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Top 10 Best Comic Book Adaptations

By Ally Sinyard · August 29, 2011

I love film adaptations of comic books. However, I’d be lying if I said I was an authority on all things in the world of comics. So, I am not basing this list on how close the film relates to the comic book or how good the actual adaptation of the film is. Instead, I will be judging these films based on how they make use of the source material and the general responses towards it.  I should also point out that some of them are graphic novels, as it’s easier for me to just put them all into one category. This list will most probably anger the hardcore comic book fans out there, so please remember that this list is directed at everyone, especially those who, like myself, like comic book movies but are by no means comic book or graphic novel aficionados.

10. V for Vendetta (2006)

I’m not how it is in the US, but over in the UK, people LOVE V for Vendetta. Some hate it or claim it’s overrated, but on the whole it’s on many a person’s Top 5 Faves. What’s quite brilliant about the film (and the graphic novel) is that the focus isn’t on the action, as one would usually expect from an adaptation of this sort. It’s about showing the audience how easy it is to turn a democratic society into a totalitarian system. It also shows them how terrifyingly possible it is! Also, it has recently emerged that the UK has a taste for anarchy, so maybe that’s why it was so popular! A lot of critics found it ordinary, but it definitely wins points for its originality and for being “visually exhilarating, provocative and disturbing” (USA Today.)

9. Kick Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass isn’t just a superhero movie. To be fair, it isn’t really a superhero movie, in the traditional sense. Put best by Joe Leydon from “Variety,” Kick-Ass is equal parts “dark comedy, wish-fulfillment fantasy and over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek action-adventure.” It’s way more violent than you would expect of a film about a gawky teenage boy who decides to become a superhero. And of course there’s the sweary little girl. Whether or not the movie is a good adaptation, I really couldn’t say as I’ve never read the books. But as a comic book movie? Kick-Ass is one of the most entertaining and original of them all.

8. Superman (1978)

Superman was America’s first comic book superhero and has always been a cultural icon, so when the movie came out in 1978, it HAD to be good. Not only was it just that, but it also set the standard for all comic book films that would follow. It succeeded with its full and satisfying script, but really won over its audience with the casting of Christopher Reeve, an unknown at the time. The general consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is that he was “perfectly cast” and that the adaptation is a “loving, nostalgic tribute to an American pop culture icon.” I could not agree more. The film is nothing exceptional, but it’s definitely the best of the “Man of Steel” series and a very fitting adaptation of the Superman comics.

7. Spiderman 2 (2004)

Spiderman was the first modern comic book adaptation that was a roaring success with both comic book fans and the wider audience. Sam Raimi did a fantastic job of keeping close to the source material whilst creating an enjoyable action film. Tobey Maguire was the perfect choice for Peter Parker and the film also had a great depth, thanks to the development of its characters. A real feat in a superhero film! Raimi raised the bar once again with his sequel. We were given some fantastic action sequences, great special effects and more depth of emotion than you can fling a gooey bit of web at. Alfred Molina as Doc Ock was also a work on genius! It’s such a shame that the third film had to come along and ruin what had been such a brilliant duo. I beg you to spend an evening watching Spiderman 2 again, so you can remember how good it was before Tobey Maguire came prancing down the street, busting out the dancing fingers!

6. X2 (2003)

I’m a big fan of X-Men. And no, not just because of Wolverine. There’s such a huge, diverse range of characters and the movies have done well to fit enough in sufficiently. X2 is by far the best in the series. The complex relationships between characters, the energy, the effects, the script; everything is better than the original and then not matched in X-Men: The Last Stand. One of the best things about X-Men, as a whole, is that it can always be contemporary. It brings up questions of all different kinds of prejudice (sometimes a little TOO in your face) and appeals to all of us in one way or another. X2 is the sure winner. An all-round brilliant comic book movie.

5. The Dark Knight (2008)

“The Pulp List” said that The Dark Knight “surpasses all expectations of a comic book adaptation to become a full commentary on society.” And that is exactly why it grossed over one billion dollars. You don’t have to be a fan of the comic books to enjoy this Batman movie. And even if you are, it’s safe to say that this isn’t just a standard page-to-screen adaptation. It has an amazing script, the performances are outstanding, and it really speaks to its audience. “Sound on Sight” talks about how The Dark Knight is a metaphor for our “terrorism-obsessed times” and that alone is enough to make you realise how clever the film is and why it became such a favourite with so many people. There is something for everyone in this movie; for comic book fans, film fans, Nolan fans, kids, adults, and families alike.

4. A History of Violence (2005)

Perhaps not as well known as the other comic books and graphic novels on this list, A History of Violence is an adaptation of a graphic novel of the same name, directed by David Cronenberg. It’s the story of a Tom Stall, a mild-mannered small-town diner owner, who kills two robbers in self-defense and becomes an overnight celebrity hero, but this unwanted attention brings a crew of Philly mobsters out of the woodwork, forcing Tom, his family, and the town of Millbrook to face the violence of Tom’s past. A History of Violence does a good job of proving that not every graphic novel or comic book adaptation needs to be stylised. Good old realism can work just as well. What’s also great about this film is how much of it is open to interpretation. It’s a story with a lot of questions. Cronenberg shows us that a different side to violence, and a disturbing one. This one really stands out!

3. Persepolis (2007)

The 2007 Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature and Jury Prize winner at Cannes is an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel about her coming of age in the 1979 Iranian Revoltion. Of course, Persopolis stands out for its material alone. No other adaptation on the list delves so deeply and asks such questions. Also, our protagonist is the only female on the entire list. Interesting. The black-and-white animation is a brilliant backdrop to this story of religion confusion, identity issues, and violence. Marjana explained that the black-and-white serves to show how easily any country can become like Iran. Besides several governments’ (including Iran’s) reactions to the film, critics and audiences were all over it! There really is nothing else quite like it. It’s superb both in its form and its content. A beautiful, moving and incredibly thoughtful film.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

No comic book adaptation is a self-reflexive as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Edgar Wright and his team went to great lengths to bring the graphic novels into the film world, using cinematic tricks such as on-screen text, split screen, and slow motion. Wright literally brought the novels to life, and not just by simply playing out the narrative, but by creating the world as it is on the page.  The film was labeled a “major financial disappointment” by The Los Angeles Times, but fans of the graphic novels loved it! It is, after all, directed toward quite a niche audience. So the critics aren’t always right! Even the likes of Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino were said to have thoroughly enjoyed this genre-bending, boundary-pushing movie. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it really “defines our Youtube/Facebook generation” (Sound on Sight.)

1. Sin City (2005)

Ok, so the dialogue does occasionally make me cringe, but Sin City is still one of my favourite films ever! Many think it’s overrated, but I believe it is the most unique and clever adaptations of a comic book/graphic novel to date! It even replicates exact panels from the original novels. It just makes me clap me geeky little hands with glee! Sin City is an adaptation of three of Frank Miller’s graphic novels: “The Hard Goodbye,” “The Big Fat Kill” and “That Yellow Bastard.” The stories weave in and out of each other expertly and the casting (except for Clive Owen: double cringe) is pretty darn good. This film made me fall a little bit in love with Mickey Rourke; his voice-overs almost surpass the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman himself! Like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Sin City is “the closest experience to actually watching a graphic novel on screen.”