7 Forgotten Comic Book Movies You Should Put on Your Watchlist

Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson starred in Ghost World (2001), based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes.
Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson starred in Ghost World (2001), based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes. / Tracy Bennett/United Artists

It might seem like we're in the middle of a comic book movie onslaught, but the truth is that these adaptations have been popping up in theaters for decades, even if some aren't necessarily household names. If you've run out of MCU movies and Batman reboots to binge, we've got seven forgotten comic book flicks for you to try next.

1. The Death of Stalin (2018)

Based on the French comic La Mort de Staline, by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, The Death of Stalin focuses on—you guessed it—the death of the Soviet leader and the bumbling power struggle that emerges in its wake. The movie boasts a star-studded cast of comedic talent including Michael Palin and Steve Buscemi and was brought to the screen by Veep creator Armando Iannucci.

2. Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer, the post-apocalyptic story based on the 1982 French comic Le Transperceneige, imagines a world where society's last remaining humans live on a train that is constantly traveling across the globe. Though the theme of climate change is at the forefront, the story also delves into class struggles, as the train itself is broken up into the haves and the have-nots. (The main have-not is played by Chris Evans, who trades in his Captain America shield for a much more diplomatic ax in this tale.)

3. Oldboy (2003)

Known primarily for its savage fight scenes and over-the-top violence, Oldboy is certainly not for the faint of heart. The movie mainly takes its cues from the Japanese manga of the same name and focuses on a man seeking revenge on the mysterious group of captors who imprisoned him for 15 years. Beyond simply adapting a comic, though, director Park Chan-wook offered up some truly groundbreaking sequences throughout the movie, highlighted by the stunning single-shot hallway fight that has since been ripped off countless times.

4. Ghost World (2001)

Ghost World comes from the mind of underground comic legend Daniel Clowes, who originally serialized the story in the pages of his book, Eightball. Like the source material, the movie adaptation by director Terry Zwigoff centers on two friends (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) in a ho-hum American suburb who have to figure out what to do with their lives after graduating high school. It's a dark, cynical comedy that manages to capture the spirit of Clowes's comic work—and it resonated with critics, too, netting a 93-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you want to explore the world of underground comics even further, Zwigoff also directed the critically acclaimed documentary Crumb (1995), about the life of the late underground cartoonist Robert Crumb.

5. Tank Girl (1995)

Tank Girl got its start as part of the British comic book magazine Deadline in 1988 and broke new ground with its manic combination of humor, ultra-violence, sex, and social commentary. The movie adaptation is set on a version of Earth that was devastated by a comet in 2022 and stars the titular heroine (played by Lori Petty) who, obviously, lives in a tank and embodies mayhem. The whole thing feels like equal parts Mad Max and Waterworld and has a memorable soundtrack featuring music by Bjork, Devo, Hole, and Ice-T. It didn't wow critics or rake in millions when it was originally released in 1995, but it's since gained a cult following for its feminist themes and brash style.

6. Howard the Duck (1986)

We'll get this out of the way: Howard the Duck is not a great movie. Nor is it a particularly good movie. It is, however, an interesting piece of pop culture history. Not only was it the first time a Marvel character ever starred in their own film (outside of some early Captain America serials from the '40s), but the project was spearheaded, in part, by George Lucas, who thought the wisecracking duck would give birth to another franchise like Star Wars or Indiana Jones before it. Of course, the whole thing wound up being something of a debacle, underperforming at the box office and earning itself a Razzie for worst picture. Still, you can't tell the story of the Marvel movies without touching on Howard's ill-fated debut.

7. Swamp Thing (1982)

On the surface, Swamp Thing should have been a hit. The character's comic over at DC was growing a dedicated fanbase, and the movie had director Wes Craven behind the camera just as he was emerging as a viable force in the horror genre. Unfortunately, audiences didn't flock to the theaters when it was originally released, and Craven has gone on record saying that the movie was such a bomb that he didn't get work for two years afterward (though his next project was Nightmare on Elm Street, so he did just fine). Still, Swamp Thing's schlocky charm found success on home video, eventually earning it a sequel and a syndicated television series.