The Best of the Genre (All Time): Top 25 “Comic Book Movies”

This is the latest of a whole series here at Grizzly Bomb. For each feature we will examine an individual genre and the quality of its films. These lists will be compiled from a point system determined by votes from each member of the staff. It’s very scientific, we used Excel.

For this topic, in addition to my list, I asked all the other members of my staff to give me a list of their “Top 15 Comic Book Movies”.

Anyhow, as for the results: From the other 16 people asked to make a Top Ten list, plus my own Top 10, it resulted in 60 different movies being named. I’ve tallied up the points, and I now give you the Top 25 of them…

25. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
24. Red (2010)
23. Dick Tracy (1990)
22. The Crow (1994)
21. Thor (2011)

Comic Book

20. Captain America: First Avenger (2011)
Comic Book19. X-Men: First Class (2011)
18. Blade (1998)
17. X-Men (2000)
16. V for Vendetta (2006)
15. Kick Ass (2010)
14. A History of Violence (2005)
13. 300 (2006)
12. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
11. Superman (1978)

Comic Book

And the TOP 10….

*Something new this time around is the AFI Box Office, which is ‘Adjusted for Inflation’…

10. Watchmen

Comic Book

[The Wozz] When one of the Watchmen is brutally murdered, Nite Owl attempts to bring the old team of retired crime fighters back together for one last job. But the public outrage against vigilantism forces the aging superheroes to question their morals and in some cases, even their sanity.

A lot of controversy and polarization came along with Zack Snyder’s adaptation of what is arguably the best comic book story ever told, but no one can deny that Watchmen is one of the most faithfully adapted stories to ever see the silver screen. Punctuated by Snyder’s trademark stylized action, Watchmen feels more like a hypnotizing motion comic than a traditional action movie, yet it still hits all the narrative beats of Alan Moore’s somber graphic novel, which is why it makes our top ten.

US Release: March 6, 2009
Director:
Zack Snyder
Notable Cast: Malin AkermanBilly CrudupJackie Earle HaleyMatthew GoodeJeffrey Dean MorganPatrick Wilson, Matt Frewer, and Carla Gugino.
Oscar Wins/Nominations0/0
US Box Office: $107,509,799 (AFI: $113,817,041)

Best Quote: “Rorschach’s Journal. October 12th, 1985: Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll whisper “no.” “

Trivia: The trailer features the song “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” by Smashing Pumpkins, which was originally a B-Side for the single “The End is the Beginning is the End”, the theme from Joel Schumacher‘s Batman & Robin.

9. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Comic Book

[The Wozz] Scott Pilgrim is a jerk. He plays bass for an awful garage band and he’s dating a high school girl. But when he meets Ramona Flowers, a mysterious American girl with purple hair, he instantly falls in love. Scott will do anything to win over the literal girl of his dreams – and unfortunately for him, that means defeating Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes.

No other movie of this generation has simultaneously parodied and embraced popular culture like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. The nerd culture, the indie music scene, hipster-pretentious teens and our superhero obsession all get a jab and an embrace in this gorgeous and hilarious take on the typical guy-meets-girl flick. Scott surrounds himself with about a dozen characters who all manage to come across as endearing, whether they’re charming, obnoxious, or just plain douchey, making this the flashiest, most over-the-top hangout movie of our time.

US Release: August 13, 2010
Director: Edgar Wright
Notable Cast: Michael CeraKieran CulkinAnna KendrickAubrey PlazaMary Elizabeth WinsteadChris EvansBrandon RouthJason Schwartzman, Clifton Collins Jr.Thomas JaneMae Whitman, and Bill Hader.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office: $31,524,275 (AFI: $31,724,049)

Best Quote: “He punched the highlights out of her hair!”

Trivia: Edgar Wright obtained permission to use the famous theme song from the SNES game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, by writing a letter to Nintendo, saying that it is considered to be “the nursery rhyme of this generation”. He was also allowed to use the Seinfeld theme song for a sitcom-style sequence.

8. X2: X-Men United

Comic Book

[Supascoot] A team of mutants hated and feared by the rest of the world are brought together by professor Charles Xavier, a powerful telepath dedicated to training the youthful mutants under his care to protect themselves and the world. This time they find themselves under attack from the government and William Stryker, who has past connections with Prof. X, Magneto and Wolverine.

