It's a big summer for comic book-based movies. But aren't they all? <p> We've already seen <i>Iron Man 3</i> hit big, and join fellow Marvel Studios production <i>The Avengers</i> in the billion-plus worldwide gross club. This week saw the release of the highly anticipated <i>Man of Steel</i>, director Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, and WB's first post-Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy adaptation of a DC icon. <p> And that's not all: There's still <i>The Wolverine</i> and <i>Kick-Ass 2</i> left to go this season, as well as non-superhero films with comic book roots, like <i>R.I.P.D.</i> and <i>Red 2</i>. <p> So while time will tell how this summer's comic book-based fare will hold up among the best of the best, we figured it was an apt time to revisit our list of the 10 best comic book-based movies of all time. (Of course, feel free to head to Twitter or Facebook to let us know your lists.)
Studio: Universal. Director: Edgar Wright. Stars: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: <p>By far the best comic book movie Brandon Routh has appeared in, it'd be convenient to say director Edgar Wright's adaptation of the Bryan Lee O'Malley graphic novels was groundbreaking in the way "Sin City" and "300" were (more on that in a few), Hollywood won't be building on the "Scott Pilgrim" lot again any time soon. So we'll say this the film's visual bridging of comic books and cinema was waaay cooler than Ang Lee's "Hulk". That it also marries film to video game play is just gravy. <p>The film's hard-to-describe, therefore even-harder-to-market sensibilities contributed heavily to a disappointing theatrical box office run, though those same sensibilities have helped garner it cult status. <p>While its overall inventiveness is what stands out, "Scott Pilgrim" succeeds mostly because it's one of the more purely genial and simply charming movies aimed towards teen and younger adult crowds released in who knows when. Smart and sarcastic without being cynical, its feel-good nature is infectious and inviting, which makes it doubly ironic that it probably failed commercially because of a perceived lack of accessibility. <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: <p>Although its quirks are apparent from the opening seconds, for those who didn't read the source material it's not until the first "League of evil exes" video game fight scene/Bollywood musical number with Matthew Patel that the film really shows its unique hand. The "WTF" reaction from Anna Kendrick (as Scott's sister Stacey) to the action probably mirrored the response of many unprepared moviegoers. It's at this point that you're either in or you're out, and we suspect most people who give it a fair shot probably deal themselves in.
Studio: Sony. Director: Sam Raimi. Stars: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina. <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: <p>Though Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man film might be showing its age (for reasons even beyond the Macy Gray scene) and the third film has been largely reviled since its release for an excess of villains and dance numbers, the second film is not only the strongest of the three, it's one of the most critically acclaimed comic book movies of all time. <p>And it's not hard to see why: Ably capturing the patented Spider-Man formula of good-natured fun and genuine emotion, <b>Spider-Man 2</b> presents a both sympathetic and intimidating villain in Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus, and the best outing for Tobey Maguire in the lead role. It also includes the most distinct Raimi-esque touches — in the scene where Doc Ock's tentacles run rampant at a hospital, and the funniest Bruce Campbell cameo in the trilogy. <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: <p>Spider-Man single-handedly stops a runaway train and saves everyone on board, though at the cost of his mask and, seemingly, his secret identity. But instead of snapping a picture, the passengers — moved to see how young Spider-Man is — agree to keep the secret to themselves.
Studio: Warner Bros. Director: Tim Burton. Stars: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger. <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: <p>Almost lost in the wash between the triumph of Christopher Nolan's Batman epics (more on those later) and the stink of the two near franchise-killing Joel Schumacher entries is the fact that Tim Burton's <i>first</i> effort in '89 is a darn good movie and was <i>the</i> box office phenomena of its day. <p>Though now dated slightly by the back-lot exterior sets, the by-now-way-too-familiar Danny Elfman score, and the heavy-handed inclusion of Prince songs (what the hell was that about?), Michael Keaton's Batman was a surprising but highly credible one, and Jack Nicholson's Joker was a sensation. <p>And the film had a high bar to clear in its day. True-blue comic book fans were still newly basking in the glow of the original publication of perhaps the two definitive contemporary Batman stories, Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" (1986) and Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke" (1988). <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: <p>Nicholson's presumably improvisational moment of making peculiar random noises to no one in particular before cracking up in the character's famous maniacal cackle.
