Sometimes, the first time an audience experiences a piece of art, they can't really judge it properly.
Whether it's lack of context, a misunderstanding of the work, or whether it's just that the work isn't so good, but can later seem to be improved by changes in the entertainment landscape, it's not uncommon for a movie to be appreciated more years after its release, than it was in theaters.
That used to happen in the home video market, when misunderstood gems would get shunted into the "cult" section at some local video store and find the audience that eluded them during their cinematic run. Now, with home video in general and video stores in particular playing a much smaller role in our day-to-day lives, we're sometimes less inclined to give something we didn't like before a "second chance."
That's what this list is for, though.
One of the through lines you're going to find with a number of the films on here is that they have a certain element of camp to them.
While going the full Batman & Robin isn't going to ingratiate a film to ComicBook.com readers or our writers, there's an element of fun that a heightened, widescreen world like that of The Rocketeer offers which, in a lot of cases, hasn't been appreciated at the box office or in reviews.
Part of it might be that when The Rocketeer (or many of the other films on this list) was released, comic book movies hadn't entirely come into their own yet and anything that wasn't Tim Burton's Batman was looked at as a step backwards.
That said, Joe Johnston turned in a beautifully shot, well-made movie with strong performances and a fun script in The Rocketeer. People even liked it at the time, although it seems to have been largely lost to time, except the pockets of hardcore fans who like to whisper about how they don't make 'em like this anymore.
Of course, Johnston would go on to make 'em like this -- with Captain America: The First Avenger -- and that movie, too, could have a spot on this list except that frankly it's hard to say any Marvel Cinematic Universe movie is overlooked or underrated when they all get marathon screenings and sequels and come up in discussions all the time.
Our readers ranked this one 3.13 stars out of 5 and No. 45 in the ComicBook.com Composite Raking -- that's right between 30 Days of Night and Iron Man 2.prevnext
Zack Snyder is the most divisive director in comic book movies today -- and probably ever.
To date, he's directed four comic book adaptations (as well as producing more), and each of the four has been the subject of heated debate -- something that was bound to happen when the 300 and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice filmmaker took on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen.
The film was in and out of development for years, dating all the way back to a screenplay by Batman writer Sam Hamm which, at one point, Entertainment Weekly said was one of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood. Warner Bros. and DC finally seemed to get serious about the project about five years before it finally got made, with filmmakers like Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy) and Terry Gilliam (Brazil) attached before Snyder hit it big with 300 and came on board.
And you know what? The film -- especially the Ultimate Cut, which retains more of the sensibility of the source material -- holds up pretty well. It's an imperfect movie, and the fact that it diverged from Moore's take in key places means there is a certain segment of the audience who will never be fully happy with it...but not only do we enjoy Watchmen -- nearly ever article you see about this film nowadays is about one of two things: Billy Crudup's blue penis, or how the film got a bad deal.
The film scores a 3.83 out of 5 from ComicBook.com readers on our user rankings, placing it just above Marvel's The Avengers, so it seems as though at least some of you agree.prevnext
Our readers rated Mystery Men at 2.84 stars out of 5 in the ComicBook.com Composite Rankings -- that's between Men in Black II and From Hell.
The reason it makes this list isn't that it's a classic -- 2.84 stars might actually be a pretty fair rating -- but because it falls more into the From Hell end of things than the Men in Black II end.
By which we mean: a lot of people simply forget this movie exists.
It's a fun movie that makes fun of superhero movie tropes which, at the time, were more or less all out of vogue anyway. If this movie came out a few years earlier or a few years later, it likely would have done better, but as it is, Mystery Men was a movie that made fun of superhero films...at a time when nobody much was making or watching superhero films.
The cast is hilarious, most of the humor holds up, and you can see a number of actors -- including Powers's Eddie Izzard and Gotham's Paul Reubens -- who have pretty unimpeachable geek credentials.
Tom Waits (pictured above, and not to be confused with Justin Jordan's cat of the same name) is absolutely hilarious in the movie. This cannot be overstated.prevnext
Our early review of Dredd, back when we first saw the film at Comic Con International: San Diego before it was released, was quite kind.
And again, this one could easily slide off the list to make room for something else, since very few people actually argue it's a bad movie. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is Certified Fresh and a full sixty percentage points better (78% versus 18%) than the character's previous big-screen outing.
