TEN FAN-MADE SUPERHERO/SCI-FI FILMS THAT DON’T SUCK

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Head on over to YouTube or Vimeo, and you’re sure to find hundreds, even thousands of superhero, fantasy, sci-fi, and horror flicks made by average joes with a few hundred bucks, an HD camera and some editing software. And while I personally don’t like a vast amount of these fan-made superhero movies that tend to play things slavishly straight to comics and feature some truly abysmal writing and acting, I do feel there have been some absolutely wonderful and imaginative fan-made films that demonstrate great visual acumen and imaginative concepts. Here are ten of my favorites:

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10.) Street Fighter: The Later Years

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Director: Sam Reich

This is actually more of a web series, but Street Fighter: The Later Years is hilarious, and is a great example of a fan film putting a unique spin on the source material. Picking up around fifteen years after the events in the mega-popular Street Fighter II video game, the series follows older, burned out versions of fighters like Zangief and Dhalsim working crummy jobs and trying to put the old gang back together for one last fighting tournament.

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9.) George Lucas in Love

Director: Joe Nussbaum

A fun and extremely well-made riff on Shakespeare in Love, Nussbaum’s film follows a college-age George Lucas as he struggles for the necessary inspiration to complete his senior-year screenplay at USC film school. The funny part is, that inspiration is all around him in the form of background characters like his pot-smoking roommate who goes on about an “all-powerful force that surrounds us and penetrates us;” a menacing dorm neighbor who only wears black and uses an inhaler for chronic asthma; a diminutive sage-like professor who speaks in backwards riddles; etc. Ultimately, it all comes together when he meets a gorgeous coed with a familiar bun-like hairdo. This short is available on DVD, and actually propelled Nussbaum into a Hollywood film career.

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8.) Batman: Arkham Asylum

Director: Miguel Mesas

This short is utterly insane. An adaptation of the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean graphic novel, Arkham Asylum is all atmosphere —  conveying the spooky mood and bizarre artistic style of the comic story brilliantly. The Joker is a little too silly, but just about everything else is effective, and effectively creepy. Just check out that terrifying Batman with those curled black-like protrusions on his cape, it’s like he walked right out of a nightmare.

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7.) Voltron: The End

Director: Alex Albrecht

This bleak, live-action fan-film depicts the final moments of an older Lance — pilot of the Green Lion from the 1980’s animated series Voltron: Defender of the Universe. It features a nice performance by genre TV vet Tom Odmundson as Lance, and excellent, Battlestar Galactica-esque special effects by Mike Gaines. It’s depressing as hell, but worth a watch!

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6.) Batman: Dead End

Director: Sandy Collora

Batman seems to be the most popular subject of fan films, which is why there are so many bad ones, but Batman: Dead End is among the first — and best — Batman fan films on the Internet. It does feature another terrible Joker and some dodgy dialogue, but it more than makes up for it in visual panache and action. In the film, the Dark Knight finds himself in the middle of a deadly battle between a Predator and an acid-spitting Xenomorph. It may sound a bit silly, but the effects and cinematography are very impressive.

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5.) Troops

Director: Kevin Rubio

Troops is Kevin Rubio’s hilarious and now-legendary spoof of the TV show COPS, utilizing Imperial Stormtroopers on Tatooine. It was produced way back in the stone age of the Internet (1997!), and helped to usher in the fan-film era. It’s a bona fide classic whose special effects are still impressive, even by today’s standards.

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4.) R’Ha

Director: Kaleb Lechowski

This astonishing sci-fi short was made by a 22-year-old German college student, and tells the story of a race of aliens who have been overtaken by the machines and robots they created. It has a Matrix-y vibe mixed with elements of other sci-fi/fantasy fare like Stargate and Star Wars. The four-armed, cobra-like design of the aliens is especially cool. It should come as no surprise that Lechowski has also attracted the interest of Hollywood with this insanely awesome work.

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3.) Portal: No Escape

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

This amazing fan film, based on the mega-popular Portal video game helped Dan Trachtenberg land the job directing the movie version of the DC/Vertigo comic book Y: The Last Man. It’s exceedingly clever, with gorgeous cinematography and excellent special effects.

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2.) Ataque de Panico! (Panic Attack)

Director: Fede Alvarez

Believe it or not, this mind-blowing alien invasion film was made for only $300! The amazing camerawork and stunning special effects compositing by Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez immediately caught the attention of Hollywood studios seeking to snap up his obvious and extrordinary talent. The young director eventually signed a $30 million contract with Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures to develop, write, and direct the upcoming Evil Dead remake. Simply incredible.

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1.) Hardware Wars

Director: Ernie Fosselius

Ernie Fosselius’ Hardware Wars is probably the most famous fan film ever made, and still one of the all-time best. It’s a brilliant spoof of Star Wars, substituting toasters and flashlights for spaceships and lightsabers. Packed to the gills with no-budget charm, Hardware Wars features crazy characters like Fluke Starbucker, Ham Salad, Darph Nader, and “Chewchilla The Wookiee Monster,” the latter two being introduced in the seediest 70’s bar you’ll ever see in your life! Thrill to the spectacle of waffle irons battling egg beaters and tape recorders in space! “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll kiss three bucks goodbye!” (hey, movies were pretty cheap back then.)

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About Author

Jeff Carter

Jeff is the defining voice of his generation. Sadly, that generation exists only in an alternate dimension where George Lucas became supreme overlord of the Earth in 1979 and replaced every television broadcast and theatrical film on the planet with Star Wars and Godzilla movies. In this dimension, he’s just a guy from New England who likes writing snarky things about superheroes, monsters, and robots.

  • Joe McDicksmack

    Gay.