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It takes a lot of work to make a great sci-fi film, but if you're basing it off a book, then you'd think that much of the work in terms of plot adaptation would be fairly quick to do. Unfortunately, if there's one thing that book to movies taught us, it's that film adaptations are often pretty disastrous.
Over the years, there have been a plethora of sci-fi movies based on books, but not many of them have been too good. In fact, most of them have been pretty bad.
Chances are, if you'd watch the worst sci-fi film adaptations out there, you'd probably beg Hollywood to lay off your favorite books altogether. Here's why the bottom of the barrel have become synonymous with "suck."
To start off, we'll begin with a movie that is good but could have been a lot more.
Admittedly, I'm only putting this on this list because it edited out a lot of scenes; the movie itself was good in its unedited version. The 1984 version of Dune may have been a hit, but it's still regularly considered to be one of the worst sci-fi film adaptations in recent decades.
David Lynch came as close as we've ever seen to a movie actually hitting the mark with Frank Herbert's masterpiece—but it still missed, by a long shot. The reason why? Hollywood brass didn't want to release the full film and demanded it be shortened.
What made David Lynch's Dune a flop is hard to nail down, but let's just call it a lot of weird and a lot of plot omission. Nearly-naked David Bowie scenes and lots of edited-out footage are just a couple of issues the movie had.
That being said, it still had some pretty epic Dune quotes and was close enough to please casual viewers. However, it still was a bit too trippy without having the philosophical punch of the OG series.
Now you've seen the best movie on this list. Let's start looking at the worst.
The Dark Tower
Based on one of the only fantasy-ish books written by horror legend Stephen King, The Dark Tower was one of the worst sci-fi film adaptations that they could have possibly made.
This movie had very little in common with the book, and to make matters worse, took out the entire reason why the plot was even happening. In the movie, the villains were basically saying, "We're going to destroy your universe because we're evil! Enjoy our evil for no apparent reason!"
Idris Elba, bless his heart, tried to carry the movie the best he could. However, when the writing was so terrible, nothing short of baby Jesus suddenly appearing in the audiences to turn soda into vodka would have helped this turn into a success.
Ghost in the Shell
As a manga, Ghost in the Shell was a profound and dark glimpse into a world we're quickly headed towards. As an anime, it had striking moments that were thought-provoking and emotional.
The anime series was breathtaking and had one of the most beautiful openings ever made for an animated show. The American adaptation of Ghost in the Shell may have had that visually stunning look, but that's about where the goodness ends.
The issue with this film was that the script sucked so badly, it made the entire movie extremely confusing. That alone wasn't the worst part. The worst of the worst part was the fact that they literally had zero creativity involved in this.
At times, the film's creators adapted the anime, scene-for-scene, into the movie. To make matters worse, they Hollywood-ized it by adding lots of action and stripping the movie of its deeper thought scenes.
Overall, Ghost in the Shell was a lot like Melania Trump—very pretty to look at, but totally hollow inside.
Queen of the Damned
Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire was one of the biggest hit movies of its time, but Queen of the Damned quickly rose to the ranks as one of the worst sci-fi film adaptations in history because of the way that it was presented to audiences.
Rather than do the whole "visually striking but still adult" thing, Queen Of The Damned was presented in a "cool for the sake of cool" style. The reason why? Hollywood brass wanted to see the trend of goths and nu-metal fans snap up merchandise and soundtracks.
Sure, the soundtrack was excellent and had one of the best songs Orgy ever produced, but it says volumes when you have to rely on the soundtrack to sell the movie.
If you thought that a cringe-worthy buyup of the nu-metal trend was bad, wait until you hear what they did to the storyline. Queen of the Damned had absolutely NOTHING to do with the book it was based on.
The plot was butchered so badly, most Anne Rice fans could barely even recognize it as having anything to do with the film. As such, it bombed with critics and readers alike.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Don't get me wrong. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was quite extraordinary—at least, when it came to being awkward. Though this was a seriously star-studded film, it really ended up being one of the worst sci-fi film adaptations to ever be sent out.
