A proliferation of comic book movies means it’s difficult to find a major actor who hasn’t appeared in a live action comic book adaptation. Prior to the recent surge in the genre’s success, it was almost unheard of for a genuine A-list performer to associate themselves with superheroes and villains, but now it seems as if everybody who’s anybody wants a piece of the comic book movie pie.
Movies based on comic books were sporadic prior to the turn of the millennium and it was incredibly rare to see any of them garner any real critical or box office success – the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, the two Michael Keaton Batman movies and the first Blade movie were once rare examples of successful comic book movies. Now, Hollywood is seeing at least three or four blockbuster examples every single year, thanks to the resounding success of the likes of the Blade trilogy and the X-Men movies.
Even more recently, there has been a huge boom in live action television based on comic book stories and, in the case of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, live action television that is a direct spin-off from the movies themselves.
With all of that in mind, inevitably lots of serious actors have found themselves portraying multiple characters in live action comic book adaptations. The following are twenty five acting talents who’ve cashed in on comic book adaptations on numerous occasions.
25. Tao Okamoto
Tao Okamoto is a Japanese model and actress who was born in Chiba 1985. Her modelling career started when she was 14 and she worked in campaigns for the likes of Ralph Lauren and Yves Saint Laurent, but she made the transition to film in 2013, with her very first role being the lead female – Mariko Yashida – in the X-Men franchise instalment The Wolverine alongside Hugh Jackman. The movie was generally received quite positively and Okamoto received praise for her performance.
Just this month, it has been confirmed that she is also starring as Mercy Graves – the bodyguard and personal assistant of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor – in next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
24. Morgan Freeman
Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1937, the brilliant and legendary Morgan Freeman is perhaps best known for his performances in movies like 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy, 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption, 2004’s Million Dollar Baby and 2009’s Invictus (and for his very distinctive voice) – but he has also appeared in a number of movies based on comic books.
In addition to his most high-profile comic book movie role – as Bruce Wayne’s ally and senior Wayne Enterprises employee Lucius Fox in all three instalments of Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Dark Knight Trilogy between 2005 and 2012 – he has also appeared in 2010’s RED as Joe Matheson and 2008’s Wanted as Sloan.
23. Brian Cox
Born in Dundee in 1946, Scottish actor Brian Cox is perhaps best known for his stage acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company and for being the first man to portray Hannibal Lecter on screen in the 1986 movie Manhunter (although it was spelled “Lecktor” for that particular production).
He has, however, also appeared in a few comic book movies. Most notably, he appeared in 2002’s X2: X-Men United, in which he played Colonel William Stryker, but he has also appeared as Ivan Simanov in the aforementioned RED from 2010, alongside the aforementioned Morgan Freeman, as well as its 2013 sequel RED 2.
22. Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins is a Welsh actor who was born in Port Talbot in 1937. A classically trained actor, Hopkins graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 1957, trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and was spotted by Laurence Olivier himself, who invited him to join the Royal National Theatre.
Having also appeared in the likes of 1980’s The Elephant Man, 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1998’s Meet Joe Black and 2012’s Hitchcock, he has recently famously played Odin in 2011’s Thor and 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. He has also appeared in another comic book movie; 2010’s RED 2, in which he starred alongside the other Hannibal Lecter as Edward Bailey.
21. Jessica Alba
Jessica Alba was born in California in 1981 and has gone on to become a successful actress, model and businesswoman. She rose to prominence in the role that she is perhaps still best known for – as Max Guevara AKA X5-452 in the hit cyberpunk science fiction television show Dark Angel in the year 2000.
Since then, she has forged a career in movies and this has included major roles in two different comic book franchises. In 2005, she appeared in both Sin City and Fantastic Four as Nancy Callahan and Sue Storm respectively, and she reprised both roles in 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and 2014’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
20. Michael Clark Duncan
The late, great Michael Clark Duncan was an actor who was born in Chicago in 1957. His most famous role was undoubtedly his breakout performance as the gentle and wrongly convicted giant John Coffey in 1999’s The Green Mile, in which he so brilliantly played opposite Tom Hanks.
