9. V for Vendetta (2005): What’s more remarkable about this movie? The fact that it was written by the same men who brought us “Matrix: Revolution” and “Speed Racer?” Or the fact that it’s adapted from an Alan Moore comic series, notoriously tricky to adapt? Or the fact that it’s better than the original comic? That’s right, I said it. This movie captured the subversive message of anarchy and rebellion from the original mini-series, while adding more coherence and direction to the story, as well as jettisoning the unnecessary characters and plotlines that padded out the original comic. When V takes out a room full of armed police with slow-motion martial arts moves and a handful of knives, it’s hard not to be impressed. Add to that the cautionary tale about the dangers of political power run amok that is oh-so-timely. And does that grinning V mask get any cooler?
8. The Incredible Hulk (2008): After the yawner that Ang Lee released under the name “Hulk,” comic fans were deeply despairing of ever getting a good Hulk movie. After all, any other Hulk movie would have to follow that clunker, right? Wrong. The studio was gracious and ambitious enough to allow the sequel to reboot the series, develop a whole new origin, dump all the convoluted family history, and take the character back to its roots; the Hulk smashing stuff. We had a geekier version of Banner with Norton, a better villain with the Abomination, and action sequences that we could actually see because they took place during the day. This is the Hulk we wanted to see in the first place.
7. Iron Man (2008): Oddly enough, this movie is now considered the gold standard of comic book movies. I say “oddly enough” because I didn’t think it was that great when I saw it. Not that it wasn’t a good movie, but most of it was spent building the suit. I wanted more action once he got the bugs worked out. Still, this movie had what most comic book movies don’t have; a great actor of the caliber of Robert Downey Jr., and a perfect portrayal of the flawed but noble hero from the comics. In the beginning, you almost hate him, but by the end you love him. That made the movie accessible to comic fans and non-comic fans alike. We come for the Iron Man suit, but we stay for the drama.
6. X2: X-Men United (2003): The original X-Men brought us Wolverine and is the first comic book movie to completely eliminate the superhero costumes in favor of black leather duds. The sequel brought us even more mutant love. Besides more Mystique and the mutants Lady Deathstrike and Nightcrawler it also featured a showcase for the other mutants in Professor Xavier's school. The struggle between mankind and the mutants was brought into greater focus and Bobby Drake's (Iceman) visit home Wolverine's origin was put in the spotlight. The progression of Pyro and the tenuous truce between the X-Men and The Brotherhood allowed them to explore the characters in greater depth and the mutant
5. Batman Begins (2005): As great as the 1980’s Batman movie was, the time had come to redefine it. The debacle of “Batman and Robin” had all but killed the Batman series. That’s where Christopher Nolan came in. With a more realistic approach and a grittier feel, he brought Batman roaring back into the new millennium with an origin that is so well-done that it feels like it should have been told from the beginning. Add to that two solid villains with Ras Al-Ghul and Scarecrow, and some incredible new gadgets, and you have a new classic.
4. Spider-Man 2 (2004): The first film drove fans crazy with it's cross between incredible faithfulness to the comic book (ex. costume) and complete distance from it (ex. organic web-shooters). In the end was a film that was unique and lovingly faithful at the same time and brought our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to life. But, then Sam Raimi took the gloves off and brought us the classic that is Spider-Man 2. Having covered the origin he was able to carry Peter Parker through a roller coaster of emotions and inner turmoil. From his pathetic job as a pizza delivery boy, failing in college, his hot and cold relationship with Mary Jane and his best friend's obsessive desire for revenge, Parker ran the full gamut of emotions and we hung on for the ride. Plus, he brought us Doctor Octopus. The sight of his maniacal mechanical arms controlled by the brilliant actor Alfred Molina brought chills to our spines even when he wasn't wearing a shirt.
3. The Dark Knight (2008): A close second to "Batman Begins", this movie stands on it's own as a worthy sequel with breath-taking effects and emotional roller-coasters for all the main characters. It's said that a hero is only as good as his villain and what makes it better than the original was the "Joker". While "Two-Face" was a surprisingly menacing figure, it was the over-the-top acting and violence of the "Clown Prince of Crime" that out shined everything. Nicholson's Joker took on a vicious twist and brought him into the year 2008 to a whole new generation of fans.
2. Batman (1989): This film managed to single-handedly redefine the view most people had of Batman as the jovial sixties television hero. That show, in turn, had redefined the comic books for a decade. This movie brought the character back to his roots with a modern twist. It was also the first time a superhero was clearly defined as a menacing and scary anti-hero. Add an unlikely hero in Michael Keaton and a scene-stealing turn for Jack Nicholson and the mix is complete. Christopher Nolan himself (director of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) called this "...a brilliant film, visionary and extraordinarily idiosyncratic...".We agree.
Finally, we come to the all-time greatest comic book movie...
1. Superman (1978): As the first comic book movie to be made specifically for adults, and not for kids, it stands on it's own. The director Richard Donner used the word Verisimilitude to describe the film saying, "It was a constant reminder to ourselves that, if we gave into the temptation we knew there would be to parody Superman, we would only be fooling ourselves." Ground-breaking special effects and a truly well-cast hero made this movie stand the test of time. Add the venerable Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando and you have an instant classic.
What do you think?
BONUS LINK: Read our list of the Top Ten Worst Comic Book Movies of all time.