10 Animated Comic Book Movies That Seriously Outdid Live-Action


  • Animated comic book adaptations allow for more straightforward storytelling and faithful adaptations of source material.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse excels in showcasing a multiverse storyline with three-dimensional characters and stunning animation.
  • Animation has given new life to classic comic book stories, such as The Death of Superman, in a way live-action films have struggled to achieve.



Animation has a lot of benefits over traditional live-action filmmaking when it comes to comic book movie adaptations, as clearly demonstrated by the different films that adapt the same stories and characters. From the one-off animated films of the Marvel universe to the incredible variety of the DC Animated Universe, the medium has a lengthy history with the superhero genre that nearly eclipses the popularity of live-action films. In many cases, comic books make the transition from the page to the screen much more smoothly via animation.

There are several major advantages animated movies have over their live-action counterparts that can explain this. For one, since they target a more niche audience, animated films don’t have to contend with the studios for creative control as much, and are able to present more straightforward adaptations of their source material. Practically speaking, animation also makes it much easier to depict the more fantastic elements of comic book storytelling without relying on the unreliable CGI of MCU films or gambling on practical effects.

10 Best Animated Shows For Adults Of The Last Decade

Cartoons are no longer just for kids, with more and more attention being placed on making adult animated shows that appeal to older audiences.

10 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Did multiverse Spider-Man better than the MCU


Superhero stories and the concept of the multiverse go hand-in-hand, with dozens of major stories in comic books revolving around parallel dimensions. Naturally, a variety of different films have tackled the idea, with Spider-Man even getting two separate multiversal representatives in both animation and live-action. Yet of the two continuities in which Spider-Man joins forces with variants of himself, the animated iteration is met with near-universal acclaim.

Spider-Verse movies dominate the webslinger’s multiverse presence.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is still a phenomenal experience, tying together decades of Spider-Man continuity into a single cohesive film. However, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and its follow-up film, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse does the same premise even be

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is available to stream on Prime Video.

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Director Bob Persichetti , Peter Ramsey Release Date December 14, 2018 Cast Jake Johnson , Kimiko Glenn , Hailee Steinfeld , Liev Schreiber , Luna Lauren Velez , Nicolas Cage , Lily Tomlin , Mahershala Ali , John Mulaney , Shameik Moore , Brian Tyree Henry Runtime 117 minutes

ter, with more three-dimensional characters that don’t over-rely on pre-existing meta-knowledge of the other Spider-Man films. Combined with the stunning industry-defining animation and character arcs that hit close to home, the Spider-Verse movies dominate the webslinger’s multiverse presence.


Gave the turtles a slightly darker edge


It’s easy to discount the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as comic book characters, being more famous for the 80s cartoon. That being said, the turtles very much got their start in comics, which were originally far darker in tone than the kid-friendly, pizza-eating antics of the live-action movies. While TMNT doesn’t quite go as far into R-rated territory as the original comic did, it’s a far more accurate presentation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that often goes underappreciated.

The live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies were essentially a continuation of the ideas created in the first cartoon, with family-friendly action scenes, cheesy 90s slang, and plenty of pizza to go around. Meanwhile, TMNT balances these trademarks with a darker tone, presenting an intriguing original story revolving around a plague of monsters that attacks New York City. WIth inter-familial drama, great character designs, and thoughtfully-choreographed action scenes, TMNT blows the clunky suits of the live-action films out of the water.

TMNT is available to stream on Netflix.


Director Kevin Munroe Release Date March 23, 2007 Cast Nolan North , james arnold taylor , Mitchell Whitfield , Mikey Kelley , Mako , Sarah Michelle Gellar Runtime 87 Minutes

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles montage.
Every Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie & Series (In Chronological Order)

Keeping track of all the TMNT movies in order can be tricky as the franchise has had over a dozen screen adaptations.

8 The Death of Superman

Did what the DCEU couldn’t


The Death of Superman is one of the most iconic comic storylines of all time, shocking the world by killing off the Man of Steel at the hands of a dangerous new villain. As monumental and weighty as an event like Superman’s death should be, the DCEU utterly fumbled their adaptation of the comic by squeezing it into the already overcrowded narrative of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The series attempted The Death of Superman far too early in Henry Cavill’s run.

