Comic books have long had a connection with films. Today, DC and Marvel storylines and characters lead global cinema in both revenue and popularity. This comes as no surprise though, since comics have all the makings of a good movie – vivid and imaginative art, complex stories, lovable heroes, and well-rounded villains.
Before Marvel and DC began leading the pack in the film industry, there were dozens of lesser-known comics that were adapted to the big screen. Most of them had horror elements of some kind, and a large majority of audiences had no idea that the stories even came from comics. Many of the comic book movies being made today still fall into the horror genre in some way, whether it’s through a sadistic villain, gruesome deaths, or a parasitic alien with rows and rows of sharp teeth.
Wesley Snipes charmed the world in Blade as the cynically cool vampire hunter with a chip on his shoulder. Based on the Marvel superhero of the same name, the movie follows the half-immortal hunter who is out to avenge his mother death and rid the world of vampires. The advanced monsters that he goes after are looking for his special type of blood though.
Blade remains one of the best pre-MCU superhero movies. Snipes was one of the best action stars at the time, and he was also a trained martial artist, ensuring that all of the action scenes were well done, and the fighting always looked awesome. The blood-rave scene alone makes it one of the greatest horror comic book movies – complete with a New Order techno remix and a bunch of vampires bathing in blood.
’30 Days of Night ‘(2007)
30 Days of Night is an essential vampire comic book movie. In a small town in Alaska, the citizens experience a month of complete darkness every year. Most people leave for sunnier areas, but the townspeople who stay get the shock of a lifetime when hungry vampires descend upon the town for a treat.
The film follows a dwindling group that must try to outlive the vampires until dawn hits on the last day of the month-long darkness. The movie excels at bringing Steve Niles’ gruesome comic book vision to life. It has a terrifying cast of vampires made with practical effects and the horror makeup of your nightmares.
Keanu Reeves is the master of hunting down baddies and evil villains. He shined exceptionally as Constantine though, the protagonist based off of DC’s fictional superhero, John Constantine. Constantine is a suicide survivor and a demon exorcist and has literally gone to Hell and back. And if he does not prove to God that he can be good, he’ll have a one-way ticket straight back to Hell when he dies.
The movie has all of the elements of a great horror film – a spine-chilling war between angels and demons, brutal battles with horrific creatures, and plenty of near-death experiences. Constantine being an anti-hero makes the film all the more satisfying among a genre of straight-laced heroes. His cynicism and wavering desire to help make him all the more relatable.
Hellboy came out before a time of endless superhero and comic book movies. The decision to use the character of Hellboy was a bold one, as he was the gigantic child of a demon, with blood-red skin, horns, and a stone hand called “The Right Hand of Doom.” Guillermo del Toro put the difficulties of bringing such a character to life aside and cast Ron Perlman in a career-defining role for him.
While the movie is not generally defined as horror, it certainly pushes its way through to the genre. The film is based on the Hellboy comic character, who is a well-meaning half-demon, summoned as a baby from Hell to Earth by Nazi occultists. The movie is dark in tone and settings, and Hellboy later joins a group of paranormal misfits to protect America from dark forces.
‘The Crow’ (1994)
The Crow remains an important part of cinematic history for tragic reasons. Activities on set came to a disastrous halt when Brandon Lee, the actor portraying Eric Draven, was fatally wounded by a prop gun. Despite the devastating mishap, the film has become a cult classic, especially among horror fans.
The movie is based on James O’Barr‘s supernatural superhero comic book series of the same name. It follows musician, Eric Draven, who rises from the dead after he and his fiancée are murdered on their wedding night. He assumes the gothic persona of the Crow, a mystical avenger who tracks down murderous gang members to complete his macabre mission.
When most people think of the 1997 Spawn movie, they think of outdated CGI, a script full of leftover dialogue, and a wacky experiment with the character of Spawn. As one of the earliest forays into big-screen comic book adaptations though, Spawn is exactly the dark and gross movie that it could be in the 90s.
The special effects and extensive makeup work are what turned Spawn from kooky to horror. Most of the actors look utterly unrecognizable. The Walking Dead’s makeup artist, Greg Nicoterowas on set to turn Spawn and his villains into the nightmarish comic book characters of your dreams.
‘The Batman’ (2022)
Matt Reeves’ new spin on the caped crusader in, The Batmancrushed global records and became a breath of fresh air to Batman fans everywhere. Robert Pattinson stepped into the shoes of Bruce Wayne in a gothic, dark, and heavy portrayal that had yet to be seen on screen. There was no origin story or billionaire problems to clutter up his tragic life – just cold-hearted villainy and an insanely good detective mystery.
What made this version of Batman walk the line between murder mystery and horror was the infamous puzzle and chaos lover – The Riddler. Unlike in previous portrayals of the character, Reeves turned him into a dark and deranged psychopathic murderer – a stark contrast to the goofy and charming character played by Jim Carrey in the 90s.
Sony Pictures threw Marvel audiences a curveball when they released their own version of Spider-Man‘s nemesis, Venomin 2018. With its sequel, came Venom’s official entrance into the MCU with a post-credits scene portraying the Multiverse.
Venom has always been a bit of a terrifying character – he eats whoever he wants without remorse, takes over human hosts without asking, has rows of razor-sharp teeth, and looks like the slimy alien of every little kid’s nightmares. The movie delves into horror with its Venom’s jumpscare-ish temper and Eddie Brock’s descent into madness.
‘Sin City’ (2005)
Frank Miller’s Sin City is every bit the classic neo-noir thriller. It dazzles with unique black and white color processing, an all-star cast in costumes that rival those of the 1940s neo-noir movies, and an eccentric take on big-screen storytelling through an anthology. While it is not necessarily horror, the movie dabbles in murders, kidnappings, and a horribly disfigured serial killer.
In the first of the quartet of tales, a salesman narrates a story of co-dependency, shooting his lover after he promises to save her. Next, a grizzled cop foils the plans of a child-killer, and a maimed vigilante tears his way through the criminal underworld to find his murdered lover. The last story follows an ex-prostitute as she runs from her abusive pimp with her new boyfriend.
Akira is one of the most well-known anime films outside of Studio Ghibli. It became a pivotal film in the cyberpunk genre and adult animation, due to its dark themes, incredibly vivid art style, and a story that resonates with the world still to this day.
The movie takes place in an alternate 2019 after the Japanese government dropped an atomic bomb on Tokyo. It follows Kaneda, a bike gang leader, as he tries to save his best friend from a new government experiment. The movie is relatable to many people because of the issues it deals with: greedy politicians, anti-government activists, and irresponsible military leaders, all problems that are still relevant to this day.
NEXT: Best Comic Book Movies That Aren’t About Superheroes