10 Best Superhero Movies for Adults
Top 10 Superhero Movies for Adults
“Whose kitty litter did I just sh*t in?”
Like Superman but can’t figure out why he doesn’t use that X-Ray vision to check out the women’s showers?
Like Spiderman but wish there were more snarky references about that white goo he leaves everywhere?
Then this list is for you!
The concept of the R-Rated superhero film is truly gathering steam. With the success of ‘Deadpool’, as well as DC’s first adult animation ‘The Killing Joke’, and the impending release of ‘Logan’, superhero flicks are about to adopt darker humour, more sex and increasingly extreme violence. This is far from a new phenomenon however, so here’s a look at some previous efforts at adapting comic books for an older crowd.
10) Spawn (1997)
Spawn’s sequel and/or reboot has been in production since 1998, and there’s still no release date. Creator Todd MacFarlane has stated it will be happening though, even if he has to produce, direct and finance it himself.
A murdered government assassin makes a deal with the Devil to return to Earth, but deals with the Devil never come cheap.
Poorly received by critics, 'Spawn’s visual effects were under-budgeted and rushed, however, it is to date, the only live-action representation of Todd MacFarlane’s extremely popular line of comic books. With a successful animated TV series to boot, live-action Spawn was on the cards almost as soon as it was released in ink. The story calls for sweeping, panoramic visions of Hell however, and twenty years ago, with nowhere near the necessary budget, the result was lacklustre. The second instalment is en route though, we’re promised, so this first attempt exists to help cope with the waiting.
9) Constantine (2005)
Alan Moore, original creator of John Constantine (and the man behind V for Vendetta and Watchmen), refused credit and royalties for ‘Constantine’ after being unimpressed with the film adaptations of his other works ‘From Hell’ and ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’. This trend continues.
Amongst the tangle of God and Satan’s running bet on the souls of humanity, exorcist John Constantine tries to buy his way out of damnation.
Our first entry where the central character is from the incredible mind of comic book author Alan Moore. John Constantine originated in the ‘Swamp Thing’ comics in the 80s before receiving his own title ‘Hell-Blazer’. Although Matt Ryan’s version of the character, on NBC’s ‘Constantine’ series in 2015, was undoubtedly more truthful to John’s character, Reeves’ portrayal is enjoyable nonetheless. The lack of visible emotion that has plagued some of Keanu Reeves’ performances elsewhere actually plays quite well in a post-suicidal exorcist with addiction problems. Peter Stormare (‘Arrow’s second Count Vertigo) delivers an unsettling performance as Lucifer himself, who detests John to such a degree, he’ll come to Earth and claim his soul personally.
8) The Punisher (1989/2004/2008)
The three stand-alone films are rated 28%, 29% and 27% on Rotten Tomatoes respectively.
Marvel’s number one proponent of judge, jury and executioner-style vigilantism, The Punisher often provides a contrast to a less blood-thirsty hero, forcing the reader/viewer to assess their own stance on justice.
All three attempts at adapting The Punisher character have been disappointing. The 1989 version with Dolph Lundgren (currently Konstantin Kovar in season five of ‘Arrow’), failed to even be released in cinemas in the States. The Punisher character itself is enduring and popular, but film adaptations fail to play Frank Castle off against a more virtuous co-hero. John Bernthal recently gained much acclaim for his portrayal of Punisher on Netflix/Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ series. As a supporting cast member, Castle’s extreme brand of retribution is constantly running adjacent to the non-murderous Matt ‘Daredevil’ Murdock, and it’s in the contrast that The Punisher shines.
If you’re going to give one of these a watch, I’d urge you to try the 2004 version first. Nothing spectacular there either, but the Lundgren portrayal is barely even The Punisher, and Dominic West’s ('The Wire') way-over-the-top portrayal of villainous gangster Jigsaw in 2008’s foray, makes everything else around it a struggle too. ‘Punisher: War Zone’ does take the trophy by a country mile for sheer blood and gore though, if that’s your thing. Ever want to see a man get punched through the face?
7) The Blade Trilogy (1998/2002/2004)
By the end of filming, ‘Blade: Trinity’ director/writer David S. Goyer, and lead actor Wesley Snipes, weren’t even speaking. It’s been claimed Snipes even tried to strangle Goyer at one point.
Way back in 1998, Wesley Snipes’ vampire-hunter was waving the Marvel flag in Hollywood before ‘X-Men’ (2000) and ‘Spider-Man’ (2002) ignited the modern superhero frenzy.
More than two decades before Buffy arrived in Sunnydale, Blade was tearing up vampires in the pages of Marvel Comics. A “Day-Walker”, Blade was infected with the vampire virus via his mother pre-birth, and essentially, has all the good bits of being a vampire, without the negatives. Super-strong and super-agile, he’s immune to the full vampire virus, and unaffected by daylight. Like so many trilogies, the third Blade was by far the worst, unassisted by major tension between director and lead. The first two though, were mostly well received, and maintain a cult-following now. If vampires are your jam, then Snipes was an ideal casting for the half-breed vampire-hunter, and ‘Blade II’ particularly, (directed by Guillermo Del Toro ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ ‘Hellboy’) is a lot of fun.
6) Logan (2017)
‘Logan’ will be Hugh Jackman’s ninth, and final, appearance as Wolverine.
This list’s only prospective entrant, ‘Logan’ looks to be an emotionally deep finale for one of the defining character/actor combinations of our time.
