The 10 Most Underrated Comic Book Movies (part 1)

by Blake Northcott

Not every comic book movie is an epic box office smash, and with good reason – a lot of them suck. But there are rare hidden gems that get sadly overlooked; some due to poor marketing, some suffer from terrible release dates, and many just get ignored because in the age of $150M+ budgets, a lot of the smaller, non-Marvel or DC films simply don’t get love from critics on the interwebz.

As a lover of movies and a devourer of graphic novels, I feel it is my duty to tell the world about the films that have gone unseen or underappreciated. Here is part one of my two-part series: The Top 10 Most Underrated Comic Book Movies.

Hold on to your lightsabers, people – things are about to get geeky.

10. Watchmen (2009)

ackerman The 10 Most Underrated Comic Book Movies (part 1)

Credit: Warner Bros.

Zack Snyder, best known for his ultraviolent adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300, took a crack at directing yet another classic – arguably the most critically acclaimed comic book series of all time, Watchmen.

The results were mixed, depending on who you ask. Some felt it was a faithful recreation, with the look, feel and overall tone being as close as you could possibly achieve. Some complained about the addition of gratuitous violence that was absent from the original book, and the vastly different ending. And others simply lost their minds (writer Alan Moore being one of them) at the thought of their beloved series being adapted for the screen. Why mess with perfection?

I have mixed emotions, and feel like everyone had a valid point. But regardless, this is a vastly underrated comic book adaptation that surpassed many of its Marvel and DC counterparts in terms of storytelling and creativity, yet it amassed far less at the box office.

If you’re a fan of the book, of Snyder’s trademark style, or just comics in general, give Watchmen a viewing – you won’t be disappointed. And if you’ve already seen it, watch the extended cut on DVD or Blu-Ray – it’s even better than the original.

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

Forget the sequels. Ignore the cartoon. And pretend that the recent animated film doesn’t exist…actually, just forget about pretty much everything, especially Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap.” The original live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film from over two decades ago still stands the test of time, and is worth another viewing.

The martial arts scenes are fantastic, the action is intense, and the story is very close to the first TMNT series put out by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. There are a few minor adjustments, and it was softened a little around the edges, but the essence of the story is intact. Best of all, the turtle suits are awesome! The look is very authentic, and the stunt men were able to pull off some very impressive fight choreography while buried under a considerable load of green latex.

8. The Crow (1994)

brandon lee the crow photograph The 10 Most Underrated Comic Book Movies (part 1)

Credit: Miramax/Filmyard Holdings

Brandon Lee, son of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, made his final appearance in this film, having been killed on-set. An accident involving a prop gun ended his life before the movie was finished, and there was a very real possibility of the project being shelved indefinitely. With the blessing of his family, The Crow was completed using a body double for Lee, as well as a clever blend of CGI.

The result was a haunting tale of love, loss, and revenge; accompanied by beautiful sets, a killer soundtrack, and some truly fantastic performances (David Patrick Kelly’s ‘T-Bird’ was particularly entertaining).

Although a farewell to Brandon Lee, it introduced the world to director Alex Proyas, who would go on to helm the vastly underrated Dark City (and the very not good Nicholas Cage vehicle Knowing, but I forgive him).

James O’Barr’s gothic, black-and-white comic was faithfully brought to the screen, and although it was tarnished by some truly horrible sequels and an even worse television series, the original from 1994 stands as one of the most original – and most overlooked – comic book adaptations ever made.

7. The Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Anyone familiar with Marvel MAX comic The Punisher: War Zone knows that it’s not just “dark” or “gritty” — it’s freakin’ disturbing. Frank Castle isn’t called The Punisher for nothing: he slaughters the guilty without mercy, and often does it in the most spectacularly violent way possible. The movie captured the essence of the comic without a single compromise, and that’s saying a lot in an age when we had to endure a watered-down, PG-13 version of Daredevil (a travesty that I will not elaborate on now, as that rant could last several thousand words on its own).

Hollywood has simply been afraid to let some comic book characters be who they really are in fear of alienating the mainstream, but on the third attempt at a Punisher feature, they finally got it right.

The film was decimated by critics and ignored at the theaters, all but guaranteeing we won’t be enjoying a War Zone 2 any time soon. But this movie is a must-watch if you love The Punisher, if you love action, and if you can stomach sitting through a movie that’s so packed with blood-drenched executions it makes Hostel and Saw look like Disney animated classics.

