Whoa boy, this is going to piss some people off. I thought it would be easier to make this list, but it was a pain in the ass. Some of these were obvious choices, but there’s clearly one that is going to come as a surprise, but having a top 5 sounds better than a top 4. I’ve also made sure to include movies that are similar in tone to each of the top film choices that by including, I hope you might get a better sense over what I was trying to say. After typing up this list, as well as the reasons, I decided to add in that whole “contemporary” thing. Other than the first Superman starring Christopher Reeves and one of the Tim Burton Batman films, I really can’t say the impact they had. It’s my assumption that they were memorable just for the fact that they were made in a time where comic books were viewed slightly differently. That being said, I still wouldn’t include them in my list, but it’s mostly just because I don’t think any of those films were all that great. Here are my choices, in no particular order, well, other than alphabetical:
The Dark Knight (2008)
Not just one of the most successful comic book movies of all time, but one of the most successful movies, of any genre, of all time. This movie is also one that doesn’t need to credit its success to the titular character, but in fact, practically everything but his performance is what makes this film great. No performance can hold a candle to Heath Ledger‘s in this movie, but both Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman do come close. The city is even a character in it of itself, really giving you a sense of depravity and hopelessness of this world. This film took the idea of superheroes and showed you it didn’t have to take place in some otherworldly environment which certainly seems to have set the mold for most contemporary superhero movies.
See Also: X-Men: First Class (2011)
Road to Perdition (2002)
This is the one I wasn’t sure about including, but here it is. The reason why I chose it was to show the diversity of “comic book” movies. Having actors like Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, and Jude Law lending their talents to this film really showed that it doesn’t matter what medium the source content was to convey the original ideas, because if it’s good stuff, it’s good stuff. Granted, I’ve never read the original graphic novel, so the movie might be nothing at all like it, but, well, that’s a post for me to make at a different time.
See Also: A History of Violence (2005), American Splendor (2003)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
THIS MOVIE IS SO FUCKING AWESOME. If I had made a top five list of last year, this film would have been on it. This movie really established a style on its own, thanks to the directing of Edgar Wright and his collaborations with the original author Bryan Lee O’ Malley. The biggest reason it finds its way on the list is because it is one of the very few films that not only mimics the source material meticulously, but I feel it even surpasses the comic. The reason being that the original story took place over six books, and when I read them, I wasn’t all that impressed and was a little underwhelmed after reading about all the “hype”. The film was able to take the (almost) complete story and edit it down to under two hours. Dare I say that this movie is flawless? I think I dare.
See Also: Hellboy (2004), Punisher: War Zone (2009)
Sin City (2005)
I think it’s sad how often this film is overlooked as a huge visual achievement. I think the comic itself is typically spoken fondly of because of the story, and not to discredit the artwork, but it isn’t necessarily what stands out about it. However, I can’t of any other comic book film that was able to so accurately recreate the look of a comic so well, to the point that Frank Miller even got a directing credit. The story was still really entertaining, but the lengths that director Robert Rodriguez went to make the film look like the comic is incredible.
See Also: 30 Days of Night (2007), 300 (2007)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
I was tempted to say the first film was in my top 5, but this film was able to take the same elements that were used in the first, but by skipping the introductory elements, this film was able to sneak its way in to surpass the original. It’s hard to both have fun with a movie and give you an emotional connection, but this movie really hit the nail on the head. You enjoyed seeing Spider-Man swinging from rooftop to rooftop and kicking ass, and felt genuine disappointment when he threw out his suit. Not only did you feel disappointed personally, but were conflicted with the understanding of wanting Peter Parker to be happy. By the end of the movie, you were both exhausted and energized after riding such an emotional rollercoaster while also enjoying Spidey kicking ass.
See Also: X2 (2003), Iron Man (2008)
You might notice that, although reviewing and enjoying the three comic book based films that came out earlier this year, Captain America: The First Avenger has yet to come out, as well as the potential that The Avengers has for next year. Some of you might call that a copout to not include those movies, and you’re exactly right, but I also think it might be just a little too early to tell how well they hold up. Feel free to leave comments about what some of your favorite comic book movies are!