Top 15 Comic Films (2012 Edition)

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Yes it is another list. But this should be a fun conversation starter since people these days have mostly varying opinions about what they consider a great comic movie. And can we all just realize what a great time we live in that there are actually enough comic related films out there that we can debate about a list of them? We are in a renaissance of nerdiness that I could only dream of as a kid.

It’s been about three years since I made a list like this and by looking at it you can tell how much has changed in that short span of time. I started out with ten but just couldn’t seem to leave some films going unnoticed so I stretched it to a generous fifteen. Let’s all have some fun!


#15 Batman (1989)

When you go back and watch Batman now it is kind of amazing how this film was considered so “dark” for a long time. It shows how we have changed as a society and that “dark” 20 years ago seems a little bit cheesy by today’s standards. The great thing though about Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster is that even with the changes to the mythos, the annoying, slightly different bat symbol on the chest and Kim Basinger’s man hands (seriously, pay attention to them) this movie is still a great bit of fun that was carried by an amazing actor’s portrayal of The Joker. Sound familiar? And just so you know I will always prefer Burton’s Batwing over Nolan’s Bat. Sorry Chris, but Tim wins that round.

#14 Batman Begins (2005)

When Batman and Robin took a massive crap on our collective heads in 1997 we all knew that it would be a long time before Warner invested their time and money into the caped crusader again…and we were right. Eight years seperated the two Bat films but the wait was well worth it. Director Christopher Nolan and writer David Goyer brought Batman into a world realistic enough that it was hard to imagine him being a comic book creation. And massive kudos to them for not instantly going into the rogues gallery and picking the easy choice of The Joker first, instead crafting a story that involved The Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows. You can tell Nolan was still getting his bearings for a true action movie with some of the fight scenes being jarring and hard to follow at times but was quickly rectified in the two sequels. The reboot is so good we can even forgive them for Katie Holmes.

#13 Iron Man (2008)

To say a lot was riding on Iron Man is an understatement. If this movie failed would we even have gotten to go to the theaters this year and watch The Avengers set new records? But it did succeed. Maybe even more than Marvel had planned. With the perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr. and the near brilliant idea to give this big budget movie to Jon Favreau, Marvel firmly placed the mantle of comic movie king on it’s head. The movie started out smart by bringing Tony into this generation by having him attacked by terrorists which led to his injury and creation of the Iron Man suit and showed him go full on philanthropist after dealing with the horrors of his captivity. Now let’s not call the movie perfect because the final fight with War Monger leaves something to be desired but what this movie did right, it did right in a huge way.

#12 The Rocketeer (1991)

The way Disney advertised for The Rocketeer way back in 1991 you could tell that they wanted to be their next big thing, a sequel machine. Sadly it did not happen but the movie we got is so wonderful that I am kind of glad we never got a chance to have a sequel ruin it. The cast was really good including Billy Campbell, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton and Jennifer Connelly before she became a six foot toothpick. It’s about a man that finds a jetpack, becomes a hero and saves the world from an actor trying to help the Nazis win WW2 all while saving the hot chick. What about that does not sound like an awesome comic book movie?

#11 Thor (2011)

Of all the movies that led up to The Avengers, Thor was the odd duckling. It would be Marvel’s first film to delve into the mystical elements of superheroes. To top that off, they cast Chris Hemsworth, a relative unknown unless you remember the first ten minutes of JJ Abrams Star Trek and hired Kenneth Branaugh to direct it. Now I know that might get a big loud HUH? from most people but it all came together perfectly. Hemsworth proved himself a leading man and the famed Shakespearean actor and director was able to give the movie a fantastic other wordly feel even while keeping a lot of it grounded here on Earth. But the movie belongs to Tom Hiddleston whose portrayal of Loki truly stole the movie and proved large enough to have him take on The Avengers.

#10 X-Men: First Class (2011)

Can we just all go ahead and give director Matthew Vaughn a big collective thank you for bringing the X-Men back to their roots? The reason why X-Men 2 was good was the character driven story that Bryan Singer delivered and X-Men 3’s Brett Ratner completely left behind for the bloated special effects film we got. Perfect casting like Michael Fassbender and Kevin Bacon (yeah I know, Kevin Bacon) brought the super group back from the near dead. Who would have ever thought that taking the X-Men 40 years in the past would have saved their future?

