In the last few years, Superhero movies have become not only easy money makers in the film industry, but quite a few of them are very well made, riveting films. Many deal with redemption, struggling to overcome great adversity, and ultimate victory. The list today runs the gamut from clean cut superhero movies, to comedies, to gritty remakes, and everything in between. Hope you enjoy.
10. X Men: First Class, 2011
When you have a film as bad as the third X Men film, it can be hard to bounce back. To do that, the filmmakers went the oft laughed off prequel idea. This time though, it worked. With a brilliant cast including Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and others, this movie makes memories of “the Last Stand” a lot easier to forget. The acting, as well as overall story are compelling, and you can relate to mutants in ways you couldn’t in the last trip to the X universe.
9. Spider Man 2, 2004
Rarely does a sequel overwhelm in ways that it’s predecessor didn’t, but the Doctor Octopus featured film does just that, which is saying a great deal because the original is still excellent. You feel for Alfred Molina and his struggles and ultimate loss in overcoming the impulses of his steel arms, but he’s a great villain. It’s visually spectacular, and action fills it from the early scenes all the way to the climatic battle at Doc Oc’s river pier headquarters. More than likely the best Spider Man movie ever, if you haven’t seen this great example of how great a sequel can be, do so as soon as possible.
8. Kick Ass, 2010
At the same time a comic book movie about growing up while your head is in the clouds and a raunchy joked filled masterpiece, Kick Ass has something for everyone who loves Superbad type movies and superhero films. Hit Girl is a major highlight of the film, while Kick Ass’ story makes you sad for what he goes through. It’s a different kind of coming of age movie, but the core message is still there. It’s funny. sad at times, and in the end, you feel invincible, much like teenagers tend to do.
7. the Avengers, 2012
More than likely you've seen the major setup of films leading to the massively successful first Avengers. The way director Joss Whedon manages to combine what we loved most from Iron Man, Captain America and others makes this a must watch for fans of the comics. It's a slick, fun action flick from start to finish, and the Thanos tease at the end got my nerves working in ways plenty of films are unable to. In a few months Part Two will be out. If they can keep up with the action and spectacle of the first one, it should be a blast.
6. Watchmen, 2009
This book changed my life. It was among the first to open my eyes to what a comic book with adult themes could be. The film in the itself is a master to behold and although it wasn't a giant hit at the time its regarded and one of the best page to screen adaptations ever. Every scene perfectly gets the vibe of what the book is. Many scenes are spot on in their accuracy and portrayal of the novel. Over decades we grow to hate these characters, love them and understand that they all have flaws but that's where the heart and soul of the watchmen comes out. The Comedian is a tragic, flawed man, while Rorschach is certifiable in many ways, but at the core of the film you get the impression that these figures are all struggling to do what they believe is the best course for the world at large.
5. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, 2010
I've still only even read bits and pieces of the comic but this quickly became one of my favorite movies of all time. It's littered with secret jokes and things you have told see to believe. One of the best qualities about Scott Pilgrim is its value in terms of rewatch-ability. I've seen it dozens of times now and you always hear something new and always pick up something new. Another aspect where the film shines is the cast. Michael Cera absolutely nails the portrayal of self absorbed yet love struck twenty something Scott Pilgrim, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead sizzles as Ramona. The imagery is pitch perfect, the humor is some of the funniest in any movie of the last few years, and from what I’ve heard from hardcore comic readers, it’s very close in spirit to it’s source material. Also, “Bread Makes you Fat?!”
4. Sin City, 2005
Easily one of the most brilliantly laid out comic book films ever, “Sin City” remains an achievement of high standards. First, the cinematography is beyond surreal, and the usage of the green screens and the Noir feel perfectly compliment the style of the comics. The other big success of the film is the way it handles stories in a non- linear way. The world of Sin City is cast, complicated and dirty, and Robert Rodriguez and co-director(But also creator of the comics) Frank Miller seamlessly bridge the gaps between the stories of Marv(played expertly by Mickey Rourke), Nancy, and Hartigan. The whole film has this dark vibe to it, and just like in the book, they don’t shy away from hardcore subjects. Cannibalism, abuse, pedophilia and corruption are served up in huge doses, and it leaves the audience wanting more. In terms of visual stimulation and a Neo-Noir style, “Sin City” is the watermark of comic adaptations.
