Anyone who loves stories has a wide variety of media to choose from to absorb those stories. From books to true crime, there are endless options when it comes to finding intriguing stories to dive into. Since there is a plethora of stories out there, many of them are adapted for the screen, either as a film or as a TV show. Novels are one of the most popular forms of media to be translated to the screen, followed by musicals and plays. Even video games have seen a rise in screen adaptations, with the most recent being HBO's The Last of Us. Another form of media that often gets adapted for film or television, which doesn't receive a lot of recognition, would be the graphic novel.

Update July 5, 2023: In honor of the release of Nimona, this article has been updated with even more great adaptations of graphic novels.

Sure, the superhero is the dominant movie at the box office, but there is a major difference between adapting a long-form story like superhero comics and a single-contained graphic novel. While sometimes used interchangeably, graphic novels tend to be one-off stories with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Considering graphic novels are literally books with detailed images, they serve as a sort of halfway point between a novel and a movie.

Both the dialogue and the visuals of what the world and characters look like are already in the book, which lays a foundation for filmmakers and scriptwriters to then translate that story into a feature-length film. Obviously, with a book, the dialogue is already present, but with a graphic novel, there is already a visual style guide. Graphic novels have given audiences some of the best book-to-screen movie adaptations and perhaps simply some of the best movies. Taking that into consideration, here are some of the finest graphic novel adaptations put to film:

13 Nimona (2023)

A scene from Nimona, featuring characters voiced by Chloe Grace Mortez and Riz Ahmed.

The newly released Nimona has been worth the wait. Based on ND Stevenson's 2015 graphic novel of the same name, Nimona was originally developed at Blue Sky Animation Studio before being canceled following Disney's acquisition of parent company 20th Century Fox and shutting down Blue Sky Animation. Annapurna Pictures revived the project, and DNEG Animation was put in charge of animating the film for release on Netflix.

The film is set in a futuristic version of the Middle Ages, the film is a buddy team-up film between shapeshifter Nimona (Chloe Grace-Mortez) and former knight Ballister Boldheart. The movie has received positive reviews from critics since it premiered on Netflix on June 30, 2023. The LGBTQA+ themes make it worth a watch.

12 Ghost World (2001)

Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch in Ghost World
United Artists

Based on the graphic novel by Daniel Crowes, Ghost World follows two recent high school graduates named Enid and Rebecca, who dislike their hometown and have one plan post-high school; to get jobs and move into an apartment. Both Enid and Rebecca have a difficult time relating to other people, hence why they are best friends. When they jokingly respond to an ad in the newspaper from a lonely man seeking a date, it ends up causing turmoil in their friendship as Enid actually starts to enjoy spending time with this older man.

Daniel Crowes was a writer for this film adaptation as well, so his themes are exemplified here. Ghost World realistically depicts the dissipation of childhood friendships into early adulthood. Not many friendships make it past high school and losing those friendships is something that a whole lot of people can relate to. It also realistically depicts the loneliness of being a teenager and also of not fitting in, no matter what age group someone belongs to. There are moments all throughout life where a person may feel like they don't belong or like people don't truly understand them, and this accurately portrays how anyone at any age can get that kind of feeling.

11 My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Ross Lynch in My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Based on the acclaimed graphic novel of the same name, My Friend Dahmer follows the notorious and cannibalistic serial killer during his high school days when he struggles to relate to any of his peers who are around him. Jeffrey Dahmer brutally dismembered his 17 victims over the course of many years, but this movie and the graphic novel focus on life leading up to his first victim, that turned him into who he was.

Related: The 10 Biggest Changes Comic Book Movies Made to the Source Material

Both versions of My Friend Dahmer show how Dahmer became what he was. Coming from a dysfunctional and difficult family environment, leading a very lonely and sad teenage existence, and obtaining some very disturbing habits as a child led to the creation of a psychopathic killer with no remorse for his actions around other people. It's quite different and darker than the typical Hollywood coming-of-age story that most fans know.

