Header Ads

The best movies based on comic books / graphic novels.

Comic books.
For some reason, people associate those words with silly fantasy stories of flying men in multi-coloured tights and masks, fighting equally bizarre megalomaniacs who want to rule the world.  A true comic book fan would tell you that comic books have long been a mirror to society and it's own dilemmas, mirroring real life events and raising debates within imaginative minds. They have stopped being 'for kids' a long time ago... in some cases, the level of maturity and the themes in comic books far surpasses that which a young child ( and perhaps some of our own adults ) could possibly comprehend. 

I wanted to make a list of the best of comic book / graphic novel movies, imagining there would be a few dozen to choose from. Imagine my surprise when the final list I rounded up crossed 70 ! And this is after discarding sure-fire contenders like Tintin and Persepolis on the grounds that they were animated movies. 



Worth a watch


  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World
  • Superman 
  • A history of violence
  • Kick-ass
  • Wanted
  • Captain America
Authors note: I know some may want the Superman movies higher up but the fact is that the old movies appear outdated by present day standards. Infact, movies like Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Kick Ass would rate much higher in my opinion for their creativity and storyline, respectively. Truth be told, I am still awaiting a good Superman movie, though I have a lot of hope on the Synder-Nolan collaboration due for release this year. 


Keeps you hooked
 



Hellboy -     Hellboy was never going to be an easy movie to shoot. The theme of a demon child accidentally crossing over and being adopted by humans to help save the planet was always playing dangerously on the edges of fantasy and outright silliness. But the visionary direction of Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) and a powerful performance by Ron Perlman helped make this one of the better loved origin stories of a comic book character. I was always enamored by it's final lines - "What Makes a Man a Man, A friend once wondered. Is it his origins, the way he comes to life? I don't think so. Its the choices he makes; not how he starts things but how he decides to end things."
It's sequel again added more layers to the different worlds theme and perhaps better showcased the imagination of Del Toro.   

Red -     This movie inspired from the comic book series stars a bunch of aging retired CIA agents who are brought back together against their will when they find out someone is trying to kill them. There are enough twists to keep you guessing but the USP here is just watching this stellar star cast (Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman,Helen Mirren, John Malkovich)  have some serious fun.

From Hell -     In my opinion, this Johny Depp-Heather Graham starrer is a highly underrated movie. Based on Alan Moore's graphic novel, From Hell followed a different origin story : the true identity of the world's most famous serial killer Jack the Ripper. The theory they propose is one of the most researched and controversial ones undoubtedly, but the dark claustrophobic atmosphere that this movie sustains right to the very end is to be applauded. Definitely not a movie for small kids. 

Watchmen -     Perhaps the best example of how wrong people's conceptions on 'comics' are. Alan Moore's Watchmen showcased some of the most adult and mature themes of it's time when the graphic novel was released as a series. A bunch of ex-superheroes - some retired, some outlawed - come together reluctantly once more when one of their own is murdered. The movie, directed by Zack Snyder, is one of the most faithful recreations of a graphic novel/comic book series, ticking all the right boxes - it brings back the era, the intrigue and mystery, the visual grandeur, the fear of nuclear war, flawed heroes, rape, politics and violence. It deconstructed the concept of what an icon and a superhero would be like in real life.


Men in Black -     After a couple of heavy movies on the list, it's time to just sit back and relax. Men in Black dealt with the covert agency that doesn't just keep Earth safe from aliens, but also handles all inter-galactic immigration related issues (Dennis Rodman, Micheal Jackson and a pug among others ! ). The first movie in the trilogy is the best in the series, as we watch an aging Tommy Lee Jones recruit and mould a new kid into Agent J ( Will Smith in a hilarious avatar ) while simultaneously saving a 'galaxy in Orion's belt.' 
Fun fact : The success of this collaboration between Marvel Comics and Columbia Pictures would inspire Marvel to start distributing some of their other comic books, resulting in the Spiderman movies a few years later.
Also, how many of you remember this - Will Smith's Men in Black song

X-Men 2 -     I always view the X-Men movies as the game changer in comic books-to-movie transitions. A few years earlier, the concept of superhero movies had been killed (most brutally, I may add) by the horrible 'Batman & Robin' movie. The first X-Men movie was not perfect, but it showed enough promise to give others courage to start considering comic book movies again. X-Men 2, however, was a different story. While staying with Wolverine's search for his origins, the movie packed in a lot of the comic books original themes as well - of being segregated and considered an outcast because you are different... themes that still hold true in our world even today.




X-Men: First Class -     I gave this movie no hope at all when I walked into the theatre. A bunch of (then) unknown actors, a story set in the 60s showcasing the origin of the two leaders Xavier and Eric, no Wolverine/Storm/Cyclops/Jean Grey. I am glad I was mistaken. X-Men: First Class brilliantly focused on the friendship between these two characters, while also showing how both their views were justified based on their personal experiences. The movie gave adequate time to all the 'newbie' recruits and villains as well and was aided by a strong script, good imaginative use of individual powers and conflicts and a rousing background score. After the disappointing X-Men 3 and the extremely underwhelming Wolverine movie, this was a true return to form for the series.  


