Each year they dominate the box office, and in the next five years we will be exposed to over 20 comic book films, so I thought it would be a good idea to look back on some of the greatest comic book movies ever made. In preparation for this post, I researched every movie based on a comic or graphic novel, and I spent much time rating and ranking them in my mind. Before I start the list, I want to let you know that I refrained from using any two films from the same franchise in my top 10 to ensure that I have a diverse list.
First, I want to address my honorable mentions, These films are all outstanding works of art by some of the most talented filmmakers in Hollywood.
- Iron Man
- Sin City
- A History of Violence
- Men In Black
- Guardians of the Galaxy
10. Superman: The Movie
Kicking off our list is none other than the film which started it all. Richard Donner’s superhero masterpiece is without a doubt one of the highlights of the director’s career as well as one of the most iconic comic book films ever made. To this day, John Williams’ score is one of the most recognizable and celebrated soundtracks in the history of cinema. The film features outstanding performances from Academy Award winning actors, Gene Hackman as the sinister Lex Luthor and Marlon Brando as the Kryptonian scientist, Jor-El. I think we can all agree that Christopher Reeve’s Superman is still the best on-screen portrayal of the character we’ve seen yet. The film is a spectacular blend of action, romance and humor. Despite its outdated special effects, Superman contains more heart than most modern day comic book movies. If you see this movie, you will believe a man can fly.
9. Kingsman: The Secret Service
The most fresh film on this list is none other than the fast-paced, brutally fashionable spy thriller, Kingsman: The Secret Service! I loved every second of this film. Newcomer Taron Egerton adequately leads this all-star cast which includes Academy Award Winners Colin Firth and Michael Cain, and fan-favorites such as Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong and Mark Hamill. After seeing Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, I wasn’t sure if director Matthew Vaughn could ever top himself, and I had very little expectations for this film. I was so impressed by its wit and charm. It is a great parody of the more campy Roger Moore Bond films, as well as a social commentary on the class structure. Just a warning; This film WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!
Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man film is, in my opinion, the best in the franchise as well as one of the best Superhero films ever made. Toby Maguire brought this character to life in a tremendous way. Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Green Goblin is one of the most eerie and daunting villainous roles I’ve ever seen. It is impossible to forget the phenomenal portrayal Of J. Jonah Jameson by the extraordinary J.K. Simmons. This film masterfully blends its more campy scenes with some dark and meaningful heartfelt moments. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will keep you intrigued and entertained throughout.
Zack Snyder’s visually stunning gore-fest is not only one of the best comic book films, but also one of the most badass movies in general. Everything about it is just plain awesome. Gerard Butler leads the cast as the coercive King Leonidas. Lena Headey demands respect as the robust Queen Gorgo, and David Wenham narrates the film with an intrepid tone which builds the suspense (and also got him a job as the narrator for the Deadliest Warrior). This movie gave birth to one of the greatest actors of our generation… Michael Fassbender makes his first film appearance as Stelios, who is one of the most doughty badass characters ever! I am not usually fond of films which rely too heavily on special effects, but I have got to say, Zack Snyder really pulled this one off. Watch this film and experience the grit and madness of Sparta.
6. V For Vendetta
Experience ‘one-hit-wonder’ James McTeigue’s directorial debut. This is a gritty interpretation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel about an anarchist setting out to destroy the structures of a dystopian British tyrannical government. While the film is criticized by Moore as being an exploration of “American neo-liberalism vs. American neo-conservatism” instead of his intended “anarchy vs. fascism” ideology, it still manages to be relevant and has left a huge impact on our society. Since the film’s release, many have adopted the use of the Guy Fawkes Mask as a symbol of protest for equality and justice. Natalie Portman gives one of her most impressive performances alongside the brilliant Hugo Weaving. “Voila! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate!” V is as eloquent as he is wise and it’s also pretty cool to see him kick some major ass with his dual blades.
Another by Zack Snyder! While audiences are generally split on this film, I see it as a beautiful re-imagining of Alan Moore’s critically acclaimed graphic novel. Watchmen has a great deal of heart and intrigue and also contains one of the most underrated ensembles I’ve ever seen. Jackie-Earle Haley’s Rorschach is an astounding, dynamic comic book character while Patrick Wilson and Malin Akerman bring the romance and ferocity of Nite Owl and Silk Spectre to life alongside the momentous performance by Billy Crudup as Doctor Manhattan. If you have not seen this film, I highly recommend it. It is a visual masterpiece and is Zack Snyder’s finest film to date.
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
It was so refreshing to see Bryan Singer return to the director’s seat in the most recent installment of the X-Men series. As a whole, X-Men might just be my favorite superhero franchise, and Days of Future Past stands high above the rest as the most relevant film in the series. It acts as a commentary on modern discrimination. It is a powerful battle for the soul of our hero, Mystique, played by the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence. I could write an entire blog about this film and its relevance to our society. Hugh Jackman returns to put on his claws as Wolverine, Michael Fassbender, of course is legendary as the domineering Magneto, and Evan Peters steals the show as the impulsive Quicksilver. I was so impressed with Days of Future Past and I believe it to be the best Marvel film thus far.
3. Road to Perdition
One would expect nothing short of excellence from the ingenious Sam Mendes. Following his Oscar Winning film, American Beauty, Mendes directs one of the most beautiful comic book movies I’ve ever seen. The late Conrad L. Hall won a posthumous Oscar for his work in Cinematography. Tom Hanks’ acting is prodigious as he plays a broken but powerful man seeking vengeance. He is pitted against Jude Law, who delivers one of his best performances as the Photographer/assassin Maguire. Daniel Craig provides an amazing performance as Connor Rooney who is both confident and insecure, alongside the great Paul Newman and, in my personal opinion, one of the greatest actors of all time, Stanley Tucci. This film is an efficacious and emotional look at the relationship between a distant father and his son while trying to outsmart the mob. It is a wonderful film, and if you have not seen it, stop what you are doing now and go watch it.
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
What can I say? I am a huge sucker for all things Edgar Wright. This film is Wright at his finest. It is one of the most meticulously planned comedies ever made. Wright’s application of camera-work, lighting, and other visual cues all for the use of comedy set him apart as one of the greatest directors of all time. Michael Cera is the perfect Scott Pilgrim, as he manages to relate to all of us in his quirky mannerisms which compliments Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s winsome Ramona Flowers. The two of them lead an amazing supporting cast which includes Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Allison Pill, Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, and a brief, but oh-so-satisfying cameo by Tom Jane. Seriously, this is one of my favorite comedies of all time and is without a doubt one of the best comic book movies ever made! Second only to…
1. The Dark Knight
There is a reason this is ranked as No. 4 on IMDb’s top 250 films of all time. This noir crime film tells the age-old tale of good vs evil. Nolan’s reengineering of Batman as a sort of sacrificial lamb for Gotham is the most compelling take on the character yet. Christian Bale embodies all which makes Batman virtuous. Heath Ledger’s Oscar Winning performance as the Joker is chilling and captivated audiences everywhere. His sly walk and harrowing demeanor has become ingrained in all of our minds. In my opinion, it is the greatest acting endeavor of all time. The film has an extraordinary supporting cast which includes Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman, and has one of the most memorable, epic scores by Hans Zimmer. The Dark Knight is the most relevant, entertaining and well-directed comic book movie ever made, and it easily claims the No. 1 spot on my Top 10 Comic Book Movies.
What do you guys think? Did I leave out any films which you believed deserved to be on this list? Let me know in the comment section below.