10 Snowpiercer (2013)

snowpiercer (1)
CJ Entertainment

About six years before he directed his Oscar-winning masterpiece Parasite, Bong Joon-ho directed another incredible film that deals with the class system. After a failed climate-change experiment leading to life in a post-apocalyptic world, all human survivors are crammed onto a train that is in perpetual motion. Even after the world around them has ceased to exist around them, the many passengers of this train are divided up by social class, with the poor and blue-collar workers stuck in a single car where they are forced to share bunk bed-style beds. They live a life that is not fair on a train that doesn't treat them equally. Meanwhile, the wealthy get to live in posh cars and roam about the train as much as they please with no trouble at all.

Snowpiercer is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, which is French for snow-piercer, written by Jaques Lob. Bong Joon-ho expertly pulls off this film adaptation of a story about the inequalities of social class in a way that only he could. It also features a fantastic performance from superstar actor Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger) in a much grittier role than the Captain America persona he had been portraying for two years at that point in time.

9 Kick-Ass (2010)

Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Kick-Ass
Universal Pictures

A comic book-obsessed teenager named Dave Lizewski decides to become a real-life superhero, despite having no powers, training, or meaningful reason to do so. Other than going unnoticed at school, his life isn't very complicated or difficult. He just wants to be a superhero. That is what he wants to do with his life.

Kick-Ass is based on the graphic novel series by Mark Millar. The motion picture brings the crazy and chaotic world of the series to life in a way that is both cemented in reality and completely over the top. Watching it feels like witnessing the pages of a comic book come to life right in front of you. The characters are colorful and definitely march to the beat of their own drums. The stakes, dialogue, and overall action scenes are ridiculous. However, it brings a refreshing change of pace to the superhero genre for sure.

8 V For Vendetta (2005)

Hugo Weaving as V in front of a propaganda sign in V For Vendetta
Warner Bros. Pictures

In the dystopian future of the United Kingdom, the tyrannical and fascist Norsefire Party rules the British government. An employee of the state-run British Television Network, Evey Hammond, becomes the number one enemy of the government alongside the enigmatic freedom fighter known as "V." When she reluctantly agrees to hide from the government with him, a bond forms between the two and V's past is revealed in a big way.

Based on the 1988 comic series written by legendary Alan Moore,V for Vendetta is a critically acclaimed dystopian thriller that has enamored movie fans and comic book fans alike for over 15 years. Smartly written and full of detail, both the movie and its source material have earned their place in pop culture and have even influenced people in the real world. Occupy Wall Street protesters wore the infamous Guy Fawkes mask during the protest. Even though a couple of the elements from the graphic novel were changed for the screen adaptation of the book, the film still carries the central message of standing up against political injustices and abusive government power.

7 From Hell (2001)

From Hell
20th Century Fox

Another work by Alan Moore, and maybe the most faithful adaptation of his works to date, is a shame as the film was deemed a disappointment by many critics. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Moore and Eddie Campbell, From Hell is one of the darkest and most atmospheric films ever made, recounting the legend of Jack the Ripper. The screenplay was adapted by Albert and Allen Hughes, and the solid cast includes Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, and Ian Holm.

The story follows Inspector Frederick Abberline, an opioid addict tasked to investigate the sudden deaths of a series of prostitutes. Set in Victorian London, the film follows the beats of the original story by Moore, with a chilling and complex story riddled with conspiracy theories. While not openly stated, the movie seems to suggest Abberline was put on the case due to his crippling addiction, as officials didn't believe he could crack the case, as the killer seems to be a notable figure in the royal court.

6 Sin City (2005)


In the seemingly unending sea of comic book films, it's difficult to remember the actual good ones that stand out for being incredible stories. Sin City was already a lauded comic on every front. The incredible tale of Frank Miller shifts timelines, but it's pretty grounded, violent, and grotesque. Fans were shocked to find out the author had teamed up with Robert Rodriguez to bring the story to the big screen. Quentin Tarantino tagged along to direct a scene from the script.

Related: Adult Graphic Novels We Want to See Adapted Into Movies or Series

Sin City is the outstanding hit of 2005. The ensemble cast features the talents of Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen, and many more. The neo-noir anthology intertwines multiple stories set in Basin City, a corrupt, putrid, crime-ridden metropolis where not a single redeemable soul lives. The film delivered everything it was expected from such an enticing reunion of talent, with Robert Rodriguez admitting to using the comics as scene layouts.

