Top 15 Comic Book Superhero Movies
If 2011 hadn’t been inundated enough with comic book adaptations, then 2012, the year of the alleged Mayan predicted apocalyptic disaster, wouldn’t let us go out without a bang.The year promises to send graphic novel fans, nerds and teenage boys alike into a speech bubble related frenzy. Following last years’ The Green Lantern, X-Men, Thor AND Captain America: The First Avenger, we are finally going to be able to see with our own eyes the three most anticipated movies of the summer.
This year we have a killer line-up including both a suped-up and rebooted Amazing Spiderman starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, and the Avengers, finally assembled with Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow and Nick Fury all being present and correct thanks to action and sci-fi fan Joss Whedon.
Perhaps most exciting of all, The Dark Knight Rises is due to hit the screens in July with a star-studded cast of Christian Bale, Michael Cane, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman all set to fight alongside Gotham’s latest residents Anne Hathaway, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Tom Hardy who will star as the deadly Bane. For this very reason, we at Movie Farm have compiled a Top Fifteen of the most thrilling, exciting and memorable comic book super-hero movies of all time…
15. Darkman (1990)
A lesser known Sam Raimi stab at the comic book world was the suitably elusive Darkman. Starring Liam Neeson, Raimi’s creation pays homage to DC’s ‘Unknown Soldier’ and is the only superhero on the list who was created outside of a comic strip and purely for a film adaptation. Following a bizarre science experiment to heal skin, Dr. Peyton Westlake is horrifically burned in an explosion. Able to pose as various criminals using his synthetic skin with his increased strength and agility, he isn’t exactly the typical gun-toting hero we’re used to seeing. Although he is definitely not the sort you’d want to mess with.
14. X-Men 2 (2003)
Having been held to such esteem in the comic book world, it would unfair not to mention the X-Men franchise at all on this list. Unfortunately picking one title out of a batch of mismatched movie sequels that diminished the whole series quite significantly is difficult. Overall, the best title of the initial trilogy has to be the second instalment X2. Slugging it out once again are the excellently cast Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan as Professor X and Magneto respectively. Except this time they are actually putting their decades-long feud aside and joining forces against William Stryker (Brian Cox), a villain who wishes to destroy all mutants. With the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants working together we were allowed more opportunity to witness more of each characters’ backstories, though predominantly those of Jean Grey and Wolverine, whilst also being able to enjoy observing the equally awesome and varied mutant powers of the students at X Academy. Hugh Jackman is particularly memorable although male fans might be able to conjure recollections of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos’ Mystique costume with more ease.
13. Batman (1989)
As an avid comic book fan and former B-Movie geek, it would have been unavoidable for Tim Burton to lend his creative hands to camping up one of the most (already) camp (yet masterfully dark) superheroes of the 1960′s. Ditching Adam West’s tights and his trusty silk stockinged sidekick Robin, Burton cast Beetlejuice star Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight in this wonderfully kitsch and gothic adaptation of Bob Kane’s ‘caped crusader’. Filled with pithy dialogue, cartoonish art direction and a re-imagined S&M bat-suit, this version long held the title of ‘best Batman movie’ until Christopher Nolan came along. Though the two films are brilliant and yet very different beasts in their own right, Burton’s stays truer to the more nostalgic Batman we all remember. Starring Jack Nicholson as The Joker exactly as he was intended, the first movie was followed by an equally thrilling sequel with Michelle Pfeiffer as the sexiest catwoman since Julie Newmar and Danny DeVito as the creepiest incarnation of the penguin that anyone will ever see.
12. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Whilst X-Men and X2 were not without their charm, it’s the latest reboot that seems to be a lot more promising than the muddled canon Bryan Singer began in 2000. Focussing this time on a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), his latter-day enemy Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) and the friendship they built during the 1960′s, this re-imagining by Michael Vaughn is a fresh take on the ‘origins’ idea which greatly disappointed the first time around (Wolverine movie? Never again!). Though not without its flaws, the film stays close to the First Class canon in which the narrative was revamped by Jeff Parker for a new audience. Not only does former About A Boy star Nicholas Hoult shine as Dr. Hank McCoy, the scientist destined to become ‘Beast’, but we meet a whole host of new characters that unfortunately never appeared in the initial trilogy much to fan’s dismay. An outstanding performance from Fassbender as the haunted and almost Bond-esque Lensherr has already given way to a promising sequel.
