As Deadpool 2 hit theaters May 18, 2018, it feels only right to look back at some other comic book movie sequels that completely knocked their predecessor out of the park. For sanity’s sake I’m not including the Avengers films, despite Age of Ultron being a cluster and Infinity War a pure spectacle. Also, I’m going to be generous and not pick apart the DC universe – primarily because nothing recent has even scratched the surface of its comic potential, so why bother.
1. The Dark Knight (2008)
Hands down, The Dark Knight was the sequel we needed and deserved. Christopher Nolan created a film that changed how we perceive the genre.
The cast was legendary, the premise was captivating, and this is a film that truly does The Joker justice. Not to mention, the fights were great and the dialogue was believable for the stakes in the movie. This one definitely deserves a re-watch on a rainy day.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Not many people were big on the “Star Spangled Man with a Plan” from the first Captain America. To make up for all the patriotism, the MCU delivered a much more action-packed sequel that placed Cap’s loyalty to his friend above the rules for a change.
This film showed extensive character growth and made Cap one of the most well-rounded members of the MCU. The success of this film allowed for Civil War which was also directed by The Russo Brothers, the masterminds behind Infinity War.
3. Thor: Ragnarok (2018)
Here, we get a taste of the famous Planet Hulk comics (we knew we’d never get a feature-length film) along with Hemsworth’s best performance as the God of Thunder. This movie analyzed everything wrong with the previous installments and took the time to remold the character, along with giving him a haircut, and proved to fans of the MCU that it’s possible to create something totally unexpected and hilarious from one of the more serious Avengers.
Bonus points for having cast Jeff Goldblum.
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Bryan Singer basically redeemed himself in the X-Men universe with Days of Future Past. While many people referred to this installment as the Terminator rip-off, it still has many redeeming qualities that hold up in comic book movie lore.
Bringing together the original cast of mutants from the first trilogy to tie in how the new, younger versions of themselves make sense in this new iteration was not only enjoyable from a fan perspective, but it grounded the film in a way much needed when time travel is the key mode of transportation.
5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Sam Raimi really captured the heart of Peter Parker in this Spider-Man sequel, as well as creating equally enticing villains. Many critics – and fans – say the biggest problem with comic book movies are the villains. The good guys win so we know the stakes are never that high or the risk too great for our heroes. This is not the case for Spider-Man 2.
Sure, there’s a love story, but this is a movie that explores the state of mind each character, good or bad, is going through and how those feelings justify their actions. It’s a film that has serious consequences and the genre is all the better for it having taken those risks.
6. X2 (2003)
This well-received sequel gave fans a more in-depth look at some of the most beloved comic book characters along with delivering a deep message about being different is often perceived as being dangerous. The struggle of understanding and acceptance is a thread that has always run deep within the X-Men universe, but it truly flourishes in this adaptation.
Staying true to the source material is never an easy feat, but the characters and story we get from X2 are a wonderful companion to the comic books fans immediately embraced. Standalone Wolverine flicks aside, this is by far the best film out of the bunch.
7. Superman II (1980)
Christopher Reeve will forever be my Superman. The charm and charisma he exhumes is contagious, as is his spot on portrayal of the iconic hero. This film is older than most of you reading this, yet it still holds it’s status as one of the most influential and well done comic book films of all time.
Personally, I’m not about to kneel before Zod, so I’m glad we had Superman to save the day.
8. Logan (2017)
Logan was so good people actually petitioned it for Oscar nominations. If the beloved character was going to go out, I can’t imagine a more dark yet poetic way this film captured the beast, the man, and the heart of Logan in his final journey.
There’s been talk about Wolverine returning once the MCU/FOX merger is complete, but this film provided a fitting end for a tragic hero. The introduction of his mutant daughter Laura made this all the more heartbreaking, learning he isn’t alone after all. If you didn’t cry at the end of this movie, you’re the real monster!
9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
This film is fun, action-packed, and delivers a lot of heart, not to mention an epic soundtrack. Sometimes it gets really hard to have all these elements in a comic book movie but when you step away from the violence and drama (looking at you DC) there’s a much lighter side that can convey the same message in a much stronger voice.
James Gunn took a risk making GotG but damn, did it pay off big time i.e. Infinity War. The Guardians films are two of my favorites in the MCU because they have their own unique identity. Somehow, no matter how bizarre a talking tree and raccoon are, I’d rather see what this group of heroes are up to than many of our Earth-bound pals.
10. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Guillermo del Toro knows what he’s doing when it comes to filmmaking, let’s all agree on that. Ron Perlman is perfectly cast, there’s no doubt about that. The artistic choices del Toro made felt as if pages of the comic book were being pulled off the paper and on to the big screen. Visuals aside, this film works because not only is it much better than the first installment, but it grows the relationships between characters with real life or death stakes.
With a new reboot of Hellboy set to release next year, I’m not ready to say goodbye to these two films quite yet.
The Wolverine (2013)
The Wolverine is one of the best comic book adaptation films to date. The third act leaves a lot to be desired and left us with a lot of questions, however, it deserves a spot on the list. We get Jean Grey’s “Ghost” which is a nice way to infuse that comic element into a film.
There are a lot of great comic gems in this film, but there’s no real explanation as to why drilling into Logan’s claws would extract his healing power and if so, why is this never used again when the world is on the brink of destruction? Oh well, Logan was great!
Batman Returns (1992)
Danny DeVito leads an army of penguins against Batman. That’s it – I’m in.
It’s Always Sunny in Gotham.