Here it is! My top-FIFTEEN Favorite Comic Book Movies of ALL TIME! (so far…)
I know it’s a long list, but there’s a lot of damn good comic book movies out there, and I kinda had to expand it in order to compensate for this years entries alone!
15. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978)
“Your name is Kal-El. You are the only survivor of the planet Krypton. Even though you’ve been raised as a human, you are not one of them. You have great powers, only some of which you have as yet discovered.” – Jor-El
As flawed as this movie is, especially for a Superman movie, it was a milestone in Super Hero films, being the first major Comic Book Based Blockbuster and all. It really established a lot of traditional aspects we take for granted from this genre, like the brilliant mix of drama, comedy and action that’s become a staple for the films to follow. First and foremost, it’s an origin story. It does a great job of establishing and balancing the characters, and more importantly it took the source material seriously AND managed to make it believable.
Although Christopher Reeves really pulled off the duel identity of Clark Kent and Kal-El, Gene Hackman is very far from my favorite version of Lex Luthor.
The movie is admittedly a bit dated, but is a much better portrayal of Silver Age comics than say the 60’s Batman series.
However, it’s rather unfortunate that the sequels that followed didn’t even come close to living up to Richard Donner’s initial foray into the world of modern mythology. To date, the best Superman films are DC’s animated (PG-13) films: Superman Doomsday, and All-Star Superman, but this is the one that started it all, and deserves recognition for starting a trend.
Now that WB is rebooting the franchise with a modernized version of this iconic character (Man of Steel), hopefully we’ll finally get a Superman film that at least lives up to this classic.
14. SIN CITY
“This is blood for blood and by the gallons. These are the old days man, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days. They’re back! There’s no choices left. And I’m ready for war!” – MARV
Not all Comic-Book-Movies are straight up super hero films: Kick-Ass, Wanted, and Road to Perdition to name a few.
Based on Frank Miller’s (awesome) Sin City graphic novels, and directed by Robert Rodriguez: This movie is not a super hero film, by any means. It’s a Neo-Noir with multiple intertwined story lines, dark stories of sex, drugs, and violence all in the corrupt alleyways of BaSin City.
You’ve got guys like Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke with some of the best performances of their careers!
Also, there’s a whole lotta smokin hot dames in this here picture!
Most of the movie is Black and White, with splashes of color here and there, especially RED.
This story is rated R for a good reason, make that many really good reasons in fact.
Seriously check it out!
“You know, for a crazy homeless person… he’s pretty cut.” – Darcy
Here’s a great Marvel movie that stands apart from the rest! Thor works well as a tie-in to the other ‘Avengers’-related films, but it also stands on it’s own quite nicely. It is truly a brilliant mixture of drama, comedy, and action all mixed with a clever sci-fi take on Norse mythology! Anthony Hopkins embodies Odin like no one else could, and Chris Hemsworth was born to play the ‘God of Thunder’. The best parts of this movie are the scenes where Thor himself (in mortal form) is learning the ways and customs of Earth. Plus it’s got Natalie Portman! Above all else, this epic tale is a moral story of a man learning humility, and overcoming the darkness within.
12. V FOR VENDETTA
“Remember, Remember, the FIFTH of NOVEMBER, the Gunpowder Treason, and Plot… I know of no reason, why the Gunpowder Treason should Ever Be FORGOT!” – V
What a fuckin awesome flick! In my humble opinion this film takes one cool Alan Moore graphic novel of the 80’s, updates it, makes it even more relevant, AND is in some ways actually BETTER than the book itself. (Unlike ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’… :/)
One of the changes is the Chancellor now resembles Bush rather than Nixon, nice touch. Everyone is great in this movie (acting wise): Natalie Portman (Evee), Hugo Weaving (V), etc… It’s also got some great socially conscious depth that you don’t get from most action / thrillers. The Wachowski Bros did a fantastic job all around. My wife and I watch it almost every Nov. 5th.
11. THE WATCHMEN (Director’s Cut)
“Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon!” – Rorschach
Speaking of surprisingly good Alan Moore adaptations, his magnum opus: Watchmen was finally developed into a feature length film, and… IT DIDN’T SUCK?
