As we reach the end of the decade, we also reach the end of the last comic book film (Joker) having its cinematic run coming to an end. What a decade it’s been for the golden age of comic book films, right? The beginning of the decade we were in the middle of Marvel Studios phase one of its Marvel Cinematic Universe, reach its epic climax of a decade worth of storytelling this year with Avengers: Endgame. We were also ready to witness Christopher Nolan’s final instalment of his Dark Knight trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises, while Warner Bros. looked ahead to gain momentum to expand their own cinematic universe with the release of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, which kind of flattered-changed course after the release of Justice League towards the latter half of the decade (#ReleaseTheSnyderCut). It wasn’t just Marvel Studios and DC, as we’ve had 20th Century Fox’s X-Men being rebooted with First Class, to Ryan Reynold’s giving a second chance and taking it with both hands in a Deadpool standalone film. There’s been a few gems and duds of other comic book film adaptations here and there, but now I’ll be looking back on my favourites so without further ado, here’s my top ten favourite comic book films of the decade.
10. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
You should’ve let her hit the pavement.
You shouldn’t have thrown her.
-Batman and Cyborg
The Flash finds himself in a war torn alternate timeline and teams up with alternate versions of his fellow heroes to return home and restore the timeline.
The Justice League name may be in the title and the characters may appear on screen, but make no mistake, this is The Flash centric DC animated film and has been one of the best ones from them, in my view, that hasn’t even been matched yet since its release. Since it doesn’t focus on either Batman or Superman in the lead, as it were, having The Flash as the key focus makes it feel fresh for the casual viewer and gives us also a dark apocalyptic timeline of how things for our heroes may have happened differently, such as Barry getting the help of this timelines Batman, who isn’t Bruce Wayne Batman that we know and also that Wonder Woman and Aquaman are war with each other, which is consuming the Earth and ravaging the lands of Europe in particular. The animation is terrific here as is the musical score throughout while the action pieces are quick and low-key until the epic final act with major and minor DC characters pop up and get involved in a massive battle to save/end the world. The voice talent is spot on here, with Justin Chambers as Barry Allen, it’s nice to have the original voice cast such as Kevin Conroy and Nathan Fillion appear also but the highlight performance, voice wise, was C. Thomas Howell as Professor Zoom, menacingly brilliant. Not going to lie, it was a toss-up between this and Batman: Under The Red Hood for me but Flashpoint Paradox just edged it for me.
9. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Gelato isn’t vegan?
It’s milk and eggs, bitch.
-Todd Ingram & the Vegan Police
The film is a crazy blend of video games, anime, pop culture references and ridiculous action sequeneces and wears the over-the-top status of it all proudly on its sleeve. On multiple viewings, aside from the fact that Edgar Wright has done a terrific job in putting this culturistic -nerd-overload gem together, major props have to go to the film editing and sound editing teams. The dialogue is pretty much quotable and the jokes come thick and fast in the middle of the fights which are undoubtedly the best parts of the film and the actors in the roles clearly have a ball doing it from Chris Evans to Brandon Routh to Mae Whitman and especially Jason Schwartzman as Gideon. Ellen Wong is great as Knives, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also really good as Ramona and Michael Cera is, well, Michael Cera-ish that completely works in the realm of this bonkers piece. Scott Pilgrim vs The World isn’t for everyone’s taste but I enjoy it a lot.
8. The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (2012)
Regardless of your views of comic book film adaptations at the minute, let alone the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Avengers is an iconic moment in cinema for the simple reason of having the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye aka The Avengers, appear on screen together for the first time. Granted it now seems enough time has passed for enough people to now not enjoy it as much as they did when it came out a few years ago but there’s still plenty of enjoyment for me to find here, while the plot is straight forward, the special effects are terrific here and not as overloaded as the Avengers sequels that followed, with a great sense of fun that should come from a summer blockbuster. Whedon does a terrific job with the directing and also giving each individual member of the Avengers their moment to shine (technically Barton aka Hawkeye has a really good fight scene against Black Widow but that’s when he’s under Loki’s influence) and the performances are solid here from actors that have been in the roles for a while and the obvious standout is Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki.
