20. TMNT: The first time I was introduced to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was in 1986 in my school’s library and I saw another kid next to me reading the first graphic novel of series. For about a month I checked the library to see if it had been checked in. When I finally got ahold of the book, I was consumed and read the next two or so graphic novels until there were no more. I was hooked. I was psyched when the first movie came out, less so by the second. I watched the Saturday morning cartoons (well, most of them) and THIS movie was truer to the original dark and gritty comic than any of it’s more childish and palpable-for-TV predecessors – including movies. This was the movie that should have been the narrative going forward, but alas it didn’t do well in the box office. However, I don’t really care so much as I was able to reconnect with a series that so marked my childhood in the 80’s and my love affair with comics in general.
19. 300: Whatever this movie lacked in subtlety – whatever it lacked in tact – this movie had in style and spectacle. I really enjoyed this movie and enjoyed its successor, Spartacus, even more. This movie, like District 9, showed Hollywood what you could do with a decent script, some dynamic actors, slow-motion and green screen on a tight budget. Gerard Butler has only had one or two good movies since, but this was his best. This was faithful to the comic, even though it wasn’t so much to the actual historical event.
18. Watchmen: Another Zack Synder film (he also directed 300) that I truly enjoyed. Now, this was a comic book series that changed the tone of how comics were written from the 80’s onward. A dark, dystopian world in an alternate timeline where Nixon was in his 3rd term and the notion of what a hero was wasn’t a pleasant one. In fact, heroes were something to be feared and sometimes loathe. This was a hard movie to translate to film, as it was a hard series to read. It was complex, dynamic and frightening. From the insanity of Rorschach, to the God-like powers of the radiant blue Dr. Manhattan, Alan Moore’s tale of heroes gone mad was one for the ages. This movie was made for the fans, and true fans appreciated the effort.
17. Man of Steel: It’s only by coincidence that this is the third Zack Snyder movie in a row that I listed, however you can read my review of Man of Steel here. Love it or not, this was a good start to a possibly outdated character.
16. V For Vendetta: I really enjoyed this movie about taking control of your destiny and being brave enough to start a revolution in order to be free of the tyranny of overreaching government control. With the superb voicing talent of the enigmatic Hugo Weaving as V, this comic book tale was brought to life.
15. The Incredible Hulk: Despite the issue Ed Norton had with the editing of the final product, this was probably the most accurate depiction of Bruce Banner and The Hulk to hit the silver screen. This was also the movie the subliminally paved the way for The Captain America movie that followed some years later. This had the right tone, angst and desperation that makes the Hulk/Banner so powerful, tragic and wonderful to experience. With this film doing as well as Ang Lee’s ridiculous Hulk movie, producers felt this wasn’t a movie that translated well to movie-going audiences… except that it made over $130MM in theaters… that’s nothing to sneeze at. While Mark Ruffalo did the Hulk better ultimately, this was a Hulk done right.
14. Thor: I had a lot of trepidation about how this movie was going to play out on the screen. This was a character that could be epically good, or be an epic failure. Surprisingly, it was’t an epic success, but it was far from a failure or corny. In fact, it ended up being a really good flick about the Asgardian God of Thunder and his family issues. Sir Anthony Hopkins played a great Odin, Idris Elba played a stunning Heimdall and Tom Hiddleston became a star as the mischievous Loki. This movie convinced me that an Avengers movie was possible.
13. Hellboy: The Golden Army: Maaaaaan, if there’s one franchise that deserves another movie, it’s the Hellboy series. This was a cryptid feast as Mr. Del Toro created characters out of our greatest dreams or nightmares and wrapped a story around a hodge-podge of freaks that are hellbent on saving the world. All the while, giving us this ominous tone that Hellboy may end up on day destroying it as he finally succumbs to his demonic nature and takes his place beside his hellish lineage. This sequel was an improvement on the first (well done) movie and continued the talk of the demon, plucked from hell that loves cats, pancakes and just wants to lead a normal life – with his pyrokinetic girlfriend.
12. Kick-Ass: Mark Millar’s ultraviolent take on how real-life people turn vigilante was such a surprisingly great movie. I read the comic when it first came out and absolutely loved it. While I also loved his story in Wanted, I didn’t really care too much for how the story was adapted to the big screen. It wasn’t bad, just – less of what I wanted to see. However, while reading this story, I KNEW not much had to be changed to make this story really shine. On top of a spectacular cameo performance by Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz’s portrayal as Hit Girl stole the show. Bring on Kick Ass 2, I’m ready.
11. Batman Begins: This was the movie that made DC Comics relevant in movies again. Directed by Chris Nolan, BB breathe life into what was considered a dead franchise after Joel Schumacher almost single-handedly destroyed this iconic character and franchise (molded nipples into the suits? Really?). The darker, more gritty and “realistic” portrayal of a man, with a chip on his shoulder, a ton of money, a bat suit and time to kill was what was needed to get this limp dog walking again.
10. Superman II: Man of Steel’s retelling of this tale was a welcome sight, but the original is still the best. For 1980’s standards, this was a dark movie in tone and raised the stakes for Superman – in a way, the Chris Nolan version of the 80’s. This movie was also the impetus for Bryan Singer’s direct (they just ignored Superman III and IV as though they never happened) sequel, Superman Returns, his ode and love affair with Richard Donner’s vision. Christopher Reeves‘ (R.I.P.) legendary performance brings me back to a day and age where American sensibilities wasn’t a four-letter word and Truth, Justice and the American Way was the over simplistic notion that rallied a nation behind this Kryptonian immigrant.
