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. Superhero Movie (2010)
While we’ll reserve the #100 spot on a list for a movie that’s unique or otherwise worth keeping around even if the quality would not normally merit the slot, in this case—on this list—the #99 spot is the most ephemeral of positions. It says, “I will be the first film nixed when this list is updated, and the list’s curators are perfectly fine with that.” (In fact, come back March 3rd after Logan premieres.) Such is the lot of the factory assembly line genre spoof, . Mostly a riff on Spider-Man, with healthy amounts of other titles thrown against the wall in case they stick, this film follows newly fledged hero Dragonfly (Drake Bell) as he learns to use his powers and tries to get the girl. There are many jokes from the David Zucker (the film’s producer) school of nyucks, but the funniest does not land with half the humor of the most throw-away line in Deadpool. (Of course, that’s not really a fair comparison, but if lazy spoofing is your kryptonite, stay away.) —Michael Burgin
98. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005)
A strange sort of coda to Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids franchise, this movie leaves behind the kid-sized spy film genre to spend some time with its close cousin, the superhero movie. Unfortunately, by this film, the sense of fun and magic so prevalent in the first two Spy Kids has pretty much drained out, along with the box office performance of the third and fourth films. Though a different genre, cast and world, there’s just not much wonder here, unless seeing a pint-sized version of Twilight’s Jacob (Taylor Lautner) appeals. Whether The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl would have been better without the post-production 3-D superimposition is hard to say. But it’s unlikely. —M.B.
97. Batman and Robin (1997)
Even in a genre that, last decade notwithstanding, has seen more misses than hits, Joel Schumacher’s fourth installment in Warner Bros.’ go at a rejuvenated Batman franchise is pretty horrendous. (Editorial confession: One of only two films in a lifetime of film-going out of which I’ve nearly walked.) Though superhero films in particular (and fantasy and sci-fi films in general) possess a much greater range of tolerances when it comes to style-versus-substance ratios, in Batman and Robin we get to see exactly how far off the tracks and over a cliff a movie can go when “style” scores a complete victory over substance. It’s not pretty. A silver lining? Um … well … I guess there is so much to choose from when determining the worst things about the film? Bat nipples. A neon light logo on the interior of a closed motorcycle storage bin. An Ah-noldian Mister Freeze that particularly stings given the character’s definitive 1992 presentation in Batman: The Animated Series’ “Heart of Ice” episode. The steady, standing-on-the-ground video confession of Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) that was taken by a Batman (George Clooney) entangled in vines on the ceiling. So. Much. Suck. The only thing Batman and Robin has going for it? Well, Schumacher himself has apologized for the film. Like, a lot. —M.B.
96. The Punisher (1989)
Whether Dolph Lundgren is the Marvel Universe’s best on-screen Punisher or its absolute worst, it’s hard to deny that the man strikes an imposing figure. Though proceeding reboots got grittier and grittier, Mark Goldblatt’s 1989 attempt at bringing the popular comic to theaters beams with all the sallow glow of ’80s R-rated action thrillers at their ’80s-est. Portraying Frank Castle as an inhuman Angel of Death, Lundgren is seemingly imbued by grief with indestructible murder superpowers and a paint-by-numbers six-o-clock shadow, surrounded by such era archetypes as world-weary black cop (Louis Gossett Jr.), spunky and secret-pretty lady detective (Nancy Everhard) and forever-greasy Mafia don (Jeroen Krabbe). Lundgren isn’t much of a physical action star either—his body is just too big to move with any sort of grace—but Goldblatt isn’t much interested in physical filmmaking anyway. Instead, his Punisher is an early attempt to make iconography a hallmark of superhero films, indulging more in searing one-shot images in the viewer’s mind than making sure the spatial dynamics of his setpieces make any sense. Today, an R-rated Marvel movie is an anomaly, but at the butt-end of the ’80s, it was a revelation: This isn’t all kids’ stuff. —Dom Sinacola
95. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor give Nicolas Cage the Johnny Blaze he’s spent over two decades earning in the sequel to the much-tamer-by-comparison Ghost Rider, and Cage responds by demonstrating he’s more than capable of living up to the levels of asshole insanity the directing duo are willing to lob at the Marvel franchise. Probably the closest any superhero film has come to legitimate slapstick, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance showcases how Neveldine and Taylor aren’t so much stymied by the rigors of big-studio blockbuster filmmaking as they are totally unable to understand it, practically incompetent in crafting something with a shred of consistent tone, pace or point. Meanwhile, Cage sweats profusely and trundles painfully from one disjointed scene to the next, delivering lines in what can only be described as Cage-ian—simultaneously unhinged and purposeful—joined by Idris Elba donning a Pepé Le Pew accent and Christopher Lambert looking like he decided last-minute on a bargain-bin Kwaidan Halloween costume. Which is to say: Spirit of Vengeance is a comic book movie to its core, visually inventive and narratively illogical, providing our current superhero-saturated climate with the kind of no-fucks-given attitude it will always need. —D.S.
