Zack Snyder has headed several major movie projects as a director and film producer since 2004, when he first made his debut with the remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. He focuses on films adapted from comic books or graphic novels, and fans can always be sure that what he produces will be a visual spectacle. Audiences can’t seem to decide whether they love or hate his work, so I have taken the liberty of ranking Zack Snyder’s best from his worst movies.
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9. Sucker Punch (2011)
The Zack Snyder psychological fantasy movie tells the story of Babydoll (played by Emily Browning), a young woman who has been committed to a mental asylum by her stepfather, who bribes an orderly to have her lobotomised so she can’t tell the police about what he had done. She learns about the plan and begins plotting her escape, noting that she’ll need to get her hands on five items: A key, a knife, a map, fire and an unrevealed item that will require “a deep sacrifice” to ensure “a perfect victory”.
Along the way, she befriends and the help of four other girls: Amber (played by Jamie Chung), Blondie (played by Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (played by Jena Malone) and Sweet Pea (played by Abbie Cornish), who is Rocket’s sister and considered the “star of the show”. Together the girls successfully gather 4 of the items. However, they lose Rocket when retrieving the knife and Blue Jones (played by Oscar Isaac), the orderly bribed to ensure Babydoll is lobotomised, shoots Amber and Blondie.
Sweet Pea is the only one who manages to escape the asylum while Babydoll stays behind to be lobotomised after realising that the 5th item was her sacrifice.
Sucker Punch is a strange film that swaps between reality and a fantasy world where the five girls are heroines trying to win their way to victory in skimpy outfits. The film boasts women empowerment, but that falls flat with how barely developed the characters are and the many near-rape fantasies that do nothing but make audiences uncomfortable.
Sucker Punch is definitely not one of Zack Snyder’s best movies.
8. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
This is the second movie in the DC Extended Universe produced by Warner Bros. Pictures and Zack Snyder. The film follows the clashing ideologies of an older, more world-worn Batman (played by Ben Affleck) and an in-his-prime wants to protect the world Superman (played by Henry Cavill).
Bruce Wayne has been operating as the Dark Knight for 20 years and seems to have lost a great deal. He is a lot crueller than previous portrayals of Batman and has no qualms about killing criminals (Jason Todd would have been pleased). After witnessing the destruction and pain Superman brought to the world during Man of Steel, he decides that this is a potential threat to the world for which he needs to prepare. Meanwhile, Clark Kent is trying to expose the brutal ways of Batman.
After having a drive of his stolen and returned by Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot), Bruce dreams about a postapocalyptic world, during which a time-travelling Flash (played by Ezra Miller) appears. He informs Bruce that Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) “is the key”.
Lex Luthor (played by Jesse Eisenberg) blows up a congressional hearing against Superman via a lead-covered bomb in a wheelchair. Clark, upset with himself for not detecting the bomb sooner, exiles himself, and Bruce decides it’s time to act on his plan and go to war against Superman, stealing the massive piece of kryptonite found at the beginning of the film.
During their fight, Clark shouts their shared mother’s name and shocks Bruce out of his bloodlust, stopping the fight. Batman saves Martha Kent (played by Diane Lane) while Superman deals with Lex Luthor and finds Doomsday waiting for him. Batman and Diana as Wonder Woman arrive on the scene to help (in what is possibly the best moment of the film), and together, the beginnings of the Justice League take out Doomsday with one casualty.
The Ultimate edition of the film is far superior to the theatrical cut. It explains a couple of things more than they originally were and makes characters like Lex Luther far more imposing.
7. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)
Zack Snyder’s first (and so far only) animated movie was based on the book series Guardians of Ga’Hoole, which Kathryn Lasky wrote. The film follows the story of Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess), a young owl who grew up on stories about the Guardian of Ga’Hoole. After he and his brother Kludd (voiced by Ryan Kwanten) fall out of their tree, they are kidnapped by the Pure Ones. The Pure Ones force them to be either soldiers or pickers (essentially manual labour forced to find bits of metal that the Pure Ones are using to build a superweapon).
