12 Best Comic Book Movies Ever Made
The cinematic movement that’s took hold of the 21st century (at least for now), for better or worse, is the comic book movie. Super hero films made in decades past were often hampered by the lack of believable special effects (at least as much as suspension of belief will allow). And superheroes offered a much-needed mythology to bring us comfort in a post 9/11 world.
This summer launched two of the biggest comic book films ever with “The Avengers” and “Dark Knight Rises”, both of which I previously reviewed. (Catch my Avengers review here, and Dark Knight Rises here ).
Now that I’ve taken them into account, it’s time to pick the 12 best comic book movies ever made. And I didn’t make these superhero centric; non cape and tights films are also included, as comic books are a far more diverse medium than often given credit.
And clicking on any of the movie images will take you to Amazon if you’d like to add a DVD or Blu-ray to your collection.
[amazon_image id=”B002Q9VPFM” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut[/amazon_image]
To say that “Watchmen” is a flawed film is an understatement. But that Zack Snyder was able to get the most complex and multi-layered comic book story of all time on the silver screen is nothing short of miraculous. Yes, Ozymandius and Silk Spectre were poorly cast but Jackie Earle Haley was chilling as the psychotic vigilante Rorschach and Billy Crudup was perfect as Dr. Manhattan. Overall it felt reverent to the source material (if at times betrayed by Snyder’s exaggerated action scenes and gratuitous use of slow-mo). It still holds up well on repeat viewings, and has one of the best opening credit sequences of any film in recent memory. Curious to see how Snyder directs “Man Of Steel”.
11. “Sin City” (2005)
[amazon_image id=”B001R4KQDE” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Sin City (Two-Disc Theatrical & Recut, Extended, and Unrated Versions) [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]
Robert Rodriguez took Frank Miller’s noir pulp series and made one of the most seamless book to film adaptations ever. Every frame looks like a comic book panel and Miller’s hard-boiled dialogue translated well to the big screen. And Mickey Rourke steals the film as Marv, a brute with a unique code of honor.
Click here for my list of Most Badass Antiheroes, featuring Marv and others from this list in addition to other pop culture icons.
10. “The Crow” (1994)
[amazon_image id=”B004SIP6ZE” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Crow[/amazon_image]
Few films capture the 1990’s better than this adaptation of James O’Barr’s Graphic Novel. An era of sullen teenage and young adult angst distilled into a dark revenge fantasy, it concerns Eric Draven, a man avenging his own death and seeking justice for his murdered wife. The fact that Brandon Lee died on set gave it an irony that made it difficult to watch, but Alex Proyas’s direction kept you transfixed. And the soundtrack rocks.
9. “HellBoy 2” (2008)
[amazon_image id=”B001F7MSFW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Three Disc Special Edition)[/amazon_image]
Guillermo Del Toro’s first “Hellboy” film was a fun romp, but he really let his freak flag fly in the sequel, which was brimming with imaginative creatures and dark mythology, all while keeping the dry comic wit of Mike Mignola’s comic. Fewer roles were more perfectly cast than Ron Perlman as the titular hero. I’m keeping my fingers crossed part 3 will be a reality soon.
8. “Superman 2″(1980)
[amazon_image id=”B0012NIF56″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Superman II[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B000K4X5XK” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Superman II – The Richard Donner Cut [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]
“Superman” was the first comic book film with an A-list production which helped prove the film’s tagline “you’ll believe a man can fly”. But part 2 is more exciting, with villains that actually posed a real threat to Supes. And Terence Stamp was pure evil goodness as General Zod. And Christopher Reeve will always be the iconic Superman.
Director Richard Donner was fired during the filming of Superman 2, so it ‘s co-directed by Richard Lester. He provided more campy moments which make me wince now (amnesia by kissing? really?) but I loved it as a kid. And the downtown throwdown was a bravura action sequence. I’ve seen Donner’s recut version of the film, but I still prefer the original. You can check them both out above.
7. “Spider Man” (2002)/”Spider Man 2″ (2004)
[amazon_image id=”B00005JKCH” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Spider-Man (Widescreen Special Edition)[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B000I9YV2Q” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Spider-Man 2[/amazon_image]
Sam Raimi was able to make hokey and wholesome very palatable with Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire was perfect as the forlorn Peter Parker, a kid who can’t catch a break even while he’s off saving NYC from certain doom. I still hate the Green Goblin mask. It neutered Willem Dafoe’s madcap performance and just looks pretty stupid. Other than that Spider-Man holds up well.
Spider-Man 2 has better action set pieces (The Dr. Octopus subway car fight still impresses), and Alfred Molina was great as a villain you actually had empathy for. A shame they let it all go to hell with Spider-Man 3 which was pure misery to sit through. I still haven’t seen the reboot as I haven’t gotten over the last stinkfest yet.
