Friday, March 6, 2009

Top Five Friday: Top Five Live Action Comic Book Movies

In this first edition of Top Five Friday, I bring you the Top Five Comic Book Movies. Since I'm going to see Watchmen tonight, it seems appropriate. As I still haven't actually seen Watchmen, it is, obviously, excluded from the list.

Top Five Live Action Comic Book Movies (in chronological order)
-Batman (based on the DC comic book created by Bob Kane, directed by Tim Burton, 1989) Look, I'll just say it here and now, Tim Burton's Batman is my favorite comic book movie of all time. It gets the top spot today, because it was released before the rest, but the casting is perfect (I still say Michael Keaton's eccentric Bruce Wayne is way better than Christian Bale's), the sets are brilliantly surreal, and Prince is awesome.

This was also the first serious comic book movie. Before this, the '60s Batman movie and series were pretty much the template for how comics were treated by the film industry. Batman made the studios realize that if the material was treated in a mature fashion, people would respond.

-The Crow (based on the Kitchen Sink Press comic book created by J. O'Barr, directed by Alex Proyas, 1994) If Batman made studios realize that people would respond to comic movies maturely, The Crow galvanized that realization. Based on J. O'Barr's indie comic phenomenon, The Crow tells the story of a murdered man come back to life to reap vengence on those who killed him and his wife-to-be. Brandon Lee's swansong (he died in a freak accident during shooting) was also director Alex Proyas' American film debut, and it served to boost the visibility of both men greatly.

Lee makes the movie, naturally, but supporting performances by Jon Polito (Gideon), David Patrick Kelly (T-Bird), Michael Wincott (Top Dollar) and kept it going. A live performance by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult during the film's best action sequence doesn't hurt, either.

-X2: X-Men United (based on the Marvel comic book created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, directed by Bryan Singer, 2003) X-Men was my favorite comic growing up, so I was chomping at the bit for a movie to come. It eventually did, but after I'd finished growing up. Still, Bryan Singer's X-Men was incredible, but still, left me wanting just a bit. X2 took care of that. The addition of Nightcrawler, Wolverine going berzerker and the removal of Tyler Mane's awful Sabertooth all made the second film worlds ahead of the first.

-Sin City (based on the Dark Horse comic created by Frank Miller, directed by Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller & Quentin Tarantino, 2005) Sin City was the first live action comic book movie to actually look like a comic book. The style of the film never strays from the comic, so much so that it's rumored that when Rodriguez sent scripts to the actors, they received instead copies of the graphic novels. An all-star cast (Bruce Willis, Benecio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, etc., etc.) and expert direction not only from Rodriguez, but co-director Frank Miller and "guest" director Quentin Taratino make this movie more than just nice to look at.

-The Dark Knight (based on the DC comic book created by Bob Kane, directed by Christopher Nolan, 2008) If you're reading this, and you haven't seen The Dark Knight, there's not much I can say to you that hasn't already been said. It is a great film by any standard. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker, making him the first actor in a comic book movie to achieve that feat, to my knowledge. Nolan is a master storyteller, and Bale is a more than capable Batman (except that voice thing... maybe he just needs a lozenge?) and Bruce Wayne. My mom even liked it.


  1. Of course I would love this article! The only point I would make is that Superman: The Movie (1978, directed by Richard Donner) is the first serious comic book film. Without it you don't have the 89 Batman. The producers of Batman (Uslan and Grubers) have stated this many times. Yes the franchise went terribly wrong, but Richard Donner came at that first film with the right idea; treat the material with respect, and it will be taken seriously. Sure, the Earth spinning backwards is way doofy, but Christopher Reeve gave the entire film the weight it needed. When Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer (ok...last one was a better example before he did a Superman movie) pointed to the S: TM as a guide for making comic movies, I think that says it all.

    I know my opinion when it comes to Superman related stuff is usually seen as biased (it's the risk you run when you like the character these days), but I really don't see it that way. I try my best to be objective, and I think I do a pretty good job. Besides, I love Batman just as much!

    All that being said, 89 Batman is my favorite Batman movie, but Dark Knight is favorite film.

    Great list!

  2. By the way, my list would be:

    Dark Knight
    Superman: The Movie
    Batman ('89)
    X2: X-Men United
    Iron Man (I was so surprised by how good this movie was)