Soren eventually escapes with another owl named Gylfie (voiced by Emily Barclay), and the two fly away. They meet two other owls, Digger and Twilight (voiced by David Wenham and Anthony LaPaglia, respectively), on their mission to find the Great Tree of Ga’Hoole. They face a couple of trails before they reach the tree. Still, eventually, they encounter the king and queen of the Guardian’s Boron and Barran (voiced by Richard Roxburgh and Deborra-Lee Furness, respectively).
After telling the king and queen about the threat of the Pure Ones, a scouting party of three is sent out and returns with only one member, who brought back two pickers, one of who is Soren’s younger sister Eglantine. The Guardians set out to deal with the Pure Ones; Eglantine (voiced by Adrienne DeFaria), previously brainwashed, wakes from her trances and informs Soren that the Guardians are flying into a trap.
Together the owls fly to help the Guardians. Soren fights Kludd, who falls into a fire and kills the Pure Ones’ Queens’ (voiced by Helen Mirren) mate Metal Beak (voiced by Joel Edgerton). The last of the Pure Ones, overwhelmingly defeated, retreat.
The film is quite sweet and is Zack Snyder’s only family-friendly movie.
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6. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Zack Snyder’s director’s cut of 2017’s Justice League movie is the 5th instalment of the DCEU and vastly superior to its predecessor. The Snyder Cut is a 6 part film with a 4-hour runtime.
After the death of Superman (played by Henry Cavill), the Mother Boxes reawaken, which summons the attention of Steppenwolf (played by Ciarán Hinds). The former Lieutenant of Darkseid (played by Ray Porter) hopes to retrieve the boxes to form The Unity and terraform Earth into a copy of his homeworld.
Meanwhile, Batman (played by Ben Affleck) starts to recruit the metahumans he learned about, beginning with Arthur Curry (played by Jason Momoa), which doesn’t go too well. He moves on to Barry Allen (played by Ezra Miller). In contrast, Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot) goes after Victor Stone (played by Ray Fisher), a cyborg who refuses to join the team until his father, Silas (played by Joe Morton), is in danger. After Steppenwolf gets his hands on the first two Mother Boxes, Arthur Curry finally decides to join them and helps save the S.T.A.R. Labs employees Steppenwolf and his Parademons had taken.
Victor retrieves the last Mother Box, and the five heroes decide that the best course of action and the only way of surviving this battle is to revive Superman using the Mother Box. They are successful, but the resurrected Superman attacks the group before Lois (played by Amy Adams) arrives on the scene and calms him down. Unfortunately, Steppenwolf arrives on the scene during their fight with Clark, and Silas sacrifices himself to allow Victor to track it.
The heroes begin their attack on Steppenwolf and Superman arrives in time to subdue Steppenwolf. Still, the boxes unite, forcing an injured Flash to enter the Speed Force so he can turn back time and give Victor the charge he needs to push the mother boxes apart with Superman’s help. Darkseid appears, and as a warning to him, Diana cuts off Steppenwolf’s head, sending it through the portal. Darkseid is dismissive of his Lieutenants head and prepares his armies to make their way to earth.
The heroes return to their previous lives, changed by their experiences. Audiences see that Lex Luthor (played by Jesse Eisenberg) has escaped Arkham Asylum and is sitting on a yacht. Slade Wilson, a.k.a. Deathstroke (played by Joe Manganiello), visits him, and Luthor reveals the identity of Batman.
Bruce has a nightmare that continues the one we saw him have in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and, upon waking up, is visited by the Martian Manhunter (played by Harry Lennix).
5. Army of the Dead (2021)
Zack Snyder’s Netflix heist movie follows a group of mercenaries who plan to rob a Las Vegas casino during the zombie apocalypse. Bly Tanaka hires Scott Ward (played by Dave Bautista), a former resident of the now zombie-overrun, quarantined Las Vegas, and a mercenary, to recover $200 million from his Las Vegas casino before the military nukes the city. He agrees and enlists the help of former teammates Maria Cruz ( played by Ana de la Reguera)and Vanderohe (played by Omari Hardwick). In addition, Marianne Peters (played by Tig Notaro), a helicopter pilot; Ludwig Dieter (played by Matthias Schweighöfer), a German safecracker; and Mikey Guzman and his associate Chambers (played by Raúl Castillo and Samantha Win, respectively), a pair of sharpshooters, join them. The associate of the casino owner, Martin (played by Garret Dillahunt), also joins the team so he can give them access to the casino.
