Friday Five: Best DC Comics Movies
Today, I’m going to take a look at the Top 5 DC Comics Movies. Coming up with the top list of DC Comics-related movies that are of high quality is a lot easier task than it was for Marvel movies. It’s not that there is a drastic number more Marvel movies, it’s that so few of the DC movies are any good. Most of them are Superman or Batman sequels and most of the sequels, if fun, aren’t great movies. Very few other DC characters have ever gotten the big screen treatment and when they do, it’s often nonsense like Steel, starring Shaquille O’Neal. That being said, there are some good movies here, and, in particular, if you can separate them from the source material and view them on their own merits, there are some really great movies here.
Honorable Mention: Superman Returns (2006)
5. Watchmen (2009): I know that the die-hard fans of Alan Moore’s comic don’t like this movie, but I think this is the key example of a movie that is quite good when taken on its own merits. Sure, it is inferior to the comic by any standard, but if you put that aside, this movie looks great, it has good acting, the story is compelling and Jackie Earle Haley is near-perfect as Rorschach — it’ll be hard for any comic book movie tough guy to ever top this performance. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian is also notably good and most of the other acting is more than adequate. This may not be a great movie or and it may not belong on the list of “best comic book movies,” but it is a fun and entertaining movie, nonetheless.
4. Batman Begins (2005): I think Christopher Nolan was still really kind of perfecting what he was doing with this one and it kind of comes apart at the seems a bit at the end, but Christian Bale instantly became the best Batman/Bruce Wayne combo in movie history, Cillian Murphy made one of the weaker Batman villains, the Scarecrow, spooky and Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson and Morgan Freeman give very good performances as well.
3. Batman (1989): I think maybe Tim Burton’s take on Batman is a bit overrated and I think the sequel to this movie is pretty mediocre, but Burton managed to hit all the right notes with this first film. There was controversy at the time over Michael Keaton getting the role, but the skeptics, myself included, turned out to be wrong and this movie was, I think, the start of Keaton getting the respect he deserves as one of his generation’s better actors. Jack Nicholson’s Joker was probably the iconic movie supervillain from the movie’s debut up through 2008. The rest of the cast, the sets and costumes, the Prince soundtrack, the story and the action all work here.
2. Superman (1978): As a pure film, Burton’s Batman is probably better than Superman, but in terms of comic book films, Superman is the landmark film. It proved that comic books weren’t just for kids. It proved that you could make a man fly and not have it look horrible. It proved that you could not only cast an unknown for a major part, that in the right type of movie it was preferable to cast an unknown. Every comic book movie that came afterwards owes a debt of gratitude to Superman and Christopher Reeve. On top of that, it’s a pretty damned good movie in and of itself and it holds up well enough that you can watch it today and get the same level of enjoyment out of it as you did back then.
1. The Dark Knight (2008): It’s rare for a movie to have so many other movies that it not only will be compared with, but also that it has to surpass if it’s to be taken seriously. The Burton Batman was long seen as the gold standard and Nicholson’s Joker was untouchable in terms of quality. Batman Begins successfully rebooted the franchise, but would a sequel fall into the same trap that Batman Returns did for Burton? Not only that, Marvel movies were beginning to flood the market in terms of both dollars and critical acclaim. How would Nolan deal with all that? By making the best damned superhero movie ever made. How would Heath Ledger live up to Nicholson’s legacy? By surpassing it and setting a new standard. And this movie works on any level and by any standard. It’s a great comic book movie. It’s a great action movie. It’s a great drama. It’s got great effects, sets and costumes. It’s got a great cast. It’s got incredibly great acting. It’s got a compelling story that works both on a literal level and as an allegory. It is relevant to current events and timeless at the same time. This is a great movie.