6. Wanted (2008)

Mark Millar’s brilliant six-issue comic book series was released as a film in the summer of 2008, and although it lacked the household name recognition of Batman or The Hulk, the result was a surprise box office smash, and some very favorable reviews from the grumpy, comic-hating critics.

So if it was such a hit, why was it underrated? Because years later, it still isn’t being given credit as one of the great comic book movies, and lauded for its action, directing, and numerous achievements.

wanted angelina The 10 Most Underrated Comic Book Movies (part 1)

Credit: Universal Pictures

For an unapologetic R-rated comic book film, it scored a very respectable (and surprising) 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, and debuted #1 at the North American box office with a $50M+ opening weekend. Internationally it broke records in South Korea and Russia, in part due to Russian director Timur Bekmambetov.

It was a loose adaptation to say the least (the book was about super villains who collaborated to rid the world of super heroes, and the movie was about a group of assassins) but Bekmambetov stayed very close to the spirit of the original source material despite the changes, and had the blessing of creator Mark Millar himself.

Although it lacks some of the more traditional comic book elements from Millar’s series (don’t expect any masks or costumes) Wanted still has everything an action fan could ask for: gratuitous violence, four-letter words, Angelina Jolie firing a shotgun from the hood of a cherry red Dodge Viper…and if all that doesn’t sell you, it’s got Morgan Freeman playing a ruthless gun wielding bad-ass (that alone is worth the price of admission.)

Come back soon to see the second part of my countdown, including the number one most underrated comic book movie!

Now read part 2!

Say hello to the newest Disney Princess.

Say hello to the newest Disney Princess.

Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle). You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at

Deadshot never misses. But will his show?

Deadshot never misses. But will his show?

Blake laid out 5 Reasons Why Star Wars Fans Should Trust Disney, and reviewed Arrow (so you could trust an independent nerd analysis).

More from Blake Northcott
  • D.A Lascelles

    Oh god… The Crow was 1994? Now I feel old…

    I agree with everything here, actually, of the films here I have seen (I’ve not seen Punisher; War Zone, was not even aware it was even out) they are all fantastic films that deserved more credit in box office terms.

    • blakenorthcott

      That’s exactly what I thought! I looked back at the date and remembered that I saw The Crow in theaters 18 years ago, and it doesn’t seem like that much time has passed.

      And you should see Punisher War Zone if you’re into action, and LOTS of violence. Lots.

      • D.A Lascelles

        Never really got into Punisher in comics to be honest but I may check that film out.

        Hmmm, should check out part two of this, I forgot about it as it was posted over the weekend and as I was away could not read it…

  • Ray Plasse

    I couldn’t agree with you more but I’m a poor example because I liked ‘Daredevil’! I’m just very happy to see my childhood fantasy’s come to life on the big screen. So sue me!

    • blakenorthcott

      HAHA Oh Ray…well the Daredevil movie wasn’t the worst thing ever made, but if you read the comics (I did) they are quite dark, and the enemies are menacing and terrifying. The movie was very light and tried to appeal to a young audience – which is fine – but it wasn’t much like the comics. I was sad. :-(

      And the lawsuit is coming.

  • Steven

    The 1994 film version of The Crow was faithful to the books? Sorry, I have to disagree on that one. From T Bird being a swashbuckling pirate to Sherry being a mouthy skater brat to Eric playing a guitar on top of their burnt out apartment building to Bai Ling’s character (?) to the origin of The Crow being completely changed, we only got about 2 scenes that were actually faithful to the original story. Let us remember the implication of T Bird being beat to death with a hammer in the books rather than losing a sword fight.

    • blakenorthcott


      I have to admit that I have not read The Crow since before the movie was released in theaters…so I might be fuzzy on a couple of the details. The movie was awesome, though. ;-)

      – Blake

  • Ray Plasse

    Oh I read the comics(Come on Blake!! Comics were my life in the 60s) Daredevil originally was not a dark comic until Miller got a hold of it in the 80s! Then he started to become more like a Dark Red Knight. After 50yrs of reading comics I learned to go with the flow! The DD character has had many different permutations in that time.

    • blakenorthcott

      Well I haven’t seen much DD pre-80s so you will have to forgive me! :-)

  • nimbuschick

    I just bought the original TMNT on Blu Ray for my husband, but the old VHS with Pizza Hut/Pagemaster commercials on it will forever hold a place in my heart.

    • blakenorthcott

      You are an awesome wife! And I agree…some things just bring you right back to your childhood.

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