Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants get come up with a list around Non-Bookish Hobbies, in order for the various participants to get to know each other. This is a rather interesting idea from The Artsy Reader Girl, and I thought that I would use this topic to talk about something I am quite passionate about, animated movies that are based on comic books.
I am a major fan of both animated television shows and of comic books, so naturally the combination of these two genres is something I am quite keen on. Over the years there have been a huge number of animated comic book adaptions made and I have gone out of my way to watch as many as possible. Most of these are pretty good, although several really shine through as the cream of the crop. Surprisingly, this is one of the few areas where DC Comics really has the advantage over Marvel. While there are a few good Marvel Comics animated adaptions, DC has more of a monopoly over animated movies, producing a huge range of high-quality and compelling films, mostly as part of their DC Universe Animated Original Movies range. That being said, I have included a few Marvel movies into my list below, as they have done several good movies. I am particularly keen to do this list this year as I actually reviewed one of these movies, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, on my blog earlier this year in what was my first film review. I had a lot of fun reviewing this animated film and it might be something I will continue to do in the future for some of the better upcoming releases.
In order to appear on this list, the film had to be an adaption of a comic book or be based upon a character or characters who originated in comic book format. I spent a substantial amount of time going through all the various animated movies that were out there, and I have to admit that my original list was pretty substantial. I was able to cull it down a little, although I still had way more than 10 entries that I wanted to feature. In the end I decided to make this a Top Twenty List, which made me a lot happier and allows me to feature several more out-there entries. I am extremely happy with how this list turned out as every single movie below is well worth checking out for a variety of reasons.
Top Twenty List:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
After talking smack about the Marvel animated films above, it does feel a little silly putting Into the Spider-Verse first on this list. However, this is without a doubt one of the best, if not the best, animated comic book adaptation ever done, and is probably the one most people have actually seen. This was an ultra-cool and clever movie that successfully brought the Miles Morales Spider-Man to the big screen, while also featuring an impressive voice cast, a unique animation style and an exceptionally well-written and entertaining story. A must-watch for any comic book fan out there.
Batman: Under the Red Hood
This second entry is probably one of my absolute favourite animated comic book movies. An adaptation of the Under the Hood storyline, this movie pits Batman against the Red Hood, a masked vigilante who has a dark connection with his past. Despite lacking a lot of the surprise about the eventual reveal of Red Hood’s identity that most comic readers had when it was first released, this is still an extremely strong and captivating movie with a number of action-packed and emotionally charged sequences. Anchored by an especially good voice cast, including Bruce Greenwood as Batman, Jensen Ackles as Red Hood, John DiMaggio as a delightfully evil Joker and Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing, this is an exceptional movie, especially the end scene which sees Batman have his final dramatic confrontation with Red Hood.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
As I mentioned above, Apokolips War is a more recent release that I reviewed earlier this year. This was another top-rate comic book movie that served as the epic final entry in the DC Animated Movie Universe, an extended collection of connected animated films all set within the same shared universe. Containing a dark storyline and a massive cast, this movie successfully concluded the multitude of plot lines featured in the other DC Animated Movie Universe films while also providing the viewer with a number of amazing and moving scenes. A really awesome animated film to check out.
The Lego Batman Movie
I could not do a list about animated comic movies without featuring The Lego Batman Movie. While I could potentially have also used The Lego Movie or its sequel, The Lego Batman Movie is a pure superhero movie that brings a number of iconic Batman characters to life in a fun Lego way. This is definitely the most comedic movie on this list and features a huge number of excellent jokes and send-ups of the Batman universe. From the opening line about DC being “the house that Batman built”, to a cheeky takedown at Batman’s weird extended rogues gallery, you’ll be hard pressed not to laugh like crazy the entire way through.
The Death of Superman
The 1992-1993 comic book storyline The Death of Superman is one of the best-selling and iconic comics in history, and naturally several movies have attempted to adapt it before, such as the 2007 animated film Superman: Doomsday and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, the best adaption is the 2018 animated film, The Death of Superman, which absolutely blew me away when it came out. Featuring an extremely brutal fight between Doomsday and Superman (after Doomsday takes down the entire Justice League by himself), and the extremely powerful Superman death sequence (I dare you not to tear up for it!), this movie is easily one of the best animated films ever done.
