Logan breaks new ground for comic-book movies, but it has plenty of company in the world of film and other media—works that share its grim and weary worldview, as well its themes of aging ungracefully, unconventional families, and anti-heroism. Want to keep the Logan bummer alive? Check out this list.
Just in case you haven’t seen Logan yet...
The parallels here are obvious. Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopian tale takes place in 2027, two years prior to Logan. Both films imagine a time in which babies are no longer born. In Logan’s case, of course, it’s specifically mutant babies, but the threat of extinction still feels the same. The grizzled protagonists also share some key traits; Clive Owen’s burned-out bureaucrat has a haunted look that Logan would recognize. Both men take on the role of protector for the young women who are thrust into their care—but only for cash, at first. Ultimately, they both end up dying for the cause.
Another obvious choice, because it’s the film that Laura and Charles watch in their casino hotel room, and the source of the eulogy that Laura tearfully delivers over Logan’s grave. The choice of a classic 1950s Western—in which Alan Ladd’s gunslinger comes to the aid of a frontier town besieged by a cattle baron’s brute squad—is obviously meant to underline Logan’s own Wild West leanings. There’s also the not-insignificant plot point of Shane befriending a small boy in the town, who learns the same lesson that Laura takes to heart for slightly more personal reasons: “There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks.”
Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Road has the edge over John Hillcoat’s film adaptation, but both works contain plot points that Logan fans will recognize: a desperate father and his kid travel a beat-up future land where dangerous people hellbent on tearing them apart lurk around every corner. Also, McCarthy has said that he was inspired to write The Road after a visit with his young son to El Paso, Texas—the very place where we find the erstwhile Wolverine slumming as a chauffeur at the beginning of Logan.
Another McCarthy novel that became a film, No Country for Old Men is less overtly like Logan. But it has that same Western noir vibe and is largely set in the kind of place where, say, a trio of mutants could take over an abandoned piece of property with an overturned water tower and hardly anyone would notice. Also, it has a key scene set in El Paso, Texas.
You can’t talk about Westerns that feature mysterious, angry men without bringing up Clint Eastwood, who stars in and directed both of these films. Both works deal heavily in revenge, beatings, and gunplay; in 1973's High Plains Drifter, Eastwood’s never-named character is heavily suggested to be a man whose need for vengeance has brought him back from the dead. Unforgiven, made nearly 20 years later, is about a former Wild West outlaw who is lured out of retirement by a lucrative bounty-hunting gig, though his return to his old ways proves a weighty burden. Drifter is spooky while Unforgiven is just very dark, but both echo Logan’s investigation of a man who is irrevocably tethered to his violent past.
The crusty old dude/spunky young lady dynamic in the True Grit films mirrors the relationship between Logan and Laura in certain aspects. U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne, and Jeff Bridges in the remake) is only after the monetary reward when he agrees to help teenager Mattie (Kim Darby, Hailee Steinfeld in the remake) to find the man who murdered her father. But the job eventually turns personal, in large part because Cogburn begins to respect the tough girl who insists on riding along, and shows herself to be surprisingly capable of holding her own.
Darren Aronofsky’s heartbreaking tale of a washed-up pro wrestler determined to make one last comeback, no matter the cost, is a film that Logan star Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold discussed in early talks about what tone their film would take. And the comparisons are there: Mickey Rourke’s title character has an aging strongman’s body that’s failing after decades of pain and self-medication; he’s also got a boatload of pent-up mental anguish over his damaged relationship with his daughter. At least Logan gives you a smidgen of redemption at the end—The Wrestler offers no such catharsis.
The ultimate “little girl who’s also a lethal assassin” movie, Luc Besson’s 1994 action thriller also has a Logan-esque character in Jean Reno’s solitary hitman, who reluctantly agrees to help his neighbor (Natalie Portman in her film debut) after a crooked DEA agent (Gary Oldman) slaughters her family. When she made Léon, Portman was only slightly older than Dafne Keen, who makes a similarly auspicious impression (and collects a higher body count) in her own first feature.
The classic, epic manga about a sword-swinging father-and-son (really, father-and-baby) assassin team roaming for hire (and revenge) in Japan’s Edo period inspired several films and a TV series. Logan’s awesome tandem action scenes call to mind the delightfully gory fights in Lone Wolf and Cub, in which many an interloper learned the fatal mistake of getting to close to the baby cart.
Not the TV series—the interactive survival title from Telltale Games, which is also based on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic series, but follows different characters and adventures. Protagonist Lee Everett, a college professor who also happens to be a convicted killer, forges a bond with an eight-year-old girl named Clementine as they scrounge their way through the zombie apocalypse. At the beginning Clementine is naive and needs lots of protection, not unlike Laura, who has spent her entire life inside a laboratory and doesn’t know how to interact with the outside world. But like Logan, Lee (whose choices are guided by you, the player) becomes a parental figure—and, perhaps more importantly, someone who gives her the guidance she’ll need to survive in the world once he’s no longer around to help her.
Sure, Old Man Logan was the comics title most-often referenced in the run-up to Logan’s release. And Hugh Jackman’s Logan is definitely a much older version of himself than we’re used to seeing. But the “Death of Wolverine” storyline has maybe even more resonance with the film, as it details the character’s waning health as he loses his ability to instantly heal himself. As we see in Logan, the loss of that superpower is both physically and mentally draining, and it ultimately leads to his death onscreen, too.
So much of Logan’s somber, largely monochromatic marketing referenced Johnny Cash, specifically his late-in-life American Recordings releases. “Hurt,” an exceptionally mournful and lyrically appropriate Nine Inch Nails cover, appeared in one of the trailers. For the full experience, pop on Cash’s very last album in the series, released a year before he died—American IV: The Man Comes Around, whose title song appears under Logan’s end credits—and just let the whole thing wash over you.
Thanks to the io9 staff for their contributions to this list.