What is the greatest comic book movie of all time?
Marvel’s The Avengers
Easily one of the greatest popcorn movies of all time, Marvel’s The Avengers is a masterpiece of big budget Hollywood film making. Joss Whedon’s take on Marvel’s most beloved superhero team features an insanely deep and talented cast and a visual effects pedigree that holds its own against Avatar or Transformers. It’s not particularly nuanced or self-aware, but The Avengers is everything a good comic book movie should be. You almost feel guilty getting so many badass characters together in one movie. With unforgettable action sequences, tons of beautiful people, and hilarious, albeit often childish, dialog, The Avengers is a comic book movie for people who love comic books.
Release Date: May 4, 2012 | Director: Joss Whedon | Elite Actors: Robert Downey Jr, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.52 B | Production Budget: $220mm
IMDB Rating: 8.2 | MetaScore: 69 | Tomatometer (Audience): 92% (91%)
Oscars (Nominations): 0 (1) | Golden Globes: 0 | SAGs: 0
The visually stunning Sin City is Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s film version of Miller’s graphic novel series of the same name. With one of the deepest and most talented casts of the films in the history of the genre, Sin City features a mix of gripping performances coupled with highly calibrated, often devastatingly violent, visual imagery. Using a rare color processing technique, the director’s were able to capture the gritty film-noir experience of each character in this imaginary world, and by splashing color at specific moments they make every scene come to life. The ‘graphic’ part of this novel adaptation is certainly abundant in the film, but like it or not, this is the true essence of the Sin City universe and any attempt to edit this world would be unforgivable.
Release Date: April 1, 2005 | Director: Frank Miller & Robert Rodriquez (Guest: Quentin Tarantino) | Elite Actors: Benicio del Toro, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Michael Clarke Duncan, Rosario Dawson, Carla Gugino, Michael Madsen, Alexis Beidel
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $159 mm | Production Budget: $40mm
IMDB Rating: 8.2 | MetaScore: 74 | Tomatometer (Audience):78% (78%)
Oscars (Nominations): 0 | Golden Globes: 0 | SAGs: 0
Sometimes a lead performance is so special that the audience begins to wonder if the actor was known before the part was even written. Many who witnessed Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man felt that emotion. The Stan Lee created series, one of the most important in comic history, follows the playboy hijinx and crime-fighting heroism of the billionaire engineer Tony Stark. Stark is a character in a constant state of self evolution, as his own life experience forces him to re-evaluate his priorities. Downey Jr’s own personal demons probably helped cement the convincing bond between the real-life actor and the fantasy hero. With stunning visual effects, killer performances by Paltrow, Howard, and Bridges, and a biting wit and sense of humor, Iron Man paved the way for a cavalcade of the new era Marvel films.
Release Date: May 2, 2008 | Director: Jon Favreau | Elite Actors: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Jon Favreau
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $585 mm | Production Budget: $140mm
IMDB Rating: 7.9 | MetaScore: 79 | Tomatometer (Audience): 93% (91%)
Oscars (Nominations): 0 (2) | Golden Globes: 0 | SAGs: 0 (1)
The Dark Knight
One of the most grown-up comic films of all time, and certainly the highest critically acclaimed, The Dark Knight is the second film of the new Batman trilogy. Christopher Nolan’s first entry in the 21st century revival of the franchise is a movie dripping with sizzle and style. Bale sets the bar high, with a tortured and confident performance. But Ledger steals the show. His depiction of the Joker is one of the greatest performances of a villain in any film genre in history. The first viewing of the film will forever imprint his menacing cackle into your memory banks. The story is well-paced and suspenseful, and the supporting acting talent is top notch. Add in the subtle, yet highly calculated and dramatic visual effects signature that appears in so many of Nolan’s films and you’ve got the recipe for one of the greatest comic book movies of all time.
