10 Comic Book Movies You Have Probably Never Seen

Comic book movies are all the rage these days thanks to the MCU and the DCEU. Most of these movies are big-budget spectaculars that do well at the box office, even if they don’t always satisfy moviegoers and film critics. Morbius anyone?

We’re betting you have seen most of the comic book movies that have been released over the last few years but there’s a chance you may have missed out on those that failed to make an impact pre-2008’s Iron Man. Such as? Well, take a look at our list below. These are just some of those comic book movies that you have probably never seen.

Fantastic Four (1994)

To date, there has never been a good live-action Fantastic Four movie.

2005’s Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer failed to do “Marvel’s first family” justice thanks to poor story decisions and (in the first movie) a distinct lack of action. It was hoped that 2015’s Fantastic Four would be better but it turned out to be an absolute mess due to behind-the-scenes production problems and a director who decided to turn one of Marvel’s brighter comic books into something much darker in tone. Big mistake!

Still, those movies aren’t quite as bad as 1994’s Fantastic Four, which you likely haven’t seen because it has never been given an official release. Unbeknownst to the cast and crew, the movie was only made so Constantin Studio could retain the rights to the Fantastic Four before they expired and they had no intention of releasing it into cinemas or the home video market.

The actors do what they can with the limited material but we imagine they decided it was “clobbering time” when they received news that their hard work was all in vain. You won’t find this version of Fantastic Four in your local DVD store or on your streaming services but bootleg copies of the movie do exist and it’s also possible to watch 1994’s Fantastic Four on YouTube.

Doctor Strange (1978)

Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t the only actor to have played the role of Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme in a live-action movie. Years before the character made his big screen debut, a made-for-television movie was made by CBS in 1978 starring Peter Hooten as the doctor who gains mystical superpowers.

The movie was a pilot for a TV series that failed to get the green light and it’s easy to understand why it wasn’t commissioned. Stan Lee may have served as a consultant on the movie but none of his story-writing skills are in evidence in this sloppily put-together effort that at times feels more like a hospital drama than a superhero movie.

This version of Doctor Strange does have its moments – the character’s journey into the Astral Plane is pretty trippy – but for the most part, this is as cheap and cheesy as most other made-for-TV movies that were made in the 1970s.

The Punisher (1989)

Before Thomas Jane took on the role of the grieving cop turned vigilante in the 2004 Punisher movie, action star Dolph Lundgren starred in this adaptation of the darker-than-usual Marvel comic book.

The movie has the same basic premise as the source material and the later adaptations – Frank Castle wages war on the criminals who murdered his family – but it’s indistinguishable from the other B-movie action flicks that Lundgren has regularly appeared in.

1989’s The Punisher can hardly be called a good film but if you’re looking for some brutal death scenes and a lot of explosions, you might gain some enjoyment from this mostly generic movie. We had to wait until 2017 for a decent Punisher adaptation – the Netflix series starring Jon Bernthal – but this isn’t the worst movie on this list if you can set your expectations to low.

Captain America (1990)

This was intended to be a major theatrical release but instead, it was relegated to video stores where unsuspecting comic book fans may have picked it up hoping for a good time. But as this movie is bad – really bad – we can only imagine they asked for their money back, as this is one superhero flick that should have been frozen in ice as soon as the studio realized they had a clunker on their hands.

The fact that it’s so bad is actually no surprise as it was directed by Albert Pyun, a man responsible for some of the worst movies of the 80s and 90s. He directed the abysmal Van Damme movie, Cyborg, for example, and a sequel to 1989’s Kickboxer that was even worse than that uninspired fight flick.

Poor special effects, an uninspired portrayal of Steve Rogers by actor Matt Salinger, and a low budget that gives the movie a made-for-television feel, also contribute to Captain America’s failure.

Man-Thing (2005)

Not to be confused with DC’s Swamp Thing, which spawned a reasonably decent 80s movie and a dull-as-swamp water TV series, this 2005 movie is based on the Marvel comic book that has much in common with the aforementioned plant monster.

Stan Lee was the co-creator of the titular character who was introduced to the world only a couple of months before DC’s copycat (and near-copyright-infringing) creature, but this movie adaptation isn’t as smart or as interesting as the comic books that originated in 1971.

The monster design is actually pretty cool and the swamp setting is reasonably well-realized but as it’s more of a generic creature feature than a direct Marvel adaptation, the antihero from the original comic books isn’t given the story he deserves. As such, this isn’t the movie that fans may have been hoping for during the time of its limited release, although there is some fun to be had for anybody simply wanting to watch a swamp monster lay waste to business people who don’t care what damage they do to the environment.

