With Comic-Con wrapping up this year, I thought it would be nice to take a moment and look at the greatest Comic Book movies of all time.
There have been several comic properties that have been optioned and many of them have been awful. I believe the main reason for this is that those who make this failed cinematic pieces of colorful garbage don't truly understand the property that they are inheriting. One needs only point to Joel Schumacher's visual vomit called Batman and Robin.
I have found that the ones that work the best are the ones who understand the material and know how to get to the main themes, while realizing that movies are not always serialized storytelling, where you can take a year to tell and origin story.
So here are the 10 Best Comic Book Movies:
Nolan followed the same origins path that was used in the first Superman, and this is a good thing. But what he did that was a huge improvement on the Tim Burton film, was that he realized that the movie was about Batman, not the villain. Batman Begins, sets the table for the rest of the trilogy and shows us how a lonely, messed-up orphan found his way to becoming the great hero that he is. The movie also does a great job of interweaving the theme of overcoming fear into the plot and character development.
- Iron Man (2008)Fun from start to finish, thanks to Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. I still maintain that the main success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be traced back to this film, particularly Downey Jr. His Iron Man is a rogue, a scoundrel, a loveable lush. But the movie is far from cynical. In fact, the great fun is watching Downey's ironic armor melt away to something like sincerity so that he can put on his “iron” armor.
8. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
A worthy followup to the original that makes you sad that Richard Donner was not able to truly complete his vision. Donner was fired after shooting much of the footage and the inferior Richard Lester took over as director. But putting Donner's Cut together, you can see the much darker turn this movie had, with a smarter Lois and an iconic Terrence Stamp as Zod.
7. Road to Perdition (2002)
Sam Mendes' bleak tale of an assasin and his son on the road during the height of prohibition is achingly beautiful, violent, and sad. Tom Hanks and Paul Newman give great performances as men conflicted by their affections and their compulsions. The gravity of the line, “I'm glad it's you,” hits like a fist to the chest. And the moral ambiguity is cathartically wrapped up in the last line of the movie.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
This movie is insane, by that I mean insanely good. Director Edgar Wright gives one of the most visually stimulating pieces of cinema I have seen in a long time. Watching Scott Pilgrim is like walking into a dream. But Wright captures with odd and exact precision the emotions that his characters go through. But when he showed sadness, rejection, elation, or triumph in some new and funky visual and shows them in such unique ways I couldn't escape the feeling that the image mirrored what I felt in my own life.
5. Man of Steel (2013)
I know that reviews have been mixed about this, but I truly love this movie. Aside from the shakey-cam, Zack Snyder gave us a movie full of excitement and visual spectacle, but also one with great heart and moral weight. I felt Clark's burden throughout the entire film. And I cheered every time he sent one of the alien bad guys flying through the air with his mighty fist.
4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan's conclusion to his Batman epic is long and it is dense. But that is because he tries to wrap up all of his plots and themes in a satisfying way. And the movie is exciting while at the same time examining deeply human themes like sacrifice, fairness, and courage. Tom Hardy's Bane is completely terrifying and acts as a metaphorical mountain that Batman is unsure he can conquer. Very cathartic.
- The Avengers (2012)There is no movie on this list that is more fun that The Avengers. Even after dozens of viewings, I can still pop this movie in and enjoy every minute of it. Joss Whedon does a fantastic job of intergrating characters from their own franchises in a way that does not diminish them. In fact, together they are more than the sum of their parts. And it is a delight to watch this witty, action-packed adventure movie over and over again.
- The Dark Knight (2008)This is the best of the Batman movies. Much is made of Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance as the Joker, and rightly so. But the movie does not fall into the above mentioned trap that making the movie about this killer clown. He is the catalyst for our three main heroes: Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Dent, must pass through a crucible of fire (represented by the opening blue flames) and come out the other side. They are damaged and beaten, but this powerful investigation into the best and worst of human nature continues to move with its heavy heart.
- Superman (1978)I have written much about this movie already. The tag line is: You will believe a man can fly. The main credit for this goes to Christopher Reeve. What could have been a simply sci-fi action film is a mythological epic that fleshes out the character that is full of magic and wonder. I recently had a discussion with a fellow fan about this movie. He pointed out that the first hour of Clark's journey is a sweeping, lush drama. But Metropolis is filled with cartoonish damsels and dangers. But I said that this was part of the point. In Clark's world, Metropolis is the land of make-believe where he plays the character “Clark Kent.” In Metropolis, the most real and genuine person is Superman. This gives his character a dramatic gravity that makes you believe in not only his powers but in his goodness. Amazing film!