This movie ROCKS!! It’s almost word for word, panel for panel a direct adaptation of the award-winning, renowned graphic novel.
If you’re not familiar with Watchmen (no it’s not some crappy X-Men rip-off), than you need to go pick up the trade paperback right now. I’m not joking, I’m dead fucking serious: first off slap yourself in the face, turn off your computer, get your ass out of that damn chair, feed the dogs, lock up the kids, drive your shitty car to the nearest book store, and slap down a $20 bill and demand your copy of mother-effin Watchmen! If they claim to not have a copy than burn the bitch down.
Anywho, where was I? Oh, yes, this is simply one of the greatest things to come out of super-hero literature.
It’s an alternative take on Cold War Era America, with twisted versions of Super Heroes, half of which are just villains masquerading as vigilantes (Spoiler Alert: The Comedian). So these so-called-heroes start showing up dead, which leads into a conspiracy / mystery on the eve of a potential nuclear war.
A lot of great twists and turns to say the least. You’ve got awesome characters like Rorschach, Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Silk-Spectre, Night-Owl, etc…
I’ve already said too much, suffice it to say: it’s a great read, and a really well done adaptation by Zack Snyder (300, the ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remake, and the upcoming Superman reboot: “THE MAN OF STEEL”!)
10. SPIDER-MAN (2002)
“You’ve spun your last web, Spider-Man. If you had not been so selfish, your little girlfriend’s death would have been quick and painless, but now that you’ve Really Pissed Me Off, I’m gonna finish her nice and slow!… MJ and I, we’re gonna have a hell of a time!” – The Green Goblin
This initial trilogy (by Sam Raimi) starred Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson, but it also had the likes of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson!, Cliff Robertson as Uncle Ben, James Franco as Harry Osborn, and of course, last but definently not least: Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn himself: THE GREEN GOBLIN!! (my one beef with this movie though is that Goblin was creepier without his mask on, but I suppose it had to be somewhat kid appropriate…) This is a fun movie, plain and simple: it’s a near-perfect popcorn movie!
9. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
“Listen to me very carefully, my friend: Killing will not bring you peace.” – Prof. Charles Xavier
“Peace was never an option.” – Erik Lensherr
As a comic fan, I’m somewhat in the minority in that I actually thoroughly enjoyed the previous X-films, for the most part. Bryan Singer’s ‘X-Men’ (2000), helped to revamp comic book movies, specifically sparking Marvel’s movie renascence that followed suit. I think X2 was a great follow up that surpassed the original, with a decent cliff-hanger, but due to reasons I don’t have time to go into the third one fell disastrously short of it’s potential, and the Wolverine spin-off wasn’t much better, but much to everyone’s surprise the prequel that came next was arguably the best in the series. ‘First Class’ not only tells the focal back story’s of the intertwined destinies of Professor Charles Xavier, and Erik Lensherr, but it’s a clever period piece set in the 60’s against the backdrop of social and political strife that was present when the comics were first written as a commentary for that time period! Mathew Vaughn directs this entry with style, and Michael Fassbender plays the perfect Magneto, as we get to see the evolving motivations behind these key characters.
8. SPIDER-MAN 2
“You have a train to catch…” – Doc-Ock
I find this to be a fitting sequel to Sam Raimi’s original Spidey blockbuster. It feels like a natural continuation of the story established in the first film, as we follow Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, and Harry Osborn on their journey through the rigors of adulthood. A few major aspects of this episode set it above the previous one: the villain, and the action. Alfred Molina offers a spectacular performance in bringing Dr. Otto Octavius to life, and the special effects involved are phenomenal! This is a very character driven story, and succeeds in almost every aspect. It’s unfortunate that it’s follow-up didn’t quite measure up.
7. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
“Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it.” – Kim.
This Edgar Wright comedy is an ideal portrayal of my nerdy video-game-fueled generation.
It’s a faithful adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s manga-series about an average guy who falls for a girl, with a lot of baggage… in fact a League of Evil Exes!!!
As random as it is awesome, this fast-paced movie is consistently entertaining from beginning to end! If you’re a fan of classic Nintendo games than prepare to be wowed by an insane amount of references. Not to mention all the wonderfully witty one-liners!
