With blockbuster hits like the original Spider-Man trilogy and the Avengers franchise, Marvel has garnered much of the notoriety relating to the recent superhero movie craze. Despite this, DC Comics has recently made an active attempt to gain a piece of this superhero pie, going so far as commit to a Justice League film to rival the success of the Avengers.
While it is exciting to think about a superhero movie race with both these comic franchises giving it their all in order to corner the market, we are well aware that not all superhero movies are created equal.
As such, this list will name the 8 Best and 7 Worst DC Casting Choices So Far. While the DC Comics film universe has previously been dominated by the Batman and Superman epics, recently films like Green Lantern and shows like The Flash and Arrow have brought other heroes to prominence.
Thereby, this list will heavily feature the two major heroes of DC Comics, but will also highlight lesser-known heroes. Not only this, but due to DC’s reliance on superhero TV shows, this list will not be limited to only big budget movies. We hope this list will show that superhero epics do not begin and end with Marvel comics. All facts and storylines related to the characters or their comic books are from the firsthand knowledge of the author or the DC Comics Character page. All information specifically about the films and TV programs is from IMDB.com.
15. Best: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robin)
I think we all know by now that Joseph Gordon-Levitt could play a cardboard box and it would be Oscar worthy. The guy has countless entertaining portrayals, including his brief foray as the Boy Wonder in the final film of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. Playing a young police officer (sadly a break from Robin’s original comic book storyline), Levitt’s Robin tries to help an aging Batman fight the sadistic Bane. At the film’s conclusion, Levitt is rewarded for his efforts by finding the Batcave and beginning a whole new chapter of Gotham’s superhero legend. JGL is immensely talented and it showed here, causing us to put him at the start of our list at #15.
14. Worst: Uma Thurman (Poison Ivy)
Going through this list, I realized that there was a whole well of DC roles that I hadn’t yet considered, that of DC villains. In regards to DC villain roles that sucked, look no further than Uma Thurman’s portrayal of Poison Ivy in the much-maligned Batman vs. Robin. Though you’ll see several other portrayals from this movie listed here, at least actors like Chris O’Donnell and George Clooney are immensely talented. However, this movie is just another example of why I cannot understand the appeal of Uma Thurman. Admittedly, Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction were cool, but none of that had anything to do with Thurman’s stiff and unconvincing acting. This film was just another example of that, as Thurman brought none of the sneakiness and sex appeal usually associated with the Poison Ivy character. Luckily the other Batman villain named on this list did quite a bit better in representing his character.
13. Best: Sylvester Stallone (Judge Dredd)
I think Judge Dredd is unique on this list in that most people don’t even know that he’s actually a superhero. But yes, not only is Judge Dredd a fairly well known comic book (especially in the U.K.), but it was also owned for a short period of time in the 1990s by DC Comics. Most people, however, are more familiar with the 1995 movie starring Sylvester Stallone as the android-like law enforcer. You may ask, how hard is it to play such a standard law and order character, and why is Stallone’s portrayal worthy of this list? One main reason, the voice. Reading Judge Dredd comics growing up, the muddled monotone voice of Stallone fits perfectly with what the emotionless Dredd would sound like. For perhaps the only time, Stallone’s voice earns him an accolade and a spot on this list at #13.
12. Worst: Stephen Amell (Green Arrow)
I want to be clear that the placing of Stephen Amell‘s Arrow persona on the negative portion of this list shouldn’t be taken as a critique of the show, or even of Amell’s performance itself. I actually believe that he makes a very believable Green Arrow, however, the main issue I draw with the show (and the reason for it being placed on this list) is that the comic book Green Arrow is in his mid-50s while Steve himself is a young man. As such, its ranking here is not so much about the show itself as it is Hollywood’s need to have every character be attractive. This is not limited to DC either, as I am also slightly unsettled by the casting of Marisa Tomei to play Aunt May in the upcoming Spider-Man epic.