11. Thor (2011)
Yes, he is one of the Avengers and yes, Kenneth Brannagh only released his blockbuster in the past year, but the film itself is actually extremely well done and deserves its godly kudos. With credit to comic legend Stan Lee, the mythos of the Norse god of Thunder, Thor, was retold and set in our present day with the handsome Chris Helmsworth waving his hammer about like a booming-voiced ale-loving maniac. The story tells us of our hero being kicked out of Asgard after breaking a truce between his people and the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, a truce set many years before by his father Odin. Exiled to earth, stripped of his powers and unable to ascend the throne he is discovered by Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings and accepted into the mortal realm. Meanwhile, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes over Asgard goes a bit power mad requiring Thor to save the day. We won’t give too much away but it’s safe to say that Nick Fury turned up after the credits.
10. Blade (1998)
A hero who is consistently forgotten in favour of X-Men or Hulk is Blade. Starring Wesley Snipes as Marv Wolfman’s Marvel creation, the film features Blade the Day-walker; a child born of a human mother yet one who possesses the supernatural powers of a vampire. After his mother is bitten by a vampire shortly before she gives birth to her son, he grows up swearing to avenge her death by hunting and slaying them. Between discovering plans to harvest humans like cattle and preventing evil, ancient rituals, Blade ditches the conventional superhero garb for sunglasses and a leather trench coat thus spawning a trend in the ‘anti-hero’ superhero who made brooding Bruce Wayne seem cheerful and chirpy.
9. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
All it took was the charming, former Human Torch Chris Evans to be cast as Captain America in order to reinvent the wholesome hero for a global audience and inject some much needed life into Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s wartime warrior. Self-parodying and full of nostalgia, 2011′s Captain America: The First Avenger marked the final cornerstone in the assembly of the Avengers but not before we learned how small, skinny Steve Rogers became the muscle behind Uncle Sam during the heyday of World War II. Watch out for links to Stark Enterprises and Thor whilst, of course, marvelling at the good American spirit of Rogers as he battles it out in real time with Red Skull, a man even the Nazi’s feared, brilliantly portrayed by The Matrix’s Hugo Weaving.
8. Flash Gordon (1980)
Gordon’s alive! Alex Raymond probably never anticipated a film to be made of his 1930′s comic strip of the same name but the 1980′s was a time of amazing fantasy and future films so Mike Hodges took on the duty of directing this childhood favourite and ultimate sci-fi romp. Starring Sam J. Jones stars as the Earthling football star Flash Gordon who must face the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow) by travelling to the planet Mongo, stopping him from wreaking havoc upon planet Earth. With some obvious post-1970′s cheesiness, special effects and now-veteran British actors thrown into the mix, Flash Gordon was the ultimate kid’s adventure movie where good defeats evil despite all the inappropriate space bikinis. Of course, any movie also automatically becomes ten times more memorable if it involves Brian Blessed.
7. Watchmen (2009)
There may be some dispute over this one featuring on our list but despite author Alan Moore’s reservations about his work being made into a feature film, he publicly commented that he wasn’t all too disappointed with 300 director Zack Snyder’s attempt. Taken directly from Moore’s iconic graphic novel, the movie version is almost a whopping three hours long – and that isn’t even including the short animated film, the director’s cut scenes and the accompanying mockumentary on The Minutemen which features on the DVD. It was never going to be an easy task but Snyder did an excellent job of capturing the dark, existential and foreboding spirit of Watchmen in a twisted world where the US is at the brink of a nuclear war and superheroes have been banned by the Government. Worst of all, The Comedian, one of the most notorious superheroes of all time has been murdered, but by whom?
In all its high definition glory we see Malin Ackerman, Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup and Jackey Earle Haley in their roles as The Silk Spectre, Night Owl, Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach respectively. The novel really is a standalone work of art but for those who prefer a visual version they should definitely witness this fine film, which however awe-inspiring, still can’t do Moore’s story enough justice.
6. Superman (1978)
The late Christopher Reeve epitomised everything that we envisioned our most recognisable comic book hero of all time to be. Handsome, strong, honest and good natured – did we mention he had always worn tights and a cape under his suits? Okay, perhaps not in real life but the original 1978 Superman movie by Richard Donner showed us America’s greatest hero as he was always meant to be. Flying in a wondrous blur of red and blue, shooting lasers out of his eyes, lifting heavy objects for no apparent reason and snogging Lois Lane. By day, Reeve plays the modest bespectacled Metropolis reporter Clark Kent but a mere telephone box transforms him into a cosmic hero from the planet Krypton, sent to Smallville to escape his dying planet. The legend of superman is an old one dating back to the 1930′s but with a star-studded cast including Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane and Gene Hackman playing Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luther, this movie goes down in history as one of the first big-hit superhero movies of all time.
