The Thirteen Best Comic Book Movies Not Based On Comic Books
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The Best Comic Book Movies Not Based On Comic Books

By TK | Seriously Random Lists | October 1, 2012 | Comments ()


I think we've now reached a point where "comic book movie" has become a genre of its own. It's no longer just that the occasional movie is based on a comic book -- it feels like a third to half of all tentpole releases are comic book movies. But there's something even more curious that I've been kicking around -- the comic book movie genre is becoming less and less about the source material, and more and more about the look and feel and philosophy of the movie. Comic book movies just feel a certain way. Characters are portrayed with a kind of deliberate cheese that somehow, when done right, feels less goofy and more appropriately earnest.

This is coupled with the fact that we're in something of a golden age of superhero movies. And what's most interesting about that is that we're starting to see brand new heroes on the screen -- original ones that were created for movies, and have no written source material. Personally, I'd like to see more of this. Instead of constantly rebooting comic book movies (with certain exceptions, of course), let's have Hollywood start making their own heroes. We've got the formula for heroes down pretty well at this point, so why not? An imperfect example is Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch -- a terrible movie, sure, but with some serious comic book sensibilities. And it was pretty successful, too, so the demand is there. And, as you'll see, we've got a bit of history with the idea.

So, here you are. The Best Comic Book Movies Not Based On Comic Books:

The Toxic Avenger


The Specials

Mystery Men




Sky High


The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension


The Iron Giant

Big Trouble In Little China

The Incredibles

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Stephen Escudero

    big trouble in little china best movie ever. monster squad should be here too.

  • totz the plaid

    Research fail: "Mystery Men" actually originated in comics.

    Read the third paragraph of the "fictional character biography" section on "Flaming Carrot" on Wikipedia:

  • Jean Morel

    Mystery Men was based on a comic book. And Hancock sucks.

  • chanohack

    Should not Dr. Horrible have at least an honorable mention?

  • logan

    Why the hell is there no sequel for "the Incredible's? I mean we got cars 2 and 142 ice age things so why not a sequel to a good cartoon?

  • Zachariah Dearing

    I think Disney's buying Marvel had something to do with that.

  • grinning dog

    Where is Kick Ass?

  • Shane

    Chilling on the "comic book movies that are actually based on comic books" list. And not in the trash, because Steph is wrong.

  • Steph

    In the trash, where it belongs.

  • Emmet O'Cuana

    Remove Unbreakable (and then, I don't know, burn it) and add in The Return of Captain Invincible. You will believe Alan Arkin had hair.

  • Some Guy

    TK, do you draw a distinction between Superhero films and comic book films? You discuss the Comic Book Movie genre, but then you write that Superhero movies are in a golden age.

    I would argue that all of the movies above are "superhero films" or subsets therein, which might or might not have come from comics originally. All of them basically involve the same plot arc, character development, villain, etc, even if not all of the Superhero's have super abilities.

  • mswas

    Fifth Element? Leeloo is an alien fallen to Earth, has super powers, and saves the world. AND the production design for the film was developed by French comics creators Moebius and Jean-Claude Mézières.

  • Anon2501

    Chronicle was just a cheap Akira ripoff.

  • Khal Mifune

    Boltie! A-fucking-dorable.

    Sorry, that didn't really contribute much to the discussion. How about this:
    Shouldn't the Matrix be on this list?

  • celery

    I'm glad not all of these are superhero movies. People tend to forget that "comic book" is a medium, not a genre.

  • John W

    Does Remo Williams count?

  • Oooh, Hancock. I need to watch that again. I only wish we'd seen a lot more of Asshole Hero and much, much less of the stupid Charlize Theron/Michael Bluth plot .

    I also wish Shyamalan would make an Unbreakable sequence. Maybe that'd be his ticket to coming back from the shithole he dug himself into with Last Airbender.

  • NoPantsMcLane

    What about Cast Away?

  • Brad LaFoy

    The genre you're trying to 'define' already exists: they're called superhero movies. And one of the entries on this list DOES have prior source material.

  • There's Big Little China!

  • R-Dawg

    The American girl back at the airport seemed to know something was up.

  • icecreammang


  • Jez

    How about Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins? I mean, he had as much superpowers as Mr. Furious and that naked kid in Mystery Men.

  • no one

    Not based on comics but it was based on The Destroyer books. If you are going to go that route you end up with Harry Potter.

  • Rooks

    I watched Sky High during breakfast some time ago. I think I still have bits of müsli somewhere up my nose. Gosh, that movie is terrible, but I still laughed until I cried for some unfathomable reason.
    Maybe there was something wrong with the milk that morning.

