We have finally reached our Top 5 Comic Book Movies of All-Time! It’s been a great journey and I would like to thank all of my fellow Monsters who were able to participate in this list. It’s been fun and I truly believe this is a great representation of the very best comic book adaptations to hit the big screen.
A special thank you to Jarred for coming up with the idea and the point system to decide what made the list. It was his idea that created this list and, more importantly, he gave us something really fun to participate it.
If you missed out on the rest of list, where have you been?! Don’t worry, we have you covered at the links below. So go check them out before you jump in to our finale.
I hope you have enjoyed our lists and reading each writers contribution to it. Leave us your Top 20 list in the comments below. We want to know your list too!
#5) Watchmen (2009)
Zach Snyder’s 2009 comic movie masterpiece Watchmen, in my opinion, is the best comic book movie ever made. Not only is it a very close adaptation of the comic, for the most part it is a shot for shot, but the acting is great, and the soundtrack teleports you back in time.
Many people did not like the adaptation of this movie, but if you sit down and do a side by side comparison of the movie and comic, it is spot on (except for the monster ending in the comic). Zach Snyder did an incredible job bringing the comic to the big screen. In the commentary track, Snyder’s love for the product shows through, and David Hayter and Alex Tse did an amazing job of taking Alan Moore’s classic and bringing it to the big screen. Even though Alan Moore did not authorize or like that they were turning it into a film, it is something that he should be proud of.
Here is a short synopsis for those who have not had the pleasure of viewing the film. Set in 1985 in an alternate world history, Nixon is still President and the Cold War is on the verge of a nuclear war. An American hero and crime fighter, the Comedian, has been murdered and fellow crime fighter, Rorschach, is investigating. While investigating he involves former members of the crime fighting group, The Watchmen. These members include Night Owl, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre II, and Ozymandias. Whoever is behind the conspiracy begins to unravel their lives. One caution for first time viewers, there is an abundance of blue male genitals, so be cautious with kids around. But the more you watch it the less you notice it.
The casting of the movie was superb. They did not go with big name stars, they went with actors who would fit the roll and bring the comic to life. Not to take away anything from anyone else, but the one person who steals the show is Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. He takes center stage in the movie and sticks out as the most memorable character. As the movie goes on, you want to see him vindicated in his search for justice. The flashbacks are well done and you are invested in each character as you dive deeper into their lives.
Zach Snyder’s use of music in Watchmen is amazing. It has one of the best soundtracks of all time. “Using Times They are a Changin'” to convey the message at the beginning of the film, sets the stage for the entire movie. That montage is great and really hooked me. Every time I watch that part I always find something new in it. “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkle sets the downtrodden mood to go along with the death of the Comedian. “All Along the Watchtower” is a great way to introduce the setting for the final showdown. Two of the most unique uses of music is “Unforgettable” and “Hallelujah”. “Unforgettable” is not your typical song you would use for an action sequence, but it really works in this instance.
My favorite scene in the movie is when Rorschach is locked up, and everyone thinks they are going to get the best of him. Then you realize that they are stuck in there with him. It takes you into his psyche, and the deep dark places he is willing to go.
This movie is totally underrated as a comic movie and a film in general. It deals with all aspects of society and what is wrong with them, and go deeply into the depravity of the human soul. To me this is the number one comic movie, but on our list I am happy with it achieving #5. — Jarred Collins
#4) The Dark Knight (2008)
How is Captain America: Winter Soldier not in the Top 5? Seriously?! Mu-ti-ny, mu-ti-ny, mu-ti-ny!
And the return of Bucky was just heart-wrenching, ya know? Wow. Shame on you other MoG-gers for not voting Winter Soldier high enough. Can we call ourselves MoG-gers? I like it. We can discuss it offline. Right. Sorry. The Dark Knight.
In all seriousness, I’m not sure what’s left to write about how good TDK was. As I wrote in our #14 item on this list, Batman Begins showed us what a good Batman movie could be. So when Christopher Nolan set out to make his sequel, I doubt there were very many complaints. But who could have predicted Nolan’s second Batman installment would give us the perfect Batman film?
TDK had everything you expect to see from Batman: neat gadgets, punching, nods to Bats’ role as “The World’s Greatest Detective,” a villain so deplorable the audience pines for his death, but so broken the audience almost sympathizes with his madness. Truly, the entire film begins and ends with these two performances: Heath Ledger’s Joker and Aaron Erkhart’s Two-Face. Yes, Christian Bale returns as a very good BruceBat, Gary Oldman is a strong Commissioner Gordon, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was, well, better than Katie Holmes, at least. But this film thrives on its interesting villains and the magnificent actors who portrayed them.
