I know that this list is going to spark an immeasurable amount of debate; There is no way a list like this will please everyone. No way. However, I’ve been collecting comic books since 1988 and have a fair amount of knowledge on the subject. My list, while not the definitive edition of the greatest comic book movies ever made, is my definite edition, and it will change and adapt over time as more movies come out and as my tastes change. There are so many great comic book movies out there that it is very hard to figure out which ones should even be in the Top 5, but after watching many of them and seeing which ones capture the feel of the comic book and actually follow the comic book, I have come up with my list.
Zach Snyder has somehow been sucked into the world of comic book movies. After his runaway hit remake of Dawn of the Dead, he was tapped to direct Frank Miller’s 300, and man did he shine. This lead to many more comic book adaptations helmed by Snyder, but to me this is his best. When I watched the movie, it seemed to me that he went ahead and fired his storyboard artist, and just ripped the pages out of the comic and pasted them to the wall. If you watch the movie and pause it at certain scenes, those scenes will match up with panels in the comic book. This, of course, made the movie one of the few comic book adaptations to actually be an exact copy of the source material. We really don’t get that anymore with comic book adaptations, or really at all. And since all of these studios know that there is actually many years’ worth of source material for the adaptations, they should use it more.
4) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Indie comic books rarely get any celluloid love anymore. Movies like Ghost World and American Splendor have been forgotten for the flashy heroes, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be amazing. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was one of those last hurrah indie movies before the Marvel monster stomped them all away. The director Edgar Wright was almost a part of that Marvel universe, had things not fallen out with Ant-Man. Scott Pilgrim is another movie that really took from its source material, so once again this movie is like a living comic book. It had to have been difficult to craft a two hour movie from over eight mini-graphic novels, but Wright knocked it out of the park. The characters were well developed and the fight scenes were great. I also enjoyed the great cast, and each Evil Ex was a nice surprise to the viewer.
3) The Rocketeer
Joe Johnston is a master of period films, and one of the first ones I ever saw was The Rocketeer in 1991. This movie came out during the Batman: The Motion Picture craze and helped start the huge comic book boom of the 90’s. I remember watching this and enjoying the era it was set in, which in later years would become my favorite era, and the fact that it wasn’t all gritty and depressing. Being twelve years old when this was released helped me like it much more; As you grow older, you enjoy more gritty and realistic movies. At least I do. In this movie, the good guy wins, evil is vanquished, and the hero gets the girl — it’s very black and white. Sadly, life isn’t like that. It has a much larger shade of grey, but when I was younger I understood the black and white much better than I did the murky grey.
2) The Dark Knight
This was a very difficult spot to fill. The Dark Knight is one of my two favorite Batman movies, the other being Batman: The Motion Picture. Both of these movies have one thing in common: The Joker. He is hands down my favorite villain of all time, and I love to watch him in action on the big screen and in the panels. The reason Christopher Nolan’s Batman beat out Tim Burton’s was the fact that it included Two-Face and had one of the best versions of the Joker that I’d seen in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, Jack Nicholson’s Joker is classic as well, but seeing as I’ve lived out some years between that release and this one, I like my characters gritty. Heath Ledger’s Joker tore Gotham apart with no rhyme or reason, and that’s what I liked most about him. A villain that had nothing to lose and even less to gain really ups the ante for old Batsy to stop. I’m excited to see Jared Leto’s take on the classic villain, but somehow I doubt he will overtake Ledger’s Oscar winning performance.
1) Captain America: The First Avenger
All of the Marvel movies are amazing. Even the mediocre ones are great — I’m looking at you Thor: The Dark World — so picking which Marvel movie should be on this list was very difficult for me. I thought long and hard about which movie really had the feel of the comic book, and the first Captain America kept finding its way into my thoughts. Joe Johnston directed this masterpiece as well, and he brought all that he learned about the 40’s into the film. That’s is another reason why I am so enamored with this film: I love the 40’s era. To me, this is when we, America, were at our best. We united to eradicate evil from this Earth, and Captain America embodied it — Even more so when he decked Hitler (on that famous cover). This movie also had that nice black and white, good versus evil motif that I enjoy from time to time, especially since the Marvel movies now have that gray area all over them. This one was still pure. I saw this movie five times in the theater, one of them in 3D just so I could dodge the shield when Cap hucked it at the screen. That’s how enamored I am with this movie and this time period. I wonder if the Wonder Woman movies will draw me in like this one, seeing as they are set in World War II as well.
Writing this list, I knew it was going to be polarizing. No one will be able to agree on a “best comic book adaptation” list. It’s like trying to get five people to agree on a pizza topping. This is my list, and these are the movies that I felt best brought the comic book lore to life. They are the movies that will make me stop whatever I’m doing and watch them if they’re on TV. What are your favorite comic book movies? I’m sure I enjoyed your picks as well. Let us know it the comments below!