94. Jumper (2008)
As we touched on in the intro, if a film is here this year, it’s pretty much guaranteed it won’t still be on the list next year, since all seven or eight superhero films scheduled for 2017 release are likely to land higher. Sad? Well, actually, no, since it’s unlikely any tears will be shed for this ballpark-faithful film version of Steven Gould’s 1992 novel. Starring Hayden Christensen in probably his last starring role, the film deals with a plot that could pretty much be a superhero film trope in and of itself—if you have powers, there’s likely a secret society looking for you, either to recruit or kill you. In this instance, the power is teleportation, and the goal is extermination. Probably the only lasting mark the film will leave on many viewers will be from seeing a principal (Nick Fury/Samuel L. Jackson) and a secondary character (Yondu/Michael Rooker) from the MCU in a movie together. Eh, that’s as good a takeaway as any. —M.B.
93. Supergirl (1984)
1984’s Supergirl is a strange, misguided slice of the pre-Tim Burton Batman superhero age, and an attempt to spin-off the rapidly deteriorating Christopher Reeve Superman series for a female protagonist. That might have been all well and good, except for the fact thatJeannot Szwarc’s Supergirl is so damned weird. The plot revolves around a MacGuffin called the “omegahedron,” a powerful object that is lost by Kara Zor-El’s (Helen Slater) city of Kryptonian survivors and stranded on Earth, where it falls into the hands of…a witch? What’s a girl to do but also travel to Earth, where instead of searching for her objective, Kara enrolls in an all-girls school—because hey, why not? Stranger still is the witchy villain Selena, played by Mommie Dearest’s Faye Dunaway, who obtains the powerful object for world domination but then instead gets sidetracked in trying to use it to make a janitor fall in love with her. These all sound like jokes, but I assure you, they are not. Coupled with special effects well below the par of the Superman series at the time, Supergirl was a rather spectacular box office bomb that has since been swept under the rug of polite conversation. With the right crowd it can still deliver an enjoyably campy evening. —J.V.
92. Push (2009)
Another film that proves having a solid cast and an interesting premise can easily be undone if the aforementioned premise is not so much explored as dumped like a bag of hammers on the viewer. Chris Evans, who ties Ryan Reynolds for appearing as the most different characters in films on the list, plays the lead, Nick, a Mover. (And no, that does not involve helping people get furniture into a new home.) He spends most of the film helping Cassie (Dakota Fanning), a young Watcher (not one of the bald-headed observers from Marvel Comics), and fighting Carver (Djimon Hounsou), a Pusher. (Nope.) Unlike many of the films in this area code, I suspect the presence of MCU stalwart Evans (Oh, Captain, my Captain!), Fanning and even Hounsou will cause people to give Push a chance despite its lackluster Rotten Tomatoes score. Oh, well. Some lessons are best learned firsthand. —M.B.
91. The Toxic Avenger (1986)
The Toxic Avenger, or simply “Toxie” as he’s known to fans, is the mascot and long-running figurehead of B-movie studio Troma Entertainment, having to date starred in four bone-crushing films. Born when a hapless nerd (Mark Torgl) falls into a barrel of toxic waste, Toxie (Mitch Cohen) is part Batman, part Swamp Thing and part Jason Voorhees, except his ire is thankfully directed solely at the legions of scumbags who ceaselessly seem to populate and spawn in the fictional Tromaville, NJ. A word to the wise: The Toxic Avenger isn’t for consumption by those without a strong stomach, although you could say that about most any of Troma’s classics. Their films aren’t so much “bottom of the barrel” or “lowest common denominator” as they are sub-denominatorial, reveling in their own poor taste and crassness, simultaneously parodying themselves and their own violent, sexual and scatological excesses. There’re no pretensions toward art in a Toxic Avenger movie, simply wish-fulfillment: a monster movie crossed with Death Wish, as performed by high school students. To quote the trailer: “The muggers and rapists didn’t know what law and order was until the Toxic Avenger came to town!” —J.V.
90. 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. —D.S.
89. 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.
88. 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.
87. 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.
86. 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.
85. 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.
84. 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.
83. 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
82. 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.
81. 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.
80. 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.
79. 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
78. 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.
77. 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.
76. 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.