The Greatest Comic Book Movies of All Time, Ranked
For the past few weeks, I’ve been reaching out to several other movie and/or superhero fans via Twitter, e-mail, and a superhero forum that I frequent. I collected their top comic book movie lists of all time and collected them into a spreadsheet where I came up with our collective best/favorite comic book movies of all time. Read on to hear their thoughts and see where your favorite CBM ended up on the list, I will say that there were a few surprises, especially when it came to what made it to #1.
For a little bit of an insight on how I calculated my results, I generally asked for a list of 25 movies, but several people sent in more than 25 and in just a few cases I allowed less than 25. I obviously weighted each entry based on how it was ranked, if there were less than 25 I weighted them a little less and I also gave extra weight to everyone’s top 5. In total, there were 146 different comic book movies including the occasional short, miniseries, and serial. There were a few cases where I excluded movies on lists because they weren’t actually based on a comic book, like the Incredibles, Unbreakable, or Megamind. In several instances, I asked those who participated to contribute their own thoughts on the movies high on their lists.
#146 – 100
I’m starting off this list at the bottom, and while everyone has their own unique tastes, I thought it was appropriate to share every movie that made it on even a single person’s list. There are plenty of movies that I had never heard of, several that I wouldn’t have considered putting on a top anything list, and several that I almost can’t believe no one else picked as I think it’s a great movie. But at this point, I won’t be saying too much about them.
- The Diary of a Teenage Girl: Only on my own list and all the way down at #62.
- 30 Days of Night: Also only on my list but a little higher at #58.
- Superman/Batman Apocalypse: Not to be confused with the X-Men movie, also on my list at #40.
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Only on a single list ranked at #3.3
- Weird Science: On the same list as LXG just above it at #32.
- We Are the Best: A lesser known Swedish movie I loved made my list at #29.
- Superman III: Someone with some obvious nostalgia placed it at #27 on their list.
- Power Rangers: Part of a three-way tie on someone else’s list at #27.
- Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox: my contribution to the three way tie which I also ranked at #27.
- Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Not the same list as the reboot, someone else ranked it one higher at #26.
- The Spirit: The first movie in someone’s top 25, at #25 and part of another tie.
- Doc Savage: Man of Bronze: One of the few movies on this list I haven’t seen made someone’s #25.
- Tetsuo II: Body Hammer: A manga adaptation I’ve never even heard of made one #24.
- The Adventures of Captain Marvel: The first comic book serial ranked as someone’s #24.
- Addams Family Values: I almost excluded this comic strip movie that placed as one #24.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: The longest title on this list made a single #23.
- Fantastic Four: I didn’t ask which one it was, but I’m guessing it was the 2004 Tim Story version as someone’s #23.
- Danger Diabolik: This fun Italian spy comic book movie also tied with a single #23.
- Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra a recent live action version of a long running European comic, it placed with a single #23.
- Vault of Horror: This 70’s Hammer Horror sequel to Tales From the Crypt placed with one #22.
- Superman vs. the Elite: I almost included this surprising animated movie in mine but it was another #22.
- Lady Snowblood: Another manga adaptation placed in with one #22.
- Ghost in the Shell: Surprising based on the reviews but there was one person who enjoyed this year’s live action version enough to place at #22.
- Wrinkles: I loved this Spanish animated movie but only enough to rank it at #21.
- Tintin and the Golden Fleece: I’m not familiar with Tintin outside of his Spielberg movie but there’s several animated and live action, this one placed once at #21.
- Punisher: Dirty Laundry: This short fan film was good enough to show up on the first list I received at #21.
- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies: This DC animated movie placed in with a single #20.
- Judex: I had never even heard of this pulp vigilante hero that had been made as a ’63 French film and previously as a 1913 French serial and placed with one #20.
- Atom Man vs Superman: This Fleischer short made someone’s #20.
- Green Lantern: Emerald Knights: This DC animated anthology film landed with a single #19.
- Creepshow: Another iffy inclusion as it was inspired by EC comics and didn’t become it’s own comic until after the movie but landed a single #18.
- Tintin and the Land of Sharks: Another Tintin movie makes its way on this list with one #17.
- Batman: Bad Blood: A recent DC animated movie hits a single list at #17.
- Justice League: War: Few DC animated movies made it to more than one list, this hit a single #16.
- Metropolis: Not to be confused with the classic silent, this anime was based on the manga that itself was inspired by that influential silent film.
- Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders: Another of my choices, apparently no one else liked the return of Adam West’s Batman in animated form enough to rank it as I did, at #15.
- Batman Forever: Yet someone else placed this Schumacher Batman at the same spot with their own #15.
- Gunbuster: I believe this is the anime OVA based on a manga which placed a single #14.
- Ghost in the Shell: Innocence: The GitS anime sequel fared a bit higher than the live action remake on someone else’s list at #14.
- Blade: Trinity: Someone liked this generally low rated Blade trilogy ender enough to place it at #14.
- Justice League vs Teen Titans: Another recent DC animated movie placed in on #13.
- Wonder Woman: This is the 2009 animated version which was arguably the best female-led superhero movie until this year, is it too late to add it to my list? It hit someone else’s #12.
- Patlabor 2: The Movie: Another lesser known anime based on a manga landed on a single list at #12.
- Howard the Duck: Somebody liked the first theatrical Marvel movie enough to place it at #12 on their list.
