Woah! It has been forever since I posted a Top 10 list and for that, I am quite sorry. I have a handful of lists halfway written, but have been bogged down and unable to complete them. My goal is to have a new Top 10 every Monday from this week out, so hopefully this will be the last time I say “Hey, it has been forever since I posted a Top 10 list.”
This week I’m looking at my Top 10 favorite movies based upon comics that aren’t based on superheroes. Comic books have a rich history of being adapted into movies, though a lot of these films aren’t often recognized for being based upon our beloved medium (then again, movie goers don’t seem to notice or care that the superhero movies they flocked to are based upon comics, which they can purchase every single week). Hit the jump to see what movies made my list!
This was a really tough list to make for me. Determining what does or does not constitute a superhero movie is what really tripped me up. There are a lot of movies that are borderline superhero movies, though aren’t as traditionally superheroic as something like The Avengers, but are still based upon comic books and strips. I ended up being a little more liberal on my definition of non-superhero movies than most would be, which means that I have a lot of “honorable mention” films that almost, but didn’t quite make the list. I did cut out a few borderline superhero films, like Kick-Ass and Dredd, as well as any non-theatrical releases.
Also, no, I have not seen Road to Perdition. I’ve heard a lot of great things about it and it would probably make this list, but since I haven’t seen it so it didn’t. On an interesting side note, much of the film was made in my wife’s hometown—a very small community in rural Illinois. I also haven’t seen American Splendor. I know, I know. I’m sorry.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE – A powerful performance from Viggo Mortensen really carries this intense and dark character study based upon the Vertigo graphic novel. It flew under the radar for a lot of people, but is very much worth a viewing.
THE LOSERS – Andy Diggle and Jock’s Vertigo graphic novel was translated into a fun action romp a few years ago with a solid ensemble cast. It’s not the deepest comic adaptation, but it is a great Saturday afternoon popcorn flick.
300 – I really liked 300, but it really doesn’t hold up to multiple viewings as well as the other films on the list. It’s absolutely gorgeous and full of crazy action, but you really only need to watch it a few times a year.
DICK TRACY – I’m a little torn on this one. I loved this movie as a kid, but I haven’t seen it in at least 15 years. It might not hold up very well, but the memory is enough for it to make an honorable mention.
10. THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991)
You weren’t expecting this one were you? The Addams Family, perhaps best known for their classic television series of the 1960s, actually started as a series of single panel cartoons by Charles Addams that appeared in the New Yorker. The movie was more of an adaptation of the TV series than the original “comics,” but was still an absolute blast that holds up so much better than you’d ever imagine it would. The casting of this film was absolutely freakin’ perfect. The late Raul Julia, Angelica Houston, Christopher Lloyd, and a young Christina Ricci were simply splendid as their characters and made the movie a blast even now, 20 years later.
09. JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (2001)
I’ll probably take more flack for including this movie on the list than I will for any other selection, but I will very proudly say that I absolutely love this movie. Yes, this adaptation of the Archie Comics series does have a lot of really stupid moments and plot holes, but it is ridiculously charming and is, ultimately, a really angry attack on our consumer-driven culture that is more poignant today in our post-iTunes era of music consumption than it was when the film was released 12 years ago. Plus, the music is ridiculously catchy, I’m a sucker for pretty much anything starring Parker Posey, and how adorable was Rachel Lee Cook as Josie? And remember Tara Reid before she was a total train wreck?
08. RED (2008)
In 2008, a really fun adaptation of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s comic was released and became a pretty surprise hit (so much so that a sequel was released very recently). This hilarious action comedy had one of the strongest casts of any movie on the list, including Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and Ernest Borgnine, though the film’s real star was John Malkovich. If you’ve never seen the film, now is definitely the time as it has been popping up on cable quite a bit lately and can be probably found rather inexpensively on DVD at your local big box retailer. Then you can go see the sequel in the theatre. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard good things.
07. V FOR VENDETTA (2005)
My apologies to the brilliant Alan Moore, but I really liked this adaptation of his brilliant 1980s comic. I understand his frustrations, especially given how much of a “time-and-place” book the original V for Vendetta was, making the very political nature of the story no longer pointed at the Thatcher-era landscape of England, though I feel that the film adaptation does a great job of applying the overall messages of the book to the Bush-era American political landscape. Plus, its just a great freakin’ movie. The Wachowski Brothers, who had previously lost all credibility by creating now one but two completely abysmal sequels to their supposedly-brilliant film The Matrix (which is fun, but not nearly as smart as everyone wants/claims it to be). Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving were great together and the visual choices made by the Wachowskis were powerful and memorable. Is it as good as the book? Absolutely not, but it is still a great freakin’ movie that is true to the spirit of Moore’s original work. Also, Alan, I’m sorry but The Watchmen movie was really cool.