I saw this movie several times in theaters, and every time I hear that one of my friends hasn’t seen it, I make them watch it, or else…
6. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN! (2012)
“Your father and I were going to change the lives of billions, including mine…” – Dr. Curt Connors
The newest Spidey film lives up to it’s title! It seemed rather early to reboot a franchise that had only started a decade ago, but the latest take on this classic tale is certainly different enough to hold it’s own. Now don’t get me wrong, the first Spider-man trilogy was a fun series, but the reboot is more in line with the more serious, modernized comics (namely the original run of Ultimate Spider-man, and some of the material from the 80’s and 90’s, whereas the original movies were actually more accurate to the initial campy version of the characters from the original run in the 60’s by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko!). Even though this adaptation is a retelling of the origin story, it’s a far different version, and in many ways more believable. It was nice to see an entire film set during Peter’s high-school years rather than quickly jumping ahead, we got to see his character grow and make mistakes on his journey. Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacey, and Andrew Garfield is perfectly cast as Peter Parker. It appears they’re doing a lot of set-up for future sequels, and I cannot wait to see where they go with this story next!
“I’m just not the hero type. Clearly. With this laundry list of character defects, all the mistakes I’ve made, largely public… the Truth is: I am Iron Man.” – Tony Stark
Jon Favreau’s Marvel mega hit is everything a super hero origin movie should be! It’s got action, intrigue, romance (sort of), and of course comedy! I’d go as far to say that it’s the best Solo-Hero Marvel movie, which is really saying something, seeing as most of what they’ve put out in the last decade has been somewhere between mildly decent and mind-blowingly awesome, with just a few low notes here and there. Seriously, Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark. Gweneth Paltrow was great as Pepper Potts. Clark Gregg debuted as Agent Coulson of SHIELD, and Jeff Bridges gave an outstanding performance as the (Spoiler Alert?) villainous Obadiah Stane (Iron Monger).
This movie’s awesome, and the second one is almost as good (plus that one introduces Black Widow and War Machine!).
Also worth noting: this film’s got a great soundtrack! A good mix of rock and orchestra, giving it a wildly different feel from other classic super hero blockbusters.
I could go on and on about how great the effects were and how well the drama played out, and the ingenious way this complex plot ties itself together without a boatload of plot holes, but just do yourself a favor and watch it.
If you haven’t seen it yet, do so, or else…
In fact this movie is almost tied with the next one on my list… almost.
4. THE DARK KNIGHT
“You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push!” – THE JOKER
The incredible sequel to Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins”, starring Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne!
Almost the entire cast of the first one returns, but you’ve got a few new additions that for all intents and purposes steal the show: Aaron Eckhart as District Attorney Harvey Dent (Spoiler Alert: TWO-FACE!), and of course: Heath Ledger in a chilling performance as The JOKER! Unlike Jack Nicholson (in the Burton Bat-film from 1989), who basically played himself with clown makeup. This version of the Joker was ripped directly from the darkest pages of DC comics! Heath Ledger BECAME the Joker, he brought this psychotic anarchist to life to the point where he was scaring the shit out of the cast and crew on and off the set!
The Joker is perhaps one of the greatest villains in all of comics history, and this movie is the perfect example of why. Just like Batman he’s such a versatile character that can easily work in any setting, or era. The various subplots involving the battle for Gotham’s sanity are interwoven with unparalleled mastery.
I don’t want to give away too much, but if you haven’t seen this movie, you really need to, But before you see this movie make sure you watch this next title FIRST…
3. BATMAN BEGINS
“I won’t kill you, …but I don’t have to save you.” – THE BATMAN
Christopher Nolan’s first installment in his Dark Knight Trilogy (with Christian Bale)!
I always have a hard time picking between ‘Begins’ and ‘Dark Knight’ simply because they’re both off-the-charts awesome. Although I REALLY do LOVE Heath Ledger’s performance as THE JOKER in THE DARK KNIGHT, I gotta say Liam Neeson KILLED (literally) as (!SPOILER ALERT!…) RA’S AL GHUL!!
With the exception of the Joker, ‘Begins’ is the better BAT-film, which is why it’s on this list.
