The list of the most expensive DC movies is easy to find. We’ve seen a number of mega-budget films in past years as well as 2023. But they can’t all be winners. They can’t all have creators blessed with the budget and time to do the project justice.
Here’s my attempt at a list of the most embarassingly-cheap projects DC has ever produced. Nothing recent came to mind, but maybe you recall some I don’t:
- All Filmation 1960’s content (Superman, Batman, Aquaman, assorted others. I see no differeence in quality between these cartoons, but maybe you’ve spotted a distinction between them)
- Filmation 1970’s Batman cartoon (the Batmite one)
- The New Scooby Doo movies (whether or not this qualifies for the list is debatable)
- Hop Harrigan movie serial
- Swamp Thing 1990’s live-action series
Yes! At least that one they killed in the cradle
I figure buying the rights to Superman from Jerry and Joe for a combined $250 was pretty cheap.
I am only on 1949 on DC history, but they are working with Bob Kane on creator rights. Surely nothing bad will happen to them from working with him.
You can add every single DC related serial made by Columbia to the list. Columbia spent very little money on their serials, unlike Universal and Republic, it’s why The Batman (1943), The Vigilante, Congo Bill, et. al. all look so cheap. They were! Here I want to point out that I am not counting The Adventures of Captain Marvel or Spy Smasher, as they were owned by Fawcett at the time. They were also produced by Republic and had much better budgets because of it!
I absolutely agree that Sam Katzman’s films tried to cut corners at every turn.
However, Blackhawk had some great fight scenes that set it apart from the others. I’d also argue that the Superman serials, particularly the first one, had enough cash poured into it to set it apart from serials like Hop Harrigan and the 1949 Batman.
And the 1943 Batman was not even produced by Katzman. It featured higher-caliber actors and managed to borrow some sets from A-budget pictures being filmed nearby. It still had major flaws and didn’t boast the budget of a Republic serial, but it was not cheap by serial standards and usually gets brought up when people create lists of the best serials.
Lastly, I’m not sure that first season episodes of Adventures of Superman - which had the highest production value of the series- cost more than a Katzman movie serial. The action expectations were so high that even a cheap movie serial is still a really expensive minute for 1950’s television. I don’t have any data to back that up - just a hunch
I don’t know if i would count Blackhawk. At the time, the character was still owned by Quality. And while Katzman produced it, it doesn’t look cheap to me (not the way his other serials do).
These two beauties from the ‘70s. It was a dark time.
Legends of the Superheroes
Wonder Woman (1974 TV Movie)
Sure, the cheapest ones are probably going to be the TV shows, specials, serials, etc. However, in terms of movies, I doubt any will top the lows of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which had a paltry 17M dollars to work with. To compare, Superman 1/2 had about 55M each, and Superman 3 had about 39M.
Yes, I shudder to think what would have become of DC’s future on screen if Tim Burton’s Batman hadn’t come along!
Steel came out 10 years after Superman IV and they only spent $16 million on it. I think Steel was able to realize the plot it was attempting to tell a bit better than Superman IV though. But the best thing you can say about either film is that nobody noticed or went to see them
I remember watching those two specials when they first aired! Even as a superhero crazy kid, I knew they were bad. What made things worse is Batman '66 had a big budget for a TV show in the 1960s. When you had been watching reruns of Batman '66 and then saw this, you could tell the difference!
Dang, I was thinking of looking up Steel’s budget but Google kept giving me results about steel companies so I quickly gave up.
But I buy it – and I imagine a good chunk of that budget went to Shaq.
And if you can get the DVD release, it has the deleted scenes - the material they shot that wasn’t good enough to make it into the Legends of the Super Heroes