Not sure if you’ve heard, but some film called The Avengers is set to release nationwide this weekend. The film is combining the joint efforts of a handful of comic book films released over the last few years — Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger — and combining a handful of Marvel’s premier heroes and franchises.
With such a major collaboration of comic book films due to explode on big screens, it got us thinking: What have been the best comic book adapted films ever created?
To help answer that question, Pop GO comic book contributors — Chris, Ryley and Sam — and film contributors — Paolo and Steve — personally ranked their favorite comic book films of all-time, and in a collaboration of their own, all came up with the 5 best.
Hit the break to view Pop GO’s (pre-Avengers) Top 5 comic book films of all-time!
5) X2: X-Men United
Despite its ranking here, I am adamantly of the belief that Bryan Singer’s X2 is the best comic book movie ever made. I picked it as my best film of 2003, and I stand behind that one hundred percent.
X2 is everything you could want in a comic book movie, there’s no origin nonsense to get bogged down in, it gives virtually every character on screen at least one awesome moment (except Storm who got no love in this series), and it features some of the most badass set pieces ever put in a comic book movie. The siege of the school, Magneto pulling the pins on the soldiers’ grenades before he’s even in the room, the fight between Wolverine and a severely underused Lady Deathstrike.
It also has the most emotional climax in a sci-fi/action film since Wrath of Khan (although it’s too bad the Phoenix storyline played out like a joke after its amazing setup here). And the scene where Iceman “comes out” to his parents… this is what makes The X-Men so easy to relate to and root for; they are the outcasts of society, looking to find their place in the world, and X2 captures that spirit better than any of the other films (First Class came pretty close, but don’t even get me started on Last Stand).
If only Bryan Singer had stayed with this franchise instead of jumping ship (though I actually dig the hell out of Superman Returns), but this is as close to perfection as comic books have gotten on screen. -Steve
25) American Splendor
24) Ghost Rider
22) A History of Violence
21) Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Watchmen is one of, if not the most faithful adaptation of a graphic novel that I’ve seen. Various people, from Alan Moore to Terry Gilliam, have said that it was unfilmable, but Zack Snyder and crew managed it. Evoking the feel of the graphic novel with its grim and gritty setting, the movie doesn’t even attempt to dumb down the storyline or alter it in order to pander to a wider audience, and is utterly uncompromising in this respect. This is aimed directly at fans of the graphic novel, and if other people tag along too, all the better. This does almost make it difficult to praise the film alone, given how close a representation of the source material it is. A cast of relatively unknown actors and actresses lead this film to a rightful place in our Top 5 Comic Book Movies, with stellar performances from Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach, and Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan to name just a few.
Despite the few changes, such as the infamous lack of alien squid, or the omission of the Black Freighter interludes (at least in the standard edition), Watchmen remains an almost scene-for-scene adaptation of one of the most acclaimed graphic novels ever, and as a result, one of the best comic book movies produced. -Chris
20) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
19) The Adventures of Tintin
18) Batman Begins
17) V For Vendetta
3) Iron Man
Iron Man was the first installment in Marvel’s cinematic universe, and what a start it was. Comic book films can be awfully hit and miss, often either alienating the comic fan base, or the general movie going public. Iron Man, however was spot on, bringing a fan favourite character to the big screen, with a wonderful adaptation of his origin and some fantastic performances, making it a critical and commercial hit – even the film critic Roger Ebert liked Iron Man!
So what is there to love? Iron Man has just about something for everyone, with a great plot, an awesome blend of the action-fantasy-science-fiction genres, and as I have already said, some great performances. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, playing the role to perfection, balancing the more dramatic elements of the script with the zany witty dialogue and comedy which flows throughout the film too. There have been many generic superhero films released over the years, but be assured – this was not one of them.
And then there was that post-credits scene, which got everyone hyped over a possible Avengers film. -Sam
15) Superman II
14) The Crow
13) The Incredible Hulk
11) Superman: The Movie
2) The Dark Knight
When we talk about comic book movies, or super hero movies, they kind of fall into their own genre. They might be action-packed, thrilling, and often times funny, but they never become known as much more as just superhero flicks. The Dark Knight, however, transcended this faux-genre and became not only a fantastic comic book or superhero movie, but a fantastic film, period. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s more a thrilling action/drama that’s in the guise of a superhero film.
Director Chris Nolan accomplished this by focusing more on the real world aspects of the characters he utilized. He grounds them in reality and makes you forget that it’s a film about a man in a bat suit chasing a guy with clown makeup on his face. It’s about good against evil, chaos vs. order, and the threshold of a good man being stretched to its limits, because as The Joker knows, Batman’s just one step away from becoming what he fights against. Not only did Nolan capture Bruce, Batman, and the Joker with extreme skill, but he works his magic on all the entire ensemble cast. Plus, even though he already delivered a fantastic villain in Heath Ledger’s depiction of the Joker, he gives us even more to love with Aaron Eckhart’s amazing portrayal of Harvey Dent spiraling from Gotham’s white knight into the tattered form of Two-Face.
The Dark Knight stepped up the game for comic adaptations, and hopefully it’s sequel lives up to its reign. -Ryley
10) Sin City
9) Spider-Man 2
8) Captain America: The First Avenger
7) X-Men: First Class
1) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
When it comes to naming what I personally believe is the best comic book movie to date, there is no doubt in my mind that 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World stands at the top.
What Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) managed to do with what was at the time an obscure comic book to me was absolutely revolutionary for the sub-genre of comic book films. Wright didn’t just make a great film, he literally brought a comic to life. On pretty much every level this movie succeeded, from great performances by its ensemble cast, music by Nigel Godrich, visual and special effects, and great writing by Wright, Michael Bacall and Bryan Lee O’Malley. There is literally something for every person to love in this movie and it still blows me away to this day. -Paolo
Agree with our list? Disagree? Let your opinions be known in the comment section below!