Every Screen Adaptation Of Wonder Woman Ranked Worst To Best

Every Wonder Woman screen adaptation reveals
something about what Wonder Woman means to the world and just how messy that meaning
can be. Join us as we explore the highs and lows of
the Amazon princess, from 1960s homebody to 2000s career girl, as we rank every screen
adaptation of Wonder Woman from worst to best. What do people love about Wonder Woman? Is it her bravery, her ceaseless commitment
to good, her fighting prowess? The minds behind the canceled 2011 Wonder
Woman TV series starring Adrianne Palicki decided it was none of the above Rather, as
the unaired pilot argues, people like Wonder Woman because beneath the lasso and bracelets,
she’s just a silly bachelorette who wants to flop onto her couch with her cat and a
glass of wine to catch a screening of The Notebook. It’s not all bad, exactly. Though the series takes some serious left
turns in imagining Diana as the CEO of “Themyscira Industries,” a company we see as chiefly concerned
with selling buxom dolls of their vigilante boss, it’s also not afraid to show her eager
to do what’s right and stand up against her own objectification. “I never signed off on this prototype. I hadn’t seen it, I never would have done
that, I never said to merchandise my t—.” But the overwhelming impression is that of
a series embarrassed by its own source material. Add in a limp lead performance from the usually
reliable Palicki and some truly clumsy camera work, and you get the most disappointing Wonder
Woman adaptation of all time. Audiences worldwide might remember Lynda Carter’s
twirling, tiara-sporting Wonder Woman as an emblem of 1970s entertainment, but they’re
significantly less likely to recall her 1974 predecessor. That Wonder Woman was played by tennis pro
Cathy Lee Crosby, only one year before Carter’s Amazon princess would take the small screen
by storm. Why did one iteration so eclipse the other? Well, right off the bat there’s Crosby herself. Clad in a reinterpretation of Wonder Woman’s
classic costume that looked more like a fleece ski vest than anything else, this Diana wasn’t
much more than a generic 70s style kung-fu fighter – pitted against villains no one remembers
today. Of the many liberties taken, not one of them
improved upon the classic canon. Years later, Crosby’s Wonder Woman is mostly
a footnote in the character’s history a justified fate for an enterprise so alienated from its
origins. Before Lynda Carter or Cathy Lee Crosby, there
was another Diana Prince. She was played by Ellie Wood Walker, and boy,
was she in dire straits. Little is known about this failed Wonder Woman
adaptation: all that’s been left behind is five minutes of footage. And really, Walker does an admirable job with
the material she’s given. A 27-year-old still living with her mother,
she’s bullied for being unmarried until she realizes the thunderstorm raging outside will
prevent Steve Trevor still a pilot in this incarnation, apparently from taking off. “Steve’s plane must be grounded.” She heads behind a revolving door, only to
emerge as Linda Harrison in a Wonder Woman costume. As a 1966 Batman-style take on Wonder Woman,
it sort of works, and Walker manages to bury the seeds of what could have been a genuinely
funny performance in those scant five minutes. But the angle makes no sense. What does making Wonder Woman so silly accomplish? Why not play her absurdities straight, as
Batman did to campy greatness? We’ll never know what might have been, and
perhaps that’s for the best. Amazons are warriors. This has been part of their history since
the Greek mythology that helped inspire Wonder Woman’s creation, and has always been one
of the character’s essential attributes. But before she is a wager of war, she is a
scholar, a dreamer, and a seeker of truth. As she once noted in the pages of her comics,
Amazons “don’t raise [their] hand at all until [they’ve] first extended it.” The Wonder Woman of Justice League: War and
the other direct-to-DVD DC animated movies that share its continuity might beg to differ. She is absolutely fearsome with her fists,
the kind of hero who stands before any angry crowd and asks for the man responsible for
their anger: “Tell me who you speak of, and by Zeus, they
will taste my steel.” It can be thrilling to watch such an action-minded
Wonder Woman, and many of her fight scenes are impeccably choreographed and animated. But it’s tiring, after a while, to see her
constantly with sword in hand. Add in a weak romance with Superman, and this
Wonder Woman feels more like a petulant adolescent’s idea of “cool” than a hero with history and
a mission. Based on Darwyn Cooke’s classic limited comics
series, The New Frontier blends the militaristic machinations of Cold War policy with the bright-eyed
