If the 2000s was the dawn of the comic book film as a legitimate money-making genre then the 2010s was the decade that undeniable solidified these movies as cinematic gold. The last decade has seen at least one comic book related film released every year. The popularity of these movies even led to the creation of a whole new way of world building in cinema through the use of the cinematic universe concept. Both Marvel and DC worked to create interconnected franchises focusing on their heroes while lesser known IPs also had the chance to shine. In a lot of ways, the 2010s allowed superhero and comic book films to find a definitive formula and identity while shedding past clichés that didn’t work and building on those that did. While there have been failures, the successes were even more numerous. Looking back at the best films of the past decade I thought it was fitting that these adaptations got their chance to shine seeing as the comic book adaptation stands as one of the most successful and iconic genres of the last ten years. These are my picks for the Top 20 Comic Book Movies of the 2010s.
For this list I am doing away with many of the rules that made past lists of this type flawed in their rankings. In the past I’ve ranked things like the Best X-Men Films and Best Marvel Films but limited myself to one movie per individual franchise and tried to blend both my own preferences and respect the larger public opinion which led to what I now consider inferior lists with no clear direction. So considering that this is MY blog I thought I’d start focusing more on my own opinions rather than what the public seems to enjoy. With that said, the rankings represented today probably won’t line up as evenly with previous similar countdowns. Expect that to be a trend going forward.
So, for this list any movie with its origins in comic books or graphic novels, regardless of the franchise, studio, or style, was considered. They didn’t have to be based on a specific comic book storylines as long as their main characters originated on the page. The only other requirements: they had to be released theatrically in the United States or a major streaming service release and they had to be released from 2010 through 2019. From animation to live action and the MCU to the DCEU and everything beyond and in-between these movies were my personal favorites comic book films of the last ten years.
What comic book movie was your favorite from the 2010s? Let me know in the comments below. Let’s get started!
20. “Thor: Ragnarok”
The “Thor” movies were never really the favorite among viewers in the MCU. However, when the third film in the series, “Thor: Ragnarok”, arrived it felt like the franchise had finally found its footing mixing comedy, sci fi and a colorful aesthetic to bring to life a conflict inspired by one of the God of Thunder’s biggest comic book stories. As Thor finds himself staring down his long-banished sister Hela for the fate of Asgard he is forced to rethink his place in the universe and what kind of leader he wants to be for his people. The story forced Thor to escape his comfort zone and challenged him like never before when the stakes are at their highest and did it all with an overarching sense of humor and style injected by director Taika Waititi who truly made the film his own.
19. “Guardians of the Galaxy”
What makes “Guardians of the Galaxy” so special in the pantheon of superhero movies of the last ten years is that it wasn’t based on a well-known property. Few fans could say they’d ever even heard of the Guardians before this movie was announced unless they had a strong familiarity with Marvel’s comic book lore. However, this sci-fi adventure about five intergalactic misfits who team up to stop a vengeful warlord from destroying a planet proved the strength of the MCU and the trust fans had put in Marvel to provide good entertainment. It was a huge hit, and deservedly so, earning praise from fans and critics with great humor and personality as well as an awesome cast, even transforming Chris Pratt into an action superstar. It was a huge gamble for Marvel and one that paid off in a big way leading to an equally fun sequel a few years later.
18. “The LEGO Batman Movie”
Who would have ever thought that one of the best superhero movies of the decade would be an animated feature length LEGO commercial? The second movie in Warner Bros. “LEGO Movie” franchise, “The LEGO Batman Movie” took one of the most popular characters from the original “LEGO Movie” and allowed him the opportunity to lampoon himself and his long-running history on the big and small screens in epic fashion. Filled with countless meta jokes and fourth wall breaks that poke fun at Batman’s clichés as well as the clichés of superhero movies and comics in general, “The LEGO Batman Movie” rose above its strange concept to act as an epic examination of the very genre that inspired this list. While a special mention goes to “Teen Titans GO! To the Movie” for attempting the same thing, “The LEGO Batman Movie” did it first and did it better.
