With recent, massive successes such as Joker (2019), and Deadpool (2016), the comic book movie genre has been taken in a whole different direction. In the past, R-rated comic book films have struggled to not only make a profit, but also adapt the source material in a way that could please a lot of people.
Nowadays, it seems as though studios, writers, and directors have finally cracked the code to making a successful R-rated comic book film. Unfortunately, there were still quite a few box office flops to learn from in order to get to this point. To look back at some of the industry’s best and worst over the years, here is our list of the 5 best and 5 worst R-rated comic book films according to Rotten Tomatoes.
10 Worst: The Crow: City of Angels (1996) (12%)
While The Crow (1994) starring Brandon Lee is held in very high regard, its sequel films aren’t nearly as celebrated. Unfortunately, the second installment of the franchise is considered to be the absolute worst R-rated comic book film of all time (at least according to Rotten Tomatoes). Unlike with the original, The Crow: City of Angels fails to capture all of the same action, appearance, and drama of the original film.
Furthermore, very few people from the first film returned for the sequel. Though it makes sense with the lore of the character that a new lead would be seen, Alex Proyas didn’t return to direct, with the job going to Tim Pope instead. Though Pope’s direction isn't the only thing wrong with the film, it’s not hard to understand how it is one of the worst comic book movies ever made.
9 Best: Deadpool (2016) (84%)
For awhile there, it seemed as though the Deadpool film would never be released to audiences. However, after the leaked test footage saw a lot of positive feedback, the studio decided to greenlight the project afterall. Thankfully, Deadpool performed incredibly well at the box office, even becoming the highest grossing R-rated film (domestically) at the time.
Not only did the film make a lot of money, but it was very well received by audiences across the globe. Furthermore, both fans of the comics and casual moviegoers were satisfied with the result. Though Deadpool isn’t the highest-rated comic book film ever, the character’s personality and the nature of the film make it easy to see why so many enjoyed it.
8 Worst: Judge Dredd (1995) (17%)
Even an iconic action hero such as Sylvester Stallone wasn’t able to make Judge Dredd a good movie. Though the character has always been popular on the page, he has seemed to struggle on the big screen. While 2012’s Dredd fared much better than the original, it still saw less than stellar reviews.
Reboot aside, Judge Dredd is still one of the worst comic book movies ever made. With a very simple, shallow story and a lot of action, it could be argued that the film is an entertaining watch. However, it definitely falls more into the “so bad, it’s good” type of film.
7 Best: Hellboy: The Golden Army (2008) (86%)
Thanks to Guillermo del Toro’s incredible style, Hellboy was originally brought to the big screen in 2004. Four years later, actor Ron Perlman and del Toro would return once again for Hellboy: The Golden Army. Though the first film received high praise, the second actually fared much better.
Not only did The Golden Army expand well upon the first, but it told an arguably better story as well. Furthermore, using even more elements from the comics, The Golden Army managed to capture everything that fans love about the character. Though a third film is very likely to never happen, del Toro’s first two films are incredibly satisfying for all sorts of fans.
6 Worst: Hellboy (2019) (17%)
Guillermo del Toro’s take on Hellboy is one of the best interpretations of the character to date. With both of his films receiving high praise, the 2019 reboot was highly anticipated, despite being a reboot and not having del Toro attached.
Unfortunately, the newest Hellboy film proved to be a total disaster. Not only was it a massive disappointment at the box office, but it also failed to impress fans. While David Harbour assumed the role of the new Hellboy, he didn’t exactly capture what made the character so likeable, making the new film a total mess of story and over-the-top gore.
5 Best: Ghost World (2001) (92%)
In comparison to many other films on this list, Ghost World is likely not one that people were expecting to see. While the film was released in 2001, the original comic by Daniel Clowes was published from 1993-1997. Like the movie, the comic also received a lot of high praise, making it easy to see why director Terry Zwigoff wanted to adapt it.
The film also stars a younger Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca, one of the films main characters. As the story of two friends at the end of their high school careers, Ghost World explores a very unique dynamic. Though it isn’t like most comic book films, it is still a very intriguing watch.
4 Worst: The Crow: Salvation (2000) (22%)
Though the second may be the worst in the series, The Crow: Salvation wasn’t much better. After a four year break, the third installment of The Crow franchise was released to the public, proving to be yet another disappointment. Once again, very few people involved in the production of City of Angels had anything to do with Salvation. Once again, the cast was entirely different and director Bharat Nalluri was new to the franchise as well.
Thanks to such a poor performance from the second film, The Crow: Salvation only saw a limited theatrical release. Most people had to watch it in a straight-to-video format at the time of its launch. Though it received better reviews than City of Angels, Salvation wasn’t nearly good enough to save the franchise.
3 Best: Logan (2017) (93%)
Logan is unique not only in its relation to other films in the X-Men franchise, but in its relationship with cinemaa in general. The darker, grittier approach taken in Hugh Jackman’s last performance as Wolverine really fit well for the character, making him feel much more at home than in some other films.
The film itself did so well that it even received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Featuring an excellent balance of action, heart, and drama, Logan is arguably one of the best comic book films of all time. Considering how high its score on Rotten Tomatoes is as well, it is easy to see how someone could argue this point.
2 Worst: Blade Trinity (2004) (26%)
As one of the earlier superhero franchises, the Blade trilogy proved to be groundbreaking in how it paved the way for other superhero films. With a unique blend of action and horror, it is understandable that the trilogy would grow to have a very large cult following. Unfortunately, Blade: Trinity would go down in history as one of the worst comic book films to date.
While the first two installments proved to be rather successful, the third film in the series is simply just not very good. Though there are many other reasons as to why Blade didn’t receive a fourth installment, the radically poor performance of the third certainly didn’t help.
1 Best: American Splendor (2003) (94%)
The original American Splendor comics were autobiographical in nature, based on the experiences of author Harvey Pekar. Over the course of several years, Pekar would continue to publish the series, typically with a different artist from time to time.
When the film adaptation was released in 2003, it had successfully managed to capture a lot of the same themes from Pekar’s original works. Though it is told in a slightly different manner, the film still honors the source material, even using it as another element for the story. Like Ghost World, American Splendor is a comic adaptation in a different sense, but it is still one of the more unique pieces out there.