Based on graphic novels by Alan Moore, this was supposed to be a steampunk superherofest. The problem is? Well, the heroes sucked and the high-fantasy vibes of the original graphic novel series were totally gone.
The add-on characters, though, were the worst. Dorian Grey was more interested in looking pretty than actually doing, well, anything aside from piss off viewers. Moore was probably not amused.
World War Z
If any zombie sci-fi flick should have been among the greats, it should have been World War Z. The book itself tackled socioeconomic issues that are faced around the world, and even was badass enough to have an otaku become a hero in the face of a zombie outbreak.
Sadly, World War Z was one of the worst sci-fi film adaptations on this list because it shared nothing about the original book's plots aside from the title. So, if you were hoping to see that one scene you adored from the book in a movie, you're out of luck.
Instead of epic storylines and amazing oral history account narratives, you get Brad Pitt, prettyboying around while zombies stack on top of themselves like turtles in a Doctor Seuss book.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Based on the French comic book series, Valerian and Laureline, the American sci-fi adaptation had seriously pretty sci-fi effects. However, it still managed to be one of the worst sci-fi film adaptation films of all time.
First off, they chose a comic that most Americans are really not well-versed with. So right off the bat, American audiences mostly reacted by asking, "Wait, who the hell are Valerian and Laureline?"
Those that did know about the comic and its interplanetary, time-traveling plot lines were nonplussed with the total lack of any real plot. Simply put, it had the two main characters jumping from CGI-heavy world to CGI-heavy world... and not much more.
To make matters worse, critics hated it because of the unlikeable actors and the soulless plot. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was a mess, period.
I Am Legend
It doesn't take too much to figure out why this is one of the worst sci-fi film adaptations in recent years. It has nothing to do with the book it's based on, at all.
Perhaps the worst was the difference in villainy. The book version had vampires as the monster. The movie, I Am Legend, had zombies that can't go out during the day. (Uh...what? Why couldn't they just stick to vampires? Did Twilight wreck that or something?)
All the characters have different backstories, and the only things that were kept were the names—and the title of the movie. What's amazing about this is that the director even realized he dropped a box office turd, despite it being popular with non-readers.
This actually came out because of what happened with the alleged plan for I Am Legend 2. This movie had the option of getting a sequel, but the director said it would be stupid to do so.
Well, at least the guy was honest.
The Lawnmower Man
Lawnmower Man was based on a Stephen King short story, and without a doubt, has rightfully earned its place as one of the worst sci-fi movie adaptations in history.
Visually speaking, this 1992 release was a shitstorm of ugly. The colors were jarring, the animation was an eyesore, and could have easily caused more seizures than a Pokémon marathon in Japan. Hell, in the opening scene, the word "millennium" was even misspelled. They really weren't trying hard to make this look good.
The plot and the voice acting weren't much better. In fact, the plot was so bad that it was laughably bad. News site io9 explained it this way:
"... a mentally disabled man that becomes super-powered through drugs and virtual reality, before loading himself into a mainframe to have cyber-sex and become a virtual god."
The problem here is that Stephen King's short story was about a naked lawn guy who made human sacrifices to a satyr god. So, a mentally slow guy turning into a cyber-sex virtual god is as far-fetched as you can get from the OG plot.
King was so disgusted with the movie that he sued to get his name taken off it. We can't blame him.
The Island of Dr. Moreau
Most people would say that the 2002 version of The Time Machine was pretty bad because of the heavy-handed love story that HG Wells's descendant shoved into its production, but truthfully, that time travel tale wasn't as bad as other adaptations.
The most disappointing one, really, was The Island of Dr. Moreau. Bad dialogue, worse costumes, and a plot that went totally off the rails made this 1992 movie one of the absolutely worst sci-fi film adaptations—or even just sci-fi movies—in history.
This movie was so bad that, at one point, the directors just started making stuff up. It was horrifyingly bad, and would have made anyone who read this classic story wince.
Much of the plot problems were because Val Kilmer made changes to the script, which just proves that he should stick to acting. Wait, no. Judging by his job in this movie, he should stick to Burger King or something.