Superhero movies have become the undisputed kings of the box office, the only guaranteed theatrical success in a post-pandemic world. Beyond feature films, Marvel and DC heroes have also made their mark in television and video games. Both properties’ origins lie in the comics, adapting their heroes to decades of lore and appealing to a pre-established fanbase.
Comics, graphic novels, and manga have more to offer than superpowered people in spandex. Some of the most popular movies of the past few decades are comedic adaptations, ranging from gripping thrillers to brutal action films, sci-fi comedies to historical war films, and even love letters to video games.
‘Old Boy’ (2003)
When my earnest captors abduct a man (Choi Min Sik), he is forced to spend the next 15 years alone in a single room. Without warning, he is sent back to the outside world and begins his pursuit of those responsible while still trapped in a murder plot.
Whereas Old boy is a thriller, it also features great action sequences, especially a one-hit hallway fight that proved to be very influential. Directed by a legendary director Park Chan-wook, Old boy is a South Korean adaptation of a Japanese manga. An American version made by Spike Lee also exists, but it is better to forget it.
‘Sin City’ (2005)
Realized by Robert Rodriguez and based on Frank Millergraphic novel, city of sin tells three separate stories of crime and violence as its star actors fight for redemption in the corrupt city of Basin. Bruce Willis, mickey rourkeand Clive Owen Play as the three grizzled protagonists, each finding themselves drowning in a sea of trouble to protect or avenge the women they care for.
The film is notable for its visual style, using color processing to make the film look cinematic in black and white while using color to highlight important objects and characters. city of sinThe unique visuals of the help it stay true to its graphic novel origins as if the pages of the book had come to life.
city of sin is available to stream on Showtime.
From one Frank Miller adaptation to the next, this graphic novel-turned-movie is inspired by the battles between Sparta and Persia. 300 tells the story of Leonidas (Gerard Butler), the chiseled, screaming king of the Spartans, who leads 299 of his men against the approaching Persian army, whose numbers reach over 300,000.
Directed by a pre-DC Zack Snyder, the film also uses visual effects to replicate work from Miller’s original comic book series. Instead of city of sinits black and white aesthetic, 300 uses lots of orange and red hues in its chroma-keyed visual style, which really brings out the Spartan armor and blood spray.
300 is available to stream on HBO Max.
“Ghost World” (2001)
Far from the realm of superheroes, ghost world focuses on the terrors of adolescence. Best friends Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) are strangers in high school, and as graduation approaches, they’re forced to face what they really want to do with their lives. The arrival of potential romantic suitors also threatens to tear their friendship apart.
Based on the 90s comic book series of the same name, ghost world was praised for its authentic portrayal of teenage angst and believable characters. It was nominated for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
ghost world is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+ and Tubi.
“Men in Black” (1997)
The movie that shot Will Smith on the way to stardom, men in black combines the Fresh Prince with Tommy Lee Jones as agents of a secret branch of government that focuses on extraterrestrial threats. When a newly arrived alien plots to destroy the earth, the two agents go after him to save humanity. Plus, there’s a talking pug. What more do you need?
The film is based on a 90s comic book named men in black, which only existed for six issues. The heart of what makes the film work is the dynamic between the fast-talking Smith and the reserved Jones, with the duo returning for two sequels before the series reboots in 2019.
Crime runs rampant in a dystopian future where humanity is forced to live in metropolises known as Mega-Cities. This led to the creation of the Judges; the police were granted the role of judge, jury and executioner. The film begins with Judge Dredd (Karl Urbanowner of the manliest jaw ever) paired with psychic rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) as they are accused of infiltrating a skyscraper in the slums and taking out its criminal leader, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).
Dredis a fast and brutal action film, using slow motion to accentuate its unique visual style as Dredd and Anderson battle their way to the top of the building. The movie was written by Alex Garlandwho would continue to lead Ex-Machina,Annihilation,and Men.
“A History of Violence” (2005)
After Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) foils a robbery at his small-town restaurant, he becomes a national hero. However, figures from Tom’s past become aware of his newfound fame and make their presence known, forcing Tom to confront his demons to protect his family.
Directed by the master of body horror David Cronenberg (Future Crimes), A history of violence is based on the graphic novel by John Wagner, who also created Judge Dredd. The film is a perfect combination of great performances, direction and a terrific script as it asks questions about the nature of violence.
A history of violence is available to stream on Tubi.
‘Scott Pilgrim Against the World’ (2010)
A classic tale about a boy who meets a girl and then must defeat his seven evil exes, Scott Pilgrim vs the worldcomes from the acclaimed director Edgar Wright. When the lazy musician Scott (Michael Cera) literally meets the girl of his dreams Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he is forced to fight for her love as his former partners attempt to drive them apart.
A box office bomb, Scott Pilgrim received positive reviews from critics and has since gained a cult following. The film is a visual extravaganza as Scott battles his enemies in increasingly over-the-top fight scenes. It is an adaptation of the popular graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)
A less serious approach james bond and spy movies, Kingsman: The Secret Service follows a spy organization in modern England. When brash teenager Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is recruited into the agency, he is taken under the wing of the experienced Harry (Colin Firth) as he trains to become a Kingsman.
Action-packed, Kingsman is also an excellent comedy, which brings a lot of laughs as Eggsy finds himself like a fish out of water in polite society. The series began as a comic by Marc Millerwho also created Kick assanother popular comic book adaptation.
‘V for Vendetta’ (2005)
Created by the legendary comic book author Alan Moore (watchmen), V for Vendetta follows the masked anarchist V as he attempts to bring down a corrupt government through terrorist acts. The cast of the film Hugo Weaving as V, while Natalie Portman plays Evey, a young woman who finds herself caught up in V’s revolution. The film comments on government oppression and has become a favorite of anarchists.
V for Vendetta was well received by critics and audiences, with the Guy Fawkes mask that V wears being commonly used by protesters, including the hacktivism collective known as Anonymous.
V for Vendetta is available to stream on HBO Max.
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