Justice League of America (1997)

2017’s Justice League wasn’t a great comic book movie, largely because Joss Whedon messed with Zach Snyder’s vision when he stepped in as director, but there was some fun to be had, largely thanks to the comic banter between its band of superheroes.

That movie wasn’t the first to feature the JLA, however, as in 1997, fans were treated (or perhaps cursed) with this small screen outing which featured Flash, Atom, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and some lesser-known comic book heroes going up against the dastardly Weather Man (a villain with the ability to create all kinds of meteorological mayhem).

Being a TV movie, this doesn’t have the budget to match its big-screen rivals, so one can hardly expect the kind of comic book spectacle that we have seen in other team-up superhero movies, such as Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Avengers. But with its colourful cast of characters, this could have been a reasonably decent film, if only the scriptwriters had been respectful of the comic book origins of its heroes.

Instead, this is something of a travesty, with little in the way of exciting set pieces and a script that favours talk over action. As such, it’s rather boring, which is the worst thing a comic book movie can be!

Supergirl (1984)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superm…erm… Supergirl! Riding off the coattails (or capes) of the Superman movies that began with the critically acclaimed Superman in 1978, this one saw Kal-El’s cousin Kara Zor-El make her big screen debut.

In theory, this should have been a good movie. It had a reasonably competent director in Jeannot Schwarz (Jaws 2, Santa Claus: The Movie) and it was set in the same universe as the Superman movies, but despite a great performance by Helen Slater as Supergirl, it failed to perform well commercially or critically due to the lame script and campy tone.

Still, this is nowhere as bad as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which arrived three years later, and there are a handful of decent action scenes as Supergirl goes up against wannabe witch Selena (Faye Dunaway) and her warlock companion Nigel (Peter Cook).

The actors elevate the poorly-written script which must have been written on the back of a napkin and the music score by Jerry Goldsmith is suitably soaring. It’s just a shame that more effort wasn’t put into the movie as this could have been a rare franchise starter for a female superhero.

The Incredible Hulk Returns (1998)

In 2012’s Avengers movie, the Hulk teamed up with Thor (and a whole bunch of other superheroes) to save the world from yet another intergalactic menace. But believe it or not, that movie wasn’t the first to feature the pairing of the less-than-jolly green giant and the god of thunder! That honour goes to this TV-movie spin-off to the popular Incredible Hulk television series, although Eric Allan Kramer (who appears as Thor in this movie) doesn’t have the charisma or the charm of Chris Hemsworth who has now made the role his own.

As this is a television movie, you shouldn’t expect the CGI spectacle that we have seen within the MCU movies featuring the Hulk and Thor. You shouldn’t expect a well-thought-out story either although there is some fun to be had watching Hulk and Thor battle it out before they eventually call a truce with one another.

Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD (1998)

Don’t expect to see Samuel L. Jackson in this late 90s television movie as the titular head of SHIELD. This one stars David Hasselhoff as the super spy who is later called back into action after retirement when the nefarious do-badders of HYDRA threaten to attack Manhattan with a virus.

With a script by David Goyer, the talented writer who provided screenplays for The Dark Knight trilogy and the Blade movies, you could be forgiven for thinking this might be okay. But don’t be fooled by Goyer’s name on the credits. Sure, he has penned some of the best comic book movies that have graced the silver screen but this is far from being one of his better efforts.

We can’t imagine Goyer is proud of this one and we don’t think Iron Man producer Avi Arad is happy about having it on his resume too. It’s easy to point the blame at the lame script and the low budget but the biggest reason for the movie’s failure is probably Hasselhoff, who is hopelessly miscast as the hard-as-nails comic book character.

Steel (1997)

Basketball star Shaquille O’Neal stars in this misfiring superhero movie that has much in common with Iron Man. He stars as John Henry Irons (a character you will recognize from Superman & Lois), a genius engineer who decides to forego his job of designing weapons for the military for a career as an armour-plated superhero.

If the movie had followed the comic books, it might actually have been pretty good. In the comics, Irons built a suit that could mirror Superman’s powers after the Man of Steel was killed by Doomsday. That would have been a tale worth telling but this movie separates itself from the comic book series for an origin story that is far less interesting.

The movie is further undone by Shaquille’s bad acting and special effects that are rarely convincing. This is further evidence that sports stars should stick to what they do best (advice David Beckham should also have heeded before starring in King Arthur) and is another reason why many people failed to take comic book movies seriously in the 80s and 90s.

Have you seen any of those comic book movies? Can you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below. 

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