10 Great Comic Book Movies That Aren’t Marvel or DC

10 Great Comic Book Movies That Aren’t Marvel or DC

The blockbuster landscape is inundated with superhero movies at the moment, but almost every major comic book movie’s source material comes from two major publishers: Marvel or DC. This isn’t really a surprise, and it’s not even a dig—over decades both Marvel and DC have created some of the most iconic characters in history. But these two aren’t the only originators of comic book material that translates well to the big screen, so we thought we’d take a look at some comic book movies with somewhat different origins.

The comic book has evolved quite a bit over just the last couple of decades, diversifying not just in tone but in storytelling, and it’s resulted in some really terrific film adaptations. Below, we’ve assembled a list of 10 great comic book movies that aren’t DC or Marvel.

Edge of Tomorrow

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director Doug Liman’s 2014 sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow is one of the best time travel stories in recent memory, and its origins lie in a graphic novel called All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The film takes the basic premise from the book — a soldier is killed in a battle with extraterrestrial beings, only to find himself stuck in a time loop in which he keeps dying over and over again — but Liman puts his own spin on the material, following the arc of a character who evolves from absolute coward to selfless hero over the course of the film. Tom Cruise gives a tremendous performance in the lead role, but it’s Emily Blunt as a fellow warrior and previous time looper who’s the film’s secret weapon. Inventive, visually stunning, and consistently surprising, Edge of Tomorrow is one of the best “comic book movies” of the last decade. – Adam Chitwood

Sin City

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Image via Miramax

Sin City was a groundbreaking achievement in its own right. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, known for his experimentation and thriftiness with a budget, set out to adapt Frank Miller’s source material page-by-page in a way that had never been done before. While Zack Snyder’s 300 took a similar approach, Rodriguez pushed things even further with his black-and-white cinematography and extensive use of green screen effects. Sin City was an event when it hit theaters, with a whole scene guest-directed by Quentin Tarantino! Rodriguez acknowledged Miller’s influence so heavily that he lobbied for the author to get a co-director credit on the film. The result is visually striking, and while Rodriguez and Miller would attempt to re-create the winning formula with The Spirit and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, nothing ever quite matched up to the magic of this original. – Adam Chitwood

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

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Image via Universal Pictures

Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s outstanding comic didn’t find much of an audience upon its release, but over the years it has grown into a cult classic. The movie follows Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a sweet if slightly selfish and misguided young man who falls for delivery girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He can only continue to date her if he defeats her seven evil exes. Scott’s comfortable with the video game framework, but the film is really about two people discovering they have to get over their own baggage if they’re going to find new love. Wright decorates the whole picture with video game tropes and fun little nods, but never loses sight of the core romantic story. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is funny, effervescent, and only gets better on repeat viewings. – Matt Goldberg

Men in Black

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Image via Sony Pictures

Men in Black came at a time when “comic book movies” were still a bit of a niche genre. Sure we had the Batman franchise, but other characters had failed to make much of a mark beyond R-rated fare like Spawn and Blade. With Men in Black, however, director Barry Sonnenfeld mined the source material to create a sci-fi comedy with a heavy B-movie vibe, spearheaded by the dynamic duo of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. There’s an unmistakable 1960s influence on the whole affair, and the film never takes itself too seriously while also never letting its characters get cartoonish. It’s a fine line to toe, but one that spawned a highly lucrative franchise all its own. – Adam Chitwood

Oldboy

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Image via Tartan Films

Adapted from a Japanese Manga series, Oldboy manages to be visually stunning and emotionally devastating all in one go. Filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s 2003 South Korean neo-noir follows the story of a man wrongfully imprisoned for 15 years, without knowing why he was put in prison in the first place. Once released, he sets about trying to track down his captor by any means necessary. It’s an incredibly violent film, but Chan-wook uses genre to highlight the strong emotions of all the characters involved. It’s a film that leaves you reeling, with one of the greatest twists in cinema history. – Adam Chitwood

The Rocketeer

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Image via Disney

Joe Johnston may be a bit of a journeyman director, but he excels at old-fashioned adventure stories like this. The story, set in 1938 Los Angeles, follows a stunt pilot who happens upon a prototype jetpack that allows him to be a high-flying hero. It’s pretty simple—the only fantastical aspect is the jetpack—but Johnston always finds the heart and adventure of the story. The aw-shucks attitude and winning performances make The Rocketeer an enduring classic and his look instantly iconic. – Matt Goldberg

300

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Image via Warner Bros.

Zack Snyder’s 300 kicked off its own subgenre of comic book adaptations: the slavishly faithful movie. In concert with Sin City, another incredibly faithful Frank Miller adaptation, 300 adapts the panels of Miller’s book page-by-page, recreating visually stunning illustrations using cutting edge visual effects and slow-motion techniques to really allow the viewer to take it all in. This was a groundbreaking theatrical experience; something audiences had never quite seen before. And while Snyder would continue this faithful-to-a-fault technique on Watchmen to less exciting results, 300 still stands as a cornerstone of the comic book movie genre over a decade later. – Adam Chitwood

Snowpiercer

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Image via The Weinstein Company

French graphic novels have been a treasure trove of great story ideas, and that’s certainly true of Snowpiercer. Based on Jacques Lob’s Le Transperceneige, the film is a story about class warfare set on a globe-spanning train that houses the final remnants of humanity following an environmental crisis. Director Bong Joon-ho expertly navigates genre territory with a strong focus on theme and character, and Chris Evans delivers a stellar performance as the lead here. Snowpiercer is one of those great comic book adaptations that proves that comics don’t always have to be about herculean superheroes or sci-fi stories—they can be incredibly human and still have a strong visual impact. – Adam Chitwood

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn’s first stab at a comic book adaptation, Kick-Ass, certainly could’ve made this list, but we went with Kingsman here to mix things up a bit. Both films are Mark Millar adaptations, but Kingsman allowed Vaughn to essentially make his own version of a James Bond movie with heightened visuals and wonderfully colorful violence. Indeed, the “heads exploding into colorful smoke” idea is something you’ll probably only see in either a comic book adaptation or a Quentin Tarantino movie. Kingsman is a film that contains multitudes, but at heart is just a rollicking good time. – Adam Chitwood

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

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Image via Universal Pictures

If the first Hellboy was about Guillermo del Toro trying to bridge the gap between Mike Mignola’s comic and studio notes in a pre-superhero era, the sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, feels far more free to follow the filmmaker’s vision. The story follows Hellboy as he tries to patch things up with Liz while also fending off elves who want to reclaim the world after millennia in hiding. The soul of the story is about the monsters we won’t let into our world and what kind of world the strange and fantastic can bring us, but it’s still rooted in Mignola’s lovable hero with his working-class attitude and weary disposition. Some Hellboy purists may scoff at del Toro’s take, but it feels fresh, vibrant, and alive with the filmmaker’s imagination. – Matt Goldberg

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