Photo Credit: Pixabay
With the conclusion of this past weekend’s first all-virtual Comic Con it got me thinking, comic books and graphic novels get shrugged off as lightweight in some corners, but there have been some pretty entertaining films based on them over the years. I’m not talking about the superhero and super villain films Marvel and DC churn out, but movies that you might forget were born from comics instead of a more traditional novel or original screenplay. Which ones stand out from the crowd? Here are some of the very best.
The Crow (1994)
This is the film that started the tradition of great comic to film adaptations for me. Alex Proyas directed this action-packed movie based on the comic book by James O’Barr. It tells the story of a rock musician who is brought back from the dead to avenge the murder of himself and his fiancée. Its flashy visuals, exciting martial arts, and standout soundtrack all left their mark on audiences but sadly it was the last film performance for star Brandon Lee who died of a gunshot accident while on set.
From Hell (2001)
Loosely adapted from a comic by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, this film tells the story of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders. Johnny Depp plays inspector Frederick Abberline who leads the investigation while battling his own demons in the form of an opium addiction. Moore is famous for his dislike of adaptations of his work and this movie is no exception to that vitriol, but it’s a darkly entertaining film that still holds up well.
Road to Perdition (2002)
Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig did a comic book movie? Yes, they did. Sam Mendes directed this Chicago gangster flick based on a graphic novel written by Max Allan Collins. Hanks plays against type as a mob enforcer who decides to turn against his mentor and employers after they fail to avenge the murder of his wife by one of their own. The movie is a dark, violent, study on family and what it means to raise a son in a world where loyalty often means death.
A History of Violence (2005)
David Cronenberg delivered this adaptation of a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke and it boasts its share of star power too. Viggo Mortensen plays a small town hero whose dark past comes back to haunt him in the form of baddies played by Ed Harris and William Hurt. Like so much of Cronenberg’s work, this one features some extreme violence and enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Sin City (2005)
This hyper-violent tale directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez is based on Miller’s graphic novel and uses a similar visual style. It stars a huge cast of well-known actors and showcases a series of hard-boiled vignettes about the cops, prostitutes, gangsters, and murderers who populate the fictional Basin City and their often bloody struggles against one another.
This is a DC Comics film so some might consider it a cheat for this list, but I don’t think of the title character as a superhero. Constantine, played by Keanu Reeves, is a chain-smoking, cynical paranormal detective who has come back from the dead and now has the ability to see and interact with the angel and demon half-breeds who constantly battle on earth for the souls of men. When he meets a police detective who asks for his help investigating her sister’s death, he finds they’re up against no less than the Devil himself.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Written by the Wachowskis of The Matrix fame and based on a comic by the same Alan Moore who wrote From Hell, this film focuses on a young woman’s liberation from the tyrannical forces that control the government and kill all who oppose them. Her liberator, a masked vigilante known only as V, teaches her the true nature of how the government came to power and how to fight back.
30 Days of Night (2007)
One of my favorite horror films ever, this movie is based on a comic series written by Steve Niles. A small town sheriff in Alaska finds his town overwhelmed by a host of vampires who arrive to feast on his townspeople during a month-long polar night. With no outside communications, no hope of daylight, and a blizzard that blocks all roads out of town, it’s up to the sheriff and a few fellow Alaskan denizens to defeat the vampires before there’s no one left alive.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Sure, the title of the Japanese graphic novel this Tom Cruise movie is based on, All You Need Is Kill, is much cooler, but the film is still a good one. Cruise plays a media relations expert in the near future who winds up being demoted to grunt in order to fight and die in an alien invasion. Through a strange twist, he finds that every time he dies, he is reborn to live out the day again. Leveraging this power he is able to become an increasingly effective soldier as he is trained by a battle-hardened Sergeant played by Emily Blunt who has used the same rebirth talent in her efforts to defeat the aliens once and for all.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
2017 was a great year for movies and one of the year’s best is this action film based on Antony Johnston’s graphic novel The Coldest City. Starring Charlize Theron as MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton, her character must travel to Berlin during the Cold War in order to retrieve a list of undercover agents that was stolen from a murdered fellow spy. Set to a fantastic soundtrack of 80s pop, Broughton fights, races, and seduces her way through a series of adversaries and allies as she works to complete her mission while determining exactly who is on which side.
Did I leave one of your favorites off the list? There are plenty more good ones to choose from. Here are some Honorable Mentions:
300, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Old Guard, Oldboy, Red, Wanted