- Atomic Blonde: Based on the comic the Coldest City, this year’s film just missed someone’s top ten at #11.
- Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Our first top ten film is another generally hated CBM, but someone liked it enough to place it at #9.
- Asterix and Cleopatra: the 1963 animated movie of the long running European comic that I honestly know very little about though it did rank as someone’s #9.
Now that we’ve gotten past (most of) the movies that were just on a single list, we can start getting into the ones that showed up on multiple lists. I won’t be giving full details anymore on exactly where they placed on each list because I don’t want to bog this down with too many numbers, but where I can I will give a tidbit or two to help share the process. We’re already getting into some more good films that I think could have been higher had I taken a larger sample size, but there’s also a few movies that I consider guilty pleasures that have snuck their way into a couple fan’s hearts.
- Justice League: Gods and Monsters: Bruce Timm returned to a more active role in the DC animated films by co-writing this film which landed in a single top 5 at #5.
- Tank Girl: Another generally disliked movie made it to a single contributor’s top 5 at #5.
- Punisher: War Zone: It has the rare distinction of being an action superhero film directed by a woman, but the tone didn’t sit quite right with many Punisher fans, still made it to someone’s list as their #4.
- Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths: Another DC animated movie, I was a fan of this one as well, but I also think it’s one of the lesser known ones and one of their earlier entries. But one person liked it enough to hit their #2.
- Superman: The Mad Scientist: Another Fleischer short that managed to place at #1 on one list but not show up on any other. It was absolutely a major influence on modern Superman and while I haven’t revisited them myself since I was a child, I know they hold up better than most.
- Blue is the Warmest Color: The first film to show up on two lists, ranked highest at #22, this is a French film based on a French comic that’s probably most well known for the controversial lesbian sex scenes.
- Thor: The Dark World: One thing I realized with this list is that Thor is the forgotten child of the MCU despite Ragnarok looming just on the horizon, the sequel only placed on 2 lists topping at #25.
- The Punisher: This is the Thomas Jane version, one I quite enjoy despite realizing it’s not all that great in the long run. It placed lower on my list but made it up to #28 on another.
- Ghost Rider: Another potential guilty pleasure movie with Nic Cage and Sam Elliott and plenty of over the top acting and low rent CGI villains. Only enough to rank #35 and place lower on another.
- The Wolverine: Another slight surprise as this is generally considered lesser than the good X-Men movies, but better than the worst couple. Still it only managed a very close #32 & #33.
- Amazing Spider-Man 2: Another bigger surprise as this movie was almost universally derided despite making a not-insignificant amount of money. It still found a couple fans who placed it at #34 & #27.
- Edge of Tomorrow: Another stretch of the definition of comic book movie, but it’s still a great and underrated sci-fi movie based on an illustrated novel/manga where it hit two lists topping at #23.
- Iron Man 2: The other forgotten child of the MCU as it was incredibly underwhelming after the high of the first Iron Man, it still managed to place on two lists and top out at #19.
- Flash Gordon: A classic guilty pleasure movie with plenty of practical sets and costumes that came back into vogue a few years ago when it was featured in Ted. It placed in two lists topping at #23.
- Timecop: Jean Claude Van Damme at his finest in a sci-fi time travel movie based on a little known comic book. One of his more successful films but still pretty cheesy overall. It’s highest rank from two lists was #24.
- Justice League: Doom One of the better rated DC animated films based on villains getting a hold of Batman’s plans to take down the Justice League in case they were ever compromised.
- Spider-Man 3: A weak trilogy ender that suffered from studio involvement, but is still has some redeeming qualities in the eyes of some fans. It managed to snag a #23 & #24 spot.
- From Hell: An adaptation of a comic about Jack the Ripper featuring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham though it only featured on two lists at #24 & #21.
- Josie and the Pussycats: This was a fun satire that poked fun at plenty of commercial pop stereotypes though it didn’t connect with many people, it still managed to crack a single top 10.
- RED: a fun action romantic comedy with several actors who were known more for their acting than their action. Enough to rank in two top 20s.
- Oldboy: One of the classic Asian thrillers with a unique twist and well known for the hammer scene. Much better than the American remake. Topped out at #6.
- Men in Black 3: While the second MiB didn’t make this list, the third was a return to form and time traveled its way onto three different lists, though none higher than #33.
- The Losers: Another fun action movie with comic book movie perennial Chris Evans among others, while it was another comic book failure in the box office, it hit the teens in two lists.
- The Shadow: This 90’s Alec Baldwin throwback also didn’t quite connect with audiences but there are still a few fans of it here and there including two who placed it in their top 15.
- Superman Returns: This Superman sequel has had its ups and downs, somewhat critically acclaimed on release, it quickly dropped in fan acclaim until after Man of Steel now it’s looked back with some nostalgia, even placing in a top 5.
- Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Interestingly enough, this Miyazaki film was originally intended to be a film first, but when they couldn’t get funding, they turned it into a comic which became so successful it was a no brainer to turn it back into a film where two people placed it at #6 on their lists.
- Dick Tracy: Just one year after Burton’s Batman, Beatty brought his version of a comic book brought to life with a star studded cast that impressed a couple lists where it topped out at #4.
- Suicide Squad: While this felt like another DC whipping boy, especially with Leto’s Joker performance, there was still a lot to like, enough for three people to place it on their lists, though none higher than #25.
