11 Auteur-Driven Comic Book Movies To Watch Before Zack Snyder's Justice League
Zack Snyder's Justice League is almost here. The film had its first reviews hit this morning, [...]
Zack Snyder's Justice League is almost here. The film had its first reviews hit this morning, after screenings over the weekend, and a special red carpet event scheduled for tonight has been postponed slightly due to thousands of requests overloading the server. Clocking in at four hours and featuring a no-Fs-given Zack Snyder who has no plans to return to the DC Universe anytime soon, it's likely Zack Snyder's Justice League will be the most stylish, filmmaker-driven comic book movie ever made. What it isn't, even as much as certain kinds of filmmakers and critics like to think so, is the only comic book movie to dip its toe in those waters.
Whether it's being the first studio tentpole to be shot with digital color -- like Josie and the Pussycats -- or the one that changed how we looked at comic book movies forevermore -- like Batman -- these movies can be divisive but are also dynamic, creative, and visually stunning.
We've run down a list of some of our favorites below.
You can never say Rachel Talalay didn't have a vision and a take when she took on the job of adapting Tank Girl to the big screen. Released in 1995 and based on a comic that was itself an over-the-top, campy cult classic, it's maybe no surprise that Tank Girl transformed into...well, an over-the-top, campy cult classic. The movie starred Lori Petty, Malcolm McDowell, Naomi Watts, and Ice-T, among others, and while it made a paltry $6 million back on a $25 million investment at the theater, its home video life has been nothing to sneeze at, and more important than that is the generations of fans who have since found an affection for the film, so much so that in 2020, Talalay said that she had officially transitioned out of the shame and frustration that she had for what the movie's commercial failure did to her career.prevnext
Frank Miller's Sin City
When it comes to movies that people say "it looks like it was pulled right out of the pages of a comic book," Sin City has to be right near the top of the list. Co-directed by comic book writer/artist Frank Miller, who wrote and drew the comics it was based on, Sin City was a black and white bloodfest that was literally scripted and storyboarded using the comics. It's probably the closest adaptation we've ever seen, and that includes Zack Snyder's Watchmen, which some bemoaned as being too slavish to the book but which did make a number of major changes and concessions to the film format.prevnext
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The surreal, video game-inspired world of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a great example of the polar opposite of Sin City: this is how you take a story told in sequential art and reformat it seamlessly for the screen, retaining all of its spirit but changing the look, feel, and pacing to suit the new medium.prevnext
Josie and the Pussycats
With a 20th anniversary in less than a month, 2001's Josie and the Pussycats became a cult classic on more or less the same timeline as Tank Girl, with a movie that flopped at the box office, materially harmed the careers of the people involved, but then went on to become one of the most beloved things they'd ever made. A fun, clever movie with a rockin' soundtrack, Josie deserved better than it got -- and it's getting there.prevnext
Within the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's a pretty consistent look and feel, and when movies step outside of that comfort zone, it's always notable and exciting. One such film was Thor: Ragnarok, which picked up from where one of our subsequent entries left off, with bright colors, a sense of humor and fun, and a kinetic and stylish way of shooting that felt right at home for director Taika Waititi, but like a breath of fresh air to the Thor franchise.prevnext
Guardians of the Galaxy
If Thor: Ragnarok had another Marvel movie to thank for setting its template, it sure wasn't one of the first two Thor movies. Instead, look to James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy, which infused the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a bright, odd aesthetic and a chaotic energy that the previous movies had not tapped into.prevnext
Ang Lee's Hulk
Ang Lee's Hulk was one of a number of smart, stylish comic book movies that failed to connect with audiences in the pre-MCU era. It drew both praise and mockery from different corners of the fandom and critics for using transitions designed to look like comic book panels and choosing to create some larger-than-life elements inspired by the energy (but not specific character or plots) of the comics.prevnext
Tim Burton's Batman
While "Richard Donner's Superman" is the kind of thing people will use to refer to Superman: The Movie now that there are a handful of different Superman franchises and you need to be able to differentiate them, "Tim Burton's Batman" was more or less instantaneous. Prior to Zack Snyder's Justice League, the two films that had that kind of distinction -- where the general public understood that there was a very specific artist's fingerprints on the work -- were Batman and the aforementioned Hulk. Of course, Batman was an unqualified hit with near-unanimous praise for just about every choice Burton made...!prevnext
Joel Schumacher's Batman
Joel Schumacher is easy to paint as a hack given marching orders by the studio -- after all, his mission was to come up with a more commercially viable take on the Dark Knight after Tim Burton's second film failed to sell enough merchandise. But he, too, had a distinct vision and a wild aesthetic for Gotham City -- even if it was more commercial and less beloved by the fans.prevnext
Prior to The Matrix, the idea of a big-budget action movie shot like a '70s indie film, with heroes in black leather and a wild style of action scenes that are unlike anything we'd seen before. The look and feel of the film helped to shape years of big action films, including a handful of comic book movies.prevnext
Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
The only DC movie released theatrically in 2020 was a flashy, musical, campy movie that broke for music sequences, toyed with ultraviolence and cartoonish characterization, and a group of unconventional heroes.prev