Comic books were once whitewashed tales of good and evil. Vanilla heroes would take down silly villains, and always save the day. Those days are long gone. Now, comics and graphic novels are filled with brutal violence, graphic sex, and some of the best writing and artwork around. Hollywood has started to notice, adapting more than the same three superheroes over and over again. With The Punisher airing this month on IFC (and AMC’s adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher comics gaining buzz), we got to thinking: what other ultra-violent comics have successfully made the leap from the page to the screen? Be sure to put your splatter guard up before digging in, because this one is going to get bloody.
10. Kingsman: The Secret Service
While the film adaptation of Kingsman: The Secret Service took a fair amount of liberties with the comic that inspired it, what remained was the playful tone mixed with unrelenting violence. Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) was clearly inspired by the particular brand of lunacy creators Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons offered in the comic, crafting inspired bits of carnage like a church brawl that turns into an all-out orgy of brutality.
The show that launched Marvel’s brand on Netflix, Daredevil changed the game for TV adaptations of comic books. Inspired by Frank Miller’s darker, more Catholic take on the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen,” the show mixes heavy themes with some of the best fight choreography the small screen has ever seen. Jessica Jones gets honorable mention for picking up the mantle and running with it, doubling down on the dark corners of this universe without ever losing its pop sensibilities.
8. Sin City
A “translation, not an adaptation” according to director Robert Rodriguez, this hit 2005 film used Frank Miller’s original comic artwork as a bible, recreating panels on the big screen with precise detail. With stark visuals and a plot that involved serial killers and talking severed heads, this graphic ode to film noir changed the game for comic book movies. Now lets all agree to forget that the 2014 sequel ever happened.
7. Punisher: War Zone
2008’s big screen Punisher outing isn’t the most famous Marvel movie, but it’s without a doubt the most violent. The filmmakers seem to take glee in trying to make each successive scene more brutal than the last. With Frank Castle literally punching through a bad guy’s head, and villain Jigsaw sewing his face back onto his skull, this movie doles out some serious punishment.
When Nic Cage spends a whole movie doing a second rate Adam West impression, and that’s only the second most bananas thing in your movie, you’ve hit the crazy comic adaptation motherload. While there are so many amazing details to pick apart here — from a great concept about a regular guy who decides to become a superhero, to a hero pretending to be gay to get the girl — it’s Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl, the pigtail wearing assassin who’s been trained to kill from birth, who steals the show.
Deadpool just blew up the movie world, becoming the highest grossing R-rated film in history. With its sarcastic lead, schoolboy humor and over-the-top violence, this was the movie for the 13-year-old inside of us all. Star Ryan Reynolds spent a decade trying to get it made, and with a potty-mouthed sequel being fast-tracked, it looks like everyone can just pretend that whole Green Lantern thing never happened.
The story of a man trapped in a room by unknown captors for 15 years and the hunt for vengeance once he’s released, this 2003 Japanese film is the definition of hardcore. Roger Ebert called it a “powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare.” And boy does it strip it bare, with righteous violence and a sick sensibility that saw lead Min-sik Choi, a Buddhist and vegetarian, eating a live octopus in one scene. When director Chan-wook Park was asked if he felt sorry for his star, he said he felt sorry for the octopus.
3. The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead was a cult comic with a dedicated following when the AMC adaptation premiered in 2010. Since then, the story of Sheriff Rick Grimes and his makeshift family of zombie killing survivalists has become a sensation. No one would have guessed that this brutally violent, unrelentingly bleak look at humanity at its darkest moment would become the number one show on TV, but that’s just what its done. With ratings network TV would kill for, and its own spin-off to boot, this bloody blockbuster looks like it will be creeping out our Sunday nights for years to come.
2. Tales From the Crypt
With a love of puns and a face only a mortician could love, the Cryptkeeper presided over one of the most ridiculously horrific series in the history of television. Like The Twilight Zone‘s creepy cousin, this adaptation of the legendary EC Comics title always took delight in presenting high camp and blood-soaked horror with a dark twist. A “who’s who” of ’90s stars, from Jon Lovitz to Corey Feldman, popped in over the years to tell stories about ghouls, ghosts and zombies, and the oversexed, egotistical humans who fell prey to them.
1. Ichi The Killer
We’re not even sure “extreme” does this movie justice. Based on the manga of the same name, Ichi the Killer follows a mutilated man who is manipulated into killing rival street gangs, and just about everyone else. Full of insanely brutal violence, and a sadistic streak that teeters between cinematic and just plain sick, this movie has been banned in several countries.