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Top 10 Comic Book Movies

A Difficult List to Narrow Down

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I'll be the first to admit I'm not an expert on comic books, however I don't believe you have to have read the source material in order to enjoy movies inspired by the pages of a comic book or graphic novel. This top 10 list of comic book, graphic novel, and/or superhero movies is entirely based on the film's qualities and not on how well the screenwriters adhered to the characters created in the comics.

1. 'The Dark Knight'

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
© Warner Bros Pictures
Christopher Nolan's second Batman movie is, simply put, spectacular. It's dark and dangerous and features the best acting of any comic book-inspired film, bar none. Nolan, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Batman newbies Heath Ledger (in a turn which deserves a posthumous Oscar) and Aaron Eckhart took the characters and the source material seriously, yet you don't have to be a Batman aficionado to appreciate this incredible piece of art.

2. 'Batman Begins'

Christian Bale in Batman Begins
© Warner Bros Pictures
Batman Begins was at this top of this list until The Dark Knight knocked it down one notch to 2nd place. However Batman Begins is still the first film based on a comic book that actually made me want to pick up the source material. This origin film did a fantastic job of explaining why a man would ever want to don a bat suit and fight crime. Plus the action sequences were incredibly well done and Christian Bale nailed the role of the conflicted superhero.

3. 'Spider-Man 2'

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 2
© Sony Pictures
The first Spider-Man movie made a Spidey fan out of me, but the second film is the one that drew me into its world. Tobey Maguire as the crime-fighting webslinger was even better the second time around. It's just too bad the franchise had to go out on a sour note with the disappointing Spider-Man 3.

4. 'Superman the Movie'

4-Disc Special Edition Superman the Movie DVD.
© Warner Home Video
Christopher Reeve took on the role of Superman and made it his own in Richard Donner's Superman the Movie, which debuted in December 1978. Reeve made the Man of Steel human, and his passionate yet fun portrayal of Clark Kent set the bar incredibly high for any future actors who tackle the role. Poor Brandon Routh never really had a chance, did he?

5. 'Iron Man'

Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man
© Paramount Pictures
Robert Downey Jr had a lengthy resume and a fairly interesting career leading up to his starring turn in Iron Man, however his portrayal of billionaire inventor Tony Stark may very well be the performance of his career. Director Jon Favreau wasn't an obvious choice to helm Iron Man, and Downey's name wasn't on the tip of most people's tongues when the film was greenlit and the search was on for a leading man. But Downey and Favreau delivered an Iron Man movie that's first rate and sure to spawn a couple of sequels.

6. 'X2: X-Men United'

Poster for X2: X-Men United
© Twentieth Century Fox
I feel the same about X2: X-Men United as I do about Spider-Man 2. I wish both franchises had stopped after the second film was released. Bryan Singer's second excursion into the land of mutants had heart and soul, as well as great special effects and terrific acting. We can only hope the X-Men spin-off, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, will be able to recapture the thrills of X-Men and X2.

7. 'Spider-Man'

Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man
© Columbia Pictures
An origin story that's not only fun but also very informative, Spider-Man made Tobey Maguire into an A-list star. With Sam Raimi, a filmmaker who can only be described as a fanboy himself at the helm, Spider-Man almost made back its $130 million budget during its opening weekend in 2002. Spider-Man was able to please most of the comic book fanbase and critics loved it...and that doesn't happen all that often.

8. 'Hellboy'

Ron Perlman as Hellboy
© Revolution Studios
I'd heard of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and even the X-Men guys, but prior to the release of the 2004 Hellboy movie, I'd never heard of the Hellboy character or the comics. Hellboy is a little more on the campy side than most comic book-inspired movies, and Guillermo del Toro (a fanboy favorite) and Ron Perlman really pulled off an entertaining film with a little heart to go along with a lot of action.

Universal Pictures is hoping audiences are ready for another adventure starring the horned hero. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army enters the world on July 11, 2008.

9. '300'

Gerard Butler stars in 300.
© Warner Bros Pictures
Take the 300 graphic novel and hold it up next to the screen while watching the movie and you'll be blown away by how faithful writer/director Zack Snyder was to Frank Miller's work. Gerard Butler added to his already enormous following of female fans as the handsome and brutal King Leonidas in this highly stylized and innovative R-rated film, which broke box office records when it hit theaters in March 2007.

10. 'Sin City'

Rosario Dawson and Clive Owen in the Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller movie Sin City
© Dimension Films
Robert Rodriguez joined forces with Frank Miller to bring Sin City to life on the screen, and the resulting film is a thing of beauty. Rodriguez' actors had basically nothing on the set to work with, and some of his cast never even met the actors they appeared opposite until the film's premiere. Sin City, with its graphic violence, definitely isn't for everyone, however most critics agreed the film's something special and Rodriguez chose the right approach in bringing Miller's unique story to the big screen.
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