It’s hard to picture the film industry these days without a slew of superhero movies or comic book adaptations on a near-monthly basis. That’s also the case on television with adaptations making their way to streaming services one after another. Not all of them have been great, but there have been plenty that were high quality. Here’s a look at five of the best comic book adaptations in both film and television.
At the start of the 21st century, superhero movies weren’t exactly a new idea. There had been ones including “Flash Gordon”, “Masters of the Universe”, and “Darkman”, but nothing that had really been a blockbuster from an A-list comic hero. That would change in 2002 with the release of “Spider-Man”, with Sony tabbing Sam Raimi to direct just over a decade after the release of “Darkman”.
The first “Spider-Man” film was a huge hit and was critically acclaimed, but the second film is the one that most people point to being the true start of great superhero films. With Tobey Maguire returning as the wallcrawler and the introduction of Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavious (Doc Ock), “Spider-Man 2” knocked it out of the park, earning nearly $800 million at the box office while achieving more than 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Dark Knight
“Batman Begins” was a good movie, and Batman fans were enthused with the direction the franchise was headed with Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan. The first film earned $373 million at the box office, but it was the sequel that everyone was looking forward to. “The Dark Knight” was released in the summer of 2008 with the promise of The Joker being introduced, and was played brilliantly by the late Heath Ledger.
“The Dark Knight” was considered to be the perfect superhero film at the time, and the box office numbers backed it up. “The Dark Knight” nearly tripled the totals from the first film, earning just over $1 billion in ticket sales. It received a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, putting it just ahead of “Spider-Man 2” in that regard. Ledger also won a posthumous Oscar for his role as The Joker.
The Walking Dead
While Spider-Man and Batman are very much mainstream superheroes, the same couldn’t really be said for “The Walking Dead”. The graphic novel series was popular but was much more niche than the previous two heroes. “The Walking Dead” ran as a comic from 2003 to 2019, and the television series on AMC made its debut in 2010 before coming to an end in late 2022.
“The Walking Dead” started off strong with characters like Rick and Shane, and millions tuned in for each episode during the first few seasons. While the quality may have tailed off after a few seasons, there were still plenty of people tuning in to see what would happen next. Nothing can top the excitement that surrounded those first few seasons, either, especially after the massive debut on Halloween 2010.
By 2017, the “X-Men” franchise had already been well-represented on the big screen with several films, including one of the first big-budget blockbuster superhero movies. Things got a lot more stripped down and gritty with the finale of Hugh Jackman taking on the Wolverine role in the film “Logan”. Released in both color and black & white, “Logan” showed a dejected and aging hero who was tasked at saving the next generation of mutants.
The film got incredibly gory, especially compared to the previous “X-Men” entries, receiving a rare R-rating. That didn’t hurt “Logan” from pulling in a ton of money at the box office as it collected nearly $620 million in ticket sales. The film earned an Oscar nomination while also earning the same critical acclaim (94%) as “The Dark Knight”. Many felt it wasn’t just a good superhero movie, but a good standalone movie in general.
Though this might be cheating since it’s using two movies, it was always meant to be one big chapter that was broken into two parts. “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame” were the culmination of a decade of superhero films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What started with “Iron Man” became a global phenomenon that included all of the biggest names in Marvel history.
The films were based on the Infinity Saga comic book storyline, and while many of the details were changed, many felt that the main storyline was perfect for the big screen. The two movies set box office records left and right as fans wanted to see how it would all play out. Of course, despite losing at the end of “Infinity War”, our heroes would set it right in “Endgame”.