Best Comic Book Adaptations

Hollywood surely loves their comic book movies, particularly during the summer. It’s not hard to understand why. This year, “The Avengers,” which is essentially an amalgamation of comic book movies past, became the third highest grossing movie of all time, and reached that status in just five weeks. “The Avengers” had one other thing going for it: It’s actually pretty good. This is frankly pretty rare for cinematic adaptations of comic books, but there are exceptions. Here are ten of the best film adaptations of comic books.

American Splendor
Not ALL comic book movies are blockbusters. This wildly original 2003 film, based on the comics of Harvey Pekar, blends fiction and documentary footage to provide an incisive look at the artist himself. Paul Giamatti is, as always, exceptional in the lead role as the schlumpy, sad-sack subject.

The Dark Knight
What can I say about this 2008 masterpiece that hasn’t already been said? The “Godfather II” of the comic book genre features invigorating direction, complex storytelling and a one of a kind menacing performance from the late Heath Ledger. It’s not just one of the great comic book films ever made, it’s one of the great films ever made period.

A History of Violence
David Cronenberg’s 2005 adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name is shocking, subversive and darkly hilarious. In other words, Cronenberg to the max. This tale, about a small town hero confused for a former mob assassin, features terrific performances from the leads and a bevy of surprises.

Iron Man
For a long time, Robert Downey Jr. was a star on the verge, just in need of that one role. He found his chance and ran with it as Tony Stark, the billionaire man-child who becomes the superhero Iron Man. Downey’s charismatic and sarcastic turn keeps this from standard comic book movie territory.

The Mask
Audiences got a first peek at the phenomenal talents of Jim Carrey in this hilarious 1994 adaptation of the Dark Horse comics. Carrey plays a low-key banker who acquires a magical mask that allows him to let loose emotionally and to break the rules of human anatomy. This film thrives on Carrey’s still unparalleled comedic virtues.

Men in Black
This uproarious 1997 comedy, about a secret governmental agency designed to control alien traffic, succeeds thanks to wonderful chemistry between stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. The sequels that have followed have not been nearly as charming or clever as this one.

Road to Perdition
It’s hard to envision Tom Hanks as a killer, but he once again manages to surprise audiences in this handsomely made 2002 adaptation of the graphic novel. Hanks plays a mob hitman looking to avenge the death of all of his family members, even if it means going after his mob family.

Sin City
This film deserved only the kind of treatment director Robert Rodriguez could give it. Using an all-star cast and a visual style than many have attempted to emulate since, Rodriguez created a unique entertainment with this one. If you don’t care for cinematic violence, stay far, far away.

Sam Raimi’s first in his trilogy about a nerdy high school student turned web-slinging superhero is the best. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are terrific in the central roles, and Raimi employs his macabre sense of humor and keen cinematic vision to this ultimately moving tale.

Call it the original “Avengers.” Bryan Singer assembled world class talent to make this thrilling film about a gang of mutants, attempting to prove to the world that they are not purely evil. Thanks to great star turns and stunning special effects, this film stands out.

For summers to come, Hollywood will continue to release similar comic book movies, along with movies with a number at the end of the title (often all at once). Hopefully these future films can reach the heights of the ones listed above.

Author bio: Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast and owner of and writer of movie reviews for movies like The Dark Knight. He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.

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