- Thor: The first movie of the forgotten child of the MCU. Thor is often still a fan favorite, but the first film was only enough to warrant placing at #19 as the highest of three lists.
- Tales From the Crypt: This is the 70’s anthology film from Amicus rather than any of the modern ones. Still holds up enough to land on three lists topping out at #10.
- Adventures of Tintin: A reminder that Steven Spielberg directed a comic book movie with this animated adventure based on the popular European comic that placed on three lists.
- The Dark Knight Returns pt 1 & 2 The second highest ranked DC Animated movie that continued to push the limits of PG-13 as they gravitated towards more adult work, enough to land on three lists and hit a #10.
- X-Men: The Last Stand: The first big misstep in the X-Men franchise with a few fan favorite characters including the Dark Phoenix, likely a guilty pleasure inclusion for the three lists though #7 seems awfully high in one.
- Batman & Robin: A bizarre choice for many as few would consider this to be anything more than the worst Batman movie ever made, but there is a campy niche factor to place it on three lists topping at #14.
- The Dark Knight Rises: The third entry in the Dark Knight trilogy has a lot going for it, but still is often considered the weakest of the three, but still one of the best superhero trilogies ever made and worthy of placing in three lists.
- Constantine: While it has very little to do with much of the Hellblazer comics outside of a loose concept and the name, it still has a strong cast that pulls together a fun movie.
- X-Men: Apocalypse: The most recent in the standard X-Men franchise, it was plagued with a mediocre villain and a redundant-but-still-awesome Quicksilver scene and managed a #3 spot among two other lower spots.
- The LEGO Batman Movie: This was another big hit early this year though it was likely forgotten due to the parody nature and the other great, more standard CBMs released this year, it snagged a top 10, top 5, and one other spot.
- Batman: Under the Red Hood: The highest placed of the recent DC animated movies and one of the earliest to bring some real acclaim as a more adult way to tell a story in animation and snagged three top 15 spots.
- 300: Zack Snyder’s first comic book film that took a visual style to the extreme with plenty of CGI, violence, and abs. This is also the first film in this list that placed in four different lists.
- Big Hero 6: the only American, animated, theatrical, wide released movie on this list (wow, that’s a lot of caveats) as it came from the partnership between Marvel and Disney and took a loose concept and turned it into an amazing movie with an amazing character in Baymax.
- The Crow: One of the better 90’s comic book movies even though it felt more like a gothic action revenge flick with a killer soundtrack, amazing style, and tragic behind the scenes story that’s just as well known as the film itself. Made its way to four lists though it topped out at #15.
- Blade II: Guillermo del Toro brought his own flair to this action horror vampire movie and made some well done creature effects and a standard enemy-of-my-enemy team up to craft a fun sequel.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron This sequel had a whole lot to live up to when compared to the first Avengers movie and in a lot of ways, it didn’t. That’s not to say it’s not a good movie, it still has a whole lot going for it, making it to #13 as its highest.
- Persepolis: It’s rare to see a modern, animated black and white movie, but this French film about the life of Iranian Marjane Satrapi has enough heart and style to place as high as #2 on one list.
- Wanted: One of several Mark Millar’s stylishly violent adaptations, this is Fight Club with less brains and more sex. Kinda, it’s a lot of guns, cars, and Angelina Jolie. And the first film to hit five lists topping out at #9.
- The Amazing Spider-Man: The first reboot of Spider-Man fixed some issues but brought a few more. Garfield’s romance with Stone, mechanical webshooters, and his trademark quippiness earned him five spots with the highest at #6.
- A History of Violence: A David Cronenberg film about living with a secret and the depths someone would go to in order to protect that secret. Plus the occasional kick-ass action scene. On five lists including two top 10s.
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: The original animated Batman film spun off of the animated series though it only had a limited run. The first step in making animation feel more adult and one of the best Batman stories put to film, it tops out at #6.
- The Mask: A comedy that many forget is based on a comic. It came at the peak of Jim Carrey’s initial career high and introduced the world to Cameron Diaz. The first to rank on six lists but it only tops out at #14.
#50 – #26
#50 Man of Steel
There’s been a lot of mixed feelings on the DC Extended Universe but regardless of how you feel on them, they have been successful and there is a lot of good elements within each and every movie and it all got kicked off with this film. And while only five people listed this movie, it did manage to snag a #1 spot and a #2 spot.
#49 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Surprisingly, this film appears right next to the first DCEU movie and while it was intended to be a miniature version of the Avengers for DC, it did snag a huge box office right alongside a huge box office drop off. It’s one of those love it or hate it movies that made a huge spectacle and brought about the introduction of Wonder Woman, something that the modern superhero movie desperately needed. BvS snagged a spot on 6 lists, including two top tens.
Outside of Miyazaki movies, this is credited as being the forefront of popularizing anime for the western audience as well as being one of the biggest budget Japanese animated films of its time. It’s a visual spectacle even though the actual plot of the film can be dense for some people as it draws from an epic manga. And while it only landed on five lists, it hit three top 10s.
This is one of the first great great comic book films of the modern era that came out two years before X-Men even though it’s more of a vampire action film rather than a superhero film so it doesn’t tend to get that much credit. Wesley Snipes is great in the lead role and this movie is how you do a franchise starter without being an origin movie. It placed on six lists, topping out at #14.