He did, however, also feature in two very prominent roles in comic book movies. First, he starred as the antagonist Wilson Fisk AKA Kingpin in the much-maligned 2003 Daredevil movie and, more recently, he provided the voice for an impressive-looking CGI version of the hulking alien Corps member Kilowog in the equally-maligned 2011 Green Lantern movie.
19. Jim Carrey
Wacky actor Jim Carrey was born in Ontario, Canada in 1962. He is undoubtedly best known for his role as Lloyd Christmas in 1994’s Dumb and Dumber – a role he reprised in 2014’s sequel Dumb and Dumber To. He has played equally crazy roles in the likes of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty.
He is also a relatively prolific star of comic book offerings. Starring in 1994 with a titular role in The Mask, he also played The Riddler in 1995’s Batman Forever and, most recently, Colonel Stars and Stripes in 2013’s Kick-Ass 2 – a film he quite famously retracted support for after the Sandy Hook shootings, due to the level of violence it included.
18. Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke was born in New York in 1952. He is an actor, screenwriter and former undefeated amateur and professional boxer whose most notable movie roles include 1982’s cult classic Diner, drama Rumble Fish one year later and the year 2000 remake of Get Carter.
Rourke has also made notable appearances in two different comic book franchises. In 2005, he played the imposing and heavily scarred anti-hero Marv in Sin City – a role he reprised in the 2014 sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. In between those two movies, he also appeared in Iron Man 2 as the antagonist Ivan Vanko AKA Whiplash.
17. Michael Fassbender
German-Irish actor and producer Michael Fassbender was born in Heidelberg, Germany in 1977. He is perhaps best known for his role as Technical Sergeant Burton “Pat” Christenson in the 2001 television series Band of Brothers and for roles in movies like Inglourious Basterds and 2012’s Prometheus.
He’s also appeared in three different comic book movie franchises, though. First, in 2007 he appeared in 300 (whether or not you’d call the source material a comic is up to you), but he’s also appeared as Burke in 2010’s terrible Jonah Hex movie and starred as Magneto in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2011 and 2014 respectively.
16. Scarlett Johansson
Born in New York in 1984, the beautiful Scarlett Johansson is an actress, model and singer. Having made her movie debut as a child in 1994’s North, she has gone on to appear in the like of 1998’s The Horse Whisperer, 2001’s Ghost World, and Girl with a Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation, both in 2003.
More recently, she has starred as Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies 2010’s Iron Man 2, 2012’s The Avengers and 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier – a role she will reprise in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. But that’s not the only comic book franchise she’s been in. Johansson portrayed femme fatale Silken Floss in the 2008 movie based on the The Spirit.
15. Samuel L. Jackson
Bona fide bad-ass Samuel L. Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1948. He’s an actor and producer whose film credits include likes of 1992’s Patriot Games, 1993’s True Romance and Jurassic Park, 1994’s Pulp Fiction, 1997’s Jackie Brown and 2000’s Shaft.
However, he also shares a very similar filmography with the aforementioned Scarlett Johansson as far as comic book movies are concerned. In addition to the same Marvel Cinematic Universe movies as Johansson (Iron Man 2, The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier), he has also appeared as Nick Fury in Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and the television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Additionally, he worked alongside Johansson in The Spirit, when he played villain The Octopus.
14. Mark Strong
Mark Strong is an English actor who was born in London in 1963. He made his acting debut in 1989, but made his name in the television series Our Friends in the North in 1996. He has gone on to star in movies like 2008’s Body of Lies, 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and 2014’s The Imitation Game.
With his penchant for playing antagonists, he has also played two in comic book movies. In 2010, he played Frank D’Amico in Kick-Ass and, a year later, he played Sinestro – the Corps member with a sinister side – in the Green Lantern movie.
13. Michael Shannon
American actor and musician Michael Shannon was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1974. He had a low key start in his career, appearing in minor roles in television films, but appeared in his first big movie in 1993 when had a role in Groundhog Day. He has since appeared in the likes of 2006’s World Trade Centre, 2010’s The Runaways, 2011’s Take Shelter and 2012’s The Iceman. He is also a regular on Boardwalk Empire.
