10. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: While this animated movie isn’t based on a specific comic per say (although a comic adaptation was released later), it remains one of my favorite Batman films. Like many kids of the nineties, I was a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series and this is a bigger version of the TV show with better animation and a larger scope. It really delves into Bruce Wayne’s motivations for being Batman and how he approaches romantic relationships. There are incredible action scenes and everything has a gorgeous art deco design.The musical score is excellent as well. It’s often overlooked as far as Batman films are concerned.
9. X-Men: First Class: I am a huge fan of X-Men, but as a whole, I have been disappointed with the films. This is the only film that got it right, in my opinion. It looks great, focusing on keeping a retro feel that compliments the origin stories nicely. They stayed true to the characters and the actors did a good job of putting in convincing performances. Michael Fassbender makes for a very charismatic Magneto and is my favorite character in the movie. With more sequels in the works in this style, they might have a decent trilogy yet.
8. Iron Man Trilogy: Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark; there is no doubt about it. I would say he is the closest Hollywood has come thus far translating a comic book character to screen. He captures Stark’s ego and snark perfectly while keeping him both grounded and relatable. All three movies are consistently good and find a way to strike a balance between action and humor. The special effects with the suit are top-notch and the fights are well-choreographed and awesome. It’s definitely one of the better superhero trilogies.
7. Batman (1989 Film): Now I know a lot of hardcore Batfans (is that a term?) have beef with Tim Burton for changing important elements from the cannon of the Batman comic; the most controversial being that the Joker is the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents. I get nerd rage about things like that too but Burton’s Batman is so visually fun and just plain weird, that I can give him a free pass with it. Jack Nicholson’s Joker is a little more subdued than the comic, but he still manages to make him engaging and interesting. Micheal Keaton remains my favorite Batman of all time and gives him a sense of humor which I always liked. Plus, we would not have the incredible Batdance song by Prince and that would be a damn travesty.
6. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: This is oddly the best video game movie ever made and it isn’t based on any particular video game! It’s literally as if they filmed the inside of my brain and burned it onto the celluloid. Michael Cera has deadpan humor down to a science and it’s a perfect complement to the frenetic action. Scott Pilgrim is bright, loud, pixelated fun and true to the source material.
5. The Avengers: If every comic book movie ever made was directed by Joss Whedon, the world would be a happier place. Somehow he took an ensemble cast of very different characters and combined them into a tasty stew of awesome. The other characters’ movies were of varying degrees of quality but in this film each person shines. Robert Downey Jr. as Ironman and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk were especially great and they played off of each other perfectly. It’s always nice to see some humor thrown into an action movie and bonus if the writing is actually funny. Joss Whedon knows how to direct a comic book movie for geeks without shutting out the casual fan.
4. 300: This is the movie that put Zack Snyder on the map. The man really knows how to film an action scene and managed to make the “bullet-time” effect less contrived. 300 is a shot of pure adrenaline, basically punching you in the face with kick-ass special effects, giant set-pieces and crazy looking monsters. Very few movies can keep a constant momentum going like this; this movie has no slow parts or superfluous story elements. It’s just pure condensed action and that’s fine with me.
3. Sin City: Even if this movie was terrible, which it isn’t, it would still be worth a viewing just for its visual look. The stark black and white with Pollock-esque splashes of color looks absolutely incredible and the noir atmosphere is done very well. You can literally compare panels from the actual comics to scenes in the film and they look exactly the same down to the shadows. I had never seen anything like it before and it blew my mind when I first saw it in theatres. The story is interlocking and rather complex but the pieces fit together and come to a very satisfying end. Robert Rodriguez didn’t tone down any of the brutal, gratuitous violence that Frank Miller is known for and that makes it ever better and more authentic.
2. V for Vendetta: Anybody that knows me knows I love Allan Moore. He elevated comic book writing to prose level and gave it some legitimacy in literary circles. V for Vendetta is one of my favorite works by him and the movie adaptation is excellent. The Wachowski Brothers wrote the screenplay and hit all the notes they needed to: political uprisings, dystopian societies, fascist government, and the need to fight for your rights. Once I saw Hugo Weaving nail the famous alliteration monologue V delivers in the comic in the opening scene of the movie, I was hooked. Natalie Portman shows her acting chops as Evey, even shaving her hair off in real life for the role.
1. Watchmen: Watchmen is my all time favorite graphic novel. When I heard they were making a movie out of it, I was sure it would be horrible. There was no way they could film something so complex and include everything it needed without compromising the story. I was never so happy to be proven wrong in my life. Zack Snyder made a masterpiece with Watchmen. The look, the story, the music, and Allan Moore’s powerful writing; it was all there. My two favorite characters, Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan, were portrayed faithfully; Dr. Manhattan’s origin scene is masterfully done (with music from Koyaanisqatsi!) and Rorschach is allowed to fully explore his gritty, violent nihilism. My very small quibble is that they changed the ending from the comic but it was probably done to keep the movie accessible. It’s my favorite comic book film and easily in my top ten films ever.