Luckily, the animated arm of DC’s film wing produced a far better adaptation of The Death of Superman years earlier, with the film of the same name. Giving Superman’s death the sense of dread and importance it deserved while making Doomsday feel incredibly threatening, The Death of Superman isn’t just one of the best Superman animated films, but one of the best Superman films, period. If that weren’t enough, the sequel, Reign of the Supermen, tells the story of Superman’s eventual comeback much better than Justice League did.

TMNT is available to stream on Max.

The Death Of Superman (2018)

Director Jake Castorena , Sam Liu Release Date July 24, 2018 Cast Jerry O’Connell , Rebecca Romijn , Rainn Wilson , Rosario Dawson , Nathan Fillion Runtime 81 Minutes

7 Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

Told a more cohesive version of the dizzying crossover event


Flashpoint is perhaps the premiere crossover event of all DC Comics history, famous for re-booting the DC universe by using The Flash’s Speedforce powers as a vehicle. The timeline-hopping antics of the story aren’t easy to adapt by any means, but the animated film Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has presented the best non-comic retelling of the narrative by far. The film follows Barry Allen’s The Flash dealing with the fallout of suddenly finding himself in a strange new universe.

The DCEU made a pass at a loose adaptation of Flashpoint with 2023’s The Flash, though with far more mixed results. The consistent animation of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox runs circles around the awkward CGI of the DCEU film, and using Professor Zoom as the mastermind behind The Flash’s misfortune hits harder than the reveal of Barry’s evil doppelgänger in the live-action version. While Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox certainly has its problems, it outpaces anything the hasty DCEU semi-finale is able to accomplish.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is available to stream on Max.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

Director Jay Oliva Release Date July 30, 2013 Cast Justin Chambers , Michael B. Jordan , Kevin McKidd , Kevin Conroy , Sam Daly , Dana Delany

6 Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

The only straightforward adaptation of the classic comic


featuring bloody battles that prove animation is a medium capable of telling adult stories

Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most critically-acclaimed Batman stories ever penned, and for good reason. The story was frequently cited as the source of inspiration for Batman films ranging from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. That being said, the only film series to properly adapt Frank Miller’s vision from start to finish has been the two-part animated feature Batman:The Dark Knight Returns.

The duology does Batman’s battle with Superman better than Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice while also presenting a version of an older, more bitter Bruce Wayne in a way that made more sense than The Dark Knight Rises. The straightforward re-telling of Frank Miller’s comic also pulls no punches with its tone or animation, featuring bloody battles that prove animation is a medium capable of telling adult stories. The genuinely thought-provoking material the movie gets across also easily eclipses many live-action Batman films.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Paradox is available to stream on Max.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1

Director Jay Oliva Release Date September 25, 2012 Cast Peter Weller , Ariel Winter , David Selby , Wade Williams , Carlos Alazraqui , Dee Bradley Baker Runtime 76 Minutes

5 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Actually makes the turtles teens


It might be unfair to compare the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to their original comic incarnations. Admittedly, the 90s live-action movies clearly weren’t setting out to re-capture the dark tone of the shockingly grim original comics. Yet even as light-hearted entertainment, the live-action movies are outdone by an animated film counterpart, as in 2023’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

The 3-D animated film, produced by long-time turtles fan Seth Rogen, made the bold decision to actually cast teenagers as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the first time. Not only that, but the cast was allowed to riff on one another in a natural setting, creating wonderfully authentic and hilarious moments that simply wouldn’t work through the heavy masks of the 90s animatronic turtle suits. Alongside breathtaking art, memorable villains, and some fantastic celebrity cameo voice actors, the latest animated TMNT movie outdoes the live-action series as family-friendly fare.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is available to stream on Prime Video.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Director Jeff Rowe Release Date August 4, 2023 Cast Nicolas Cantu , Micah Abbey , Shamon Brown Jr. , Brady Noon , Jackie Chan , Ayo Edebiri , Seth Rogen , John Cena Runtime 100 Minutes

4 Planet Hulk

Expands on the Hulk story sidelined in the MCU


Following 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Marvel struggled with the rights to the Hulk, unable to legally draft another solo Hulk film. The MCU did its best to give Bruce Banner his own stories as a supporting cast member in other films, but his status as a painfully sidelined character diluted their ability to adapt his best comic storylines. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the pitiful nods to Planet Hulk, one of Marvel’s most iconic crossover events, in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Thor: Ragnarok.

