James Gunn might just be one of the most popular directors currently in Hollywood. His trademark blend of humor, action, and witty dialogue has earned him widespread praise from fans and fellow directors alike, especially in response to his latest superhero films – including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
While the release of his hit movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, helped him gain international exposure, Gunn has also released two other lesser-known movies (2006’s Slither and 2010’s Super) that similarly established him as an indie screen icon.
As he prepares to depart Marvel to oversee the production of D.C.’s future films, we wanted to take the time to look back at Gunn’s career thus far and rank his small but impressive filmography. From his earlier indie movies to his recent superhero films and T.V. shows, here is every project James Gunn has been involved in, ranked from best to worst.
It’s not very often that a director manages to bounce back as masterfully as James Gunn. Churning out the wonderfully inventive film The Suicide Squad in 2021 – three years after his forced departure from Disney – Gunn followed up the success of his initial D.C. film with the brilliant T.V. series Peacemaker.
Recuperating from serious injuries and contending with crippling self-doubt, the all-American supervillain Peacemaker (John Cena) is recruited into a top-secret espionage program, working as a hired killer for the U.S. government.
Returning to the violence- and language-strewn content of The Suicide Squad, Peacemaker benefits expertly from its M.A. rating, along with the camaraderie of its central cast. Playing what is essentially a muscled-up, frat version of Captain America, Cena excels as Peacemaker, the entire project serving as perhaps the best thing related to the DCEU since their cinematic universe began in 2013.
Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2
When the Guardians encounter the mysterious Ego (Kurt Russell) – a god-like entity who claims to be Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father – the team investigates Star-Lord’s past to learn the truth.
Putting Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 above the original may be controversial, but Gunn’s 2017 sequel is just slightly better than his first Guardians movie.
As entertaining as the first Guardians of the Galaxy is, Vol. 2 features a somewhat more serious exploration of the characters while retaining the same humor and lightheartedness that made the first movie so enjoyable. Vol. 2 also utilizes an always-entertaining Kurt Russell as Ego, one of the greatest villains in Marvel comics, and features some of the most emotional scenes in the MCU.
The Suicide Squad
Following his departure from Disney in 2018, Gunn was warmly welcomed by Marvel’s principal rival, D.C. A natural fit for the increasingly mature films put up by the comic giant, Gunn was brought on board for the reboot/sequel to the disastrous 2016 film, Suicide Squad, improving upon the original in every way imaginable.
Learning that a large alien has landed on a South American island, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends an elite team of reformed villains to destroy the creature before the island’s totalitarian government can weaponize it.
Rebuilding the tone of the modern film from the ground up, The Suicide Squad offered a more comedic take on its source material rather than the downbeat, dull tone of most D.C. movies that came before it. Watching the finished product, it's no wonder why Gunn was hired to spearhead the company’s upcoming films.
Guardians of The Galaxy
Adapting an obscure comic book team into a feature-length film was a daring move, especially given how little relevancy or attention the Guardians had with current Marvel fans. However, Gunn defied expectations, delivering a hilarious sci-fi adventure movie that audiences loved worldwide.
Backed by an amazing soundtrack full of pop songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s, the first Guardians movie follows a rag-tag band of intergalactic criminals who steal an artifact that an alien warlord plans to use to conquer the universe.
Ceaselessly fun throughout its two-hour runtime, this movie earned the Guardians a welcome place in the MCU and continues to remain a highly popular superhero movie years later (some even ranking it among the best movies in the MCU).
Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 3
The final entry in the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, Vol. 3, serves as an emotional send-off to the original cast and crew that made Guardians possible in the first place, from director James Gunn to most of its main cast.
As they continue to grieve the loss of their original Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), the Guardians reel from a devastating attack by the artificially-created warrior Adam (Will Poulter), uncovering more about Rocket’s (Bradley Cooper) past along the way.
Though the weakest of Gunn’s three Guardians films, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is far from a horrible movie, possessing the same comedic and emotional undertones that made Vol. 2 so outstanding in the first place.
The Guardians of The Galaxy Holiday Special
Gunn’s triumphant return to Disney came courtesy of his 2022 T.V. special, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Ushering in the holidays the only way he knows how, The Guardians Holiday Special was an excellent intro to Gunn’s conclusive work on Guardians of the Guardians Vol. 3 and a welcome return to form for the MCU’s most cherished director.
Celebrating Christmas together, the Guardians do their best to search for a meaningful holiday gift for Peter (Chris Pratt), who is still melancholy over the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña).
Just as humorous as every other entry in the Guardians franchise, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is perhaps the most comedic of the MCU’s films, as seen from its hilarious inclusion of Kevin Bacon and the Old 97’s. It’s a relatively minor entry in the overall Marvel Universe, but one that’s sure to please most superhero fans who can watch it.
Gunn’s debut feature film, Slither, is a throwback of sorts to the work of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Fred Dekker, offering a comical parody of a zombie science fiction movie.
The main premise of Slither is that a strange alien parasite lands on Earth. Once it begins infecting residents of a small South Carolinian town, turning them into insidious monsters, a group of survivors attempts to stop the parasite before it spreads across the U.S.
As much a horror movie as a dark comedy, Slither showcases Gunn’s signature talents (his penchant for humor, the homages to earlier works that inspired him, and blending of two or more genres together). Though not a financial success, the movie quickly became a cult classic and continues to shock, entertain, and gross-out viewers.
Frank (Rainn Wilson) is a lonely cook who assumes the heroic identity of “The Crimson Bolt” after his wife leaves him, waging a one-man war on crime despite not having any superpowers to speak of.
In many ways, Super resembles the more popular Kick-Ass that also came out in 2010, perhaps explaining why the fan-favorite superhero movie so easily overshadowed Supergh Wilson gives an excellent performance as Frank – a man who truly wants to do good and rid his community of crime – Super goes a little too heavy on some aspects of the genre (especially its heavy usage of violence), making it a dark, somewhat uneven movie, albeit a very original one at that.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.