In recent years superhero movies have become extremely lucrative to the production companies that produce them. However, for every Avengers and Dark Knight trilogy, there is a Green Lantern or (god forbid) Batman and Robin. But what exactly makes these movies a success or a failure? Though writing plays an important role in this discernment, another important factor is the casting of the lead hero or heroes. Since so much of this genre of movies centers around this one character, it is important that the actors and actresses who portray them be a good fit.
Not only that, it is important that these actors have some sort of grasp on the character, and how they relate to their respective comic book world. However, as we shall see, there is little in the way of a consistent pattern to show how one should effectively cast someone to play their superhero role. We have seen both big names and relative unknowns fail in this role. Similarly, we have seen critically acclaimed actors and those without quite their skills both flourish as their respective heroes. Whatever the reason for the success/failure, we feel that we should celebrate (and of course villainize) these actors for both their good and bad roles. As such, this list will feature 8 actors we loved in their superhero roles and also 7 who we did not love so much. All facts and references made in this article are the result of the first-hand knowledge of the writer.
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15. Awesome – Evan Peters: Quicksilver
It is hard to imagine any rendition of a character being so cool that it caused another franchise to kill off their rendition. No offense to Aaron Taylor-Johnson who played Quicksilver in the Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in X-Men: First Class is truly what the character was meant to be. Juvenile, witty, and just plain weird, Peters rendition was one of the bright spots of a so-so movie. Luckily this opened up a bigger role for him in the recent X-men: Apocalypse. But really, by now should we be surprised when Peters kills any role? Here’s to hoping the X-men franchise keeps him around for a few more renditions of this really cool hero.
14. Garbage – Alicia Silverstone: Batgirl
If any readers are surprised to see members of the cast of Warner Bros Batman and Robin, it’s probably because they have never seen it. The film is a trainwreck from start to finish. Though the acting was only a part of this film’s much larger problem, I couldn’t resist including some of its actors into our list. To start with let‘s examine the travesty that was Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. From Clueless fame, Silverstone was actually very excited to be one of the first incarnations of a female superhero to grace the big screen. Despite this, it was painfully obvious she had no idea how to play the role. Trying to play the spunky and tenacious Barbara Wilson, Silverstone acted…..well like Alicia Silverstone. Don’t worry though, Alicia was far from being the worst superhero role of all time. She’s not even the worst from this particular film. More from this later.
13. Awesome – Chadwick Boseman: Black Panther
So, admittedly, this one is based on a small sample size. Chadwick Boseman has so far only played the Black Panther in the star packed Captain America: Civil War film, but I really like what he has done with the character so far. Despite being on the wrong side of things for most of the movie (cough, cough, Tony Stark), Boseman carries himself with so much dignity throughout that you can’t help rooting for him. This is exactly the kind of demeanor one would expect from the crowned prince of Wakanda. Couple this with the fact that Boseman looks insanely awesome in the new Black Panther suit, and it’s enough to put his admittedly limited foray into the superhero role on our list.
12. Garbage – Ben Affleck: Daredevil
For those of you who don’t think an individual actor’s performance is that important to the overall success of a film, I offer the case study of Daredevil. The first Daredevil film opened in 2003 on the heals of Spider-Man success. The producers wanted a well known actor to play the blind hero and eventually decided on Ben Affleck. This simply wasn’t the right role for Affleck. I think the biggest issue Affleck had with the role is that he has too much of a presence to play the reserved Matt Murdoch. Also don’t even get me started on Boston native Affleck playing the New York based hero. Luckily, the next incarnation of Daredevil would be noticeably better.
11. Awesome – Charlie Cox: Daredevil
Now that we have properly vilified Affleck for his Daredevil role (don’t worry Ben, I liked you as Batman), we can get a little more positive in our Daredevil examination. I have been extremely impressed so far with relative unknown Charlie Cox and his rendition of the hero of Hell’s Kitchen. For those of you who have not seen the Daredevil show on Netflix, let me just start by saying how great it is top to bottom. All that aside, one of the shows highlights is how Cox plays Matt Murdoch (Daredevil). Confident yet reserved in real life, Cox perfect fits the tumultuous personality of Daredevil. This combined with the great on-screen chemistry he has with Elodie Yung (actress who plays Elektra), and you’ve got this superhero role we loved.
10. Garbage – Tobey Maguire: Spider-Man
Tobey Maguire is semi-unique on this list in that the movie for which his role is listed was very successful with the fans. Maguire played comic book icon Spider-Man for three feature films which all did extremely well in the box office. However, this was more a product of a fanbase being starved for superhero films (and boy have they been gluttonously fed), than it was a reflection of Maguire. First of all, Peter Parker was supposed to be in high school during the first movie and Maguire was 27 when it debuted. Secondly, Maguire’s chemistry with Kirsten Dunst who played Mary Jane was awkward even to my 9-year-old eyes. Overall, this wasn’t a good role for Maguire, but luckily the film was still able to flourish in a film industry which hadn’t yet become oversaturated with superhero flicks.
9. Awesome – Christian Bale: Batman
I think the hardest part about playing Batman is that you have to take a grown man wearing a black cape and not have him be funny. But seriously, as one of the darkest heroes to be featured prominently in film, playing the caped crusader can be a very hard role to fill. Some have done fairly well (Michael Keaton), and some have done awful (George Clooney), but for me the best person to ever strap on the utility belt is Christian Bale. There are many adjectives to describe the recent Dark Knight trilogy, but none of them is corny. Though largely a product of great storytelling, Bales acting helped make these movies the serious, realistic stories that they are. Also I’m giving bonus points for playing the bat and depressed billionaire Bruce Wayne. It is basically like playing two different roles.
