The 15 Best Comic Book Movies Ever Made
Some might think ranking, what they consider to be, the 15 best comic book movie adaptations around as folly as it invites the rage of passionate comic book fans the world over upon themselves. Undeterred, we have sifted through the comic book movies out there and decided what we think constitutes the top 15.
Of course, feel free to disagree with us and even let us know your opinions in the comments below just...be kind, yeah. We're only delicate souls.
We jump straight in with a controversial pick as Watchmen caused a split amongst critics for its almost direct take from each panel of the comic book for each shot. The purists out there praised its loyalty to the source material whilst others questioned whether it could have been a little more original in its interpretation.
Being a direct take from the graphic novel, the story line is fantastic and is almost word for word, that of the book that is considered part of the 'Holy Trinity' of comics. It lacks the political fury of the novel but is one awesome adaptation if you are a fan of it and uses its palette, editing and the soundtrack to really make the most of its settings.
14. Guardians of The Galaxy
A much maligned comic book series that few read with any conviction, The Guardians of The Galaxy characters occasionally cropped up in other superhero franchises but never really took off and certainly weren't known in the mainstream. As such, part of what made this movie so great was that, despite being an existing property, the film had free reign to interpret the story line however it wanted.
This worked beautifully as it felt fresh and new, yet fit into pre-existing space opera themes with sharp jokes that didn't seem obnoxious (even with deliberately obnoxious characters) and a level of sappiness to be expected from all superhero movies.
13. Mystery Men
When Kick-Ass came out, people commended it for the idea that superheroes could be regular people but that was forgetting that Mystery Men did that way back in 1999 and with a stellar cast to boot. It is wildly inventive and oddball, so perhaps not to everyone's taste, but you can't knock it for its originality and humor.
It has some excellent quotable lines that make up for how poorly it has aged, but if you do get the chance, it is definitely worth the watch even just for Ben Stiller putting in a strangely compelling performance as something you wouldn't expect him to be.
12. Ghost In The Shell
This anime adaptation of a manga classic is chaotic, in-depth and insane with any attempt to explain the plot probably futile but, for the most part, it revolves around future cops who are cyborgs and can hack into any network. It moves at a great pace, is quirky as heck and makes the most of its unique visuals.
A live action remake is in the works but it simply will not be able to keep pace with this madcap masterpiece. If it does, it may come across as very weird...but hopefully just as wonderful.
11. The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan's reboot of the Batman franchise was well received with Batman Begins being fairly decent and at least good enough to wash away the memory of other god-awful outings for the caped crusader on the silver screen. The sequel, however, was a masterstroke as it brought us the iconic nemesis in The Joker, in which Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal.
Dark, gritty, filled with angst and yet still action-packed enough to an exciting thriller. There are better Batman movies out there but not many.
In 1995, an American production of a British comic book character was made that starred Sylvester Stallone. The original comic book is an ultra-violent, dark satire on the state of America from a view across the pond. The film ripped its humor out and betrayed the character by revealing his face, something that he never does in the comics.
In 2012, the chance to right those wrongs came along and boy did that happen. Pretty much a straight up action flick, it is well done, with excellent loyalty to the comic strip and an actor willing to go the whole movie without showing his face. It was dark, and scarily believable in its setting. Perhaps it could have had a bit more life to it but for the most part a darned good film.
9. Batman Returns
Remember when Tim Burton still made good films? Yeah, it was a while ago but this was one of them. The film that overturned Batman's camp legacy and made him a dark, brooding madman, we could have easily of put Burton's original Batman film in this position for its dark and chaotic aesthetic and gothic storytelling but we plumped for the sequel solely because it upped the level of production design and features a decent take on Catwoman.
A sly, adult take on Batman that made him the character he is today. Its visual sensibilities are off-kilter and played to glorious effect.
