10 Iconic Characters Without A Single Great Movie


It’s incredible how many truly great characters end up given messy Hollywood treatments. If it wasn’t for Disney’s animated classic, for instance, there’d be no great Hercules movie and there hasn’t been a really great Robin Hood or King Arthur movie for decades. The same goes for Billy the Kid and even characters as iconic as Superman have recently laboured through inferior movies.

You’d think that film-makers would be able to pull something good out of their hats when given such brilliant material to work with, but it’s just not the case at all.

Arguably one of the most egregious is easily one of the most famous characters ever created…

10. Mickey Mouse


Sure, Mickey Mouse has been in a couple of okay movies, but Walt Disney’s most famous character has never had his own really tentpole movie in his entire 90 year history. There have been good shorts, of course, and the Christmas animated movies have their cult appeal, but Mickey has never even been given the chance to star in a bad movie let alone a great one.

With animated characters like Pikachu and Sonic getting their own movies, it’s surely only a matter of time before someone realises that there’s more to Mickey than as a corporate mascot. It should have already happened in fact, after Frozen relaunched Mickey into cinemas with the short Get A Horse, but so far nothing.

Hopefully, the spate of live-action Disney films might allow for a Christopher Robin/Roger Rabbit style live-action/animation mix giving him the opportunity he deserves.

9. The Turtles

IDW Publishing

In stark contrast to Mickey Mouse, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had plenty of opportunities to impress on the big screen. They’ve had one animated feature, five live action features and three more planned projects that were greenlit but then cancelled. And yet none of them have managed to match the promise of the comics and the cartoons that turned the Turtles into one of the heavyweight kids brands of the 1990s.

The problem with the movies is they’ve never got the tone right. The best way to sell the Turtles isn’t to go gritty or to Michael Bay everything up and give them annoying teenage attitudes (despite that being part of the cartoons) clearly, but that’s what film-makers keep aiming to do. They keep assuming that fans will accept bad scripts and lowest-common-denominator silliness simply because the characters are mutant turtles and a rat.

The key to a great film would be approaching the material with the same affection and awareness that Ryan Reynolds did for Deadpool. So they really just need a massive fan to save them.

8. Pinhead

New World Pictures

Horror movies tend to give birth to some of the most iconic characters in cinema without the quality of the movies they appear in matching up to them individually. That can be the only reason we all have to endure so many poor sequels with the likes of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees in them.

They’re the perfect examples of Hollywood’s obsession with established brands and also of how fanbases will respond to great characters even when they appear in rubbish. And there are few better examples of those trends than Hellraiser’s Pinhead.

His franchise has been defined mostly by absolutely abysmal sequels, but even the original was never really great. It was only good at best (and even then, it was never quite the mainstream success that the other horror franchise mentioned here were) and his appeal seems to have been borne out of how incredible he looks as a scary character.

It’s about time someone gave him the film he deserves.

7. Percy Jackson

20th Century Fox

There may have only been two Percy Jackson movies so far, but there’s a big reason he qualifies alongside the other iconic characters here: he was designed to be the next Harry Potter.

Fox bought the rights to Rick Riordan’s books as their assault on the lucrative teenage and young adult market that Potter was already catering to and which was exploding with the likes of Twilight and the Divergent and Maze Runner books. Sadly, they ignored Riordan’s advice about the changes they planned to make to the books and ploughed ahead anyway and the result was two underwhelming movies that fudged the character’s potential massively.

Jackson has more books out there and there’s definitely potential in them for him to get another film series, but given how obviously he was set up to be the next big family movie hero, the initial failures are even more disappointing.

6. Optimus Prime


It says a lot about Michael Bay’s Transformers film franchise that the best Transformers movie so far released is the animated feature from 1986. And though that catoon boasted huge talent in the voice-over booths (including Orson Welles and Eric Idle), it’s far from a great movie.

Transformers are one of those properties that absolutely deserve great movies, mostly because there’s huge appetite in audiences for some robots in disguise-based action on the big screen. If there wasn’t, Bay wouldn’t have been able to make so many horribly made blockbusters under the Transformers banner.

Sadly, Bay has never really understood the appeal to fans and has instead gone with action and spectacle (to the thunking soundtrack of grinding, clunking metal) over depth and real character development. And while it’s made the studio and Bay lots of money, none of those movies have been in any way great.

