Top 10 Controversial Moments in Superhero Movies

Written by Shane O'Gorman Not even the most powerful superheroes could save these movies. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Controversial Superhero Movie Moments. For this list, we’re looking at moments in superhero movies that prompted mixed audience reactions due to their shocking, unpleasant, or unnecessary material. Since we’ll be going into key plot details, a spoiler alert is in order.
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Not even the most powerful superheroes could save these movies. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Controversial Superhero Movie Moments.

For this list, we’re looking at moments in superhero movies that prompted mixed audience reactions due to their shocking, unpleasant, or unnecessary material. Since we’ll be going into key plot details, a spoiler alert is in order.

#10: Penguin’s Graphic Death
“Batman Returns” (1992)

Although this follow-up to the 1989 original is generally liked overall, there has been some criticism of its excessively dark subject matter over the years. The film’s tone is borderline depressing, with consistently violent and disturbing imagery. However, nothing compares to the Penguin’s grizzly death scene. After a confrontation with Batman, Penguin tumbles through a glass window and falls down to the icy waters below. This icy water had been mixed with toxic chemicals, thus poisoning the Penguin as he bleeds profusely out of the mouth, struggling to breathe. The villain eventually falls face first to his death, with his lifeless corpse being carried into the water by penguins. Not exactly fun for the whole family…

#9: Christian Themes
“Superman Returns” (2006)

While we applaud Bryan Singer for being able to direct the exact version of a Superman film as he envisioned, the end result was… umm… questionable at times. The most common complaint is the film’s overabundance of religious symbolism and metaphors, connecting the Man of Steel to Jesus Christ himself. To be fair, the parallels have been touched upon prior to this movie and are definitely noticeable, but “Superman Returns” laid it on way too thick. The ending of the film in particular shows Supes falling back to Earth with his arms outstretched, resembling a crucifix. He then presumably dies only to return as humanity’s protector once again.

#8: Erogenous Knees
“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010)

Facing off against several evil exes to secure his place alongside Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim eventually comes face to face with Roxanne Richter in a deadly fight to the death. Scott seems to be losing the battle until Ramona reveals that Roxy has a weak spot just behind her knee, so much so that even slightly poking it sends her into a tizzy of sexual pleasure. It’s meant to be silly and add to the absurd nature of the film as a whole, but some feel this was an example of sexual abuse, as Scott didn’t have consent to touch Roxanne in that way. Whether or not this was blown out of proportion is entirely up to you.

#7: Amnesia Smooch
“Superman II” (1980)

Superman can fly, lift heavy objects, and hear things from a mile away. One power he doesn’t have, however, is the ability to completely wipe someone’s memory with just a kiss on the lips. Although this scene doesn’t necessarily harm the film itself, it rubbed many fans of the character the wrong way, as it implemented a superpower that he didn’t even have as a pivotal plot point. On the one hand, we can understand why such a change would upset fans, as taking liberty with the source material can be insulting. At the same time, Superman is just as fictional as amnesia smooches, guys. None of it’s real.

#6: Ducky Love
“Howard the Duck” (1986)

Take your pick for the dumbest moment in this ‘80s flop, as there is no shortage of questionable content. But our pick has to be the shocking interspecies making out between Howard and Lea Thompson’s character. While it’s weird enough to watch a woman willingly suggest sleeping with an anthropomorphic duck, it’s even crazier to think that this film was marketed as family friendly! Like, it’s awkward for parents to explain sex to kids as it is… so just imagine the crazy monologues mothers and fathers had to go on after their kids were exposed to this.

#5: Changing Catwoman’s Name
“Catwoman” (2004)

Putting every other not-so-great aspect of this movie aside for a moment, which is no small feat since there are many, can we question what the reason was for changing Catwoman’s name? In the comic books, this femme fatale’s alter ego is named Selina Kyle. Heck, even the aforementioned film “Batman Returns” didn’t change this detail, as there was no real reason to. So why was it done here? It’s not even a minor change like ‘Melinda Kyle’ or ‘Selina File,’ with her name now being Patience Phillips. Well, needless to say, fans everywhere lost their patience over this *ahem* “creative” decision.

#4: Cyclops’ Death
“X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006)

You’d be hard-pressed to find an “X-Men” fan for whom “The Last Stand” is their favorite entry in the franchise. One of the reasons for this is how the film decided to kill off several fan favorite characters. The most offensive fatality was offing Cyclops, who in the comics and ‘90s television series was loved for his charismatic role as the leader of the mutant superhero ensemble. No more than 20 minutes into the third “X-Men” film, however, the character is quickly killed by the villainous Dark Phoenix. Rubbing salt in the wound was the fact that not only was he abruptly removed from the picture, but also the scene cuts away so that the optic-blastin’ mutant is anticlimactically killed off-screen.

#3: Snapping Zod’s Neck
“Man of Steel” (2013)

Zack Snyder’s reboot of DC’s celebrated superhero split audiences down the middle, with some loving the film and some hating it. Regardless of personal opinions, nearly everyone was caught off guard when Superman – a hero who, in the past, would smile at the camera and do his best not to hurt a fly – defeats the film’s antagonist General Zod by brutally snapping his neck. Some felt this made sense, as it was a desperate last resort on Superman’s behalf to save the people of Metropolis. Meanwhile, others slammed this moment for being far too dark, with such violent behavior straying too far from his character.

#2: Mandarin Plot Twist
“Iron Man 3” (2013)

For a while, many fans were optimistic that “Iron Man 3” would break the ‘third movie curse,’ where the third entry in a film series is typically doomed to subpar quality in comparison to its predecessors. While “Iron Man 2” was nothing exceptional, at least it didn’t drastically alter a supervillain to the point that he was basically a mockery of what made him great in the source material. The Mandarin from the comics utilized his magic rings to combat the Armored Avenger. Here, he’s just an actor pretending to be the villain while a completely different character claims the title of the Mandarin. Needless to say, it didn’t go over too well with audiences.

#1: Removing Deadpool’s Mouth
“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)

While many of the other entries on this list do have their defenders, you’d be extremely hard-pressed to find any comic book fan that actually enjoyed this interpretation of Deadpool. The character’s powers and origin are a complete mess for sure, but you know what really ticked people off the most? Deadpool is known for constantly making sarcastic jokes and witty comments. In order to do that, though, he kind of needs a mouth to talk… but in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” they REMOVED HIS MOUTH?! Yeah, you know Deadpool – who’s nicknamed ‘the Merc with a Mouth?’ Forget that, let’s sew that thing shut!
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