Kate (played by Ella Purnell), Ward’s estranged daughter, joins them alongside Lilly (played by Nora Arnezeder), a smuggler familiar with the city. Lilly brings an abusive camp security guard as a sacrifice so the team can safely travel around the city. The group makes their way through the city, losing Chambers when she accuses Martin of ulterior motives. Unfortunately, she turns out to be correct – Martin came for the zombie Queen’s head, which is worth more than the money in the vault. The group learns that the government pushed the nuke strike forward, and Ward realises that Kate has disappeared to look for her friend, so he and Cruz plan to look for her, but zombies arrive before they can and kill Cruz.
Each team member gets taken out by being blown up or bitten, seemingly leaving Kate as the lone survivor. However, Vanderohe survives and makes his way to Mexico City when he discovers he was bitten.
4. 300 (2006)
This epic history film was based on the comic books written by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. Hoplite named Dilios (played by David Wenham) narrates the story of 300, which centres around the life of Leonidas I (played by Gerard Butler) as he ascends into Kingship and has to deal with the Persian army.
After Sparta is visited by an envoy and his escort, who they throw into a bottomless pit, Leonidas gathers the leaders of Sparta (the Ephors), and they begin to plan how they might get rid of the Persians. Unfortunately, the Oracle tells them that Sparta cannot yet go to war, and we learn that the Ephors are supporting the Persians. Despite the order against war, Leonidas gathers an army of 300 Spartans, who the Arcadians and the Greeks later join. They begin to construct a wall that will force the Persians to funnel into a pass between the rocks and see, giving the Spartan’s the advantage.
The Spartans began to defeat wave after wave of the Persians, including King Xerxes’ (played by Rodrigo Santoro) elite guard known as the Immortals. Unfortunately, the Persians learn about a secret path they can use to surround the Spartans, and the Arcadians retreat, leaving Leonidas behind with his original 300 men.
Meanwhile, Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo (played by Lena Headey), tries to convince the Spartan Council to send aid to her husband. Still, she is unsuccessful until she kills one of the corrupt politicians (played by Dominic West) and learns he has betrayed Sparta.
The might of the Persian army finally surrounds the 300 Spartans, and Xerxes’ general demands their surrender. They fake out a surrender, and Stelios kills Xerxes’ general before Leonidas throws a spear at Xerxes and cuts his face. The Spartans fight to the last man before a barrage of arrows takes them out. A year later, Dilios, now the leader of the Spartan army, led 30,000 Greeks and 10,000 Spartans against the armies of Persia.
300 is the movie that put Zack Snyder on the map and rocketed his career. It still holds a special place in the hearts of fans.
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3. Man of Steel (2013)
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is the first movie instalment of the DCEU. It retells the story of Clark Kent (played by Henry Cavill), formerly Kal-El, and how the last son of Krypton eventually becomes Superman. Martha (played by Diane Lane) and Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner) raised him, and he travels the globe to find his purpose. Along the way, he meets Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams), a reporter for the Daily Planet sent to investigate a Kryptonian scout ship and gets injured in the process.
General Zod (played by Michael Shannon) and his Kryptonian crew arrive on Earth with the plan to turn it into the new Krypton using the terraforming devices they’d found on former Kryptonian outposts. However, Superman and the military manage to take out the terraforming devices and send Zod’s troops back to the Phantom Zone. In retaliation, Zod goes on a rampage and Superman is forced to kill him.
As Clark Kent, he takes on a job at the Daily Planet so that people won’t question him when he wants to go into dangerous situations.
To this day, fans continue to praise Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel as the best movie in the DCU so far.
