Last week, Avengers Assemble villain Tom Hiddleston gave an impassioned defence of Superhero movies to The Guardian. On the back of almost universally positive reviews for his new flick, the man partially responsible for pairing up Tony and Bruce and Steve and brother Thor editorialised that comic book films were the pinnacle of what movie-makers can achieve, that they offer a place where “our shared hopes, dreams and apocalyptic nightmares can be projected and played out”.
With a Boff and a Zap and a Kapow, we concur. Comic book movies rule and so in honour of Avengers Assemble, released in the UK this Friday, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites. Just one thing, but apologies to Seinfeld – we’ve got no Supes for you.
Guillermo Del Toro’s band of misfit superheroes was exactly what a comic book movie should be: one for the outsiders. Like the weird and wonderful mutant X-Men and in many ways the lead himself, Ron Perlman, there was something unusual and, yes flawed, about The Big Red’s two outings. As for Perlman, he captures the essence of his character like no other actor in this list. Bruce Wayne’s will come and go and Clark Kent’s after Clark Kent will learn to fly, but Ron is Red forever. We will admit that Hellboy‘s inclusion in the Top Ten might just have something to do with his love of Tom Waits.
9V For Vendetta (2005)
2005 was a helluva year for the comic book movie genre, taking up no less than 50% of the room on this list. Arguably the most contentious choice, V For Vendetta is included because of its imperfections rather then despite them. With a rambling narrative and an unclear anti-hero at it’s core, V For Vendetta had more to say about the War On Terror than all the ‘post 9/11, Iraq/Afghanistan, In The Valley Of The Lions For Lambs Undergoing Redacted Rendition, real-world politico films on offer this millennium.
8A History Of Violence (2005)
Hell hath no fury like a graphic novel labelled a comic book, yet the all encompassing term for any material that includes pretty pictures and words helps David Cronenberg’s adaptation of John Wagner and Vince Locke’s images and text tome get the credit it deserves. Viggo Mortensen’s Tom also works as a superhero himself – encapsulating the champion that has had enough of great power and great responsibility – and one that Cronenberg keeps you guessing about from the opening scene to the closing one.
7Batman Begins (2005)
When Jack Nicholson went for a Burton in the 1989 incarnation, Bruce Wayne was left playing second fiddle to a scenery chewing, Prince-loving clown. While Bale’s The Bat-Man would eventually be overshadowed in his own sequel, in …Begins it was, quite rightly, all about Master Wayne. Grief, revenge and fear were just a few of the obstacles that Bruce would overcome but the biggest challenge was forging the huge gap between this re-imagining and any other personification of vigilante billionaire. The result was an immensely successful restart.
6Kick Ass (2010)
Taking on the rules and regulations of the comic book world without being overly judgemental or condescendingly mocking, Kick Ass begins as a valiant attempt at real world heroism and the pitfalls of vigilantism before the arrival of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl throw a Benchmade model 42 butterfly knife into the works, turning events into an exemplary heroes and villains tale. Any film that strikes the kind of fear into the hearts of Daily Mail readers that Kick Ass did, has to be given comic kudos.
5Iron Man (2008)
If there’s one person who deserves to be bought a coke when The Avengers busts all blocks in the forthcoming weeks that man is John Favreau. From relatively humble beginnings he doubled down on the undeniably great hat-trick of Swingers, Elf and the greatest Monica Geller boyfriend since Fun Bobby, with his take on the Tony Stark tale.Iron Man launched Fav into the A-List director stratosphere. Once there, a sequel hampered by studio interference and the misfire of Cowboys And Aliens saw him spluttering back down to Earth. The legacy of Iron Man, however, lives on.
For all the ‘adult appeal’ of Nolan’s Batflicks, the first truly successful comic flick to aim for more than just the kid dollar was Bryan Singer’s effort. Opening in the midst of the Holocaust, held aloft by two of our greatest thesps in Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, the first X-Men set the bench mark for every superhero film to come. Most lists place X-Men 2 as the superior instalment but we’re still not convinced, citing the fact that sequel has more endings than The Lord Of The Rings. Despite the overly climaxing climaxes, both X-Men: United and X-Men: First Class still deserve honourable mentions.
3Spider-Man 2 (2005)
Hampered by a re-shot ending, the first Spider-Man did a great job of setting up Sam Raimi’s world but lacked the complete picture its sequel achieved. A much more rounded affair, with vastly improved effects and a greater sense of a one-of-a-kind director let loose, arguably the greatest strength of 2 lies in the conflicted antagonist of Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus. His ‘birth’ might just be the most ambitiously unique scene ever attempted by a mainstream CBM with a budget north of $200m.
2Sin City (2005)
Like tricks and Hula Hoops, everyone bar the occasional rabbit knows that comic books are strictly, y’know, for kids. Of course Sin City beat that misconception into the ground until all it was doing was punching wet chips of bone into the floorboards. Bringing Mickey Rourke back from the dead, giving Bruce Willis his best role since Jesus’ 2000th birthday, ‘that’ image of Jessica Alba on stage, adding the blackest noir to its iconic look, it’s tricky to pick just one reason why Sin City deserves its high ranking. Roll on 2013 and the recently announced Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.
1The Dark Knight (2008)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Overrated, obvious, erroneous. There will of course be naysayers that decry this selection as trite and old hat but some people think Shakespeare and The Beatles aren’t much cop either. Ignoring the age old theme of Good Vs. Evil and replacing it with Chaos against Order, The Dark Knight became more than just a superhero movie in the way Chinatown is more than just a detective flick. The chances of The Dark Knight Rises eclipsing it? There’s less than 3 months to find out…
The End. Don’t forget to read our Avengers Assemble review and check back in later in the week for the 10 worst comic book movies. It’ll be much the same list as this – including a Batman, a Spider-man and a Frank Miller – but the numbers will be shifted.