#46 Ghost in the Shell
Surprisingly higher than Akira though it may be at the forefront of more minds considering the remake allowed more people to revisit the original. This came out almost ten years after Akira but still inspired plenty of sci-fi including the Matrix. It managed to snag five lists, including two top 10s as well as a single #2 spot.
#45 Mystery Men
There aren’t very many superhero parodies and even fewer good superhero parodies. One of the better ones surprisingly isn’t a parody of superhero movies, but instead it’s a loose adaptation of a comic book that itself is a parody of other superhero comics despite eschewing the namesake character the Flaming Carrot in favor of various supporting characters. It made its way onto six lists topping out at #11.
This is one of the longest gestating MCU films as it was one of the first few to go into development but as it neared time to film it lost its writer director in Edgar Wright in favor of potentially less individualistic Peyton Reed. The results still brought about a fun and entertaining heist style superhero film with some amazing small-scale action. It landed on six lists with the highest place at #8.
While the action-oriented Hulk movie didn’t make this list at all, the more cerebral Ang Lee’s Hulk movie managed to place in the top 50. Derided by many for plenty of its odd choices including some dogs, but it still manages to take a look at the psychology of the Hulk in a way that hadn’t been done before or since in the same way. While it didn’t place higher than #15, it still made its way to six different lists.
#42 Spider-Man: Homecoming
Another 2017 movie on this list and the third version of Spider-Man ranking above both Andrew Garfield and the worst Tobey Maguire. This film brought Spidey into the MCU fold in partnership with Sony, I can’t say too much about it because unfortunately I have yet to see it, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, and almost everything else about this movie. It hit six lists topping out at #10.
And the first Tobey Maguire Spidey ranks just above the latest iteration. This was the first real superhero mega-blockbuster of the modern era as it took its comic book roots seriously even though it made a few changes to the characters from the organic web shooters and the goblin tech suit. It did the action and the feeling of Spider-Man right and still holds up pretty well to this day. The first film to hit seven lists topping out at #4.
#40 V for Vendetta
This anarchic dystopian sci-fi movie is probably best known for repopularizing both Guy Fawkes day as well as the mask which has been co-opted by Anonymous. This has an eloquence to it and a visual style second to none, which isn’t surprising since it was backed by the Wachowskis who wrote the film and directed one of the pivotal action scenes. Remember, remember the fifth of November. This film placed on seven lists and snagged a #2 spot.
#39 American Splendor
One of the more atypical comic book movies on this list as it’s a pseudo documentary slash biopic slash comic book movie about an average schlub named Harvey Pekar who wrote a movie about writing a comic about his average life and his average friends. It’s fascinating to see this concept unfold and transition between the dramatic reenactments with interruptions from the real life people being portrayed. It hit seven lists including two top 10s.
#38 Iron Man 3
Another more divisive film in the MCU catalogue, notable for how the Mandarin was used in all the marketing to ultimately be a red herring turned into a gag. It brought in Shane Black so it had to be set at Christmas, but there’s still a lot of action and a lot more Tony Stark than Iron Man, which some might say is a good thing. It also placed on seven lists and topped out at #5.
#37 Men in Black
Men in Black was one of the huge hits of the late 90’s and while few people probably even realized it was loosely based on a comic book at the time, it ended up spawning two sequels and potentially a future crossover with the rebooted 21 Jump Street. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were a match made in heaven and Vincent D’Onofrio pulls out a stellar performance as a bug in a rotting human skin. This is the first film to hit 8 lists, including a #4 spot.
#36 Doctor Strange
While there are technically three different Doctor Strange movies and only a couple people differentiated, I knew no one was talking about the 70’s TV movie and I doubted many would choose the more recent animated film. While it already seems to be fading out of popular culture, last year’s Doctor Strange still did some amazing things with Benedict Cumberbatch and Scott Derrickson at the helm. Enough to hit eight lists but only reaching #7.
An Asian director takes a French graphic novel and adapts it into an English feature film. While that sounds like a long way round to go, it became a fascinating political action sci-fi thriller with some heady concepts, stylish visuals, and great performances. It placed on eight lists and topped out at #8.
#34 Batman: The Movie
One of the oldest movies on this list, the Adam West Batman still resonates with a lot of people who grew up with his lighthearted, comedic Batman. It brought a new level of budget to what people were used to in the television show, and still has plenty of gags that are remembered by many today. It also landed on eight lists including four top tens.
#33 Captain America: The First Avenger
Joe Johnston’s throwback superhero movie in the Marvel universe brought Chris Evans into the fold from the immature Human Torch to the pinnacle of human morality. A great underdog story into a great action movie filled with plenty of great acting talent. It placed on eight lists with the highest at #4.
#32 Kingsman: The Secret Service
While the sequel didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations, the first movie brought a fresh feeling to both superhero and spy movies with this crude and ultra violent My Fair Lady if she was becoming a spy. The lowest of three Matthew Vaughn movies on this list which shows he knows a thing or two about making a comic book movie that landed on three top ten lists.
This is arguably the film that kicked off the modern superhero craze. It showed that comic books could be taken seriously and audiences would listen, even if it had to take out some of the more comic book-y elements, it kept the characters and the action and brought us our first taste of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. The first film to land on nine lists though none higher than #12.