Ledger’s Joker, of course, is so memorable that it nearly needs no discussion, but humor me. So tortured and full of hate, Joker “just wants to watch the world burn” and he’s pretty good at building a fire. So good, in fact, that he ends up like a rabid dog that you hope someone just puts a bullet in him to end the misery. Only, the rabid dog is actually really smart, anticipates the bullet, and makes sure it ricochets off the barn door and hits your girlfriend. At that point in the movie, the audience is basically begging anyone to just end the Joker. Do whatever it takes, Bats. We’ll forgive you. It’s just one death. He’s earned his fate. Please, just end the madness.
Meanwhile, Harvey Dent is the beacon of hope turned madman that the audience truly feels sorry for. We know his actions post-facemelt are awful. We know he has gone crazy. But we also see the upstanding DA that didn’t flinch in the face of Gotham’s toughest mobsters. That dichotomy is what makes Two-Face such a compelling villain: seeing the monster, but also seeing the saint. Batman and Commissioner Gordon’s decision to hide Dent’s actions support what the audience is feeling. The feeling that there was still good there, it was just tortured out of the man. That’s the beauty of that character and this film.
There’s also the fact that Nolan could have left the movie as it was all the way to the death of Rachel/melting of ½ of Dent’s face, then skipped straight to the climactic boat bomb scene and had a complete, perfectly acceptable, and pretty great Bat film. Think about it. If you do that, you get tons of drama, loss, pain, and a new villain (Two-Face) for your next movie. But Nolan didn’t settle for pretty great. He went for perfect, and he hit it. Instead of skipping to that fateful boat scene, he added the infamous Joker-in-a-nurse-dress hospital scene and all the Two-Face action discussed above.
Again, all of that is in addition to what would have already been a really good Batman film. That accomplishment and those additions are why TDK flew so much higher above most other comic book movies. And really, if Marvel wasn’t clicking on all cylinders like it has been for the past four years, I would probably be writing this entry as #1. The Dark Knight was that perfect and achieved that much. — Andrew Fultz
#3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
I never really doubted that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes, the live-action movie from 1990, would wind up in the top five of our favorite comic book movies. I was happy to see it earn the #3 spot, even though it was my personal number #1. I suppose that’s not hard to understand as all of us are in our mid to late 20s and in the target age group when this movie was released.
I took this article as an excuse to re-watch this movie last weekend. I was a little surprised to find that it doesn’t hold up quite as well as I remember. This is a movie for kids after all, so the jokes fall a little flat on my older ears; the fight scenes, with a few exceptions, aren’t as well-choregraphed as I remember; and the basic premise of a bunch of hoodlum teenagers being trained as elite ninjas doesn’t really add up.
If you can look past some of these hang-ups, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still an fun movie.
For one, the puppeteering is amazing. Each of the turtles look real—or as real as giant turtles with rippling muscles and ninja weapons can. The way the suits move and interact with the world adds a level of realism that CGI can’t touch and is a major reason this movie is still so popular.
Those who read my honorable mentions entry (TMNT), will know that I appreciate the character development and relationships in this movie that weren’t present in the second and third movies of the trilogy. Raphael’s is the most well-developed character and his personality and attitude are constantly getting him in trouble. I love the conflict between him and Leonardo and its eventual resolution. The scene where Leonardo sits by the clawfoot bathtub, waiting for Raphael to recover from his injuries, is one of my favorite images in any movie ever.
I think the nostalgia factor is definitely a contributing factor for this movie ending up so high on our list. In truth, there are some other movies that probably deserved this spot. But when you consider, what this movie did well; how it did well 25 years ago; and how it is still an enjoyable movie to watch today; I think you will forgive us for dabbling in a little nostalgia.
Cowabunga! — Daniel Robinson
#2) The Avengers (2012)
This. Movie. Is. EPIC!
What more can one ask for in a super hero movie than a super soldier, a Norse god, a Russian assassin, a sharpshooting archer, a billionaire in gold titanium alloy armor, a secret agent, an angry pirate, and a giant green rage monster coming together to fight a trickster god and an entire alien army?
Not much in my opinion.
MARVEL began production on The Avengers in 2011, bringing in franchise alums Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Samuel L. Jackson, and MARVEL newcomer Mark Ruffalo in order to bring to life our favorite characters from the inked pages of comic genius. Led by mastermind Joss Whedon, this all-star cast is charged to save the world from Loki Laufeyson and his Chitauri army from invading and conquering Earth.
And save the world they do, but not without some bumps along the way: Hawkeye goes missing due to Loki controlling his mind; Thor is thrown from the hellicarrier due to some of his brother’s trickery; Banner is accidentally turned into the Hulk and Black Widow has to fight him off; Captain America and Iron Man are trying to keep the flying aircraft carrier from falling to certain doom; and Coulson… well, Coulson is the tragic victim that inevitably pulls these heroes together. Finally united for a common purpose, these six highly skilled and vastly different individuals avenge their good friend’s death and save the world from being invaded and enslaved. The fact that they destroyed Manhattan in the process is just a minor detail. (What is up with destroying boroughs of New York anyway? First there’s Harlem in The Incredible Hulk and now Manhattan?)
