Monday, July 21, 2008

Top Five Comic Book Movies of All Time

After seeing the Dark Knight yesterday, and Iron Man earlier this summer, it was high time to put together a "top ten" list for comic book movies. Of course, a top ten list leaves way too much wiggle room to add movies that were merely good, just not great (sorry Swamp Thing). So I'm making mine a top FIVE list. Also, my criteria is that the movies have to be adaptations taken directly from actual comic books themselves. Furthermore, it has to be "super" in nature; either science fiction, fantasy, or otherwise (sorry History of Violence). I'll do a separate list of superhero movies taken from original material later, and that list doesn't disappoint either. Obviously you'll never have 100% agreement on what the "coolest" and "best" really is, but here they are...according to me, with twenty-nine years of comic book reading under my belt! I should also add, this was not an easy task and may hold more than a couple of surprises for some. The very nature of a top five list puts them in ranked order, but this could have easily been one gigantic five-way tie for first.

5. X-Men / X2

I'm already cheesing out by including both movies under one slot, heh. Bryan Singer's X-Men movies have aged rather well and are both quite good. This goes without saying, since it's a "top five" list and all, duh. I'd put the sequel above the original even, but that would mire the top five list with just two or three franchises. As a single entry, you get two solid movies that do everything a good comic movie should, and leave out the usual pitfalls that most suffer from. Patrick Stewart is Professor X, and 'Huge' Jackman owned the role of Wolverine. I'm admittedly bias too, 'cause the X-Men were my favorite team book growing up. Cumming's Nightcrawler in the sequel was equally good. As a side note, completely avoid the third one.

4. Iron Man

What?!?! I can hear it already, Iron Man is just number four? Hey, this is a top five of ALL TIME, number four ain't too shabby, and just goes to show that the top three must really be something special. Robert Downey Jr. is just about the best cast superhero ever, edging out Reeves' Superman even. The effects, and I shudder that such a thing even has bearing, were amazing and no matter how good the story might be, twenty years ago this movie wouldn't have been the same without them. It was serious, funny, poignant, action packed, beautifully rendered, and superbly cast (and acted). This one raises the bar to new heights.

3. Hellboy / Hellboy 2

Hellboy edges out [most] others because it embodies the original comic book more than the rest, well, as much as the number [three] slot allows anyway. The X-Men were great films, but remade with slick, all-black costumes and a storyline chosen piecemeal from the forty plus years and scores of authors the multiple series had. Batman remained mostly true to its origins, but was updated, darkened, and given a new look similar to, but not the same as, the ancient sixty years of Batman comic history. Hellboy has a single creator and a single director, both with a non-mainstream approach to their respective art mediums, and both with a passion to translate their art forms as true as possible to the original. This movie has remained as true to the comic on every level as possible; the look, the feel, the humor, the script, simply all of it. Mignola was heavily involved with the movies themselves and the result was nothing magically short of a comic book come to life, frame per frame. [Now that I have] actually seen the sequel, [it's with a slightly heavy heart that I know the title won't raise too much higher in rankings]. The Hellboy comics fill a niche in the spandex-wearing hero genre in that it embraces the occult, and what lurks beyond human sanity, rippling on the edge of the waters of a vast Lovecraftian sea.

2. Batman Begins / The Dark Knight

Yes, I've done it again (twice in fact), put one of the 'best' all time comic book movies in a "paltry" slot, and made it a two-for-one deal at that. Just yesterday I pontificated on how amazing the sequel was to an already amazing reboot of our favorite brooding, masked vigilante (unless you count Rorschach, ahem). Batman Begins, even without the masterful sequel is going to stand the test of time. Even though my buddy Brian detests 'origin' movies, after the train-wreck that eventually became of Burton's stellar start to the franchise, they really needed to start over from scratch. Just like the X-Men movies would've failed without Singer at the helm, this new vision of Batman would've never been possible without Chris Nolan's direction. And yeah, it's "just" number [two], mwahahaha...

1. Akira

I said it wasn't easy coming up with this list, but the number one slot came easily enough once I sat down and truly looked at the scope of comic book movies over the long haul. Before manga was all the rage, replacing Captain America and Superman in the eyes of American youth in the late nineties, this little import snuck in under the 1988 radar. Years before then it was one of the most popular Asian comic titles around, so popular Marvel's sub-line of alternative and mature content titles, Epic, brought it over for translation. By then, the comic was ready for film status back in Japan. You really have to see this one to believe it, it is powerful, visual, visceral, and emotionally thought-provoking. A few years back we were graced with a newly dubbed and mastered copy which is infinitely better than the battered VHS copy most people will remember. Today it still holds its own amidst the powerhouse of comic titles and nine digit budgets.


  1. I think the Dark Knight and Iron Man could go either way-- but Hellboy, as much as I love it, just was not strong enough to beat either one.

    Good call on Akira, though. I had forgotten about that.

  2. ...and I mean Hellboy the series in general. I thought the movie was somewhere around adequate. The Liz Sherman actress was just too annoying, it didn't strike me as anything like Liz from the comics.

    Anyhoo, the Akira soundtrack is probably my favorite comic movie soundtrack, too!

  3. I guess we should finalize the Hellboy debate by actually going to see the sequel!