Comic Book Films: The Best by Year

Joseph Gioeli Joseph Gioeli
Expert Contributor
September 22nd, 2017

ComiConverse Expert Contributor focusing on film and television.

Comic Book Films: The Best by Year
Opinion
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Some years have been tough for comic book films, while others have been exceptional. Our Joseph Gioeli is here to determine which years have been the best of the best in terms of quality comic book films.

Between 1978 and 2007, there was an average of one comic book film being released every other year, and most of these films were less-than stellar. Among them were Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), Batman & Robin (1997), and Spider-Man 3 (2007).

This would all change in 2008.

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2008

2008 was the year that brought us the very first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man. This movie would change the landscape of comic book films forever. Not only did Marvel cast the perfect Tony Stark, but they also opened the door to what would eventually become one of the most profitable and successful film franchises ever and still going strong nearly a decade later. By year-end, the MCU will have 17 total films under their belt with their biggest, Avengers: Infinity War, still to come. The Incredible Hulk was also released in 2008, the second film to be released in the MCU. This film did not receive any special notoriety and the fact that they used a different actor for the rest of the MCU films does not help its cause.

Finally, 2008 brought us arguably the greatest comic book film ever in The Dark Knight. This was the second installment in the Christopher Nolan Trilogy, and featured undoubtedly, the greatest comic book movie villain ever with Heath Ledger’s iconic performance as The Joker. This movie made history as well. It did not receive an Oscar nod in 2008, which eventually caused the academy to stretch the possible nomination spots from five, to ten. Heath Ledger was also the first and only person to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in a comic book movie.

2011

A few years later, fans were given Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern and Captain America: The First Avenger. None of these four films were run-away blockbusters, but they did their jobs in the big picture. Without Thor and the first Cap movie, the Avengers may have never existed. It would’ve been very difficult to make a team film when only one of the six members had a prior solo film. These films also paved the way for their sequels, some of which are considered the best films in the MCU.

At first glance, X-Men: First Class may not have been spectacular, but after letting it marinate and seeing what the new-era cast of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence could do in future films, such as X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), this film was well worth it.

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The only DC film in 2011 did not do well with critics nor at the box office, receiving a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes as well as bringing in about $83 million less than their estimated budget. If there were a blackspot during 2011, this would be Green Lantern. Although, if we did not grit our teeth through Green Lantern, the constant pokes at it in Deadpool (2016) would not have existed, which would’ve taken something away from the film as well as the satirical style of Deadpool as a character.

2014

The next year on this list is arguably the best year for comic book films that we have seen thus far. 2014 gave us blockbuster hits such as X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as fan favorites, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

As per usual, the MCU dominated 2014 with the second installment in the Cap trilogy, which many believe is better than the first one. Winter Soldier brought back the childhood friend of Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, but instead of fighting beside Cap, he has been brainwashed and made into a weapon as the Winter Soldier. This film also marked the debut of quite possibly the best directing in the entire MCU with Joe and Anthony Russo behind the camera. Marvel also released Guardians of the Galaxy that same year which was probably the biggest surprise to be a success out of every MCU film. James Gunn was able to take a relatively unknown group of characters and bring them together for one of the better films in the MCU. This would evolve into a highly anticipated sequel that was released earlier this year, as well as the Guardians cast being a large part of the upcoming mega-team film, Avengers: Infinity War.

Another Marvel sequel was also released, but did not receive close to the same reaction as Winter Soldier. Andrew Garfield reprised his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. In the sequel he would be pinned against Electro as well as a new-look Green Goblin and Rhino. One of the major plot points in this film was taken directly from The Amazing Spider-Man #121 with the death of Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. To many loyal Spider-Man fans, seeing arguably one of the best Spider-Man storylines on the silver screen for the first time would make up for the dullness around it throughout the rest of the film.

