Last year, you helped Superman get elected into the National Film Registry. The legendary 1978 film is the first on the list of comic book movies that should have a place in the National Film Registry. Three others come to mind right away, and they are fairly recent releases (all three are key comic book films and one ushered in the current era): 2002’s Spider-Man and 2008’s Iron Man and The Dark Knight. Behind each film, there are 2 BIG reasons why they need to be preserved forever in the US Library of Congress.
Before listing my reasons, let’s review the function/importance of the National Film Registry. As explained in my previous article, it is essentially a movie hall of fame. The NFR is a division of the US Library of Congress that annually elects 25 films to be preserved forever — films considered “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” To be eligible, a movie has to be at least 10 years old and produced by an American film company. Films in the NFS include Back to the Future, The Big Lebowski, Die Hard, The Princess Bride, and Star Wars. Certainly, ol’ web-head, the golden avenger, and the caped crusader deserve their place among those other films. Let’s explore the evidence.
Spider-Man: It Ushered in the Current Era of Comic Book Movies!
As successful as X-Men was, Spider-Man truly kickstarted the current era of comic book movies. It made other studios realize comic book movies could be made well and profitable! The special effects in Spider-Man were groundbreaking. Seeing Spidey swing around New York City now may be ho-hum to moviegoers, but in 2002 we never saw anything like that before. It also wasn’t until after the massive success of Spider-Man that other movie studios ate up the film rights to comic books. Suddenly, there weren’t just one or two comic book movies in preproduction, there were like six or seven.
It was the First Film to Make Over $100 Million During Its Opening Weekend!
If we’re being honest, this is the actual reason movie studios greenlit comic book movies after Spider-Man. Now, a blockbuster movie making over $100 million on opening weekend is expected or else it is deemed — fairly or unfairly — a failure. When Spider-Man accomplished this in 2002, it was unheard of! It made $114 million it’s opening weekend WITHOUT 3D TICKET PRICES! That means sold out shows left and right. I would dare to see a blockbuster movie try and do that today. While that opening weekend record has been dwarfed time and time again (The Force Awakens currently holds the record at $248 million), Spider-Man is the first film to break that box office glass ceiling.
Iron Man: It Kickstarted the Shared Universe Craze!
With a single post-credit scene, the Marvel Cinematic Universe expanded.
One could argue the movie landscape as we know it now would not be the same if it were not for Marvel Studios’ first official movie entry.
There were a lot of question marks headed into opening weekend for this movie. Would people see a movie based on a then B-list hero for Marvel? Was Robert Downey Jr. still a box office draw? Could Marvel Comics make a good movie? We all know the answers to those questions were yes, yes, and yes!
But the biggest gamble was the fact this movie was the beacon for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, Kevin Smith, John Hughes, Quentin Tarantino and the Universal Monsters had their own movie universes before Marvel dabbled into that area, but none of their movies were on a scale like this. They didn’t have other movies made by different people depending on the success of their movie. After this, we got the Star Wars universe, the Shonda-verse and Arrowverse on TV, the ill-fated Dark Universe from Universal and the now scrapped Transformers universe.
Iron Man Is Simply an Awesome Movie!
Name a more popular film character in the past 10 years. You can’t. Iron Man ruled the box office this whole decade and then some. He’s appeared in five different film franchises (I’m including the Incredible Hulk even though it was a Tony Stark cameo), and each of those movies he’s appeared in made at least $500 million (except for that Hulk movie). Simply put, Robert Downey Junior as Iron Man puts butts in seats!
But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, Iron Man is a well-made movie and I make a point of watching it every single year. In my opinion, the film is director Jon Favreau ‘s best work to date. The cast — including RDJ, Jeff Bridges, Terrance Howard, and Gwyneth Paltrow — are top-notch. The special effects are amazing and I absolutely love the late Stan Winston’s work on the Iron Man suits.
The computer effects by Industrial Light and Magic still hold up. The action scenes are amazing. The score by Ramin Djawadi is memorable. Plus, it elevated the character to the mainstream. You could easily think Iron Man was the comic book movie of the year until two months later in July of 2008, another movie hit the big screen.
The Dark Knight: Heath Ledger as the Joker Is Incredible!
Ledger’s performance alone should get this movie into the National Film Registry. It can’t be stated enough how amazing the late actor’s performance was in the 2008 film. I’ll admit when I first heard Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker way back in 2006, I thought “That dude from A Knight’s Tale? Nope!” But as soon as I saw the first trailer for The Dark Knight, I ate my words.
It is a brand-new take on the character. Before, the Joker was not a criminal mastermind, but just a crazy guy with clown makeup on a killing spree. Ledger’s version was a terrorist with an agenda. Killing isn’t enough for him — he wants to mentally break you, as seen in this intense scene.
Expectations were high for Ledger, considering he was following Jack Nicholson’s take on the clowned prince of crime in 1989’s Batman. I remember seeing The Dark Knight on a Saturday morning at a 9 AM showing in IMAX. As soon as the Joker came in and performed a magic trick, you could feel the theater getting stunned by what they just saw.
The Dark Knight Took Comic Book Movies to a Whole ‘Nother Level
While the Iron Man and Spider-Man series are certainly important to the comic book film genre, you could argue the most important one so far is The Dark Knight. Before, comic book movies weren’t considered serious films. But when the second film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy hit the big screen, the medium gained a lot more respect. Comic book movies were no longer viewed as simple entertainment — they were viewed as legit movies (to the snooty people at least. You and I always viewed them as serious movies!)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Logan, or the Netflix series Daredevil probably wouldn’t exist without this film. It can’t be stated enough how important this movie is to film history. The Dark Knight was not just the film of the summer, but of the year.
“How Do We Get These Films Inducted?” Glad You Asked!
This is where you come in. In order for Spider-Man, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight to be inducted, you have to email them and let them know you want those movies to be nominated. Since the movie has to be at least 10 years old, this will be the first year Iron Man and The Dark Knight are eligible. Here is the link. All the steps are in the link. Feel free to nominate other movies you feel should be preserved for future generations so they won’t be lost.
Spider-Man, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight are all great movies on their own. They certainly deserve their place alongside Superman in the Library of Congress. Feel free to share this article, too. The more people that vote, the better chance these films have at earning a spot!
SIDE NOTE: On the website, the instructions ask that you write in The Dark Knight as Dark Knight, The. No idea why, but that is what they are asking for movies starting with “the”. Let’s respect the process.