#29 Road to Perdition
This is what many might point to if you were to show what can be done when you treat a comic book film as a work of art and filmmaking rather than entertainment and commercialism. Sam Mendes brought in a slew of high talent actors and brought a visually stunning tale of father and son in gangland America. While it landed on only eight lists, it hit 3 top tens.
#29 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
James Gunn has had an interesting career, coming from Troma films to his own brand of off kilter humor and gore that somehow created one of the biggest surprise hits of the MCU and the sequel brought more of the same with plenty of color, humor, style, and a surprising amount of heart from a talking racoon, a living planet, a baby tree creature, and a blue guy with a giant fin on his head. This also placed on eight lists and three top tens.
The second Matthew Vaughn film on this list that brought together the real life superhero craze with some violent action and swearing eleven year old girl trained as a highly skilled assassin/vigilante with her father who looks like Batman and talks like Adam West. It placed on nine lists, topping out at #7.
#27 Superman II
While several people specifically called out the Richard Donner cut, I treated the two cuts as one movie for this list’s purposes. Either way, it brought back Christopher Reeve’s iconic Superman, but allowed him to actually fight somebody. Three somebodies to be exact, including one of the best cinematic villains in General Zod. This placed on nine lists including three top tens.
#26 The Rocketeer
Joe Johnston’s second movie, he brought the art deco style to the superhero and made what could have been a trial run for his later Captain America movie, though this film has a lot more nostalgia going for it as well as Jennifer Connelly and a sweet jetpack. It placed on nine lists including three top tens.
#25 – Ghost World
Coming in at #25, with eight lists and a top spot at #2 is Daniel Clowes’s comic about two young girls and their struggle with entering adulthood, among other more quirky things. It just recently got its own Criterion Collection blu-ray which definitely says something about the quality of the film, but Vern was the one who had it at #2 on his list and has this to say about the film, or you can also read his review.
Ghost World is the perfect movie to show the phase from being a teenager into being an adult. Both Enid(Thora Birch) and Rebecca(Scarlett Johansson) are going through their own issues on having to become more independent. From the start it is clear that both characters have a hatred of where they live and it’s this connection that bound them for so long. At times we have all felt out of place and this has never been more true than in High School and College. These are the time to find out who your friends are and what you want to do for the rest of your life. I think both the graphic novel and the film capture that time in everyone’s life where you are teetering between being a kid and being an adult. Having responsibility should not mean giving up on the things you love. Just look at Seymour(Steve Buscemi) who is a guy who has a corporate job and loves old 78″ records. His relationship with Enid makes sense because they both have the same sort of disgust with where they live. There is a moment where they both make a bad decision but it’s one in the context of the story, never felt tacked on or out of place.
#24 – Hellboy
Coming in at #24 is Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy. While the character is soon to be rebooted in a new film, this was the first introduction to one of the best casting ever with Ron Perlman as Hellboy. He captured the feeling and the look of the character, with the help of the makeup artists of course. This is a combination of a blue collar world dealing with supernatural issues in their own unique ways. It has a great combination of humor, action, and style that propels it very high into the comic book movie echelon. And while it didn’t place extremely high on any one list, it did make it onto ten different lists in total.
#23 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
I shouldn’t have to differentiate, but when I say the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, of course I’m talking about the original, live action movie from 1990. Sure, there’s a lot of nostalgia when it comes to talking about this movie, but there’s also a lot of fun, a lot of action, and surprisingly dark moments for a kids film at that time. And while kids today may think the rubber suits look hokey, for many people my age, CGI just doesn’t hold a candle to having something live, and in person (on film). This also placed on ten different lists, catching a top spot at #3.
#22 – Captain America: Civil War
One of the newer movies to make it into the top 25, in many ways it felt more like another Avengers movie than the second Avengers movie did as it was essentially about the rift between two factions within the Avengers themselves. But what is almost more memorable about this film was the introduction of the third film incarnation of Spider-Man, only this time within the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also landed on ten different lists, and snagged both a #1 and a #2 spot on different lists.
#21 – X-Men: Days of Future Past
In a way, this is another mini-Avengers only for the X-Men franchise, bridging the gap between the Bryan Singer movies and Matthew Vaughn’s First Class. It brought Wolverine into the 70’s with Bolivar Trask as the villain as well as a team up slash betrayal of Magneto with the breakout Time in a Bottle scene with Quicksilver. The scenes taking place in the future are also some of the best action scenes showing a team a super powered individuals actually working together rather than just working beside each other. This also hit ten lists with a top spot of #4.
#20 – Batman Begins
It’s little surprise as to where this film lands in the overall list though it’s surprising to get an origin movie for a character that had five movies at that time but it took this movie to really explore the depths of his origin in such a great way. The first film in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy landed on ten lists in total, including three top ten spots and it also landed on Dan Heaton’s list at #1.
We’ve grown accustomed to origin stories in our superhero movies, and most repeat the same beats. This fact makes the originality in Batman Begins even more impressive. The Dark Knight wouldn’t be so good without the foundation set by its predecessor. It’s easily the best work from Christian Bale in the series, and the story isn’t just about grand set pieces. While Liam Neeson’s villain lacks the flair of Heath Ledger, he makes up for it with quiet certainty. He’s dangerous because there’s logic behind his evil plans. Most of all, Batman Begins works because it’s a gripping story that glides through its 152-minute running time. In a world filled with overstuffed comic-book movies, this one feels grand enough to warrant the extended timeframe.