Release Date: July 18, 2008 | Director: Christopher Nolan | Elite Actors: Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.00 B | Production Budget: $185mm
IMDB Rating: 9.0 | MetaScore: 82 | Tomatometer (Audience): 94% (94%)
Oscars (Nominations): 2 - Best Supporting Actor Heath Ledger, Best Sound Editing (6) | Golden Globes: 1 | SAGs: 2
The Dark Knight Rises
Most sequels are terrible, most third installments of a trilogy are even worse. These truths make The Dark Knight Rises all the more exceptional. In the follow-up to his tour de force “The Dark Knight”, Christopher Nolan again outdoes himself with this work, the finale to the Batman revival. It’s a fitting end to the Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne era. A carefully crafted, and psychological challenging thriller, The Dark Knight Rises picks up right where its predecessors left off. Tom Hardy plays the fascinating and maniacal villain Bane, his scenes of destruction are some of the most dramatic in film history. And with all all-star supporting group including Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, JOspeh Gordon-Levitt and more, The Dark Knight Rises is quality film-making of the highest order. You can tell that Christopher Nolan takes all of his films very seriously, and while his Batman movies are some of the most grown-up within the comic genre, they still capture the limitless fun and iparenmagination of their literary forbearers.
Release Date: July 20, 2012 | Director: Christopher Nolan | Elite Actors: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Tom Hardy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.10 B | Production Budget: $250mm
IMDB Rating: 8.6 | MetaScore: 78 | Tomatometer (Audience): 88% (90%)
Oscars (Nominations): 0 | Golden Globes: | SAGs: 0 (1)
The hyper-stylized 300 is the second Frank Miller inspired work to make this study, and it’s easy to see why. The film version is just as gorgeous as the double-page comic book series on which it is based. Surely one of Zach Snyder’s best overall works, it was this 2006 masterpiece that cemented his street cred in the comic film genre. He would cash in on the buzz years later with his direction on Watchmen, and films in the Superman franchise. The film received lukewarm reviews from the critics, with many complaining that it was one-dimensional or immature, but considering the sorry state of films during those years one has to question the sanity of the “professionals” grading the film (Million Dollar Baby ‘05, Crash ‘06, and The Departed ‘07 were all mediocre Best Picture winners). Just like the city of Thermophylae itself, 300 is a world of blood and sex and magic, and when the dust of history has settled it should be clear that 300 is one of the greatest comic book movies of all time.
Release Date: March 9, 2007| Director: Zach Snyder | Elite Actors: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $456 mm | Production Budget: $65mm
IMDB Rating: 7.8 | MetaScore: 51 | Tomatometer (Audience): 60% (89%)
Oscars (Nominations): 0 | Golden Globes: 0 | SAGs: 0 (1)
V for Vendetta
The least well-known film in this study is V for Vendetta. It’s the story of an anarchist freedom fighter named V and his passion to start a revolution against the fascist regime that has taken over the United Kingdom that he calls home. The film is heavy with mystery and suspense, and it makes a deeply serious social commentary that few comic films have ever achieved. Of course many will remember the iconic images of a shaved-headed Natalie Portman. With her laser-like commitment and focus, we think it’s one of the best roles of her career. The film still inspires all kinds of un-easy cultural anarchy connections, and its cult following among so many diverse communities makes V For Vendetta one of the most important and entertaining comic book films of all time.
Release Date: March 17, 2006 | Director: James McTeigue | Elite Actors: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $133 mm | Production Budget: $54mm
IMDB Rating: 8.2 | MetaScore: 62 | Tomatometer (Audience): 73% (90%)
Oscars (Nominations): 0 | Golden Globes: 0 | SAGs: 0
Watchmen was absolutely destroyed by the critics when it was released. They argued it was boring or confusing or too ambitious or not ambitious enough, and the truth is, the film is guilty of most of the criticism. But for any fan of the mythology of the Watchmen universe, this movie has so much to like. Snyder took many big risks while trying to adapt the famous DC Comic’s series from the 80’s. Long a cult classic among comic readers, Watchmen had always been viewed with apprehension by directors. It was a world too twisted and grissly for the mainstream tastes of American audiences, and some of the heroes and their powers were almost too complex to properly convey in the cinematic form. But after his success with 300, Snyder took the plunge and spent 2 years making the film and his efforts were applauded by many of the hardcore Watchmen fan-base. Snyder closely models his storyboards to match the comics and this signature perspective is on vivid display throughout the film. Making a perfect Watchmen movie was probably always an impossible goal, but this one comes close to enough to be considered an all-time great.
