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Underrated Action Movies Based On Graphic Novels

Updated May 26, 2021 412 votes 67 voters 1.7k views14 items

List RulesVote up the action movies that deserve more appreciation.

Do you enjoy over-the-top action movies? Do you enjoy violent graphic novels? Do you enjoy graphic novel adaptations? Then boy, oh, boy do we have something for you. The nature of comic books and graphic novels make them easily adaptable to film and television. A lot of the storyboarding is already done for you! Just get the film rights and go! And there certainly has been no shortage of comic book adaptations in recent years... but how about those films that have gone underappreciated?

We're talking Atomic Blonde. We're talking Wanted. We're talking Snowpiercer. Every film that follows may not be at the cutting edge of cinematic quality, but they definitely are fun to watch if you can get in the right frame of mind. They're based on graphic novels, after all, and though that medium is full of all kinds of masterpieces, the action-based ones that tend to get film adaptations aren't really pushing the boundaries of storytelling. These movies are loud, they're brash, and they're just good fun.

  • Released in 2010, Red is an action-comedy that somehow only had a budget of $58 million. We bring that up because this cast is absolutely stacked with big names: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Karl Urban. Not enough? Let's bring in beloved actors like Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, and Ernest Borgnine to round out the cast for good measure. It can't be easy to afford all that star power and still have money left over to make a successful action-comedy.

    Based on Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner's limited comic series of the same name, Red follows Willis's Frank Moses as he reunites with his old Black Ops team to take down a hitman. Directed by Robert Schwentke, known at the time for helming Flightplan and The Time Traveler's WifeRed does a fantastic job of balancing laughs from its A-list cast with enough PG-13 thrills to make it a fun time at the movies. It's just a shame adding Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones to the 2013 sequel couldn't re-create the magic


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  • When John Wick came out of nowhere in 2014 to become a surprise hit and launch a franchise for Keanu Reeves, the hyper-violent R-rated film was back in vogue. Highly choreographed action scenes became the name of the game, and the continued success of the John Wick series has shown that audiences crave the stylish, meticulous action it provides. In the wake of this, Atomic Blonde hit the scene in 2017 with Charlize Theron in the lead.

    Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart's 2012 graphic novel The Coldest CityAtomic Blonde is set in the Soviet Union of 1989 just before the Berlin Wall collapses. The kinetic action-thriller stars Theron as an MI6 agent on a nigh-impossible mission in the heart of the USSR. And if Theron's name wasn't enough to get you onboard, how about we bring James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones along for the ride? Helmed by John Wick co-director David Leitch, Atomic Blonde is well worth your time.


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  • Cowboys & Aliens was supposed to be a huge hit. Cowboys & Aliens should've been a huge hit. Cowboys & Aliens decidedly wasn't a hit at all. With two massive lead stars, a red-hot director, a unique premise, and a gigantic budget, Cowboys & Aliens somehow came and went with almost nothing to show for it. A $163 million production budget makes the worldwide gross of just over $174 million look absolutely paltry in comparison. And getting Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford to star in a film directed by Jon Favreau clearly was supposed to launch a franchise... well, the best-laid plans of mice and men, and all that.

    Based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's 2006 graphic novel of the same name, the 2011 film gives you just what you'd think it would: cowboys and aliens. We've got top-notch action. We've got high-class CGI. We've got a supporting cast that includes Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, and Paul Dano. Everything about Cowboys & Aliens screams box office gold, and yet, here we are. You probably forgot it even exists.


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  • Photo: RADiUS-TWC

    Before being adapted to the small screen for a TNT series featuring Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly, the original 2013 Snowpiercer earned rave reviews from critics upon release. Aside from its themes and settings, the delightfully weird aesthetic of the original film and its solid action scenes deserve plenty of credit. Bong Joon-ho's original movie is seriously just a lot of fun, even if it is dealing with heavy subject matter.

    Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige from 1982 by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, the movie sees Chris Evans as a lower-class citizen rebelling against the elite on a train in a post-apocalyptic reality. There is a lot more to it than that, but this is the simplest way to think about it. The film definitely belongs to Evans, but it is filled to the brim with well-known actors who get lost in colorful characters. Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Ed Harris, and Allison Pill all show up with memorable turns, and if you like your action movies to get political, check Snowpiercer out sometime.


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