With the release of Deadpool and its unexpected success, it is now time to rank the film among the greatest comic book films of all-time.
Box Office Mojo has a list of 136 films they consider were adapted from comic books. From the 1978 Superman to The Peanuts film of 2015, and everything in between. Animated films will not be considered as we are looking for the best live-action version of the source material. I do apologize to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm as it is a great film I fondly remember viewing in the theater. This list will cover the past 38 years of filmmaking.
Deadpool is definitely in the Top 15 Comic Book Films Of All-Time, but it gets really hard to find room for the film in the Top 10. Currently, on my list, I have Sin City at ten. Is Deadpool better than Sin City? That’s a tough call. Deadpool is funnier than Sin City; Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick push the script further than Frank Miller did with his books. Visually, Miller and Robert Rodriguez create a masterpiece. Ryan Reynolds gives the comic book world something new, and he and his crew deserve tons of credit for their hard work, but film-wise it’s Lethal Weapon.
Sin City is a work of art and that is why it remains in the Top 10.
10. Sin City
April 1, 2005
Directors: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Frank Miller
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
April 4, 2014
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
This is where Marvel Studios matures the Marvel Cinematic Universe and gives the audience something new. The Winter Soldier is The Dark Knight of the MCU. Less camp than the first film and Steve Rogers evolves as a character, and the final battle between the Winter Soldier and Captain America is one for the ages. Rogers takes a beating to save his friend.
8. X2: X-Men United
May 2, 2003
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Zak Penn, David Hayter, Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter
If you are an X-Men fanatic, this is number one on your list. So many great moments in this film; Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, Hugh Jackman goes full Wolverine, the death of Jean Grey and teaser of the Phoenix. Singer handles the huge cast; the stakes are high, and the finale works.This the X-Men film that all others are compared against.
7. The Crow
May 13, 1994
Director: Alex Proyas
Writers: James O’Barr, David J. Schow, John Shirley
The tragic death of Brandon Lee will continue to cast a shadow on this film, but Alex Proyas created a dark, gritty film of character and style. The soundtrack propels this film to the next level as this was the height of grunge music; The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against The Machine were all used in a way to create great emotion.
June 23, 1989
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Warren Skaaren, Sam Hamm
The Batman cinematic universe is a world that Tim Burton was destined to create in 1989. This version of Batman influenced a generation, just ask Bruce Timm. The look and feel of the film respected the Batman mythos but yet raised the bar with originality. Kim Basinger defined what it meant to be Vicki Vale. Top that off with Jack Nicholson’s performance as the Joker and you have a great film.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
August 1, 2014
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
James Gunn took the world by storm the summer of 2014 with a band of wise-cracking misfits and a great soundtrack. The visually stunning film expanded the MCU into the cosmic realms, introducing bizarre characters and plot threads. What is so surprising about this movie is Gunn figured out how to make it all work, because at the time he was a relative unknown property. Chris Pratt went from sidekick to superstar with his performance as Peter Quill/ Star-Lord.
4. Iron Man
May 2, 2008
Director: Jon Favreau
Writers: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
No one was prepared for Robert Downey Jr. to storm the gates of Hollywood as Tony Stark in his Iron Man suit. Downey with some help from Jon Favreau redefined the summer blockbuster and paved the way for the plethora of comic book films that are coming out on a regular basis. Since 1978, 78 comic book films were produced before Iron Man, 60 films have been made in the past 7 years. Iron Man is the gold standard when it comes to the summer blockbuster. The film makes kids and adult alike want to heroes.
3. The Dark Knight
July 18, 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Only a few months after the release of Iron Man, Christopher Nolan deconstructs what it means to be a big budget comic book film. Every detail of this film has a feel and scope unlike no other. The opening scene sets a tone and Heath Ledger’s performance carries said tone till the credits roll. There is ample reason why The Dark Knight is called the Godfather of the comic book film genre.
2. Spider-Man 2
June 30, 2004
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon, Alvin Sargent
Director Sam Rami was dialed in for Spider-Man 2, creating a world and a hero that complemented the iconic stature of Spider-Man. Alfred Molina looks and portrays Doctor Octopus to perfection. J.K. Simmons steals the show as J. Jonah Jameson. Visually, the battles between Spider-Man and Doc Ock take filmmaking to the next level. Tobey Maguire nails the angst of Peter Parker as he has to choose between the girl and saving the city. Spider-Man 2 is the kind of Spider-Man film we haven’t seen again.
December 15, 1978
Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton, Tom Mankiewicz
At one point in time, the stars aligned to bring together a great director and a star-studded cast for an adaptation of a pop culture icon in Superman. Warner Bros. captured lighting in a bottle by casting a relative unknown in Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent, and then surrounding him with a supporting cast of Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, and Margot Kidder. No actress since has come close to Kidder’s performance as Lois Lane. The visuals may not be as over the top as the CGI today, but in 1978, everyone in that theater believed every spectacle presented before their eyes. Then add an original score by John Williams as the icing on the cake and you have the number one comic book film of all-time.
Films that didn’t make the Top 10 but were right on the edge:
Road to Perdition
History of Violence
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
30 Days of Night
X-Men: Days of Future Past
What is your all-time favorite comic book film?