7. Wonder Woman (2017)
I can save today. You can save the world.-Steve Trevor
When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana, an Amazonian warrior in training, leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny.
Jenkins has made it clear that she was influenced by Richard Donner’s Superman and when you’re watching the film you can clearly see shades of that influence, from showing us the heroes homeland in the first act, to the superhero figure coming out as a beacon of hope in a grey world and the character gets to shine brightly within the World War I setting. Following Diana’s journey to mankind’s world and seeing her naivety about seeking out immediately to help those in need within a black and white viewpoint about right and wrong, whilst learning of the evil that men are capable of, actually feels refreshing in the landscape of comic book films we’ve had as of late. I thought Chris Pine gave a really good performance in the role and Gal Gadot on the other hand…..I thought she was excellent as Diana. Much has questioned about her ability as an actress capable of playing the role since she was cast back in 2013, rather unfairly in my opinion. Here she manages to find the balance of bringing innocence, sincerity and badassery to the role and with the action sequences she has and the material that she has to work with, this is comfortably her best performance to date. That no man’s land sequence is one of my favourite from a comic book film this decade. Wonder Woman is a wonderfully inspiring and compassionate superhero film that is a breath of fresh air in the genre thanks to Patty Jenkins at the helm.
6. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
His people are completely literal. Metaphors go over his head.
*Nothing* goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.
-Rocket & Drax
James Gunn has brought us this big new refreshing experience on a grand scale from the new worlds, new variations of characters and with some terrific humour and heart. I couldn’t help but let my inner childhood enjoy the cinematic experience of it all, made from a director that clearly pays homage to certain operatic space films of the past but clearly certifying his own stamp on it here. The cast is terrific and one of the key ingredients of the film is that they gel well together and somehow make it seem so effortless. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star Lord is a terrific choice of lead in this film as he’s half badass and half…Chris Pratt. Zoe Saldana is well cast as Gamora, the assassin who easily with her rich backstory could carry her own film or be the lead in that regard. Bautista fits well into the character of Drax The Destroyer on screen, and then there’s the tag team of Rocket and Groot.
5. X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014)
All those years wasted fighting each other, Charles… to have a precious few of them back.
If ever there was a comic film that you could call more ambitious than Marvel’s assembling of The Avengers it is X-Men: Days of Future Past. Not only did they bringing back the original band and also have them share playtime with the new band members, they also have to contain that within the time travel plot aspect without losing some of the general film audience that aren’t as heavily invested as die hard X-Men fans. This also may be the most definitive version of Wolverine we’ve had on the big screen, a man no longer as angry (though he will throw down hard when needs be) as he was in previous films, here he’s on mission mode to restore the faith in Charles Xavier who is at his lowest point and considering how Xavier helped Wolverine in the previous films, it’s nice to witness the role reversal in this film. Considering how iconic the actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are in the roles of Professor X and Magneto, it’s astounding how great and subtle James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are in the same roles and you easily buy them as the characters.
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
I know I’m asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.
– Steve Rogers
As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow, to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier.
In this particular film, I totally brought into Chris Evans portrayal of Rogers as a man caught up in a world where good vs evil is no longer so clearcut to see and trying to figure out what his purpose is, to remain a soldier or something more. I also enjoyed the interaction between Cap and Natasha in this film, Evans and Johansson just gel so well. The overall tone of the film is Marvel Studio’s most mature to date and balances the fine line of doing the spy espionage thriller with elements of superhero action. And there be lots of action set pieces. Particular highlights being the Nick Fury car chase and the second Cap and Winter Soldier encounter. The assembled cast does a great job here too, in particular Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, Anthony Mackie getting the best jokes and a welcome addition to the universe as The Falcon, Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D main head Alexander Pierce, Scarlett Johansson adds more humour to her character here and essentially co-leads the film and Sebastian Stan does a good job as The Winter Soldier, even though he is not the main focus of the plot, he adds a air of menace as a literal Terminator chasing after Cap and Black Widow. Five years on and I’ll still argue in favour of The Winter Solider being the best MCU film.
3. Joker (2019)
Is something funny?
I just thought of a funny joke!
Do you mind telling it?
…You wouldn’t get it.
– Arthur Fleck & the Social Worker
In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime.