11. Best: Henry Cavill (Superman)
Some of you may be surprised to see an actor who played Superman grace this list. After all, Superman is your quintessential boy scout, how hard is it to play someone who’s always doing the right thing? To begin with, such is not the case with the Superman from the recent Man of Steel films. Though I am still skeptical of Superman as a compelling character, the recent films have generally been much more enjoyable, due in large part to their putting the hero of Metropolis in real world situations. Admittedly, the paraplegic terrorist is Batman vs Superman was a little more dark than necessary, but at least the storyline was more compelling than Superman saving Lois Lane again from some superpowered foe.
Also, I think it is important to note that Cavill has added an element to the Superman character which has been absent from all other portrayals, arrogance. Of course the guy with super strength from an alien planet is going to be slightly arrogant, he is superior to humans in almost every conceivable way. I think that just this touch of realism has done wonders for the Superman character, and for that reason he makes our list here at #11.
10. Worst: Chris O’Donnell (Robin)
I’m glad that actor Chris O‘Donnell was able to find success after the horror that was Batman and Robin. While established stars like George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger could afford to be tied to such a terrible movie, O‘Donnell was still a relative unknown at the time. To be fair to him, his portrayal was far from the worst part of this movie. Just off the top of my head, Clooney’s portrayal of Batman and Jeep Swenson’s portrayal of the villain Bane were both infinitely worse. However, none of this changes the fact that O‘Donnell‘s Robin was also pretty bad. Instead of being a boy wonder, O’Donnell was more of a hotshot Johnny Storm type. We give him a slight break for being part of a such a terrible film, however, his bad match as Batman’s sidekick more than earns him a spot on the poorer part of our list.
9. Best: Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn)
Margot Robbie is a perfect example of how an actor (or actress) can truly hit the jackpot with a superhero role. While Robbie has appeared in some other high profile films (Concussion, Wolf of Wall Street), her role in the recent Suicide Squad film has truly catapulted her into superstar status. For those of you who have not seen the film (and apparently hid in your house all Halloween) Robbie plays Harley Quinn, the slightly demented girlfriend of the highly demented Joker (of Batman fame). A longtime comic book darling, Robbie truly brought this character to life in the recent film and has drawn widespread praise for her portrayal. With subsequent Suicide Squad films already being planned, we will luckily see more of this talented actress in this highly entertaining role.
8. Worst: Anyone on the Show Gotham
I cheated a little on this entry by including several characters, but c’mon, somebody had to say it. For all the commotion raised about Batman v. Superman not living up to expectations (the film wasn’t the greatest I had ever seen but it was tolerably entertaining), I have heard little complaints about how spectacularly awful the Gotham show on CW is (perhaps because no one is actually watching it). This show is supposed to take place in the Gotham of Batman’s childhood, and as such, it contains several of the Dark Knight’s famous villains before they became quite so notorious. The problem is that not a single one of these villains (or the actors cast to play them) are entertaining. Good for #8 here.
7. Best: Heath Ledger (The Joker)
We talked earlier about Uma Thurman’s bad acting being part of an awful Batman movie, now we’re going to talk about Heath Ledger’s great acting being part of an amazing Batman movie. Most of us know the story about Ledger’s performance as the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight and the tragedy that befell him during filming. I don’t think a list like this can truly illustrate how great Ledger’s portrayal of Gotham’s greatest villain was (especially with all the things going on during this period in his personal life). During filming, Heath Ledger wasn’t a Hollywood star, he was the Joker. Bale himself has called Ledger’s performance one of the best he’s ever seen (this coming from a guy with some serious acting chops himself). For these reasons, we pay homage to Ledger with his listing here at #7.
