Deadpool has put a bullet right between the eyes of every naysayer, having grossed some $246 million in the United States alone (it has surpassed half a billion dollars worldwide) as of this writing. That makes it the highest-grossing X-Men movie to date, domestically, edging out X-Men: The Last Stand’s $234 million—and Deadpool’s only been in theaters for two weeks. This explosive success has, of course, led many to declare that the R-rated comic-book movie is finally a thing, glory be!
Of course, the R-rated comic-book movie is nothing new, even if earlier examples have failed to pile quite as much money in one place as Deadpool. (Alas, poor Watchmen, we barely knew ye…) In honor of Deadpool having his way with the global box office, we’ve rounded up a selection of R-rated comic-book adaptations that you can stream right this very minute. Warm up a chimichanga (or 12) and enjoy.
1) The Crow (1994)
Based on: James O’Barr’s 1989 series published by Calibre Comics. The character has continued across several series and publishers in the years since.
The flick: Directed by Alex Proyas (Dark City), The Crow stars Brandon Lee—son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee—as Alex Draven, a young man resurrected by a mystical crow one year after his death. You don’t come back from the dead without a to-do list, and Draven has a big one: His life was cut short by a pack of brutal thugs, who pitched him out a window after beating and raping his fiancée. Now damn near unkillable and guided by the crow, Draven carves a path of vengeance through the streets of Detroit, determined to make every last person involved with his wife’s death pay. The series has continued across several film sequels—each time starring a different lead character and actor—as well as a late-’90s syndicated TV series. The film is also infamous for the fact that actor Brandon Lee died while filming it, the victim of an accidental shooting.
Where to watch: The Crow is available streaming on Netflix Instant.
2) Blade (1998)
Based on: The Marvel comics character created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan way back in 1973. Blade spent the ensuing decades popping up every now and then in the comics, but it was the 1998 movie that made him a household(ish) name.
The flick: Vampires are real. They’ve been lurking in the shadows of our world for centuries, but they’ve become very, very good at keeping their existence a secret from most of us blood-filled sheeple as we go about our daily business. The one thing they fear is Blade (Wesley Snipes), the so-called “Daywalker”: a half-human, half-vampire hybrid with “all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses.” Working with his mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), Blade spends his days and nights making life hell for the bloodsuckers, but things get complicated after a charismatic vamp named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) decides the nosferatu should quit with the half-measures and start treating mankind like the cattle they are. Blade objects to this plan and counters with his own plan to stab Frost in the face. Drama ensues, and Blade gets to complain about motherfuckers trying to ice-skate uphill.
Where to watch: Blade is currently available on HBO, which you can access streaming with either HBO Go or an HBO Now subscription.
3) From Hell (2001)
Based on: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s serialized graphic novel of the same name, which was published between the years of 1989 and 1996, then finally collected in full in 1999. Moore and Campbell’s From Hell was based on English author Stephen Knight’s theories about the true identity and motivations of notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper.
The flick: Johnny Depp stars as Police Inspector Frederick Abberline, a brilliant detective troubled by psychic visions that help his work but hinder his attempts at a normal life. After a vicious killer begins slaughtering prostitutes in London’s Whitechapel district, Abberline slowly begins to uncover evidence that the murders are more than just the actions of a lone sociopath. During his investigations he begins to fall for Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), a young prostitute who is herself soon destined to cross paths with a killer name Jack…
4) American Splendor (2003)
Based on: Underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar’s long-running autobiographical series, American Splendor, which has been published off and on since 1976, with the most recent release in 2008. Also based in part on the 1994 graphic novel Our Cancer Year, written by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner and illustrated by Frank Stack.
The flick: Paul Giamatti plays Pekar opposite Hope Davis as Pekar’s third and final wife, Joyce Brabner. The film follows Pekar’s slog of a day job as a file clerk at a VA hospital, his long friendship with cult cartoonist Robert Crumb (James Urbaniak), and his meeting and falling for Brabner. American Splendor was written and directed by documentarians Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who structured the film as a mix of fiction and reality, with the real Peker, Brabner, and others making appearances both to discuss their history as depicted onscreen and to comment on the movie itself. The movie took home a slew of awards, including a Best Adapted Screenplay nod from the Writers Guild of America.