idealism of World War II-era superheroism, and the animated adaptation largely lives
up to its source material. But when it comes to Wonder Woman, those successes
are a bit more muddied. This Wonder Woman has been beaten down by
postwar disillusionment. Once, perhaps, she was a hopeful dreamer full
of can-do spirit and Themysciran wisdom. Now she allows women caught in the midst of
the Vietnam War to kill their abusers. It’s an interesting moral argument, and Lucy
Lawless’ steely performance is superb. But with scenes like the one that concludes
with her directing a judgmental Superman to the door, one in which her fellow Amazons
deride her leadership, and one when she crash-lands her blood-splattered jet into a military base,
it’s all a little dire for a character so closely aligned with optimism. It’s an interesting departure from the character’s
history, but not one to be indulged for very long. As far as superheroes go, Batman has the biggest
part to play in The Lego Movie. But he’s not the only DC hero pounding Bricksburg’s
pavement Wonder Woman is there too, lasso in hand, as capable in plastic as she is in
the flesh. For, well, all of 30 seconds. True, she’s not a major part of The Lego Movie,
with all of two lines that add up to a combined eight words. “To the invisible jet… dang it.” But the sheer fact of her existence within
the candy-colored confines of The Lego Movie’s world is enough to merit her a place on this
list. Here, Wonder Woman is a Master Builder, a
being of unparalleled creativity and vision. Though the movie’s moral is, ultimately, that
anyone can be a Master Builder, audiences are informed that the ones who earned the
title pre-movie worked for years “to clear their minds enough to have even a fleeting
glimpse of the Man Upstairs.” Now ask yourself: who can’t be charmed by
the idea of a Wonder Woman who guards creativity itself from a literal patriarch, bent on keeping
his toys from being played with? Wonder Woman is easily the best part of her
2009 animated movie. She maintains a tireless faith in the world,
her ideals, and her abilities. Watching her throw down with Ares is thrilling. The sequence in which she steps into her costume
for the first time is stirring. She’s everything you want her to be, really. The problem has everything to do with the
movie around her. Wonder Woman seems to believe it needs to
apologize for its stalwart heroine by constantly sexualizing her and the culture she comes
from. This iteration of Steve Trevor is an absolute
sleazeball who can barely go five minutes without making it clear that Diana and her
sisters matter most to him as babes. The fact that their romance succeeds at all
when so much of their interaction consists of Steve making her uncomfortable lessens
her character. Would Wonder Woman fall for a man who sneers
at her mother’s long-since-past liaison with Ares as a stupid woman falling for a “bad
boy,” let alone one who refers to her as “the hot chick” to her Amazon sisters? This movie argues she would, and that’s why
this iteration misses the mark. Alternate universes have well been explored
within the pages of DC Comics and the tradition continues to flourish today, in stories like
Justice League: Gods and Monsters. Within the cynical confines of its DC universe,
Superman is the son of General Zod, Batman is a literal vampire, and Wonder Woman is
Bekka, a New God from DC’s Fourth World comics. Their approach to enforcing global order is
considerably more brutal than their mainstream counterparts consider its Wonder Woman. She might believe in justice, but she’s a
lot less into lassos and a lot more into using her sword to impale her enemies to achieve
it. “Low tech. Works for me.” Does it work? For the most part, yes. This is only a Wonder Woman depiction in the
most technical sense, but it works on its own and as an interesting riff off the established
character. Bekka’s far-off land is considerably different
from Themyscira, and what sent her to Earth the death of her husband, Orion is a lot sadder
than Diana’s hopeful mission of peace. But those changes highlight the commitment
to righting wrongs both heroines share, making this wildly different Wonder Woman a worthy
enough rendition. Before Batman: The Animated Series, Teen Titans,
and DC Super Hero Girls, there was the ever-cheery Super Friends. Wonder Woman is a particularly bright spot
in this primary-colored collection. A fairly straightforward depiction, from her
Amazonian heritage to her invisible jet, she nevertheless maintains a certain wry edge
that stands out against her teammates. She’s nowhere near sarcastic this is, after
all, the cartoon that gave us the Wonder Twins but Shannon Farnon’s performance has a knowing
lilt to it. Her Wonder Woman is a whole-hearted hero,
