3. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Unlike the utterly unfaithful 2017 version of Justice League released in Zack Snyder’s name despite him having little-to-no say over its final cut, the 2021 re-edited version of DC’s biggest superhero team-up of all time, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, was justice served, not only for this individualistic filmmaker but for his legions of fans.
Released in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Snyder took what he perceived to be his last chance at his dream comic book adaptation project and made it as unique to him as he possibly could, elevating the theatrical release tenfold and creating the kind of superhero film that only he could make.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League was four hours long, but like the films to come on this list it was highly stylised and took its time to explain and reveal important plot points, operating with a pulse and rhythm that was close to Snyder’s very best efforts.
Whilst this 2021 version of Justice League didn’t quite feel as ahead of its time, unique or profoundly interesting as the films still to come on this list, there is a case to be made for it being Snyder’s magnum opus, an example of this director’s work that is by all accounts “the most Snyder”.
2. Watchmen (2009)
A visually stunning movie that looks as if it’s ripped straight out of the pages of the critically acclaimed graphic novel it is adapted from, Watchmen may be no less divisive than director Zack Snyder’s other major releases, but in presenting a strong antithesis to the family friendly superhero franchises of the time – namely Spider-Man and X-Men – Snyder made room for a new group of superheroes (or, anti-heroes in this case) at the very top of the blockbuster realm.
Perhaps the first example of Snyder at the height of his individualistic approach, and a film that even now should be celebrated as an example of his directorial intent if nothing else, Watchmen combined an alternative punk rock soundtrack with dark themes and violence in a way that cemented Snyder as a go-to filmmaker within Hollywood.
Whilst audiences and critics alike are divisive regarding the film’s ending – which massively diverts from the source material – and those who dislike Snyder’s work are never going to enjoy this 2009 release, what Watchmen does offer is an inviting visual palette, an undercurrent of rhythm that maintains the narrative’s momentum, and one of the great sequences in all of superhero cinema, the opening montage.
In Watchmen, the lines between good and evil are blurred, the violence brutal and bloody, the events of the narrative morally grey, and so much of this is what makes it unique; Snyder’s vision being one that remains just as different to so much of superhero cinema as it was at the time, even over a decade later.
1. 300 (2006)
Zack Snyder directed something in 2006 that we had never seen before and thus created an overnight success with his relatively small budget stylistic piece telling the mythical tale of three hundred Spartans overcoming the Persian empire, as told through the source material of the “300” limited series of comic books created by legendary comic book writer Frank Miller.
It made Snyder an instant household name and springboarded the director into the mainstream, undoubtedly landing him many of the central Warner Bros roles that have since followed.
300 was over-the-top, flashy and incredibly violent, whilst remaining tightly knit and a breath of fresh air to a genre that was, at the time, dead-set on releasing the likes of Daredevil, Catwoman, Elektra and Fantastic Four.
Everything Snyder would offer in the future of his career was apparent here, the critical reception and audience perception of this film remaining as strong today as it was then, this 2006 film being an outlier as a truly remarkable offering in a never-ending cycle of terrible Ancient Greece/Sparta films from the past several decades.
Whilst Zack Snyder’s Justice League may be the most-Snyder of this famous director’s feature output, and Watchmen arguably his most important release as regards the trajectory of blockbuster cinema, it is the director’s 2nd film 300 which remains his most enjoyable, rewarding and characteristic piece to date.
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