Building on the success of the first movie, Brian Singer created a sequel that many consider to be far superior to the original. With one of the greatest opening scenes of any superhero movie out there, X2 changed how many of us looked at the comic movie medium. A realistic look at a fantastical world that was easy to relate to and touched on so many themes of both reality and the X-Men mythos. Featuring an ending that left us all excited for the next one, until we actually saw it and realized the flip side of what good movies are.

US Release: May 2, 2003
Director: Bryan Singer
Notable Cast: Patrick StewartHugh JackmanIan McKellenHalle BerryFamke JanssenJames MarsdenAnna PaquinRebecca RomijnBrian CoxAlan CummingBruce Davison, and Kelly Hu.
Oscar Wins/Nominations 0/0
US Box Office: $214,949,694 (AFI: $283,034,920)

Best Quote: “You know all those dangerous mutants you hear about in the news? I’m the worst one. “

Triva: On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Hugh Jackman related a story about something that happened during the filming of the Weapon X flashback scene: while he was filming the corridor run (in which he is nude and backlit), he turned the corner and saw the female cast members, including James Marsden’s mother, waiting for him, hooting and waving dollar bills.

7. Spider-Man

Comic Book

[Supascoot] High School Nerd Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive genetically engineered super spider and infused with powers making him the Amazing Spider-Man. After refusing to stop a thief, he is horrified to learn that the thief went on to murder Peter’s Uncle Ben, and embraces his final lesson that “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.” Also Norman Osborn goes crazy, becoming the Green Goblin and setting up a villain that will torment Spidey for 3 movies.

Said to be the movie of the 70’s, and then the movie of the 80’s, and the movie of the 90’s, Spider-Man had a spot on the big screen reserved just for him. It wasn’t until Sam Raimi was given the job that the movie finally started moving forward. Fans were unsure of what to think of the film, with many changes and unsure casting, but the moment the movie hit it was well received and provided hope that we may see other heroes getting the same kind of treatment by a director who loved and respected the characters and stories.

US Release: May 3, 2002
Director: Sam Raimi
Notable Cast: Tobey MaguireWillem DafoeKirsten DunstJames FrancoJ.K. Simmons, Bruce CampbellElizabeth Banks, Stan Lee and Randy Savage.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/2 (Visual/Sound)
US Box Office: $403,706,375 (AFI: $551,708,884)

Best Quote: “Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I’m Spider-man. “

Triva: In addition to both Peter Parker and Norman Osborn wearing their enemy’s costume colors during the Thanksgiving dinner scene, Harry Osborn is seen wearing all of the colors. He’s wearing a green shirt, red tie and blue coat.

6. Batman

Comic Book

[Supascoot] Tim Burton’s Batman focused on the darker tone recently exhibited by DC Comics, in large part due to Frank Miller’s time with the character. The film followed the urban legend that is Batman creating and fighting his nemesis Joker, while dealing with the complicated life of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, who is falling for reporter Vicki Vale.

The 1st of 3 Batman movies in the Top 10, it’s a clear indication that when comparing any and all comic book movies, you look to Batman first. What worked, what didn’t and how we can make it as awesome as the first true Batman film in Hollywood. Keaton delivered an amazing performance as a slightly older Batman, while Jack Nicholson wowed audiences with his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime, a role left untouched until Heath Ledger… but we can talk about that later.

US Release: June 23, 1989
Director: Tim Burton
Notable Cast: Michael KeatonJack NicholsonKim BasingerRobert WuhlBilly Dee WilliamsJack PalanceTracey Walter, Pat Hingle, and Michael Gough.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 1/1 (Art Direction)
US Box Office: $251,188,924 (AFI: $504,377,848)

Best Quote: “Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

Trivia: The Joker’s line “Take thy beak from out my heart” (said at Vale’s apartment) is from Edgar Allan Poe‘s “The Raven”. The full line is ‘Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’ (the “beak” being of the raven)

5. Iron Man

Comic Book[Supascoot] Tony Stark is a Billionaire Playboy Inventor Entrepreneur Wunderkind who parties hard and profits big for his company, Stark Enterprises. But when he is kidnapped by the Ten Rings, a terrorist cell in the Middle East, he is gravely wounded. Forced to build a powerful weapon for the Ten Rings, he instead chooses to create a suit of armor to not only save his life, but escape his captors. And iron Man is born.

