Five "awful" superhero movies that have no business being as good as they are

Sometimes it's good to be bad. Don't let anyone convince you that these movies aren't good in their own ridiculous ways.
Photo: Venom (2018).. Image Courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment
Photo: Venom (2018).. Image Courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment /

What makes a good superhero movie? Is it the epic writing, compelling villain, or haunting backstory that the hero must overcome in order to be the protector of their respective city/planet they were destined to become? Or is it just its ability to entertain audiences and make them forget about everything else for a little while, because no matter where they are transported to, the outlandish adventure is exactly the kind of escapism they want from the movies.

That also poses us with the question of what makes a bad superhero movie? The obvious choices here are the ones that critics reviled for setting the genre back decades, refusing to take the source material seriously, or just turning the silver screen into one big pantomime. But if those movies also transport us to outlandish realms and entertain us for a few hours, are those really the worst offenders? (Especially when he have the overly grim and inconsistent movies that fans are generally indifferent to.)

Art is subjective and it's time we all acknowledged that, for these five "awful" superhero movies are actually extremely entertaining and deserve a bit more appreciation for just how bonkers they truly are. You want a serious, gritty, and dark superhero movie? Fine, go watch The Dark Knight. But if you want two ridiculous hours of pure unadulterated entertainment, full to the brim of so-bad-it's-good, then check out these instead.

Venom, superhero movies
Photo: Venom (2018).. Image Courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment /

Venom (2018)

When I first watched Venom, I couldn't believe that the vast majority of critics hated it. Don't get me wrong, it's not peak modern superhero movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it plays like a very early 2000s superhero movie and that gives it a bit of a standout quality in today's day and age when it's hard for superhero movies to stand out.

If you're familiar with the character, you'll know the story: Journalist Eddie Brock accidentally "bonds" with an alien symbote determined to cause chaos and turn him into a monster unlike anything humanity had ever seen. What Venom does to make it a bit different is hone in on the reluctant partnership that the duo have to strike up. And by doing so, it produces a highly entertaining superhero comedy movie - something I guarantee you that you weren't expecting from Venom of all characters.

Tom Hardy is a gem as the perpetually annoyed Eddie Brock, while the special effects are incredibly convincing, ensuring that Venom's headlining debut is a thrill-ride in all the right (and occasionally wrong) ways. No, it's not an emotionally complex Marvel movie, but the Sony Marvel movie knows exactly what it wants to be: And it has a heck of a fun time doing it.

None of the Venom films are critical masterpieces but the first one understood how to entertain its audience a bit better than the second one. And honestly, ask any fan what they thought of this movie and there is a high possibility that they will tell you they loved it. We need to listen to them more often, because Venom is a hoot.

Steel (1997)

John Henry Irons is a beloved DC Comics hero known as Steel. He has recently made his presence felt in more mainstream conversations due to Wolé Parks' brilliant portrayal of the character in Superman and Lois. But it's pretty wild that the character wasn't more mainstream before that considering he once headlined his own mainstream movie and was played by none other than Shaquille O'Neal.

Yes, Steel was a thing in 1997, and it bombed at the box office, grossing just $1.7 million against a budget of $16 million, likely due to the waning popularity of superhero movies at the time and the lack of familiarity with the character. It was also panned by critics for its cheesiness and the questionable performances.

Now I am not here to tell you that the movie isn't cheesy or that the performances are world class, but that's exactly why Steel is worth your time. It's very '90s and that makes it stand out from the vast majority of superhero movies. You've probably seen everything that the genre has to offer, but you haven't seen Steel.

The film is the personification of so bad, it's good. Its plot doesn't always make sense but you have a fun time trying to figure it out. It's incredibly entertaining and there are some visuals in there that are really quite unforgettable no matter what the critics might tell you.

One of the most persistent criticisms of this one was that it plays like an extended episode of television, and honestly, that isn't a bad thing. It gets in and gets out, while entertaining you along the way. Who cares if it isn't always for the right reasons!

Catwoman (2004)

Halle Berry and Sharon Stone embroiled in a bitter rivalry revolving around skin cream? Honestly, it's no wonder that Catwoman has become a bit of a cult classic over the years. And it just leaves us all to ask the obvious question: Why didn't it get its flowers when it first came out?