#19 – Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
The sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s film is more ambitious and much more del Toro. There are some amazing creature designs and a great mix of practical and digital effects when it comes to scenes like the Troll market. It still has the same mix of action and humor along with some lesser known mythology that brought about a great excuse to showcase creations like the golden army themselves, the Angel of Death, and even Wink. And since it’s a sequel, it gets rid of the audience surrogate character that bogged down the first film and just stuck to the meat of the story. While it only snagged two top tens out of ten list spots, it had many in the mid range enough to place it this high on the overall list.
#18 – Sin City
One year before Zack Snyder would make his own comic book brought to life, Robert Rodriguez took Frank Miller’s mostly black & white comic and translated it almost directly to screen. Giving the high contrast white blood against a black background a look that’s unlike anything seen before in film. But it translated so well for the noir style of the stories, and the vignette approach added to the comic book sensibility of it all. And while it didn’t get any higher than #6, it still snagged two other top 10 spots and eleven spots overall.
#17 – Wonder Woman
This 2017 movie has made such an impact in such a short amount of time that it’s not too surprising to find it so high on this list. It’s been a long time since there’s been such an uplifting superhero movie in the realm of either lightly comedic action or dour, brooding drama. Not only that, but it’s really the first great superhero movie with a female lead. It’s even the first one in over a decade with any sort of budget behind it. It placed on eleven different lists, but it also got five top 10 spots which is impressive to say the least. And Diana McCallum had it on her list at #5 who had this to say about it.
Wonder Woman is such a hard concept to pack into two hours that it would have been very easy for this movie to fail or just be passable and the fact that it is wonderful is astounding. Watching Diana navigate through the world of man with no tolerance for the inherent sexism of the day or the expectations on her is absolutely incredible. The movie has wonderful comedic beats, fantastic character arcs and relationships and the most emotionally charged action scene possibly ever made when Diana goes over the wall in No Man’s Land. If the villain arcs were stronger this would be my number one for sure, but the half of the movie from Diana’s perspective is almost flawless.
#16 – Batman Returns
Tim Burton’s return to Batman allowed him to go darker and Burton-ier. And while he didn’t go strictly comic book when it came to how he portrayed Catwoman and the Penguin, what he did with those characters has been translated back into the comics at various points in time. The Penguin was always just an overweight socialite with a long nose, but after this movie, he’s often portrayed as having penguin-like deformities. And it’s hard to top the contentious romantic tension between Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne/Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selena Kyle/Catwoman. This also placed on eleven different lists, but placed as someone’s #1 spot and two other #2s.
#15 – Deadpool
Ever since X-Men, the superhero films have been straddling the line between what works in the comics and what works on screen. There have been allowances when it comes to costumes or powers or whatnot, but this was one of the first movies that felt like it got right to the heart of what makes the comic work and brought that to screen as closely as possible. Deadpool looks and acts just like he does in the comics. He’s crude, violent, breaks the fourth wall and cracks jokes about it all the entire time. While some might say that Hollywood only learned that R-rated can work, I’d like to think that it was because they stuck to the comics which is why it worked. This also placed on eleven lists, including a #1 and three other #8s.
#14 – Dredd
Like Deadpool who was just one spot lower on this list, this is another movie that took what was at the heart of the comic book and brought that directly to screen. There was no Stallone ego (or possibly studio involvement) that directed Karl Urban to ever take off his helmet, let alone for the majority of the movie. It took a relatively low budget and made some impressive visuals with the concept of the slowmo drug. More importantly, it gave the fans what they wanted, it was just a sad realization that there aren’t as many fans of Judge Dredd as there are of Deadpool. While it also landed on eleven lists, it snagged an impressive eight top ten spots.
#13 – Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Edgar Wright is an impressive filmmaker. His style and ability to pack a great deal of detail in such a short amount of time greatly rewards multiple viewings of his movies. But similar to Dredd, his audience is smaller than their enthusiasm might lead you to believe. His film hit twelve different lists including the top spot on Nick Ostrem’s list who has this to say about the film.
How do you take a super-stylish indie comic stuffed to the gills with references to video games and music and make it work on the big screen? Get Edgar Wright, the super-stylish director who loves nothing more than stuffing his movies to the gills with music and video games. The perfect combination of source material and director means that Scott Pilgrim isn’t just the best comic book movie, it’s the most comic book movie. Visual sound effects, changing aspect ratios that bring to mind panels on a comic page, transitions that pay no mind to space or time, it is a movie based on a comic book that didn’t have a single edge sanded down in the process, which is truly something to behold. This doesn’t even touch on the perfect casting and the great original songs by Beck. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World doesn’t try to hide what kind of movie it is, and it doesn’t go out of it’s way to make something everyone can enjoy, but what it does well, it does better than any other movie out there.
#12 – X-Men: First Class
Matthew Vaughn’s top spot on this list comes with his rebooted version of a younger X-Men led by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy with a villainous turn by Kevin Bacon. It managed to get on thirteen different lists including Gordon Briggs who placed it as his #10 and had this to say about it.
Usually I roll my eyes at most reboots, but First Class managed to reboot, reenergize, & ultimately redeem a flailing franchise. The movie has nifty action, an effective sense of humor, and surprisingly strong acting (Kevin Bacon is a particularly good villain). More than in any other X-Men movie 1st class elevates the idea that always distinguished this series: These characters aren’t crime fighters, they’re outsiders fighting to protect the very society that despises them.
