The 10 greatest comic book movies ever!

Last week, The Dark Knight crossed the billion dollar mark at the worldwide box office, making it the fourth highest grossing film of all time, and the biggest ever comic book adaptation. Of course, all that money is small consolation for its devastating snub at the Oscars, where the film was ignored in all major categories. Instead, the novel-to-film adaptation of The Reader grabbed a bunch of nominations, despite a tepid critical reaction and dismal box office.

Why does a middle-of-the-road film based on a book get more respect than a beloved film based on a comic? Why is adapting decades of comic canon considered less difficult than adapting a single narrative? Sure, some comic book movies make you want to never watch ANY other type of film again (Catwoman, Fantastic Four, Elektra etc). But some of the most innovative cinema in recent years was born within intricately drawn comic panels. If the Oscars can’t give comic book movies any love, than we will. With Watchmen hitting cinemas this week, enjoy our look back at the greatest comic book movies ever!

Based on the graphic novel by Max Allen Collins and directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition has fallen out of the public consciousness in the last few years. There are some truly spectacular scenes here though, shot by the legendary Conrad L. Hall. The whole movie looks like a painting. A violent, bloodstained painting.

Paul Giamatti stars as the disgruntled, narcissistic and (almost) unlovable comic book writer Harvey Pekar in American Splendor. Based on Pekar’s comic series of the same name, the film ingeniously melds fiction with reality. Once Pekar himself turns up to comment on the film, you know you’re watching something unique.

8. X2

For a while there, this was THE superhero movie. It gave fans some more of the Wolverine back story, it introduced one of the best characters in the Marvel backlog (Nightcrawler) and it featured something the first film had forgotten: action sequences! Sadly, by the time X3 rolled around, all good will was lost. But like I said – for a while there, X2 was the bomb.

7. 300

Zack Snyder’s obsessively faithful adaptation of Frank Miller’s adored graphic novel 300 has as many haters as fans. The endless slow motion; the claims of racism; the rampant homoeroticism. I say, take it up with Miller. Snyder is one of the best directors around, and he brings to life static images with gay abandon. Pun intended.

Man all these movies are depressing. I guess comics are the haven of the geek, and they’re (well, we’re) not exactly the most cheerful bunch. But Iron Man is the exception to the rule. It showed just how awesome it would be to have a giant suit that could fire missiles and let you fly. Let’s race jets! WOOHOO!

David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the John Wagner/Vince Locke graphic novel of the same name is quite simply, overwhelming. The film begins with the execution of a child, and ends on one of the most devastating shots in cinema history. But don’t let that put you off – the film features plenty of scenes of Viggo Mortensen absolutely GOING TO TOWN on some thugs. It’s a crowd pleaser!

What is it with superhero sequels? Part One’s are great (if a little flawed), while Part Three’s are crushing disappointments. But Part Two’s – they get everything right. Spiderman 2 has one of the most memorable comic book villains, combined with an action sequence aboard a train that is unforgettable. And that scene where Mary Jane discovers Spiderman’s secret identity! Love it!

Another cripplingly depressing graphic novel transported to film. Oldboy is inspired by the Japanese Manga of the same name, and directed by South Korean visionary Park Chan-wook. A startling tale of revenge, sexual perversity and live octopus eating. Look forward to a remake from Steven Spielberg and Will Smith – seriously.

The same thing happens with every successful movie. There are those that love it unconditionally, and there are those that hate it with a passion. There has been a lot of discussion about flaws and editing mistakes and blah blah blah. What people don’t realise is the conciseness and effectiveness of this screenplay – it perfectly captures the most significant themes of the Batman mythos into a gripping 140 minute feature. You’re not just watching another Batman film – this is BATMAN, in all his glory, defined, within the one movie.

My mind says TDK is number one, but my heart belongs to Ghost World. Oddball director Terry Zwigoff and oddball comic book writer Daniel Clowes are a match made in heaven. This adaptation of Clowes’ teen alienation masterpiece is a tour de force of sardonic one-liners, art-school spoofery and equally poetic and strange imagery. One of the greatest movie gems of the past few decades – don’t let it be forgotten completely.

UPDATE: Having now seen Watchmen, please move everything down one place.

What are YOUR favourite comic book movies?

One Response to “The 10 greatest comic book movies ever!”

  1. I’d bump Ghost World down, and maybe put Batman Returns on there instead of X-Men 2 or Spider-Man (or, hell, maybe even The Dark Knight), but otherwise it seems reasonable.One point, though – you don’t delve all that much into the realm of manga and anime (Oldboy excepted) and so leave-out truly brilliant films such as Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Castle of Cagliostro.

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