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox. Director: Bryan Singer. Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry. <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: <p>If there is a rule that sequels of films adapted from other media play better than the original, "X2" may be the movie that defines the rule. With all the origin stories, introductions of beloved characters, and establishing of the "mutant" premise out of the way, the film hit the ground running from its very first reel, relying on great moments from the comic books for inspiration, but without paying obvious, heavy-handed homage to them. <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: <p>Wolverine popping his claws and cutting loose on Stryker's solders during their attack on the Xavier Institute. On top of a rousing, well-choreographed action scene, it was the big screen moment hardcore X-Men fans waited decades to see. <p><b>Honorable mentions</b> go to Magneto's inventive escape from his plastic prison cell, as well as the opening sequence seeing Nightcrawler infiltrating the White House.
Studio: Warner Bros. Director: Zack Snyder. Stars: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey. <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: "300" makes the list mainly in observance of the "groundbreaking" rule. Aside from a solid script based on a terrific graphic novel by Frank Miller, a star-making performance by Gerard Butler, "300" will be remembered for its innovative use of green screen technology to a create an arresting new wholly virtual landscape that proved highly influential in the genre in the following years. <p>Sure, you might argue that the 2005 green screen panel-for-panel recreation of that <i>other</i> Frank Miller graphic novel "Sin City" came before "300", as did films like 2004's "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow", but the Zack Snyder-directed epic was the first nearly all-CGI box office hit, scoring over $450 million at theaters worldwide. <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: <p>What, you were expecting us to say anything other than the defeat of the 300? Even though you know how the battle will end, the spectacle and the emotion of Leonidas' final assault hits deeply on a visceral level, making it a satisfying conclusion to the story, as well as an amazing four minutes of film. It also sets up a very satisfying epilogue. <p>A sequel/prequel "Rise of an Empire," is on the way next spring, adding to the film's legacy.
Studio: Warner Bros. Director: Richard Donner. Stars: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman. <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: The "groundbreaking" rule applies here again, which is why this one gets the nod over 1980's "Superman II", which may have been a hair more fun. <p>"Superman" was arguably the first true modern comic book movie adaptation, and holds a special place in the hearts of an entire generation of moviegoers, not to mention the writers, artists, directors, and executives shaping Superman's adventures in various media today. While the special effects are of course now clunky by contemporary standards, the John Williams score remains an all-time classic, and the story and performances are solid and endearing. <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: <p>The helicopter rescue of Lois Lane atop the Daily Planet building. In a rare moment of movie harmony, the Metropolis bystanders' reaction to seeing Superman in action for the first time matched perfectly with the response from modern moviegoers — pure awe and joy.
Studio: Sony. Director: Marc Webb. Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: <p>When it originally debuted on this list, it knocked Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 2" out of the Top 10 entirely. That may have seemed a little harsh at the time, but Raimi's Spider-Mans already weren't aging very well and Marc Webb's "Amazing Spider-Man" just accelerated the process to critical mass. <p>"Amazing" is superior to the original three Spidey features in <i>every</I> conceivable way — better lead actors, better supporting actors, better action and special effects, and yes, better origin story. <p>Fans complaining that 10 years was too soon to retell the origin might have to reevaluate when they realize Amazing tells a much <i>better</i> origin story. In fact, we here at Newsarama think "Amazing" tells the best Spider-Man origin story ever, and yes, we're including the comic books too [ducks, runs for cover]. <p>"Amazing Spider-Man" is cool, contemporary, and accessible. It gives comic book fans exactly what they want (the best-realized Spider-Man action yet, a path to more Spidey films in the future) and probably what they didn't know they needed (Garfield and Stone frankly mop the floor with Maguire and Dunst). <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: <p>Anything with Garfield and Stone together. Their chemistry is evident and Stone continues to emerge as one of the brightest, most dynamic and appealing young stars of her generation.