Thor -      Like X-Men: First Class, I had no hopes for this movie. While Iron Man and Batman may seem good story lines to the average movie goer, I didn't see the appeal in making a movie on a guy in a Viking costume who walks around with a hammer. Credit then to the Marvel team for not just having faith in their abilities but also delivering a story which, while incorporating the myths of the '9 realms of the world', also gave a very human tale to the crown prince of Asgard who gets banished to Earth for his dangerous arrogance. Along with a classy performance by relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth, credit must go to Tom Hiddleston whose portrayal as Thor's brother, Loki was simply brilliant in his need to be better than his brother.
Fun fact: Tom Hiddleston first auditioned to play not Loki, but the lead role of Thor!

Iron Man -      By itself, it stands out well enough as we watch a billionaire arms dealer forced to change his priorities and lifestyle after being kidnapped by a terrorist group which leaves him, literally, with a hole in his heart where shrapnel have pierced through. Following his escape, Tony Stark chooses to take on a more active role in public safety - using his technology to create a gadget-heavy suit which does everything except wash the dishes. 
Why I feel this changed a lot of fortunes is simply this - 

  • Marvel Comics at that point of time had no feasible hits with them (Spiderman and the X-Men series rights had been sold away and even Ang Lee had disappointed with the Hulk.) 
  • They took a huge risk by choosing an actor coming out of rehab and casting him in a role which, while iconic to Marvel fans, was still nowhere as famous as a Superman or Batman. The risk paid off brilliantly with Robert Downey Jr erasing his real-life demons and coming good with an iconic performance as the suave self-centred Iron Man and making him a bankable star again in Hollywood. 
  • It also gave Marvel the confidence to believe in their own abilities and vision, resulting in them finally making their own movies. 
  • More importantly, it gave them the platform for what was considered impossible to make - an actual Avengers movie.    



Essential viewing


300 -      You will never find a more imaginative and beautiful recreation of war than 300. The story revolves around the legend of how King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors took on the nearly 3 lakh Persians led by Xerxes. Many a time during the movie, you would be forgiven for wondering if you were watching a painting or an actual scene. The colour palette, visual imagery and depiction of battle by Zack Snyder is unsurpassed even today.

Spiderman 2 -     If X-Men laid the groundwork for the return of superhero comics, the Spiderman movies would cement their place back in Hollywood. The first movie had breathtaking visuals as Spidey got his origin story and battled a 'suited' version of the Green Goblin. But it was in the second movie that director Sam Raimi really excelled. In addition to bringing a better adaptation of the villain Doctor Octopus, he gave us a more humane look at the teenage orphan Peter Parker as he grappled with unemployment, love and even lost his powers and gave up his suit. Of course, in addition to the story, the Spiderman vs Doc Oc battles also showcased some awesome graphics which still looks good even today. This would have been a decent contender for the best trilogy series, if not for that god awful third part which took such good storylines ( Venom, Dark Spiderman, Sandman ) and ruined it altogether.

The Dark Knight -     If I had to choose among the three in the Chrstopher Nolan series, I would go with The Dark Knight (TDK). But this is the true superhero trilogy to watch. If the first movie focused on his origins and his return to hometown, TDK showcased the best of Batman as true comic book fans know him - a human with no super powers, a detective, a vigilante... and of course, an arch rival who knows how to hurt him. The late Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker deserves all the praise it got as his portrayal of the madness and sense of anarchy was spot-on. 
Even though the third installment of the trilogy ( The Dark Knight Rises ) would have a more physically imposing villain and a storyline that is etched in comic book folklore, for me, the battle of wits between the Joker and the Batman is the true test of the superhero. 




Avengers -      If Nolan's Dark Knight symbolises the dark and seedy Gotham city,  Joss Whedon went the other direction. He chose to embrace the superheroes special abilities and provide a storyline that connected all the dots from the previous movies. Whedon ( who till then was 'just' a Tv serial director ) was handed the reins of Marvel's biggest and most expensive gamble and he delivered in style. 
Every hero was given his moment to shine, every character was fleshed out perfectly without ignoring the other. The lack of team dynamics, the friction between heroes who think they're better than the rest and how they finally assemble into the Avengers to take on Loki was just pure nirvana for comic book geeks. In addition to the surprisingly good humour, there were atleast half a dozen OMG moments which had the crowd clapping in the theatres and the final battle is simply the best big-boss battle you could have ever asked for.

Sin City -     Based on Frank Miller's Sin City series, I fell in love with this movie long before it ended. Taken in the noir style of the graphic novel, this movie focuses on multiple short stories from the series, all interlinked at various moments with the other. Each short story dealt with the various vices of this city where everyone had their own code of ethics and the interplay between characters as they try to escape from their personal hells. For those who need a star cast, here is a small sample - Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Rosario Dawson, Micheal Clarke Duncan, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood, Clive Owen among others. But the most striking aspect of the movie is not that it is taken in black and white ( and the occasional red and yellow! ), but that it is a tremendously faithful recreation of the artwork in the comic book itself. It is unlike any other movie you have ever seen, of that I can assure you.  