Okay, it’s not out yet, but ‘Logan’ is looking good. Hot off the achievements of ‘Deadpool’ FOX didn’t waste time slapping an ‘R’ sticker on ‘Logan’ as well. Finally, after eight films of near-misses and camera-panning, Wolverine’s blades are about to get drenched in the blood of anyone who looks at him funny across the bar. From what little the trailer reveals, this film appears to centre around Weapon X protecting a young girl, leading to some genuinely heart-felt moments between the two. Also included is Wolverine ramming his retractables through a man’s chin and out through the top of his skull. Strap up, it’s gonna get messy.
5) Deadpool (2016)
Ryan Reynolds had previously appeared in super-themed flicks ‘Blade: Trinity’, ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, all of which were poorly received by critics.
Combining adult sex and violence with 4th-wall breaching references, and a healthy heap of humour, ‘Deadpool’ was an underdog blockbuster.
After a pretty abominable first outing as the character in ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, and a distinctly different, but equally terrible attempt at DC’s Green Lantern, many were sceptical about Ryan Reynolds returning for a standalone ‘Deadpool’ feature. Many were wrong. With a solid script and the freedom of an R-Rating, ‘Deadpool’ has taken the superhero genre by storm, attracting casual fans and committed graphic novel interpreters alike. The ‘Merc with a Mouth’ was already known to comic fans as a breaker of the fourth wall, meaning he addresses the reader directly, and is aware he’s in a comic book. This translated well to film, combined with in-references to the film’s budget (particularly upon visiting the X-Men Academy), and a supporting cast with attitude and solid timing. Sure to be considered a modern classic, in both the superhero and comedy genres, ‘Deadpool’ is not to be missed.
4) The Crow (1994)
‘The Crow’ was played by Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee. He was accidentally shot on the set of the film and died aged 28 in 1993.
After being murdered, and his fiancée raped, Eric Draven returns from the dead to seek vengeance on his killers. One of the most beloved cult classics of all time.
Watching ‘The Crow’ back now, a resurrected dark vigilante, seeking vengeance for a terrible crime committed against him, seems played out. Remember this was the early 90s, and it was ‘Spawn’ and ‘The Crow’ that made these themes popular in the modern age. Akin to Heath Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight’, this movie’s die-hard cult-following was accentuated by the tragic death of Brandon Lee on set when a supposed blank shot malfunctioned. With a soundtrack featuring Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and The Cure, ‘The Crow’ was truly a film for the disaffected youth of the time, setting the standard for the likes of ‘Donnie Darko’ years later.
3) V for Vendetta (2005)
Behind the mask of codename ‘V’ was Hugo Weaving, better known as Elrond in ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Agent Smith in ‘The Matrix’.
In a near-future England, a far-right authoritarian party has seized power. Propaganda, a police state and intense surveillance are the order of the day; until one man with a mask channels his best Guy Fawkes, and takes a stand against the establishment.
If you’re a stickler for accurate conversion from the source material, then ‘V for Vendetta’ isn’t for you, and you’ve probably already seen it anyway. Whole characters are omitted, combined or invented. Viewed with fresh eyes, however, this film is an incredibly close-to-home vision of what could easily be the near future, in a Western world that is abruptly shifting to the political right. Natalie Portman’s Evie character showcases her acting ability far better than her bland roles in ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Thor’, and despite major plot and character alterations, the anti-establishment, left-wing, essence of Alan Moore’s graphic novel is wholly preserved.
2) The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005/2008/2012)
Heath Ledger received a posthumous Academy Award for his portrayal of The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008).
A gritty and realistic vision of Bruce Wayne’s journey to the cowl. From the childhood murder of his parents, to becoming the hero Gotham needs, but not the one it deserves.
Not technically made for adults per se, but so steeped in psychology, systemic corruption and themes of uncompromising justice, that it’s hard to imagine a generation of children watching on gleefully, like they did in the 60s, or the mid-90s. Christopher Nolan’s vision of Gotham, along with the Arkham video games, have helped drag the Caped Crusader out of over-coloured campiness and back into the darkness where he belongs. Sometimes criticized for its versions of Bane and The Joker being quite distant from the comics, both Tom Hardy and Heath Ledger’s performances were outstanding regardless. Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow, Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul, and Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face bulk out the rogue’s gallery, and help make these films into some of the greatest of their time and genre. “It’s not who you are inside but what you do that defines you.” And “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Are among the lines that make this one of the most quotable trilogies ever committed to film.
1) Watchmen (2009)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan nailed it as The Comedian, and has stayed near the comic scene since, playing Thomas Wayne in ‘Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and Negan on TV’s ‘The Walking Dead’.
In an alternate 1985, Nixon and Kissinger crush the Viet-Cong, and neutralize the LA riots, with state-commissioned superheroes. While these morally-diverse vigilantes operate with impunity, the American public question ‘who watches the Watchmen’?
As an Alan Moore fan, I’m constantly torn between how much he hates his work being adapted, and how much I love this film. With an Ultimate Cut pushing three and a half hours, Watchmen is a masterpiece, with or without the source material. Each character is deeply complex and separating hero from villain is almost impossible. The story follows a group of semi-retired superheroes that had previously been operating with the government’s blessing. The Watchmen themselves were preceded by the ‘Minute-Men’, prototype post-war superheroes who each came to an unfortunate demise. Casual discussion over beers between the original Nite-Owl, and the active Nite-Owl allow reflection between how vigilantes are perceived socio-politically now and then. Themes of true justice, pragmatism, nostalgia, nihilism and possession of the ultimate weapon are all explored, in this adaptation, of arguably the greatest graphic novel of all time.
Have your say in the comments section. Remind me what I’ve missed off the list (I think there’s plenty), and tell us your own favourite adult comic-film conversions!