From Heroes to Zeroes: DC’s 14 Biggest Box Office Busts

Jared Leto and Ike Barinholtz in Suicide Squad (2016)

As the world of superhero films continues to expand, the distance between D.C. and Marvel continues to grow. These are the most questionable entries the D.C. universe has made to film history, the movies we believe have prevented them from eclipsing the success of the MCU.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad Jared Leto
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Suicide Squad follows a group of supervillains forced to work together on a dangerous mission for the government. Despite its star-studded cast and intriguing premise, the film faced criticism for its inconsistent tone, disjointed narrative, and underdeveloped characters, resulting in a disappointing and muddled final product.

Jared Leto's Joker was a questionable iteration of the iconic comic villain and felt more like a flamboyant gangster with mental health issues than an intriguing evil mastermind. 

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984
Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures.

Set in the 1980s, Wonder Woman 1984 sees the iconic superheroine facing off against a power-hungry businessman who possesses an artifact granting wishes. While the first Wonder Woman film was widely praised as being one of the best DC films to date, its sequel received mixed reviews for its failure to capture the same magic.

The film lazily retconned Chris Pine‘s character's death. The film suffered from a convoluted and overly ambitious plot that struggled to maintain a clear direction. It introduced multiple storylines and subplots, such as the Dreamstone and the return of Steve Trevor, which often overshadowed the main narrative and resulted in a lack of focus. The film's pacing was also a major issue.

It took a significant amount of time for the plot to gain momentum, with extended sequences of exposition and character development, which hindered its ability to create excitement and anticipation. Another contributing factor was the underwhelming portrayal of the main antagonist, Maxwell Lord, played by Pedro Pascal.

The character lacked depth and came across as more comical than menacing, failing to provide a compelling and formidable threat for Wonder Woman to overcome. The film's tone was inconsistent, oscillating between light-hearted moments and more serious themes without finding a cohesive balance.

Lastly, the decision to set the movie in the 1980s, while initially promising, didn't fully capitalize on the potential nostalgia factor. Instead of effectively utilizing the era as a backdrop to enhance the storytelling, it often felt like a superficial addition lacking any deeper significance.

Justice League (2017)

Justice League Gal Gadot
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Justice League brings together DC's most iconic heroes, including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and others, as they join forces to save the world from an otherworldly threat. Plagued by production issues and extensive reshoots, the film suffered from a lack of cohesive vision, choppy editing, and a shallow storyline, ultimately failing to live up to the epic team-up it promised.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

In Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the Dark Knight takes on the Man of Steel in a battle of ideologies. While the film generated significant anticipation, it was heavily maligned for its dark and grim tone, convoluted plot, and uneven pacing. Despite notable performances, the film struggled to balance the epic clash of superheroes and a coherent narrative.

The dark and grim tone deviated from the more hopeful and optimistic nature traditionally associated with these characters. This tonal departure alienated some viewers hoping for a more faithful representation of Batman and Superman's iconic ideals. The plot was, erm, overcrowded, to say the least.

It attempted to incorporate various storylines and introduce multiple characters, such as Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor, without giving each enough time to be fully developed. Batman v Superman struggled with pacing issues, particularly in its first half. The slow build-up and excessive focus on establishing the impending conflict between the two titular characters hindered the film's ability to maintain a consistently engaging pace, and it underutilized some key characters (particularly Superman).

Many believe Batman v. Superman was overly ambitious in its attempt to set up future movies with the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which overshadowed Dawn of Justice‘s narrative, as the filmmakers were overly concerned with laying the groundwork for future installments.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods Adam Brody
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Shazam, along with his superpowered foster siblings, joins forces to confront the Daughters of Atlas. These antagonists have stolen the Wizard's staff and intend to harness its power for their own nefarious purposes. Together, Shazam and his foster siblings form a united front against the Daughters of Atlas, striving to retrieve the stolen staff and prevent the villains from wreaking havoc with their immense abilities.

This sequel to Shazam! has earned a reputation for being one of the worst DC movies ever made. Firstly, this is a film we didn't really need a sequel to. Audiences were never that into the Shazam character, and no one asked for this sequel. With little interest to begin with, the film's terrible script, bad acting, and flat humor just make its entry into the DC universe feel like an insult.

Steel (1997)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Steel tells the story of John Henry Irons, a weapons designer turned superhero who takes up the mantle of Steel to fight crime. Regrettably, this film failed to resonate with audiences due to its weak script, lackluster action sequences, and subpar visual effects, resulting in a forgettable and poorly received adaptation of the beloved DC character.

The dialogue often felt uninspired and cliché, leaving little room for character development or engaging storytelling. Steel also suffered from poor visual effects, greatly detracting from the viewing experience. The film's low-budget CGI and lack of realistic action sequences made it hard to suspend your disbelief and immerse yourself in the superhero world.

