This is an update on and article published on December 18th, 2004. Original article can be viewed here.
Right now the biggest box office draw in America is the comic book movie. The most popular of these are adaptations of characters from comic superpowers Marvel and DC. Here are some of the greatest live action comic book films that do not involve either company. This also means comics adapted from second parties of these companies (such a V for Vendetta and Kick Ass) are also ruled out.
Rocketeer – 1991
Scott Pilgrim Vs the World – 2010
Based on the manga style comic series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim is a film targeted at the anime/gamer crowd. It is directed by Edgar Wright, most known for his British comedies such as Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End. The film is about a boy named Scott Pilgrim (Micheal Cera) who falls in love with a girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to get with her he must defeat her seven evil ex-lovers. The film’s style is very video game-like with elements such as people turning into coins, over the top special moves, and video game sound effects. Overall, it’s a very funny film and one of the better comedies to come out in recent years.
Next we got an Italian/French cult film based on Jean Claude Forest’s comic series of the same name. The film is about an astronaut named Barbarella in the 41st century. The President of Earth sends her on a mission to the planet Lython to stop the evil Durand Durand who “invents a new sin every hour”. Durand Durand also has a weapon called the Excessive Machine which he uses to make people orgasm to death (not making this up).
Lady Snowblood (1973)
A Japanese revenge film based on the manga Shurayukihime. The film is about a woman who seeks revenge on the men who raped and killed her mother as well as her mother’s husband and son. The film is most known for being a favorite of Quentin Tarantino. The character O-Ren in Kill Bill is based of the main character from this film.
Ichi the Killer (2001)
Considered to be one of the most disturbing films of all time. The film is directed by famed Japanese director Takashi Miike (Audition, 200 Assassins) and is based off the manga of the same name. The film is about a Yakuza named Kakihara who gets turned on when he feels pain. While torturing a rival Yakuza, he learns of an assassin named Ichi who is a great martial artist who gets turned on when he inflicts pain. The film was banned in many countries do to its explicit violence. Though it is full of shock value, the film doesn’t fail on the story and character departments. The film has a prequel called 1-Ichi, which is done in the style of an anime.
Sin City (2005)
From Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller comes one of the more popular films on this list. Based off Miller’s own comic, Sin City is an anthology film done in a neo noir style. The stories all interconnect and show different sides of this sleazy, messed up city. The film has an all-star cast and is one of the first films to be shot completely in digital backdrop. It is also noted for being in all black and white except for certain objects.
Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (1977)
A Japanese film based on the manga, Golgo 13 stars Japanese actor Sonny Chiba. It is the second live action Golgo 13 film. Assassin Golgo 13 is hired by a US drug syndicate to kill Hong Kong’s underworld kingpin. The character of Golgo 13 shows very little emotion, but it’s done in a way that makes him awesome. If you like this, then the anime film The Professional: Golgo 13 is highly recommended.
One of the most acclaimed Korean films of all time. Directed by Park Chan Wook and based on the Japanese manga of the same name, Oldboy is about a man who is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years. When he gets out, he finds out he must catch his kidnapper in 5 days. The film is very emotional and at times really disturbing. The ending is also very shocking. At the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, the film was awarded the Grand Prix. It well deserved it.
Back in 1995 the 2000 AD character Judge Dredd was adapted for film… and it was horrible. In 2012 the character was once again given the movie treatment… and it was AWESOME! In this adaptation Judge Dredd and his partner Judge Anderson must fight their way to the top of a building to stop the drug lord known as Ma-Ma. This adaptation is a no mercy, stylized, gritty old school style action film that gives the character justice!
The Crow (1994)
And now the list comes to a close with what many consider to be the greatest comic book movie of all time. Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) along with his wife and son are killed by a group of thugs. With the help of a mystical crow, Eric is brought back to life to get revenge. As long as the crow is alive, Eric cannot be killed. The film is full of great action, stunning visuals, and memorable characters. Sadly, this was Brandon Lee’s last film, as he died by a malfunctioning gun prop during the film’s murder scene.