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Every James Gunn Movie Ranked Worst To Best

Many directors have an inherent style that, regardless of budget or genre, tends to flow throughout their respective filmographies. Some directors are known for their masterful handling of suspense, while others might have a panache for crisp dialogue. In the case of James Gunn however the best words one could use to describe his films — vibrant, often violent, and eclectic.

When you sit down and watch a James Gunn movie — be it for horror fans or families — you know you're going to get something completely off the wall. Having started his career in the late 1990s, Gunn began his career at Troma Entertainment, learning the ins and outs of filmmaking. From there, Gunn's rise to prominence can best be described as meteoric, going from low-budget gore movies to high-budget comic book adaptations. Whether he was in the director's chair or handling the screenplay, these are the films Gunn had the most influence on — ranked from worst to best.

The Specials

After cutting his cinematic teeth with "Tromeo & Juliet," James Gunn would pursue his own solo projects away from Troma Entertainment. The first of these projects was "The Specials," a low-budget film from the year 2000 concerning a superhero team known as the Specials. In the film's universe there are a plethora of superteams, so much so that an unfortunate hierarchy has arisen, with some teams relegated to small-time villains and disasters. Near the bottom of the rung are the Specials, who, lacking any true mainstream notoriety, are bereft of much in the way of daily super-heroism. Due to this — and the film's small budget — we are instead shown their daily lives and the comedic situations that ensue.

Per the film's DVD commentary it's recounted that Gunn cobbled the film's script in less than three weeks. The script eventually made its way into the hands of Jamie Kennedy, who helped get the script and Gunn himself in a room with his manager. The film, especially 20 years later, is fairly underwhelming as it lacks the budget to truly showcase its admittedly funny ideas. However, it's still a fascinating oddity of the early 2000s and an important stop on Gunn's rise to mainstream prominence.


Films from the early 2000s bring with them a very specific flavor and nowhere is this more prevalent than in "Scooby-Doo." This time Gunn's role would be as the film's screenwriter, with directorial duties falling on the shoulders of Raja Gosnell. One of the more memorable aspects of the film was the actors chosen to play the Scooby gang — Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, and Linda Cardellini. The quartet — playing Freddie, Daphne, Shaggy, and Velma respectively — are pitch-perfect in their respective roles as the classic characters. What's intriguing about this adaptation is not so much the film we were shown, but the version we didn't get to see.

The film was originally much more adult with more raunchy jokes, implied lesbianism between Daphne & Velma, and more overt stoner jokes for Shaggy. Gunn has confirmed himself that the film would've originally received an R-rating before major edits were made in post-production. Regardless of these edits — and its lukewarm critical reception — this CGI-heavy adaptation is still remembered fondly today. It's campy and completely formulaic, but so was its source material so we can't fault them for accuracy.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

It's worth noting that even in his material for children, James Gunn always brings a sense of scale and importance. For a cornball kids movie "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" is fairly epic, especially for a live-action "Scooby Doo" sequel. After hitting it big as celebrity mystery solvers, the Mystery Incorporated crew is tasked with unveiling a museum collection of their greatest foe's costumes. This unveiling unfortunately draws the attention of a masked figure who threatens to expose Mystery Inc. as incompetent frauds. This plan includes stealing all the costumes and transforming them into actual monsters, including the Tar Monster, Captain Cutler, and Miner 49er.

For long-time "Scooby Doo" fans it's a real treat to see actual monsters from the cartoon realized in live action. It also helps that, with a few exceptions, all of them are achieved with a hybrid of CGI and practical effects. As always the main quartet of actors do an exceptional job in their roles, especially Matthew Lillard who is pitch perfect as Shaggy Rogers. It's far from high art, but with a moderately self aware screenplay and genuinely funny performances, the film makes for a fun watch.

