Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 adds yet another comedic yet deeply emotional film into director and writer James Gunn’s celebrated filmography, marking the end of an era for both the franchise and its creator. As Gunn prepares to launch his new DC Universe in the coming years, all eyes are on what the filmmaker’s next moves will be.
With a filmmaking career that spans over twenty-five years, James Gunn has been at the helm of several beloved films that resonated with critics and audiences. Some of these films landed particularly well with users on the International Movie Database, ranking as the best projects in Gunn’s career.
10 Scooby-Doo (2002)
IMDb Rating – 5.2 (Rent/Purchase On Apple TV)
James Gunn may not have directed 2002’s live-action Scooby-Doo film, but it was an integral part of his early filmmaking career. Gunn is credited for developing the film’s story alongside Craig Titley and William Hanna, and eventually returned for its 2004 sequel, which was met with about equal critical reception.
Scooby-Doo wasn’t particularly well-loved at the time of its release, but appears to have grown on audiences over time, partly due to the avalanche of memes it spawned. Gunn’s career continued to grow progressively larger in scale after the film, getting him more jobs both as a writer and a director. And, while the film remains somewhat controversial, most audiences can agree that 2002’s Scooby-Doo was better than Velma.
9 The Specials (2000)
IMDb Rating – 5.7 (Not Available For Streaming)
The Specials is a little-known but star-studded film following a group of superheroes who happen to be on their day off. The little-known heroes go about their day-to-day business, sparking witty commentary on the superhero genre, which had barely broken into the cinematic landscape at the time of its release.
The Specials is one of James Gunn’s many superhero films about found family, and many of the themes therein can be found in his later work. While the film wasn’t a massive hit by any means, it featured some incredible talent, with Gunn writing the screenplay and Craig Mazin, who would go on to develop Chernobyl and The Last of Us, directing.
8 The Belko Experiment (2016)
IMDb Rating – 6.1 (Rent/Purchase On Apple TV)
The Belko Experiment is a horror film written by James Gunn and directed by Greg McLean. Released in 2016, the film follows a group of workers locked inside their office building and commanded to kill one another.
The Belko Experiment was far darker than most other movies in James Gunn’s filmography at the time. While the film is commendable for the risks it was willing to take, it is far from the best project that Gunn ever wrote, paling in comparison to some of his other more recent work.
7 Slither (2006)
IMDb Rating – 6.5 (Rent/Purchase On Apple TV)
Slither is a comedy-horror B-movie written and directed by James Gunn. The 2006 film follows the fallout after a parasitic alien lands in a rural town in South Carolina. The creature goes on a killing spree, adding its victims to its hive mind.
While Slither wasn’t immensely successful at the time of its release, it has become somewhat of a cult classic over the years. The film also marked Gunn’s first recognizable directing job, setting him up for bigger and better things in the future. Slither also marked Gunn’s early collaborations with stars who would appear in many of his later movies, including Michael Rooker and Nathan Fillion.
6 Super (2010)
IMDb Rating – 6.7 (Stream On Tubi)
Super is a black comedy starring The Office‘s Rainn Wilson as a down-on-his-luck cook who pretends to be a superhero in order to save his daughter from kidnappers–despite not having any actual superpowers. Written and directed by James Gunn, Super was James Gunn’s early entry into the superhero genre.
While Super was far from a box office hit and only moderately successful with critics, it is still an important piece in James Gunn’s filmography. In addition to showcasing his talent in the superhero genre, Super also introduced Gunn to several stars who he would appear in some of his later projects, including Linda Cardellini and Kevin Bacon.
5 The Suicide Squad (2021)
IMDb Rating – 7.2 (Stream On HBO Max)
The Suicide Squad was James Gunn’s introduction to the DC Extended Universe in 2021. The film served as a soft reboot of 2016’s Suicide Squad, with mostly new characters and an entirely different tone. Gunn eventually returned to DC for Peacemaker, a spinoff following John Cena’s titular character after the events of The Suicide Squad.
Although The Suicide Squad bombed at the box office, the film was easily one of the best in the DCEU, perfectly capturing everything a live-action Suicide Squad should be. Complete with lovable characters, hearty laughs, and gory fun, the film is both remarkably similar yet starkly different from Gunn’s work with Marvel. Clearly, the film resonated with studios as well, with Warner Bros. later putting James Gunn in charge of the new DC Universe.
4 Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
IMDb Rating – 7.3 (Stream On Netflix)
Shortly after working on the Scooby-Doo franchise, James Gunn took a massive tonal shift in his career with Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. Gunn is credited for writing the film’s screenplay, which was based on George A. Romero’s original 1978 film, which is a staple of the horror genre.
Dawn of the Dead is a considerably darker entry in James Gunn’s filmography, but it certainly showcased the deeply emotional content he would eventually become known for. Furthermore, the film stands as a unique coincidence in that both its director and screenwriter would go on to be key creative voices in the development of the DC live-action universe.
3 Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
IMDb Rating – 7.6 (Stream On Disney+)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had the unenviable task of following up on its 2014 predecessor, which is universally beloved in the Marvel fandom. The film saw the titular Guardians join up once more to battle Ego the Living Planet, who is eventually revealed to be Star-Lord’s long-lost father.
While the sequel wasn’t quite as well received as the original, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is nonetheless a worthy successor. Doubling down on humor and heart, the 2017 film is the perfect continuation of the Guardians saga, only bigger in every sense of the word. With this film, James Gunn proved once more that his initial successes were anything but a fluke.
2 Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
IMDb Rating – 8.0 (Stream On Disney+)
For general audiences, their first introduction to James Gunn’s filmmaking came with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Set in Phase 2, the film brought Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy into the MCU, while also marking a turning point for the sprawling superhero franchise, proving that even little-known characters from the comics could be successful onscreen.
Guardians of the Galaxy was not just a fun superhero film but also a deeply emotional and personal story about love, loss, and found family. Not only did the film launch the careers of many members of its main cast, but it also shot James Gunn into his position as an A-list director who had perfected the art of superhero films.
1 Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
IMDb Rating – 8.4 (In Theaters)
After a troubled production, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is finally in theaters, depicting the Guardians’ final journey together in the MCU. Shifting its focus to Rocket Raccoon, the trilogy-ending sequel brings one chapter to an end while hinting at a brighter future for certain characters therein.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is James Gunn’s love letter to the franchise he began nearly a decade ago. Every moment feels integral to the film’s massive story, which is the most emotional the MCU has ever depicted as its cast of characters bid goodbye to audiences–some for the very last time. If early reactions are any indication, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will go down as one of James Gunn’s greatest films of all time.
NEXT: 10 Characters Perfect For James Gunn’s DCU
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