9. Iron Man: Say what you want – Robert Downey, Jr. IS Tony Stark. This was almost too perfect as the life and times of the former Brat Pack star mirrored the troubled and notorious life of the fictional character. From the moment he was cast, the anticipation of this movie began. When it finally premiered, we all knew – this was the beginning of something epic. This was the beginning of The Avengers story coming to pass. When Agent Coulson finally revealed himself to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, our collective fan boy mouths began to water. Then with the appearance on Nick Fury – it was on. This movie had it all and it was proving to Hollywood that you could have an entwined set of movies that could lead to the Hollywood version of the Crossover Event that happens in comics like clockwork every one to two years.
8. Dredd: I slept on this movie. I kept hearing good things about it, but like many people, I was burned by the stink and taint of Sylvester Stallone’s abomination, Judge Dredd in 1995. However, after catching it on HBO a month of so ago, I was blown away by how much this movie did NOT suck and how GOOD it actually was. With a terrifying (in the good way) performance by Lena Headey as Ma-Ma, Karl Urban as Dredd took you on a ride in the dystopian version of low-income projects with a tinge of corruption an d mayhem. THIS was the Dredd movie we deserved.
7. Blade: Wesley Snipes is a bad mofo. When he’s not fighting the IRS, he’s taking down cold-blooded, blood sucking vampires – one self-combusting blood-sucker at a time. There aren’t too many Black superheroes in movies but this was how Hollywood, when it cared to, showed respect for a character and franchise and brought the coldest, baddest, kick ass, vampire hunter to the movies – ever. I liked the entire franchise in varying degrees, but nothing beats the first movie for what it succeeded on doing against pretty substantial odds.
6. Spider-Man II: At one point, this was my number one comic book movie of all time (not just inspired). I thought it got no more perfect than this. This was the first time I didn’t cringe at Tobey McGuire in the role of Peter Parker and thought Alfred Molina’s portrayal as Doctor Octopus was the best inspired villain of all-time. I stood up at the end of this movie and just clapped. Bravo! The sensitivity of the characters, the believability of the pain and the respect given to the characters made me proud. This is the superhero that pays bills. He works menial jobs to make ends meet but finds the time to save his fellow New Yorkers from death and destruction. Spider-Man is the everyman’s hero – and this movie showed that masterfully.
5. The Dark Knight: To say that Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was nothing short of genius would not be revisionist or pampering to his memory and untimely death. He was perfect. Simply the most terrifying and menacing individual to ever grace the screens in a comic book movie. The Clown Prince of Crime – or Chaos, take you pick. I hate to say this, but Batman and Two Face were such secondary and tertiary characters in this movie next to The Joker and his wild and mind-smashing antics. There was seemingly no end or depths to his madness and his desire to destroy the beliefs of his nemesis, Batman. He was the stuff of nightmares and warmed his way into the hearts of fans of this franchise.
4. A History of Violence: This was such a odd little comic and and an even more surprisingly odd movie, but it was again one of those quirky little stories and movies that was nothing short of memorable. What I loved most about this movie was how unassuming Viggo Mortensen played Tom Stall, the main character. Can you reinvent yourself? Can your past sins be forever buried? Can the ugly become beautiful? This movie explores that and you’ll be surprised at the answers.
3. Marvel’s The Avengers: The big dog of the comic book book movies. The culmination of years of Marvel: Phase One movies that brought together the heavyweights of the Marvel Universe: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow. Loki, the half-brother of Thor set his sights on Midgard (Earth) as a token to his (seemingly) masters, the Chitauri. I waited 30 years for this movie. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d live to see a day where the live action movie would not only materialize, but would also be GREAT. Not good, GREAT! After epic scenes and battles between the heroes and the alien horde, it choked me up a little to see a dream made real. I hope Avengers 2 can match this level of epicness, and with Thanos (The Mad titan) (the mastermind behind the invasion) as the main threat, I think it will. Joss Whedon is a genius and his directing style was pitch perfect for this masterpiece.
2. Road To Perdition: Few folks (comic book folks, included) know that this was actually adapted from the 1998 graphic novel by writer Max Collins. This series was basically a Depression era version of the Lone Wolf and Cub series. This is truly a gem in the CBM-inspired movie list. Tom Hank (Mike Sullivan) is a hit-man for hire and road around with his teenage son, Mike. Jr., as his getaway driver. There were some creepy individuals as Jude Law (Harlen) is a crime-scene photographer that moonlights as an assassin. I won’t give anything else away as this is one movie that I not only recommend, but hope anyone reading list sees – regardless of the rest of the list. Acting at it’s finest. Storytelling at it’s most gut-wrenching. Worth every single moment.
1. The Incredibles: This is by far my favorite CBM-inspired movie of all-time. I enjoyed this movie from the opening montague. I won’t go into too much detail but the one thing this movie had that most CBMs don’t have even based on established characters was as a sense of history, nostalgia and heart so potent that you wished this movie didn’t end. Even Syndrome, the villain in the movie had a backstory that while you couldn’t approve of his methods, you did understand how he got to become how he did. The Parr family wasn’t just a bunch of 2-dimensional characters in a CGI movie, these were people – people you cared about, rooted for and cheered on as they eventually formed a team of superheroes that could take on any foe (Fantastic Four writers, please take note). The Incredibles was in a word – Incredible. NO CAPES!
Well that it’s folks, my list list the top 20 CBM-Inspired movies I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. Now, I’d like to note that while some movies were left off this list that some feel should be in any top 20 list, what I used as my criteria were those movies that moved me in one way or another emotionally. I’ve seen some that were good but forgettable, and some that were just good, but not on my great list like Captain America, Dark Knight Rises (which was in my top 20, but as I started looking at the story – the holes began to form, thus it’s in my top 25) and Superman. With that said, please feel free to agree or not with me at your leisure.