I'm getting needlessly excited about the release of the Watchmen movie. Most of the superhero films I saw as a kid were major disappointments. The technology wasn't capable of coping with the most basic of powers, the plot lines and acting were rarely good enough to compensate. Hollywood also concentrated most of it's early financial backing on DC characters and I was a Marvel fan. Nowadays, in an echo of the golden age of comics, Marvel characters are claiming the limelight.
1. Sin City (2005) dir: Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez
A visually stunning movie that perfectly captures the tone and feel of Frank Miller's original comic. Tarantino and Rodriguez know how to film pulp fiction and the addition of creator Frank Miller as a director also paid dividends. I don't think it's possible to create a closer version of the original material as they achieved with Sin City.
2. Iron Man (2008) dir: Jon Favreau
It doesn't get bogged down in having to explain what the comic was all about yet manages to capture all the important elements of the story. Iron Man was never my favourite Marvel title and that might have let me enjoy the film without spotting all the irritating mistakes. Not that I think they made any. Robert Downey Jr is the perfect Tony Stark and the plot manages to explain his transformation into Iron Man without slowing the pace of the film. Favreau is already lined up to direct a sequel but what I'm really excited about is The Avengers movie which is expected to follow it.
3. Spider-man (2002) dir: Sam Raimi
I think this was the film that showed Hollywood it was possible to create a "comic book" movie that was a good film and not just a cash in. My memory had this out before X-men but it seems I'm wrong about that. Raimi gets everything right including the casting of Tobey Maguire as the awkward and fallible Peter Parker. Spider-man 2 maintains the quality and possibly benefits from not having to deal with the origin story but for me the original edges it.
4. X-men (2000) dir: Bryan Singer
It's not perfect but Singer gets more things right than he gets wrong. Possibly higher placed than it would be if I didn't love the original X-Men comics so much. Wolverine is a fantastic character but he's dominated the sequels to the detriment of the rest of the cast. This film gets the balance just about right and benefits from focusing on a smaller group of superheroes.
5. Batman Returns (1992) dir: Tim Burton
My favourite Batman film. Burton gave the studio what they wanted with "Batman" (1989) then got to make the film he wanted with this film. Keaton isn't perfect as Bruce Wayne but Danny DeVito's Penguin more than made up for that. I considered "The Dark Knight" in this spot but (and this might be a symptom of getting old) felt it a lacked some subtlety in it's story telling. Too many guns and explosions which didn't really evoke the feel of the original Frank Miller story.