Batman: Assault on Arkham
This is the Suicide Squad movie we actually needed. Set in the same universe as the bestselling Batman: Arkham games, Assault on Arkham was released two years before the live action Suicide Squad movie and is substantially better. While it lacks the all-star cast of the live-action film, Assault on Arkham has an extremely well-written story that effectively captures the heart of the comic book and shows the villains at their worst as they attempt to break into the worst place in the world, Arkham Asylum. Loaded up with bloody action, great characters and humour that is frankly more adult than its live-action counterpart, you will have an amazing time watching this film.
Justice League vs. Teen Titans
To me, the DC Animated Movie Universe only started to get really good when Justice League vs. Teen Titans was released. While there were some good entries in the early going of this shared universe, this one was leaps and bounds above most of them. Not only does Justice League vs. Teen Titans do a great job introducing my favourite superhero team, the Teen Titans, to this universe but it also presents a really good version of the Trigon/Raven storyline from the Teen Titans comics in a short amount of time. In addition, this proved to be a key entry in the DC Animated Movie Universe, as it successfully ties into several of the other movies in the series. An exciting and impressive movie that was great to watch multiple times.
While I was tempted to add Superman/Batman: Public Enemies to this list, I have more of a preference for the sequel, Apocalypse. Apocalypse is an excellent adaption of the Superman/Batman comic book arc, The Supergirl from Krypton, which reintroduced the Kara Zor-El version of Supergirl into the DC Comics universe (which eventually led to her current use in popular culture). Apocalypse features an amazing storyline that sees Supergirl come to Earth, only to be captured by Darkseid, forcing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Big Barda to travel to Apokolips to rescue her. Not only are there several epic scenes, such as Batman’s badass showdown with Darkseid, or the massive extended fight between Darkseid and the Super cousins that decimates the Kent farm, but this movie features an impressive voice cast. This includes the dream team of returning Justice League voice actors Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly and Susan Eisenberg (the definitive voices of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman respectively), as well as Summer Glau as Supergirl and Andre Braugher as Darkseid. I particularly loved Braugher’s work in this movie and I felt he gave one of the best Darkseid portrayals of all time. An overall awesome movie, I have a lot of love for this film.
Justice League Dark
This is an excellent movie that sees Batman forced to work with a mismatched team of magicians and magical creatures to stop a world-ending threat. This was an amazing and fast-paced movie that not only serves as a key part of the DC Animated Movie Universe (the final film in the whole series was a sequel to this one), but which contains an outstanding original storyline of its own. There are so many cool elements to this film, including the excellent reintroduction of Matt Ryan as John Constantine, the original rogue magician and world-class bastard, and it was an incredible film to enjoy.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
The second Teen Titans movie set in the DC Animated Movie Universe, this film serves as a unique adaptation of the classic Teen Titans storyline, The Judas Contract. This film sees the Teen Titans under attack from within as the master assassin Deathstroke returns to destroy the team once and for all. Expertly tying the established comic storyline in with the version of the Teen Titans introduced in Justice League vs. Teen Titans, this was an impressive film that has a lot going for it. You have to particularly love the complex storyline written around the character of Terra, and Beast Boy shines as not only the comic relief (the way he gets captured is just hilarious), but also as a tragic romantic figure. Work in a fun Kevin Smith cameo, and The Judas Contract is an absolute must-see film.
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay
Another exceptional Suicide Squad movie, Hell to Pay sees the titular squad compete with some of DC’s deadliest villains to obtain a “Get out of Hell Free” card. This is wildly entertaining and surprisingly adult film that has some intriguing connections to some of the previous animated DC films. One of the film’s advantages is that it does not take itself too seriously and at times it comes across as a gritty grindhouse action movie. This movie has a very high death count, even amongst its main characters, and viewers are in for a bloody and exciting time.