3. the Crow, 1994
When I first read the comic, I had already become enamored with the film. It’s still one of my favorite all time movies, and every time I watch it its with the same love that I had for it at age thirteen. The story itself is full of Gothic wonder and mythological implications. A man and fiancee die horrible deaths, and one year later his spirit is dispatched to seek revenge so that they may dream in the world of the dead peacefully. It’s an incredibly dark film, but underneath it’s somber, rainy tone, it’s a story of love conquering all. The performances are excellent, from top to bottom, with the late Brandon Lee leading the charge. Another thing that puts it over the top is the music. The soundtrack is full of some of the better known bands of the time(Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, the Cure, and Nine Inch Nails) but even the little known acts deliver powerhouse songs. To this day it still gets played, at least in my house. Among cliche films of the decade, “the Crow” stands out as not only a film that has held up incredibly well, but also a film that will be making people celebrate devil’s night for a long time to come.
2. X Men: Days of Future Past, 2014
This movie kicks so much ass it isn’t even funny. Many fans of “X Men” will remember this story line from the animated series of the early nineties, but the groundwork laid in the episodes completely comes through in the feature film. In the future, just being a mutant is a crime, and it’s a dire situation for the entire race. In the comics and animated show, a major highlight is the unrelenting Sentinels. In the film, they annihilate without hesitation, and they are determined to wipe out the mutants. The film explores this, but we get so much more. We get the amazing Quicksilver sequence, Mystique trying to do what she thinks is best, and well, Wolverine being Wolverine and Magneto fully realizing his villainous potential. I saw this the weekend of my college graduation, and it instantly stood out among its peers. It’s a hell of a ride, and a movie that’s fun to watch again. It even sets up a sort of Apocalypse that will get comic book readers super excited.
1. the Dark Knight Trilogy, 2005- 2012
When deciding how to approach this list it became quickly apparent to me that I could either have these three extraordinary films take up various spots on the countdown, or I could simply make them all number one. The reason for this is simple. All three of these films helped in large parts to bring the comic book movie culture to the heights it currently reaches. If Nolan, Bale and the various members of the team hadn’t ironed out such amazing stories, Batman not only would not have been able to wipe itself clean of the horrible memory of the Schumacher films, but it may not even have been able to continue as a widely known and loved franchise.
The first film, “Batman Begins” struggles to know a man who is trying his best not only to save the city he loves, but also come to grips with the idea of doing what no one else seems capable of. With the help of Rachel Dawes and Jim Gordon, the Bale helmed Caped Crusader digs deep into his connections to not only defeat the Mob, but also to bring down the underrated villain Scarecrow. The main villain though, Rah’s al Ghul, played by Liam Nesson, is masterfully trying to destroy a city that he believes has overstayed it’s welcome in the world.
“The Dark Knight” finds us shortly after the first film, and the Mob is still the mob, but an even more chaotic element emerges. This of course is the Joker, played with manic precision by the late and great Heath Ledger. When he was first announced, it was quite laughable, but as rumors of his performance started to leak out, and teasers were spreading through the internet, it seemed as though they had nailed it. In fact, they had. Ledger’s performance won an Oscar,and the movie(on the strength of the now legendary turn as the best known villain all of D.C. Comics has to offer) catapulted to astronomical success. The fact that I saw that movie about five times in theatres, and have since watched it probably over fifty times speaks for itself. It’s one of the best movies of the last twenty years, and it’s legacy is solidly at the top of Comic book films.
The question is, how do you make people forget about this incredible movie while trying to finish up a trilogy. Well you go in a different direction, and once again tackle a bad guy that can actually defeat the protagonist. That man is Bane, and much like in the comics, Bruce Wayne get’s broken to the core of who he is as a person. Bane serves as the reminder that the League of Shadows is alive and well, and his mission is to burn Gotham and make up for the first failed attempt. Bane is a powerhouse, and his storyline is full of sorrow and strength, but it’s Talia al Ghul who’s pulling the strings, and it takes everything Batman and Gordon have to win this battle. The film also handles the inclusion of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, in a brilliant and snarky way. Anne Hathaway essentially steals the movie(Pun Intended) and every scene with her oozes depth, sensuality and sophistication in a way the Pfeiffer performance wasn’t able to. The action is well paced and in your face, and by the end of it you’re exhausted from a nearly three hour exploration of who Bruce Wayne and Batman really are, and how difficult it is to separate the two. In my opinion, it’s not only the pinnacle of comic book film making, but also the best trilogy of all time.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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