The movie going public is starving for a big-time summer blockbuster to see in the theater. Over the past 15 years several of the studio tentpoles have been based on comic book characters. Hollywood is going superhero/villain crazy. Complex stories based on more serious graphic novels have also been committed to the screen. Some are good and some are awful. But I want my explosion infused movies back! These are my top 10 Comic Book Movies of All Time. I have omitted using characters multiple times in a franchise. Everybody gets just one. Sorry “Avengers: Endgame”, that is cheating.
10. “Sin City” (2005):
Talk about a movie literally ripped from the comic strips. Working with legendary comic book writer Frank Miller, director Robert Rodriguez brought a near shot-for-shot remake of Miller’s series of graphic novels with “Sin City”. A litany of stars got onboard for this bold visual risk of a project. Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, and Benicio Del Toro are just a few that came to the crazy world of “Sin City”. Told in three different vignettes, like a comic series, the most vile characters one can imagine rise and fall in this atmosphere. A cop with a conscience, a killer with a past, and a hitman connected with a group of prostitutes are the three centers of this noir-style adventure. Sometimes sinning can feel so damn good.
9. “Iron Man” (2008):
I must admit, the original “Iron Man” did not blow me away. The plot is basic and the ending battle with Jeff Bridges yelling “HOW IRONIC TONY!” in a giant suite is hilarious. Yet it has grown on me over the years. Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect example of how to cast the right person for a role. His Tony Stark/Iron Man exudes cockiness while also having the heart of a hero. The action is solid, particularly the scene in which Tony escapes the cave in a junk-built prototype suit. “Iron Man” is really what started it all for the MCU. Also, the reveal at the end that Tony Stark is Iron Man was a stroke of genius.
8. “The Crow” (1994):
“The Crow” is famous mainly because Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) was shot and killed on camera and has since become a widely talked about piece of movie history. A body double had to be used to finish shooting. Yet, as a film, it is fascinating stylistically with its bleak visuals and dystopian view of a city on fire. A young musician named Eric and his beautiful fiancee are brutally murder by several men that were let loose by a big time crime boss played by Michael Wincott. Through supernatural circumstances, Eric is resurrected by a crow and becomes an un-killable hero, unless the crow dies, out for revenge against those that raped and murdered his lost love. Yes, the concept of a man being resurrected by the myth involving a crow is out there. But one cannot deny how visually beautiful this movie is while also containing edge of your seat action along the way.
7. X2: X-Men United (2003):
With the failures of the Superman and Batman sequels in the 80’s and 90’s, things looked bleak for comic book movies. Then along came the live action X-Men in 1999. A huge success that launched a franchise. For my money the best was “X2: X-Men United”. While the first film had its action set pieces, X2 truly showcased the abilities of individual mutants using their powers in a logical way. From the opening scene we get an incredible White House attack by the teleporting blue man Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) as he attempts to assassinate the president. A brawl in the Professor X mansion and a battle between two clawed enemies that includes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) are other highlights of this intelligently crafted action picture.
6. “Blade” (1998):
Before “Black Panther” took the world by storm as the big black superhero movie there was “Blade”. A vampire movie with an edge, Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a no bullshit ‘daywalker’ with the ability to fight evil both night and day, something the other bloodsuckers cannot do. His pregnant mother was bitten just before giving birth which gave Blade the ability to do things other vampires cannot. With his old man partner Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), the war against the undead is never-ending but also worth fighting for. Blade will stop at nothing to eradicate the undead. The opening ‘Bloodbath’ is an all-time perfect action sequence that sets the tone for an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
5. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014):
Few expected “Guardians of the Galaxy” to be a hit. The MCU was rolling, but with characters that were household names. A crew compiled of a tree, raccoon, green lady, juiced up red guy, and cocky white dude does not seem like the recipe for success. Somehow it was, and for good reason. To put it simply, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a genuinely well made movie. Never taking itself too seriously, the adventures of this make-shift group of screw-ups led by Star Lord (Chris Pratt) is a combination of badass action and silly sequences one would not expect. From the opening credit sequence featuring Pratt dancing to the classic jam “Come and Get Your Love” the audience knew in the theater it was time for a uniquely fun joy-ride which “Guardians of the Galaxy” delivered.
4. “Deadpool” (2016):
Out of the ashes of the epic failure aftermath in trying to bring the assassin with a mouth to theaters in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, Ryan Reynolds fought his ass off to get a full-on “Deadpool” movie. On a small budget in terms of comic book movies, Reynolds delivered a hilarious ball of yarn combined with action that is so ridiculous it is hard to take our hero seriously, which is the point. Deadpool simply will not shut the hell up, one of the most endearing aspect of the character. Morals are a grey area when it comes to Deadpool. He was a not job assassin before gaining super powers. But the hero is always there when it is the right thing to do. As long as the bad guys are prepared to get T-Bagged by his balls as he shoots them in the head.
3. “Spider-Man 2” (2004):
Tobey Maguire is not the best Spider-Man by any means. An argument for Tom Holland or Andrew Garfield is legit. However, the best individual movie about the web-slinger is without question “Spider-Man 2”. After the overwhelming success of the first installment, even beating out the new “Star Wars” and third “Mission: Impossible” movies at the box office that year, a sequel was inevitable. Director Sam Raimi outdid himself with a confident Peter Parker fully embracing the hero role. Then the love of his life M.J. gives up on him because of his need to save people. When his personal life begins to go into the toilet, Peter gives up being Spider-Man. Then a new threat in Doctor Octopus (Anthony Molina) shows up and looks to potentially destroy the city. What makes “Spider-Man 2” so much fun is that it truly embraces the big time summer movie thrills. Raimi pulls from his horror movie roots with an awesome introduction to the character becoming evil with his mechanical arms slaughtering a hospital group. Plus, the two nemesis fight on the side of a building and also on top of a speeding L-Train. This is a perfect look at pure fun on screen for kids and adults.
2. “The Dark Knight” (2008):
Batman has always been the most complicated of the high end superheroes. On top of that, the caped crusader easily has the best villains in comic book history. No doubt the greatest of all is the Joker. On the big screen, the best iteration is Heath Ledger’s take on the crazed clown of Gotham. “The Dark Knight” was the pinnacle of director Christopher Nolan’s more menacing tone with his Batman trilogy. The first one was really good. The third one was completely underwhelming. The second one was a masterpiece. From the unexpected opening to the excellent interrogation scene between the two real-world doppelgängers, Nolan made a comic book film that was palpable while also maintaining the aspect of comic excitement. The perfect example is when the Joker is walking out of a hospital being blown up. In real life while filming, explosives did not work according to plan and Heath Ledger gives the greatest arm shrug ever before the building finally goes down. “The Dark Knight” is gritty without losing a respect for its comic roots.
1. “Superman” (1978):
I am a homer when it comes to superheroes and “Superman” is numero uno for me. Many think of the O.G. in tights with a red cape who loves changing close in a phone booth as cheesy. But he’s not. Superman represents what we could be if we put our minds to it. The virtually un-killable flying star comes to earth and instead of taking over the world he strives to be human. Flawed just like the rest of us. Christopher Reeves was head-and-shoulders the best among other actors attempting to put on the “S” labeled suit throughout the years. Reeves was the perfect casting choice to be a symbol of hope. Then there’s Gene Hackman as Lex Luther. For my money, the funniest in all of the right ways villain in superhero movie history. Comic book related content on screen was at one time considered a farce and often went direct to video. Now it is big business. “Superman” was the one that showed this can be big business if done correctly.