Release Date: March 6, 2009 | Director: Zach Snyder | Elite Actors: Malin Åkerman, Carla Gugino
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $185 mm | Production Budget: $130mm
IMDB Rating: 7.6 | MetaScore: 56 | Tomatometer (Audience): 65% (70%)
Oscars (Nominations): 0 | Golden Globes: 0 | SAGs: 0
The oldest movie to make our list, Batman was always ahead of its time. Burton’s trademark voice is present, if perhaps a bit reserved, in what was just his 3rd major picture as a director. Nicholson’s Joker stands clearly above the other performances, although Keaton is surely the second best performance of the Bruce Wayne role that we’ve seen. The visual effects are cheesy and out-dated but they now have an almost vintage quality that is still somehow endearing. The film oozes with that pulpy vibe that we love in Tim Burton movies. Many of the scenes are timeless and unforgettable. Nicholson set the gold-standard for a performance of the Joker; he held the title for nearly twenty years. By blending the realistic modern world with the whimsical fantasy of Gotham City, Burton launched a comic film franchise that paved the way for the billion dollar industry we know today.
Release Date: June 23, 1989 | Director: Tim Burton | Elite Actors: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Billy Dee Williams, Robert Wuhl
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $411 mm | Production Budget: $35mm
IMDB Rating: 7.6 | MetaScore: 66 | Tomatometer (Audience): 72% (84%)
Oscars (Nominations): 1- Best Art Direction/Set Direction | Golden Globes: 0 | SAGs: 0
Men in Black
Remember how big of a deal Will Smith was when this movie hit in the summer of 1997? Fresh off of a year in which we saw his big-screen coming out party in Independence Day, it was quickly becoming clear that Will Smith was about to become the biggest movie star on the planet. And while Men in Black never quite captured the scope and seriousness of his first alien movie, Smith still made this film larger than life. Tommy Lee Jones’ grumpy portrayal of Agent Kay was the perfect foil to Smith’s braggadocio. And while the visual effects haven’t held up quite as well as some of the other films in this study, it’s still impressive that this film came out in 1997, during the infancy of Hollywood’s CGI revolution. With a fast-paced story and imaginative, often hilarious writing, Men in Black is an overall great comic book movie.
Release Date: July 2, 1997 | Director: Barry Sonnenfeld | Elite Actors: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Tony Shalhoub, David Cross
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $589 mm | Production Budget: $90mm
IMDB Rating: 7.2 | MetaScore: 71 | Tomatometer (Audience): 92% (79%)
Oscars (Nominations): 1 – Best Makeup (2) | Golden Globes: 0 (1) | SAGs: 0
GOAT Staff Score - Comic Book MovieThe candidates have been assigned a raw score across a range of criteria. The raw scores have been weighted to reflect the impact that each individual criterion has on the 'Final GOAT Score'. Only weighted scores are displayed in this table. -->TURN DEVICE SIDEWAYS TO VIEW ON MOBILE-->
|Cast||Directing||Critical Acclaim||Visual Effects||Homage||Total|
|The Dark Knight||14.70||21.00||16.0||10.50||6.30||68.50|
|The Dark Knight Rises||18.90||18.90||11.20||12.60||4.20||65.80|
|V for Vendetta||4.20||16.80||6.40||4.20||14.70||46.30|
|Men in Black||8.40||2.10||12.80||6.30||2.10||31.70|