As you’ll no doubt be aware if you’re a regular around these parts, we’re big fans of comic book movies here at Flickering Myth. So with the 2013 comic book movie season about to get underway in April with the arrival of Oblivion and Iron Man 3, we thought we’d spend the month counting down our picks for the 25 Greatest Comic Book Movies, beginning on April 1st and running right through to the UK release of Iron Man 3 on April 25th.
Over the past few weeks, the writing team here at Flickering Myth have been putting together their own individual top tens, which we’ve used to compile our list. Any film based upon a comic book was eligible for inclusion, providing it had received a theatrical release either in North America or here in the UK. So, if you’re a huge fan of David Hasselhoff and you’re outraged as to why we haven’t included Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s purely down to the fact that it’s a TV movie. Honest.
Anyway, before we begin our countdown of the 25 Greatest Comic Book Movies, here’s a rundown of the films that didn’t quite manage to make the cut, as we present #50 to #26…
#50 – The Punisher (1989, dir. Mark Goldblatt)
Dolph Lundgren brings Frank Castle to the big screen for the first time in New World Pictures’ loose adaptation of Marvel’s gun-toting anti-hero. Scripted by Boaz Yakin, who would go on to develop an ultimately aborted Batman Beyond adaptation in the early 2000s.
#49 – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003, dir. Stephen Norrington)
Alan Moore’s LXG comes to the life with Sean Connery (Allan Quatermain), Naseeruddin Shah (Captain Nemo), Stuart Townsend (Dorian Gray) and Jason Flemyng (Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde) among the cast of Victorian Era superheroes on the trail of Richard Rodburgh’s Fantom / Professor Moriarty. Moore didn’t like it.
#48 – The Amazing Spider-Man (2012, dir. Marc Webb)
Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man makes his first appearance in our countdown, courtesy of last year’s Marc Webb-directed reboot featuring Andrew Garfield as the wall-crawler, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, a.k.a. The Lizard. Webb and company are currently filming the sequel, with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 set for release on May 2nd, 2014.
#47 – Wanted (2008, dir. Timur Bekmambetov)
Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov adapts Mark Millar and J. G. Jones’ Millarworld limited series, which sees a pre-Professor Xavier James McAvoy invited into a secret guild of supervillains by Angelina Jolie’s master assassin Fox, who wants to recruit him as a replacement for his recently-deceased father.
#46 – RED (2010, dir. Robert Schwentke)
Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren are Retired and Extremely Dangerous in the film version of Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer’s three-issue miniseries from DC imprint Homage Comics. A sequel, RED 2, is set for release on July 19th of this year.
#45 – The Punisher (2004, dir. Jonathan Hensleigh)
Frank Castle makes his second (and final) appearance on our list as Thomas Jane steps into the role of The Punisher for this 2004 reboot, delivering a fan-pleasing turn as he takes on John Travolta’s crime boss Howard Saint and his goons, including the comic book villain The Russian (Kevin Nash, who had earlier appeared as Super Shredder in 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.).
#44 – 30 Days of Night (2007, dir. David Slade)
Josh Hartnett battles vampires in a small Alaskan town in this adaptation of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s horror miniseries from IDW Publishing. Spawned the straight-to-video sequel 30 Days of Night: Dark Days and prequel webseries 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails, while director David Slade went on to develop a Daredevil reboot for Fox before exiting the project last summer.
#43 – Weird Science (1985, dir. John Hughes)
Classic 80s teen comedy from the master of 80s teen comedies John Hughes, which is loosely based on Al Feldstein’s ‘Made of the Future!’ story from Weird Science #5 by EC Comics. Hughes regular Anthony Michael Hall would later pop up in another comic book movie, The Dark Knight, where he played TV newsman Mike Engel.