#11 – Watchmen
Nowadays Zack Snyder tends to be a bit of a punchline when it comes to the DC movies, but he was viewed as a much more impressive filmmaker when he adapted Watchmen, and like 300 and Sin City before it, it was an attempt to bring a comic book to life as closely as possible, while still sexing it up with some more action scenes. It also placed on thirteen lists including a spot on Gordon Briggs who also had this to say about it.
Usually superhero films celebrate duality. After all, it’s cool to see ordinary people enhance their bodies, dawn a slick costume, & become a stronger version of themselves. Watchmen however, subverts all those ideas. Duplicating (almost to a fault) the colorful surrealist style of Alan Moore & David Gibbons’s graphic novel, the film creates a lurid ‘alternate America’ where patriotism is a plague, the U.S. is a dying empire, & superheroes are more psychotic than the super villains they fight.
#10 – Logan
The highest ranked movie from this year came from a surprising source considering neither of the two previous Wolverine stand-alone movies were held in very high regard. But after seventeen years, Hugh Jackman got his fitting send off with director James Mangold at the helm creating something moving and masterful all at once. It placed on thirteen different lists including Mackenzie Lambert who ranked it at #9.
it elevated comic book based movies above the source material. Not since Road to Perdition has such a comic book movie been made that had no semblance to such. Plus, Hugh Jackman and Charles Xavier have been playing these characters for 17 years. That’s half my life. These depictions mean a lot to me, to others, and to see them given such a touching farewell, it’s nothing short of one of the greatest comic book movies ever made
#9 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
It was around this point in the MCU films where fans started to notice more variations between the standard Marvel origin story. While the basic Marvel framework was still there, this felt more akin to a seventies era spy movie than a typical superhero movie. It had action, intrigue, and still the same great characters that we’ve grown to know and love from the previous films. Enough to rank this on fourteen lists where it topped Diana McCallum’s list at #1 where she had this to say about it.
The Winter Soldier has absolutely everything. A wonderful villain plot, amazing action, twists that are earned and tug your heartstrings and a great arc for not just the title character but all the supporting players as well. It’s entertaining end to end but also has a sincerity and emotional payoff rarely found in superhero movies.
#8 – Batman
Where Superman really started the superhero craze, it was Tim Burton’s Batman that made it re-enter the country’s vocabulary complete with an insane amount of marketing to where Batman was everywhere. There’s a reason why the Batman logo from this movie is still one of the most recognizable to this day. And the film managed to land on fifteen different lists including the top spot on The Retro Critic’s list who also had this to say about the film.
Tim Burton’s Batman redefined not only the titular superhero but also the comic book movie genre as a whole. This was a darker, moodier take on a character previously associated with the light-hearted series from the 1960’s. Batman influenced countless films after its release and changed the way we think about superheroes. It was also a very good film in its own right with iconic performances from Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, an appropriately gothic Gotham City, lots of cool moments and an unparalleled theme by Danny Elfman. It is a masterpiece and, therefore, my number 1 on this list.
#7 – Superman
I think it’s absolutely fitting that the superhero movie that started it all placed just above the next one that did the same just over ten years later. For many people who grew up with this film and many who grew up later, Christopher Reeve is and always will be their Superman, and they have this movie to thank for it for making you believe a man can fly. This placed on fifteen different lists and made James Hrivnak’s top spot where he had this to say about it.
Superman is ground zero for everything that came after it, establishing generic tropes, structure, and visual blueprints for the next 40 years. Director Richard Donner also treats the material with reverence and prestige. The film is marked by defining performances from Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, but it also has human emotions, strong character arcs, and themes. Plus it’s just gangbusters entertainment—full of excitement and wonder.
#6 – X2: X-Men United
The first sequel in the 2000’s era of comic book movies and it was a doozy. It brought the great concept of the enemy of my enemy is my friend so that Xavier and Magneto could team up to work together against a greater threat. But in the end, of course it doesn’t ever work out quite so well. It also furthers the homosexual metaphor for mutants and expands on Wolverine’s origins in the right way, rather than the way it was explored in a later movie. And there is little that can top the amazing opening sequence with Nightcrawler in the White House. It placed on an impressive sixteen different lists including six top tens.
#5 – Iron Man
The first official film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe came out with a bang. While Iron Man was generally regarded as a C-list player in the comics world, this movie and Robert Downey Jr. specifically helped turn this character into an A-lister all the way and helped make the MCU the powerhouse that it is today. It also placed on sixteen different lists and landed at #1 on the list of Jason Michael who had this to say about the film.
In 2008, no one thought that Iron Man would have a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming the commercial success it became. Iron Man was a B-grade character, Robert Downey Jr. already a has been with an unflattering tabloid history, and Jon Favreau, an indie darling director whose biggest success was Elf, starring Will Farrell. It’s pretty easy to imagine that ABBA’s “Take A Chance On Me” was playing in the background during the Iron Man pitch meeting … And yet here we are, almost ten years on from the film that launched the MCU beyond the heights Iron Man soars to when fighting F-22 Raptors. Why does it all work so well? It’s an optimistic story of redemption; a story of success that is rooted in giving people a second chance. At the beginning of the film, Tony Stark has self-assurance and conceit of a man who’s never wanted for anything and who’s never been challenged intellectually or otherwise. The Cinderella story that ensues after Tony’s crippling accident at the hands of extremists may not be a physical “rags to riches” story, but it sure is an ideological one; the key moment being when he realizes that by manufacturing and dealing arms, he was his own undoing. Moments like those are rare in films and the parallels that can be drawn between Marvel Studios, Tony Stark, and Robert Downey Jr. are impossible to miss. People owning up to their mistakes, taking the blame instead of pointing fingers is a good lesson for kids to learn. The audience knows that when Robert Downey Jr. says the now iconic “I am Iron Man” at the end of the film, he’s talking about himself. He’s saying “take a chance on me.” Iron Man is my favorite superhero film because it is the film that started it all, proof that when you dare to take a chance, even if you’ve made mistakes, you may very well succeed and soar to amazing heights.