#9 Unbreakable (2000)

Yes this is technically not a “comic book” movie but you can not watch this movie and not feel that this could have easily been on the pages of any monthly book. Remember waaay back to the year 2000 when M. Night Shyamalan was the next big Hollywood director and his movies were still genuinely big deals? The beginning of David Dunn’s journey of discovering that this world is much more than it seems. Complete with heroes that are blessed with powers (even if they don’t realize it) and villains that are just as deranged as anyone written in the pages of a comic. I still get chills when I hear “They called me Mr. Glass”.

#8 The Incredible Hulk (2008)

After Iron Man hit it huge in May 2008, you would expect the second movie in Marvel’s Phase One series would have been as big a deal. Sadly The Incredible Hulk didn’t do near the business that Tony Stark mustered and one would have to think a big reason was Ang Lee’s 2003 version which left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of moviegoers. That is a shame because this version is as close as you are going to get to a Hulk comic on the big screen (not counting the obvious Avengers). Edward Norton put a lot of work and love into this project and even though he and Marvel were not the best of friends during and after production you can’t deny that this was an awesome movie. I mean really, that fight with Abomination at the end is why we go see comic book movies.

#7 Spider-Man 2 (2004)

As time keeps on flying by the first Spider-Man does not hold up very well. The dialogue gets weaker, James Franco seems to be high the entire time (normal, I know) and that Green Goblin costume…..that costume. So while Spider-Man 1’s porridge was too hot and Spider-Man 3’s was too cold and emo like and just soul sucking bad, Spider-Man 2  gets it right. Taking from John Romita, Sr.’s classic Spider-Man No More story and having Alfred Molina play a near perfect Dr. Octopus (my favorite Spidey baddie) showed how great this character can be when you have a Spider-Man that may be filled with internal conflict but his love for New York and his promise to Uncle Ben overcomes all doubt.

#6 Watchmen (2009)

Watchmen is the greatest graphic novel of all time. Since the first time I read it when I was 14 it has only gotten better with time. It was the perfect desconstruction of the superhero that showed how flawed these people can be. When you read it you can’t help but think that there is no way someone could make a movie out of this. Well Zack Snyder did and despite a lot of flak for some of his other films, he did what I and a whole lot of other people thought impossible. He made Watchmen. And it didn’t suck. In fact it was completely amazing and the changes that were made (i.e. Nite Owl’s costume) made complete sense to me. And I know this may put me on Alan Moore’s death list but I liked the movie ending better than the comic. I’m sorry I just find it hard to imagine watching a 40 foot vagina with worm arms destroying New York. Call me crazy.

#5 The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

This is the movie that is bound to be the most polarizing on the list. Who in their right mind could ask Christopher Nolan to follow up The Dark Knight with something better? Expectations can never be met when hype is as high as it was for this movie. But you know what? Nolan did the near impossible and crafted a movie that finished out his Batman saga his way by taking Bruce to the depths of hell and despair and raised him up and proved that Batman is more than just a man. He is a symbol that keeps holding the line against impossible odds and even a broken body never means that the spirit is broken. Why do we fall?

#4 Captain America (2011)

I loved Captain America. I mean that is probably obvious by how high it is on my list but this movie was easily Marvel’s best until The Avengers. To me this flick got Cap exactly right. People that complain that he is a goodie goodie and a boyscout apparently have never read Captain America. That is who he is. He is mission first, no grey area, serves one God and believes America is the greatest land on the planet. Now in today’s world that is looked down on but it is the heart of the character and Chris Evans embodied it as well as anybody could. The supporting cast is the strongest of any Marvel movie with Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Hayley Atwell and Sebastion Stan each making use of their  screen time creating a believable support system for Cap. Who’s ready for Winter Soldier?