Batman: Year One
This next entry was a perfect adaptation of Frank Miller’s iconic comic of the same name, which not only formed the definitive introduction to the modern Batman but which also served as the inspiration for much of Batman Begins. This film does an outstanding job bringing this story to life, and it is anchored by its two excellent narrators, Bryan Cranston as James Gordon and Ben McKenzie as Bruce Wayne. Cranston is of course perfect in this, and I love the fact that McKenzie voiced Batman in a movie only a few years before he was cast as James Gordon in Gotham.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
This is another great Justice League animated movie that was originally going to be set between the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited television shows (although it ended up being separate from them). This is an impressive movie that sees the Justice League follow a heroic Lex Luthor to an alternate Earth (Earth-Three), which is ruled over by evil versions of the Leaguers. Not only is this a great take on a classic Justice League comic storyline, but it also contains a lot of cool moments. I particularly liked the sociopathic Batman double, Owlman (voiced by James Woods), as he has one of the best death scenes in an animated comic book movie.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
For this entry I am combining two films into one, The Dark Knight Returns: Part One and Part Two. These two films serve as a close adaptation of the iconic comic book by Frank Miller and feature all the best elements from the comics. Not only does it contain a great version of the iconic battle between Batman and Superman but it has one of the most disturbing and memorable encounters between Batman and the Joker. A truly impressive movie in both scope and delivery, it is a great way to check out one of the most revered Batman comics of all time.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
This animated film is an adaption of the key DC Comics storyline, Flashpoint. While I am not a major fan of what the Flashpoint comic did to the DC Universe (damn you New 52!), the story itself was pretty good and its adaption is also really fun to watch. Featuring an intriguing time-travel storyline that sees the Flash trapped in a dark alternate timeline, this is a clever and compelling film, especially when some revelations come to light towards the end of the story. The Flashpoint Paradox is a very close adaption to the comics, although there are a few clever twists here and there. I was also really impressed in how the events of this film were reutilised in several preceding movies in the DC Animated Movie Universe, and it suggests a lot of pre-planning from the writers of this film.
Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
While I was tempted to include the 2007 TMNT film, I ended up going with last year’s Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Based on the very successful Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, this is a fun and more light-hearted film that sees Batman team up with the Ninja Turtles to save Gotham from an alliance between Shredder and Ra’s al Ghul. I really love the way this film blends together elements and characters from these two iconic franchises and there are some great moments throughout, from Batman absolutely spanking the Turtles the first time they meet, to a wild romp through Arkham Asylum as the heroes encounter mutated versions of Batman’s rogue gallery. A very funny entry on this list, fans of both franchises are guaranteed to have a good laugh throughout this film.
Justice League: War
The second entry in the DC Animated Movie Universe following The Flashpoint Paradox, Justice League: War is the movie this introduces the details of this new timeline. Based off the Justice League: Origin storyline from The New 52, Justice League: War showcases the formation of the Justice League as they go from hunted vigilantes to national heroes by facing down Darkseid’s first invasion. Not only does it do a good job introducing all seven members of the League in this timeline (with Shazam replacing Aquaman from the comics), but it lives up to its title, with a massive war sequence taking place throughout, as all seven members of the League engage in a brutal fight with Darkseid and his minions.
Big Hero 6
While this is more of a Disney movie than anything else, Big Hero 6 is still an adaption of a comic book, as Big Hero 6 are a Marvel Comics superhero team. While not the greatest Disney animated film of all time, it is a lot of fun to watch and only someone with a heart of stone would fail to fall in love with Baymax. Also, it has a fun Stan Lee cameo in the end, which carries a lot of weight with me.
Justice League: Doom
Justice League: Doom is a sequel to Crisis on Two Earths which sees the Justice League fight another dangerous threat from both within and without. Loosely based on the JLA: Tower of Babel comic, the Justice League is attacked by Vandal Savage and a cadre of supervillains who are determined to take the League off the board. However, in order to achieve their goals, they utilise contingency plans originally created by Batman to take down his teammates. A very smartly written movie with some epic sequences, I personally thought Doom was a little stronger than Crisis on Two Earths, and it is really worth checking out.
The final entry on this list is a fun entry from Marvel that was released back in 2009. Hulk vs. is actually a double feature film featuring two shorter movies, Hulk vs. Wolverine and Hulk vs. Thor. Both these films are pretty much as described, with Wolverine and Thor forced to go up against a maddened Hulk who is lured into their path by their respective enemies. One of the more brutal animated films from the 2000s, highlights include an entertaining Deadpool and the Hulk smashing through the entirety of Asgard’s armies to get to Thor.
Well, that is my list. As you can see, I am quite passionate about these animated movies and I clearly have watched them too many times. I hope the above notes encourage you to check some of them out as each of them are a lot of fun to watch and contain a lot of hidden depth. Let me know which animated comic book films are your favourites in the comments below and keep an eye out for any future reviews I do of some of these movies.