Where to watch: American Splendor is currently available on HBO, which you can access with either HBO Go or an HBO Now subscription.
5) The Punisher (2004)
Based on: Marvel Comics’ heavily armed, skull-draped vigilante, created by writer Gerry Conway and artist John Romita Sr. He first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 in 1974, and he’s left a trail of bodies strewn across the Marvel universe ever since. There have been three live-action Punisher films thus far; this was the second.
The flick: Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is a former Delta Force soldier turned undercover FBI operator. After he helps bring down notorious gangster Bobby Saint and his arms dealer buddies, Frank is ready to settle into a quiet retirement with his family. Unfortunately, that last case resulted in the death of Bobby Saint, and his father, Howard Saint (John Travolta) is heavily into revenge. Saint’s men crash a Castle family gathering and murder Frank’s entire bloodline, leaving him shot, blown up, and presumed dead. With nothing left to lose, Frank sets out to dismantle Saint’s family—both crime and personal. The film borrows heavily from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s acclaimed 2000 Punisher story arc, “Welcome Back, Frank,” giving this version of the Punisher a dark sense of humor that suits Jane’s performance but leaves the movie kind of an atonal mess—and that’s without even touching on the inexplicable geographic leap from New York to Florida. Hopefully the character’s upcoming appearance in the second season of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil will fare better.
Where to watch: The Punisher is available streaming on Netflix Instant.
6) Constantine (2005)
Based on: The chain-smoking British magician, con man, and general occult rabble-rouser John Constantine, created by Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette, and John Totleben. He first appeared in DC’s The Saga of the Swamp Thing #37 in June 1985 and later went on to star in his own long-running Vertigo Comics title, Hellblazer, among others.
The flick: When John Constantine finally made it to the big screen, there were a few changes along the way. Especially keen-eyed viewers may have noticed that the blond British bloke who had been designed to look like Sting was now a dark-haired American who looked like Keanu Reeves. As in the comics, Constantine is a reluctant occultist and exorcist caught between the machinations of Heaven and Hell—doomed to the latter thanks to an earlier suicide attempt, but harboring no love for the former. Unfortunately, a diabolical scheme by Lucifer’s son, the demon Mammon, forces Constantine to once again face down the powers both above and below, with nothing but his wits to carry him through. (If you enjoy this version of Constantine, be sure to track down the excellent but short-lived NBC TV adaptation starring Matt Ryan—it’s loads better.)
Where to watch: Constantine is available streaming on Netflix Instant.
7) Sin City (2005)
Based on: Frank Miller’s long-running series of neo-noir crime comics from Dark Horse. The anthological format of the movie pulls from multiple books in the Sin City series, most notably The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and The Yellow Bastard.
The flick: Like Miller’s comics, the Sin City movie traces multiple intersecting storylines across the savage streets and blood-soaked back alleys of the fictional Basin City. Weary former cop John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) leaves prison determined to close the book on the bastard that landed him there. Brutish hit man Marv (Mickey Rourke) sets out to avenge the slain beauty who somehow loved a beast like him, even if only for one night. An average schmuck named Dwight is in the wrong place at the wrong time, finding himself caught in a three-way clusterfuck involving dirty cops, the mob, and the far-from-defenseless prostitutes of Old Town. Just another day in Basin City…
Where to watch: Sin City is currently streaming on Netflix Instant.
8) V for Vendetta (2006)
Based on: The 1988 graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd.
The flick: Set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic version of 2020, V for Vendetta imagines a world where the status quo has crumbled after a horrific pandemic ravaged the world, toppling the United States, and turning the United Kingdom into a fascistic nightmare state where anyone who doesn’t fit the norm or toe the line is shipped off to concentration camps or simply vanished in the night. The orderly landscape of propaganda and forced patriotism is rocked by the actions of “V,” a mysterious vigilante sporting a Guy Fawkes mask and throwing around such destabilizing messages as “people should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people.” Co-leads Natalie Portman and Hugh Weaving both give stellar performances, but extra kudos must be given to Weaving: He does it all from behind an immobile mask.
Where to watch: V for Vendetta is available streaming on HBO Go and HBO Now.
Screengrab via DC Entertainment/YouTube