15 Best Hollywood Comic Book Movies
It’s been a year of ups and downs in the comic book movie scene. At the top end of things we had the glorious R-rated Deadpool and right down in the mud there was X-Men:Apocalypse proving that there’s a bridge too far in every franchise. But what are the best 15 Hollywood adaptions of comic books ever? Here’s our list:
Watchmen might not have received universal love but it was a faithful adaption of the comic book and it handled its dark subject matter superlatively. The film walked us through the frailties of those with super powers beginning with the murder of an ageing, fallen hero. Through the eyes of Rorschach, played by Hackie Earle Healey, we being to uncover a deep, disturbing plot to eliminate and kill those with super powers. The denouement turns the usual “good guys always win” on its head without abandoning the premise that superheroes are incredible forces for good.
Brandon Lee’s last movie, and the one in which he tragically lost his life, tops many a comic book fan’s list of favorite films. When a criminal syndicate attacks a young couple in a night of frenzied city wide violence; Eric, played by Lee, returns to life to avenge his murdered love. What follows is a frenetic orgy of super-violence culminating in an incredibly dark rooftop battle to the death. The soundtrack is also one of the finest ever with tracks from The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and Pantera.
It’s fair to say that Wesley Snipes has starred in as many stinkers as winners in his film career but Blade showed that he could still make a great movie. Snipes, the eponymous Blade, is tasked with ending the vampire invasion of his city and his life. Limbs are severed, vampires explode and there’s plenty of dark humor throughout. The alternate ending that appears on the DVD might have sucked a little but the actual ending was perfectly satisfying.
Christian Bale’s first effort as Batman remains his finest as far as we are concerned. Sure, The Dark Knight was a great film but it was very much The Joker’s film and Heath Ledger’s performance will never be forgotten. Batman Begins, on the other hand, was a solidly Batman film. It deals with the (many times told) story of how Batman became Batman and it’s dark, gritty and spellbinding all at the same time. Don’t watch it expecting a laugh riot because thankfully the light TV-series-ish mood of the earlier films is long gone.
Captain America: Civil War
The 3rd installment of the Captain America series is easily the best. Iron Man and Captain America battle, alongside half of The Avengers each, to determine whether or not superheroes should have their powers controlled by UN mandate. It’s a metaphor for much of what’s wrong with the world today but don’t let that put you off. It’s witty, action packed and emotionally moving. It may be the best mainstream Marvel franchise movie ever made.
It took 15 years of campaigning by Ryan Reynolds (who plays Wade Wilson/Deadpool) to get this movie made. It was the superhero film that Hollywood was positive audiences didn’t want. It’s full of foul language, dark humor, sexual content and seriously gritty violence and it carried an R-rating. As far as everyone in movie-land was concerned – audiences think comic books are for kids. They were wrong. Deadpool is now the most successful R-rated movie of all time and it’s simply brilliant – preserving everything we loved about the comic books.
Robert Downey Jr. has made a lot of money out of the Iron Man franchise but it’s the first film that’s the best. While many superhero actors try and downplay their “super-ness” to make their characters more relatable – Downey turned the volume up to 11. Tony Stark’s brash, bolshy and funny character was flawed and self-absorbed but also ultimately relatable. The costumes are also spot on and it feels like Iron Man is more than a comic book character but an actual possibility.
Yes, we’re a reboot away already but the first Sam Raimi movie is, for the time being at least, the finest example of the web-slinger’s big screen potential. Tobey Maguire fit the mold of a young Peter Parker perfectly and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane made the perfect counterpart. Sparing use of high-quality CGI and a focus on relationships rather than endless action sequences, gave us a Spider Man that was just about perfect for its time.
OK, this retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae was never going to win any Academy Awards for acting but it is the ultimate fanboy comic book film. It’s essentially two hours’ worth of endless action with the occasional break to nod in a new plot point. For those who love battles and blood and ridiculously over the top hammy quotes “tonight we dine in Hell!” – this movie got everything right. The critics might not have agreed but frankly who cares what they think anyway? This is Sparta!
Not only does the cast of Sin City absolutely rock the big names but Robert Rodriguez’s production nails every last thing about the comic itself. That might have something to do with Frank Miller working on the film with Rodriguez. Elijah Wood’s role as Kevin is absolutely brilliant in conveying comic book criminality and there’s not a weak performance in the film. If you watched Sin City back-to-back with 300 – you’d have seen pretty much the two polar opposites of the comic book genre.
Hellboy 3 may never hit the big screen but that shouldn’t stop you from checking out the original Hellboy; it’s fantastic. Guillermo del Toro was a passionate fan of the comics and it shows throughout. Ron Perlman’s Hellboy is bad ass and funny and isn’t afraid to turn the occasional comic book trope in its head. Sadly, despite winning a hardcore and enthusiastic fan base – Hellboy was never quite big enough to find major studio support. It’s a big loss for those of us who would really like to see Part 3.
The most classic superhero movie of them all; Christopher Reeve’s Superman was just about perfect. Superman’s the hardest comic character to bring to the screen. When you have a hero that is so powerful that pretty much nothing is any real threat – it’s hard to endow them with much in the way of humanity and without that, audiences just don’t care. Gene Hackman’s Lux Luthor was the perfect foil to Reeve’s Man of Steel and the great use of humor kept everything just down-to-earth enough for it all to be believable. Considering it was released in 1978; Superman has also aged pretty well.
Marvel’s most successful ensemble movie and box office smash The Avengers showed the world just how well a big budget can be spent. The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye come together under the vigilant eye of Nick Fury played by Samuel L Jackson and the resultant romp is a spectacular sequence of destructive set pieces and laughs. Unusually for a comic book adaption – it was as much a critical success as it was a huge hit with audiences.
Guardians of The Galaxy
Chris Pratt showed he could make the jump from the small screen to the big one successfully in Guardians of the Galaxy. Here we had a group of misfits roaming the galaxy getting into trouble and then getting out of it again. It probably shouldn’t have worked as well as it did but it did. The pop culture references and perfectly timed comic execution made this low budget comic book adaption one of the most popular moves of the year.
What happens when an ordinary guy puts on a cape and goes out to be a superhero? That was the premise of Kick Ass and it worked beautifully well. Rude, crude and all out violent at times Kick Ass was funny and hugely entertaining. Sure, it was a touch controversial having children carry out scenes of extreme combat but that didn’t take away from the laugh riot.
Best of lists are always subjective. We know that there are great movies we haven’t touched on here and that some of those we have – aren’t critically acclaimed. These Hollywood adaptions of comic books, however, all have one thing in common; we remember them in a positive light long after we watched them – something we can’t say for Batman and Robin *shudder* or Catwoman, for example.