Lists and Lists: The Best Comic Book Movies

The Dark Knight

Did you see Thor this week? It’s a pretty successful comic-to-big-screen adaptation, following the classic formula of lots of action + limited plot logic + Shakespearean trained director + Natalie Portman looking all hot = $$. But not every superhero to grace theaters has been as lucky (ahem, TheHulkDareDevilFantasticFourGhostRider), and with a huge slate of up-coming releases — Captain America, The Avengers, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, to name just a few — it begs the question: What are the best superhero adaptations?

And since we all know that things are best consumed in numerical lists, I went ahead and put one together for you:

1. The Dark Knight:
Yes, this is the most obvious choice we could make, but it comes to mind so immediately for good reason. Christopher Nolan spent the better part of a decade directing films that mixed morally ambiguous characters with mystery and style, from Memento to Insomnia, and he put both elements to work in The Dark Knight. The movie is a paragon of moral conflict — as Batman becomes a living symbol of a dying Gotham City searching for its soul. It sounds slightly pretentious to laud those kind of platitudes on a comic book movie, but at more than two-and-a-half hours, it transcends the genre’s normal limitations. In my mind, it stands up there with Heat as one of the best modern crime sagas. Oh, and don’t forget how great Heath Ledger was.

2. Kick-Ass:
Known almost exclusively to fans of the comic books, director Mathew Vaughn held true to the tone of the original work –retaining its humor, frantic energy, and above-all, its love for all things vulgar and violent. Bonus: Chole Mortez was the perfect choice to play the foul-mouthed, ass-kicking Hit Girl:

3. Spider-Man 2:
You knew this was coming. Spider-Man 3 left a terrible taste in everyone’s mouth, and the upcoming re-boot (can you reboot a franchise when the last film came out less than five years ago and made $336,530,303 at the domestic box office?) with Andrew Garfield isn’t generating much buzz, both of which make this movie seem like it came ages ago. In reality, Sam Raimi’s 2004 flick is probably the best example of a superhero movie that honors its source material. Peter Parker’s story was always about the struggle of having a dual identity, and Spider-Man 2 shows the pull of living in two worlds in nearly every scene. Plus, Doc Ock was always my favorite Spider-Man villain outside of Carnage.

4. Akira:
The truth is that my girlfriend knows more animated movies than I do, but I do know enough to put Akira on the list. Set in a dystopian Tokyo beset by gangs and terrorism, it is a defining film for the Anime genre.

5. Iron Man:
Truthfully, I enjoy this more than Spider-Man 2, mostly because it has more humor and verve. In a bit of inspired casting, Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect choice to play Tony Stark — he’s funny, lecherous and straddles the line between self-aware and self-involved. Plus, OMG u guyZ, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff.

  • Everett Salyer

    What?  No X-Men 1 or 2?  That is sacrireligious!  Also, I don’t think Kick Ass counts since it was a movie before being a comic book (I might be wrong about that though).  And of course, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World should be on this list.  Fail!  We will duke this out! 

    • Everett Salyer

      However, I will give you that Spiderman 2 was slightly better than Spiderman 1, but then again you posted the trailer to Iron Man 2 in a post about Iron Man 1.  Double Fail!  Nerd Fight!  Bring it! 

  • Ryan

     Well, yes. You’re right about the Iron Man / Iron Man 2 thing, but I think they are of about the same quality, whereas Spider-Man 2 is significantly better than the first one. Where is Dittmeier in this conversation?

  • Everett Salyer

    OMG Peters!  Iron Man 1 and 2 are about the same?  Whoa buddy!  Whoa.

    BTW, I was wrong about Kickass.  It was a comic book first, so I give you back a point.

    Dittmeier doesn’t get a vote until she watches every single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Don’t look at me, I didn’t make up the nerd rules, I just follow them.