They’re everywhere folks so get over it and get used to it. They’re comic-book adaptations and we love them and hate them just as much depending on what breed of hipster you fall under, but I have to believe there is a comic-book story that you like whether you know it or not.
For this list, there is no statue of limitations on the breed of comic-book/graphic novel that the films are based off of. The only possible filter I am putting in this list is the occasional “No way, that was a comic!?'” type film in there so stay tuned…
15. Men in Black (1997): I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Men in Black started as a comic-book. Though not being exactly the biggest name in the comic universe, it ended up being one of the best sci-fi comedies in film history. It was a time when Will Smith was a star on the rise and people had a belief that aliens still walked next to them. It’s laugh out loud funny with some underrated special effects for its time that still hold up today. The imaginative scenarios and weapons and aliens are all fun to behold and are going to stay that way for a long time.
14. Blade (1998) & Blade II (2002): How many of you know that Blade is a Marvel character? Didn’t think so. I credit Blade as one of the first good comic-book characters successfully put on screen that isn’t named Batman or Superman. He was Rated-R and violent and killing vampires all night with no remorse. Not that Deadpool will be killing vampires, but we have a lot of credit to give to Blade his contribution to this sprawling genre.
13. Spider-Man 2 (2004): The first ever Spider-Man movie is awesome and can be considered one of the pioneers of the comic-book era, but Spider-Man 2 brought a superhero to some of the most personable levels we’ve ever seen and gave us one of the greatest superhero arcs of all time, “What if a hero doesn’t want to be a hero anymore?”. Let us not forget the great and sometimes terrifying, Doctor Octopus portrayed by Alfred Molina. It’s a great movie that has Tobey Maguire as the more socially awkward Peter Parker rather than his cocky, fast talking version that we see in comics.
12. 300 (2006): Blood, sex, and more blood. It’s a stylistic rendition of the famed Battle of Thermopylae through the vision of Zack Snyder and the writings of Frank Miller. It’s a cultural giant in more ways than one and has endless rewatchability to this day. It was silently a precursor to what we were likely going to get from the comic-book genre films in the future and it seems to still be stagnant, but without it, the balls to try other properties similar to 300. Gerard Butler’s performance is awesome and iconic and presents to us some of greatest monologues and screaming matches I’ve ever seen. I eat this stuff up…that crappy sequel is a whole different story.
11. V For Vendetta (2005): A film that has inspired vigilantism possibly more than Batman ever would have, we have this graphic novel and film to thank for the strength of the new generation against oppressive governments. Don’t believe me, check out that group “Anonymous” that threatens to leak information all the time (they’re hackers I think).
10. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015): One of the most shocking films of the year, this was a great homage to the spy film while maintaining its own identity in the process. Matthew Vaughn brings his signature flare of violence and humor and quick wit while producing some colorful visuals. It’s nothing short of pure entertainment and Vaughn uses his whole cast to the best of their ability and it pays off.
9. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014): This movie took the action up a notch for the solo films over at Marvel Studios and for the better. Chris Evans had already solidified his place as the Star-Spangled Man with a plan in previous films, but with an established bad-assery of his character of Steve Rogers, Winter Soldier proved to us that superhero films don’t always have to do with fighting aliens. What this sequel to The First Avenger was transcended the genre, becoming a spy/espionage film with a strong level of action. It has Scarlett Johansson returning as Black Widow which made for even more entertaining scenes.
8. Superman (1978)/Man of Steel (2013): Two eras of the Big Blue Boyscout, two renditions for the ages. These were films with men who personified Superman in their everyday lives without a second glance. They fill the blue suit and red cape with class and brought us two of the most iconic versions to date. Though Christopher Reeves gave us the classic charm of a Superman in the 70’s and 80’s, Cavill does the same thing. But instead of a classic John Williams score, we are treated to a respectable Hans Zimmer that brings the power of Superman to a new era of fans.
7. Sin City (2005): One of the greatest adaptations of any genre, the black and white texture of the film is unlike anything we had seen at the time and stays true the violence and visceral nature of the iconic Frank Miller graphic novel series of the same name. The all-star cast is nearly perfect with every role shown and the direction and lack of fear Robert Rodriguez brings to the table is exactly what was needed for a film of this nature.
6. Iron Man (2008): We have to give credit where credit is due, Jon Favreau’s Iron Man was the film that brought the wave of Marvel films to the forefront. It brought shockingly effective humor and action to the screen while giving us an origin story we cared about. It was one of those characters fans didn’t know about unless they were avid readers of the comics years prior, but now there is a rise in fandom for Tony Stark and an RDJ who was considered washed up and finished in the world of acting.
5. Hellboy (2004): Criminally under-appreciated within it’s own genre, it is not heroes with capes or the powers of flight. Instead, these are heroes that people had trouble accepting as heroes thus their decline on the totem pole of heroes, but if there’s one thing Hellboy should be remembered for, it’s the perfect casting of Ron Perlman. We have Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Christopher Reeves as Superman, and then we have Ron Perlman as Hellboy. It’s smartly written and tediously directed to get the feeling of fun and danger the character is known for and Guillermo del Toro was the perfect guy for the job.
4. The Avengers (2012): As a more avid reader of DC Comic properties as a youth and to this day, I never knew I wanted an Avengers film, and if I did, I would have never guessed it would be as good as this. It’s like putting together the Dream Team for USA basketball, but with superheroes, and they swept the competition like gold-medal winners. The comedy, the action, and the all around fun this movie provides stands as not only one of the best comic-book adaptations but somewhat of a stepping stone for the genre to come. Making endless amounts of money and getting rave critical praise from both critics and fans alike, it stands as one of the best action films we’ve seen in a long time.
3. Watchmen (2009): As you are going to figure out by the end of this list, I like brooding, sarcastic, and bold comics and that translates to their movies. They are far more interesting when you get to the meat of it. The motivations, the characters, the villains, the symbolism scattered throughout, and let’s not forget the constantly dazzling visuals. Watchmen has all these qualities as both a near perfect graphic novel, but as well as a movie adaptation. The cast couldn’t be any better and the visuals by the great Zack Snyder are as crisp as a fresh apple. It’s one of those movies you will always reference or bring up in your everyday life.
2. The Dark Knight (2008): It’s one of the greatest films ever made with one of the greatest performances ever brought to life (and death) on screen. From the endless quotes to the intricate plot in a cat-and-mouse style of action, this was a film that changed the game for movies in general, but also the world. It’s got everything you want from a movie and then some while it confirmed the greatness of Chris Nolan and the cast and crew. It’d be hard to not put this film in the top 3.
1. Batman Begins (2005): There is nothing better than a good old fashioned origin story and is there a character with a more enthralling backstory that Bruce Wayne/Batman? This is what more or less redeemed the character of Batman after Joel Shumacher tainted the legacy of Batman for so long. Without the tone setting of this first film, we don’t get a chance to see The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. What this film does for me is what all great films do and that is bring a story to an intimate level for its audience and that’s what I was able to get from this Batman movie unlike previous or prior films.