Countdown To Marvel Studios' Fantastic Four: Every Live-Action Film Released (in Order)

Before the Fantastic Four's integration into the MCU, it's vital to know their original film history.

Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm; four brave astronauts forever changed by one fateful trip into outer space. Created by the late Marvel Comics dream duo of writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby in November of 1961, the Fantastic Four serves as the initial start of the Marvel Age of Comic Books.

Before The Avengers or X-Men leaped onto the scene, The Fantastic Four were exploring the weirdest corners of the Marvel Universe and making the world a safer place in the process. Though they helped kicked off the modern Marvel comic universe, The Fantastic Four has not had the best luck with big-screen adaptations. Now, Hollywood juggernaut Marvel Studios has the opportunity to take a crack at Marvel's First Family in their blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), after decades of the four superheroes being unrepresented on the big screen. 

4. The Fantastic Four (1994)

The Hollywood

While it was originally prepped as a major theater release for 1994, The Fantastic Four's first entry to live-action debut did not release to cinemas at all. Based on the classic 1961 comic origin, the titular team finds themselves bombarded by cosmic space rays while investigating a chance comet and return to Earth with superpowers, on a modest budget of $1 million.  Directed by legendary independent filmmaker Roger Corman and starring Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Stabb, Jay Underwood, and Michael Bailey Smith (with Carl Ciarfalio as Ben's alter ego The Thing) as the heroes, the film was a poor replication of "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine."

It was only through pirated copies of the film circulating online that allowed moviegoers to view the film and its all-star superheroes. Though The Fantastic Four film was not the big-budget Hollywood phenomenon that Marvel's premier team of superheroes deserved, it perhaps remains the most visually faithful adaptation of the comic property's core team and arch-villain Dr. Victor Von Doom. If fans can get their hands on this film for purchase, it may be a fun watch in order to consider the evolution of the team on screen.

3. Fantastic Four (2005)

Geek Vibes

Following the team's cinematic misfire, the Fantastic Four would finally make it to the big screen in 2005. Director Tim Story (Barbershop)'s adaptation of the team did adapt the famous origin but expanded on the Fantastic Four within contemporary America. Bring the four to life this time around are Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, and the MCU's former Captain America, Chris Evans. Though Story's film had its heart in the right place, a team most famous for their adventures exploring space or Earth's hidden lands spend a bit too much time in New York City... fighting street crime. The team's archenemy Dr. Doom makes a cinematic return as well, now a stern businessman rather than a monarch ruling over a sovereign Eastern European nation, who additionally begins to gain powers from the trip to space. 

Even with a larger budget and cast, the film fails to truly capture the magic that made the book special in the first place yet retains a certain bit of charm in its cast, family dynamics, and special effects. Though are the effects are slightly dated by today's standards and more or less inconsistent humor, Tim Story's Fantastic Four is a fun superhero film that remains a flawed yet entertaining debut of Marvel's First Family on screen. 

2. Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

What's On Disney

Though the Fantastic Four's big-screen debut did not quite live up to expectations, it was enough for the four to receive a summer follow-up based on the team's landmark 1966 comic book story arc The Galactus Trilogy. As Earth potentially faces the end of its days by a cosmic deity barely resembling classic Marvel Comics villain Galactus, Fantastic Four co-leaders Reed and Sue Richards must put aside their wedding plans in order to resolve the world-ending threat. With Tim Story once again in the director's chair, Rise of the Silver Surfer puts further emphasis on the most important element of the team: the family dynamics and humor from the first film but fails to develop its characters and stakes.

Rise of the Silver Surfer does lean into more of the whimsical and fun trademarks associated with the property. The original cast along with archenemy Doctor Doom returns to the film, joined by newcomers Silver Surfer, (played by Doug Jones with voice acting from Laurence Fishburne) and General Hager (played by Andre Braugher). Even with the added comic elements, it was ultimately Rise of the Silver Surfer which landed the Fantastic Four film brand on indefinite hiatus until its return nearly a decade later.

1. Fantastic Four (2015)


Fantastic Four a.k.a Fant4stic was the team's return to the big screen. Young science upstart Reed Richards joins a renowned New York City think tank, where the child prodigy is quickly joined by fellow scientists who embark on a life-altering journey into another dimension. Rather than focus on an older adult team of heroes, the Josh Trank-led reboot opts for a younger college-age Fantastic Four cast in the form of actors Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell.

Inspired by comic writers Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis' alongside artist Adam Kubert's Ultimate Fantastic Four, Fant4stic is a bleaker iteration of the commonly offbeat and jovial team.  In the vein of Trank's directorial found-footage superhero flick Chronicle, Fant4stic takes the team in a plausible situation that could exist. Fantastic Four does have some new ideas in its exploration of science but it lacks the fun or excitement associated with the comics. 

Each Fantastic Four film whether it be faithful to the comic or a loose adaptation just cannot quite perfectly combine all of the needed elements into one sustainable film. Though the Fantastic Four may not have the most on the big screen, the team of adventurers is a rare breed amongst Marvel's pantheon of superheroes. With the family/adventure aspect, the four's presence will likely offer a new dynamic upon their entryway into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Current junior Writing Arts major attending Rowan University. I am an avid writer, comic book reader, and film enthusiast.

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