but one can imagine her rolling her eyes good-naturedly, of course. Above all, she’s a do-gooder dedicated to
righting wrongs in a version of the DC universe where that means battling killer bees and
teaching important lessons about the dangers of drag racing. And darn it if she doesn’t manage to put a
smile on your face as she does it. Pop quiz: What was Wonder Woman’s first broadcast
appearance? If you guessed Super Friends, 1974’s TV film,
or the series starring Lynda Carter, you’re wrong: it was in “It’s All Greek to Me,” a
1972 episode of the animated The Brady Bunch spinoff The Brady Kids. “It’s All Greek To Me” sends the Brady kids
to Ancient Greece alongside Diana Prince, mild-mannered administrative assistant in
the local university’s mathematics department. She’s a bit of a schoolmarm here, her superheroic
persona played for laughs against her buttoned-up alter ego. “As Diana Prince, I should say that brains
are more important. But being Wonder Woman, I know the value of
physical conditioning too.” It works, for the most part: Wonder Woman
as time-traveling babysitter responsible for keeping the groovy sextet from making a mess
of history is, if nothing else, certainly unique. All in all, it’s a fun detour but it’s probably
for the best that Wonder Woman only spent 22 minutes in Brady-land. Every generation gets its DC cartoons, and
one of the biggest ones going today is Justice League Action. A zippy, slickly animated series that manages
to fit DC’s brightest stars in alongside lesser-known heroes, it takes its share of liberties, but
rarely without cause. This version of Wonder Woman is, for example,
a bit more hard-edged than others. Physically, she’s a brawler wielding a sword
who gets more action scenes than the character has historically been granted in ensemble
cartoons. Personality-wise, there’s a wry, wisecracking
side to her that stands out among her many incarnations. A lesser cartoon might have translated that
as generically sassy, but Justice League Action locates her sense of humor firmly in a warrior
who loves a good sparring session as much as she loves keeping the peace. That said, the feistiness could use a little
lightening now and then, if only to keep the character in touch with the joy and love that
make her unique. Wonder Woman isn’t just a warrior, after all
she’s a pacifist as well. 1988’s Superman cartoon was a boisterous ode
to the Man of Steel. Unsurprisingly, Wonder Women fits right in,
exemplified by the fabulously-named episode “Superman and Wonder Woman vs. the Sorceress
of Time.” Superman, Wonder Woman, and a villain who
combines magic and time travel, thrown together in the sort of cartoon that opens with a voiceover
explanation of how Superman came to be? “Strange visitor from another planet, who
came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman!” That can only succeed. Not only does it make good on that promise,
it provides genuine humor, adventure, and world-building. Though Paradise Island is only briefly glimpsed,
its pastel-swathed Amazons, pastoral hills, and mysterious artifacts establish the world,
its heroine, and her mission in vivid style. Diana herself is at the peak of her heroic
game here, as brave and bright-eyed as any fan could ask for. She’s notably quicker with a quip than most
adaptations depict her, and it’s so charming, it’s a wonder it doesn’t happen more often. This team-up might have been brief, but it’s
a delight from beginning to end. Batman: The Brave and the Bold is an unabashed
love letter to the Silver Age of DC comics, which makes it an absolute joy of a cartoon. Villains ensnare hapless civilians with maliciously
magical music, while no DC character, gritty or otherwise, escapes a generous dose of humor
within these bubbly, brightly-colored confines. Unsurprisingly, Wonder Woman responded very
well to this treatment. Accompanied by an especially groovy reinterpretation
of her 1970s theme, she is every inch the laughing crusader of her earliest Golden Age
years. She’s the can-do spirit of the Silver Age
personified, minus the ditzy personality that era forced on the Wonder Woman of the comics. This Diana isn’t just a warrior she’s genuinely,
thoroughly, wonderful. Justice League and Justice League Unlimited
are monuments to the power of animation. Their interpretations of DC’s lineup forever
scrubbed away whatever memories of the Super Friends lingered in the public’s mind. It wasn’t just a success, but a benchmark
for superhero stories period. Wonder Woman didn’t feature quite as largely
as Batman or Superman did, unfortunately. Yet Susan Eisenberg’s performance was strong
enough to make her into a heroine to be admired. Even in the smallest scenes, Eisenberg summoned