Studio: Marvel/Paramount. Director Jon Favreau. Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow. <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: <p>It would be easy to just say "Robert Downey Jr." and leave it at that. But that wouldn't be fair to the film's secret weapon, director Jon Favreau. <p>Having already demonstrated considerable box office savvy with the holiday hit "Elf", which appealed to adults and children equally, here Favreau took what was at the time, at best, a B-list comic book character and crafts a story and characters with mass appeal. "Iron Man" plays equally well to the hardcore male comic book reader, as it does with women, kids, and just about <i>anyone</i> that might not have ever read a comic book before. And he did it all while staying very faithful to the comic books. <p>Favreau didn't rethink the core concept in order for it to make more "sense" to non-comics fans. He knew audiences would buy into the fantastical conceit of the armor and sci-fi elements so long as its human counterpart made them <i>want</i> to suspend their disbelief, and in that respect Favreau came up aces with Downey Jr., which was at first an unexpected and somewhat risky choice. <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: <p>Its very first. Downey Jr.'s hyper-witted riffing with the army soldiers in the armored jeep right before it's attacked not only set the entire movie's pitch-perfect tone, but immediately placed the audience in the palm of its star, where he held them steady through the closing credits (and even for a moment after).
Studio: Disney/Marvel. Director: Joss Whedon. Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner. <p><b>What Makes It Great</b>: <p>While our one-time all-time favorite "Batman Begins" got its position because it "didn't play like a comic book superhero movie", "The Avengers" once ascended to the top because it plays <i>exactly</i> like a comic book superhero movie. <p>...scratch that. It plays like a comic book — that happens to be an awesome big budget movie. <p>This is the sub-genre ultimately (so far) realized: Bigger, bolder and more fantastic than even Hollywood standards. Crisp dialogue. Breakneck pacing. Seamless special effects. (If not costumes... keep working on the Cap uniform, Disney.) <p>Taking hold and sprinting with the baton that began with Favreau's "Iron Man", Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" doesn't adapt anything for "mainstream" audiences. It doesn't re- or over-think its source material. Which is a more difficult task than Favreau faced because of the extreme disparate elements — a soldier, a monster, a god, and a machine — it has to integrate. <p>No, it's not <i>exactly</i> the comic book Avengers in specific detail, but it's 100 percent pure in spirit. <p><b>Stand-Out Scene</b>: Oh, pretty much the entire third act — the "assembled" team battle with the invading alien hordes. <p>And this is maybe "The Avengers" greatest of several secret weapons. While many films in the comic book genre labor with their third acts, <b>The Avengers</b> revels and thrives in it, ending on such a high note it should leave most anyone with human DNA wanting for much more. <p>More Iron Man. More Cap. More Thor. More Hulk. <p>And definitely <i>more</i> Avengers.
Studio: Warner Bros. Director: Christopher Nolan. Stars: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman <p>What Makes the Trilogy the <i>New</i> Best Comic Book Based Movie(s) of All Time</b>: <p>OK, OK. This is somewhat a cheat, yes, but each film was produced, co-written and directed by the same person, and tells a cohesive story that despite Christopher Nolan's claims he made decisions one film at a time, we suspect were at least mapped out in outline form from the very beginning with the intention of completing the cycle. <p>In other words, all three films effectively make up one big production ... and what a production it is. <p>Individually, it'd be perfectly understandable if a fan had a favorite comic book film other than one of these three, but considered together, is there any more impressive cinematic achievement in the category? <p>Perhaps in future years Joss Whedon can string together a more impressive body of Avengers films, but until then, Nolan's modern-day masterpiece is the standard bearer, and we suspect it will remain so for a very long time. <p><b>Stand-Out Chapter</b>: <p>"Dark Knight" may well live on as the consensus critical best of the bunch, but we still favor "Begins," perhaps due to the expectations-vs.-delivery factor. <p>"Begins" was the film that rewrote the rules for comic books/superhero movies that its sequels took to another level. Perhaps what they say about first loves simply applies here. <p>[note: fan-created art by Deviant Art Contributor Andrewss7]