2. Watchmen (2009)
This thriller superhero movie based on the DC comics and graphic novel of the same name is a deconstruction of the superhero genre and is set in an alternate history. Edward Blake, a.k.a. the Comedian (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), is a former superhero who is assassinated. The vigilante detective Rorschach (played by Jackie Earle Haley) investigates his murder and warns the other members of his former team, the Watchmen, that they could be next. His former partner Dan Dreiberg, a.k.a. Nite Owl II (played by Patrick Wilson), thinks he’s overly suspicious, but relays the message to other teammates anyway, including Adrian Veidt (played by Matthew Goode), now a businessman who once went by the identity Ozymandias. Rorschach tries to inform Jon Osterman, a.k.a. Doctor Manhattan (played by Billy Crudup), a physicist with accidental powers who ignores Rorschach as he’s busy with energy research.
Over the rest of the film, Rorschach continues to try and find Blakes’s murderer, while Doctor Manhattan regrets his choice and teleports to Mars. However, while questioning a former villain of the Watchmen, Edgar Jacobi (played by Matt Frewer), Rorschach is framed for his murder and unmasked.
Dreiberg and second-generation hero Silk Spectre II, a.k.a. Laurie Jupiter (played by Malin Åkerman), break Rorschach out. Jupiter is teleported to Mars by Osterman, who only returns with her to Earth after he learns that she is Blake’s illegitimate daughter. Rorschach and Dreiberg realise that Veidt was the mastermind behind everything and had rigged Osterman’s research to blow, which resulted in the death of millions of people and the world uniting against a common enemy: Osterman.
While the rest of the Watchmen agree that Veidt’s plan is solid, Rorschach disagrees. So before Osterman disappears to another galaxy, he kills Rorschach to keep the global peace.
Watchmen is definitely Zack Snyder’s strongest superhero movie to date.
1. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
James Gunn wrote this action horror movie, where Zack Snyder made his directorial debut. It follows a group of survivors during the zombie apocalypse who take refuge in a shopping centre.
It begins by following Ana Clark (played by Sarah Polley), a nurse who works at Milwaukee County Hospital, as she returns home after a chaotic shift. She and her husband, Luis (played by Louis Ferreira), go on a date nice and miss an emergency news bulletin. However, things quickly spiral out of control as a neighbourhood girl bites Luis, and he dies and turns into a zombie. Ana drives away and joins up with Kenneth Hall (played by Ving Rhames), the police sergeant, Michael Shaunessy (played by Jake Weber), an electronics salesman, Andre (played by Mehki Phifer), a petty criminal and his pregnant wife Luda (played by Inna Korobkina). The 5 of them break into a nearby shopping mall and are joined by C.J., Bart and Terry (played by Michael Kelly, Michael Barry and Kevin Zegers, respectively) after Luda is bitten. They learn that Andy (played by Bruce Bohne), a gun store owner, is stranded in his shop and that they can kill the zombies by shooting them in the head.
The next day, a truck of survivors arrives, and the group determines that the disease that creates the zombies spreads via bites. The group finds a friendly dog outside, which they adopt and name Chips. After a battle with a horde of zombies they find in the basement, Luda dies before giving birth and turns. Both she and Andre are killed, and the rest of the group find a baby zombie, which they decide to kill.
The remaining survivors decide that it is high time to escape, so they prepare to run for the marina and travel to an island in lake Michigan via boat. Kenneth tells Andy about this plan and learns he is out of food, so they send Chips over; the zombie’s disinterested in the dog. Unfortunately, a zombie manages to get to Andy. The group goes after Chips and grabs weapons before returning to the mall, though one of them is lost along the way. They are then forced to begin an evacuation early as zombie storm the mall via a door that was left unlocked.
Only five survivors, including Chips, make it to the marina and sail to safety, but an end-credit scene reveals that the island is not as safe as they expected. As the group arrives on the island, a group of zombies swarm them, leaving their fate unknown to the audience.
Zack Snyder’s next movie, Netflix’s Rebel Moon, comes out next year and will star Sofia Boutella alongside Ray Fisher, Charlie Hunnam and Djimon Hounsou. Let’s hope it’s another big hit.
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Do you agree with the rankings? What do you think are the best Zack Snyder movies?