When news hit that Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark, everyone accepted that this movie was actually happening, and that it just may be good. When some of the first footage was seen, fans were apprehensive but excited, and when it hit theaters it was just that; a hit. Spectacular special effects, great acting from Downey and cast and the villain; played by The Dude Jeff Bridges, who taught me to never try to enter the world of big business. Or make my own suit of armor to take on Iron Man. Jon Favreau delivered a realistic and acceptable world where we could see all our favorite Avengers characters existing, and proved to be the jumping off point for one of the biggest comic book movie epics to ever hit the big screen; The Avengers.

US Release: May 2, 2008
Director: Jon Favreau
Notable Cast: Robert Downey Jr.Terrence HowardJeff BridgesGwyneth PaltrowLeslie BibbClark GreggPaul BettanyJon Favreau, and Stan Lee.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/2 (Visual/Sound)
US Box Office: $318,412,101 (AFI: $352,115,889)

Best Quote: “They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”

Triva: Stan Lee, the creator of Iron Man, had originally based Tony Stark on Howard Hughes, whom he felt was “one of the most colourful men of our time: an inventor, an adventurer, a multimillionaire, a ladies man and finally a nutcase.”

4. Spider-Man 2

Comic Book

[The Wozz] Peter Parker’s new career as a web-slinging superhero is starting to get in the way of his education, his family and most important of all, his relationship with Mary-Jane Watson. As his priorities start to shift, Peter begins to question his responsibilities as a vigilante crime fighter and eventually he hangs up the costume for good. But when Dr. Otto Octavius has an experiment go awry, killing his wife and binding four mechanical arms to his spine, Pete is forced to accept his role as a superhero and take back his true role as Spider-Man.

Spider-Man may be heralded as the movie that ushered in Hollywood’s superhero craze but it’s the second one that became the shining light of the franchise. It just feels the most like Spider-Man, because it perfectly nails that balance between thrilling acrobatics, lighthearted fun and a charming, somewhat corny moral center. Doctor Octopus is unquestionably the best villain of the trilogy, providing some of the best action sequences in all three movies, and this is the movie where Spidey feels most recognizable – none of that whiny, dancing B.S. that would come a few years later.

US Release: June 30, 2004
Director: Sam Raimi
Notable Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons, Dylan BakerAasif Mandvi, Elizabeth Banks, Bruce Campbell, Alfred MolinaDaniel Dae KimHal SparksJoel McHaleEmily Deschanel, Willem Dafoe, Joy BryantReed DiamondVanessa Ferlito, and Stan Lee.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 1/2 (Visual Effects)
US Box Office: $373,585,825 (AFI: $477,660,459)

Best Quote: “We need a hero, courageous sacrificing people, setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero, people line up for ’em, cheer for them, scream their names, and years later tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who told them to HOLD ON a second longer.”

Triva: Stan Lee originally filmed the cameo of the man who shouts: “Hey, Spider-Man stole that guy’s pizza!” But because of problems with the shot it was re-filmed with another actor, and Lee was given a different (but heroic) cameo.

3. Sin City

Comic Book[The Wozz] Three (Technically four) intercepting vignettes tell the tale of violence, corruption, death and vengeance in the streets of Basin City: Marv seeks revenge for the murder of a caring woman, killed as she slept by his side. Dwight gets into hot water when he punishes the wrong abusive boyfriend. Hartigan comes back from the dead to save a girl from a monster.

Sin City features more style and visual flair in some scenes than most movies have in their entirety. The gritty, unforgiving noir is punctuated with bursts of vibrant color  amid the gorgeous blacks, greys and whites of the simulated graphic novel, and it features one of the biggest casts you’re likely to ever find. Other films have tried to jump onto Sin City‘s dark, exaggerated aesthetic but their failure serves as evidence that there’s more to this movie than simple eye-porn. Sin City is in a world all to itself and delivers something entirely unique, which is why it’s number three on our list.