5 300 (2007)

Warner Bros. Pictures 

It's not wrong to say Zack Snyder made his bones with 300. The filmmaker had already made a name for himself with the remake of Dawn of the Dead, but this film put him in the spotlight. Based on the graphic novel written and penciled by Frank Miller (his second on this list), the screenplay was adapted by Snyder and Kurt Johnstad. The movie depicts the legendary Battle of Thermopylae, where King Leonidas and 300 Spartans face off against a massive Persian army bent on conquering the Greek nation.

The solid cast includes the amazing talents of Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, and David Wenham. While the film was never meant to be a realistic depiction of the historical event, it does a great job of using stylized visuals, intense battle sequences, and compelling dialogue to follow the grand narrative of the graphic novel. You get tons of visceral visuals, unrestrained violence, and multiple dramatic undertones exploring the harsh realities of Spartan society.

4 Watchmen (2009)

The Cast of Watchmen directed by Zack Snyder
Warner Bros. Pictures

Given Zack Snyder and multiple adaptations of Alan Moore's work appears on this list, it only makes sense that a Moore adaptation by Snyder would be here. In 2009, the director brought Moore's magnum opus, Watchmen, to the big screen. Snyder very closely follows the source material, with the biggest change being the final third act. Yet Snyder clearly sticks close to the comic panels to bring this story to life.

At times this literal translation of the comic is at the time too faithful while also appearing to miss the meaning behind some characters (particularly Rorschach, who Snyder has more respect for than Moore did). Yet it is hard to argue that Snyder did his job and was able to do what many in Hollywood failed to over the years and bring the graphic novel many believed unfilmable to life and actually expose it to a wider audience.

3 The Old Guard (2020)


The Old Guard is another marvelous film where the original author teams up with the original creator of the graphic novel to make a faithful adaptation. The Old Guard is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka, who also wrote the script. It's an intriguing story that follows a group of highly competent mercenaries who have been gifted with immortality.

The film explores the background of all squad members, played by Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, and Matthias Schoenaerts. After being hired for a fake job, the team is ambushed and killed in action. The experiment was carried out by an unknown player who is aware of their gift and aims to take it for himself. After coming to this realization, the team must find a new immortal poised to join their ranks while facing the random nature of their gift. A sequel is currently set to premiere on Netflix in 2023.

2 Atomic Blonde (2017)

Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton in Atomic Blonde
Focus Features

After John Wick became a smash hit, a few studios tried to create a similar character who could work as a feminine counterpart. The most significant result was Atomic Blonde, based on the graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston. The film is directed by David Leitch, with a screenplay written by Kurt Johnstad. The amazing spy thriller features the talents of Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, and John Goodman.

This fantastic story takes place way in the past, in the days of the Cold War era. We follow MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton as she deals with one of Berlin's most treacherous web of espionage and deceit. The film is action-packed, and Theron looks impressive, kicking ass and taking names. The fights overcome the unrealistic trope of having a woman overcome a larger and heavier opponent, as Broughton fights using very resourceful means in unconventional ways to beat her opponents.

1 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

The cast of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Universal Pictures

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is based on the graphic novel written by Bryan Lee O'Malley and truly makes readers feel like an actual video game came to life. Toronto native Scott Pilgrim aspires to reach fame with his band that he plays in, Sex Bob-Omb, and dates fiercely loyal Knives Chau while trying to get over being dumped by pop star Envy Adams when he meets Ramona Flowers. However, in order to date Ramona, Scott must defeat her seven evil exes.

The film adaptation of the graphic novel utilizes the imagery from the book to create a colorful atmosphere where the characters actually find a way to live as if they are in a popular video game. As Scott goes on his journey to battle Ramona's exes, it is played out like a game. He can level up, obtain more lives, find weapons, and upgrade his instruments. Other characters can come to life out of nowhere or physically be censored. It makes for a wildly entertaining, unique viewing experience that you'll want to watch over and over again. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming Netflix anime adaptation compares.