The Belko Experiment

We've all had a bad day at the office, but more likely not one as bad as the one seen in "The Belko Experiment." The film concerns the offices of Belko, whose employees are locked inside of the building and are told to kill one another. The concept for the film came to Gunn via a nightmare he had back in 2007 and it would quickly be green-lit for production. Unfortunately, Gunn, dealing with a divorce at the time, bowed out of the project and would move on to other cinematic ventures. The project would gather dust until around the mid-2010s, when Gunn was re-approached to direct, but was already tied up with "Guardians of the Galaxy." Gunn would opt for a role as a producer with directorial duties being given to Greg McLean, director of the "Wolf Creek" movies.

The film shares many similarities to another film — "Mayhem" directed by Joe Lynch — leading to much debate over which film is superior. Regardless of which you think is the better film, "The Belko Experiment" is still a solid film in its own right. If you dig films like "Battle Royale" or "The Hunger Games" this is definitely one to add to your survival movie rotation.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

In the 2000s, horror cinema took an unfortunate nosedive when it came to originality, as remakes and reboots were all the rage. From "Halloween" to "A Nightmare on Elm Street," no beloved horror classic was seemingly safe from being hoovered up and retooled by Hollywood. Even George A. Romero's 1978 zombie classic "Dawn of the Dead" wasn't safe from this trend, receiving a remake in 2004. The film concerns a massive zombie outbreak that leaves a ragtag group of survivors that — much like in the original — find refuge in a local shopping mall. In a rare twist of fate, this remake, especially when compared to some of its peers, received a fairly positive reception. This can largely be attributed to its direction, courtesy of then-newcomer Zack Snyder and its script, penned by James Gunn.

The film is a bizarre combination of creative styles, to say the least, but in this instance, it most definitely worked. Gunn's energetic style of writing is taken to its most logical conclusion by Snyder's equally eclectic direction. Elevated by legitimately effective horror scenes and its actor's performances, the film is a true diamond in the rough amongst the 2000s horror remake trend. This film's success was a part of a double whammy in 2004 for James Gunn, who also saw success with the second "Scooby Doo" film.

Tromeo and Juliet

Every director has to start somewhere, and for James Gunn that was the hallowed halls of Troma Entertainment. Troma AKA "The House that Toxie built" has been producing and distributing independent low-budget cinema for almost 50 years. They've been responsible for legendarily off the wall films such as "The Toxic Avenger" and "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead." Additionally, they can also be credited for discovering and inspiring some of Hollywood's most unique creators, such as Trey Parker & Matt Stone. Among that class is none other than James Gunn, whose earliest cinematic contribution was Troma's 1997 release "Tromeo & Juliet." Gunn would rework the film's already existing screenplay, injecting his future trademark style, and with additional help from Lloyd Kaufman, a final vision was scribed.

The film is the tale of "Romeo & Juliet" but told with the standard Troma levels of sex, drugs, and gratuitous violence. The film is set in 90s New York City where — through the narrations of Motorhead's Lemmy — we are told the tale of Tromeo Que and Juliet Capulet. This version of the classic Shakespeare tale is packed to the brim with kinky sexual situations, body piercings, and gallons of bodily fluids. One of the most impressive aspects of the film is how much it gets done on its minuscule budget. Not only are the special effects impressively gross, but the film does have a unique and dynamic visual flair.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

James Gunn has most definitely left a positive mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe — especially through his (currently unfinished) "Guardians of the Galaxy" trilogy. While this second outing doesn't hit as high a mark as its predecessor, it's still an exemplary addition to the MCU. Picking up only a short while after the first film, the Guardians have settled nicely into their role of roaming galactic protectors. The team quickly finds itself in dire straits — not only are old and new enemies on their tail, but a new arrival threatens to tear the team apart. That new arrival being Ego, Star Lord's father, whose hidden machinations threaten the Guardians and the entire universe itself.

One of the more riveting aspects of Gunn's work within the MCU is his respect for Marvel's long and often ridiculous history. From its vibrant cinematography to the diverse cast of alien species to the true form of Ego — the film is a high octane blast of personality. Add to that its stellar jukebox soundtrack and legitimately emotional moments, and the film is undeniably a James Gunn product. The final sequence of the film — set to "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens — is often regarded as one of the more resonant scenes in MCU history.


