Best Comic Book Movies? Discuss!

by HELEN GEIB

Whether you see it as a golden age for comic book movies or just an overloaded age, there’s no fighting the deluge. In this month of X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern, with Thor and Priest to our left and Captain America and The Smurfs to our right, let’s talk about movies made from comics.

What’s the best comic book movie? The most overrated? The most underrated? And the evergreen topic for debate- because there are just so many contenders for the title: What’s the worst comic book movie ever made?

10 responses to “Best Comic Book Movies? Discuss!

  1. Wow, there are soooo many. From Superman to TMNT to Sin City and 300… hmmm. There are some fantastic choices. If I had to put some at the top it would be Watchmen, Road to Perdition, V fo Vendetta and Dark Knight in a four way tie. And the worst would be Sucker Punch, for its terrible execution.

  2. I don’t think that Sucker Punch is based on a comic. I’m quite certain that it’s Zack Snyder’s original concept, which is where it fails entirely. Come to think about it, I don’t think that he actualyl has a single good movie. But that’s just me.

    Best comic book adaptation: Sin City (2005)
    Best comic book-based film: The Dark Knight
    Best superhero movie: Spider-Man 2
    Worst comic book-based film: a tie between Captain America (1990), V for Vendetta (2006 – I really liked the comic but I hate the film), and Watchmen (2009)
    Best film based on a comic that no one knows is based on a comic: Road to Perdition
    Worst film based on a comic that no one knows is based on a comic: History of Violence (2005)
    Most overrated comic book-based film: either X2: X-Men United (2003 – it’s just a Wolverine movie and I hate Wolverine; he’s invincible, and therefore boring) or The Incredible Hulk (2008 – another mutant that can’t be killed, and therefore boring; and so was the movie)

    And I’d like to give a special shout out to The Punisher (2004), for being so utterly stupid that it’s hilarious, and to Punisher: War Zone (2008) for just being a ridiculously bad film in every aspect (it’s directed by a North American kickboxing champion, that’s why it’s bad).

  3. Yes, the “Sucker Punch” comic book exists only in Zack Snyder’s fevered imagination. For which we can all be grateful.

    My pick for most underrated- and quite possibly my favorite comic book movie- is the 1989 “Punisher.” It’s a film that’s ahead of its time in its Asian cinema-inspired visuals, the Punisher takes down the Yakuza after the Yakuza have taken out the Mafia, and the sidekick speaks in rhyming couplets. I truly love that movie for so many reasons.

  4. An enthusiastic second for ‘Punisher’, a stylish and entertaining film that no one seems to know. I have a problem with definitions in this discussion, though. Helen, you list only titles that I would call comics (although maybe not priest, which I still don’t know anything about). Nir includes a number of titles generally known as graphic novels. My acquaintance with comic books pre-dates the whole graphic novel development and I can’t quite put them all in the same box. If they were really the same thing, wouldn’t they just be called comics or perhaps adult comics?

    I don’t want to divert the discussion away from movies, though, so I’ll try to be broadminded. I’ve voted ‘Punisher’ the best. My nominee for worst is a movie probably no one else has seen (or was too young upon viewing to remember), an adaptation of the Smurfs in the early 80’s (I think). I saw it with young children and fell asleep, the only time I’ve ever done that until I saw the second Blade movie (is that a comic/gn candidate?). Possibly it will be surpassed in awfulness by this summer’s Smurf movie; the trailer was repellent.

    • As you surmise I was using “comic book movie” as a category catch-all. What we really need is a new, all-encompassing term for comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels that doesn’t have the particular associations each of those terms carries. For instance, as “manga” is for the Japanese industry. (Manga has a whole host of sub-categories that usefully indicate genre, style, and demographic.)

      “Priest” is based on a manwha, which is the Korean version of manga. Though from what I’ve read it doesn’t bear much connection to its source, as is so often the case in these cases.

      I haven’t seen many of the movies commonly regarded as the worst of the worst, but I can say I have no good memories of “Spawn.”

      • Spawn was garbage. I was an avid fan of the comics (up until issue 40), back in the 90s and it was a good comic book series but the film, having nothing to so with the comics and not even having an R rating was terrible.

        Punisher (1989) is a terrific film that has aged terribly. I claim that because I’d watched recently in the last year. Dolph Lundgren was the only version of Frank Castle that worked on screen: he was pale and lived in the sewers and we cared for his actions as a vigilante because he was revenge driven. But the comic character, in general, is entirely detestable because after the initial revenge he simply becomes a serial killer, murdering every criminal in the city forever and ever.

  5. I do like 300 and Sin City, so I’d have to put those on the top of my list. As you said Nir, History of Violence was horrible, I can’t believe it won so many awards as it did. For a film based on a comic book in general though, one can’t forget Spider Man 2. As for worst, X3 was horrendous, as was Spider Man 3.

    • @Aaron, I’m glad that, finally someone agrees with me that History of Violence is a goofy and silly film. And yes, Spider-Man 3, X3, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine are all equally awful.

      • The only reason “A History of Violence” isn’t on my “best of” list is that I can never keep it in my head that it’s based on a graphic novel. Since I don’t read comic books/graphics novels I tend to forget what a wide variety of stories and styles are out there. It doesn’t help that superheroes dominate the movies.

        A few comments have raised the distinction between evaluating the movie on its own merits and as an adaptation. While hanging out with comic book loving friends over the years has taught me the right questions to ask, I pretty much still have to leave the “is it a good adaptation” evaluation to others.

        • I usually never read the source material before or after viewing the film adaptation. I’ve read Batman: Year One, which Batman Begins is based on but that’s it for Batman. I’ve never read the Spider-Man comics aside from the Venom saga (which is why I hate Spider-Man 3); I’ve never read Captain America, Punisher, Green Lantern, Road to Perdition, History of Violence, or the X-Men comics, save for a couple of them.

          It’s like when people watch movies and say, “I like the book better”. I always reply with, “Well, you should never have read the book if you knew that a film adaptation would exist and that you’d eventually watch it.” I’d rather read the source material after the film adaptation because I remove the images from the films that are stuck in my mind while reading the source material.
          Like the Nightwatch films: I implore everyone to skip both movies and read the book series; it’s phenomenal.

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