But it's a great movie. A great movie. One of the best comic book movies to come out of this golden age of comic book movies in the last 10 years or so. Yet, it's incredibly unlikely we'll ever see Karl Urban suit back up in Dredd's helmet again because the movie just didn't make money.
There are likely a lot of reasons for that, not least of all is simply that Lionsgate didn't know what to do with the film, but if there's anything that can go for "underrated," it's a movie that lost money and didn't generate a sequel in spite of the fact that the people who have actually seen the damned thing loved it.
Our readers gave this one 3.46 out of 5 -- right between Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Blade II.prevnext
MAN OF STEEL
Zack Snyder makes this list twice, yes.
While originally we had considered simply having Watchmen -- which is generally accepted as being "not as bad as originally thought" -- on the list, the more we thought about it the more it seemed like Man of Steel deserves a slot.
As fan-favorite Batman writer Scott Snyder recently pointed out, one of the great things about comic book superheroes is their elasticity, and one of the most important things that an artist can do is to make their version of the character.
Zack Snyder's Superman is not "my" Superman, but it's a valid interpretation, and frankly this movie holds up really well on its own merits if you're not bogged down in expectations. A recent rewatch ahead of the release of Batman V Superman confirmed as much.
This movie also has suffered from a strange self-fulfilling prophecy of bad reviews. Once it wasn't the panacea the audiences or Warner Bros. wanted, the movie went from being generally liked, but with acknowledged issues, to "a catastrophe" in the minds of people who seemed to have decided that's what they wanted it to be.
Henry Cavill is great; what they did with Lois (making her competent) is great; the big opening on Krypton is great. Man of Steel is a good, eminently watchable movie with some well-documented flaws, but there are a lot of people who would have you believe it was an unmitigated failure -- which it simply was not.
Our users gave it a No. 43 placement in the ComicBook.com Composite Rankings with 3.65 out of 5 rating.prevnext
PUNISHER: WAR ZONE
After Thomas Jane's The Punisher was a modest success, thanks in no small part to his excellent turn as Frank Castle/The Punisher, filmmaker Lexi Alexander, fresh off her success with Green Street Hooligans, was handed the unenviable task of trying to take the Punisher franchise to the next level...without Jane.
In comes actor Ray Stevenson -- who would later go on to work in the Thor films -- along with Wayne Knight (Jurassic Park) and Colin Salmon, who would later appear on Arrow.
Ultimately, the movie is a noble failure. It's cinematically interesting, with both a stark portrayal of Castle's mental anguish and action sequences that are (for the most part) worthy of the world-class martial artist that Alexander proved herself to be before she moved on to filmmaking. But the screenplay was a mess, and everything from the screenplay to the score to the casting was reportedly subjected to studio meddling.
So if you like the character -- or if you just want to see what Alexander did with her first big-studio outing after the brilliant Green Street Hooligans -- it's absolutely worth a look. Our readers gave it a 2.65 out of 5 -- right between 2005's Fantastic Four and the animated TMNT.prevnext
JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS
More than probably any other film on this list, Josie and the Pussycats is the kind of film that only could have happened in the moment it was made -- which is too bad, because it was a few years too early for audiences to really "get" it.
That isn't to say that Josie and the Pussycats is overly clever. Its winking and inside jokes are pretty obvious, so it's not that audiences likely didn't understand it. Rather, the problem is that the kind of movie they were making wouldn't get really popular for a while.
It's no accident, surely, that Parker Posey appears in this film as its primary antagonist. She was in a number of Christopher Guest films, which is what Josie really seems to evoke more than any other single filmmaker.
The movie centers on the titular band, who are whisked away out of small town life in Riverdale (home of Archie and Jughead, naturally) and made world-famous by corrupt record executives who are burying subliminal messages in hit records to sell stuff to the youth of America.0comments
It's a self-consciously ironic film, with fourth wall breaks (like "Why are you here?" "Because I was in the comic book!"), self-conscious hyperconsumerism (there's almost no inch of the movie that isn't filled with product placement, and NONE of it was paid for: it's all there just to make you notice that it's there), and a conscious attempt to both live up to and simultaneously subvert basically every trope about "pop star" movies you can think of.
This film recently inspired the creation of the Emerald City Video Podcast, so you can hear some in-depth analysis of Josie and the Pussycats in that show's first two episodes.prev