Released in 2004, the film was doomed to fail for multiple reasons. For starters, it was released during an era where comic book movies weren't the guaranteed hits they are nowadays. Then, there's also the fact that the film once envisioned as a Batman Returns spinoff designed to spotlight Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman evolved so much in its 12 years of development that it was unrecognizable, making the bizarre choice to focus on original character Patience Phillips instead of Selina Kyle. That was a questionable decision, especially for the era it existed in.

The movie is incredibly silly and its biggest flaw is that it probably wanted us all to take it seriously. I say "flaw" because once you stop taking Catwoman seriously, you get to see what an absolutely bonkers spectacle that it is, and that makes it inherently more enjoyable. It's a product of its time, prioritizing style over substance, but you know what at least it looks good doing it.

I loved this movie when I was younger and I still love it to this day (albeit for very different reasons). So sit back, turn your brain off, and prepare to be entertained by two of the most senseless hours of film you will ever watch.

Dakota Johnson in superhero movie MADAME WEB.
Cassandra Webb/Madame Web (Dakota Johnson) in Columbia Pictures’ MADAME WEB. /

Madame Web (2024)

"He was in the Amazon with my mom when she was researching spiders just before she died." If that line of dialogue (that didn't actually make it into the movie) doesn't tell you how much fun Madame Web is, then I can't help you. It's not my fault you don't like fun. But if you are open to exploring more of the "so bad, it's good" category of film, then I implore you to ignore the critics and give this one a try. If nothing else, you are guaranteed two hours of nonsensical fun.

Madame Web is set in the early 2000s and that's pretty ironic because the whole movie is a throwback to that era of films. You know, the late '90s/early '00s so-bad-they're-good-but-also-flopped-at-the-box-office brand of superhero movies? This one has been ripped straight from that time-period, which ironically allows it to stand out in an era where the vast majority of superhero movies all look the same.

Dakota Johnson gives it her all to make the odd adventure work, and even though it doesn't as a serious superhero movie, it's a hilariously good time. Sydney Sweeney is also engaging as Julia Cornwall, and even though it won't go down in history as one of her most memorable roles, she committed to the content while she was there.

I'm telling you: Madame Web has all the makings of a cult classic, so jump into this 2024 flick now and show it the appreciation it deserves before it becomes the cool thing to do. Stay ahead of the curve. You won't regret it!

George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell in Batman and Robin, superhero movies
Photo: Batman and Robin / Warner Bros. Studios, Image Courtesy Fathom Events Press (Batman 80th Anniversary) /

Batman and Robin (1997)

Ah, the movie is that is, by far, considered the absolute worst superhero movie of all time. Directed by Joel Schumacher, Batman and Robin was released in 1997 and it had such a negative impact on both the Batman character and the superhero genre that it took both the better part of a decade to fully recover from it. In that sense, the negative response to the film was justified. But now, over 25 years after its debut, we can look back and appreciate the absolute spectacle that this movie was.

Batman and Robin is a very unserious movie by design. From its corny dialogue, ridiculously over-the-top set designs, and hammy performances, it's so unbelievably stupid that you have no choice but to stan. That doesn't sound like a very profound critical analysis, sure, but to analyze Batman and Robin in too much detail would be to take it far too seriously, and that's what you should never do with a movie like this one.

Some movies are designed simply to entertain, and this one does that with ease. The neon-lit Gotham City from Batman Forever is back but with giant Greek-like statues in the middle of the road for absolutely no reason, the villains are so off-the-wall camp just because they can be, and the plot makes absolutely no sense for the most part, but there is a charm in Batman and Robin that you just won't find in modern superhero movies.

Loud, in-your-face, and very silly, Batman and Robin is a cinematic pantomime. If you accept the fact that this is not the same gritty Batman that Tim Burton and Michael Keaton introduced us to in 1989, then you might actually have a good time. Seriously, sit down with your friends and put this on for a movie night. They need to see it. And so do you.

Next. 10 best superhero movies ever made, ranked. 10 best superhero movies ever made, ranked. dark