Comic Book Superhero Movies

Movies have always used popular and interesting material from other mediums as source material. The earliest films made were based on major historical events, stories from the Bible, and the works of popular writers, from Charles Dickens to H. G. Wells.

It was natural that feature films would be made based on the most popular characters and mythos from America's distinct literary art form, the comic book. Early efforts to bring comic book superheroes to life on the big screen and television include the serialized adventures of Superman, played by George Reeves, and Batman, played by Adam West.

The modern era of superhero films began with a film that utilized modern special effects techniques and a big budget, Superman: The Movie, starring Christopher Reeves in 1978.

Since then, the Superman and Batman franchises have been the major source of feature films based on comic book superheroes. Superman: The Movie brought moviegoers a new level of realism and production values, while treating its subject matter with the right mix of respect and humor. But many subsequent superhero films have been critical disasters, even if they made money on their combined ticket sales and impressive marketing tie-in revenues. Surely the director who should be banned for life from ever coming near a superhero film is Joel Schumacher, whose megabudget disaster Batman & Robin disgraced not only Batman and comics, but film in general.

Many embarrassingly bad superhero films had sunk expectations for comic books as source materials for movies, until Singer's X-Men revitalized the field in the year 2000. Singer has demonstrated how taking the subject matter seriously and portraying super-powered individuals as human, realistic people can make all the difference in the quality of a film. Also, new advances in special effects have made it easier and more economical to bring superheroics convincingly to the screen. Dozens of films based on superheroes are in various stages of development, chronicled by the excellent web site.

Comic Book Superhero Films, From Best to Worst

This page ranks comic book superhero films, from best to worst. For now, we have left out direct-to-video animated films (such as Batman: Mask of the Phantasm), although we recognize that some of them were better than their live action counterparts.

  1. X-Men (2000)
  2. Superman II (1980)
  3. Batman (1989)
  4. Superman: The Movie (1978)
  5. Batman Forever (1995)
  6. Batman Returns (1992)
  7. Blade (1998)
  8. Batman & Robin (1997)
  9. Spawn (1997)
  10. Superman III (1983)
  11. Howard the Duck (1986)
  12. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
  13. The Punisher (1989)


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Web page created 19 December 2000. Last modified 19 December 2000.
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