The second film in the new era of X-Men, X-Men: Days of Future Past, was released in May of 2014 and was met with praise from critics and fans alike. This film was set on the premise of Wolverine being sent back to 1973 in order to convince a younger Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr to help him stop Dr. Bolivar Trask from getting the Sentinel program green-lit by the United States Government; the program is the cause of the eventual extinction of mutants. This film had fans excited due to the popularity of the original comic book as well as the fact that Wolverine would be the main star in another Bryan Singer-directed film.

2016

The final year on this list is the previous one. In 2016, fans were given the most comic book films in a single year ever with six total films being released. 2016 was the year that more movie studios realized that not only can comic book films be extremely popular, but they can be profitable as well, even if they are rated “R”.

2016 was off to an incredible start with Deadpool in February. 20th Century Fox was weary upon release of this film due to its’ violence and language, earning it an “R” rating; the first in nearly a decade for a comic book film. To the pleasure of fans, critics and 20th Century Fox, Deadpool was a massive hit in every aspect of the phrase. Earning more than six times its’ estimated budget and an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, Deadpool paved the way for more “R” rated comic book films, such as Logan (2017), which was also a massive success that closed out the Hugh Jackman era of the X-Men Franchise. 20th Century Fox also released X-Men: Apocalypse in the same year. This movie did significantly worse on all levels compared to not only Deadpool but any other Bryan Singer-directed X-Men film. Critics nor fans were overly thrilled about the storyline nor the actual portrayal of Apocalypse.

In this year, Marvel was able to commence Phase 3 of their cinematic universe with the release of Captain America: Civil War and then adding to it with Doctor Strange. Civil War was a huge hit especially among fans. With the addition of a brand new Spider-Man into the MCU played by Tom Holland, as well as the introduction of Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, solo films have spawned for each character. Spider-Man: Homecoming was released earlier this year to great reviews, and Black Panther will be released in early 2018. Beyond the introduction and hype of new characters, the Russo Brothers took all of the existing characters and split them down the middle in anticipation for Avengers: Infinity War. Watching Cap and Stark go toe to toe towards the end of the movie was exciting to many fans, but unsettling to some; Infinity War should be able to bring them all back together along with, among the laundry list of characters, Dr. Stephen Strange. Dr. Strange was brought to the big screen in late 2016, and did fairly well. Most fans also agreed that bringing sorcery into the MCU was extremely important for the plot of Infinity War. That, along with the phenomenal special effects used throughout the film which made it a visual masterpiece, as well as Benedict Cumberbatch’s spot on performance as Stephen Strange made for another great surprise film for fans.

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In 2013, Warner Brothers formed the DCEU with the release of Man of Steel; three years after that, two more films were injected into DC’s Extended Universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. At first glance, both of these films got beat up pretty badly by critics and especially by fans. When BvS was released, it did so with a runtime of 2 hours and 31 minutes as well as being rated PG-13. When it finally hit DVD, an extra 30 minutes of scenes cut from the theatrical version made it in, as well as the rating being bumped to R. The extra half hour created a better flow for the film as well as being able to make more sense out of the storyline. This film featured Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman, Ben Affleck making his at-the-time, questionable debut as Batman and Gal Gadot stealing the show as Wonder Woman. Suicide Squad drew quite a bit of hype from fans, which was balanced out by some distraught fans prior to the release. Many were weary on Jared Leto playing the Joker in the DCEU. The release of the film did not ease those worries though seeing as how, in the theatrical version, Joker had a very minuscule role. If nothing else, Suicide Squad was at least able to introduce some prominent villains into the DCEU – Leto’s Joker, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot were among them.

Comic book films do not look like they’re going to stop being made anytime soon, which is great news for fans. But an argument of which films were the best will always exist.

Whatever year was your favorite, I think most fans can agree that the best year for comic book films will always be the next one.

 

Do you agree? Is there a stellar year for comic book films that we glossed over? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Joseph Gioeli is an expert ComiConverse Contributor. Follow him on Twitter: @joegioeli

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