#1: Superman (1978)
Before there was ever a "DC vs. Marvel" cinematic feud, DC was busy laying the ground work on what would become the blueprint for the comic book origin story. In 1978’s Superman, Richard Donner introduced the audience to a young man trying to discover his role in society and it wasn't until his adult years, our hero was forced to pick up vigilante duties for his local neighborhood and take down a formidable foe. The super hero origin story is almost a necessity when launching a franchise. To witness one of Hollywood’s earliest attempts, Superman would make a good addition for a movie night.
#2: Batman (1989)
After Batman hit theaters in 1989, the genre would never be the same again. Today, studios try and mimic the calculated casting decisions made by Warner Bros. in this Tim Burton Picture. Comic book movies now aren’t all about the heroes, but the villains have to bring their +A game as well. Pop in a Batman bluray (if you haven’t already) and try and take yourself back to the year 1988 when fan boys every where were scratching their heads about the casting decisions. You haven’t truly seen a Batman film, if you don’t make at least one detour to the Tim Burton constructed cinematic universe.
#3: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
DC, Fox, Marvel, & (cough cough) Sony are all guilty of tackling gritty, dark subject matters in their latest comic book movie installments. The secret that dark tones, and gritty, realistic takes on source material are box office successes waiting to happen was first realized back in 1990 when the heroes in a half shell took over the big screen. Parents had so much issues with the film's violence that the studios had to dial the violence back 10 notches for the sequel and the outcry is probably one of the main reasons R rated comic book films are such a hot topic today.
#4: The Crow (1994)
Similar to a later entry on our list, The Crow was an antenna for controversy after the star Brandon Lee, literally gave his life in his final roll. The behind the scenes issues alone, are enough to persuade a movie fan to select this as a rental -- Lee’s performance as Eric Draven is enough to make you purchase the Blu Ray for a second, third, etc. viewing.
#5: Batman & Robin (1997)
If Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that every time you light a candle, you also cast a shadow. Batman & Robin is the embodiment of the dark side of the comic book movie genre. The film’s purpose serves as a reminder to studios that properties like these need to be handled with tender, love, and care. For a fan of the genre, it’s a must see (hear me out) to understand how far the genre has come over the last twenty years. If you go in with that mind set, your viewing experience should be over quicker than you think.
#6: Men in Black (1997)
A microscopic percentage of moviegoers were aware of the Marvel Comics property Men in Black until the summer of 1997 when Will Smith put on “the last suit [he] would ever wear” in Men in Black. The film got the thumbs up treatment from Siskel and Ebert, was a summer box office juggernaut, and proved that lesser known comic book properties could find a home in Hollywood. Movie buffs and comic book junkies alike must have their geek card revoked immediately if they’ve never watched this comedic masterpiece.
#7: Blade (1998)
Many point to 2000’s X-Men or 2002’s Spider-Man as the white knight that helped lift the genre from the grave following the previously mentioned Batman & Robin. In an ironic twist of fate, the white knight was a shade darker than you would think -- The rated R Blade rose from the shadows and paved the way for the new era of comic book heroes in 1998. If you want to watch a true comic book adaption and see a beloved character leap off the glossy paper strip, hurry up and press play.
#8: Sin City (2005)
For any fan who’s ever complained “that’s not the way it happens in the comic”, this film is for you. Sin City is a perfect example of a fully faithful adaption. The 2005 American neo-noir crime thriller is filmed in way that ,if it’s your first time viewing, you’re confused and think you’re reading Frank Miller’s actual graphic novel.
#9: The Dark Knight (2008)
What do you want me to say? Heath Ledger’s Joker! The Batman headpiece is freakin’ awesome! Christopher Nolan! The long list of awesomeness not only makes this a must see, but Ledger’s Oscar win for best supporting actor, and the film being regarded as a crime thriller and not just a comic book hero movie helped proved that this genre wasn’t a fad like the popular vampire movies that same year (I’m looking at you Twilight) -- but that these movies were here to stay.
#10: The Avengers (2012)
I don’t even remember hearing the words cinematic universe used so frequently (in that order) in casual movie talk prior to 2012. Marvel may not have invented the wheel, but boy did they put some chrome wheels on that baby and are pimping the hell out of the game right now. If you’re a fan of comic books, the idea of having your favorite heroes team up to go toe to toe with evil masterminds usually meant staging a session with your action figures in the bath tub. When 2012 happened, Marvel made it happen and if you haven’t seen this film yet, it’s a fun place to start if you want to jump on the bandwagon for the next ten years in comic book hero movies.
What about you? What's a Must See Comic Book Movie that every fan has to watch and add to their memory bank?