5. Ash Ketchum

Pokemon Co

You could argue until you’re blue in the face that the animated Pokemon movies are great, but you’d only be fooling yourself because you’re terrified that there’s never going to be a real live-action Pokemon movie. The reality is that they’re just ok: they serve a purpose in the absence of a cinematic Pokemon experience.

So far, the only live action Pokemon projects we’ve seen have been a commercial for Pokemon Go and the trailers for the upcoming Detective Pikachu movie and it looks like the technology and awareness of the source material exists out there to justify taking a run at a real movie. But for some reason, it’s not happened yet.

That’s despite the Pokemon being great characters in themselves and Ash Ketchum being one of the most beloved protagonists across multiple media streams. It’s about time he got a chance at being a Hollywood star.

4. Alice

Screen Gems

The Resident Evil franchise is the worst example of what is wrong with way too many blockbusters these days: they deliver to fans in terms of service to established lore and characters and trade on a recognisable brand, but they never justify their own existence by being any good at all.

Still, there’s a reason fans still went out to the cinema to see those movies and indeed why gamers committed to new Resident Evil games even after they’d suffered multiple disappointments: it’s the strength the characters and the ideas behind the franchises. And Alice – played with vague interest by Milla Jovovich in the movies – is a great character. She’s Ellen Ripley in a zombie apocalypse, Rick Grimes with more of a bad-ass edge, Lara Croft shredded to her last nerve.

It’s just a shame that none of the movies she’s been in have quite matched up to her appeal as a character. In all honesty, none have even come close.

3. Chucky


Like Pinhead, Chucky the killer doll from Child’s Play has always been a better character than the films he’s appeared in. He does have a cameo in Ready Player One to claim, but that absolutely doesn’t count, since he’s in it for all of about 30 seconds, so everything he’s been part of cinematically has been little more than mediocre.

Chucky’s appeal is all down to the compelling idea of a doll that comes to live and starts killing – and it’s not even all that innovative, frankly. He just looks incredible (sort of like a demonic Cabbage Patch Kid, which was always going to work for nostalgic reasons) and there’s a great, menacing performance in there too, thanks to Brad Dourif.

Hopefully, the post-Deadpool age means we’ll get the Chucky film that we actually deserve, with a fourth-wall breaking, tiny badass with real bloodlust and – most importantly – a story and script that don’t seem to be an afterthought.

2. The Fantastic Four

Marvel Comics/Terry Dodson

Marvel’s first family have now been in four films across three separate attempted franchises and not one of them has been any good. Even the one that spawned a sequel (somehow) was real bottom rung of the comic book movie ladder stuff.

Quitee why the super group haven’t managed to translate across to the big screen is anyone’s guess, but it may be because their powers are a little more goofy than some of the more practical heroes that have become popular on screen. An elasticated man and another made of rock are a little harder to take than something like billionaire tech geniuses or genetically modified super-soldiers.

Perhaps it’s just because nobody could hope to understand them like Marvel, who would give them the service they deserve and find the right tone (which is basically already the one adopted by the MCU)? Whatever the case, there’s just always been something a little wrong with the approach, whether it’s been too goofy or too dark.

Hopefully, the MCU version of the Fantastic Four that’s coming at some point in the next few years will fix all of this.

1. The Punisher


The Punisher might well be the coolest Marvel character of all time. He’s the poster boy for R-rated comics, a bad-ass with an attitude and a stunningly affecting backstory and a modus operandi that is as intoxicating as his simple skull logo. He’s the reason why John Wick worked so well and he’s popular with fans for the same reason any vigilante loner with a screw loose and an axe to grind is. He’s compelling, dark and violent and he deserves a great film.

Unfortunately, so far he’s been in three movies that have ranged from terrible to mostly just mediocre. They’ve had good ideas in there, but they’ve just never quite got the character, despite the key being to let him do what he’s always done. It worked for Netflix to a certain extent, of course, but a movie’s a different prospect again.

And let’s be perfectly honest, even Netflix’s stand-alone Punisher show wasn’t all THAT great. He had been a revelation in Daredevil, but given his own opportunity to shine, he’d fallen into the same pitfalls as the other Netflix shows. Whisper it, but it was all a bit boring because it was just too long.


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