Despite rumors that said otherwise, Matt Reeves’ The Batman will not be rated R and will instead have a rating of PG-13. While that may be disappointing for some who were hoping for a much darker and grittier version of Batman, it bears mentioning that The Dark Knight was also PG-13 and is considered one of the superhero movies of all time.
Even still, those who were hoping for a new R-rated superhero comic book movie can always fall back on the various films in the genre that are available to watch right now and which carry with them a more adult edge.
From Joker to Zack Snyder’s Justice League to Watchmen and many more, here are the best R-rated superhero comic book movies.
Birds of Prey
In terms of sheer fun, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) delivers in spades. While its emphasis on Harley Quinn doesn’t leave much room for the Birds of Prey (though each scores a standout moment), the movie is a stunning showcase for Margot Robbie, who commands the screen and gives her damaged protagonist all the dimension she deserves. And although we’d have preferred to see a true team-up with fewer narrative detours, Birds of Prey provides a perfect setup for a host of other intriguing spinoffs in the DC cinematic universe – can we request Poison Ivy next?
Blade is a movie fueled by spectacle, by outrageous, blood-soaked hyper-violence and beautiful people with immaculate skin. Yes, it’s silly, but it’s embracing its equally silly comic book roots, complete with a healthy splatter of black humour and enough gory practical effects to delight horror fans (few will ever forget Pearl.)
Keanu Reeves’ Constantine was sort of controversial among comics fans back when it was released — “he doesn’t have blond hair, he’s not British” and so on — but it was a different era for comic book movies back then. When you watch the film now, you find a creepy, atmospheric tale that feels appropriate to the comic, despite the cosmetic changes. And it also doesn’t pull its punches in the scares, hence the R rating.
Aka The Film That Launched 1000 Goths, The Crow’s seductive appeal is as much due to its moody gothic sensibilities as the tragic off-screen death of star Brandon Lee. Underneath its heavy eyeliner, however, resides a great comic book movie; just one that appeals directly to the romantic concerns of angsty teenagers.
Wade Wilson was successfully revived on the big screen in a movie that’s full of amusing one-liners, stylish action, and heaps of fan service. Weak villains and an unsatisfying revenge plot ultimately hold it back from being something more distinctive, but Deadpool delivers a large dose of unwholesome fun.
Deadpool 2 is fairly small-scale and character-focused, and surprisingly, it’s emotionally effective too. Despite the character’s trademark flippancy, there’s a real unexpected warmth to Deadpool 2. Not only does the sequel explore this flawed character, it firmly establishes him as a loveable and effective hero too.
In many ways, Dredd feels like an action film from a simpler time, like Assault on Precinct 13 or Escape From New York. It doesn’t break the bank with escalating set-pieces, to the point where the character is lost amidst the explosions. Dredd is a character study, primarily, one fuelled by violence and action, and we can’t help but continue to ask: WHy hasn’t a sequel happened yet?
Joker isn’t just an awesome comic book movie, it’s an awesome movie, period. It offers no easy answers to the unsettling questions it raises about a cruel society in decline. Joaquin Phoenix’s fully committed performance and Todd Phillips’ masterful albeit loose reinvention of the DC source material make Joker a film that should leave comic book fans and non-fans alike disturbed and moved in all the right ways.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a surprise vindication for the director and the fans that believed in his vision. With a mature approach to its superhero drama, better-realized antagonists, and improved action, Snyder’s version of Justice League saves the movie from the dustbin of history, something that likely only could’ve happened on a streaming platform like HBO Max. Though not every addition feels totally necessary, and some new visual effects stick out as unpolished, it's hard to overstate how much more enjoyable this version of Justice League is.
Kick-Ass features storytelling of the very highest order, crafted by experts who know, love and treat the subject matter with the respect it deserves. The result is utterly compelling from start-to-finish; an adaptation that perfectly captures the anarchic nature of the comic while at the same time eliciting unexpected emotions from a film about a crime-fighting kid in a wet-suit. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll squeal in delight at the outrageous behaviour of a little girl in a purple cape.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a spy movie made by James Bond devotees who know the genre so well that they can have a good time with it while also paying it respect — and taking it to someplace new entirely. It’s also R-rated as hell, but in all the right ways. (The sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is also rated R and also worth a look.)
Logan is in many ways an emotional, heavy picture, but it’s also an uplifting one that reminds us that it’s okay to fight for something more, something better. It’s an amazing swan song for the Wolverine character, and for Hugh Jackman, and perhaps the best X-Men movie yet.
The Suicide Squad
James Gunn absolutely kills it with The Suicide Squad. The film is a bloody, chaotic ride from start to finish that finally does justice to Task Force X. It’s endlessly shocking and funny, and its showcase of F-list DC villains is nothing short of brilliant.
V For Vendetta
V For Vendetta is a triumph for director James McTeigue and the Wachowski siblings. It delivers its message and keeps up a very brisk pace from the opening frames, while also looking great and featuring a very carefully and perfectly chosen cast. The unflinching message may be too much for some people to accept, but this is a film that sticks with you and makes you think. The best political films are the ones that fuel debate afterwards and V For Vendetta does that in spades.
Watchmen is Zack Snyder’s first foray into true superhero cinema (having already make his mark in comics-based moviemaking with the amazing, also R-rated 300), and he makes no attempt to pull back from the violence, sex, and adult nature of the original graphic novel. It’s a divisive film among fans, with some saying it’s too faithful to the comic, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the finest R-rated superhero movies out there.
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