Wonder Woman is still lighting up the global cinematic box office. Some have claimed it to be one of the greatest comic book films ever. I would disagree with that (click here for my review!), but it’s still a damned good film. However, it got me to thinking…what are my favourite comic book films of all time? That’s a tough one…But I’ve given it a whirl anyway! Of course, comic book films aren’t a genre in themselves, but cover a horde of genres.
However, we all know a comic book film when we see one. And some films surprise us when we find out they were based on a comic book/graphic novel. So here goes nothing! (By the way, a few of these films are sequels…it says a lot that the first, obligatory origin story has been played out to death nowadays. Once that’s out the way, the super-hero sequel can reach for greatness…)
- Sin City
If you talk about visually impressive comic books film, Sin City is up there with Watchmen. Like Watchmen, it’s a faithful recreation of the graphic novel, right down to single frames. Of course, style can’t hold everything together, but thankfully the intertwining narratives of Sin City more than hold things together. It’s a neo-noir thriller with some ultra-violence added in. It’s ensemble cast play their parts very well. But the standout surprise is Elijah Wood as the main villain, Kevin. He literally stands out; being yellow in a black and white film, but his performance is chilling.
- A History of Violence
This isn’t your typical comic book film. It’s directed by David Cronenberg, for starters! But this revenge film, based on a graphic novel, is brilliant. Viggo Mortensen plays the small time diner owner whose life takes a change for the worse after he stops two robbers. Is he all he seems to be, or has he lied about his past? It’s a twisting narrative, that ask more questions about violence than the majority of comic book movies ask. Does violence beget violence? When should violence be used? Is it wrong to enjoy violence? Seen as a comic book movie that openly questions violence, it should be praised. But it should be praised anyway, as it’s one of Cronenberg’s modern best.
- V For Vendetta
Another Alan Moore graphic novel adapted for the big screen? This one isn’t as slavishly loyal to the original novel, changing plot threads and attacking the modern political structure rather than advocating anarchy. Natalie Portman’s English accent could have used a little tweaking, as well. But as a call for people to rally against the government, to raise up against dictatorship, it’s inspirational. Hugo Weaving as V is exceptional, reeling off lines that stay embedded in the brain. Yes, it may be juvenile in its message at times, but it should be commended for being a political thriller that can appeal to the younger audience. For a film to include the line “Alone, a symbol is meaningless, but with enough people, blowing up a building can change the world” is bordering on brave/insane/both, in this day and age.
- Captain America: Civil War
For me, this represents the peak of the MCU. It’s predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier may come close, and The Avengers brought our heroes together for the first time (in a very enjoyable manner!), but this represents the culmination of eight years of cinematic universe building. There’s history between all the heroes we see on the screen, and that makes every character decision and plot twist all the more meaning and emotional. Everything has a reason behind it. Seeing our heroes turn on each other is hard to watch. I suppose there are a few too many fight scenes, but it ends with a fight scene that stays away from the typical CGI-filled climax and focuses on an emotional and brutal fight. Oh, and the airport scene still blows me away.
(click here for my review!)
Judge Dredd was a textbook example of how not to do a Dredd film. To be fair, Robocop already pointed the way. But Dredd stripped down Dredd to its basics, planting Dredd and his telepath partner into an apartment building. It’s similarity to The Raid was unfortunate. But it’s true to the nature of the comic book, being bloody, brutal and unflinching in its portrayal of a society where police are judge, jury and executioner. Karl Urban is fantastic as Dredd, and Lena Heady is on Cersai Lannister levels of evil with Ma-Ma. Add some great scenes based on a drug called Slo-Mo and you have a grimy but beautiful depiction of Dredd’s universe. We deserve a sequel!
- The Dark Knight
Yes, what would this list be without one of the most critically acclaimed comic book films of all time? The Dark Knight deserves many of the plaudits hurled at it. A gripping narrative, a bitter allegory of the War on Terror, an endlessly quotable script, and some picture perfect directing. And, of course, one of film’s greatest villains in the guise of The Joker. Heath Ledger gives us an entirely different Joker to Jack Nicholson’s 1989 incarnation, one that’s suitably chilling, thrilling and show-stealing. The action may be sloppily directed at times (Christopher Nolan struggles with fight scenes!), and when The Joker isn’t on the screen, things slow down a little, but for sheer scope and grandeur, The Dark Knight stands tall.
Could anyone have created a better Watchmen movie than Zack Snyder? That’s a tough question to ask, but I doubt it. Snyder is criticised for style over substance (often correctly), but I reckon he understood enough of the substance behind Watchmen to complement his style with substance in his adaptation. Every frame looks gorgeous, many directly lifted from the graphic novel itself. To pack a hefty graphic novel into a film is difficult, but there’s an impressive amount packed into here without the story ever feeling bogged down with the sheer weight of stuff going on. Of course, it’s been updated for the modern audience a little, but what’s wrong with that? Stylistically speaking, there’s nothing to fault here. Some of the absent storylines from the graphic novel may harm proceedings, but what Snyder put together is more than enough to sustain repeated viewings.
- X-Men 2
Another sequel? The first X-Men film was enjoyable, if over-stuffed and full of origin stories. X-Men 2 added more characters, but somehow streamlined things and gave us a complicated narrative. This saw the X-Men and their foes, the Brotherhood of Mutants, unite against the bigger threat of General Stryker, a man determined to wipe out mutants. Yes, it plays well as an allegory of race relations in the US (taken to their extreme), but it’s also bloody gripping ride, from the best opening scene in comic book film history (maybe) to a climactic battle that unites all the intertwining plot threads. Ambitious and scintillating.
It’s still my favourite film of 2017. Logan was everything we wanted from a Wolverine film: over the top gore and a mature narrative. The plot may be borrowed from The Last of Us, centring on Logan’s relationship with a girl who has the same powers as him. But that’s neither here nor there. But it’s suitably bleak, taking place in an era where most mutants have been eliminated. Logan and Professor X are the notable exceptions. It’s starts off as it means to go on, with an aged and weary Logan struggling to fend off some criminals. But when he does, the gore and swearing are a blitzkrieg on the senses. And it rarely lets up on the tension, gore or swearing. Why did it take 20th Century Fox so long to produce a great Logan film?
(click here for my review!)
- Spider-Man 2
I love and adore Spider-Man (I saw it at the cinema five times!), but I’ll admit it’s a rather generic origin story with its fair share of flaws. The sequel, however, is a thing of beauty. Sam Raimi goes back to his horror roots with quick cut shots of the birth of Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock is one of the great comic book movie villains, played by Alfred Molina. The relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane reaches its peak. Any film wanting to set up a sequel should look back at Spider-Man 2, which sets up a few plot lines for Spider-Man 3 whilst telling its own story effectively. I hope the people behind Spider-Man: Homecoming have watched this over and over again, as it’s the best Spider-Man film yet.
Iron Man 3
Agree or disagree? Any you’d take away or add? What is your Top 10?