There are just so many great things that come together to make this movie fantastic: the action is tremendous; it’s funnier than it probably should be for a comic-to-film movie; the effects are pretty radical; and the acting is incredible, as well. Although, I wish that certain events hadn’t happened – *cough*Coulson’s Death*cough* – I understand how it needed to happen in the storyline in order to unify all the Avengers towards a common goal. And that is something that is definitely seen from the beginning of the movie, when everyone is at odds and wary of each other, to just before the battle in New York when they are all forced to realize that Loki is a real threat to humankind.
My only dislike about this movie is that some great scenes were cut for time purposes. One scene in particular involves Steve Rogers and his recent awakening into the 21st century. In it, Steve is looking at some SHIELD files on the Howling Commandoes and each tells him the fate of a different comrade; eventually, it ends with a file on Peggy Carter, and that evoked a mess of feelings that I still haven’t come to terms with since the end of Captain America: The First Avenger or the Agent Carter television show. These deleted scenes add an extra element to what the movie could have been, but it was still good enough without them to grant The Avengers #2 on our Top 20 and #1 on my personal list. — Jenna Johnson
#1) Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
To be ranked at the top of any list, regardless of what media it is focused on, you have to be unique. Every film we have listed is, at the very least, considered a good film, but not all of them are unique enough to be considered for the top spot, or even the Top 5. And, I can honestly say, each film in this last chapter of our list I believe to be great movies that took the very best of the source material and turned it into something truly special.
In the end, one film can lay claim to the top spot on our inaugural Top 20 Comic Book Movies, and it is a film that is not only unique, but, in my opinion, completely changed the super hero movie genre landscape. That film is none other than Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
I talked in a previous post about the risk that Marvel took in putting Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot on the big screen so I won’t go into too much of that here, but, needless to say, it was a risk that paid off. Guardians of the Galaxy took a group of characters that only Marvel Comics enthusiasts would know before hand, and made it into one of the most successful movies of the last decade. The film not only introduced these obscure characters to a much wider audience, but as someone who read the great series published by Marvel in 2008, it was everything I wanted it to be.
The script for a leap like Guardians had to be nearly perfect, and thanks to the aforementioned 2008 series by the great duo of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Marvel had a great foundation to build a film adaptation to transition the team from the printed page to the silver screen. And Marvel found the perfect architect to take Abnett and Lanning’s blueprints and build a movie around them: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. The duo wrote a great adaptation that introduced each character and perfectly illustrated the very funny, dysfunctional, and somewhat combustable, team dynamic that makes the group different from other super hero squads. They didn’t try to hide the uniqueness of the team for the sake of making an intergalactic version of the Avengers, but instead they highlighted the fact that they were not the Avengers. Marvel found the perfect duo to make the team stand out from their more traditional super team.
Speaking of what makes the team unique, Gunn’s direction of the film was exceptional as he took everything from the humor of the original series to bringing the Marvel Cosmic Universe and it’s unique characters alive on the screen. The Guardians could have been a disaster without the right person at the helm, and I can’t imagine anyone but Gunn sitting in the director’s chair. Gunn understands the Guardians like Joss Whedon does the Avengers, and his love for the team shows in the final product.
The casting of each character was spot on and, much like Guardians as a property, was a bit different. There really weren’t any marquee names in the same vein as a Robert Downey Jr. or Scarlett Johansson. Instead we got the goofy guy from Parks and Rec and a former WWE Champion. In fact, the only initial casting I was excited about was Zoe Saldana as space assassin Gamora which was the perfect casting for the character. Remember, the first big name for the movie wasn’t announced until later with Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket, but up until that announcement the cast wasn’t an all-star team of big screen talent. Of course, my doubt was wrong. The casting of every character was right on target and, yet again, Marvel Studios proved they knew what they are doing. Chris Pratt as Peter Quill was perfect as he portrayed both the character’s confidence and wit, with the feeling of loss and isolation that makes him relatable. Cooper’s voice was perfect for Rocket as he captured his snarkiness and ego perfectly. Even Dave Bautista did a great job with his first major role as Drax. He perfectly portrayed his physical intimidation and lack of lights in the brains department.
And what can I say about Vin Diesel as Groot. To tell you how spot-on I believe Diesel’s one-word performance actually was, when I read the original series the tone that Diesel gave Groot was the way I read it in my head. As soon as our favorite giant tree said his first, and only word, I was shocked at how much it matched up with what I thought Groot would sound like in my head. I may not be a huge Vin fan, but he took Groot from the panel to the big screen perfectly for this comic book fan.
If Iron Man gave us the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then Guardians of the Galaxy radically changed it. It showed that Marvel has a rich tradition of characters beyond the Avengers and, with the right direction and casting, can be just as successful. Guardians introduced a corner of the Marvel Universe that even the publisher rarely touched until the late 2000s, and made it into to a movie that both hardcore comic fans can appreciate and the casual movie fan can enjoy. That is why Guardians is more than deserving of the top spot on our Top 20 Comic Book Movies. — Aaron Collier