Okay, well maybe “best” is a stretch. Once you see this list, you may very well tilt your head to the side and let out an inquisitive squeal wondering what led us — you, me, the whole gang — to this point.
The truth is that while we are currently swimming in a vast infinite ocean of superhero and comic book properties being adapted for film, that wasn’t always the case. And when you try and find really good movies that have come from little-known or more obscure sources, it gets even tougher. Hell, the first thing I wanted to put on this list didn’t qualify because I remembered it wrong (turns out they made Destroyer comics after the cinematic tour-de-force Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was released).
Regardless, the films below (in no particular order) are interesting, entertaining, and in most cases, both. Let us know what we missed in the comments!
30 Days of Night
The Film: 2007, dir. David Slade
The Comic: 2002, w. Steve Niles a. Ben Templesmith (IDW)
30 Days of Night was one of those movies I threw on to “pad the stats” — just to say I’d seen it so I could increase the total number of movies I’d seen in a given year. (Yes, I am/was a loser, no, I don’t do this anymore). Josh Hartnett as a lead wasn’t selling me and the overall tone just didn’t seem to be my style. Boy, was I wrong. Night stays true to its title, and gives us an entire month’s worth of story about this Alaskan town overrun by vampires. Danny Huston is especially good here (when isn’t he?) and the terror unleashed upon this town is harrowing to say the least. It’s worth your time.
Road to Perdition
The Film: 2002, dir. Sam Mendes
The Comic: 1998, w. Max Allan Collins a. Richard Piers Rayner (Paradox)
Sam Mendes’ second feature is based on a graphic novel of the same name, and tells the story of a mob enforcer whose son witnesses a murder and now is being targeted by his employer. The film, starring Tom Hanks, Jude Law and in his last on-screen performance, Paul Newman, is touching, heartbreaking, gorgeous and compelling. (You can hear more in this week’s Talking Movies podcast!) Thomas Newman’s score is delightful, and if you like gangster tales, father/son stories or road movies, this one is for you.
A History of Violence
The Film: 2005, dir. David Cronenberg
The Comic: 1998, w. John Wagner a. Vince Locke (Paradox)
Of all the films on this list, A History of Violence may be the most divisive. It has both impassioned supporters and embittered detractors and I don’t quite know what camp I fall into. What I can tell you is that the story is fascinating. Tom Stahl (McKenna in the graphic novel) is a small-town diner owner who inadvertently gets national media attention when he dispatches some crooks in his establishment. Following the media frenzy, a man claiming to be a former associate of Tom’s comes through town, intent on bringing Tom back to his former employer. The movie relies heavily on the “is he/ isn’t he” trope for most of its running time which leads me to believe that if you already know how it ends it would be much more satisfying to watch. Regardless, the performances by Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello and Ed Harris are top-notch. I think I need to check this one out again.
Men in Black
The Film: 1997, dir. Barry Sonnenfeld
The Comic: 1990, w. Lowell Cunningham a. Sandy Carruthers (Aircel)
I bet most of you forget that Men in Black is a good movie. Perhaps it’s the not-so-great taste left in your mouth after Men in Black II or the “WTFDIJW” going through your head at the end of MIB³ (which you would swear was the actual title of the damn thing), but the first Men in Black is pretty great. It’s got a great sense of humor, the adventure and mystery of this strange new world that Agent J is seeing for the first time is a lot of fun and it also features underrated New York Mets left fielder Bernard Gilkey.
The Film: 1994, dir. Peter Hyams
The Comic: 1992, w. Mark Verheiden a. Ron Randall (Dark Horse)
Thiiiiiis is what I was talking about. The moment I lost you. The moment you go “how does the word ‘best’ and a Van Damme movie have anything to do with each other?” I’m telling you friends, that Timecop is a good movie. There are things that make no sense, sure (namely, why you go back in time and come back to the present in a vehicle/craft of some sort yet when you’re back in time you just walk through a bubble. Where’s the ship!?!?) but the overwhelming sense of fun and adventure outweighs logic and sense. Take one of Van Damme’s best parts (Max Walker is well written), give us a villain we love to hate (the late, great Ron Silver) and a climax in a rain storm. What’s not to like?
So, there you have it. Perhaps you learned a thing or two about some of these films’ source material, perhaps not. Either way, let us know what you think we missed in the comments!