  • Karl Kaefer

    Wait a could you forget Alex Proyas' "The Crow" and "Dark City"?? And tis whole thing that there aren't any comic book about there wouldn't be comic books without movies?
    Case in point- "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or any other silent films. They're the original comic books, not Batman/Superman and the ilk.
    However, Cheech Wizard is a different story altogether! Mind altering drugs, you see.

  • Maniak

    Probably forgot about "The Crow" because it's actually a comic book. Just a guess.

  • Jez

    I thought "The Crow" was a comic book first.

  • sistercoyote

    "The Crow" was a comic book first, and the comic book is far, far better than the movie. And the art is spectacular.

    And more grim. Grimmer. (Nothing to do with Grimm, mind you. No Schadenfreunde to be found.)

  • rabbi

    Ultraviolet ( crap but def comic feel )

  • Blake Shrapnel

    I highly recommend seeing the extended unrated version. It's much more coherent.

  • googergieger

    Special, innit?

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    To this list I would add the charming "Griff The Invisible".

  • Green Lantern

    TOTALLY. It's a sweet, unassuming movie with some *really* good musical choices and flawed but honest characters. THAT'S a movie that needs some more love.

    Everyone already likes "Iron Giant". Well, maybe not EVERYONE...

    But the sane people do.

  • Keep pushing that boulder!

  • PyD

    what was the point of that?
    for a site that regularly has beautiful extended metaphors as reviews
    and elegantly worded and edited think pieces
    this was completely intellectually moribund

    comicbook is not a genre - particularly in relation to movies, so to call a movie a comicbook movie when it wasn't even adapted from a comicbook property, which confusingly one of the movies you list was, is just wrong

    pretty much all the movies above are action adventures in their genre affiliations and characteristics - the rest are comedies

  • Jez

    It was a good concept. I would have enjoyed it if TK would have maybe given a little more info on each movie and then stated what made it good or bad. Some of these I never heard of, so I will seek them out.

  • Snath

    Actually I think TK did a pretty good job explaining exactly what he meant by comic book movie, and why he thinks that fits as a genre.

  • Bandit

    Is this a new game? Are you going to sneak The Iron Giant into lots of SRLs this week and we're all supposed to do a shot or eat some cheese or something when we spot it?

  • Woohoo! Cheese and a shot! That's four today, assuming we count mentions in the comments. :-)

  • Ernest Hirsch

    Hanna? No?

  • Stephen Nein

    Dead right. Not a wearing-my-underwear-on-the-outside superhero comic, obviously. Post 2000-era indy or even minor publisher graphic novel.

  • Ted Zancha

    Iron Giant is getting some serious love on Pajiba today. And rightfully so.

  • Wembley

    Aren't these basically ALL the comic book movies not actually based on a comic book?

  • KatSings

    Hancock is not a property I would list as the best of anything. It's two movies, cobbled together. Separately, each would have made a killer film. As it stands, it's hopelessly uneven and, therefore, disappointing. In my opinion, anyway.

  • Jez

    Eh, I enjoyed it. It wasn't a top 20 or anything, but enjoyable.

  • Fruity Fonzie

    half of this list is horrendous... hancock? really?

  • gholson

    The characters in Mystery Men are from FLAMING CARROT COMICS, just so's ya know.

  • A. Smith

    I thought they had something at the end saying they are from Dark Horse.

  • Shonda

    I am not feeling all that great today, have a bit of a headache which is making reading a bit difficult, so I am not sure about this but doesn't the title read "thirteen" and then the text "ten" and then there are twelve pictures? Or am I worse than I thought?

  • Shonda

    Never mind.

  • Reginald

    Hancock is terrible.

  • It had so much potential. Will Smith as a drunken superhero? GENIUS. The rest? Not so much.

  • Jerce

    Mystery Men was one of the worst fucking movies I have seen in my lifetime, which is now in its sixth decade.

  • Clancys_Daddy

    Jerce I apologize that I can only up vote you once.

  • the_wakeful

    You hold your whore tongue, Jerce. That movie is gold.

  • Jez


  • Green Lantern


    It is.

  • Jezzer

    "Mystery Men" is based on a comic.

    Also, the article is titled the 13 best, the text calls it a top 10, and then you list 12 entries. One of us is having a stroke.

  • I think we might have an Eloquent Eloquence entry right here.

  • TK

    Ah, shit. You're right.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Do you smell bread?

  • karen

    or fudge?

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