply, it was a staggeringly huge collection of miscalculated decisions made by producers who clearly didn’t understand the brand, all rushed through production in eight months. “Kids won’t want to see the fantastical world of Eternia. They’ll want to see He-Man on Earth, beholden to a couple of whiny teenagers!” (Hi, young Courtney Cox!) “What kind of creature could we get that fills the Orko roll, but is cheaper and much more annoying?” “I don’t know. But call Billy Barty’s agent and have costuming get an insulting garden gnome motif going.” “Frank Langella?! That’s a hell of a good get for Skeletor! But I think people know him best as Dracula, so make sure makeup puts some fangs in there, behind his skull teeth.” “Let’s use as few characters as fans are familiar with as possible that can still technically be identified as Masters of the Universe.” “Dolph Lundgren is the most physically perfect specimen to portray He-Man, but I think we need to give him more lines of dialogue.” “Gentlemen, congratulations. You’ve just made Star Warsfor the 1980s!” —Scott Wold
91. Judge Dredd (1995)
The popular British comic book series satirizing the growing fascist trends during the Thatcher/Reagen years was finally brought across the pond in the form of a big-budget Hollywood movie. Quite unfortunately, that movie was 1995’s Judge Dredd—a film that could not have been more “’90s Action Movie By Committee™” if it tried. A horribly miscast Sylvester Stallone slurring out his grim lawman dialog—eliciting more laughter than he is projecting authority—also seemed to have worked into his contract that he didn’t have to wear the iconic helmet in every scene. To fans of the comic, this is heresy; Dredd’s helmet never comes off. Playing the wacky sidekick is Rob Schneider, giving audiences the Full Schneider, which is to say annoying the holy shit out of audiences every time he mugs or utters a panicky, would-be catchphrase (i.e., damn near constantly). The film deservedly flopped at the box office and with critics—Gene Siskel named it one of the worst films of 1995—and it would take 17 years for the stench to disperse long enough to finally do right to existing fans of the property. —S.W.
90. Ghost Rider (2007)
Ghost Rider is one of those characters tailor-made for a Bill Bixby/Hulk type serial existence. Cursed by the devil, this spirit of vengeance roams the earth righting wrongs and seeking redemption … like Constantine with more flames. Yet, the 2007 film starring Nicolas Cage as the title spirit actually outperformed many of its peers at the box office (more than doubling its initial $110 million budget). Besides answering the otherwise perplexing question, “Why did they make a sequel?!” (also profitable, natch), the film provides a storyline decently true to the source material. Not that there are a ton of characters to draw from, compared to other comics, but in featuring Johnny Blaze, Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda!) and Blackheart (Wes Bentley), the film lives up to that primary responsibility, so often forgot, of initial big screen adaptations—it brings the comic book characters to life. (Though, granted, it’s difficult to truly see Johnny Blaze in there with all the Cage everywhere.) —M.B.
89. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (2007)
Viewers looking for plot, logic, punchlines, shame or sense: The Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie will be a desolate slog. Even making it through its full title is a test of patience and reason, one of many walls directors/creators Dave Willis and Matt Maiellero throw up between the casual moviegoer and the movie people are supposed to be paying money to see. But, as they make it clear from the beginning—with a warped take on the classic “Let’s all go to the movies!” parade of anthropomorphic theater food intro—they have your money now, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Otherwise, ATHFCMFFT is a blown-out episode of the Adult Swim cartoon, following a giant, hovering box of fries, a six-foot milkshake, and a rolling sphere of meat as they “solve” “mysteries” in their local New Jersey town, mysteries which usually involve horrifying violence toward their next-door neighbor, Carl (Dave Willis). What probably began as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle parody has long since abandoned anything that would be classified as a point, and that’s probably how Willis and Maiellero like it. They probably don’t care if you feel the same way either. —D.S.
