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Spider-Man 3

This movie rightfully receives a lot of criticism for how it mishandles the signature character of Venom, but in the context of Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man franchise there’s a good chunk of the movie that still works. Peter Parker’s arc is completed, albeit with a little too much theatricality (the jazz scenes) and too many villains. There are some redeeming qualities here, however, including some pretty damn impressive action sequences.

Blade

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We’re breaking the rules a bit with this inclusion since it came out in 1998, but since it launched a franchise that continued into the 2000s and was influenced by the comic book boom after the release of X-Men, it’s worth including. What helps Blade stand out is that it doesn’t have much in the vein of typical superhero tropes that we know today, and it was before a time when the vampire market wasn’t over-saturated. Plus, you don’t see too many comic book characters whipping around a sword, which makes Blade’s fight scenes that much more fun.

Hulk

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Ang Lee‘s 2003 adaptation of The Incredible Hulk doesn’t get talked about much, but it deserves some credits for some bold artistic direction, including being the only comic book movie to embrace the unique comic panel presentation of certain scenes. The film is weighed down by some silly things like monster dogs, but Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly do lend a commendable amount of humanity to the otherwise outrageous proceedings. And while this version of the Hulk is super green, as a visual effect, he doesn’t look half-bad 12 years later.

The Wolverine

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After the total disaster that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it would have been an impressive feat to make a Wolverine sequel that was worse. Thankfully, director James Mangold succeeded in improving the spin-off franchise by dragging the character away from the mutant ensemble formula and giving his a character arc and conflict that has some weight to it. By the end of the movie, things get a little out of hand as far as the villains are concerned, but there’s a lot of quality entertainment here that Wolverine needed to redeem the series.

The Punisher: War Zone

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Sparsely seen in its theatrical release and panned by some for being outlandish and poorly acted, this is one of those instances where a movie is self-aware enough to make the ridiculous nature of it work. There’s no doubt that this movie is excessively violent and full of overblown performances, but that appears to be exactly the kind of movie Lexi Alexander set out to make. There are scenes from the movie lifted straight from the panels of the comic book, and it’s a lot of insane, bloody fun.

X-Men

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I’ll be the first to admit that the original X-Men hasn’t aged very well, but you have to give credit where its due. In retrospect, this movie feels foreign compared to the X-Men movies that we love today. This one is crafted in a way where it’s obviously been tailor made to include general audiences who know absolutely nothing about the X-Men, or even comics in general. But because of that, Bryan Singer has my respect for still churning out a solid movie that kicked off an entire subgenre of movies by making a niche sect of pop culture accessible to everyone.

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