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The 10 Best Superhero Origin Stories Ever Put to Film

When it comes to superhero movies, nothing is more important than the origin story.  It sets up not just the character, but the tone and future plot points of the franchise to come (or in some cases, the movie itself).  If you botch this, then you’ve already botched the entire franchise potential (as seen from such classics as Daredevil or Punisher). And for a movie like this week’s Green Lantern, first impressions are everything.  If they don’t like the first outing, why would audiences come back for a second? Green Lantern needs to nail its origin story if it hopes to become the next big superhero franchise.  Here are eight other origin stories that Green Lantern should try to emulate if it wants to hit its mark.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’m a mere 120 words in and I’m already ruining the little bit of professionalism that I have.  But you know what?  Screw it.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has a dude fighting crime in hockey garb, a talking rat teaching a bunch of turtles martial arts, and said turtles eating Domino’s Pizza by the truckload.  And if that’s not radical, what is?  Oh yeah; the Turtle Rap.  Go ninja, go ninja, go ninja, GO!  God, what a tubular song.  Now what was my point again?

Hellboiy

9. Hellboy

I feel sorry for Hellboy.  He never really got the chance to shine in the superhero spectrum.  He never became Spider-Man or Iron Man.  Hell, the Fantastic Four are more appreciated than Hellboy!  It's a shame to, because the original Hellboy (and its sequel, The Golden Army) are great films.  Sure, there's a lot wrong with the first movie, but Guillermo del Toro does a good job of introducing people to the world of Hellboy, something that all origin stories should do.  The property is really out there (similar to Green Lantern), but del Toro balanced the real world and the surreal one very well.  And if you can give Hellboy anything, like most origin stories, it led to a pretty great sequel.

Thor

8. Thor

Thor is the new kid on campus in this article, I'm still going to give the film props.  While its not perfect, the way it introduces a world of magic and science is pretty influential.  The world of Thor is as strange as they come, but the movie did a great job of grounding the elements so they didn't grow to strange.  Green Lantern should take note.

Unbreakable

7. Unbreakable

You guys remember Unbreakable? Yeah, I didn't think you would either.  This was director M. Night Shyamalan's follow up to The Sixth Sense, and his second flick with Bruce Willis.  And you know what?  It's also a damn good superhero origin movie in disguise.  By its cover, Unbreakable doesn't look a thing like a superhero movie.  But trust me, it is.  It's probably the most realistic superhero movie I've ever seen, but that in no way hinders the film in comparison to the likes of Batman Begins or Spider-Man. In fact, it was kind of refreshing to see a superhero movie without men in tights and a distinguished bad guy.  Unbreakable remains to this day an original and mesmerizing piece of superhero lore, and I'd rather see M. Night pursue films like this than The Last Airbender. Yeah, did you really think I'd go an entire article without mentioning that little gem?

X-Men

6. X-Men

I've said a lot about how X-Men revolutionized the comic book movie industry, and how half of the superhero films seen today wouldn't exist without it.  So I won't talk about it anymore.  However, I can't stress enough how good a job X-Men dose at crafting its universe.  It establishes its team almost perfectly, not spending too much or too little time on one character (unlike the later sequels, which spent too much time on Wolverine). A movie like Green Lantern, which features multiple characters forming a team, could learn from X-Men on how to introduce them all in a fulfilling way.

Kick-Ass

5. Kick-Ass

Another facet of superhero origin stories is just the pure thrill of seeing the main character become the hero.  I think Kick-Ass is a film that perfectly nails that feeling.  Kick-Ass is crude, mean, violent, and vile.  Yet, at the center of the story is a sweet tale of a kid just trying to be a good person.  Yeah, he gets his ass kicked constantly doing it, but the movie is, for the most part, inspiring and uplifting.  And that feeling of heroism should be evident in not just all origin stories, but all superhero movies in general.

Batman Begins

4. Batman Begins

Just the mere idea of rebooting the Batman franchise after Batman and Robin must have been quite a task to behold.  But of course, Christopher Nolan was up to it.  Unlike other films on this list, Batman Begins had the previous films in its franchise to contend with.  It was following a duo of stupendously bad films, and had to find away to wipe the slate completely clean.  But despite that, or maybe because of it, Batman Begins presented Batman's origin story in a way never seen before, which was more than enough to give the franchise a new identity.  It was a good thing too because, if Batman Begins failed back in 2005, where would superhero films be today?

Iron Man

3. Iron Man

Iron Man must have been the most risky project from Marvel.  On basic principal, using one of your B level superheros to topline your development studio is not a good idea.  But somehow, Iron Man succeeded both critically and financially.  And while I'm not the biggest fan of the Iron Man franchise (its good, but not anything particularly special), I have to appreciate the good job director Jon Favreau did with bringing a pretty unpopular character to the big screen.  Kind of like another movie opening this weekend, perhaps.  Maybe a movie involving green things.  And camping equipment.

Spider-Man

2. Spider-Man

If X-Men was the film to revitalize the comic book movie, then Spider-Man was the one that brought it to the place it is now.  Its no surprise, because Spider-Man is one of the most legendary origin stories ever made.  The template of origin stories was established by Spider-Man, and I can't tell you how many times it has been mocked since then.  You loved the characters, you loved the world, and the last shot of Spider-Man clinging to the flagpole made you want to see what was next for the character.  And if a superhero origin movie shouldn't do that, I don't know what it should do.

The Incredibles

1. The Incredibles

I love The Incredibles to death.  It's probably my favorite Pixar movie (which, for me, is a feat in and of itself), and its definitely up there in my favorite superhero movies in general.  One of the most amazing aspects of the film is the way it sets up the world of The Incredibles, a world populated by superheros, super villians, and everything in between.  While we still haven't seen that sequel (hurry the hell up, Pixar), it's a world I could spend countless hours in.  And that alone makes this a superhero origin story for the ages.


While those are my picks.  But what say you?  Did I miss any, or was I completely off base on some of my choices?  Sound off in the comments.

 

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