If "The Suicide Squad" and "Peacemaker" have proved anything, it's that James Gunn has an affinity for mind-controlling alien creatures. In fairness, it's a sickening and disturbing concept, but definitely one with potential for some stellar visuals and horror set-pieces. These are two things that Gunn's 2006 film "Slither" has by the bucket load — with a good dose of his trademark dark humor. It concerns a small town in South Carolina whose denizens are attacked and gradually assimilated by otherworldly parasites.

The film's plot is as standard as it gets, and has been compared to the likes of "Shivers" and "Night of the Creeps." These influences were confirmed by Gunn and that knowledge definitely informs the experience when watching the film. Graduating from co-director and frequent screenwriter status, this film officially marked Gunn's debut as a director. The true highlight of the film is the stellar cast, which features the likes of Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, and Michael Rooker. Crafted by the incomparable Todd Masters, the special effects are simultaneously sickening and hilarious, with a solid balance of CGI and practical makeup. The film was an unfortunate box office disappointment, but much like many other Gunn productions has become a beloved cult classic.


Much like all of James Gunn's other work, "Super" is a very unique film, serving as a dark, grounded take on the superhero genre. We are introduced to Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson), a schlubby short-order cook with a fairly underwhelming and unhappy life. One of the only truly good things in his life is his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering addict. Frank's life takes a turn when Sarah runs off with Jacque (Kevin Bacon), a drug-dealing club owner, much to Frank's dismay. However, after a vision, Frank is touched by God (Rob Zombie), and given a very special mission: become a superhero known as the Crimson Bolt. Along the way, he encounters Libby (Elliot Page) a comic book shop clerk who opts to join his flamboyant and increasingly violent crusade.

"Super" is a film that is aware of its own trashiness and embraces it with active gusto, resulting in a plethora of gleeful violence. The film actually serves as the perfect bridge between Gunn's early splatter material and his current mainstream comic book adaptations. Despite its often squirm-worthy violence, the film is bursting with heart and an unrelenting sense of black humor. Back during its release in 2010, "Super" didn't fare well critically or financially, but in years since has been hailed as a cult classic.

The Suicide Squad

After being temporarily let go from Marvel Studios back in 2018, the people at Warner Brothers quickly gave James Gunn a call. This call resulted in Gunn being signed on to direct a sequel to DC's live-action version of "Suicide Squad." This sequel — due in part to the DC cinematic universe's constant creative reshufflings — would become a soft franchise reboot. Gunn went on record that despite the previous film's less than stellar critical reception, there were still many elements of it he appreciated (via Empire).

Following a new set of hapless supervillains and incarcerated meta-humans, the film sees the Squad sent to the island nation of Corto Maltese. Sent with the goal of preventing something known as "Project Starfish," the squad is quickly embroiled in a situation of gargantuan proportions. In the mix with new players such as Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), and Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) are several returning characters from the previous film. This includes Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), and the coldhearted head of A.R.G.U.S. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). "The Suicide Squad" is most certainly a James Gunn production, from its eclectic yet extremely appropriate soundtrack to its pulpy comic book style violence. It's a messy film to be sure, but in the best possible way and perfectly showcases the strengths of Gunn's direction.

Guardians of the Galaxy

It was announced that the "Guardians of the Galaxy" would be joining the MCU as far back as the early 2010s. One aspect of the film that intrigued people was the announcement that none other than James Gunn would be at the helm. To say that the film captured the hearts and minds of Marvel fans – and even just regular film fans – would be an understatement. We are introduced to Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) who ends up stealing what is revealed to be an Infinity Stone. This lands him in the crosshairs of not only Gamora, the daughter of Thanos (Zoe Saldana), but Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) — a pair of bounty hunters. After a brief stint in an intergalactic prison, the group meets Drax the Destroyer, a thick-headed overly-literal warrior alien. From there, the group must learn to coexist as a team and hopefully save the galaxy from Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

Much of the film's runaway success stems from its direction, as Gunn truly goes the full nine yards with the film's science-fiction visuals. This was the first real taste of the MCU's cosmic elements and it didn't disappoint, as it was equally as colorful and psychedelic as the comics that inspired it.