a strength to Diana’s voice that immediately established authority, kindness, and confidence. “Heed my words, Faust. If you break your vow, no magic in the universe
will save you from me.” Her Diana is funny without ever being mean,
brave without showboating, and hopeful without limit. She is a pillar of everything the League strives
to be a walking, talking encapsulation of why superheroes exist at all. This is a Diana who will never run from a
fight, but would die before she picked one. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines crams an absolute
plethora of the Amazon’s villains, friends, and allies into its runtime. It’s a bit of a mess, to be frank but when
it does takes the time to focus on its heroine, everything else becomes forgivable. Bloodlines’ Wonder Woman is exactly what the
character should always be: A lover and a fighter. She does not shy away from a battle, nor does
she provoke them, instead seeking peace with every villain she faces whether they’re rampaging
minotaurs or mutated cheetah-women. This Diana refuses to accept the world she
has been presented with, finding, even in the most extreme circumstances, that peace
is always possible. Now that’s a wondrous power indeed. Set at a high school in the DC universe, DC
Super Hero Girls reinterprets Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, Bumblebee, Supergirl,
and Zatanna as besties, crime fighters, and occasional detention sufferers. Though the stakes here aren’t exactly world-shattering,
this narrowing of scope actually allows the characters room to grow and establish themselves
as scholars, nerds, divas, and warriors. There isn’t a weak member of the cast, but
Diana stands out from the very beginning as a joyous tribute to all that has made the
character endure. A transfer student, she is as passionate about
being called a woman, rather than a girl, as she is about ice cream. Freed from having to carry the burden of being
a rare female character in a sea full of dudes, she can be a fully rounded character, complete
with flaws and failures, and never lose her heroism. This Diana isn’t just a Wonder Woman, she’s
a woman looking to put her ideals into practice. Whether she’s playing dodgeball with her friends
or misunderstanding one of the many idioms of Man’s World, it’s a joy to watch her do
it. The 1970s Wonder Woman series is regarded
today as a success, but rarely without an invocation of its campy allure. Commentators aren’t wrong to bring this up. This was, after all, a show featuring Nazi
cattle rustlers. A sense of humor and irreverent fun was very
much the point of the show, and it holds up remarkably well. Wonder Woman’s universe might be live action,
but in its fundamentals, it is very much a cartoon. It’s tempting to chalk Lynda Carter’s appeal
up to her beauty, and perhaps an unconsidered charm she simply exudes. But playing her performance off as something
unconscious is to do her a tremendous disservice. “Excuse me, but that’s very rude… “Get outta here, broad!” “it’s also dangerous.” Carter’s Diana is a heroine whose belief in
goodness is so ironclad you can see it in her eyes, whether she’s punching out a bad
guy or perched behind a typewriter. Her Wonder Woman is a dreamer with her feet
planted firmly in the real world, a warrior who hopes that one day there will be no war. Decades after her premiere, Carter’s Diana
doesn’t just evoke fondness she commands respect for an enduringly fine performance. There was a lot riding on Gal Gadot. The DC films that preceded her had a rocky
go of it. Superheroine movies were primarily remembered
as a graveyard for the likes of Catwoman and Elektra. Gadot didn’t just have a hard road ahead of
her — she had a towering mountain to climb. “As Amazons, this is our duty.” Years after her debut in Batman v Superman:
Dawn of Justice, her starring role in Wonder Woman, and her part in Justice League, it’s
easy to forget all that pressure. But that’s only because Gadot did such an
enormously good job. And, if her winning turn in the otherwise
ho-hum Justice League is any indication, promises to continue doing so. Her Wonder Woman is as fierce as she is cheery,
an eager competitor who comes alive when presented with a challenge. An immortal war god? She’ll hop on a boat to slay him before you’ve
even finished explaining his raison d’etre. A battlefield’s no man’s land, strewn with
the bodies of the dead? She’ll jump up to cross it, laser-focused
on civilians in need of saving. A dessert she’s never tried before, like ice
cream? She’ll thank the vendor like he invented it
just for her. As she says in Justice League: “What are you?” “A believer.” And in so doing, she makes us believe in her
too. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
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