Marvel Studios has become the envy of every Hollywood studio over the past few years, building a massive and cohesive cinematic universe that keeps getting bigger and bigger, not to mention breaking the bank each time one of their movies opens. What's even more impressive is the studio has managed to create such a successful brand and universe in just a seven year stretch of time, since the first Iron Man movie hit theaters in May 2008. Of course, before Marvel Studios was founded, their comic book properties were farmed out to various studios, and even now, there are still several key titles the studio does not control. So we're looking back at the 11 best Marvel movies that weren't made by Disney and Marvel Studios. These are not ranked from "best to worst," but rather in order of their place in our heart, so check out our full list:
1Spider-Man - 2002
After a few failed attempts to bring Spider-Man to the big screen in the 1980s and 1990s, by filmmakers such as Lloyd Kaufman and James Cameron, Sam Raimi finally gave fans the big screen version of Spider-Man they always wanted, and those fans responded in record-breaking fashion. Spider-Man was the first movie in history to make more than $100 million over a three-day opening weekend, earning a whopping $114.8 million back in May 2002. The blockbuster turned Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco into overnight stars, and proved that X-Men's box office success was no fluke. Fun Fact: The role of Flash Thompson was played by Joe Manganiello, in his feature film debut.
2X-Men - 2000
Armed with a pitch-perfect cast of both rising and established stars, director Bryan Singer's X-Men changed how the masses viewed a superhero movie, and gave the genre as a whole a new identity. After earning $293 million worldwide, X-Men proved that fans were still hungry for superhero movies, and not only launched the lucrative 20th Century Fox franchise that is still going strong to this day, but served as the benchmark for every comic book adaptation that would follow. Fun Fact: Current MCU mastermind Kevin Feige received his first ever producing credit on X-Men.
3Blade - 1998
Marvel hadn't exactly had a good run, as far as movie adaptations are concerned, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with bombs like Howard the Duck, The Punisher and the unreleased The Fantastic Four, but their fortunes finally started to turn around with 1998's Blade, Marvel's first cinematic success, grossing $131 million worldwide. Starring Wesley Snipes as the Daywalker himself, Blade helped pave the way for not only two subsequent sequels (2002's Blade 2 and 2004's Blade: Trinity), but also the film that many feel was responsible for the birth of the modern superhero movie as we know it. Fun Fact: Martial arts legend Jet Li was offered the role of Deacon Frost, but he turned it down to star in Lethal Weapon 4.
4Punisher: War Zone - 2008
Punisher: War Zone holds a few unique distinctions within the Marvel universe, both good and bad. At the moment, it is the only Marvel adaptation ever to be directed by a woman (Lexi Alexander, whose film Green Street Hooligans remains a favorite of mine), and, unfortunately, it is also the lowest-grossing adaptation of a Marvel movie. However, it is a truly fantastic film that, for whatever reason (perhaps due to the underwhelming 2004 movie The Punisher), didn't quite get a fair shake. Fun Fact: Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter wrote an R-rated draft of the script, but the studio decided at the 11th hour to use the script from a different writer, Nick Santora, causing Kurt Sutter to ask to have his name completely removed from the movie.
5The Wolverine - 2013
While 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine provided a solid but uneven origin story for Hugh Jackman's title character, 2013's The Wolverine delivered the fantastic stand alone movie that fans were waiting for. Sadly, it seems that Hugh Jackman's days of playing Logan are numbered, with the upcoming Wolverine 3 said to be his last time as the iconic character. Fun Fact: Hugh Jackman consulted with Dwayne Johnson on how to properly gain weight for the role. Dwayne Johnson said that he could gain one pound per week by eating, "an awful lot of chicken, steak and brown rice."
6Fantastic Four - 2005
Marvel's "first family" finally got the big screen treatment with 2005's Fantastic Four, with Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richard/Mr. Fantastic), Jessica Alba (Sue Storm/The Invisible Girl), Chris Evans (Johnny Storm/The Human Torch) and Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm/The Thing) starring as the heroic foursome. The cinematic superhero movement was still in its infancy when Fantastic Four came out, and there were some who thought it was still just a 'fad,' but Fantastic Four helped prove those naysayers wrong, taking in a cool $330 million worldwide from just a $100 million budget. Fun Fact: Stan Lee's cameo is the first and only time he plays a character he actually created in the comics, mailman Willie Lumpkin.
7Howard the Duck - 1986
Sure, Howard the Duck failed to make any sort of impact at the box office when it was released in 1986, but it gained legions of fans in the years that followed and attained cult classic status. New fans are already probably discovering this adaptation now, after the character's inclusion in last year's blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy. Hate on Howard all you want, but it's still a classic. Fun Fact: Willard Huyck never directed another movie again after Howard the Duck's box office failure.
8 Captain America - 1944
This 1944 movie was the first ever adaptation of a Marvel comic, which even pre-dates the name Marvel itself. The comic book company was then known as Timely Comics, before it transitioned to Marvel in the 1960s. Released as a 15-part serial, Captain America boasted a whopping 244-minute runtime and gave early comic book fans the first glimpse of The First Avenger. Fun Fact: This movie was Republic Pictures' last ever serial based on a comic book.
9 Planet Hulk - 2010
For fans eager to see Mark Ruffalo's Hulk blast off into space with a live-action Planet Hulk movie, you can already see the story unfold in the 2010 animated feature Planet Hulk, which went straight to DVD from Lionsgate back in 2010. Rick D. Wasserman voiced the Green Goliath in this epic tale where Hulk grows tired of his Avengers buddies and journeys to a desolate planet. Unfortunately, we may never get that live action Mark Ruffalo version, so, for now, this animated movie is the next best thing. Fun Fact: Sam Liu, who normally directs the DC animated movies, made a brief switch to Marvel for this project.
10Spider-Man 2 - 2004
Many thought he couldn't do it, but Sam Raimi managed to top the critical and commercial hit Spider-Man with Spider-Man 2, which is still one of my favorite superhero movies of all time. The main villain Doc Ock is portrayed brilliantly by Alfred Molina, and Peter's internal conflict of giving up his alter-ego to try and win Mary-Jane (Kirsten Dunst) back are both amazing. For me, though, there are two scenes that immediately come to mind whenever I think about this movie: Peter's "unmasking," while stopping the train, and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) finally learning that Peter is Spdier-Man. Those two scenes alone are worthy of inclusion on this list, but the movie as a whole is one of the best superhero sequels out there. Fun Fact: Joel McHale made his feature film debut on the sequel, playing a character named Mr. Jacks.
11X-Men: Days of Future Past - 2014
There aren't too many movies that literally get the chance to erase the missteps of a previous story, but X-Men: Days of Future Past did just that, in quite a fascinating way. The sequel to 2011's X-Men: First Class marked the return of director Bryan Singer, who hadn't directed a film in the franchise since X2: X-Men United, and his presence was certainly a welcomed one, shepherding a fascinating and complex story that weaved through different timelines with ease and delivered plenty of popcorn thrills to boot. If anything, Evan Peters' Quicksilver Pentagon scene alone is more than enough to include X-men Days of Future Past on this list. Fun Fact: Bryan Singer had a two-hour discussion with filmmaker James Cameron about how to make the concept of time travel feasible.
That wraps it up for our 11 best non-Disney/Marvel Studios adaptations of Marvel comic books. Are there some that you thought should have made the list? Chime in with your thoughts below.