This is it. The top 5 greatest comic book movies of all-time. The final installment is pretty much unchanged from the last time, with only one new addition, and all the rest remaining in the same slots as before. With each having two films in the Top 5, we can definitively say that The Dark Knight and Captain America series are the best comic-based franchises Hollywood has produced.
5. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The lastest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While not a direct adaptation of the story arc from the comics, the film hits a few of the high points, but takes the story in a completely different direction in others. A compelling story, fantastic acting (especially from Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther), one of the most complex villains in the MCU so far, great direction, and amazing fight coreography make this a truly incredible film. Getting to see Spider-Man come home to the MCU was another highlight.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a game-changer for comic movies, and the greatest solo film in the MCU. Far more a smart, political thriller than an overly action-heavy popcorn flick, this movie covers some major topical issues that we’re facing in a modern, technology-driven world. Aside from showcasing how intelligent a comic-based movie can be, the film also rocked the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its core with the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., the outing of HYDRA, and the faked death of Nick Fury. The fight coreography is the best ever in a comic movie, and in the conversation of best in cinema, period.
3. Batman Begins (2005)
The first chapter in Christopher Nolan’s reality-grounded Dark Knight Trilogy. Finally a Batman story that showed the audience how a billionaire orphan became the world’s greatest detective and guardian of Gotham City. A great script and Nolan’s brillaint direction are paired with spot-on casting across the board, with Christian Bale (Batman), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), and Liam Neeson (Ra’s al Ghul) giving particularly great performances. Cillian Murphy also delivers a wonderfully creepy portrayal as the Scarecrow. This is easily the greatest origin story in comic book movie history.
2. The Avengers (2012)
The culmination of the first phase of the most ambitious project in cinema history, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’d seen two movie franchises mash up (Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator) to varying degrees of success, but to combine four individual franchises in one monster team-up was ground-breaking. Intricately weaving them into one universe seemed a near impossible task, but Marvel Studios and Joss Whedon did so marvelously (pun intended). Getting to see alpha personalities of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and Nick Fury all thrown together was truly a sight to behold. Whedon also hammered out a great story that brought them all together in an organic, unforced manor (unlike a certain DC team-up movie).
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Easily the greatest comic book movie ever made. In terms of pure storytelling, The Dark Knight is unmatched. Powerful and epic in scope, yet minute in subject. The diametrically opposing ideas of order vs. chaos have never been so beautifully displayed. Bale and Oldman again, give strong performances, but they along with everyone else that has ever been in a comic movie, are completely overshadowed by the masterful work of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Ledger brings a real-world darkness and insanity to a role that is so often portrayed as silly and/or over-the-top, earing him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the lone major acting award win for a comic book movie role.
I’m looking forward to revisiting this list again next year. Can movies like Suicide Squad or Dr. Strange claw their way onto the list? We’ll find out.