The 25 comic book movies that you (probably) forgot

Barb Wire
Following its well-received The Mask and Timecop titles, in 1996 Dark Horse Entertainment dug out another little-known comic book for cinematic reimagining. Set during a Second American Civil War, Barb Wire finds Pamela Anderson playing the titular badass bar owner/bounty hunter who gets caught up in a story reminiscent of Casablanca – only with a star whose two main talents spend most of the film fighting to break free from the tight leather outfits she has been squeezed into. This doesn't mean Barb Wire isn't fun. It looks good, the action is well-handled and the likes of Udo Kier and Xander Berkeley go a long way towards making up for Anderson's rather limited performance.

Available on Blu-ray?
Yes. Turbine's 2018 German Blu-ray is the best of the bunch, offering the uncut film and a reel of 'Sexy Outtakes'…


Captain America [1990]
Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger isn't the character's only cinematic origin story – Matt Salinger flung his shield at a rubber-faced Red Skull in this low-budget version nearly 30 years ago. Originally set up at Cannon Films with Michael Winner(!) attached to direct, by the time it went before cameras Cannon had gone belly up and Cyborg helmer Albert Pyun was behind the camera.

Available on Blu-ray?
Shout Factory! released a Region A-locked US Blu-ray in 2013 that includes newly recorded interviews with Pyun and Salinger.


Ben Affleck is better known as Batman these days, but turn back the clock to 2003 and he was leaping from building to building as a different costumed crime-fighter. Taking its cues from writer Frank Miller's acclaimed early '80s run on the Marvel comic, director Mark Steven Johnson's enjoyable – if overstuffed – actioner has Affleck's blind superhero getting involved with the mysterious Elektra (Jennifer Garner), while also dealing with crime lord The Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and the deadly Bullseye (Colin Farrell).

Available on Blu-ray?
Fox released the superior Director's Cut on a loaded Blu-ray back in 2008. The subsequent Elektra spin-off is also available on BD.


Dr. Strange [1978]
Spurred on by the success of its The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man TV shows, CBS went shopping for another Marvel hero who could star in his own series. Presumably due to the need for one with powers that could be realised on a TV budget, it settled on Doctor Strange and conjured up this pilot movie. Sadly, it proved a ratings disaster and no series followed. Today Dr. Strange is best enjoyed for its camp value, weird effects and the sight of a baffled John Mills playing Strange's magical mentor.

Available on Blu-ray?
Nope – although Universal Pictures put out a barebones UK DVD in 2017.


Batman: Mask of the Phantasm/Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero
For many Batman fans, the '90s animated series is the definitive screen version of the Dark Knight, and these two spin-off movies are as good as you would expect.

Available on Blu-ray?
After separate BD releases in the US, both films were included in last year's Batman: The Complete Animated Series Blu-ray boxset.


From Hell
A killer is on the loose in Victorian East London, and it's up to Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp in cockney mode) to catch him in this accomplished 2001 Jack the Ripper yarn based on Alan Moore's graphic novel of the same name, itself a cultivation of Ripper theories dating back decades. To that extent it's a story many will have seen before (remember the Michael Caine 1988 TV series?) but never imbued with such cinematic verve. American directors Albert and Allen Hughes seem right at home in their Whitechapel recreation, layering on evocative locations shot with a painterly eye. We wonder what a 4K HDR version would look like.

Available on Blu-ray?
Released in 2007 by Fox, and again last year in a Zavvi-exclusive Steelbook with natty cover art.


Green Lantern
A first entry for Ryan Reynolds, this time headlining Warner Bros.' 2011 box office calamity that led to the studio rethinking its approach to DC comics titles and kickstarted the DC Extended Universe. Reynolds offers his usual charisma, but this jokey misfire wasn't the movie Green Lantern fans were hoping for. DC's ring-bearing superheroes are set to return in a new movie (sans Reynolds), and eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted one making a fleeting appearance in Warner Bros.' Justice League movie in 2017.

Available on Blu-ray?
The 3D Blu-ray bundles its stereoscopic version of the theatrical cut with a 2D platter containing the theatrical and 'Extended' cuts, plus heaps of extras.


Hellboy: Sword of Storms/Hellboy: Blood and Iron
Released in the gap between Guillermo del Toro's two Hellboy films, this enjoyable pair of DTV movies is enlivened by having Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones return to provide the voices for their characters.

Available on Blu-ray?
Not in the UK – but Lionsgate recently released them on 4K BD in the US.


Ever since Marvel's not-so-jolly green giant was absorbed into the MCU, its become easy to forget this 2003 blockbuster from acclaimed director Ang Lee (fresh off the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the time). The incredibly idiosyncratic Hulk is like no other major Hollywood blockbuster around. Where else will you find a superhero film that shows its muscle-bound protagonist battling with Gamma-irradiated monster dogs and dealing with major daddy issues, all held together by an audacious visual style based on comic book panel layouts? Equal parts fascinating and frustrating, Ang Lee's Hulk is a one-of-a-kind superhero flick.

Available on Blu-ray?
Yes – and a 4K disc has just been released in the US.