“Deadpool” had an interesting origin. After the failure that was “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” which botched the character horribly, Ryan Reynolds took on the role again in 2016 this time with an R-rated version to allow the comedic powerhouse to go all out. Test footage leaked in 2014 had promised fans something extreme and over the top and the final result gave us exactly what we were looking for becoming the highest grossing R-rated movie until its sequel surpassed it a few years later. Another self-referential movie making fun of superhero clichés, “Deadpool” provided the origin of the titular character with plenty of slapstick and blood-soaked violence mixed in to satisfy fans of the comics, but plenty of heart. It was without a doubt one of the best spin-offs Fox’s “X-Men” franchise ever produced. While the second movie is also great it’s the first film that truly captured the spirit of the character the best and sparked a new appreciation for adult rated comic book films.
16. “The Dark Knight Rises”
Often seen as a mildly inferior entry in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy of Batman films, especially when compared to its immediate predecessor, “The Dark Knight Rises” is still a great comic book movie challenging Batman with a physically imposing foe that proves more than even that the Bat is only a mere human. Tom Hardy makes a great Bane who literally and figuratively brakes the Bat in his attempts to destroy Gotham from the inside out. Utilizing many of Nolan’s trademark practical effects and presenting us with a more damaged and vulnerable caped crusader, “The Dark Knight Returns” was an ambitious conclusion to an epic trilogy. While it might have been unable to reach the heights of “The Dark Knight” it still perfectly embraced the gritty, dark and realistic Batman universe Nolan worked so hard to establish thus concluding one of the greatest comic book movie series ever.
15. “Dr. Strange”
For me “Dr. Strange” is one of the most visually stunning movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Focusing on the titular Sorcerer Supreme from the Marvel comics and directed by “Dr. Strange” fan Scott Derrickson, the movie sees the doctor lose his capability to perform surgery and embark on a life-changing quest to study sorcery resulting in significant character growth and the exploration of concepts like multiverses and time loops. There was a lot of content explored in this movie that went on to play a huge part in the rest of the Infinity Saga but it was all wrapped up in a tight, well directed and fun package with great visuals, engaging performances and one of the most inventive hero versus villain resolutions in superhero movie history. All in all, “Dr. Strange” still holds up as one of the most fun and spectacular origin stories in the MCU’s filmography.
I remember the first “Judge Dredd” movie starring Sylvester Stallone. When I saw it at a younger age, I didn’t think it was that bad and didn’t quite understand the hatred. Thanks to this indie film’s take on the character I finally get it. Released in 2012 and based on the Judge Dredd comics “Dredd” follows the titular Judge as he takes a new recruit into the field eventually coming head to head with the villainous drug lord Ma-ma. It’s dark, bloody and an absolutely great time with awesome atmosphere and a much more serious and comic accurate take on the Judge than the previous iteration. Sadly the film turned out to be a box office dud but has established itself as a worthy cult classic. Fans continue to demand a sequel and while that may never happen I’m really glad we have this action masterpiece to turn to for the time being.
13. “Wonder Woman”
This is probably the single best movie in the DC Extended Universe lineup to date. “Wonder Woman” put the titular Amazon front and center in her own movie for the first time exploring her origins as she becomes caught in the middle of World War I trying to stop the influence of the God of War Ares. With Gal Gadot in the leading role, “Wonder Woman” became the first female-led major comic book adaptation of the decade and, in the eyes of many, was long overdue especially with Marvel lagging behind in the diversity department. However, “Wonder Woman” proved to be more than just a token diversity crowd pleasure. It handled its feminist themes well and challenged the conventions of heroism while adding some humor and light to the darkness of the DCEU, not to mention some fun action sequences. With so many failures before it, “Wonder Woman” singlehandedly put DC back on the right track.
12. “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
Comic book movies owe so much to the X-Men over the last 20 years. Along with Spider-Man, the Marvel mutant team was directly responsible for the boom of comic book movies over that time. The 2010s saw the main series rebooted in the form of a prequel series and while “X-Men: First Class” was a good movie the sequel, “Days of Future Past”, based on one of the team’s most popular story arks, was by far the best film in the main franchise. Bringing together both the new and old casts of the series through time travel, “Days of Future Past” tackled many of the same themes as previous entries but showed the most tact and style in its approach. With some of the best acting, makeup and action in the franchise “Days of Future Past” did its source material justice and became the high point of the series pushing the envelope farther than its predecessors and sequels ever dared to attempt.
11. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
For me Captain America has long been my favorite superhero and seeing him on the big screen was always a treat. While his first adventure was a solid entry in the MCU, his second film cranked things up a notch putting Cap at odds with the Winter Soldier as he uncovers a hidden evil within S.H.I.E.L.D. This marked the first film for Joe and Anthony Russo in the MCU establishing a style that would become the standard for future films in the cinematic universe with great action, awesome character moments and effective pacing as well as a sense of intrigue. Watching Cap challenged to turn on the agency he worked for and an old friend in order to do what’s right helped further establish the character as one of the most noble and complex in the MCU. When you combine the story, action and suspense “The Winter Soldier” not only stands as one of the MCU’s best but one of the best sequels in the genre as well.
10. “The Avengers”
There’s no denying how important this movie was this decade. Marvel had been working towards this since 2008 when a post-credit scene in “Iron Man” foretold the coming of the Avengers. It was like nothing ever done before in cinema, at least not with this kind of planning and to this magnitude. After Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk were introduced in their own movies we finally got the first team-up film, “The Avengers”, which brought all of the heroes, plus Hawkeye and Black Widow, together to take on Loki and the Chitauri. What could have been a massive mess found the right balance between its heroes and the story to give us an epic origin to Marvel’s famed superhero team layered with comedy, suspense, and plenty of comic book action. This was a sign of great things to come and even after everything we’ve gotten since, the original “Avengers” movie is still an awesome experience worth watching over and over again.
9. “Black Panther”
The most critically lauded film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, “Black Panther” was more than just another addition to the MCU lineup. It became a cultural phenomenon as fans flocked to the theater to see one of the most iconic black superheroes finally get his own movie. While the visual effects left a lot to be desired, “Black Panther” dominated the box office and earned critical praise for its handling of social subtext and African culture. Aside from that it was just a very good movie. It’s villain, Killmonger, also proved to be one of Marvel’s most memorable to date. Everything added up to Marvels’ first Best Picture nomination at the Oscars the following year and box office records that proved heroes of color can be marketable thus cementing “Black Panther” as not only one of the decade’s most celebrated superhero movies but possibly one of its most important.
8. “Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse”
The famous wall-crawler had an up-and-down run over the course of the 2010s being one of the few Marvel’s characters with its rights at least partially out of Disney’s hands. After the early-2010s live-action reboot of the character was scrapped when Spidey joined the MCU, Sony continued to push forward with standalone films thus the first animated Spider-Man theatrical film, “Into the SpiderVerse”, was born. Focusing more on Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker, “Into the SpiderVerse” was mesmerizing in its execution with a beautiful mix of hand drawn and computer-generated animation and a retread of the typical Spider-Man origin story that somehow still felt fresh. It became a landmark release by Sony Animation earning the studio its first Best Animated Picture Oscar. While Spidey has been the subject of many films over the last 20 years, “Into the SpiderVerse” is quickly earning a reputation as one of, if not THE best feature in the character’s filmography.
“Snowpiercer” is the film that introduced many to the now Best Director and Best Picture Oscar winning filmmaker Bong Joon-ho who also co-wrote the film with Jean-Marc Rochette based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. Focusing on a post-apocalyptic society confined to an ever-moving train and the uprising of tail section survivors, “Snowpiercer” was a fiercely entertaining adaptation full of violence, style and social subtext that made many best of the year lists when it debuted back in 2013 and 2014 (depending on your market). Considered today to be a classic of modern South Korean Cinema, despite 80% of the film being spoken in English, “Snowpiercer” still holds up as one of the most fun and insightful graphic novel and comic adaptations of the past decade that kept viewers invested from start to finish.
6. “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”
A true gem of the 2010s, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” is one of my personal favorite movies with so much rewatchability and charm in a tight package. Based on the graphic novel series of the same name and directed by Edgar Wright, “Scott Pilgrim” focused on the titular slacker who must fight his way through a league of exes to win over the heart of his love Ramona. The entire film is also built to be an homage to video game clichés and culture making for a nice mix of mediums in a fun, colorful, imaginative story and presentation with comedic twists and turns that never slows down. While a box office bomb upon its release, “Scott Pilgrim” is a certified cult classic ten years later and is often sighted as one of the most criminally underrated films of all time and every year it continues to earn new fans thanks in not small part to Wright’s growing reputation and strong word of mouth.