06. GHOST WORLD (2001)
This is the most “indie” adaptation on today’s list. Daniel Clowes’s brilliant and honest portrayal of adolescence is a really fantastic comic that was, in my opinion, elevated by the film adaptation, which Clowes himself wrote. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson’s performances as Enid and Rebecca were witty and frank, propelling this quietly released film into a modern cult classic. There is a believability and honesty in the film despite its own absurdity. The film came out when I was 18 and disillusioned, making me the perfect audience for the film. I loved it then and even today, despite having moved beyond the trappings of that time in my life, I still love it.
05. THE CROW (1994)
I first saw The Crow when I was 12 years old at a friend’s birthday party (it was on pay-per-view and he had a “black box” that allowed his family to access the pay channels illegally—yikes). I knew almost nothing about the movie except that Brandon Lee died while filming it. When we sat down to watch it, I was completely floored. All of my friends spent the time goofing off and horsing around, but I was enthralled for the entirety of the film. I had never seen anything so dark and nihilistic in my life. I fucking loved it. The killer soundtrack, strong performances, and bold filmmaking choices sucked me and refused to let me back out. Oddly enough, I didn’t read the James O’Barr comics until almost 15 years later and was just as enthralled by the horrifyingly personal story that O’Barr created. Looking back, the film perfectly captured that, making it one of the most formative films of my youth.
04. FLASH GORDON (1980)
Flash! AAAAHHHHH! The 1980 Flash Gordon film is insanely cheesy, but when I was a little kid, it was the coolest thing I had ever seen that wasn’t Star Wars related. Sam Jones was larger than life as Flash, a pulp hero whose longevity is nearly unmatched in our pop culture—the first Flash Gordon strip was published on January 7, 1934 (49 years to the day before I was born). While there have been a lot of cool (though always cheesy) adaptations of Flash Gordon over the years, the 1980 film version is hands down the best. Plus it had an amazing contract from Queen, one of the single greatest rock bands ever.
03. SIN CITY (2005)
Sin City was actually the first comic book movie I watched in the theatre after I re-started reading comics after a nearly decade long absence from the medium. At that time, the only Frank Miller comic I had ever read was Dark Knight Returns (which I loved), so I was really only vaguely aware of the Sin City comics. Not that it really mattered because the previews for the film had me completely hooked. At that time, I had never seen anything like what Robert Rodriguez pulled off in this film. I went opening weekend with my then-girlfriend who, much to my surprise, absolutely loved it. Three years later we were married. Are these things related? Potentially. The only problem I have with this film—and yes, I only have one complaint—is that we had to wait so damn long for next year’s sequel!
02. THE ROCKETEER (1991)
I had a huge argument with my cousin over the two of us going to see The Rocketeer in the theater. My mom told us that if we deep-cleaned her car, she would take us to the movies. He wanted to see Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, but I wanted to see The Rocketeer (I may have been the only kid in America that was excited by the lackluster marketing for the film). I won and I am so glad I did. This awesome period piece—from the dude who would go on to direct Captain America: The First Avenger—is a fantastic adaptation of the brilliant and beautiful comics by the late-Dave Stevens. It had action, adventure, great special effects, awesome twists, and some really great acting. It makes me infinitely sad that this movie was missed by so many people, especially since it is great gateway to the comics, which are some of the finest ever produced. Side note, we went to see Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead the following weekend after cleaning my uncle’s car and, while it was funny, it was nowhere near as cool as The Rocketeer.
01. SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (2010)
I was/am incredibly obsessed Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series. I read through the books multiple times per year and find new reasons to love them with every single read-through. That being said, I was really nervous about Edgar Wright’s adaptation. If you read my “Favorite Movies of All-Time” list from a few months back, you’ll know that Shaun of the Dead is one of my absolute favorite films, but even still, I was afraid that the books would be unfilmable. I was completely wrong and incredibly stupid for doubting them. The combination of witty writing, fantastic pacing, an unashamed embracing of the book’s more surreal elements, and a simply amazing ensemble cast made this adaptation easily my favorite non-superhero comic book movies. I can’t pick a favorite scene of the film or a favorite character because every single element of this film works, perfectly capturing the tone and spirit of the source material (even though they diverged on their endings). The two are entirely separate, but compatible animals that heads-and-tails above their respective competitions.
What are your favorites?