A lot of us are currently stuck at home, either due to enforced quarantine, or just chosen self-isolation. So I thought I should push out something I’ve been working on for a bit, to give you something to do.
Somewhat recently Collider.com released an article called “100 Essential Movies Any Serious Film Fan Should See,” as a guide if you want to be considered knowledgeable in the realm of film critique. Collider is a film site first, and a fandom site second. At The Nerdd, I consider us to be a fandom site first, and a film site second. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to list out the top films I believe any Nerdd should see, if they want to be able to keep up in a more advanced nerdy conversation. I split the list into three sections, the first being comic book movies, then science fiction movies, and then the last list has fantasy, horror, and more.
Comics are core to modern Nerddisms. It’s because of the success of films such as The Avengers and The Dark Knight that “nerd culture” has become so mainstream the past decade. These films are listed in alphabetical order, as I believe they are all important to watch.
The Avengers (2012)
This 2012 film, as I mentioned above, is in large part the reason that nerd culture has become so popular, and why the highest grossing film of all time is the third sequel to this movie, Avengers: Endgame. Regardless of your enjoyment of the sometimes monotony of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you cannot deny this movie is important in the Nerdd landscape.
Batman is just as important to the rise of nerd culture as The Avengers, if not more, to the point where four movies on this list star the Caped Crusader. This movie, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, took Batman from his cartoony days of campy silliness, to the dark and brooding hero we know and love today.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
You don’t have to know every iteration of Batman to be a fan. You don’t have to know all of anything to be a fan of it. However, a wide majority of hardcore Batman fans at least have an understanding and appreciation for one specific set of casting. That is Kevin Conroy as Batman, and Mark Hamill as the Joker. Widely accepted as the “definitive” Batman and Joker, these two got together during the Batman: The Animated Series television show, and have worked together on various other projects, including The Arkham Series of video games. While this movie is essentially just a long episode, it’s a great introduction to the characters.
Batman: Under the Red Hood
Two animated Batmans? That’s right. If there is one thing DC is consistently better at than Marvel, it’s animated. Under the Red Hood is, in my opinion, a better animated movie than Phantasm, with a stellar, not-Hamill performance of the Joker by John DiMaggio, the best voice actor alive. If you want to see how good animated DC can be, look no further than this movie.
The Dark Knight
Of course I’m going to include The Dark Knight on this list. Once again, this movie is responsible for the rise of nerd culture in the mainstream just as much as The Avengers, as it brought a gritty realism to comics, that has not been successfully matched since. No longer was Batman “Cool, if you like that sort of thing,” but an 8-time Oscar nominated title.
While not the first R-Rated superhero movie, this was by far the most successful (until the recent Joker). With Ryan Reynolds as the Merc with a Mouth, this movie is full of raunchy, fourth-wall breaking comedy, that cannot be overlooked when discussing iconic comic book movies.
Contrary to popular belief, there are more comic companies than Marvel or DC. Not many of them, however, have reached the level of recognition as Hellboy, in part due to it’s director, Guillermo del Toro. Hellboy, created by Mike Mignola as part of Dark Horse Comics, shows a side of comic-stylization that, while still fits with Marvel and DC, is clearly not belonging to either.
If Deadpool is a part of a two-sided coin, then Logan is what you’d find on the other side. Having been released within a year of each other, both being from the Fox/X-Men universe, rated R, and promoted by Ryan Reynolds’ and Hugh Jackman’s bromance, these movies cannot be seperated. However, where in one you find raunchy comedy, this movie is a dark, western-inspired film about growing old and dying, and how you choose if you’re surrounded by family, or find yourself completely alone. A beautiful film, that deserves your attention.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
This is definitely the odd one out on this list, but Scott Pilgrim, like Hellboy, does not come from either Marvel nor DC, but is also not dark and gritty like Hellboy. In fact, this might be one of the most lighthearted and funny comic films, up there with Spider-Verse down the list.
Every kid loves Spider-Man, and there’s a reason. Spider-Man is about the kid inside all of us, and how we want to be great, but the changes we have to make to get there. We can talk all day long about who is the best Spider-Man or the best Peter Parker, but Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man 2 is the best live action Spider-Man movie, and, along with X-Men, gave Iron Man the space it needed to start the MCU the way it did.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I mentioned above that the thing DC consistently beats Marvel in, is animated storytelling. Spider-Verse is the exception to that rule. One of the greatest superhero movies of all time, and Peter Parker isn’t even the protagonist, but the mentor. Between it’s innovative animation style, the amazing storytelling, and just the story itself, this movie is has the highest rewatchability of them all.
For a movie that still (relatively) holds up, this is the grandfather. Sure, Batman had a movie in 1966, but that’s not the same character we know today. Superman, however, is the first comic book movie that has stood the test of time and is still considered a great superhero movie.
One of the darkest films on the list, along with Logan and Hellboy, Watchmen is a political satire of post-Watergate America, featuring superheroes with unchecked power, both in the “super” sense, as well as the socio-political sense. Zack Snyder, while being very divisive with his Justice League films, understands very well the dark side of superheroes, and this was the perfect film for him to explore those concepts.
Unfortunately, this is the only film on the list with a female hero gracing the cover, because we haven’t had many female superhero films at all. What makes this movie great is it’s unapologetic nature of being naturally feminine in nature, while also showing true strength and power, that transcends gender. This movie is a great example of what powerful women on screen should look like.
Finally, we have the movie that, hand-in-hand with the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, brought superheroes into the modern age, making room for movies like Iron Man and Batman Begins to redefine the genre.
About a year ago I went through and ranked my top 50 comic book movies. I agree with a lot of your list (especially Scott Pilgrim, which is one of my favorites), but I’d say that Road to Perdition is a more essential comic book movie. That movie’s brilliant.
Glad to hear it! It’s interesting, because these aren’t necessarily my top 15 favorite comic book movies, because the Winter Soldier would be #1.
I’ll have to check out Road to Perdition, I’ve never seen it, or heard it discussed as a comic movie. Once I watch it I might revisit this list.
Thanks for commenting!
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I get it. My personal favorite comic book movies are Scott Pilgrim, V for Vendetta, and Hellboy, but I don’t think they’re the most essential movies.
If, by essential, you mean the movies that best encapsulate what the genre can be, then I think movies like Road to Perdition, Sin City, and American Splendor should be included alongside The Dark Knight, Into the Spider-Verse, The Avengers, Superman, and Logan.
I’ll definitely have to go watch those movies.
I’ve heard of Sin City, but not the others.
It’s interesting when you realize a movie that isn’t very “Comic Book-y” was based on a graphic novel.
It reminds you that comics are more than fights in tights.
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