“Joker” is among the most divisive films on this list because it’s less a comic book movie and more of a character study that just happens to revolve around one of the most famous super villains in comic book history. With Joaquin Phoenix in the lead role that earned him an Oscar, “Joker” follows Arthur Fleck as he descends into madness to become Batman’s arch enemy, the Joker. Tackling hard themes including how people treat each other and the flawed system, or lack thereof, meant to help those with mental illnesses “Joker” is a difficult viewing experience because of how raw, real and unforgiving it is in its honesty. It shows how a villain as crazy as the comic book Joker can exist in the real world and how actual elements of society could play a role in creating such a madman. This was one of my favorite movies of 2019 and while it might not please everyone it’s still a spectacular film with comic book inspirations at its core.
4. “Avengers: Infinity War”
While this wasn’t the conclusion to Marvel’s “Infinity Saga”, it did finally bring Marvel’s main overarching villain into the spotlight. “Infinity War” proved to be one of the most epic superhero movies in history bringing together almost all of the MCU’s heroes to that point to finally face off against the big bad Thanos in a war inspired by the “Infinity War” comic book series. However, while the Avengers are certainly still prominent, what makes “Infinity War” so engaging is how much it focuses on the villain exploring the nuances and inner workings of Thanos himself as he seeks out the Infinity Stones with the goal of eliminating half of all life, thus “balancing the universe”. “Infinity War” not only upped the ante for every hero in the MCU but also inspired debate among fans concerning the righteousness of Thanos’ mission while leaving everyone hanging with one of the most dramatic cliffhangers in cinema history.
In my opinion the best “X-Men” film to date, “Logan” is the third and, for now, final standalone film for the most famous Marvel mutant, Wolverine. Serving as Hugh Jackman’s final performance in the role that made him a household name, “Logan” took advantage of Fox’s newfound respect for the demand for R-rated comic book movies and build on it by showcasing the titular character’s final journey as he takes a look in the mirror and faces both his demons and the possibility of death while attempting to protect a young girl cloned from his own DNA. Inspired by the “Old Man Logan” story line of the comics, “Logan” provided closure for fans after years of watching Wolverine shine as the most popular element of the “X-men” series. It went beyond simple fan service to explore Logan’s character and emotional depth more than ever before shedding the limitations of past films to do its own thing becoming one of the best standalone superhero movies ever made.
2. “Avengers: Endgame”
While “Infinity War” was certainly a major milestone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Endgame” followed it up with the ultimate conclusion to a story that had been build up for over ten years. Taking place after the cliffhanger of “Infinity War”, “Endgame” sees the remaining Avengers embark on a quest to bring back their friends and defeat Thanos once and for all, serving an epic sci-fi film, engaging comic book adaptation and a tribute to over tens years of cinema that made the MCU such a groundbreaking effort all at the same time. The final hour alone makes it worth putting this high on the list as the showdown with Thanos and his army brings together every hero remaining alive for one final battle that is the very definition of fan service at its best. Debate the plot holes all you want, “Endgame” lived up to the hype and left us all in awe at what the MCU had finally become.
1. “Captain America: Civil War”
When I did my list of the best Marvel movies years ago I left this one out due to my self-imposed limitations and it was probably the biggest mistake I eve made on this blog. Putting it at number one is not only a way to make up for that, but an honest representation of my personal opinion. “Civil War” was the third and final film in Captain America’s standalone trilogy in the MCU serving as sort of an “Avengers 2.0”. The film finds Cap and Iron Man at odds when a new law is passed to police superheroes leading the MCU’s leading Avengers to engage in a battle of ideals. Not only was the action great with the airport scene being a big standout, but the film raised some very real questions that felt appropriately explored in the larger scale world the MCU had built. Having Captain America as its centerpiece with his uncompromising dedication to freedom and the American way only drove home those themes even more. “Civil War” may not be the most epic or subtle Marvel film, but it does have a little bit of everything and from that perspective it’s possibly the most perfectly balanced and enjoyable MCU movie and, in my opinion, the best comic book film of the last ten years.