Special Report

20 Graphic Novels That Were Made in to Really Good Movies

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In a world of ever-shifting media trends, graphic novels have found a sweet spot. Showcasing both prose and visual imagery, their capacity for creative storytelling is unsurpassed. It isn’t surprising that so many of them have been adapted successfully into films: In many ways, they’re already like movies, telling their stories frame-by-frame.

To identify the 20 best movies based on graphic novels, 24/7 Tempo searched films designated as being adapted from graphic novels on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, then ranked them according to an index using average IMDb ratings and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator. Information on directors, cast, and plot came from IMDb.

 The line between graphic novels and comic books is blurry. Many graphic novels began life as serial comics, published by DC Comics or other periodical publishers, and were then collected into books. Many other ones, though, were conceived and executed like conventional prose novels, telling a complete story. (Graphic novels aside, here are 35 books becoming movies in 2022.)

Click here to see 20 graphic novels that were made into really good movies

Like any other novels, graphic novels – whether born out of comics or not – cover a whole world of subject matter. Some are superhero sagas. Others are science fiction stories or gritty crime thrillers. Some are satirical or sweetly funny. They cover a whole world, and inspire a universe of cinematic triumphs. (If superheroes are your thing, here’s a ranking of every Marvel movie from worst to best.)

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

20. The Losers by Andy Diggle and Jock
> Movie: The Losers (2010)
> Director: Sylvain White
> Starring: Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 54
> IMDb average rating: 6.3

This high-energy blockbuster with an ensemble cast involves a Special Forces black-ops team, a Bolivian drug lord, and a mysterious woman bent on revenge. The Rotten Tomatoes consensus describes it as “loud, fast, and unrelentingly violent.”

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

19. John Constantine, Hellblazer by Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis
> Movie: Constantine (2005)
> Director: Francis Lawrence
> Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, Shia LaBeouf
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 72
> IMDb average rating: 7

Keanu Reeves stars as underworld detective and “demonologist” John Constantine in this take on the popular DC Comics “Hellblazer” series. The film revolves around an investigation into a mysterious suiсide, pitting Constantine against supernatural forces.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

18. From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
> Movie: From Hell (2001)
> Directors: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
> Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 66
> IMDb average rating: 6.8

Brothers Allen and Albert Hughes co-directed this loose adaptation of the serial graphic novel of the same name. Johnny Depp stars as Inspector Frederick Abberline, investigating the infamous Jack the Ripper murders in Victorian London. The film’s box office gross more than doubled its $35 million budget, earning $74.6 million.

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

17. Ciudad by Ande Parks
> Movie: Extraction (2020)
> Director: Sam Hargrave
> Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Bryon Lerum, Ryder Lerum, Rudhraksh Jaiswal
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 69
> IMDb average rating: 6.7

“Extraction” marks the directorial debut of Sam Hargrave, best-known as a stuntman and stunt man for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hemsworth plays a mercenary charged with rescuing a drug kingpin’s kidnapped son. Almost 100 million households watched it in its first four weeks on Netflix – a record for the streaming service.

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Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

16. The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart
> Movie: Atomic Blonde (2017)
> Director: David Leitch
> Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 64
> IMDb average rating: 6.7

This action-filled Cold War spy thriller features Charlize Theron in the title role. The film was in development for five years before its release, during which time Theron trained extensively for the numerous fight scenes – including sessions with Keanu Reeves.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

15. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
> Movie: Watchmen (2009)
> Director: Zack Snyder
> Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Malin Akerman
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 71
> IMDb average rating: 7.6

Originally published as a series of monthly DC Comics in 1986 and ’87, “Watchmen” is an alternate history with satirical elements involving mid-20th-century superheroes who change the course of momentous events. Although there are some key differences from the source material, the adaptation is considered a triumph for director Zack Snyder.

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Source: Courtesy of Summit Distribution

14. Red by Warren Ellis
> Movie: RED (2010)
> Director: Robert Schwentke
> Starring: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 72
> IMDb average rating: 7

Packed with a star-studded cast including “RED” is about four retired CIA agents coming together to uncover a conspiracy that threatens their lives. It made a whopping $199 million at the box office, more than tripling its production cost.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

13. 300 by Frank Miller
> Movie: 300 (2006)
> Director: Zack Snyder
> Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89
> IMDb average rating: 7.6

Another blockbuster comic adaptation by Zack Snyder, “300” tells the tale of 300 Spartans fighting the Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Gerald Butler screamed the now-iconic line “This is Sparta!” because he didn’t think it was working when he simply spoke it. His delivery surprised everyone, and the rest of the cast almost broke out laughing – but Snyder wisely retained it.

Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate

12. Kick-Аss by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
> Movie: Kick-Аss (2010)
> Director: Matthew Vaughn
> Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloë Grace Moretz, Garrett M. Brown
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 81
> IMDb average rating: 7.6

Based on a series originally published by Marvel Comics, “Kick-Аss” features nerdy teenage comics fan who decides to become a superhero, and ends up defeating a crime boss with the help of a lethal youngster named Hit-Girl and her ex-cop father.