Not in a million years at the start of the decade did I believe we would get a Joker origin film on the big screen, but I would end up loving it as much as I did. A lot of hype surrounds Joaquin Phoenix performance in the lead role and, for me, I thought Phoenix was absolutely terrific as Arthur Fleck, a man whose absolutely unhinged, pitiful, yet you initially sympathise with as you see him get beat up in the opening minutes of the film. Phoenix commits completely in the role, from the weight-loss to his demeanour in interacting with others around him, how the ‘Joker laugh’ is defined here and I think it works perfectly for the film, and how the second half of the film is filled with tension as you aren’t exactly sure just when Arthur will snap. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score works tremendously with the film, as does Lawrence Sher’s cinematography. Here Gotham feels a character in itself, totally lived in and for the film time since arguably the Tim Burton Batman films, feels like a melting pot of violence, chaos and moral corruption.
2. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
When will I know I’m ready?
You won’t. It’s a leap of faith. That’s all it is, Miles. A leap of faith.
– Miles Morales & Peter B. Parker
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the ultimate love letter to Spider-Man, somehow creating a narrative about the multi-verse and making it work on the big screen, let alone as an animated film, is a testament to the creative team, from the script to the directors to the animators involved. Beautiful animation aside, the film has stakes and genuine heart that provide some powerful scenes that at least match the live-action counterparts, if not better them. The voice cast is terrific also, with Shameik Moore perfect as Miles Morales, while a seasoned Peter Parker voiced by Jake Johnson works unbelievably well and Hailee Steinfeld is great as Gwen Stacy. There’s so many memorable moments in the film, from Miles travelling to school, to also anything involving Nic Cage as Spider-Man Noir, it’s the ‘leap of faith’ scene that’ll last long in the memory. The after credits scene is also one of the most meta-amusing bits I’ve seen in quite some time and a must see for Spider-Man fans out there. I can’t wait to explore this Spider-Verse further in the future.
1 . Logan (2017)
Don’t be what they made you.
In a future where mutants are nearly extinct, an elderly and weary Logan leads a quiet life. But when Laura, a mutant child pursued by scientists, comes to him for help, he must get her to safety.
Seventeen years of portraying the same character over multiple films and finally, we arrive at Hugh Jackman’s final destination as Logan and my favourite comic book film of the decade. It’s a comic book film that plays more into the genre of a western and grounds superhero antics to a minimum compared to what we’ve seen in comic book films before it. The Wolverine that we’ve grown up watching has now become a shadow of his former self, he’s old and with his healing abilities not being what they used to be, he has to numb the constant chronic pain he gets by hitting the bottle. Not only is he physically beaten up, mentally he’s broken as well as everyone he knew has died all for the exception of Charles Xavier, who he has to take care of as the most powerful mind is now suffering from dementia and also has seizures which can be dangerous to everyone around him. It’s sad to see these characters we’ve followed for seventeen years now become broken shells of themselves and it makes the moments where they have moments of old gory resurfacing, briefly, can be beautiful to watch unfold. You would also think that seeing Wolverine slashing bad guys for the five-hundredth time would be dull…..it’s not. Hugh Jackman has been playing the role for a long time and yet he manages to bring something new to the table as we see Logan at his most vulnerable and broken. I’ve always liked Jackman in the role and I think here he’s puts everything he got into his swan song, I thought he was absolutely terrific. Patrick Stewart is great as elderly Charles Xavier, playing a different side of the character we’ve never seen before yet maintaining a few traits that we know and love about him. Making her big screen debut alongside them is eleven-year-old Dafne Keen playing the role of Laura Kinney, a young mutant that is being hunted by a military group lands into Logan’s life. Dafne Keen almost steals the show from everyone involved here as she doesn’t talk and does so much with so little in conveying emotional from her facial expressions when she interacts with other characters. Logan is a sombre swan song for Hugh Jackman as the title character, going out with a bang in a western-vibe setting, soaked up in bloody violence and bleak tone throughout. Sometimes touching, sometimes funny and sometimes heartbreaking, James Mangold has managed to create an absolutely terrific film that feels like the most important comic book film since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
So what is your favourite comic book film of the decade and why? Let me know in the comments below.