Essential James Gunn Movies & TV to Watch Before Guardians of the Galaxy 3
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 marking the end of an era for the director, it’s a good time to look back at some of the best James Gunn movies, shows, and projects in general. Let’s dive into a few of Gunn’s diverse, exciting, and distinct productions from over the years.
Gunn’s directorial debut is the horror comedy Slither, which certainly sets the stage for the sort of unorthodox concepts and comedy that he would thrive at creating. The idea of alien slugs overrunning a town is rife with potential for unsettling imagery and black comedy, which Gunn has down in spades.
The practical effects go a long way in making the alien-possessed residents look absolutely nasty, selling the threat of the invasion while also being straight-up comedic at times. The whole cast goes all-in on the shlocky tone, adding a delightful sincerity to this ridiculous invasion. Gunn masterfully blends laughs with grimaces in Slither, which stands out as a rather impressive feature directorial debut.
It’s especially interesting to watch Slither now, as you can see a lot of Gunn’s frequent collaborators playing these wildly over-the-top characters. Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, and Gregg Henry all star in the movie and excel at making their characters either wholeheartedly likable or hilariously unlikable — both of which work perfectly well with the narrative.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Series
In retrospect, it’s crazy to think that so many people doubted the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Here we are nearly 10 years later — the trilogy (plus the Holiday Special and the team’s appearances in other movies) remain some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s best. A lot of that comes down to Gunn.
The ragtag spacefaring team has starred in some of the best Marvel Studios movies — each of which is filled to the brim with James Gunn’s unique flavor. Star-Lord’s excellent taste in music, the offbeat humor, and the way that the film series wholeheartedly embraces the weirdest parts of Marvel’s cosmic side make it stand out amongst other superhero movies.
That being said, it’s the earnest, beating heart at the center of the Guardians of the Galaxy series that makes it truly special. Every member of the team is fleshed-out and unique, making them easy to root for. If Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sticks the landing, it could be the most consistent subseries in the MCU, as well as a great trilogy of films in general. They’re definitely the most well-known James Gunn movies, which is something he can be quite proud of.
Gunn only wrote Scooby-Doo, as it was directed by Raja Gosnell. That being said, the two together made a very entertaining Scooby-Doo movie. You can see glimmers of the more PG-13 movie that the two wanted to make, but even in its watered down PG form, the film is full of charm.
Gosnell and Gunn understand the appeal behind Scooby-Doo, portraying the Mystery Inc. crew as more modern and almost meta versions of themselves without ever feeling too cynical or snarky. Making Scrappy-Doo the villain after years of fan vilification towards the character was an inspired choice that almost feels ahead of its time, and a lot of the humor throughout the movie has aged especially well in this era of surreal meme-fueled comedy.
The CGI is definitely rough now — understandably, as the movie came out 21 years ago — and I’d have loved to see Gosnell and Gunn’s unfiltered take on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but regardless, the version of Scooby-Doo that we got is still fun to revisit.
You could also have Gunn’s 2021 movie The Suicide Squad in this slot, but given that Peacemaker is an excellent spin-off series of the movie that follows the film’s best character, it’s a better fit. John Cena is perfect as the hilarious and jingoistic homicidal maniac, distilling the character with a sort of goofy appeal that keeps him from ever becoming unlikable.
The duo of Peacemaker and Vigilante — who’s played with incredible psychotic enthusiasm by Freddie Stroma — is unbeatable. The entire supporting cast is great, making for an ensemble-driven series that stands as the best product of the previous DC Universe. Not an episode went by that I didn’t laugh at, but at the same time, the more serious side never disappointed either. Whether Peacemaker is battling his white supremacist father or terribly flirting with someone, you always want to see him succeed.
Of everything on this list, Peacemaker might have the most unfiltered amount of Gunn in its DNA. It’s bizarre, hilarious, and at times, exceedingly heartfelt. I mean, Peacemaker even features an alien lifeform that controls people from within — like Slither and like Starro in The Suicide Squad. Looking back on it all, it seems like Gunn is a fan of alien mind control.
For those who don’t play too many video games, Lollipop Chainsaw was a collaborative effort between James Gunn and visionary video game designer Goichi Suda — better known as Suda51. It’s a truly unique game that has players run around killing zombies as a chainsaw-wielding cheerleader who is accompanied by her boyfriend’s living decapitated head. It’s as crazy as it sounds, but like all of Suda51 and Gunn’s projects, it’s so distinct and charming that it largely sticks the landing.
Lollipop Chainsaw even played a part in the making of The Suicide Squad, as Gunn would draw upon the game‘s contrast between cutesy and gory imagery in the movie’s “Harley-vision” scene. The game is getting a remake in the future, though neither Gunn or Suda are involved.