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Source: Courtesy of Dimension Films

11. Sin City by Frank Miller
> Movie: Sin City (2005)
> Directors: Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez
> Starring: Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 78
> IMDb average rating: 8

Based on three entries in Frank Miller’s crime anthology series of the same name and co-directed by Miller himself, this six-episode film features an all-star cast as characters surviving the corruption and violence of Basin City. Although filmed in color, the movie was later converted to black-and-white to pay homage to both the graphic novel and classic film noir style.

Source: Courtesy of New Line Cinema

10. A History of Violence by John Wagner and Vince Locke
> Movie: A History of Violence (2005)
> Director: David Cronenberg
> Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 76
> IMDb average rating: 7.4

William Hurt was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in this action-filled drama based on the well-regarded 1997 graphic novel about the costs of hiding one’s past and protecting one’s family. The film was also nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

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Source: Courtesy of RADiUS-TWC

9. Le transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette
> Movie: Snowpiercer (2013)
> Director: Bong Joon Ho
> Starring: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 72
> IMDb average rating: 7.1

Based on a post-apocalyptic French graphic novel series, Oscar-winning director Bong Joon Ho’s thriller follows a train carrying the last people on earth around the a frozen globe following failed efforts to combat climate change. A TV series on TNT, debuting in 2020, was based on both the film and the original source material.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

8. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
> Movie: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
> Director: Edgar Wright
> Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84
> IMDb average rating: 7.5

This cult classic tells the story of a young rock musician in Toronto who falls in love with an Amazon delivery girl, then learns that he must defeat a succession of her evil ex-boyfriends. Although it wasn’t a box office success, it was well-reviewed and won numerous film critics’ awards.

Source: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

7. Never Goodnight by Coco Moodysson
> Movie: We Are the Best! (2013)
> Director: Lukas Moodysson
> Starring: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne, Johan Liljemark
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 77
> IMDb average rating: 7.1

Swedish graphic novelist Coco Moodysson originally spun this tale of three Stockholm teenagers in the 1980s who decide to start a punk band to rival a band of teenage boys. Moodysson’s husband, Lukas Moodysson, adapted it into this “sweet, empathetic” movie (according to Rotten Tomatoes).

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Source: Courtesy of DreamWorks Distribution

6. Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner
> Movie: Road to Perdition (2002)
> Director: Sam Mendes
> Starring: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86
> IMDb average rating: 7.7

Blue-chip director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “1917”, “Skyfall”, “Spectre”) directed this adaptation of a powerful graphic novel about a betrayed gangster during the Great Depression and his quest for revenge. Screen legend Paul Newman was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role, which proved to be his last big-screen appearance.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

5. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
> Movie: V for Vendetta (2005)
> Director: James McTeigue
> Starring: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Rupert Graves, Stephen Rea
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90
> IMDb average rating: 8.1

Originally appearing in a UK anthology, “V for Vendetta” was adapted into a ten-issue series for DC Comics. The story is set in Britain after a nuclear holocaust destroys much of the world, in which a revolutionary in a Guy Fawkes mask battles a neo-fascist government. The film version received generally favorable reviews, though some critics blasted it. Author Alan Moore asked that his name be removed from the film because he thought it had gaping plot holes and conveyed a message that was contrary to what he intended – but audiences loved it.

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Source: Courtesy of IFC Films

4. La Mort de Staline by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin
> Movie: The Death of Stalin (2017)
> Director: Armando Iannucci
> Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 78
> IMDb average rating: 7.3

Based on a satirical French graphic novel, “The Death of Stalin” revolves around a power struggle by Joseph Stalin’s subordinates following his death. Real characters and events are depicted, though historians have pointed out inaccuracies in the story. The actors, mostly British and American, were encouraged not to use Russian accents in their roles, a decision Russian journalists praised.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

3. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
> Movie: Ghost World (2001)
> Director: Terry Zwigoff
> Starring: Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84
> IMDb average rating: 7.3

A dark though frequently funny novel about two teenage girls in a small town in the 1990s, “Ghost World” sas turned into a witty, well-received coming-of-age film starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson as the teens. “I want to hug this movie,” wrote critic Roger Ebert.

Source: Courtesy of Wild Bunch

2. Le bleu est une couleur chaude by Jul Maroh
> Movie: Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
> Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
> Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche, Aurélien Recoing
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85
> IMDb average rating: 7.7

Based on a French graphic novel by nonbinary transgender writer and artist Jul (formerly Julie) Maroh, this film follows a gay teenager as she grows into an adult and confronts the difficulties of reconciling relationships and a career. When it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, a major French film union criticized the working conditions under which it had been made, and both lead actresses complained that they’d never work with director Abdellatif Kechiche again.

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

1. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
> Movie: Persepolis (2007)
> Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
> Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Gena Rowlands, Danielle Darrieux
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92
> IMDb average rating: 8

Based on two graphic novels about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and its aftermath, and named ironically after the capital of the ancient Persian empire, this animated feature shared the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar. The Iranian government sent a protest letter to the French Embassy in Tehran about the movie.

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