Jonah Hex
DC's Wild West anti-hero was never likely to deliver a family-friendly smash hit, but surely stars Josh Brolin, Megan Fox and John Malkovich, and studio Warner Bros, hoped it might lead to a money-spinning movie that made sense. Unfortunately, they got neither – Jonah Hex sank at the US box office and was dumped on disc everywhere else, with audiences turned off by its short running time (81 minutes) and slap-dash plotting.

Available on Blu-ray?
Yes, but we'd still not recommend buying it…


Justice League of America
If you thought 2017's Justice League was as bad as things could get for DC's premier superhero team then you've clearly never seen this dismal 1997 TV movie developed by CBS as a backdoor pilot for a series that never happened. Cheap and tacky, with a terrible script and fancy dress shop costumes, it's easiest to pretend the whole thing never happened.

Available on Blu-ray?
Unsurprisingly, this TV movie has never had an official BD (or even DVD) release. It has, however, popped up on TV in various countries, including frequent reruns on Channel 5 here in the UK.


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of the most acclaimed comic books of the millennium. Similar praise did not greet this 2003 bigscreen version. This chaotic flick keeps the same basic setup of bringing together various Victorian-era literary characters – including Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo and Dr. Jekyll – to fight evil, but throws pretty much everything else out. The result is an especially dumb and unexpectedly bland actioner that is mainly notable for pretty much ending the careers of both director Steven Norrington and leading man Sean Connery.

Available on Blu-ray?
The UK BD originally put out by Fox in 2006 was reissued by Fabulous Films late last year.


Mystery Men
Slipping into cinemas between the supposed death of comic book movies (Batman and Robin, 1997) and their rebirth (X-Men, 2000) was this good-natured 1999 comedy with an ensemble cast (Ben Stiller, Geoffrey Rush, William H. Macy et al). Having made their debut in issue 16 of writer-artist Bob Burden's underground 1980s superhero satire Flaming Carrot Comics (in the story I Cloned Hitler's Feet!), the main premise of Mystery Men is that its heroes aren't so super, which naturally leads to a narrative that's packed with gags, but falls somewhat short on the cinematic spectacle genre fans have grown accustomed to.

Available on Blu-ray?
Universal Pictures has never bothered to unleash the Mystery Men in hi-def on these shores, but you can import a Blu-ray from the US, Germany or Australia.


Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D
A decade before Samuel L. Jackson donned the eye-patch and signed up to a nine-picture deal with Marvel, S.H.I.E.L.D boss Nick Fury was played by David Hasselhoff – back when Hasselhoff still had a career that wasn't solely based around self-referential cameos – in a Fox TV movie written by Blade/Batman Begins/Man of Steel screenwriter David S. Goyer. Low on budget and gravitas, but at least it's faithful to the source material – HYDRA and Baron von Strucker all feature.

Available on Blu-ray?
Not in the UK – and the DVD is an eye-watering £16.


The Phantom
Although adapted from a long-running newspaper comic strip that predates the creation of both Batman and Superman, it wasn't until 1996 that 'The Ghost Who Walks' hit cinemas in this high-budget but underperforming Summer flick directed by Simon Wincer (whose career was damaged to the extent that his next project was Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles in 2001). Now known as a box office flop, The Phantom still has plenty going for it – Wincer and writer Jeffrey Boam work had to evoke a 1930s comic/pulp aesthetic, Billy Zane is a good choice for the title character, and it zips along at pace.

Available on Blu-ray?
Another film that bypassed a UK hi-def release but saw the light of Blu in the US (via Lionsgate).


Prince Valiant [1997]
Reportedly described by The Duke of Windsor as the 'greatest contribution to English literature in the past hundred years', Hal Foster's epic Arthurian comic strip made a second journey to cinemas in 1997, with a pre-True Blood Stephen Moyer as the inexperienced squire venturing out to rescue a princess (Katherine Heigl) and recover Excalibur. Add to that Edward Fox as King Arthur and Joanna Lumley as Morgan Le Fay and you have an amiable slice of Sunday afternoon cinema.

Available on Blu-ray?
Nope. But there's a Danish DVD if you really have to own it.


The Punisher (2004)/ Punisher: War Zone
Whenever people bring up screen versions of Marvel Comics' gun-toting anti-hero The Punisher, it tends to be either the 1989 movie starring Dolph Lundgren or the more recent Netflix show. These two bigscreen adaptations from 2004 and 2008 – the first starring Thomas Jane, the second Ray Stevenson (pictured) – don't seem to get much of a look-in. Which is odd, as they're actually very entertaining, especially director Lexi Alexander's Punisher: War Zone, whose cartoonishly over-the-top violence and garish neon- soaked style make it feel like the 'mature readers' Punisher MAX comic series come to life.

Available on Blu-ray?
You can either pick up a Blu-ray double-pack here in the UK, or import them individually on 4K Blu-ray from the US.