88. The Green Hornet (2011)
Comic book movies are warped around formulas and origin stories, and in this regard Michel Gondry’s The Green Hornet is no different from its peers: Start with a spoiled, entitled man-child, give him bottomless resources, kill off his only living parent and boom, you’ve got a pretty basic tortured superhero stew simmering. Put all of that in the hands of a more workaday filmmaker and pop out a workaday movie, one that would undoubtedly end up lost among the growing swath of superhero films pushed out into the world back in the early 2010s. But Gondry isn’t a workaday filmmaker. He’s a misfit genius. His involvement in The Green Hornet is one half of what makes the movie miraculous. The other half is Seth Rogen, who serves as both its writer and star, and Evan Goldberg, who co-wrote alongside Rogen as he did with Pineapple Express and Superbad. These are not the things that most superhero movies are made of, but The Green Hornet isn’t most superhero movies. It’s its own entity, a disarmingly peculiar movie boosted by Rogen’s chemistry with Jay Chou, playing his exasperated sidekick, and by Gondry’s refusal to play by the established expectations and rules of the superhero mode. (See full review.) —Andy Crump
87. The Shadow (1994)
Part of the ’90s pulp movie train that included The Phantom and The Rocketeer, Russell Mulcahy’s The Shadow is the least of the trio, though that’s really more a function of setting than anything else. Alec Baldwin’s Lamont Cranston comes from the well-established “crime-fighting multi-millionaire” school of do-gooder (that’s got to be the best school, right?) and the Shadow’s powers to befuddle minds and be invisible make him the bookish, pasty cousin of the high-flying, Nazi-battling Rocketeer or the jungle-to-New York-and-back-again Phantom. Nonetheless, even as the script hobbles the film’s otherwise sleek design, Baldwin shows an Alec Guinness-worthy ability to inhabit strange characters and deliver potentially hokey lines with sincerity and charm. (Seriously, check out his turn as The Conductor in 2000’s Thomas and the Magic Railroad—the man kills it.) But while that may make the film must-see for all his fans, it’s probably not enough to justify anyone else seeing it. —M.B.
86. Batman Forever (1995)
It’s difficult to consider Joel Schumacher’s initial turn at the helm of the Batman franchise absent an awareness of the hideous film that would come after. All the signs are there—cartoonish flair threatening, scenery-chomping actors where Batman villains should be, bat nipples—but if viewed without remembering this would all lead to Batman and Robin, it’s possible to enjoy aspects of the film. Opening mis-en-action, à la Bond movies—here with Batman (Val Kilmer) foiling Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones)—Schumacher’s film establishes off the bat a sense that this is a day in the life for our caped crusader. Unfortunately, once Jim Carrey’s Riddler fully takes the stage, it all dissolves into a mug-off between two of Batman’s more important non-Joker adversaries that’s in no way true to the actual characters. (Though, granted, Ahnold’s turn as Mr. Freeze a few years later was enough to make one long for the subtlety of Carrey’s performance.) Still, ultimately, for anyone who has seen Batman and Robin, it’s difficult not to suppress a shudder when viewing this particular take on the Dark Knight. —M.B.
85. Blade: Trinity (2004)
Even before 2000’s X-Men announced the arrival of comic books as a source Hollywood could take seriously, there was 1998’s Blade, a Marvel character brought to life onscreen by Wesley Snipes, with buckets of blood and cool to spare. And in 2002, the Guillermo del Toro-helmed sequel successfully upped the ante and expanded the world’s mythos. Then, in 2004 we got Blade: Trinity, which raised the question: Unholy Blood God, what the hell happened? Reading the hilarious account by Patton Oswalt certainly helps shed some light, but Blade and Blade II writer David Goyer was clearly in way over his head beyond Oswalt’s telling in directing this sequel. So many terrible decisions made it all the way to the celluloid—Parker Posey’s woefully miscast vampire villainess, the short, trunk-necked Dracula with underbite fangs and played more as a WWE heel (instead of an ancient evil awoken after centuries) by Dominic Purcell, and even Posey’s little Pomeranian dog that’s actually a Reaper-thing? You know, the super vampires from Blade II that ate vampires like her? It’s telling when the best thing in a movie is Ryan Reynolds, landing funny quips that are so tonally jarring to the rest of the film they work almost as a meta commentary on the film itself. —S.W.
84. Green Lantern (2011)
Proof that Warner Bros.’ negative aptitude for the DC Universe’s potential-laden source material existed before the arrival of Zack Snyder, Green Lantern wastes a solid cast—Mark Strong’s turn as Sinestro should have lasted longer than a single movie, or at least survived the reboot—and the enviable but too often fumbled “first pick” of an established hero’s mythos. The latter is a too-often overlooked cardinal sin of bad productions—the studio literally had its pick of any Green Lantern tale from the character’s 70+ years of stories. They chose Parallax, a villain who is … complicated, and the result was a foe who visually was only a few steps removed from what the 2007 Fantastic Four film did to Galactus in suckage. The film also provides an important reminder for anyone wishing to make superhero films, or, for that matter, sci-fi and fantasy films: CGI is a friend that can become your enemy in the beat of an eye. Rely too much on it at your peril. Fortunately, Ryan Reynolds would survive the film, showing a Chris Evans-like resilience as he went on to make a definitive Merc with a Mouth. (At least his time as Hal Jordan would yield two jokes for the Deadpool film.) —M.B.
