Bad comic book movies are an enduring problem. There are just so many, and they keep adding up. But not every movie is entirely irredeemable. Sometimes good characters and performances hide in bad movies. They might not quite save the movie, but they damn well try.
Let's pay tribute to those needles in the hay, those diamonds in the coal, those third-analogy-I-can't-think-of-right-now…uh, the best characters in bad comic book movies.
10. Gwen Stacy
Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2
These movies are extremely bad, and the chemistry between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker is the best thing about them.
I recently watched the movies back-to-back to prep for the next edition of Every Comic Book Movie Ever, and I have some advice for you: Do not do that. These are extremely bad movies. Amazing Spider-Man 2 might even cross the line into hatefulness if you care about Spider-Man enough. But Emma Stone shines through.
She’s given very little to work with, but her chemistry with Garfield (the Spider-Man, not the orange cat) is what makes so many of their scenes together work. In fact, her hard work and skillful performances are actually part of what makes Amazing Spider-Man 2 so furiously bad. Like, she's the one good thing about the movie, and they murder her in such a callous way.
But whatever. Gotta save that bile for the next ECBM list.
9. Deadpool (But NOT Weapon XI)
The first half of X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Hey! Everyone forgets that before they tank it as hard as physically possible, Ryan Reynolds's Deadpool performance is actually pretty good in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
I’m talking about all the stuff that comes before they sew his mouth shut and give him sword arms and laser eyes. Christ almighty, this movie blows. But when he's just a jabbering snark machine who's good with swords, he's hands down the best part of the movie. This is why people wanted a Deadpool movie. Exactly this performance.
Striking the movie from continuity was for the best, but Wade Wilson, agent of Weapon X, is actually pretty great. That elevator scene is one of the few scenes in the movie that actually works.
And then they ruin it with that Weapon 11 BS. "The X in Weapon X is actually a 10" ranks among the dumber retcons. Weapon XI, are you kidding me?
8. Captain Boomerang
Suicide Squad is a mess, a befuddling non-movie made up of confusing decisions. But one character is a perfect translation of his comic book counterpart: Captain Boomerang.
In the Suicide Squad comic book, Captain Boomerang is an obnoxious toolbag who was pretty gross and kinda racist. No one likes him, and he winds up as a punchline fairly often. The movie gets all of that right!! He's obnoxious, weird, and kinda gross, and the Flash beats him with incredible ease. That's all you need for a good Captain Boomerang.
He also has that physics-defying camera boomerang, which was pretty great. Trick boomerangs with silly gimmicks that don’t make complete sense are a hallmark of the character; he wouldn't be him without them.
Honestly, I wish the other characters were better adaptations of the source material rather than just being either boring or offensively weird.
7. Human Torch
At least Jordan got Killmonger to shine after being the only enjoyable part of this piece of s**t.
But yeah. His casting was a subject of controversy among losers with nothing to do on a daily basis, and that was really the only advance press the movie got. Well, that, and his well-publicized falling out with the director.
But as it turns out, Jordan’s actually this movie’s shining beacon of goodness, especially given what he had to work with. Have you seen that script? But Jordan's Johnny Storm is comic book accurate in demeanor and personality, to a tee. He captures that hothead energy, and he’s clearly having a bit of fun in at least some of it.
Of course, Killmonger eventually comes along and gives him a real chance to show off.
6. Multiple Man and Kitty Pryde
X-Men: The Last Stand
X-Men: The Last Stand suuuuuuuuuucks. Like, it's legendarily awful, franchise-ruiningly bad.
Also, f**k Brett Ratner. But there are two characters who don't totally blow in this movie.
The first is Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. Madrox is portrayed here as a villain, yes, but he keeps his appearance and his trademark attitude. In addition, one of the only moments in the film that works centers around Madrox's part in Magneto's plan. It's a cute scene. While I love Madrox’s heroic detective stuff in X-Factor, this version is still a fun time.
Kitty Pryde, played by Ellen Page, is also pretty solid. Page is the reason the character works at all, since the awful script and poor direction give her nothing to work with. But she's talented enough as an actor to pull it all together. I mean, she's still in that piss-poor Juggernaut scene that still makes me cringe, but her bits of it aren't bad.