The characters surrounding John Henry Irons lacked depth and meaningful arcs, leaving viewers uninvested in their fates, and the shifts in tone disrupted the flow of the story.

Aquaman (2018)

aquaman 1 WB MSN
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Aquaman dives into the underwater world of Arthur Curry, half-human and half-Atlantean, as he embraces his destiny to become the king of Atlantis. While the film performed well at the box office, it garnered criticism for its overly formulaic plot, excessive CGI, and inconsistent tone.

My biggest issue with Aquaman is, well, everything — but especially the casting. Jason Momoa's casting feels like more of a cheap ploy to reel in young women to buy tickets, and Amber Heard's role as Mera is so terribly acted it's laughable.

Black Adam (2022)

Black Adam Dwayne Johnson
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

After being bestowed with the immense power of the Egyptian Gods and imprisoned for nearly 5000 years, Black Adam is finally liberated from his confinement. Fueled by his newfound freedom and a thirst for justice, he embarks on a mission to unleash his unique brand of justice upon the world.

I almost feel that I can skip explaining why this movie was so bad and just mention that it stars The Rock. That's all you need to know about a film to get a good grip on its quality.

You guessed it: it's generic, predictable, tedious, and you don't care what happens to him. 

Birds of Prey (2020)

Harley Quinn Birds of Prey 2020 Warner Bros 2
Image Credit: Warner Bros

Birds of Prey follows Harley Quinn as she teams up with a group of female superheroes to save a young girl from a powerful crime lord. Despite Margot Robbie's charismatic performance, Birds of Prey relied excessively on style over substance. Despite its flashy visuals and stylized action sequences, the scenes were poorly choreographed, and the characters' personalities/motivations were inconsistent throughout the film. 

Catwoman (2004)

Catwoman Halle Berry
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Catwoman tells the story of Patience Phillips, who gains feline powers and transforms into the iconic anti-heroine. However, this film was widely criticized for its nonsensical plot, poor special effects, and misguided portrayal of the character, ultimately being considered one of the weakest and most misguided attempts at adapting a beloved DC character.

The Suicide Squad (2021)

the suicide squad
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Suicide Squad serves as a soft reboot of the original film, featuring a new team of supervillains on a dangerous mission. Directed by James Gunn, the film aimed to inject new life into the franchise. However, while it received more positive reviews than its predecessor, it still faced criticism for its excessive violence, uneven humor, and lack of coherent storytelling.

Green Lantern (2011)

Green Lantern
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Green Lantern explores the story of Hal Jordan, a test pilot who becomes the first intergalactic Green Lantern Corps human member. Despite its high-budget production and star power, the film suffered from weak writing, an underdeveloped plot, and poorly executed visual effects, leading to a disappointing adaptation that failed to capture the essence of the beloved comic book character. The film has been heavily slated as a joke and the worst movie of Reynolds' career.

Batman & Robin (1997)

Batman & Robin - George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell 1997
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Batman & Robin features the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin as they face off against Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. Regrettably, the film is considered one of the most notorious missteps in the DC Universe. With its over-the-top campiness, cringe-worthy dialogue, and excessive use of puns, the movie deviated from its predecessors' dark and gritty tone, resulting in a critical and commercial failure.

 Jonah Hex (2010)

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Jonah Hex follows the story of the eponymous antihero, a bounty hunter with supernatural abilities seeking revenge against a dangerous terrorist. Despite an intriguing premise and a talented cast, the film suffered in many different areas. The film's tonal inconsistencies posed a significant problem.

Jonah Hex attempted to blend elements of Western, supernatural, and action genres, but the execution fell flat. The uneven tone made it challenging for audiences to gauge what the movie should be. Like most DC movie failures, it struggled to keep proper pacing, fully develop characters, and execute a plot that made sense.

Most audiences believed the inclusion of famous actors like John Malkovich and Megan Fox was interesting, but they were disappointed that they were underutilized.

Film & Culture Writer | Website | + posts

Jaimee Marshall is a culture writer, avid movie buff, and political junkie. She spends the bulk of her time watching and critiquing films, writing political op-eds, and dabbling in philosophy. She has a Communication Studies degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where she flirted with several different majors before deciding to pursue writing. As a result, she has a diverse educational background, having studied economics, political science, psychology, business admin, rhetoric, and debate.

At Wealth of Geeks, Jaimee places an emphasis on film and television analysis, ranking the best [and worst] in media so you can find more diamonds in the rough and waste less time on box-office duds. You can find her articles on politics and culture in Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, Lotus Eaters, and Her Campus. You can also find her find her episode of Popcorned Planet, where she analyzes the Johnny Depp & Amber Heard trial. She has written extensively about due process, free speech, and pop culture.