Top 5 (Contemporary) Movies Based on Comic Books

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!


6 responses to “Top 5 (Contemporary) Movies Based on Comic Books

  1. I cannot find any flaws in your list, good work. Personally some of my guilty pleasures when it comes to comic book movies are Blade II, Men in Black and the first TMNT movie. It seems like there are certainly more misses than hits, but it’s getting better with such recent flicks like Red and Kick Ass. Not everything can be a great as Howard the Duck!

    • I never read the Men in Black comics, so I couldn’t really back that up. However, both Blade, Blade II, AND the first TMNT movies were considered. I felt like each different movie I chose represented a larger group of movie styles. Both Blade and Blade II would have probably been included in the Scott Pilgrim category for capturing the style of action, fun, and adventure of the comics. Same thing with TMNT, or at least the fact that the tone of the movie was a lot more similar to the comics than to the cartoon. Glad to hear your feedback!

  2. The term “Contemporary” throws me off. Is that why we don’t see Tales of the Crypt? You like Tales of the Crypt, don’t you?

    Favorite films with source material originating from comic books or graphic novels:
    – Batman (1966)
    – Batman (1989)
    – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
    – X2 (2003)
    – The Dark Kight (2008)

    Honorable Mentions:
    – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
    – The Crow (1994)
    – A History of Violence (2005)
    – Batman Begins (2005)
    – Sin City (2005)
    – Punisher: War Zone (2008)
    – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
    – X-Men: First Class (2011)

    Now you know more about me.
    In all fairness, I am not aware of the source material for much of these movies, and therefore only cite examples based of the filmmaking and entertainment value alone. Also, there are a handful of movies that await viewing for the first time that might be considered. Fart juice.

    • I agree with three of your five choices. X2, Batman (1989), and The Dark Knight are all good. Secret of the Ooze is fucking terrible and the only reason people ever try to remember it fondly is because there’s more memorable moments than the first. The first one is a lot better and a lot darker, at least as far as actual lighting is concerned. All of your honorable mentions are solid choices. Good job!

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