The Ninjabot

Top 5 Comic Book Movies You Never Knew Were Comic Books

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 8:43 am by Jeff Mueller

Alright nerdlings, let’s gather round for another dose of geek conjecture. Last week we looked down our collective noses at some cinematic comic book train wrecks; so this week let’s look at the other side of the nerd coin at some of the better fare from that genre. To make it interesting, we are going to list out the top 5 comic book movies that most people didn’t realize were actually comic book movies. How about them apples?!?

This list was generated by the deeply analytical method of me asking a couple of non-comic geek friends “Hey, did you know ‘X’ movie was based on a comic book?” I scribbled their answers on a napkin in crayon and then got to typing up this fine list you see before you. Science!

As always (because I am too lazy) this list is in no particular order of importance.

Road to Perdition

Road to Perdition” was based on a graphic novel of the same name by Max Allan Collins. Released in 2002 this movie takes place in 1931, during the Great Depression. It follows a mob enforcer and his son as they seek vengeance against a mobster who murdered the rest of their family. It is a darkly done, classic revenge piece.

The film had a very solid cast including Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig. The film received positive reviews by critics, mostly due to its atmosphere and visuals. It’s a very emotionally cold movie, and I believe it was this adherence to the dark source material that made it difficult for the critics, and audience, to truly embrace.

Regardless of its mediocre box office numbers, “Road to Perdition” was nominated for six Academy Awards and managed to score the nod for Best Cinematography. It is a very solid movie and adaptation; I highly recommend giving it a look if you slept on this one.


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, based on the graphic novel series “Scott Pilgrim” by Bryan Lee O’Malley, was released in 2010 and fell mostly upon blind eyes in the theaters. The film is about Scott Pilgrim, a young Canadian musician, meeting the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers. In order to win Ramona’s heart, Scott learns that he must defeat her “seven evil exes”, who are coming to kill him.

Critical response to the film was positive overall, with an average Rotten Tomato score of 7.5 out of 10. Regardless of that it just never got the traction in the theaters that so many comic nerds thought it would. A lot of people point to a poorly devised marketing campaign, but who really can ever figure out why some movies, such as this one, thrive in the DVD/OnDemand market and not in the cineplexes themselves?

Personally I hold this movie up as one of the greatest comic book movies of all time. It was inventive, captured the heart of the source material well without being handcuffed to it, and was superbly directed by Edgar Wright. It amazes me that so many people didn’t realize this film was a comic adaptation.


The Crow

The Crow” is the oldest movie on this list, coming out in 1994. It was adapted from the 1989 comic book of the same name by James O’Barr. The film tells the story of Eric Draven, a rock musician who is revived from the dead to avenge he and his fiancé’s murder.

The film was quickly adopted by goth kids due to its dark theme and spectacular soundtrack; it also was well received by critics who praised the action and visual style. Unfortunately the movie was marred by the tragic death of its main character and rising star, Brandon Lee, during the last days of filming.

While often compared in the press to other films, particularly Tim Burton’s “Batman”, it shares more with “Blade Runner” in both visual style and overall view of a slightly dystopian future in my humble opinion.



RED”, inspired by the limited series of the same name created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, was released in 2010. The film sports an all-star cast including Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren.

Even though it is not very firmly tied to the source material it takes a life of its own as essentially a buddy cop/caper flick taking place in a spy/action-thriller universe. RED, defined in the movie as “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”, is a light-hearted vehicle for the cast to have some fun. As usual, Bruce Willis sends in a good performance (he can do this type of a role without batting an eye by now) but it is Helen Mirren and John Malkovitch that really steal the show whenever they are onscreen.

It received decent reviews and scored a 71% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not stellar, but the box office draw was good enough to greenlight a sequel which is currently in the works.


Ghost World

Ghost World” was based on the comic book of the same name, written and drawn by Daniel Clowes who also wrote the screenplay. It was released in 2001 to huge indie critical acclaim. The story focuses on the life of two outcast teenage girls in an unnamed American city.

The film follows the lives of best friends Enid and Rebecca, played adeptly by Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson, during the summer after their high-school graduation. The movie explores the pitfalls of embracing adulthood, relationships (both friendships and romances) and discovering oneself.

Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, “I wanted to hug this movie. It takes such a risky journey and never steps wrong. It creates specific, original, believable, lovable characters, and meanders with them through their inconsolable days, never losing its sense of humor“. High praise from Mr Ebert… one almost has to believe he didn’t realize it was a comic book movie either.

So what do you think? Have you ever looked at one of your friends and wanted to revoke their geek-card when they admitted they didn’t know a specific flick was comic based? Let us know which movie, and their email address so we can make fun of them.

    • ItsAGouff

      I can think of several to add if we're going by GENERAL public, and not semi-knowledgeable comic book readers. TMNT being a big one (horrifying though the film was for fans), 30 Days of Night, Whiteout, Constantine, Surrogates, and V for Vendetta, among others.
      I personally loved Road to Perdition the film's take on the source material. Had the grittiness and brutality reminiscent of Frank Miller's Sin City stuff.

      • thejerd

        Good call on 30 Days of Night. That definitely should be on the list as well… I didn't know Surrogates was a comic (I never saw the movie either), thanks for dropping some knowledge!

    • I love 'The Crow,' and really wish Hollywood would stop demanding remakes of it. The several sequels after Brandon Lee's iteration were awful and never should have been made.

      Also, Scott Pilgrim is one of my favorite movies. Charming, exciting and fun all around.

    • Jennifer

      Yea, I had no idea that any of these were comics before they were movies. I bet if your list consisted of 10 or 15 I wouldnt know those either! Road to Predition, really? That is the most surprising in this list. I liked that movie a lot.

      • thejerd

        Glad to educate, Jennifer!

        • Jennifer

          Yea, thanks! I actually talked about this list with a friend yesterday. She too, had no clue.

    • Darth Shiva

      Another one to be considered on the list is Kickass, which was a graphic novel before it's film debut as well. I really enjoyed Scott Pilgrim and read the comics before the movie came out. I was very impressed with how fun they made this film and enjoyed how they did the cinematic version. Also, I didn't know about Red, but LOVED it.

    • @bdkehs

      American Splendor by Harvey Pekar. It's kind of obscure, but when Paul Giamatti plays the lead in the film adaption, you should probably check it out.

      • thejerd

        American Splendor is a great movie!

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