The Rest in Peace Department comic got a cinematic makeover in 2013, backed up by A-listers Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as two ghostly detectives in the titular unit, tasked with capturing other deceased beings hanging around in disguise on Earth rather than moving on to the afterlife. Think Men in Black with spooks and you get the idea. Perhaps the premise felt too derivative, as despite Reynolds' star power and a budget in excess of $130m delivering plenty of popcorn spectacle, audiences largely stayed away. Or perhaps word of mouth spread quickly that R.I.P.D was – to put it kindly – a messy, uninvolving and nonsensical production that should been left dead and buried.

Available on Blu-ray?
Yes, including in 3D guise.


The Rocketeer
Inspired by classic movie serials like King of the Rocket Men, Dave Stevens' lushly drawn 1930s-set comic book The Rocketeer delivers a winning mix of intrigue and adventure, with a side order of cheesecake pinups, as down-on-his-luck pilot Cliff Secord chances upon a prototype rocket pack and reinvents himself as a jet-powered superhero. Produced by Walt Disney Studios, The Rocketeer flew into cinemas in 1991. Directed by former special effects whizz Joe Johnson (who would go on to helm Captain America: The First Avenger), this infectiously entertaining and visually impressive period adventure features Bill Campbell as Cliff, Jennifer Connelly as his girlfriend Jenny and Timothy Dalton as the Errol Flynn-like actor who is really a dastardly Nazi spy…

Available on Blu-ray?
Presumably due to the film's poor box office, Disney dumped The Rocketeer on Blu-ray with no extras, just as it had done with the DVD earlier. Even the LaserDisc only has a trailer. It deserves so much better.


The Shadow
Originating as the narrator of a popular radio show in the early 1930s, The Shadow quickly made the leap into other media including pulp magazines, his own radio drama (starring a young Orson Welles) and, of course, comic books. Having had a huge influence on the development of Batman, it seems only right the success of the Dark Knight's 1989 movie helped The Shadow get a shot at bigscreen fame. The stylish and fun film that followed (directed by Russell Mulcahy and starring Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller and Tim Curry) failed to find an appreciative audience at cinemas – although it has since garnered a cult following on home video formats.

Available on Blu-ray?
Medium Rare's UK Blu-ray and Shout Factory!'s US platter are identical. Koch Media's German BD adds some exclusive extras.


Based on the top-selling comic of the '90s (whaddya mean you've never heard of it?) Spawn stars Michael Jai White as a special forces agent who is betrayed by his boss (Martin Sheen), set on fire, blown up, goes to Hell, meets a devil, and is returned to earth as a soldier for the forces of darkness – only to choose to use his demonic powers for good instead. Elsewhere, John Leguizamo dons a fat suit to play a farting demon clown, and there is so much terrible late-'90s CGI that you'll want to tear your eyes out…

Available on Blu-ray?
The 'Director's Cut' is available on a stacked HD platter.


Speed Racer
The Wachowski siblings' directorial follow-up to their Matrix Trilogy was hotly anticipated, and arrived in 2008 in the form of this live-action version of a 1960s Japanese manga. Well, we say 'live-action' – Speed Racer is frequently a CG showcase, a film that has no qualms about showering you in digital trickery as its directors aim for a deliberately colour-rich, futuristic and cartoonish world. A case of style over substance? Possibly – it's certainly something of an acquired taste, and less immediately accessible than The Matrix, despite targeting a more junior demographic.

Available on Blu-ray?
Warner Bros. gave Speed Racer a 2008 hi-def outing, which you should still be able to track down. More recently, the original Japanese 'toon appeared on a US boxset.


The Spirit
Comic book writer-turned-film director Frank Miller was a hot property after the 2005 adaptation of his Sin City graphic novel (and 300 in 2006), and for this take on a 1940s comic strip he put together a glitzy cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson. The expectation was of a movie to rival Sin City, but while The Spirit certainly shares a similar visual feel (courtesy of copious green screen backgrounds), it pales in comparison to that earlier flick, lacking the wit, drive and sense of menace bought by director Robert Rodriguez. Jackson is fun as the mad scientist villain, though.

Available on Blu-ray?
Given a 2009 hi-def debut by Lionsgate, with extras including a Miller commentary track.


Not the recent TV series, but a 1984 movie that acted as a spin-off from Christopher Reeve's Superman franchise – before the idea of spin-offs had really taken hold. Helen Slater (who's since gone on to appear in Smallville and the Supergirl TV show) takes on cape-wearing duties as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, alongside a cast including Faye Dunaway as the malevolent witch baddie Selena, and Marc McClure reprising his role of Daily Planet snapper Jimmy Olsen. The story is a curious mix of occult curses and more typical super-powered acts of derring-do, with VFX work ranging from impressive to almost laughably bad.

Available on Blu-ray?
You can import from the US in a double-disc pack that includes the International Cut in HD and Director's Cut in SD – but not the shorter US theatrical version.


With its spot-on characterisation and superb action, this 2007 CGI animation remains the very best bigscreen take on Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's kung-fu fighting, pizza-loving anthropomorphised turtles. Cowabunga!

Available on Blu-ray?
The HD platter Warner Bros. released the same year has a lively Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix and decent extras.