10 Best Comic Book Movies without Capes

Not All Comics Feature Superheroes.

Comic book movies are big business these days. This year alone there have been over half a dozen that have hit theaters. Most of them though feature costume-clad heroes punching their problems in the face. However, not all comic book movies star superheroes. Despite a common misconception, comics can be about so much more than superheroes. That why I decided to take some time to look into the films that don’t feature guys in capes. The research for this list was actually pretty enlightening and I learned a lot about different movies. In the end, though I was able to narrow it down to 10 movies that I think do comic books justice.

RED

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“You can’t keep an old dog down,” is the resonating theme of this comic book movie. It features Bruce Willis doing what he does best (and let’s just say that it’s not showing a wide range of emotions). He stars as a retired Black Ops agent labeled R.E.D. or Retired Extremely Dangerous. Fortunately for audiences, he doesn’t quite take to retirement and soon finds himself mixed up in a global conspiracy that requires him to recruit several other geriatric operatives from the good old days. It packs a star-studded cast including Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren. The sequel though, well let’s just say the sequel isn’t something this list is too concerned about.

Atomic Blonde

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No one kicks ass these days quite like Charlize Theron. She’s proven to be on the front line of bringing strong female leads to the silver screen. Add on the fact that she’s joined by David Leitch, the man behind John Wick meant that this comic book movie was set to be a powder keg of action. The film delivered on that front as Theron takes on the role of a British spy sent to Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow operative. Once there, she finds herself in a web of conspiracy as friends become enemies and enemies, well, they continue to be enemies. Of course, everyone manages to underestimate how truly deadly Theron is and the audience gets to relish watching her kick Soviet butts all across Berlin.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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This comic book movie is a fan favorite among geeks and that’s probably mostly due to the fact that Matthew Vaughn is one of the great comic book directors out there today (except for Kick-Ass 2). Kingsman has a cast that features almost every recognizable British actor available, from Colin Firth to Mark Strong to Michael Caine. It’s also the film that launched Sophia Boutella and Taron Egerton to stardom. It’s an action-packed film that manages to keep a tongue in cheek sense of humor through out it. Though some of the jokes are a bit crude considering how posh most of the cast acts. This one was a no-brainer for this list and I really hope the sequel proves that it deserves to be on here too.

Dredd

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Dredd might have bombed at the box office, but this comic book movie is a serious fan favorite. So much so that there have been multiple petitions started to get a sequel made. As much as the love for the film is moving, it’s strange that my fellow movie geeks wouldn’t open their wallets when it mattered most. This film is probably the closest that will come to an actual superhero movie, but it doesn’t quite cross the line. Karl Urban stars as the tougher than nails lawman who never flinches in the face of danger. This time around he and his partner have to fight their way through a tower of the worst Megacity One has to offer. It’s reminiscent of The Raid, which is never a bad thing.

Oldboy

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Manga is just a Japanese comic book, so I’m going to count it for this list. I was actually really surprised that this dark, twisted, revenge epic was based on a series by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya. It was an epic movie, to begin with, and now it’s an epic comic book movie. Part of Park Chan-wook’s revenge trilogy, this is definitely not for the faint of heart or those with sensitive stomachs. The film revolves around a man kidnapped and kept in a room for 15 years and then suddenly released. Of course, this leads to him wanting to get revenge on his mysterious captors and he sets out on a cat and mouse game to find them and the answers behind his imprisonment. It’s an amazing film, but it definitely leaves a mark.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

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I have a bit of a soft spot for this comic book movie because it was one of the first films I ever wrote a review of. Still, that doesn’t make it any less deserving to be on this list and probably one of the best comic book movies of all time. Edgar Wright is careful to encompass the stylized visuals of Bryan Lee O’Malley and does so brilliantly. It’s a geeky neo-fantasy film with a ton of pop culture references, as Scott sets out to win the love of a girl by defeating her seven evil exes. Those exes include the likes of Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman, among others. I really enjoyed the blend of action and comedy with the ingenious visual effects that were used, and if you’re a true blooded geek I’m sure you will too.

Edge of Tomorrow

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I honestly had no idea this was a comic book movie until I started researching this list (yes, I actually do research). The film is based on the manga All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, which is something I’m definitely going to have to check out given how amazing this movie is. The film stars Tom Cruise (who was actually in another comic book movie, Oblivion) as a soldier battling aliens. Seems pretty standard, except he can’t actually die. He’s just reborn each time, almost like his life is saved at a spawn point. When I first heard of this film, I thought it sounded like the dumbest thing ever, but it turned out to be one of my favorite movies from 2014.

Ghost World

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One of the most critically acclaimed comic book movies on this list, Ghost World is based on the series by Daniel Clowes. It’s an angst-ridden dark comedy, but that pretty much sums up high school for most of us. The story seems to focus on the fact that we drift through life and in doing so simply pass through each other’s lives in the grand scheme of things. It’s actually a little depressing, but such is life. What really sets this apart from a lot of the other films on this list is that it’s very much a slice of life. There’s no action, no adventure, just the reality that in life even the extraordinary can be mundane. I’m sure this isn’t selling it for you, but it really is a good movie. Plus, it stars a pre-famous Scarlett Johansson.

American Splendor

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A comic book movie about a comic book maker? How meta is that! American Splendor tells the story of writer Harvey Pekar (played by Paul Giamatti). It’s an odd film that seems almost like a documentary of Pekar’s seemingly autobiographical series but gives an interesting look into what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to making a comic. The film was nominated for a ton of awards and ended up winning a lot of them. True, it’d definitely not the most exciting movie on this list, but I feel like it is one of the most significant films on it. After all, this is Stars & Popcorn, not all list can be filled with popcorn flicks.

Snowpiercer

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The number one entry on this list is quite a bizarre one. It’s an English language, South Korean-Czech film based on a French graphic novel. So, it’s quite worldly as far as comic book movies go. It’s a post-apocalyptic film where the Earth has frozen over and humanity is forced to live on a high-speed train that is constantly moving to avoid them freezing to death. The problem is that a new caste system is implemented forcing people into the haves and the have-nots. Well, it doesn’t take long for the have-nots to get pissed and pretty soon we’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned train war. Like so many other comic book movies, it stars Chris Evans (just to toss a bit of America in there too) and really is one of the best non-superhero movies to date.

Well, what do you think? I know there are a ton of other comic book movies out there, and a lot surprised me in my search. Do you think this list nailed it? Are there other movies that should have been on it? Let me know in the comments below!