83. Swamp Thing (1982)
Swamp Thing draws a straight line from Universal Monster movies to ’70s superhero comics, giving Wes Craven—two years before Nightmare on Elm Street—a surprisingly bright and colorful marshland to create something violent and goofy within. That he also cast Adrienne Barbeau in the part of Cable, a relentlessly badass government agent with a relentlessly badass name, means that for Craven to only craft an homage to campy creature features wouldn’t be enough. A Frankenstein story with guns and good one-liners, the film touches on notions of environmental influence and human nature and the amorality of science in between karate chops (of which there are many), explosions and grotesque body horror. It may have been Craven’s first bid for big, blown-out studio success, but Swamp Thing makes it clear the director’s ambition demanded something meatier than a movie starring a stuntman in a crappy piss-green rubber suit. —D.S.
82. TMNT (2007)
Calling TMNT the second-best of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies is probably the damning-est of faint praise, but Kevin Monroe’s CGI-animated adaptation is at least better moored to the spirit of its comic book source and, to some extent, the original animated cartoon. The film wisely ignores the third film from the original Muppet-y, live-action trilogy (though they really should have been a little wiser and ignored the second, Vanilla Ice-stained film, as well), and catches up with the Turtles as they have begun to drift apart following the defeat of their arch-nemesis, Shredder. It’s a smart move by Monroe, and really helps to establish the four brothers’ distinct personalities, which was an important element every other silver screen incarnation was (mostly) lacking. The plot, though riddled with galaxy-sized holes, is one that could comfortably fit alongside any number of the more fantastical storylines from the source books. The Ninja Turtles have had many, many artists reinterpret their look over the decades, and the angular, long-shadowed style depicted in this movie serves the property well. 2007’s TMNT might not make long-time fans cheer with joy, and it probably didn’t convert over any non-fans or the merely Turtle-curious. But it’s brisk, has a bit of heart and, hey—it’s got Sir Patrick Stewart voicing its mercurial Big Bad, Max Snow. If you’ve run out of episodes of the most recent TMNT series to watch, it’s not a bad way to pass 90 minutes until the next season. —S.W.
81. Hulk (2003)
If this first Incredible Hulk stand-alone movie had come along later, in the days of the MCU, it never would have been placed into the hands of Ang Lee. It’s a truly lofty endeavor, but one that is badly misjudged by its writers and Oscar-winning director. The Hulk simply isn’t a character that fits or deserves “Greek tragedy,” as Lee was quoted in describing the film’s theme. In the end, he’s a dual character—a typically unlikable, whiny scientist, and a raging, smashing automaton, neither of whom lend themselves well to daddy issues and attempts at deep pathos. The film’s interesting aspects tend to revolve around its unique visual style, which Lee used to directly reference and allude to the sequential, flowing experience of flipping through comic panels. However, it’s simultaneously let down somewhat by cheap-looking Hulk visuals (even for 2003), and an antagonist in the form of Bruce Banner’s father as played by Nick Nolte, who feels like he’s walking through his scenes, improvising every other sentence. This Hulk aspired toward grand psychological drama for a character the MCU later proved was much more lovable in a more limited capacity. —J.V.
80. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
If you had asked fans of the X-Men franchise what kind of movie they wanted in 2006, following the greatness of X2 they probably would have drafted one that looked quite a bit like The Last Stand. Which is to say: Fans can’t be trusted to create a film that will actually work and flow. The “Dark Phoenix” saga is one of the most iconic—the most important—X-Men stories ever, and in The Last Stand it just doesn’t quite come together like it was supposed to. The film often feels way overstuffed, with characters such as the Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) simply shoehorned in as henchmen, when in the comics they’re often the subject of whole story arcs. Angel (Ben Foster), for instance, was heavily used in the promotion of the film, but has only a few minutes of largely inconsequential screen time. The Last Stand, though, does manage to pack some raw, often satisfying emotionality into the already-packed run-time, from the destruction of Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) physical form to the loss of Mystique’s (Rebecca Romijn) mutant powers and subsequent rejection by Magneto (Ian McKellan) and his mutant brotherhood. Ultimately, The Last Stand suffers from a surplus of ambition and ideas more than anything else. Perhaps in a parallel universe, it could have reached the same highs as the rest of the core X-Men film franchise. —J.V.