US Release: April 1, 2005
Directors: Frank MillerRobert Rodriguez, & Tarantino
Notable Cast: Jessica AlbaAlexis BledelPowers BootheRosario DawsonBenicio Del ToroMichael Clarke DuncanRick GomezTommy Flanagan, Carla Gugino, Josh HartnettRutger HauerNicky KattJaime KingMichael MadsenBrittany MurphyClive OwenMickey RourkeMarley SheltonNick StahlBruce WillisElijah Wood and Nick Offerman.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/0
US Box Office: $74,103,820 (AFI: $91,791,627)

Best Quote: “Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him. They woulda tossed him girls like Nancy back then.”

and

” It’s time to prove to your friends that you’re worth a damn. Sometimes that means dying, sometimes it means killing a whole lot of people. “

Triva: Despite appearing in all three of the major stories, Brittany Murphy filmed all of her scenes in one day.

2. Batman Begins

Comic Book

[The Wozz] Believe it or not, there was a time when most of us weren’t looking forward to a new Batman movie. Joel Schumacher took the franchise out at the knees with Batman & Robin, and it was hard to believe any revival could undo the damage. Then we found out the Memento guy was directing it, and shortly after that Christian Bale would play Bruce Wayne. Clearly things were going in a new direction, but no one had any idea what was coming.

Batman Begins is about about Bruce Wayne. If you break down the movie, you can see it all the way through. Even in the third act, when Bruce is almost always under the cape and cowl he is still the man, not the symbol. It’s not until The Dark Knight that Batman truly becomes a second identity and that is what makes Begins such an engaging story. No other Batman movie has given so much attention and importance to the person who became the Bat. Begins is about other things, too – fear, corruption, justice – but this is the most human the character has ever been, and it delivers an origin story befitting to the greatest superhero of all time.

US Release: June 15, 2005
Directors: Christopher Nolan
Notable Cast: Christian BaleMichael CaineLiam NeesonKatie HolmesMorgan FreemanGary OldmanRade SerbedzijaCillian MurphyTom WilkinsonRutger HauerKen Watanabe, and Mark Boone Junior.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 0/1 (Cinematography)
US Box Office: $205,343,774 (AFI: $254,357,186)

Best Quote: “What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing? “

Triva: Christian Bale lost his voice three times during filming after altering his voice while playing Batman.

1. The Dark Knight

Comic Book

[The Wozz] After the success of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight might have become one of the most anticipated movies ever, but that didn’t keep it completely free from scrutiny. The decision to bring in The Joker after Jack Nicholson’s beloved performance, combined with the casting of Heath Ledger in the role was baffling to most of us. And the IMDb page showed clear as day that between Ledger, Cillian Murphy and Aaron Eckhart, there would be three different villains in the movie (Just months before, Spider-Man 3 had crumbled under that weight). On opening weekend, The Dark Knight absolutely shattered any doubts.

As opposed to Batman Begins, in The Dark Knight Batman no longer exists as a man in a a suit; Bruce Wayne has completely transformed the caped crusader into a symbol, elevating him far past the limitations of a simple vigilante. The Joker’s brand of chaos isn’t a threat to Bruce, or his loved ones, or even to Gotham, at least not directly. Joker represents something far more destructive than that. He threatens to dismantle the legend of Batman, kill the icon instead instead of the person. In actuality, The Dark Knight has nothing to do with two men on either side of the law. It’s about the manifestations of good and evil, the struggle between order against chaos. That’s what elevates The Dark Knight beyond the ranks of a simple superhero movie and makes it the best comic book movie of all time.

US Release: July 18, 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Notable Cast:  Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Heath LedgerAaron EckhartMaggie GyllenhaalNestor CarbonellEric Roberts, Michael Jai WhiteWilliam FichtnerTommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, and Anthony Michael Hall.
Oscar Wins/Nominations: 2/8 (Sound Editing, Supporting Actor)
US Box Office: $533,345,358 (AFI: $589,799,741)

Best Quote: “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Triva: Nestor Carbonell who plays the mayor coincidentally also played “Bat Manuel”, a parody of Batman, in the comic-based live action The Tick TV series. And Michael Jai White who played the Batman-inspired character Spawn in Spawn plays a gangster.

