American filmmaker James Gunn has become a go-to man on each side of the comic book divide in recent years, taking on the role of screenwriter-director for DC/Warner Bros’ The Suicide Squad following his temporary departure from Disney/Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. But it wasn’t always this way.
Making his name primarily as a screenwriter, and a screenwriter of comedy no less, Gunn’s earliest big feature film break was working as a screenwriter on the live-action Scooby-Doo movie in 2002. Though far from a critical success, the film gained a degree of mainstream appeal and opened a number of doors for Gunn, the filmmaker returning for the movie’s sequel and landing a screenwriter credit on Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake somewhere in-between. There, Gunn would work alongside horror icon George A. Romero to get the story of the new adaptation in line with the original, setting the foundations for his directorial feature debut Slither, a horror of his own released just 2 years later.
Now the veteran of many a directorial gig, most of which have been on television, Gunn is a highly sought after creator of unique and marketable content in Hollywood despite his relatively small feature directorial experience. In this edition of Ranked, we at The Film Magazine will be analysing each of the five entries from James Gunn’s particularly influential list of directed feature films in terms of artistic achievement, critical response and popular consensus. Someone call Michael Rooker because these are the James Gunn Directed Movies Ranked.
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5. Super (2010)
An early indicator as to what James Gunn could offer superhero films and cinema as a whole, 2010 comedy Super illustrated the director’s keen eye for an effective comic book story and is, at least from what we know of the man, the most Gunn movie to date.
The adult themes of this at times outlandish, dark and borderline offensive comedy are used in service of its intelligent and well intentioned deconstruction of the genre Gunn clearly knows and loves, its place at number 5 in this list illustrating that there are no bad movies in this director’s filmography, and that even with the reins well and truly off (outside of the studio system and working from his own script), James Gunn can deliver to a very high standard.
With an all-star cast led by Rainn Wilson (‘The Office’), it’s clear that fellow filmmakers believed in this unique and on-the-surface hard-to-sell project from the get-go, speaking to the quality of what must have been included in Gunn’s initial script.
Though more divisive than his later comic book-inspired work, Super remains an interesting vision into a filmmaker and his philosophies, as well as how much comedy and superhero cinema have changed in the decade since.
4. Slither (2006)
2006 James Gunn horror-comedy, Slither, was a directorial debut that mixed the talents Gunn had showcased in his short screenwriting career to offer a modern horror B-movie that is now considered to be something of a cult classic.
Starring Nathan Fillion and would-be Charlie’s Angels director Elizabeth Banks, Gunn assembled a strong tribute to the alien-invasion horrors of decades past in a movie that would probably have done better critically and financially with today’s more horror-aware and nostalgic audiences.
Slither was a film that leant into the absurdity of its premise and the genre it boastfully belongs to, ensuring that while it would never become an award-winning critical darling like a number of horrors in the 15 years to follow, it would be one of the most ideal sleepover watches of the era and as unique of a springboard to a career as we’ve had in decades.
With Slither, Gunn had arrived.