#4 – Guardians of the Galaxy
The MCU took quite a few chances early on, but few people could have expected James Gunn to take an obscure group of superheroes few had ever heard about and turn it into one of the most popular Marvel teams ever. It’s a misfit tale gone right in the best possible sense of the word. The film landed on seventeen different lists including ten top 10s. It also landed on Tony Cogan’s list where it reached #3. He had this to say about it.
Out of all the comic book films I’ve seen, none have generated feelings of pure fun as Guardians of the Galaxy has. Other films have been more powerful for me on a personal level, which is why this is my number 3 comic book film, but this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most and the rare film where, when I saw it with my dad, as soon as Come And Get Your Love started playing, we looked at each other and knew we were going to see it again. Sure Ronan The Accuser is a weak villain but the Guardians themselves are fascinating characters, all acted brilliantly, with the highlights being Chris Pratt as Star Lord, using his immaturity to hide the pain he feels over the loss of his mum, and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, having a great sarcastic edge but showing a darker edge, being triggered by condescension and unable to accept that he can and deserves to be loved. Even with these darker elements, the humour is strong throughout, Marvel allowing this to be as much of a James Gunn film as it is a Marvel film, with everything related to Awesome Mix Vol. 1 exemplifying this. I don’t think I’ll have as much fun with a comic book film as I had when first watching Guardians of the Galaxy and every time I’ve watched it since I’ve never been bored and always noticed something new
#3 – The Avengers
This is really the film that changed a lot within the film industry. Or at least some aspects of it. Before the Avengers, there wasn’t really any sort of multi-franchise crossover besides the occasional Freddy vs Jason or AvP. But Avengers proved that a cinematic universe buildup to a crossover film could be a success and it was attempted to be copied all over the place, from Universal monsters to Ghostbusters and even 21 Jump Street with Men in Black. This is still my all time favorite superhero or comic book movie. It’s a ton of fun from start to finish and whatever plot holes or leaps in logic can be forgiven just because there’s always a smile on my face. It also placed on seventeen different lists including nine top tens.
#2 – The Dark Knight
When I started this project, I had little doubt in my mind what film was going to take the top spot. I’ve asked the question “What is your favorite superhero movie?” countless times to many different people and the most common answer by far has been the Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is second to none, and it’s in large part due to the critical and commercial success of this movie especially the overwhelmingly amazing performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker. It almost lives or dies around that one character and it’s a treat to experience. But whether it’s fallen out of favor due to the watering down of the DC universe with sub-par movies, or it’s just cliche to put it at number 1 for many people, this time around it missed the top spot despite appearing on twenty different lists where only six of those lists put it outside of their top tens.
#1 – Spider-Man 2
When I first started this list, I fully expected the Dark Knight to place at #1 but Spider-Man 2 took an early lead and kept it up through the entire run. Out of all the lists sent to me, it was only missing from two of them and hit the top five in nine lists. One of the contributors @AlmostFlmCritic placed it as their #1 and has this to say about it.
His income is dwindling. His studies are suffering. His aunt is losing her house. His crush is with someone else. His best friend hates his alter ego. His idol has four arms controlling him. And he’s having an identity crisis. How can one Peter Parker handle so much? With the help of a solid director (Sam Raimi), a stacked cast (too many to name), a two-time Oscar winning writer (Alvin Sargent) and some special effects that still mostly work, that’s how. Funny & goofy without being cartoony, 2004’s Spider-Man 2 is still the gold standard for comic book movies.
And there we have it! I’d like to thank all the contributors who joined in and sent their top comic book movie lists. I could have done it without them, but it wouldn’t have turned out as good as it did. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.
Jason Michael – Atlantic Screen Connection Podcast
The Almost Film Critic
James Hrivnak – 24 Panels per second
David Babbitt – 24 Panels per second
The Retro Critic
Tony Cogan – Coogs Reviews
Clint Worthington – Alcohollywood
Daniel “Fogs” Fogarty
Jason Soto – CineGamer
Diana McCallum – From Superheroes
Paul C Pace
Jay Cluitt – Life vs Film
David Brook – Blueprint: Review
The Vern – The Vern’s Video Vortex
Dan Heaton – Public Transportation Snob
Posted on October 14, 2017, in Lists. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.
Despite contributing a blurb, I just realized that I hadn’t looked at this article until now. Great job! While I see think that Hellboy: The Golden Army and Batman Begins should be a lot higher, it’s still a strong list. This is much better than the recent Top 50 put up by The Ringer. That one is not good.
Thanks! It was fun to put together. I kind of wish I had the time to put together a larger sample of lists, but I think it went pretty well.
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