79. Fantastic Four (2005)
While Marvel Comics has plenty of villains, it has far fewer archvillains. Among those dastardly types, there are some hall-of-fame level archvillains who frequently threaten the world and, occasionally, existence itself. The Red Skull, Loki, Ultron, Magneto, Doctor Doom. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, we’ve seen great portrayals of those villains … well, except Doctor Doom,” then you’re also well on your way to understanding why the 2005 Fantastic Four (and its sequel, and 2015’s Trankian abomination…) fails. For whatever reason, the writers, directors and studio decision makers shy away from just allowing one of Marvel’s transcendent villains from being himself. Thus, while Michael Chiklis’ Thing and Chris Evans’ Human Torch ring true, Ioan Gruffudd’s Mister Fantastic is serviceable, and Jessica Alba is, eh, Jessica Alba, the film’s thunderous whiff on Victor von Doom leaves viewers new to the material unimpressed and fans of the source material keenly aware of what’s been squandered. But hey, at least the sequel features Galactus, right? —M.B.
78. The Punisher (2004)
Thomas Jane as Frank Castle—he doesn’t announce that he is the Punisher until the movie’s last dud of a moment—looks good in a black tee-shirt and a leather duster. He is the Perfectly Serviceable Punisher, and as the PSP, Jane’s whole dead-eyed android schtick seems like a reasonable character decision to make for an actor responding to the script before him. So when he stabs a slimy thug through the jaw—when he, inevitably, kills everybody—you feel fine about it. He has well-sculpted muscles. The film’s real treat is John Travolta as Tampa crime lord Howard Saint, a damnedly vain man slowly transforming into a bitter gargoyle, and a prime argument for Travolta’s late-career purpose as VOD cinema’s go-to slick asshole/bad guy. In fact, once The Punisher reaches its third act, when all of Castle’s “punishments” start clicking into place, Jonathan Hensleigh’s film feels like it could, just maybe, have been something great—capped off with a final murder so satisfying it should both shame and captivate you. Meanwhile, Rebecca Romijn listens to some dope-ass nü-metal and Beta version Ben Foster is here, real sweaty. —D.S.
77. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Many fans reacted with appropriate horror when they saw Michael Bay’s name attached to the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in seven years. “Oh, shit. This is going to end up another Transformers-like bastardization, isn’t it?” Although Bay didn’t himself direct it, they were at least partially right; his explosion-attracting fingerprints are all over it. From the obnoxious visual noise of the Turtle Brothers’ new outfits, to Shredder’s ridiculous knives-within-knives-within-knives Samurai outfit, it’s unmistakably Bay. (Poor Master Splinter looks like one of those little mutts that annually wins the “World’s Ugliest Dog” ribbon, and is, puzzlingly, voiced by Tony Shaloub, while Shredder is basically the backup villain to William Fitchner’s crooked CEO character.) Megan Fox’s April O’Neil is less intrepid reporter happening upon both a ninja-based crime wave in New York and a band of giant, crime-fighting turtles, than she is an excuse to have some eye-rolling personal connection to the origin of our titular half-shelled heroes. But despite the dripping Bay-ness of it all, at least Jonathan Liebesman directs the big action sequences with a verve and clarity most decidedly un-Bay. None of it adds up to a movie worth seeing, even with Will Arnett on hand to inject a little GOB Bluth into the proceedings, but hey, it could have been worse, I guess…? —S.W.
76. Hancock (2008)
The premise of Hancock is promising enough—a super-powered man (Will Smith) with some drinking issues tends to be a little sloppy on the execution side of superheroing, causing a decent amount of collateral damage and public ill-will even when otherwise do-gooding. A PR pro he happens to save sets out to help his image and perhaps figure out exactly why an invulnerable, super-strong guy who can fly is so gloomy. Along with Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron round out a solid cast, but what begins as an interesting character study quickly gives way to truckloads of “12-year-old-makes-a-comic-book!” origin story exposition and some cliché CGI-enhanced fight scenes. Apparently, a sequel is still in the cards, which might be interesting if only to see exactly how a post-MCU explosion, post-DeadpoolHancock 2 would look to distinguish itself (if at all). —M.B.