6. Worst: Tom Welling (Clark Kent/Superman)
So I will give Smallville some points for being a TV show about superheroes way before it was popular. However, that doesn’t forgive the fact that this show simply isn’t very good. A big part of that, is the fact that the show isn’t about Superman, it’s about Clark Kent. And really who gives a damn about Clark Kent? (Judging from the first few seasons’ ratings of Smallville, quite a few.) Additionally irksome for me, was the portrayal of Kent by Tom Welling. One underrepresented aspect of the Superman comics was the fact that Clark Kent himself wasn’t all that special (kind of a Peter Parker/Spider-Man relationship). Welling, however, could be a superhuman himself and just isn’t convincing as the supposedly mortal Clark Kent.
5. Best: Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern)
Before you instantly label the rest of this article as uninformed, just hear me out. The 2011 Green Lantern film was terrible. But think to yourself, was any part of the film’s overall awfulness due to Ryan Reynolds‘ portrayal of Hal Jordan? Thereby, in the spirit of this list, let’s ignore the overall issues with this film and focus on the exceptional job Reynolds did in his portrayal of Green Lantern within this awful film. First of all, let’s give credit to the writers for their one good decision of using the Hal Jordan character, the coolest Green Lantern incarnation. Next, let’s give credit to Reynolds himself for his highly entertaining portrayal of the brass and cocky fighter pilot. Though admittedly not as good as his Deadpool portrayal (sorry, DC), Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern was still enough to grace our list.
4. Worst: Halle Berry (Catwoman)
DC Comics (I’m sure much to their chagrin) hasn’t been able to put out the sheer volume of films that Marvel has been able to, and of those films that they do produce, a large number of them are centered around the Batman and Superman franchises. If you’re looking for a reason for this practice, look no further than the immense failure that was the 2004 Catwoman film starring Halle Berry. For those of you unfamiliar with the Catwoman character, she originally gained notoriety as a Batman villain (who ultimately turns good). The character is meant to be a glorified cat burglar but it was obvious from the beginning of the film that Berry had no idea how this character operated in the comics. Instead, this film is all about Berry running around in small little leather outfits (which I can appreciate, don’t get me wrong) and crouching around at weird angles. Not the best moment for DC’s movie franchise.
3. Best: Christian Bale (Batman)
With all respect to Michael Keaton and Adam West, Christian Bale is the best Batman. More than any other actor to don the black cape, Bale has been able to portray Batman as the dark avenger that the comics envisioned him being. Part of this is obviously the direction taken by director Christopher Nolan, but I think it is unfair to not give Bale a significant amount of credit for these films’ success. Not only this, but his chemistry with villains Heath Ledger (the Joker) and Tom Hardy (Bane) in the second and third films was simply phenomenal. Throw in the fact that he had to gain almost 109 pounds (much of it muscle) for this movie and it’s hard not to be impressed. For this reason, Christian Bale is the honorary Batman to make our list of best DC casting choices, here at #3.
2. Worst: George Clooney (Batman)
If you’re a fan of Batman movies or superhero flicks in general, you had to see this one coming. While the 1997 Batman and Robin is atrocious, Clooney’s portrayal of the caped crusader may have been the worst part, and this is coming from a film where they gave the batsuit nipples! Clooney simply has none (and I mean literally zero) of the rage and depression needed to play the Batman character. It is simply not believable that both of Clooney’s parents were murdered right in front of them, hell, I don’t believe anything bad happened to Clooney in his entire life. With Clooney unable to relate at all to the Batman character, his portrayal here fell flat. Therefore, he unfortunately tops our list of bad DC casting choices.
1. Best: Grant Gustin (The Flash)
I was initially disappointed when I began watching The Flash on CW when I realized that the show centered around the Barry Allen Flash character rather than the witty Wally West. This decision aside, the show in general is pretty great. The storylines are well thought out, the villains are entertaining, and the show portrays the Flash’s super speed in a variety of cool ways. One of the best aspects of the show, however, is Grant Gustin’s portrayal of the Flash/Barry Allen. As I mentioned above, I am a much bigger fan of the West Flash, as the Barry Allen version has always struck me as boring. Gustin, however, brings some life to the character and provides a very entertaining main character. For that reason he tops the good part of our list, here at #1.