I know what you’re thinking. Why five? Well, it sorta works with the word “Flickcast” and we’re fans of alliteration around here, so that’s one reason. Of course, it also means I only need to come up with five items to fill the list, so that might have something to do with it too. I’ll never tell.
I’m also in the process of preparing a list of the worst movies adapted from comics as well because what’s a “best” list without a “worst” list, right? Right.
However, in this case, we’re talking best. And do we have a lot of great “best” ones to choose from. That’s not a question, we do.
The ones I’ve chosen are not only great examples of comic book adaptations done right, they’re also great movies too. From a clever screenplay to expert direction, exciting visuals, to compelling characters and performances, these five films deliver on many levels and also manage to demonstrate a real love for their source material.
Okay, enough setup. On with the listing of the things.
SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978) — When I first watched this movie as a kid in 1978, I completely believed a man could fly. And after all these years, it is still one of the best because it took the subject matter seriously — even when said subject matter was wearing a cape and tights.
From Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor to Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent, this film managed to stay true to its origins while also updating the story for a more sophisticated, 1978 audience. The film includes all the essential elements like an excellent story, drama, conflict, death, destruction, action and a bit of romance all in one well-directed, well-written and well-photographed package.
If you haven’t seen it in awhile, or ever, you owe it to yourself to watch. If you do, you too will believe a man can fly.
SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004) — With Spider-Man and the obligatory “origin” story out of the way, director Sam Raimi was able to concentrate on telling a great Spider-Man adventure story complete with action, romance, drama and one of the best villains of this or any comic book movie: Doctor Octopus.
As good as the first Spider-Man was, this one is better because it was able to concentrate on letting Spider-Man be who he is and explore his relationships with Mary Jane, New York, himself and the cost of great power.
With a new Spider-Man reboot on the way, this film will be the yardstick against which it will be measured. My guess is the new one will come up short.
THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)— Fortunately for us all, with Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan was able to resuscitate the Batman movie franchise after Joel Shumacher had killed it. He brought us Batman Begins and proved to all that he knows exactly what a comic book movie adaptation ought to look, sound and feel like.
Then, he did it again, and actually topped himself, with the sequel The Dark Knight. Grittier, more action-packed and darker than the first, Nolan and company raised the bar even higher for comic book adaptations. No mention of this movie can be complete, of course, without noting the exceptional work of Heath Ledger as The Joker.
But as great as he was in that role, the movie is a sum of its parts and those parts add up to one hell of a ride. It’s the kind of comic book movie we needed at the exact right time and now we have the third one to look forward to. I’m sure it will make this list next year.
IRON MAN (2008) –- The other great (and arguably better) comic book adaptation of 2008 was director Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. With a stellar performance by Robert Downey, Jr Iron Man found that rare combination of elements, mixed them together, and made what can be considered not only a great comic book movie but a great movie in general.
It has pretty much everything going for it: clever writing, action, impressive visual effects, three dimensional characters, drama, romance, exceptional direction and it’s just plain fun. Everyone involved with this film seemed to be having the time of their lives making it and that enthusiasm shows on the screen.
Besides, I defy you to find a better example of an actor’s suitability for a role. Robert Downey, Jr is Tony Stark. He makes the film work and damn if it doesn’t work extremely well.
SCOTT PILGRIM vs. THE WORLD (2010) — To be perfectly honest, when I saw this movie for the first time it was at a late night screening, I was tired, hung over and I didn’t really love it. As time has passed and I’ve watched it again and again, I’ve grown not only to respect the film and what director Edgar Wright has done with it, but also to love it. It’s gotten under my skin and I don’t mind one bit.
This is one of the most authentic adaptations of a comic book ever made and includes a host of elements that appeal not only to comic book readers but all types of pop culture aficionados as well. Plus, it’s a rather sweet love story where boy meets girl and in order to win girl boy must battle seven of girl’s evil exes to the death. And who couldn’t love that?
The movie is clever, funny, smart, sweet and also filed with action, music and is lots of fun. It’s the total package that appeals to the dreamer inside all of us.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) — What can I say about Captain America? It’s the big screen realization of a dream I had since I was a kid reading the Cap comics of Jack ‘King” Kirby and Stan “The Man” Lee. Almost everything about Joe Johnston’s film showcases his, and the Marvel team’s, love for this character and his place in Marvel history.
The film crackles with energy and features great performances by Hugo Weaving, Chris Evans and so many more. It could have been a bit corny or crossed the line into camp but all involved manage to walk that line and deliver a great movie that not only entertains but reminds us that old fashioned values like honor, duty, country and decency have a place in our modern world.
Others that didn’t quite make the cut: Watchmen, Kick-Ass, 300, A History of Violence, Road to Perdition, Sin City.
Did I miss any of your favorites? If so, set me straight in the comments.