This is the quintessential Batman film. The dialogue is great throughout. My one complaint about this movie is that Bruce doesn’t actually become Batman till halfway through the film (which is all extremely well-done set-up and drama), but from there on out it’s pure ACTION! Everything about this movie rocks, it’s everything Bat-fans have always wanted from a Batman movie! The League of Shadows trains Bruce as a Ninja!, Wayne Manor burns down!, the Scarecrow unleashes his fear gas drenching the Narrows during the breakout of Arkham Asylum!, The Bat-mobile is a TANK!, etc… Plus you’ve got Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon, and MORGAN FREEMAN as Lucious Fox!
Also, as a side note, if you haven’t checked it yet, the Bat-anime “Gotham Knight” takes place between these films and is also really quite good! Other great animated Bat-films include: ‘Mask of the Phantasm’, and ‘Under the Red Hood’!
2. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
“When Gotham is Ashes, Then you have MY Permission to DIE.” -BANE
Since this movie just hit theaters this summer, I’ll try my best not to spoil it, but suffice it to say, as a complete trilogy, Nolan’s Bat-series trumps all other takes on the Caped Crusader. Everything from the first two films ties together so nicely in this final action packed finale. A group of friends and I went to a marathon of all three movies back-to-back-to-back (with intermissions of course), on opening night, and we all had a blast, regardless of how many times we’d seen the other two films. People were cheering on Alfred, Lucious, and Gordon, laughing at the Joker’s sick pranks, and quoting Batman’s one-liners. Then at midnight the theater fell silent as the highly anticipated third and final chapter unfolded over the next four hours. It didn’t matter that I had just spent a good ten hours at the movies, it didn’t feel like it, I was pumped! In my humble opinion, Nolan and crew knocked this one out of the park! It might be a long ass movie, but I think it was a well deserved length considering. They really upped the stakes, and pulled out all the stops. The returning cast did a splendid job (per usual), some even offered Oscar-worthy performances. Anne Hathaway did a brilliant Selina Kyle, but Tom Hardy managed to steal the show as the unstoppable terrorist mastermind: BANE.
These movies are without a doubt on par with the likes of the Godfather, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. I’d even go as far as to say that in many ways this trilogy is superior to those classics because there’s not really a weak-link in the trio. Everyone will have their favorites, but you can’t really say that Part 3 dropped the ball this time around, which is the case in far too many a triage (Ewoks anyone?). This movie transcends all other super hero films in that it’s got some really deep and emotional themes woven into it’s core throughout a complex and somewhat realistic plot involving phenomenal character dynamics, while still being a kick-ass action flick.
1. THE AVENGERS
“Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I’ma huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage-monster…” – Tony Stark
Joss Whedon’s masterpiece! This movie was so damn good I literally could not, cannot, think of one thing to complain about.
An all-star cast from: Mark Ruffalo (Dr. Banner / HULK), to Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury of SHIELD), to Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), to Tom Hiddleston (LOKI), to Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), to Jeremy Rehner (Hawk-Eye), to Scarlett Johansson (The Black Widow)!
The one thing I will say is: before seeing this film you should definitely see: IRON MAN (1 + 2: Robert Downey Jr.), THE INCREDIBLE HULK (Edward Norton), THOR! (Chris Hemsworth), and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER! (Chris Evans). All of which also deserve to be on this list in some capacity.
The one thing that makes this movie beat out Nolan’s emotionally compelling Bat-trilogy was that this movie was just a FUN action-flick that combined several Marvel heroes into one massive, AMAZING, Summer Blockbuster Event!
Plus, this movie was INCREDIBLE in IMAX 3D! This movie was so good, it’d be hard for Marvel to top it with a sequel, but I’ll be crossing my fingers for the next few years regardless… This is the new STAR WARS of our time. Years from now people will still be talking about what they did the night The Avengers first Assembled on the Silver Screen! The Midnight release was packed!! There were more nerds crammed into that theater than MEGA CON! I’ll never forget how the Imax theater I went to had a pre-show SHIELD public service announcement before the previews at the midnight release, coolest shit ever.
If it’s still in theaters: GO SEE IT!
Well I hope you enjoyed my list! Make sure to check out my least favorite as well, and feel free to argue your case against these picks (or their order) in the comments below…
Check out my blog at EpikFAILs.com