#3 Superman (1978)

The more that the years pass on, the more this statement remains true. Christopher Reeve is Superman. He always will be. I feel sorry for any actor that has the task of playing the character now until the end of time but Christopher Reeve was Superman in bright red and blue. Richard Donner took on a massive undertaking when he decided to make a movie about the best known comic character in history and he did so in a time when making these movies was not the “thing” to do. Gene Hackman chews up every scene he can and Ned Beatty plays inept very well (Mr. Loothor) and even Margot Kidder gives Lois the punchy attitude that she deserves but in the the end there is Chris Reeve with the giant “S” on his chest showing you that the comics you grew up on were right there in front of you, in real life.

#2 The Dark Knight (2008)

When is a superhero movie not a superhero movie? The Dark Knight brings up that question for every bit of its two hour and fourty-five minute runtime. It would appear to be a cops and mobsters movie that happens to have a guy in a bat suit chasing a psycho interweaved in it. That’s the beauty of what Christopher Nolan did with this middle film in his Bat trilogy. He so grounded it in reality that you did not have to stretch your imaginiation too far to realize that this could completely take place in some close reality to us. And yes it has been four years and you can not mention this movie without saying how insanely (literally) great Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance was. Remember when he was cast and everyone thought he would disgrace Jack’s 1989 performance? Yeah, how’d that work out?

#1 The Avengers (2012)

I wanted to name The Avengers the greatest comic movie ever the second I saw this very scene above these words. The camera spinning, Alan Silvestri’s amazing theme blaring through the speakers, seeing all six of these heroes preparing for what may the final battle Earth ever sees. Seriously I have goosebumps now thinking about it. You thought about it as a kid. What if you could get Captain America and Hulk and Thor and….well as a kid you kept throwing Avengers in there just to make the movie more awesome in your head. Even when X-Men and Spider-Man ushered in this new era of comic films in 2000 and 2002 respectively you still never thought you would really, truly ever see an Avengers movie. It was too big, too bold. Hollywood and Marvel could never get their stuff together enough to get it done. And that’s why watching this in theaters you realized that something truly special was happening. Under the careful guidance and love of Joss Whedon, Earth’s mightiest heroes came together and for two hours and twenty minutes put a huge child like grin on my face. And it was great and easily my number one pick for this list.


Now lists are breeding grounds for agreements and arguments and that’s cool. Let me know what your top picks would be. And if there are big disagreements leave a comment below and let’s see if we can’t all be friends. That or make your own list.





3 responses to “Top 15 Comic Films (2012 Edition)”

  1. Paris Vega Avatar

    I've got Unbreakable higher, Captain America lower, and Batman 1989 higher. Other than that I'd say I agreed with you. Still haven't seen watchmen though.

    1. Scott Simmons Avatar
      Scott Simmons

      It’s hard to believe that we went to see Batman together. Was only 23 years ago!

  2. Scott Paul Avatar

    First, I love the inclusion of Rocketeer and Unbreakable. I might have overlooked either, were I cobbling the list from scratch in my own head, but they make total sense. I'd cut Thor, Captain America, and Dark Knight rises from my list entirely. The first two I am terribly grateful for, if for no other reason than for providing all the exposition necessary to set up The Avengers so it could be balls-to-the-wall awesome without having to bother to explain the McGuffin cube and Loki. However, save for a couple of scenes (a pleased Thor smashes his coffee cup on the floor of a diner and barks for more, a skinny Steve scrambles to throw himself on a loose grenade during training, and the fantastic USO sequence) I found both movies disposable, charmless, and filled with generic and lazily written supporting characters. The Dark Knight Rises seemed a cynically made picture by a competent director who'd lost his heart for the project, but was pressured to complete it nonetheless.
    This might be blasphemy for my generation, but I could do without the original Superman, too. I think Reeve LOOKS great as Superman, and the effects still hold up pretty well, but I don't think the movie does.
    My replacements (in no particular order) : stylistic uber-noir Sin City, Kick-Ass, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, and X2.
    I agree with Paris that Batman 1989 gets movie way up, at least better than Batman Begins but not as good as Dark Knight.
    "Love that Joker!"

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