5. Hellboy (2004)
Proving that DC and Marvel don’t rule the comic book world is Mike Mignola’s ‘big red’ creation Hellboy, based on the comic originally published by Dark Horse. Starring Ron Perlman and John Hurt, the story begins in 1944 where a group of US soldiers thwart a Nazi occultist experiment to open a portal to another realm with a reanimated Rasputin and creepy SS scientist Kroenan at the helm. Thus Hellboy enters our world as a cigar smoking, cat loving, quip making demon with a giant hand. It seems that Perlman was born to play the part of Hellboy whilst his loyal crack team at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence are equally as enjoyable to watch. Directed by the innovative Guillermo Del Toro, the man behind Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro wooed fans with his accurate depiction of the alternate universe where devilish creatures and undead Nazi’s roam free.
4. Kick-Ass (2010)
Before X-Men: First Class, director Matthew Vaughn showed his superhero expertise with his adapted screenplay for Kick-Ass, co-written by Jane Goldman. Taken directly from the graphic novel by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., it was the first superhero movie to portray what would actually happen if us regular folk tried to emulate the masked vigilantes we see in comic books. Unfortunately, it turns out the consequences leave a lot to be desired. Angry that there is nobody to fight real crime and in an attempt to woo his crush Katie (Lyndsey Fonseca), Aaron Johnson plays high school geek Dave who takes it upon himself to become New York’s superhero. After hiring a bizarre looking ski suit he puts his lack of skills and superpowers to the test. He soon discovers that the superheroes which seem to be absent from his universe are actually real in the form of a potty-mouthed 11-year-old deadly assassin Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and her Batman lookalike father Big Daddy played by Nicholas Cage in the best performance of his career; complete with a wooden Adam West style delivery.
3. Iron Man (2010)
Who else could play the cock-sure playboy millionaire, scientific genius and self-made superhero Tony Stark than Robert Downey Jr., a man who truly has been to hell and back? Directed by action and comic book fan Jon Favreau, we see how Iron Man himself came to be after being kidnapped by terrorists and engineering himself a electric heart generator thing as well as a gnarly suit of armour to help him escape. With personal assistant Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) at hand, we also get our first taste of the many Marvel action heroes to come as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) makes an impromptu appearance after the credits to invite Stark to join S.H.I.E.L.D.. 2010′s Iron Man 2 also proved a thrilling watch as Stark battled with Ivan Vanko and had to deal with being the first publicly outed superhero. Not only is Iron Man a great popcorn movie, it gears us up for Captain America, a film that makes subtle nods toward Starks’ father Howard. Undoubtedly, if Apple made superheroes, they would look like Iron Man.
2. Spider-man (2002)
Sam Raimi, the director who gave us The Evil Dead and Drag Me To Hell, turned his hand from the grim and gruesome to the re-telling of clean cut Peter Parker and his transformation into Spider-Man. No stranger to masked avengers, Raimi cast a young Tobey Maguire as the sweet but nerdy Parker. He is just a regular guy who lives with his aunt and uncle and is helplessly in love with his neighbour Mary Jane Watson (portrayed here by an innocent and charming red-headed Kirsten Dunst). That is until he is bitten by a radioactive spider. Following Stan Lee’s creation as closely as possible, Spider-man became a huge blockbuster hit praised for its amazing special effects, cast of hot, young talent and rock anthem soundtrack. Audiences swooned to see the good-hearted Spider-man win the girl and defeat the evil Green Goblin just as every hero should. Unfortunately, the sequels that followed failed to follow in the success of this first effort. Of course, no review of Spider-man should ever go without mentioning that uber-erotic upside down kiss in the rain which made the sex scene in Titanic seem as boring and unsexy as knitting with your Grandma.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Christopher Nolan’s second instalment of his very own Batman canon is perhaps one of the greatest comic-to-movie adaptations – not to mention one of the most impressive films – of the last ten years. Reprising his role as Gotham’s husky-voiced vigilante is Christian Bale, this time facing new arch-nemesis The Joker. The legendary performance by late Heath Ledger won him a post-humous Oscar for his chilling portrayal. Like many of the celluloid versions of the Batman versus Joker formula that went before, Nolan took inspiration from Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, published DC Comics 1988, to make his Joker a mutilated, psychopathic terrorist as opposed to Jack Nicholson’s giggling prankster. Supported by a cast of Aaron Eckhart as fallen hero Harvey Dent (fans should check out The Long Halloween for reference) and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Bruce Wayne’s love interest Rachel Dawes, the movie managed to capture the perfect balance of comic book fantasy and dark, realistic grit in a breathtaking 150 minutes. Truly one of the best.
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