Had this list been written 10 years ago, it would have looked very, very different. The films mentioned would have been more off-beat and niche, many recognizable as comic book adaptations only to the deepest of geeks. (I still remember walking out of 2003’s Daredevil and having a friend say, “I didn’t know that was based on a Marvel comic.”) Now is a post-Avengers world, however, and the superhero movie is Hollywood’s dominate force.
Which is why, in putting together this list, it was a bit of a struggle to diversify outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Under the powerful mouse ears of Disney, Marvel simply exploded the industry. The benchmark for a successful blockbusters is now 10-digits long, the concept of a straight sequel has been replaced with the interconnected universe ideal, and audience expectations of quality are higher than ever. While the upside to this has been the truly remarkable MCU, the downside is a decrease in diverse stories and risk taking.
That’s not to say there haven’t been some great non-Marvel, non-DC productions made since 2010. From Swedish coming-of-age films to financially frustrated cult classics, there were plenty of smaller standouts birthed from the neighborhood comic shop. Only too often did studios attempt to ride Marvel’s wave, and too often they crashed numbingly short. So while marquee superheroes may dominate this list, pay attention to some of the less familiar names, reminders that being different can yield the same results as following tried-and-true formulas.
There are hundreds of worthy properties still out there sitting on shelves — even in the Marvel and DC section — all waiting to be given the respectful, careful adaptations they warrant. These 25 films from the last decade set the standard they’ll have to meet. —Ben Kaye, News Editor