An adaptation of a French graphic novel, it has a ludicrous premise of a sudden global freeze that kills off humanity except those stuck on a single train that is looping around and around in circles. It is a strange film but riveting none the less and soon evolves into a satire on class and station and sees Tilda Swinton give a brilliant performance that may remind people of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
A Korean-French-American production, it is raving mad but in a way that will keep you glued to your seat.
7. The Avengers
Highly anticipated with an all-star cast what could possibly go wrong with this film? Well, we've seen it before where too many stars boil a film as not enough time is given to each character but in what is, ostensibly, an action film, the characters are well rounded and interact with each other marvelously as well as the set pieces looking and feeling rightfully epic.
It's hardly a stunner of a storyline but the work around it is enough to make it a good ensemble piece and it is currently the third highest grossing film of all time and set up further expansion to the franchise wonderfully.
6. Ghost World
Melancholy and relevant to the world we live in today, this film adaptation of Daniel Clowes is witty and acerbic in its portrayal of a malcontent girl who takes art classes on her summer vacation only for it to lead her to reassess her relationship with her best friend. It may not sound brilliantly exciting but it is full of humanity and warmth.
What is striking is its naturalistic tone which moves away from the heavily stylized comic strip. Many feel this was a loss to the feel whilst others say it makes it stronger. It is definitely worth seeing to make up your own mind though.
5. Spiderman 2
The Spiderman series was unashamedly joyful in its outlook that makes it a little more notable against many of the modern adaptations of superhero movies but the first film was a little lackluster as it had to set out the characters and premise, which is fine, just a little hard going. The second outing was perfect in its level of action, the introduction of iconic villain Dr. Octopus and furthering of the love story between Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson.
It embraced the color of the 1960s Marvel comics and had the look down perfectly. The third in this trilogy was a bit of a mess but number 2 was where it peaked.
4. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The first Hellboy was good, the second was great and it ramped up production design, character arcs and storytelling in a world of Guillermo Del Toro's making that is both loyal to the comics and deeply original in different ways to them. It has some searching questions about the protagonist and what man is doing to the world in a neatly wrapped package.
It's a shame this film didn't do better at the box office really as we could have had a trilogy by now but it is a good watch and very creative.
3. Scott Pilgrim Vs The Word
This Canadian comic strip is a loving nod to the post-modern, sarcastic hipster generation with homages to comic books and video games throughout. The joy of the film is that it is set in the real world but embraces a sort of magical realism as our hapless protagonist has to defeat the 7 evil exes of the girl he is courting in order to win her heart.
It comes out as something like a pop-art explosion, with an awesome soundtrack to boot! It didn't do well at the box office but is rightly hailed as a cult classic.
This was the first reference point for Japanese animation for many in the West and the stylistic choices are striking and bold. It starts off with a nuclear explosion, throws in gang warfare and then gets crazier and more sci-fi-esque from thereon in. It is both grotesque and compelling and the way this is brought to life through anime is stunning.
This film has been referenced so many times down the years that it will look familiar to those who haven't even seen it but it is entirely original and magnificent in its scope and vision.
1. Superman II
Long before the special effects and green screen treatment that we see in almost every blockbuster nowadays, practical effects and camera trickery were what filmmakers had at their disposal which could pose a problem when shooting superhero movies. Take, for example, the iconic power of Superman which is flight. No self-respecting adaptation of Superman would leave that out but how could you make it work. In the 1940s TV adaptation, the actor would stand with his arm straight up in the air and then flight would be animated in by hand with landings always conveniently behind a rock or something from which actor Kirk Alyn could emerge. For 1978’s Superman film, they changed the game and had Christopher Reeve mimic the flying actions of the comic books. Although the effects now look very dated, at the time they were really something special. It was this that led to the success of the first Superman film.
The second then had to top this and did so with a masterclass in on-screen villainy from Terrence Stamp's general Zod, a genuinely affecting relationship between Clark Kent and Louis Lane and that awesome Eiffel tower opening scene. It has aged poorly but it is still a wonderful film with a sense of both fun and danger without being too campy. The iconography of the character has changed dramatically down the years but this film is the creme de la creme of Superhero movies.