_It’s pretty remarkable how much the landscape of comic book movies has changed in the last 13 years. If this list was made in 1999, clunkers like Superman III and Batman & Robin would likely have been (dis?)honorable mentions because there weren’t enough options. Starting with 2000’s X-men, and working our way up until today, the world of comic book films has flourished. As I am a fanatic of these types of movies, I figured now was as good a time as any to present my list of the top 10 comic book movies… ever.

_ 10. X-Men (2000)

When Bryan Singer sat in the director’s chair for the mutant heroes’ first foray onto the big screen, comic book movies weren’t exactly thriving.  1997’s Batman & Robin had been the last major motion picture involving a top-tier comics character, and I’m sure everyone remembers that veritable classic. While Raimi’s Spiderman and it’s $114 million opening weekend, is more often referenced as being the start of the comic book movie revolution, without this film’s comparatively modest success, it’s tough for me to believe so many of these films would get the green-light.

The action and effects of this film are spectacular, especially when one considers it was made over a decade ago on a budget half as large as that of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This, along with Singer’s focus on the mutant/human dynamic as a story of hate and an allegory for civil rights helped to make this film both a critical and financial success.

_9. Spiderman 2 (2004)

Take 2002’s debut of the web-slinger, a fun entertaining movie in its own right, add in a better villain, better script, and better action, and you get Spiderman 2.  One of the funnier comic book movies, this Spidey adventure knows when to turn on the serious and when to lighten up, something Spiderman 3 had no idea how to do. In addition to its sharp script, exciting action sequences abound. One needs only to watch the subway scene to know how exhilarating this movie can be.

_ 8. Superman (1978)

The originator. There had been other films based on comic books to come before Superman, but all paled in comparison. Superman was the first time a studio put in the necessary time, effort, and money into a superhero flick, and boy did it ever pay off. Christopher Reeve is perfect as both the Man of Steel, and his mild-mannered reporter alter-ego. Toss in excellent direction from a great action-adventure movie director, Richard Donner, the perfect amount of over-the-top villainy from Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, wonderful effects for the film’s time, and a script that spends just enough time focusing  on Superman’s origins, and this was the perfect paver for all great comic book movies to come.

_7. Superman II (1980)

Kneel before ZOD. Superman II has quite a bit going for it. Christopher Reeve is as awesome as he was in Superman 1, and it has great action and humor in spades. There is one thing however that raises it so high that led it to be the top comic book movie for over 20 years, and that is Terrence Stamp as one of the best villains in cinema history, General Zod. This dude is as bad-ass as they come. If you have not seen this I cannot recommend it highly enough. I believe it is on Netflix Instant, check it out as soon as possible.

_ 6. The Avengers (2012)

I think some people may have caught this one. It recently passed $500 million in the US alone, less than a month into its release. So is it worth the hype? Well, the short answer is yes.

Its script is as sharp as they come, and its action as exciting as it gets. I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon for years and his writing is just as great as it was when he wrote Toy Story in 1995 and the pilot to his cult classic tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Plus, while most movies have a climactic action sequence that is five to twenty minutes long, The Avengers’ climax is about 45 minutes. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES! Of almost non-stop action!  So yeah… the hype is warranted.

_ 5. X-Men First Class (2011)

Michael Fassbender is nothing short of incredible in his tour-de-force portrayal of Eric Lensherr, the man who would become Magneto. Add in terrific performances from James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon, an intriguing storyline of historical science fiction, and fantastic special effects, and this film has all you could want in a comic book prequel. I am eagerly awaiting the 2013 sequel, which is bringing back Matthew Vaughn as director as well as most of the cast, set to begin filming in January.

_ 4. Iron Man (2008)

I have to admit I had very low expectations for this one. I knew little about the character and aside from Spiderman and the X-Men was always more of a DC Comics guy. But wow, this one just blows you away. Iron Man has a wonderful origin story and the decision to start with the “fun-vee” exploding and then going back to show us a couple days in the life of Tony Stark was brilliant.

Robert Downey Jr. gives one of the most charismatic performances I’ve ever seen and is often hysterical. The special effects are phenomenal and the flying scenes in particular, along with those in the Avengers, are the “most believable” I can ever remember seeing in a movie. What an incredible ride.

_ 3. Batman Begins (2005)

Batman and Robin was the first movie I can remember leaving the theater truly disappointed. I was about 10 or 11 and even I knew it was idiotic and not what a Batman movie should be about. I loved Burton’s Batman movies and still enjoy them to this day, but Joel Shumacher did something so many villains had tried over the years, he killed Batman. Then, less than a decade after that toy commercial of a movie had been released, Christopher Nolan did the impossible. He made a Batman movie that was not only in a different league than B & R, it was better than Tim Burton’s 1989 classic.

With perhaps the best ensemble cast of the last decade, led by Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine, and one of the best directors of this generation,Batman Begins was the Batman movie I had always been hoping for; I just never truly expected it to come to fruition.  

_ 2. X2: X-Men United (2003)

The opening Nightcrawler-assassination-attempt sequence still stands today as my pick for the best action sequence in any of these movies. That scene set the tone for what would turn out to be one hell of a ride. Bryan Singer once again puts forth a great effort as director, as well as story developer. 

What I enjoy most about this film is that it doesn’t waste any of its 133 minutes, while really giving all its main players a chance to shine. From Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake “coming out” to his parents, to Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler describing his circus origins, to every second Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen spend on screen together, this movie is just chockfull of wonderful scenes, and terrific performances. In addition, I have never left a theater as excited for a sequel as I did here. Of course Brett Ratner came along, and Last Stand, while not a terrible film was a huge let-down. Fortunately we’ll always have the more subtle and excellent Singer X-Men flicks.  

_ 1. The Dark Knight (2008)

If it wasn’t clear when he made Memento, The Prestige, and Batman Begins, The Dark Knight left no doubt; Nolan is as good as it gets. It is not a coincidence that he is the director of two of the top three on this list. Not only is the Dark Knight my pick for the greatest comic book film ever, I see it as one of the best FILMS of the last 25 years, PERIOD. Most of the same players are back for this sequel, with two major additions to the cast. Aaron Eckhart brings that sly charisma that Harvey Dent needs and manages to seamlessly transition to play the sadness-to-anger-to-madness that is Two-face. Heath Ledger, meanwhile, portrays the Joker in one of the most flawless acting jobs I have ever seen. The Oscar he won for his role was well-deserved. From the script, to the acting, to Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's wonderful score, to the amazing use of IMAX cameras, this is truly a classic.

_ So what do you think? Is your favorite comic book film on the list? Is something misplaced? Do you think The Amazing Spiderman and/or The Dark Knight Rises will make the cut? Let me know in the comments.


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