8. Garbage – Eric Bana: the Hulk
I don’t think any hero in the recent string of superhero movies has had a harder time finding an actor to define the character than has the Incredible Hulk. A long time stalwart of Marvel Comics, since 2003 Hulk has been portrayed by three different actors in four separate films. The first of these attempts was Hulk in 2003 starring Eric Bana. I think the only thing Bana brought to the film, aside from is star power, was that his last name kind of matches up with that of Hulk’s alter-ego Bruce Banner. Bana as Banner (try saying that ten times fast) was a bad part of an overall bad movie, and finds itself on the wrong side of our list.
7. Awesome – Chris Hemsworth: Thor
I imagine whoever did the casting for Thor was given a criteria something like; gigantic, blonde, godlike good looks, foreign accent. To me this sounds like a perfect description of Chris Hemsworth. I first watched Cabin in the Woods (which Hemsworth actually starred in before being cast as Thor) after I had seen Hemsworth as Thor, and it is obvious that he was much more suited for his superhero role. The guy simply looks too much like a titanic hero of yore to play anything but. Hemsworth is the kinda guy who could have represented a god on Mt. Olympus in Ancient Greece. The next best thing to that in modern superhero roles? Playing the thunder god of Norse mythology.
6. Garbage – Chris Evans: the Human Torch
For this analysis, I’m going to look at the first Fantastic Four film because all the actors obviously (and probably justifiably so) gave up on the plot of the second movie fairly early in shooting. Though I enjoyed Fantastic Four when it first debuted (I was 12 give me a break), it is clear after watching Evans as Captain America that he was simply never the right fit to play Johnny Storm. Storm’s trademark brashness and arrogance just looked wrong on the wholesome Evans. Therefore, while the writers of Fantastic Four tried to make Johnny one of the coolest characters in the film, you could tell that Evans was playing a role completely different from himself. Luckily Evans would really hit his stride with his next superhero role.
5. Awesome – Chris Evans: Captain America
If you need an example of the diversity of superhero films, look no further than Chris Evans. As mentioned above, Evans just never quite fit into the Johnny Storm role, however, he really his stride when he was cast as Steve Rogers AKA Captain America. It is apparent watching the two films that Evans was simply more comfortable as the more hearty and wholesome Rogers than he was as the hotshot Storm. For this reason, Evans is not only on our list of superhero actors we hated but also on the list of ones we loved. Note: I highly recommend looking up Chris Evans throwing the Captain America shield around on set.
4. Garbage – Jennifer Lawrence: Mystique
I’m starting to worry that there’s becoming a pattern of critically acclaimed actors on this list. Much like Affleck, Lawrence just didn’t quite fit into her role as the younger Mystique in X-men: First Class. Rebecca Romijn was cast as Mystique in the original X-men film in 2000 and I think she was a much better fit for the dangerous and edgy role. I find parts of Lawrence’s portrayal of Raven (Mystique) unnerving and it actually distracted me from the plot at times. It did get slightly better, however, once she adopted her “true” blue form which I think may have put Lawrence more in the mind of the role she was playing. Whatever the reason was, Lawrence’s performance in X-men puts her at #2 on our list of superhero roles we hated.
3. Awesome – Ryan Reynolds: Deadpool
When it was announced that Ryan Reynolds was going to play Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a lot of fans, myself included, were very excited. Reynolds seemed like the perfect fit to play the wisecracking invulnerable hero. Despite this, many of us were disappointed by the character and its lack of attention in the film (don’t even get me started on the fact that they “killed” him off). However, this was all rectified in 2016 when it was announced Deadpool would get his own film with Reynolds in the lead. Reynolds in the Deadpool film was everything we had hoped for in X-men; he cracked jokes, he kicked ass, he did both at the same time. Just goes to show you, even if you have the right actor as the right character, you still need decent writing.
2. Garbage – George Clooney: Batman
Anyone who has ever seen George Clooney in any of his other films knows that he is a very capable actor. He has won a litany of awards and is one of the true A-listers of Hollywood. However, Clooney should never ever ever ever ever play Batman. The hero of Gotham City is mean to be a ruthless crusader; Clooney looks like somebody’s cool uncle who let you drive his sweet car to prom that one time. It is amazing to me that in a film where they gave the batsuit nipples, Clooney’s acting was more noticeably bad. I personally think Clooney is too calm and collected to play in any straight action film, but I can without a doubt attest to his inability to play the Bat. I’m sure Clooney will be happy to put his ranking at #1 on our list of superhero roles we hated right up there with all his Oscars.
1. Awesome – Hugh Jackman: Wolverine
I racked my brain trying to find an actor more ingrained into a superhero character than Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine. Jackman was cast as the “tough as nails” anti-hero of the X-men in 2000 at the forefront of the superhero movie craze. Since then, Jackman has starred or appeared in no less than 8 movies and is unquestioningly the favorite character of the franchise. Jackman’s Wolverine has gotten so popular that the X-men movie producers have started writing in minor roles for him into the films just to placate his rabid fan base (see X-men Apocalypse). Here’s to hoping the #1 actor we loved in his superhero role doesn’t give it all up for his musical career too soon.