#42 – Superman Returns (2006, dir. Bryan Singer)
The Man of Steel makes his first appearance on our list – as does director Bryan Singer – with Superman Returns, a quasi-sequel to Superman: The Movie and Superman II which sees Brandon Routh replacing the legendary Christopher Reeve in the lead role. Singer has since returned to the X-Men franchise for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, while director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan will reboot the Superman franchise this June with Man of Steel.
#41 – Spider-Man (2002)
Tobey Maguire’s web-slinger goes up against his arch-nemesis the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) in the first instalment of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy; breaking box-office records to become the then-highest grossing comic book movie of all time, Spider-Man ensured that the genre would become a staple of the summer blockbuster season for the next decade. Meanwhile Raimi and Maguire would reteam for another two Spider-Man films. One of those features further on in this countdown, and the other one doesn’t.
#40 – Constantine (2005, dir. Francis Lawrence)
The directorial debut of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire helmer Francis Lawrence, Constantine is based upon DC’s Hellblazer series and stars Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, an exorcist staving off eternal damnation while he attempts to prevent Lucifer’s (Peter Stormare) son Mammon from creating a kingdom on Earth.
#39 – Blade II (2002, dir. Guillermo del Toro)
Fanboy favourite Guillermo del Toro makes his first appearance in our countdown as Wesley Snipes returns as Marvel’s Daywalker in thevampire action sequel Blade II. Snipes would reprise the role a third time, with Blade and Blade II screenwriter and comic book movie veteran David S. Goyer taking over directing duties for Blade: Trinity, as well as producing the short-lived Blade: The Series starring Sticky Fingaz as Blade.
#38 – X-Men: First Class (2011, dir. Matthew Vaughn)
British filmmaker Matthew Vaughn got the X-Men franchise back on track after the disappointment’s of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine with this 1960s-set prequel exploring the origins of Professor Xavier’s mutant superhero team. James McAvoy (Professor X), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) will reprise their roles next year alongside the majority of cast members from the original X-Men trilogy in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.
#37 – The Rocketeer (1991, dir. Joe Johnston)
The first of two period superhero movies from director Joe Johnston, Walt Disney Pictures’ The Rocketeer spent close to a decade in development hell before Dave Stevens’ Saturday matinee-style hero Cliff Secord blasted his way onto the screen, with Billy Campbell starring in the lead role alongside Jennifer Connelly, who would later play Betty Ross in Ang Lee’s disappointing Hulk.
#36 – Akira (1988, dir. Katsuhiro Otomo)
Based on the post-apocalyptic cyberpunk manga of the same name from writer-director Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira is one of only three animated movies to feature in our countdown and is a landmark film which was instrumental in boosting the popularity of anime on the global stage in the late 80s and early 90s. A live-action Hollywood version has been in development at Warner Bros. for over a decade, with just about every actor you can think of having been linked to the roles of Tetsuo Shima and Shōtarō Kaneda at one point or another.
#35 – Thor (2011, dir. Kenneth Branagh)
The first of four Marvel Studios offerings to feature in our list, Thor introduced the mythical elements of Asgard into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as making stars out of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and providing the main bad guy for Joss Whedon’s superhero ensemble The Avengers. Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) is currently shooting the sequel, Thor: The Dark World, ahead of its release on November 8th.
#34 – American Splendor (2003, dir. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini)
Paul Giamatti stars as Harvey Pekar in this Sundance-winning independent adaptation of Pekar’s comic book series of the same name, which concerns the everyday life of the author and comic book creator. Giamatti will soon be seen in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where is he set to portray Alex O’Hirn, a.k.a. The Rhino.
#33 – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, dir. Joe Johnston)
The second film from both Joe Johnston and Marvel Studios to feature in our list, Captain America: The First Avenger sees Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers undergoing the U.S. government’s Super Soldier project during World War II, transforming him into the world’s first superhero in order to defeat the fearsome Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Community directors Anthony and Joe Russo are busy prepping the sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is set for release on April 4th next year.
