Although The Movie Was Originally Supposed To Be An Animated Film

After the commercial and critical failure of Howard the Duck, Marvel was facing bankruptcy and chose to sell the movie rights to its most well-known properties, including the X-Men and The Fantastic Four. After previous failed attempts to find a distributor for their movies, Marvel Entertainment – now known as Marvel Studios – was purchased by Disney in 2008. Despite that, the film rights to most of Marvel’s characters still belonged to other studios (primarily 20th Century Fox, as well as Columbia Pictures) and preexisting film deals were not affected in the merger. As a result, some of the biggest Marvel film franchises, including the X-Men film series and two of the Spider-Man adaptations, exist outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe entirely.


Disney famously acquired 20th Century Fox in 2019. A major effect of the merger is that almost all of the Marvel characters that have previously existed outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have now reverted back to Marvel Studios – although the preexisting movies do not fall under that umbrella. Marvel has announced plans to reboot many of the franchises that are back under their ownership and integrate them into the MCU, and Disney+ has started rebranding Marvel movies that don’t fall under the MCU banner as Marvel Legacy movies. There is a long history of Marvel films that exist outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that are stylistically very different from the MCU, but many of them remain – if not good – then very, very watchable. Here’s every Marvel movie that isn’t part of the MCU.


Howard The Duck (1986)

Howard the Duck is a 1986 science-fiction comedy based on Marvel’s irreverent anthropomorphic duck. Although the movie was originally supposed to be an animated film, it became live-action due to a contractual obligation. Back to the Future’s Lea Thompson stars as Beverly Switzler and Chip Zien voices the titular anti-hero. Unfortunately, Howard the Duck was a critical and commercial failure. Critics and audiences mostly disliked the bizarre story and humor. As a result, the movie has often been included in “worst movies of all time” lists and comic-book adaptations got a bad reputation for some time afterward. The MCU hasn’t given Howard the Duck a major role, but the anthropomorphic duck has had its chance to shine as a cameo character in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and in Marvel’s What If…?.

The Punisher Movies (1989–2008)

Just like the comic book anti-hero and Netflix’s 2017 series, the Punisher movies have been some of the most violent Marvel films ever released. Action movie icon and Rocky IV actor Dolph Lundgren stars as Frank Castle in the first The Punisher. Lundgren doesn’t wear Castle’s classic skull symbol and fights the Yakuza to defend the surviving children of the mob he used to torment. Thomas Jane stars in 2004’s The Punisher, where he confronts the crime boss who had his family killed, John Travolta’s Howard Saint. Lastly, Ray Stevenson (who plays Volstagg in the MCU) starred in 2008’s The Punisher: War Zone, with Dominic West as the most accurate and intimidating live-action depiction of Jigsaw to date. Thomas Jane reprised his role as Frank Castle in 2012’s The Punisher: Dirty Laundry, a short fan film that was received with wide praise for its faithfulness to the character and high production value.

Fantastic Four (1994)

Like the previous failed Captain America and Doctor Strange movies, the first Fantastic Four wasn’t made with the same ambition as many of Marvel’s most recent blockbusters. But this time, allegedly, the movie wasn’t supposed to be released because it was only made as a way to keep the movie rights of the title from expiring. Unaware of this, the cast witnessed how all promotion for the film was canceled, with the producers even intending to get rid of every single copy of the final product. Fortunately, the movie still exists as a unique part of Marvel history, but its obvious low budget and bare-bones story are enough to confirm why it was never intended to be a “real” Marvel film.

Generation X (1996)

Based on the eponymous mutant team of the 1990s, Generation X is perhaps one of the most overlooked of the early Marvel movies. Jubilee serves as the protagonist, with Emma Frost as the mentor figure and Doctor Russel Tresh as the main villain. Other mutants include Banshee, M, Mondo, Skin, Buff, and Refrax — the latter of which is a Cyclops stand-in. The movie shares some similarities with Fox’s famous X-Men movies regarding its basic themes of mutant exclusion, and with New Mutants, as it follows a team of teenage students who begin to familiarize themselves with their powers at Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters.

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Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1998)

Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is yet another feature-length pilot for a failed Marvel TV series. Baywatch star David Hasselhoff stars as the titular spy, who was based on the original version of the comic-book Nick Fury (before Marvel took inspiration from Samuel Jackson to revamp the character). The movie featured lots of Captain America-related characters such as Dr. Arnim Zola, the Von Strucker family, Dum Dum Dugan, and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine — who made her MCU debut in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and appears to be a key player in Phase 4. David Hasselhoff has since made a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy as one of the forms Ego takes to manipulate Peter Quill into joining him.

The Blade Trilogy (1998-2004)

Blade is a 1998 superhero horror film directed by Stephen Norrington and starring Wesley Snipes in the title role. Blade follows A Dhampir (a human with vampire strengths but no weaknesses) who fights vampires, most notably Deacon Frost. The movie is widely regarded as Marvel’ most important step toward blockbuster success. Blade struck a note with critics and audiences, spawned two sequels, and gave superhero movies a boost in reputation. It spawned two sequels: Blade II and Blade: Trinity. Unfortunately, the third installment is now popularly regarded as one of the worst superhero movies due to its disjointed story and humor, as well as its troubled production. Nevertheless, the trilogy set the stage for Sam Raimi’s famous Spider-Man movies. At the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios announced that it would be rebooting the character and integrating Blade into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as part of the Phase 5 slate of films.

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