6. “Iron Man” (2008)
[amazon_image id=”B00005JPS8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Iron Man (Ultimate 2 Disc Edition)[/amazon_image]
Iron Man is a solid B-list hero. Loved by the Marvel Zombies but fairly obscure to everyone else, so give director Jon Favreau huge credit for making Iron Man a household name. Robert Downey Jr. was pitch perfect as billionaire playboy Tony Stark, a superhero who actually enjoys his lifestyle (take note Bruce Wayne). The only downside to the film is the rather anti-climactic final battle, but otherwise it’s awesome. Part 2 was meh, but hopefully Part 3 will get back on track.
5. X-Men: 1st Class (2011)
[amazon_image id=”B004LWZW4C” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]X-Men: First Class (+ Digital Copy) [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]
After “X-3” and “Wolverine”, anyone could be forgiven for thinking the X-Men series was ruined. But thanks to Bryan Singer returning to the fold (as producer) and Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) directing, the series came back with flying colors, by creating a great hybrid of superhero and 60’s spy film. Michael Fassbender and James McEvoy were dynamic as Magneto and Professor X who forged the first team during the civil rights era. And while most of the coolest mutants have already been used in earlier films, they got plenty of mileage from B and C-list mutants. No mean feat. The Cuban missile crisis climax is stirring stuff.
4. “The Avengers” (2012)
[amazon_image id=”B0083SBJXS” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Marvel’s The Avengers (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)[/amazon_image]
You can read my review for more in-depth analysis on why I loved ‘Avengers’, but in a nutshell made my childhood dream of seeing a bunch of heroes gathered together on the silver screen a reality, and managed to not suck, which was a huge risk given all the moving parts involved. Now that the (Infinity) gauntlet has been thrown, can WB & DC get it in gear for a Justice League film? We’ll see.
3. “X2: X-Men United” (2003)
[amazon_image id=”B004SEUJ64″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]X2: X-Men United (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)[/amazon_image]
If you want to thank one filmmaker for showing the world a comic book movie can be intelligent and at times profound, then give it up for Bryan Singer. He used the stigma of being a mutant as a metaphor for intolerance based on sexuality, race and gender. 2000’s “X-Men”, was a good start, but the action scenes were lacking. With X-2 he matched the bombast to the commentary. Hugh Jackman made a great Wolverine, and Brian Cox was a worthy villain. And Singer’s skill at balancing all the gazillion other characters while having a film that never feels overstuffed is truly impressive.
2. “The Dark Knight” (2008) /”The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)
[amazon_image id=”B004LWZWGK” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray/DVD Combo+UltraViolet Digital Copy)[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B001GZ6QEC” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Dark Knight (+ BD Live) [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]
How to choose, how to choose? With “Dark Knight” Christopher Nolan took the world by storm with his hellish story of Gotham City under siege by a madman. Heath Ledger’s Joker is one of the best villains in film history. I do feel the film got maligned with the Harvey Dent story line. I think 2-Face should have had his own film so that the Joker and The Batman had more screen time together. But that’s my only beef.
“The Dark Knight Rises” has a similar theme, but you begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The set pieces were immense and Tom Hardy was pretty damn terrifying as Bane. Again, a bit too long and it had some major plot holes, but overall it was rousing, intense and had a satisfying finale that left Bat-fans a bit misty eyed.
Click here to see where Dark Knight, X-2, and more rank on my list of the best movie sequels ever made.
1. “Batman Begins” (2005)
[amazon_image id=”B00873JZO4″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Batman Begins [Blu-ray Steelbook Exclusive] – Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman (Region 1 US – 2012)[/amazon_image]
What you say? How could I pick “Batman Begins” over “Dark Knight”, the critic and fan favorite? It was quite difficult. Obviously I love all Nolan’s Batman films, and Ledger was by far the best villain, but Batman Begins, is about, well Batman. A character who always plays second fiddle in his own films, both in Nolan’s other entries, and in the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher misfires.
And unlike the sequels which could use trimming, Batman Begins narrative is leaner and more focused. Nolan helps give Bruce Wayne a richer back story than even his comic persona possessed, and Christian Bale is the first live action actor to fully understand the character. This film proved Nolan was going to elevate the material to new heights, replete with a cast, crew, and composer that gives the series a level of class and maturity that make Nolan’s films one step above the standard superhero movie formula.
So that’s my Top 12 best comic book movies ever. Agree? Disagree? What’s your Top 12? And Batman fans, be sure to check out why I claim he’s the best superhero ever.
Next up is the real fun, check out the Top 12 WORST Comic Book Films Ever Made!