Top 10 Comic Book Adaptations

It's that time of year again. The approach of summer brings the hype of the superheroes. It seems like its been going on forever, but it really hasn't. Hollywood blockbusters have gone comic book with the advent of convincing CGI technology. This year, the X-Men are back with a new director, and the X-Men's old director is back with an even older superhero. Not all comic adaptations are superheroes, however. In fact, some of the movies on this list you may be surprised to find out were actually graphic novels first. With Charles Burns' "Black Hole" and two more volumes of "Sin City" in the works, there are a lot more non-superhero movies on their way. Hell, when you adapt a comic book, half the art design is already done for you. (Although skin-tight red outfits sometimes look better in print than traslated into saggy leather onscreen; just ask Ben Affleck!) ![][1]1. Spider-Man 2 (2004) : Sam Raimi is responsible for, hands down, the best superhero movie ever. Since the first "Spider-Man," the "Evil Dead" director has more confidence, more humor, a better grasp on the character, and more general swagger. Balancing multiple storylines and tones, but keeping Peter Parker's crisis of responsibility in clear focus for the entire film, Raimi has evolved into a master filmmaker and this film proves it. The bar is set very, very high for any film in this genre. ![][2] 2. American Splendor (2003) : Paul Giamatti is heartbreaking and hilarious - finally put on the map as something other than a bit part actor, and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini bring the life of bitter sad sack comic book author Harvey Pekar to life in a movie that cleverly blurs the line between an artist's life and work. Who'd have thought that a hospital clerk "from off the streets of Cleveland" would be the subject of such a rich movie. If you don't think it sounds interesting, see it anyway. You will be surprised, I guarantee it.3. X2: X-Men United (2003) : Since when are sequels better than the originals? Since the "X-Men" and "Spider-Man" series began. Brett Ratner has a lot to live up next month with "X-Men 3." Hell, so does "X2" director Bryan Singer, for that matter. Why would he leave this consistently interesting franchise for "Superman"? "X2" is better than "X-Men" because the mutant struggle is taken to a new level, and since Singer has the main characters introduced, he's able to focus on the film's central ideas about racism and bigotry. Still, some new mutants are also introduced, and he juggles the dark overtones and misfit humor expertly.![][3] 4. Ghost World (2001) : Speaking of misfits:No stranger to comic books, having directed the amazing documentary on comic legend Robert Crumb, Terry Zwigoff took a spare, existential series of stories from Daniel Clowes' excellent "Eightball" comics and brought it to feature-length life. The movie fleshes out outcast Enid (Thora Birch), features Scarlett Johansson in her first major role, and captures the listlessness of post-high school/pre-real world life in both a cynical and touching way. Bonus points for featuring Steve Buscemi in his best role ever-a stain on the Oscars for not nominating him!![][4]5. Sin City (2005) : Robert Rodriguez took the words "comic book adaptation" literally last year when he took Frank Miller's violent, hard-boiled black-and-white "Sin City" and translated the very same images-panels even-straight from the comic. Miller's attitude oozes through every scene, and the hard edges aren't ever glossed over. The fact that almost none of the backgrounds were real and there are unreal splashes of color here and there accentuates the theatricality of it all. I am so ready for the sequels. ![][5]6. A History of Violence (2005) : David Cronenberg drew upon the spare, sketch-like drawings of this graphic novel to create a subtle, funny, and terrifying look into the human psyche. It may look like a suspense thriller on the outside, but "A History of Violence" is a serious examination of what we all have within us and what happens when we know what we're capable of. Can a movie be graphic and subtle at the same time? This one proves that the answer is yes. 7. Spider-Man (2002) : The first time I saw Spider-Man swinging between two New York City skyscrapers, I felt like I was a kid again. When I saw the Green Goblin flying around on his sled, I almost peed myself. Then I immediately went to the rock show my band was playing with J.D.'s band, and spooged all over this film for hours, while he politely listened. The origin story is told perfectly, and Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire have so much chemistry it should be illegal. Raimi gets all the details right, and only in the second half does it lose any steam. Peter Parker's campy Spidey-talk is pitch-perfect, and his regret is palpable as well. There's a reason this is the top-grossing superhero movie of all time.![][6]8. Road to Perdition (2002) : Sam Mendes follows up Best Picture winner "American Beauty" with this dark, wrenching tale adapted from Max Allan Collins' graphic novel. Released in the summer and starring Tom Hanks as a mob hitman, this disturbing film was a kick in the gut to many moviegoers. Paul Newman, Jude Law and Daniel Craig get ugly with Hanks, and Mendes films it all with a kind of lyric beauty. This is an underrated and stirring tale of loyalty that will have its due one day. 9. X-Men (2000) : A quick look back at my list and I see that this is the oldest movie on it! Wow. I guess you could credit director Bryan Singer with kick-starting the trend of quality comic book adaptations that don't buckle under the weight of their own responsibility. By introducing the mutant X-Men to the world with the utmost respect for the material, and framing the story with Magneto's Holocaust experience, Singer establishes a tone that others will use in years to come. The superhero fantasy genre is truly a 21st century art form. ![][7]10. Hulk (2003) : It is with much vim and vigor that I sit here at the computer, snarl on my face, anticipating that most people disagree with me on this choice. I humbly ask you to watch "Hulk" again. Oscar winning director Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") took tons of chances on this film, from the one-of-a-kind comic book editing style (which got virtually no recognition!) to the psychological depths he was willing to plummet the audience into. On both counts, he alienated fans who wanted their hero less brooding, and their storytelling less showy. Fuck 'em. I got a great movie to watch whenever I want on DVD. They'll come around some day. Eric's Runners-Up: V for Vendetta (2006), Batman Begins (2005), Hellboy (2004), Superman II (1980) [1]: [2]: [3]: [4]: [5]: [6]: [7]:


lazz 12 years, 7 months ago

Spidey II as the best superhero movie ever?? Wow. Bold statement! I didn't see it, but I don't recall hearing such raves over it ... I'll have to check it out. I gotta put in an Old Guy nod for Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) ... For what they did at the time, pow, they were huge. Maybe they don't quite hold up in current context, but their impact was beyond question, and I think both were pretty much universally received as terrific entertainments ... Dig that you included AMERICAN SPLENDOR among comic book adaptations. Another worth attention: ONE CRAZY SUMMER from 1986. Not a comic book adaptation, but very much a comic-book movie ...

Joel 12 years, 7 months ago

Actually, I have no problem with Spidey II getting the top nod. While I detest movies that omit plot and character development to pack in more explosions and high-speed chases, the fact is that S2 has plot AND character AND explosions AND high-speed chases -- truth is, I got a little verklempt at the end of the runaway train scene, and yes, I was being manipulated, but that's kind of what good storytellling does anyway.

It is, in short, very representative of what a fully satisfying cinematic experience can be.

bthom37 12 years, 7 months ago

lazz, Spiderman 2 is deservedly at the top of this list. You definitely should watch it. I have high hopes for S3, but I worry about the larger # of villains they seem to be including. A plethora of villains tends to mean they lose their individuality. If I were in charge, I might use Green Goblin (the son) and Venom, and that's it. Although since this is the last one, they might be throwing in all the bells and whistles.

I would put Batman on there. Despite the truly horrid 3rd & 4th movies, and the bizarrely compelling 2nd, the 1st Batman was a really good movie. And I would put it on at 10, over Hulk. Hulk was bad. VERY bad.

scary_manilow 12 years, 7 months ago


Just kidding, the movie is a turd, but it still holds a special place in my heart.

Michael Austin 12 years, 7 months ago

I would put Darkman, The Crow, or Batman above The Hulk. I have watched it twice. Worse the second time around.

I really disliked Road to Perdition. Been there, done that. Move along please.

ggpozz 12 years, 7 months ago

The HULK BLEW. That storyline in the movie was never even in a classic HULK tale. HORRIBLE. I've read every HULK comic ever made. He's my favorite superhero...and HIS MOVIE BLEW. HARD. Eric Bana as BRUCE BLEW. Jennifer Connaley as BETTY BLEW. Nick Nolte as BRUCE'S DAD(???) BLEW. Sam Elliott was cool. The best part was when the Hulk was jumping around the desert smashing tanks. THAT is HULK. But that lasted for like 5 minutes or a horrible movie. NEVER LET ANG LEE direct another COMIC BOOK movie. HORRIBLE CHOICE. They should've just adapted some of PETER DAVID'S HULK run.

Here's the real list: 1. SIN CITY (captures the essence of the comic the best) 2. SPIDER-MAN 3. SPIDER-MAN 2 4. GHOST WORLD 5. X-MEN 6. X-MEN 2 7. HISTORY OF VIOLENCE 8. V FOR VENDETTA 9. SUPERMAN 3 (The one with Richard Pryor) 10. AMERICAN SPLENDOR

NONE OF THE BATMAN MOVIES should even be near the list. BATMAN BEGINS WAS SUCH A LET DOWN. They should've just made it like BATMAN: YEAR ONE like they said they were going to do. Gary Oldman as GORDON? What the BLEEP was that? And why does Christian Bale's BATMAN talk like he's constipated?!

scary_manilow 12 years, 7 months ago

The computer in ggpozz's momma's basement seems to have a problem with the CAPS LOCK key. What causes keyboards to get all sticky like that? Oh yeah...

ggpozz 12 years, 7 months ago

Scary Manilow---

YOUR mom was good in BED last night.

droog811 12 years, 6 months ago

What, no love for The Crow? Or even X-men 2? I have to differ with you about The Hulk, it had it's moments, but not enough for me to recommend it. It actually made my list of worst comic book movies. Check out the others--

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