It may seem like Marvel Studios can do no wrong, but that's only because they've had so many opportunities to learn from other studios' failures. The Marvel Universe has had a rocky history on the big screen. Here's a breakdown of every Marvel movie that predates 2008's "Iron Man." Some of them are better left forgotten.
23. 'Man-Thing' (2005)
This waste of everyone's time and effort cost $30 million to make, and was instantly shunned by both its distributor and audiences. Marvel completely disowns it/wishes it could un-happen.
22. 'Howard the Duck' (1986)
No matter what metric you're judging by, "Howard the Duck" is a good choice for the worst Marvel movie ever made. It was a misguided project for all involved and one of the first signs that not everything George Lucas touches turns to box office gold. In the wake of his "Guardians of the Galaxy" cameos, hopefully Howard will eventually get a second chance in the MCU.
21. 'Captain America' (1990)
The current Captain America movies represent some of the best Marvel has to offer on the big screen. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have this dreadful take on the Sentinel of Liberty. There's a reason this one sat quietly in a vault for two years before finally being dumped on home video.
20. 'The Punisher' (1989)
What are the crucial ingredients in a Punisher movie? We'd say a main character who wears the iconic skull shirt is pretty high up on the list. The fact that this movie couldn't even be bothered to include that basic detail gives you some indication of how much care went into this project.
19. 'Blade Trinity' (2004)
The Blade franchise also fell victim to the Part 3 curse. While we enjoyed the addition of Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel's vampire hunters, the rest of the movie settle dfor combining bland vampire tropes with the worst take on Dracula we've seen in a long time. Wesley Snipes' infamously difficult on-set behavior certainly didn't help.
18. 'Punisher: War Zone' (2008)
If you like rebootquels with cheap production values and guys getting punched mid-air by launched rockets, then this very, very, very guilty pleasure is for you.
17. 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence' (2011)
Nic Cage hides behind some intermittently impressive flaming skull CG in this action-packed, but narratively and emotionally bankrupt sequel that wreaks of "shot-cheaply-in-Insert European-Backwater-Country" here-itis.
16. 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' (2009)
We couldn't skewer this messy misfire any better than "Deadpool 2" did with its great end titles tag.
15. 'Ghost Rider' (2007)
We're surprised Sony didn't kill the comic book movie entirely in the summer of 2007. They followed up the disappointing "Spider-Man 3" with an even worse take on Ghost Rider. At least the sequel had the good sense not to take itself seriously. What was this movie's excuse?
14. 'Elektra' (2005)
Any interest fans might have had in a solo Elektra movie died after watching 2003's "Daredevil." Yet for some reason Fox pushed ahead anyway. Jennifer Garner makes the most of a generally thankless role, but pretty much everything else about this spinoff is bland and forgettable.
13. 'Fantatsic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer' (2007)
The fact that "Rise of the Silver Surfer" improved upon its predecessor in the action department isn't a particularly impressive feat. It still suffers from many of the same problems as the first, along with giving fans a soul-crushingly bad take on Galactus. (Read: Sky-sized poop cloud.) But whenever Silver Surfer himself appears onscreen, you get a sense of what might have been with this franchise.
12. 'Fantastic Four' (2005)
Fox struck lightning in a bottle with the X-Men franchise, but for whatever reason, that didn't carry over to their first attempt at a Fantastic Four movie. Plagued by questionable casting choices (apart from a pre-Captain America Chris Evans), lackluster character designs and a dull story, there was nothing particularly fantastic about this origin story.
11. 'Daredevil' (2003)
Daredevil boasts a pretty solid cast, including Ben Affleck as a suitably brooding hero and Michael Clarke Duncan as the Marvel villain he was born to play. Unfortunately, the movie never seems sure whether it wants to be a gritty character drama or a campy superhero adventure. Not to mention the dated wire-fu action scenes and ear-splitting soundtrack.
10. 'The Punisher' (2004)
The second Punisher movie is leaps and bounds better than the first, for whatever that's worth. This remake makes some fundamental mistakes by casting John Travolta as the main villain and opting for the PG-13 approach. On the other hand, Tom Jane makes for a terrific Frank Castle, and we love seeing so many scenes and characters pulled directly from the comics.
9. 'Hulk' (2003)
"Hulk" may well be the most frustrating Marvel movie ever made. It has a lot of problems, not the least of which being the atrocious Gamma Poodles and other iffy story choices. But "Hulk" also gets a lot right about the source material and cleverly tries to recreate the look and feel of a comic book page on-screen. Here again, we wish studio interference hadn't resulted in a lesser movie.
8. 'X-Men: The Last Stand' (2006)
Hey, another superhero franchise that fizzled out in its third installment. It's almost like there's a trend. "The Last Stand" isn't the absolute worst in the franchise (that honor goes to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"), but it is a close second. There are far too many characters at play, resulting in too many fan-favorites being unceremoniously written out of the picture. Not to mention that the film's reach exceeds its grasp when it comes to characters like Juggernaut.
7. 'Spider-Man 3' (2007)
Expectations were high for Sam Raimi's third Spider-Man movie. Sadly, this became the latest superhero franchise to stumble in its third outing. It's easy to poke fun at goofy excesses like Emo Peter Parker, but the real failure with Spider-Man 3 is that it tries to do too much and juggle too many villains. There are enough moments of greatness here to make us wish Sony had taken a less heavy-handed approach.
23. 'X-Men' (2000)
The first "X-Men" is admittedly pretty rough around the edges, but it's still easy to see why this movie spawned a massive franchise and helped kick-start the flailing superhero genre. Dated though it is, "X-Men" features some of the best superhero casting ever, thanks to Hugh Jackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen. It also has a unique, creepy vibe that we kind of miss in subsequent movies.
5. 'Blade II' (2002)
The first sequel to a Marvel movie, "Blade II" is not quite as strong as the first, but at least it doesn't settle for rehashing the same formula. This dark, dynamic sequel forces Blade to team up with his vamprie enemeis to confront a newer, deadlier breed of bloodsucker. Unsurprisingly, good things come when you put Guillermo Del Toro in charge of a superhero movie.
8. 'Spider-Man' (2002)
Like "X-Men," the original "Spider-Man" tends to show its age alongside the more recent Marvel movies. Still, its fundamental appeal remains after all these years. This film delivers a mostly pitch-perfect rendition of Peter Parker's evolution from lonely nerd to slightly less lonely superhero. It established a strong foundation for an even better sequel.
9. 'Blade' (1998)
Before Blade, the idea of a good Marvel movie was basically unheard of. This turned out to be the little superhero movie that could, wooing audiences through a combination of stylish action, snappy writing and a great performance from star Wesley Snipes. It set the standard for every great Marvel movie to come.
6. 'X2: X-Men United' (2003)
"X2" is a textbook example of a sequel taking a winning formula and improving upon it in nearly every way. This sequel crams in more mutant favorites, more of Hugh Jackman doing Wolverine things and a generally more resonant and effective story. At one point, "X2" was an obvious choice for the best superhero movie ever made. And even after all this time, it's still one of the best.
1. 'Spider-Man 2' (2004)
As great as the MCU is, even "Spider-Man: Homecoming" wasn't able to top the all-time greatest Spider-Man movie. "Spider-Man 2" set a new gold standard for superhero movies. It tells a grippng, emoitonally charged story where the villain is just as flawed and compelling as the hero. It also proved that a director's unique voice can shine through even in a massive superhero blockbuster.