Science Fiction is a predominant genre in the world of cinema, and one of its most popular tropes is the comic book adaptation. This can be anything from superheroes, galactic warfare, or even just the wacky adventures of a socially awkward teenager.
Here, we will go over some of the best films that fit both aspects of science-fiction and comic-book flair. We’ll be breaking down what endeared these projects to audiences, as well as how well they maintained the spirit of their source material.
10 Alien Vs. Predator (2004)
It’s not well known that this cinematic crossover actually saw its origin in a Dark Horse Comics publication. While the source material would take place on another planet, this film would take place on Earth. There would be some convoluted plot points, such as the Predators teaching humanity how to build the pyramids and being revered as gods and sending Predators to Earth to participate in a hunt where they purposely hunt Xenomorphs, farmed from human sacrifices.
The film would attract quite an audience, and despite how sharply it would steer away from the source material, some respect has to be paid for what would prove to be the precursor to major crossover films and open the audience’s minds to the potential of shared cinematic universes. Although it would later be credited as an alternate universe, this adaptation would still prove to be quite fun for fans of either franchise. Now, the less said about the sequel, the better.
9 V for Vendetta (2005)
One of the most infamous lines to be uttered in comics and cinema: “Remember, remember, the fifth of November.” Donning one of the most recognizable names in comic book films, V (Hugo Weaving) would incite a rebellion in a dystopian London, killing multiple people while working to show Evey (Natalie Portman) that sometimes, you need to inspire a better world through actions as well as words.
With the proclamation that he is not merely an identity but an idea, the film carries a heavy focus on rebelling against authority to make a better life for the people, rooting out corruption by any means necessary. This film would prove the inspiration for the real-life hacktivist group Anonymous, as well as making for a cult following of fans who celebrate the fifth of November every year. The film would more than double its budget at the box office.
8 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Nothing screams comic-book story arc like going on a quest to fight your potential girlfriend’s seven evil exes. While the comic series was allowed a longer runtime than a single film could get away with (the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was still in its infancy), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) had casual and hardcore fans alike cheering the whole way.
With an all-star cast featuring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Anna Kendrick, and more, this film would heavily lean into the source material, featuring shots of comic book panel-style imagery and physics-defying fights. While the movie may have failed at the box office, it is still often remembered, and there is plenty of hype surrounding the potential for a sequel, even though the odds of such a thing happening aren’t realistic.
7 Man of Steel (2013)
While the MCU was proving to be a success with the conclusion of their first phase of films, the DC Universe (DCU) was looking to start its first chapter with Man of Steel (2013). Introducing Henry Cavill to the mainstream with his performance as Superman, audiences would begin the discussion of who their favorite Superman actor was, with many pointing to Cavill, both for his performance and for the bold direction the film goes in telling Superman’s story.
Often cited as the hero who doesn’t need to kill in order to save the day, Man of Steel looked to break the mold and tell a darker story. With General Zod (Michael Shannon) invading the Earth, Superman must go to great lengths to protect the people, even going as far as snapping Zod’s neck. The film would more than double the budget at the box office and prove that the DCU could provide a strong alternative to the MCU. Although the projects to come after would prove hit-or-miss, spelling the end for this incarnation of the DCU before James Gunn would take over.
6 Deadpool (2016)
When Ryan Reynolds first embodied the “Merc with a Mouth” in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), many fans were disappointed with the direction the studio was heading. Mixed with Reynold’s own reservations, the decision was made to reverse course and reintroduce the character in his own self-titled movie.
Deadpool(2016) would prove to be a commercial success, making more than $700 million at the box office off of a $58 million budget. Breaking new ground for R-rated superhero films, it can be argued that without Deadpool, major films like Logan (2017) and Joker (2019) may not have seen release in their current formats.
5 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
While Captain America; Civil War (2016) may be based on a well-known and popular story arc, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) is often lauded as one of the best MCU films of all time. Quadrupling the budget and earning an Academy Award nomination, this film would propel Captain America (Chris Evans) into a personal battle both against and for his best friend, Bucky (Sebastian Shaw), who has been brainwashed into the assassin known as the Winter Soldier.
Featuring one of the most popular and oft-cited fight scenes in action movies, the film never shies away from allowing the fisticuffs to fly and putting audiences on the edge of their seats. The film would also serve to introduce Falcon (Anthony Mackie) who would become the next generation of Captain America, as well as serve as the MCU debut for directing duo the Russo Brothers.
4 Logan (2017)
The ‘Old Man Logan’ series of comics had comic book fans eagerly anticipating when studio execs would give into the temptation of making an exciting western-style film about an older and more grizzled Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). In 2017, jumping off of the success of Deadpool, Logan would hit theaters with an R rating, ensuring that there would be plenty of graphic violence befitting one of the most violent heroes in the Marvel library.
While the film skews away from the story arc of the comics, seeing as the studio didn’t have the rights to the Incredible Hulk character, instead, we see Logan on a cross-country trip defending his best friend in Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and bonding with a young girl who is set to become the next generation of Wolverine in Laura (Dafne Keen).
3 Black Panther (2018)
The first MCU film to be focused on a person of color, Black Panther (2018) was lauded by fans, with the hype train starting two years in advance after T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. With T’Challa returning to his home nation of Wakanda, we would be introduced to other intriguing characters such as Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), and Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).
There would be a heavy campaign from studio execs and fans alike for Black Panther to be recognized at the Academy Awards, with the film receiving more attention than any other MCU film until its vaunted sequel years later. The film would also serve as the last time the MCU would see Boseman in a live-action performance, with many looking to this film as his lasting legacy after a long battle with cancer.
2 Spider-Man: No Way Home
Nearly every single Spider-Man film has a claim for being on this list. We’ve elected to go with Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) due to the film’s focus on the multiverse, causing it to lean harder into the science-fiction element of the subgenre. In this film, we would get to see three different iterations of Peter Parker (Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, & Tobey Maguire, respectively) work together to stop their greatest foes from almost two decades worth of movies.
The film would prove to be a commercial success, earning over $1 billion at the box office and fueling fan fervor over further returns from Maguire and Garfield, whether it be more projects in the MCU or sequels to continue their own continuities. The excitement behind this film was so much that it almost overpowered a previous MCU project. Almost.
1 Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame (2019) was the ultimate showcase of everything Marvel had been building toward for eleven years. One year removed from Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Endgame deals with the catastrophic results of Thanos’ victory. We see heroes who never stopped looking for a way to save those they had lost. Heroes who went down dark paths to deal with their grief. And heroes who simply tried to make a better life from the ruins of their old ones.
Endgame would set a new box office record for the MCU, earning over $2.5 billion and earning an Academy Award nomination. And while the cinematic masterpiece would receive amazing reviews, audiences would still leave in tears as the film would act as a sendoff to major characters Captain America and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), as the studio was already setting plans in motion for what the next phase of the MCU had in store. With time travel, aliens, and epic combat, this film is truly the pinnacle of sci-fi comic films.