V for Vendetta -     The theme of the book lives long after it was first published in 1982. The movie, like Watchmen, left viewers divided, because they came in expecting a 'superhero ninja fighter' and instead were lost with so many darker themes and so little action set-pieces. But that's just it. V for Vendetta was never a superhero movie. It was a mirror to society and how the path they were taking would eventually lead to their own oppression. It showcased the brutality of discrimination and hatred. 
Through the eyes of young Evey, we begin to see the depth and ideals of her saviour, a man whose mask hides a past more tragic than his disfigured face, even as he sets upon a final act of galvanizing a nation against their leaders. Once more, Alan Moore's fictional work proved prophetic as decades have passed and more and more societies ( including our own India ? ) find their freedom oppressed by narrow minded men in power. The Guy Fawkes mask used in the books and the movie are even today used in rallies across the world, symbolising a fight against oppression.


So that's my list. What do you think of it ? Which movies would you have added or deleted from the list, given the chance ?


23 comments:

  1. Dude, You left out The Silence of the Lambs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Take that back, I forgot you limited it to Graphic novels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yup... just comics and graphic novels.. still allows for league of extraordinary gentlemen and Howard the duck amongst others :)

      Delete
    2. What I wouldn't do if they made a sequel to Howard the Duck!

      Delete
    3. haha :) George Lucas would be so happy to hear that.. now that he's given up the rights to Star Wars, this is one of the few things left in his stable :D

      Delete
  3. That is a great list. I will add Persepolis and Road to Perdition to it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I didnt add Persepolis because that would open a floodgate of animated movies - the Tintins/Batmans/Supermans /Justice League etc.

    As for RtP, I had it in the list but eventually chickened out and went with the more glamourous 'Wanted' :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good list!! I am waiting for Iron Man 3 to release. . The trailer looks promising. .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. looking forward to many : the whole Phase2 of Marvel comics is exciting ( IM3, Thor, Captain America, Avengers2) besides the new Superman and Star Trek movies :)

      Delete
  6. Nice list but no The Dark Knight Rises? I find that disturbing.
    No matter what people say, that is the best so far, the scale at which it is made is marvelous. Well it is hard to categorize it as a comic book movie too though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh you decided to club all 3 in one, if so okay :) Yes the full thing is greater than the sum of it's individual 3 parts.

      Delete
    2. Exactly.. unlike the earlier Batman movies, this works coherently as a trilogy. It is a whole storyline that interlinks the first and last part.
      As I mentioned just above it, Spiderman too would have worked logically as a good trilogy if they had not done whatever they did in the 3rd part.

      Delete
  7. Good list, though I would have clubbed the sequels/prequels in one. I would also have added Flash Gordon, the movie was not great but it is one of the early sci fi comics. Unless you wanted to restrict to hit movies only.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did club some of the sequels together ( The Dark Knight/Spiderman/Hellboy) though I did omit others there (X-Men ). And I had Flash in my initial list of 70, but it didnt make the final cut for me..

      Delete
  8. TDK, Watchmen and V for Vendetta are my favourites - what I like about these movies compared to run of the mill tights'n't-shirt heroes is that the story is less about super-powers and more about the moral dilemmas and personal weaknesses they have to deal with. Perhaps how they choose to confront these is what makes them superheroes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The 3 you chose especially focus on those points... Watchmen and V for Vendetta are forever underrated because they chose to focus on the storyline (as in the comics) , both of which have very complex, deep rooted themes where all is not white and black.

      Delete
  9. thor,300 and Avengers are my favorite...one of the reasons being hotshot actors playing the role..n yes storyline was also very good otherwise i don't watch action movies if i don't like the actors. I also like X-men series..hugh jackman ...love him...but if i have to pick one..it would be thor..:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha... did you know that Thor's lead actor was there in the Star Trek movie too.. at the very beginning as Kirk's dad who sacrifices himself to save his child. Check him out there - a huge difference with chocolate boy looks rather than the rugged Thor look. :)

      Delete
  10. I think spider-man (1st one) was the best in the series, its the first time the audience is introduced to the famous saying "with great power comes great responsibility". Also if there was one thing missing in the character, its spider-man's wisecracks, I guess Toby was never up for it and Andrew overdid it in Amazing Spider-Man.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thats right..Spidey one really wowed audiences with the level of seamless graphics.. in the way DC Comics and Marvel perhaps really differ. While DC prefers the real and gritty storylines, Marvel embraces the powers and awe that will be associated with the story. The new Amazing Spidey series was good, but not brilliant enough for me... I'll reserve judgement because its an origin story (again!) lets see how it picks up in act 2 :)

      Delete
  11. TDK and V for Vendetta... is my favourite from your list. The Xmen comes next. Good list. Are you bringing out a list for the animations?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was surprised to find 70 movies in this genre. Now I'm almost scared to consider animation though it was there in the original 'best of' list... Just putting up a 'best of disney' would take up a post... a 'best of animation' really goes far and wide... and would require some extensive reviewing and hunting down of some of these.

      Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained :)
      Till then, I can fill the site up with easier 'Best of' posts... such as Best of Salman/SRK/Aamir etc... such limited options when you really think about it :D

      Delete

Powered by Blogger.