2010’s Planet Hulk was able to do its eponymous comic storyline justice, telling the story of a Hulk who is exiled from Earth by the Illuminati only to rise through the gladitorial ranks of an alien planet as a conqueror. The film had the benefit of being the seventh installment of the Marvel Features animated film series, making it all the more satisfying to see pre-existing versions of Marvel characters facing Hulk’s wrath. The depicted trials and tribulations of Hulk’s rise to dominance are far more enjoyable than his status as a comedic relief in Thor: Ragnarok.

Planet Hulk is available to stream on Disney+.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Planet Hulk

Director Sam Liu , greg johnson Release Date February 2, 2010 Cast Rick D. Wasserman Runtime 81minutes

See at Amazon
See at Walmart

The Hulk screaming in unparalleled rage.
10 Best Hulk Stories in Marvel Comics History

The Hulk is one of Marvel Comics’ premier A-list characters, meaning he has no shortage of incredibly exciting storylines. Here are his 10 best!

3 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Presented the best Batman romance in a movie


Throughout Batman’s many film incarnations, The Dark Knight has encountered a wide variety of love interests. From the sultry performance of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns to the classy appeal of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Rachel in The Dark Knight, Batman’s movie love interests have always been something of an awkward fit into their respective films. The definitive version of Batman in the eyes of many, Kevin Conroy’s Batman from the Batman: The Animated Series continuity has managed to outdo them all.

Batman has to reconcile his romantic regrets with his deeply-held tenets

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm revolves around a mysterious vigilante taking Batman’s heroics to the extreme, murdering evildoers in the name of justice. When Phantasm turns out to be one of Bruce Wayne’s old flames, Batman has to reconcile his romantic regrets with his deeply-held tenets, concocting a delicious storm of superheroic drama. Wayne’s relationship with Andrea Beaumont is far more believable than any live-action love interest, and tying her directly into the film’s main antagonist actually makes her relevant to the narrative.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is available to stream on Max.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Director eric radomski , Bruce W. Timm Release Date December 25, 1993 Cast Kevin Conroy , Dana Delany , Hart Bochner , Stacy Keach , Abe Vigoda , Dick Miller Runtime 76 minutes

2 Green Lantern: First Flight

Excels in comparison to the abysmal live-action movie


Green Lantern hasn’t gotten much love when it comes to DC movies, but the sheer gulf in quality between his animated and attempted live-action films makes it obvious as to why. Telling the origin story of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern corps from start to finish, Green Lantern: First Flight seeks to familiarize more audiences with the lore of DC’s cosmic peacekeepers. With excellent voice acting, compelling action sequences, and a mystery evocative of a police procedural, Green Lantern: First Flight nails the tone of the hero.

Two years later, Ryan Reynold’s Green Lantern was an utter disaster. The film failed to make an impression on general audiences with its terrible CGI and awkward humor, paling in comparison to the tone and animation of Green Lantern: First Flight. Worst of all, Green Lantern had signs of studio interference in the final edit, something the animated DC offerings rarely have to contend with so viciously.

Green Lantern: First Flight is available to stream on Max.

1 Wonder Woman: Bloodlines

Did a better sororal rivalry


Wonder Woman: Bloodlines accomplishes what the DCEU’s comic book movie sequel couldn’t.

The first Wonder Woman live-action movie was one of the DCEU’s few unmitigated successes, but the dramatic drop-off in quality between it and Wonder Woman 1984 points to animated supremacy. In the latter, Wonder Woman has to contend with Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah, a co-worker-turned-stalker that toes the line of a sisterly relationship with Diana only to end up fighting her. Wonder Woman 1984 may have dropped the ball on this interesting premise, but a 2019 animated film garnered more success with a similar concept one year earlier.

2019’s Wonder Woman: Bloodlines tells the comparable story of Wonder Woman’s relationship with Silver Swan, Diana’s foster sister. The two slowly drift apart after tragic circumstances, creating a far more realistic and believable sororal relationship that turns into a bitter superpowered showdown. Packed with some incredible action and a more serious tone, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines accomplishes what the DCEU’s comic book movie sequel couldn’t.

Wonder Woman: Bloodlines vailable to stream on Max.

Wonder Woman using her Lasso in DC Comics
10 Secret Powers of Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth You Never Knew Existed

Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth is an iconic weapon, but few actually know just what the lasso is really capable of, as it has many secret powers.

Leave a Comment