While this reviewer is not as much a fan of the mainstream, superhero-driven movies as most of the rest of the staff, it's been an impressive year even just in that regard, with three legitimately good superhero films and a Judge Dredd reboot that was just lights-out. Taking public opinion and the feeling of my editors into account, though, it seemed as though last year's list was woefully outdated already, and begged for a follow-up.
Whereas the last time around, they went from one to ten, I'll be presenting my list as a countdown, keeping those of you who don't read this sentence and immediately scroll to the bottom in suspense. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages!
10. The Crow
For a long time, this stood as a shining example of a comic book adaptation that both spoke to a broader audience and could be counted as genuinely, objectively good pulp cinema. Brandon Lee is inspired in his final role, and the filmmakers managed to do what seemed impossible: to make not only a coherent, but a great movie following the death of the principal star during filming.
9. Dredd 3D
Left up to me, this film would be higher on the list; frankly, for my money Dredd 3D is the most entertaining, fascinating and technically flawless comic book movie of the summer. But I accept that I'm in the minority there, and that a broad consensus of my employers and readers would demand The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises make their way a little higher on the list than does the gritty, gory film adaptation of 2000 AD's famed antihero.
8. Spider-Man 2 – Not one of my favorite, frankly (if I had to pick a "best" Spider-Man movie it would be The Amazing Spider-Man), but the world disagrees with me. The first Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maguire was a worthy start to the Spider-Man film franchise, but things really got hopping with the sequel. From beginning to end, Spider-Man 2 is one of the most solid and enjoyable comic book movies of all.
7. X-Men: First Class – Who would have thought that a movie that many had low expectations about would prove to be the best X-Men movie ever? Even though some were upset by the liberties the film took in re-writing X-men history, X-Men: First Class proved to be a riveting period piece.
6. Sin City - Taking Road to Perdition's spot on the list, Sin City joins our top ten for one big reason: it's a stylish, ambitious and comics-infused film that's every bit as good as the source material, and also takes it seriously; Road to Perdition was a strong film on its own merits, but took a lot of liberties with the source material and at no point did it really feel like they appreciated the graphic novel from which the story was nominally derived. Sin City, meanwhile, took one of comics' great minds--Frank Miller--and one of cinema's most talented young auteurs--Robert Rodriguez--and put them in a room. Shake, pour and serve up one of the most unexpectedly brilliant comic book adaptations of all time.
5. Superman the Movie – We’re talking about the classic 1978 version not the remake. Sure, the special effects might seem dated now, but back then, it made moviegoers believe a man could fly. For many, Christopher Reeve will always be Superman. If not for Superman, we might not have all the comic book movies we have today.
4. Iron Man – The crowd at the San Diego Comic Con cheered when they saw the footage, and for good reason. Robert Downey, Jr. nailed his performance as Tony Stark, and Jon Favreau delivered a funny, fast-paced, and visually stunning Iron Man. Iron Man validated Marvel Studios as a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
3. The Dark Knight Rises - In spite of a flawed third act, The Dark Knight Rises functions beautifully as a third act all its own, following up Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to give a movie that's so ambitious in scale and meticulously mapped-out in the big picture that some of the niggling details may not be 100%, but they don't really impede your enjoyment of an absolutely inspired piece of filmmaking.
2. The Avengers - The culmination of years of work on the part of Marvel Studios and arguably one of the most complex undertakings in the history of American cinema, The Avengers may not be as "great" as The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises, but most audiences will argue it's as good. One of the highest-grossing films of all time, The Avengers has cemented Marvel as a world leader in blockbuster moviemaking and director Joss Whedon as an A-list talent who shouldn't have to scrounge around for change under the couch at FOX to make his next project anymore.
1. The Dark Knight – Not only the best comic book movie ever made, but one of the best movies ever made. The Dark Knight should have been nominated for Best Picture, and the outrage was so strong when it wasn’t that it spurred the Academy to increase the number of nominated pictures the following year. At least, Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for a performance that raised the bar for acting in a comic book movie. And how good is Christopher Nolan? There's an argument to be made that Batman Begins belongs on this list as well, which would make him not only the only director with more than one, but he'd have three. It's absent only because there are so many other deserving films.