5. The Riddler
Sensing a lot of disagreement on this one. And I get it.
Look, the Riddler is my favorite Batman villain by far, and this isn't the best portrayal of the character, but it's a really fun performance. Jim Carrey is a solid comedic performer, and he goes hard in the paint on this role. He gives it everything. And it kinda works. He's clearly doing a film version of the '66 Riddler TV show, and he accomplishes that goal.
The movie is deeply terrible, and everyone else is just doing nothing out there. Carrey’s Riddler looks even better when compared to Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face. Jones gives it his all, but his all is not fun to watch.
At least the Riddler’s costume is good. Nice, and at times comics accurate. At other times, it looks wacky and fun. In fact, the movie’s best and most effective moments happen when Carrey doesn't have to play off his inferior fellow cast members.
It's a silly performance, but it sure is a bold one.
4. Lois Lane
Man of Steel
Specifically, I’m talking about Lois Lane in Man of Steel. She gets wasted in Batman v Superman, and is so absent from Justice League that I had to check to make sure she’s even in it.
But Lois is actually pretty great in Man of Steel. Amy Adams is a fantastic actress, and while she has the opportunity to show her range to a much greater extent in Arrival, she still manages to lend real strength to a badass character like Lois. She's a firebrand who’ll fight tooth and nail for truth and justice.
Lois pursues every story harder than Clark ever will, and she's not even the bulletproof one. While Man of Steel's Lois isn't quite as awesome as her comic book counterpart (or even the animated series version), she’s easily the most interesting character in the movie.
Amy Adams rules.
If Quicksilver isn’t the best part of Days of Future Past (he probably is), he easily has its best scene. That scene is awesome. But Days of Future Past is a good movie. It may not be the best X-Men movie (that'd be First Class), but it’s good!
However, Quicksilver does shows up in a bad X-Men movie: Days of Future Past’s immediate follow up, X-Men: Apocalypse. Apocalypse is a boring mess that’s smeared with bad performances and laughable characters. But Quicksilver is in two of its best scenes. The first tries to replicate the Time in a Bottle scene from Days of Future Past, and it sorta works. It's not as good, but it still exists.
The second scene steals the entire movie. During the final fight, all action slows to a stop. As an audience member, I was like, "Aw, hell, yeah." Then Quicksilver proceeds to beat the snot out of Apocalypse in a scene that may totally undermine his threat as a villain, but it's still the best moment in the film.
2. Justin Hammer
Iron Man 2
Sam Rockwell rules. Like, Ruuuuuuules. I'm so happy that he finally got his Oscar, because that dude brings it to everything he's in. And by "it", I mean some sweet dance moves.
He’s the strongest element in the MCU’s weakest entry, and he's the only villain in it that’s worth a damn. I mean, Whiplash? Really? For serious? He and his stupid bird are nowhere near interesting. But Hammer is an awesome and hilarious villain.
He's a tech company bro who really badly wants to be Tony Stark. But he isn't Tony Stark; he's a cheap imitation. His press conferences aren't as flashy, his jokes don't land, he has a really bad fake tan. He's just a try-hard with some knock-off drone robots to sell. He's literally Tony's greatest fear: being ripped off and sold to the war industry. It's incredible.
And Sam Rockwell sells his performance really well, which makes him the most memorable part of the movie. And in a bad movie, he's a real light in the darkness.
1. Wonder Woman
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
If that badass music cue didn't just trigger in your brain, I don't know what to tell you. Wonder Woman is obviously fan-f*****g-tastic in her own solo movie, but she's also the best part of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The only good thing about that title is that it always helps me hit my word count. Wonder Woman really has nothing to do until toward the end of the film, when she shows up and steals the whole darn show from the Glowery Sad Boysâ„¢ and their quest to kill each other before the 27th most popular female baby name of 1939 brings them together.
Diana comes in and just wrecks stuff so hard that everyone instantly loved her the most. Being so good that you steal a movie is one thing. But Wonder Woman is so good, she steals an entire cinematic universe.
Prove me wrong, Aquaman.