Top 10 Darkest Comic Book Movies
VOICE OVER: Dan Paradis
Written by Shane Fraser
Some comic book movies aren't for the faint of heart. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Darkest Comic Book Movies.
For this list, we're looking at comic book-inspired films that are overwhelmingly dark. Here, we're taking dark to mean a mix of adult content—with an emphasis on violence—and a gloomy atmosphere. The movies aren't judged so much on their quality, but on their adherence to sinister themes. Comic books and graphic novels are eligible as sources, but manga is not, because there's enough to make up a separate list.
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Some comic book movies aren’t for the faint of heart. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Darkest Comic Book Movies.
For this list, we’re looking at comic book-inspired films that are overwhelmingly dark. By “dark,” we mean a mix of adult content—with an emphasis on violence—and a gloomy atmosphere. The movies aren’t judged so much on their quality, but on their adherence to more sinister themes. Comic books and graphic novels are eligible as sources, but manga is not, because there’s enough of those to make up a separate list.
#10: “Dredd” (2012)
Perhaps the most brutal comic book movie to come out in the early 21st century, “Dredd” is the adaptation of the comic book character we’d all been waiting for. Since the 1995 version failed so miserably, comic fans were aching for a worthy Judge Dredd movie, especially one that didn’t pull any punches. And boy, did this one deliver. “Dredd” is pretty much a 95-minute bloodbath; filled with ultra-violence, ultra-drug use, ultra-sex, and ultra-everything. Also, with remarkably stoic acting, and a setting straight out of “Blade Runner,” it rejects the stereotype of the one-dimensional action movie. In fact, “Dredd” may be one of the most complete action films of the decade.
#9: “A History of Violence” (2005)
“A History of Violence” is quite unconventional for a comic book movie. There are no superheroes, no monsters, and no melodrama; the protagonist is simply a small town diner owner, and his life is anything but exciting. But when his diner gets threatened, things turn dark immediately. Starring Viggo Mortensen, and based on the graphic novel by John Wagner, “A History of Violence” has brutal violence, graphic scenes of sex that borders on rape, and psychological turmoil. However this is all presented in such a sober way that you almost feel like you’re watching your own family suffer the same tribulations. And we’ve got David Cronenberg’s directing to thank – as it leaves no room for comic relief and yet still earned loads of critical acclaim.
#8: “Constantine” (2005)
Alan Moore first conceived John Constantine, the demon hunter, in 1985. After appearing periodically in Moore’s “Swamp Thing” comics, Constantine received his own series called “Hellblazer” in the late ‘80s produced by DC. The character proved popular, and in 2005 a movie was made chronicling his otherworldly adventures. With Keanu Reeves as Constantine, the film takes us to Hell and back as Earth’s most cynical protector fights all types of demonic phenomena. “Constantine” delivers a macabre examination of life and the afterlife, with some even considering its depictions of Hell and Satan as cinema’s very best.
#7: “30 Days of Night” (2007)
“30 Days of Night” was actually pitched as a film first, but several rejections sent the idea into development purgatory. With no other options, creator Steve Niles issued a comic miniseries as a vessel for the story, one in which vampires terrorize an Alaskan town during the period in which it experiences a 30-day polar night. The three-issue series succeeded in attracting attention from producers, and the coveted property finally became a film in 2007. “30 Days of Night” is about darkness, and the exploitation of said darkness by a legion of ancient vampires. They invade the isolated town under the protection of night, and the resulting carnage is so great that this list would be incomplete without it. It’s not such a bad movie either.
#6: “Punisher: War Zone” (2008)
The first “Punisher” film was an R-Rated action-filled romp – very dark in its own right, especially for a Marvel-owned superhero. “Punisher: War Zone,” however, is a much darker entity, and this has everything to do with the villain, Jigsaw. Though Punisher himself is a vicious and brooding character, the antagonist, Jigsaw—no relation to the “Saw” character—is born from nightmares. He’s a horribly disfigured psychopathic killer who strikes fear into viewers. He antagonizes Punisher throughout the film, and their ruthless back and forth brings meaning to their hostile relationship.
#5: “The Dark Knight” (2008)
When “Batman Begins” premiered in 2005, superhero movies were changed forever. One-dimensional characters, kid-oriented themes, and corny, campy dialogue would no longer be the standard for the genre. Batman was dark, and the public loved it; so much that the sequel upped the ante and -gave us the darkest mainstream superhero movie of all time – to that point, at least. “The Dark Knight” had murder, torture, gore, the deaths of principal characters, and a terrifying antagonist that signified a new generation of film villains. “The Dark Knight” paved the way for a darker Captain America, a darker Iron Man, and darker X-Men, and the first hugely successful R-rated superhero movie, “Deadpool.”
#4: “Spawn” (1997)
Spawn was created by a maverick artist from a maverick comic book company, so it’s not surprising that its movie adaptation is far from traditional. The character was the brainchild of Todd McFarlane via the Image Comics label and its 1992 debut became one of the highest selling independent comic books ever. Predictably, film rights were quickly obtained, and “Spawn” premiered five years later. Following the eponymous character, a demon-resurrected anti-hero with occult powers, the film is riddled with frightening imagery, disturbing characters, and an overriding paranormal theme. It doesn’t hurt that the main villain is a clown-demon named Violator; his inclusion alone ensures “Spawn’s” place on this list.
#3: “Watchmen” (2009)
Most dark comic books can be traced back to Alan Moore, who conquered a milquetoast land, and left a settlement of mature readers in his wake. Most people say this started with “Watchmen,” which Moore wrote and Dave Gibbons illustrated. This limited comic book series showed a grim existence where superheroes are illegal. Once the film industry caught up with the darker trending comics, a “Watchmen” adaptation was inevitable. Under the direction of Zack Snyder, the “Watchmen” film exhibits all the dark subject matter of the source material, complete with torture and attempted rape. While its quality may not completely match that of the comics, there’s no question that its content does. It wouldn’t be the first time Snyder attempted a dark adaptation of a comic series either; the director gave Frank Miller’s “300” the big screen treatment 3 years earlier.
#2: “Sin City” (2005)
Frank Miller is another comic book writer known for his dark work, and “Sin City” is arguably his finest accomplishment. A modern neo-noir masterpiece, the “Sin City” comics were adapted into a film in 2005, which Miller co-directed with Robert Rodriguez. The film captured the style of the comics phenomenally; a mostly black-and-white action-revenge thriller with an ensemble cast of violent characters. Also, the film used the same color contrasting that was pioneered in the comics, which added selective coloring to the mostly dark backdrop. The success of the film enabled a long-awaited sequel, and though “A Dame to Kill For” was lacking the same quality as the first film, it still retained much of its dark style.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Blade” (1998)
- “V for Vendetta” (2006)
- “Wanted” (2008)
#1: “The Crow” (1994)
Based on the comic series by James O’Barr, “The Crow” is a comic book movie cut with a jagged edge. With an undead crow-resurrected protagonist, and an intense revenge story, “The Crow” is darkness personified. Nothing about the neo-noir flick is joyful; anguish pervades the entirety of the film and controls every second of footage. This is further accentuated when one is made aware of the accidental on-set death of actor Brandon Lee, who portrayed Eric Draven; a tragedy that added real despair to the clouded work of fiction. In both story and legacy, “The Crow” really put the ‘morbid’ into comic book adaptations and that’s why it nabbed this spot on our list.
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite dark comic book movie? For more sinister Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.