Also check out our other 
Best of the Genre (By Decade)

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17 thoughts on “The Best of the Genre (All Time): Top 25 “Comic Book Movies””

  1. DICK TRACY isn’t a comic-book movie; it’s based on a newspaper strip. No ROAD TO PERDITION? No GHOST WORLD? Your list is lacking.

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    1. We counted comic strips in the same genre. ROAD TO PERDITION was great, and it was on the expanded list, but not Top 25. GHOST WORLD was mentioned, but I for one am happy it didn’t make the cut.

      Like

  2. Batman Begins was a very mediocre title. The original Batman and Batman Returns were so much better, with a unique Gothic mood and wonderful casting. The Dark Knight was a solid production, but still nobody beats Jack Nicholson as Jocker.

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    1. youre right Jack Nicholson will never be beat as the JOCKER. haha but he did play the role amazingly. but in my opinion i like the way Heath Ledger played it due to how he had an unknown background, all he wanted to do was reek havoc on the city,even if it meant keeping batman alive! he was such a dark character. i felt as though Jack Nicholsons version was just too “gangster” for being the Joker, but everyone’s opinions differ. and i will gladly say that no one will ever play joker better than those two. both were two the same characters but played totally different.

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  3. I’ve one pet peeve with this list. I can agree with just about most of it, but throwing in a Direct to DVD effort like Return of the Joker in place of something like Road to Perdition or American Splendor? Really?! I mean honestly, at least keep it consistent and go either live action or purely theatrical (in which case, Mask of the Phantasm trumps RotJ- which it actually does anyway).

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  4. I don’t think “The Dark Knight” is the best comic book movie of all time. Let’s start clearing that I like it a lot, I think it’s a great movie, but neither the greatest nor the best! It’s too much “down to earth” to be considered a comic book, in first place, and second, there a lot of elements which are not so great, one among all, the soundtrack which is insipid and totally lacking of any style, just an action movie soundtrack. Second, there is not the imaginery of a real comic book, where the heroes and villains have something more than simple human beings, even without super powers, because The Dark Knight and The Joker are just “a man with a mask and a man with make up”. Finally, too much politics, the film looks more like an election forum in some parts, which is something very far from the spirit of a comic book. If I had to vote the best comic book movie, I’ll probably choose “Spiderman 2”, which really has all the elements of a comic book mixed with the psychological approach of a tormented character. TDK remains a great movie, surely a 9 out of 10-score film, but not the best!!

    p.s. everybody cites this, so I didn’t mention it in the actual comment, Batman’s modified voice in the movie is really the worst part! You don’t understand a word and he sounds like chainsmoker!

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  5. I, like Wozz had a very different list from the final product, I’d really like to see all 60 movies that were chosen. But I feel that this is a very contemporary list- I guarantee that if the same group of people were to compile the same list five years from now it would be drastically different. And I am sad to say my number 1 didn’t even make it to the top, even though I’m a die hard Batman and Daredevil guy: the 1978 Superman film is the best of all time.

    Just for transparency’s sake, I’m going to post my picks and encourage all contributors to do the same. Mainly because I want to see what thirty five films didn’t make the cut- I can see far too many of mine were are on a way different path than the others.
    1. Superman (1978)
    2.The Dark Knight
    3.Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles
    4. Blade
    5. Batman Begins
    6.The Rocketeer
    7. Conan The Barbarian-This should count, the comics predated the film
    and had some influence
    8.Speed Racer
    9. Ducktales- Treasure of the Lost Lamp (Scrooge McDuck and most of
    the denizens of Duckburg were created for the comics created by Carl
    Barks in the 19040’s)
    10.Captain America (2011)
    11.The Incredible Huk (2008)
    12. Thor
    13. Ghost in the Shell
    14.Heavy Metal
    15. The Addams Family (based off of a comic strip, if Dick Tracy
    counts, so should this.

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    1. Toni, all of you movies were counted, you’re just the only one who voted for them.

      Personally, my biggest complaint is not that SUPERMAN wasn’t in the TOP 10, but that SUPERMAN 2 (which is the better movie) didn’t even make the TOP 25. That however is what makes it a collaborative effort.

      Like

      1. I never said mine weren’t counted, they were just really low on the list. And it is a crying shame either of those Superman films were snubbed. I just watched the first one recently and was amazed how well it still holds up. I think that it’s simply too upbeat for modern superhero audiences.

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