Part of the excitement generated by James Gunn’s appointment as co-CEO of DC Studios stemmed from his reputation as an auteur who can elevate comic book movies into something slightly more artistic. While he has played in both the Marvel and DC sandboxes, he brings signature touches like his sense of humor and killer needle drops to every project he touches.
The early plans that Gunn and his partner Peter Safran have unveiled for their new cinematic universe suggest something more creatively ambitious than Warner Bros. Discovery’s most recent superhero efforts. And while we won’t truly know what their vision entails until the Gunn-directed “Superman: Legacy” kicks things off in 2025, Gunn certainly appears to be taking the job seriously.
In a new interview with GQ, Gunn was asked to rank his top five comic book movies of all time. While the list included predictable picks including “Superman” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Gunn also made the point that the comic book genre encompasses much more than just superheroes.
He singled out Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy” as one of the best examples of the genre, noting that he was initially unaware that the film was based on a comic book (in this case, a Japanese manga by Garon Tsuchiya).
“It reinvented action and it really ushered in the new era of Korean cinema, which has continued to this day,” Gunn said of the film. “They still probably make the best action movies in the world. But as a movie, it’s just incredibly cinematic, incredibly colorful, really kind of gross but also beautiful. And shocking at the end… it works on every level.”
Gunn also singled out David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence,” which was adapted from Josh Wagner and Vince Locke’s graphic novel, as an example of what is possible in the comic book genre.
“When I saw ‘A History of Violence,’ I also, like ‘Oldboy,’ didn’t know this was based on anything. I didn’t know it was based on a novel and I definitely didn’t know it was based on comic books,” he said. “I just saw it as a movie itself so it didn’t have to live up to anything, didn’t have to overcome anything. It was just an amazing movie in and of itself.”
For more of Gunn’s recommendations, check out IndieWire’s updating list of his favorite movies.