#32 – 300 (2007, dir. Zack Snyder)
This is Sparta! Zack Snyder’s first comic book movie sees him recreating the Battle of Thermopylae in an adaptation of Frank Miller’s 1998 series. Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas and his 300 men show off their shiny six packs whilst fending off 300,000 invading Persian soldiers. Director Noam Murro is busy putting the finishing touches to the prequel 300: Rise of an Empire ahead of its release on August 2nd, with Snyder remaining involved as producer.
#31 – Ghost in the Shell (1995, dir. Mamoru Oshii)
The highest-ranked anime in our list, Ghost in the Shell is based upon Masamune Shirow’s manga and centres on a female cyborg police officer and her assault team as they attempt to locate and capture a hacker known as the Puppet Master. Widely regarded as one of the finest animated sci-fi movies ever made, Ghost in the Shell spawned the 2004 sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, as well as the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, while a live-action Hollywood remake has been in development for several years now, with Steven Spielberg attached as producer.
#30 – The Mask (1994, dir. Chuck Russell)
Jim Carrey’s mild-mannered Stanley Ipkiss is transformed into a manic, green-faced superhero known as The Mask after discovering the Mask of Loki, the Norse God of Mischief, in this hit adaptation of the Dark Horse comic book series. Carrey jumped ship long before the sequel Son of the Mask came to fruition in 2005, but has went on to appear in a further two more comic book movies, portraying The Riddler in 1995’s Batman Forever and Colonel Stars and Stripes in this year’s Kick-Ass 2.
#29 – Hellboy (2004, dir. Guillermo del Toro)
A second appearance on our list from director Guillermo del Toro, Hellboy sees Mike Mignola’s demonic superhero brought to life courtesy of Ron Perlman. Summoned from hell as an infant by Nazi occultists working alongside Rasputin, Hellboy was rescued by Allied soldiers and now works with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense to protect the world from the forces of darkness. Perlman would go on lend his voice to the character two years later for the animated films Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron, as well as reuniting with del Toro for the live action sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army in 2008. It may just feature later in this countdown…
#28 – X-Men (2000, dir. Bryan Singer)
After more than ten years in development, director Bryan Singer brought Marvel’s mutant superheroes to the screen in 2000. In doing so, he made a star out of Hugh Jackman, and ushered in a new wave of comic book movies that continues to this day. Singer stuck around for the 2003 sequel X2: X-Men United before heading to Metropolis for Superman Returns, but he’s now back with the franchise he helped to launch, with filming about to begin on next year’s time-traveling sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past.
#27 – Batman Returns (1992, dir. Tim Burton)
Tim Burton was a surprise choice to bring The Dark Knight to the screen in 1989, but after delivering a huge hit with Batman, the up-and-coming filmmaker was allowed near-free reign on the sequel, enabling him to produce a true ‘Tim Burton’ take on Bob Kane’s iconic creation. Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman join Michael Keaton’s Batman in the film, which left McDonalds choking on its Happy Meals due to its dark and mature content. Burton stuck around to produce the next instalment, with Joel Schumacher taking on directing duties for Batman Forever before destroying the series in 1997 with Batman & Robin.
#26 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990, dir. Steve Barron)
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Heroes in a Half-Shell got a live-action makeover in 1990 courtesy of director Steve Barron and was a smash hit, displaying T-U-R-T-L-E Power to rack up an impressive $200 million box office from a budget of just $13.5m. It was followed by two theatrical sequels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), while producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Leibesman are currently putting together a live-action reboot, dropping both the ‘Teenage’ and ‘Mutant’ aspects of the characters for the appropriately-named Ninja Turtles, due next summer.
So, there you have it – positions #50 through #26 in our list of the Greatest Comic Book Movies. We’ll begin counting down our top 25 tomorrow, so be sure to check back here at Flickering Myth throughout April to let us know whether you agree or disagree with our picks…
Keep up to date with our entire countdown here.
Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen – Available now via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.