The Best Comic-Con Movies You Probably Haven't Seen

A great American city lays in waste. The odor of sweat, tears and Cheetoes still lingers, as do the crushed hopes of those who hit snooze one too many times instead of getting their butt on line. It will take one full year to recover.

That's right friends – Comic-Con International, as no one calls it anymore, has just ended and your friends from SlashFilm were in San Diego in full force. We're there every year, watching successes launch (yay Avengers) and witnessing disasters stumble (not-so-yay Terminator Salvation.)

Then there are other movies. Movies that coulda been a contender but, for whatever reason, just didn't connect. Here are films that had a presence in San Diego that, we feel, should have been bigger hits. This week will be a little less obscure than usual, but we think it'll still be fun.

Ghosts of Mars(2001); John Carpenter, director.

John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars lost a lot of money. It basically kicked John Carpenter out of the director's chair, taking him a decade to make another picture that barely got a theatrical release. It isn't a great movie, but it isn't bad. In fact, I'd hazard to guess that you've watched it on cable more than once and actually really enjoyed it. Or parts of it anyway. Maybe it's time we all rethink the movie that (basically) introduced us to Jason Statham.

I wasn't at SDCC in 2001, but apparently Carpenter's panel was a little awkward because everyone in the audience was itching to get a first glimpse of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and got a little antsy listening to Carpenter, albeit a legend, comparing his newest film to Zulu.

Solaris (2002); Steven Soderbergh, director.

While 2011 was the first time Soderbergh came to SDCC (hawking Haywire, which could just as well be on this list) he was represented at the Con years earlier by none other than James Cameron.

Solaris sank a lot of dough down a black hole, but I don't think anyone on the team had any misgivings about the film they were making. (And 20th Century Fox is not in the business of saying "no" to James Cameron.) As a result, we have that rarest of things – a thoughtful, inspired and intelligent science fiction film with state of the art effects. It's a gorgeous looking (and sounding) film that, once you get on its wavelength, is mesmerizing. There are times when I think I prefer this (vastly shorter) version to the Andrei Tarkovsky original.

If you didn't go and see it in the theater you owe society one.

Beowulf (2007); Robert Zemeckis, director.

There could be no Avatar without Beowulf.

It looks horribly dated now, but in 2007 this was cutting edge. It was the first really big "holy, wow, 3D!" movie to come out (along with Journey to the Center of the Earth) and it actually was pretty good. Not terrific, but testosterone-heavy enough for a post-300 audience. It is violent, sexy, a little vulgar and can even impress your 8th grade history teacher. It made a $196 million gross on a $150 million budget, so I don't know if this is considered a win or a dud, but I think we can all agree that this is a movie that nobody talks about anymore.

Thirst (2009); Park Chan-wook, director.

I don't know how much it costs a film studio to rent out Hall H, fly a director and his cronies in from Korea and throw a little party, but I imagine that it was a large enough chunk out of Thirst's eventual domestic take of $318,000 that somebody had some splainin' to do.

Thirst is a delightful and strange look at the urban vampire – but it's hardly for the Team Edward set. It offers a challenging narrative mixing themes of religion, relationships, madness and interior design. That it was directed by the dude who made Oldboy should have been enough to get a crossover audience more interested.

Extract (2009); Mike Judge, director.Extract was actually a flick that made it in the black, but many were hoping it would be a big enough success to launch Mike Judge into a new level of filmmaking success. Not sure what they were thinking. Extract is very much in line with Judge's other cult favorited Office Space and Idiocracy in that it has just enough of a capital P premise to kick it in gear, and then it just vamps with its characters for a while. Some felt this made Extract a too-mild film, but take a look at it again and you'll find that each of the scenes have a nice rise and fall, and while there aren't giant belly laughs, it is all very funny.

9 (2009); Shane Acker, director.9 is another one that was a profitable, but didn't exactly leave the lasting mark people were hoping. It is a very crafty flick, mixing cute little rag dolls and dazzling monsters in a post-apocalyptic (and numerically organized!) wasteland.

I must confess, I hold SDCC's 9 panel close to my heart because I was the dude moderating it. If you have a moment, read about me and my pals Tim Burton, Jennifer Connelly and Elijah Wood here.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004); Kerry Conran, director.

The world wasn't ready for the World of Tomorrow.

I think if this stylized steampunk pulp adventure were to come out today it would. . .oh, who'm I kidding. . .it would probably fizzle just as much now. Nevertheless, I contend that this is a really exceptional movie! And while it gets a little dopey toward the end (and creepy, with the whole "let's put Laurence Olivier in a movie without telling him 'cause he's DEAD" thing) there's no reason director should be in director's jail for close to a decade.

The Box (2009), Richard Kelly, director.

I love this movie. I've seen it five times and it keeps getting better. I like it more than Donnie Darko. I like it more than Mulholland Drive. And that's really how it should be approached – like a dream narrative that whirrs up science-fiction tropes. Woe be to anyone who tries to figure out what The Box is about, outside of its paper thin "don't be a jerk" fable (which, yes, was actually a Twilight Zone episode.) But let The Box course over you and tell me you don't come out the other side without feeling its effect. It is moody filmmaking at its finest and any minute now it will be recognized as an under-appreciated gem

Hamlet 2 (2008); Andrew Fleming, director.

When people ask "why isn't Steve Coogan a bigger star?" we can all point to Hamlet 2 and say "we tried!" This very funny story about a dopey, third-rate theater teacher letting his ego and bad taste run wild should have been the next Napoleon Dynamite. It didn't connect with audiences and if anyone can explain why they should start running a movie studio immediately. There was a big push for it at Comic-Con, with a sneak screening and big ads on the sides of pedicabs and everything. Whoopsie.

At the end of the day, though, it is the material that counts, and Hamlet 2 is a million times better than Glee. (Okay, I've never seen Glee, but I still think this is accurate.)

Knights of Badassdom (2011?), Joe Lynch, director.

Here's one not enough people have seen because. . .no one has seen it!

KoB made a decent enough impression last year and then. . .vanished. I don't see how a stoner LARPing comedy with Peter Freakin' Dinklage has laid dormant for a whole year. Even if it is actually terrible, you'd think someone would distribute it and make a quick Seltzer and Friedberg-sized weekend out of it.