Worst Comic Book Movies of the 90s

A Decade Filled with Bad Superhero Movies

If you thought 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or X-Men: Apocalypse got bad reviews from critics, you must have missed out on most of the comic book movies of the 1990s. While these days it is common for comic book movies to win over critics and audiences, prior to 2000 most comic book movies received terrible reviews and were box office bombs.

Whether it was because of low budgets, studios not understanding the material, or poor casting choices, film studios stumbled trying to turn successful comic book characters into movie franchises over and over again in the 1990s. Nearly all of these movies were remade as much better versions in the last decade, leaving the originals to be best forgotten as poor first attempts.

The following eight movies are the worst comic book movie adaptations of the 1990s.

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Captain America (1990)

Captain America 1990
21st Century Film Corporation

If you haven't even heard of this film version of Captain America – which was released 21 years before Captain America: The First Avenger – don't be surprised. It was released internationally in select countries during 1990 and 1991, and wasn't released in the U.S. until July 1992, when it just went direct-to-video.

Directed by low-budget action movie director Albert Pyun and starring Matt Salinger (son of famed Catcher in the Rye director J.D. Salinger in one of his few film roles), Captain America suffered from an awful script and a minuscule budget. Oddly, the Red Skull was changed into a villain of Fascist Italy instead of Nazi Germany. Believe it or not, that was one of the least questionable things about this easily-forgotten movie.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
New Line Cinema

It's sometimes easy to forget that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started off as a small press comic book. That's because the 1980s cartoon series and the theatrical films – which started with 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – toned down the violence and offbeat comic book material.

The first movie sequel was silly enough, but the third movie involved the mutant heroes in an odd time travel plot that didn't really fit the tone of the series even though it loosely adapted one of the original comic stories. Regardless, by this sequel the series had worn out its welcome with audiences – and the much lower box office numbers reflected that.

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Fantastic Four (1994)

Fantastic Four 1994
New Horizons

Like 1990's Captain America, 1994's Fantastic Four was the result of Marvel selling the movie rights to one of its superhero properties to a small production company, Neue Constantin. However, the company's rights were going to expire at the end of 1992 unless a movie was put in production.

Neue Constantin hired noted low-budget filmmaker Roger Corman to help produce a movie quickly on just a $1 million budget. The final results show that, and despite promotional material going out Marvel executive Avi Arad paid several million dollars to stop the release of the film.

However, the film has leaked as a bootleg version, and most fans agree it's better off not being seen. However, it's worth mentioning that the three theatrically released Fantastic Four films released by Fox from 2005 to 2015 weren't much better than the unreleased 1994 version.

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Judge Dredd (1995)

Judge Dredd
Hollywood Pictures

Supposedly based on the character in the popular British comic series 2000 AD, Judge Dredd has so little to do with the source material that the character is nearly unrecognizable. The casting of Sylvester Stallone as the title character not only turned the film into a more generic action movie, but it also meant that Dredd removed his helmet – something that the comics' Dredd has never done – to get the big star’s face in the film.

The studio, director, and Stallone fought over the level of violence in the movie in order to lower the MPAA rating, leaving a number of sequences on the cutting room floor and a film that had an inconsistent tone. A 2012 movie version – just titled Dredd – was far better received by fans, but sadly made less than half of what Judge Dredd made at the box office.

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Barb Wire (1996)

Barb Wire
Polygram Filmed Entertainment

Barb Wire wasn’t exactly a beloved comic book character before the film was announced – the busty bounty hunter only had a 9 issue series before the film went into production – and the movie version of the Dark Horse Comics character primarily served as a vehicle for sex symbol Pamela Anderson's body.

Surprisingly, Barb Wire is actually a post-apocalyptic remake of Casablanca with Anderson in the Humphrey Bogart role. Oh yeah, plus nudity. But other than that, it's a dull, poorly-acted remake of one of the greatest movies ever made.

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Steel (1997)

Warner Bros.

Larger-than-life NBA star Shaquille O'Neal tried to launch a movie career in the 1990s, and visually he was a perfect fit to play Steel, a DC Comics character who is an ally of Superman. Warner Bros. was having trouble getting a Superman film going, so Steel seemed like a good bet in the meantime.

However, Steel is a C-list character (at best), and O'Neal isn't a strong enough actor to carry a film. On top of that, the character was unconnected with Superman in the movie and used none of the comics' supporting cast or villains. Unsurprisingly, the film was a bomb with both critics and audiences.

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Spawn (1997)

New Line Cinema

The posters for Spawn -- an adaptation of the Image Comics hell-fighting anti-hero starring Michael Jai White -- promoted the movie as "The Special-Effects Movie Event of the Year!" Unfortunately, many of the special effects were rushed to hit the release date and several sequences seem incomplete.

The violence of the comic was also toned down in order to get a PG-13 rating. Neither fans or critics were happy with the final product.

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Batman and Robin (1997)

Batman and Robin
Warner Bros.

Often cited as one of the worst films ever made, Batman and Robin is a must for any list of the worst comic book movies. Although 1995's Batman Forever -- the first Batman film to be directed by otherwise talented filmmaker Joel Schumacher – took Tim Burton's blockbuster Batman series in a campy direction, it was hugely successful.

Schumacher and Warner Bros. doubled-down on the camp, especially with casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as the villain Mr. Freeze. With over-the-top performances by George Clooney (as Batman) and Uma Thurman (as Poison Ivy) and a confused-looking Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, Batman and Robin is a complete mess of a movie that is so bad that it killed off the Batman film series for eight years until it was revived with the back-to-basics Batman Begins.