Get ready to see the clown prince of crime like you’ve never seen him before, when Todd Phillips’ Joker arrives in Cineworld cinemas on 4th October.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, the film – which has garnered a near-perfect critical reception – follows down-on-his-luck comedian Arthur Fleck as he slowly transforms into the legendary comic-book villain in an original story that draws inspiration from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) dominating the box office, you might think that DC's Joker is another entry into the ever-growing oeuvre of lighthearted comic-book outings. But this isn’t the case. Gaining an R rating in the US for its strong violence and disturbing behaviour (it’s a 15 over here), this is one film it’s best to leave junior at home for.
And there are plenty of other comic-book movies that aren’t suitable for the whole family...
1. Super (2010)
Though it’s not adapted from a real-life comic series, Super (written and directed by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn) explores the idea that anyone can be a hero. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should, as we discover when hopelessly introverted Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson) – believing he’s been touched by God’s finger – dons the mantle of The Crimson Bolt. His aim: to back his wife (Liv Tyler) after she leaves him for a powerful drug dealer (Kevin Bacon).
Whereas superheroes are typically armed with superhuman abilities or an assortment of high-tech gadgets, Frank fights crime with nothing more than a wrench and his fervent sidekick Boltie (Ellen Page) by his side. A twisted take on the concept of the everyday hero, Super is not as quirky and upbeat as it looks on the surface. Its bleak subject matter and gruesome gore are light years away from Guardians of the Galaxy.
2. Logan (2017)
The X-Men film franchise has largely catered to a family-friendly demographic ever since it first appeared on the big screen almost two decades ago. In advance of its release, many assumed Logan would be like the previous eight instalments – including the two other Wolverine spin-offs.
What we get, though, is something completely different. Based on the Old Man Logan comics, the film – set in a future where mutants are all but extinct – follows a gruff and worn Logan (Hugh Jackman) as he escorts a young mutant (Dafne Keen) across the country while protecting her from a group of malicious scientists.
Arguably more of a western than a traditional comic-book film, Logan provides a nuanced approach to its central hero, resulting in a touching and fitting end to the character. It’s also liberally scattered with stylised violence. And it made history by becoming the first-ever comic book movie to be nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
3. Watchmen (2009)
Originally written by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in 1986, Watchmen was brought to the big screen in all its glory by Zack Snyder (who also directed stylish graphic novel adaptation 300). Taking place in an alternative history during the height of the Cold War, this dark, satirical take on the genre sees the titular group of vigilante heroes come out of retirement after one of their own is found murdered, an investigation that takes them down a rabbit hole of conspiracy leading to an unsettling truth.
Complete with a gritty narrative that dives deep into complex issues of morality and humanity, brutal depictions of violence (and, erm, blue appendages), Watchmen delivers an incredible vision of what our world could look like if superheroes walked among us. Arguably the most adult a comic-book movie can get, Snyder’s film is a must-watch for superhero fans looking for something more confrontational.
4. Sin City (2005)
With a title like Sin City, it’s pretty clear that this film was never intended to be seen by younger audiences. Based on the graphic novel series by Frank Miller (the genius behind 300), this noir thriller takes viewers deep into the heart of the crime-riddled streets of Basin City for an anthology of hard-boiled tales involving hitmen, child murderers, cannibals and prostitution – not what you’d expect to see in any Marvel or DC blockbuster.
Shot in visually striking black and white, with pops of red, yellow and blue, the film looks like the novel in motion (no surprise considering Miler co-directs alongside Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino). It also features an impressive ensemble cast that includes Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Jessica Alba and Mickey Rourke. Sin City is full of over-the-top, campy, pulpy goodness for those looking for something with a little more bite.
5. Blade (1998)
A full decade before the MCU took flight with Iron Man in 2008, comic-book lovers had Blade. Credited with sparking the popularity of Marvel’s initial comic-book movies in the early 2000s, the film (based on the Marvel comic series of the same name) stars Wesley Snipes as the titular Blade. He's a half-human-half-vampire, sword-wielding vampire hunter who must stop a council of vampires from enacting an ancient ritual to summon a vampire god.
Directed by Stephen Norrington (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and written by David S. Goyer (Man of Steel), this cult favourite oozes with enough blood and head-exploding gore to quench the biggest genre fans, and is exactly the sort of excessive fun you’d expect from a film with this premise that was made in the late nineties.
Blade will soon make his official MCU debut with multi-Oscar-winning Mahershala Ali in the starring role. We can therefore only wonder if Marvel is willing to add a more mature and bloody entry into what’s been a family-friendly franchise so far.
Joker laughs its way into Cineworld cinemas on 4th October. Click here to book your Joker tickets.
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.