But he’s also portrayed Dr. Cross Williams in 2010’s much-maligned comic book movie Jonah Hex, as well as Superman’s Kryptonian foe General Zod in 2013’s Man of Steel.
12. Nicolas Cage
Zany actor and producer Nicolas Cage was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1964. His choosing of roles has been questionable at best over the years, but he does have some great films on his résumé, including 1987’s Raising Arizona, 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas, 1996’s The Rock and 2005’s Lord of War.
He has also starred as Ghost Rider – a character of whom he is a big fan – on two occasions (both of which were critically slammed); in 2007’s Ghost Rider and 2012’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. In between those movies, he also appeared in Kick-Ass as Damon Macready AKA Big Daddy.
11. Idris Elba
Born in Hackney, London in 1972, the awesome Idris Elba is an incredibly talented actor, producer, singer, rapper and DJ. A prominent television star, his first acting appearance was in 1995 in the drama Bramwell and he has since appeared in shows like The Wire and Luther. His film credits include the likes of 2007’s American Gangster, 2012’s Prometheus and 2013’s Pacific Rim and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – the latter of which he played Nelson Mandela himself.
He has also appeared in comic books movies Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012) as Moreau and Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) as Heimdall – a role he will reprise in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron.
10. Tommy Lee Jones
Veteran Academy Award winning actor Tommy Lee Jones was born in San Saba, Texas in 1946. His first role was way back in 1970, when he had a minor role in the film Love Story, but he has gone on to have many prominent roles in film and television. He starred as former Texas Ranger Woodrow F. Call in the 1989 television mini-series Lonesome Dove and has appeared in films like 1992’s Under Siege, 1994’s Natural Born Killers and 2007’s No Country for Old Men.
Comic book movie wise, he appeared in 1995’s Batman Forever as Two-Face and 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger as Colonel Chester Phillips. He has also featured as Agent J in all three of the Men in Black movies, which is a Marvel property.
9. Halle Berry
Halle Berry is an actress and former fashion model who was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1966. In 2003, she was voted the sexiest woman in the world by FHM. Her breakthrough movie role was in 1992’s Boomerang and she has gone on to star in the likes of 1994’s The Flintstones, 2001’s Swordfish and Monster’s Ball, 2002’s Die Another Day and 2012’s Cloud Atlas.
In terms of comic book movies, she has played Storm in four movies since her first appearance in the X-Men franchise in the year 2000 and, less impressively, starred as the titular Catwoman in the awful 2004 titular adaptation of the character.
8. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman is an Israeli-American actress, producer and director who was born in Jerusalem in 1981. She first appeared on screen in 1994’s Léon: The Professional and has gone on to appear in movies like those in the Star Wars prequel in 1999, 2002 and 2005 respectively, 2008’s The Other Boleyn Girl and 2010’s Black Swan.
She also has a couple of comic book movie franchises to her name, starting with 2006’s V for Vendetta, in which she played Evey Hammond, and in Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) as the titular character’s love interest Jane Foster (she also had a photographic cameo as Foster in the 2012 movie The Avengers).
7. Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is an English actor who was born in High Wycombe in 1990. He started acting at just six years of age, but his first notable role was in 2002’s Tom and Thomas. He has since appeared in movies like 2003’s Shanghai Knights, 2006’s The Illusionist, 2008’s Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and 2014’s Godzilla.
He has also starred as the titular character in the Kick-Ass movies in 2010 and 2013 and, more recently, as Pietro Maximoff AKA Quicksilver in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has only cameoed thus far – in the mid-credits scene of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier – but is set to have a prominent role in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron.
6. Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck is an actor and filmmaker who was born in Berkeley, California in 1972. Starting life out as a child actor, his first role was in the educational 1980’s television series The Voyage of the Mimi. He has notably gone on to appear in the likes of 1998’s Armageddon, 1999’s Dogma, 2012’s Argo and 2014’s Gone Girl.
However, he was also absolutely butchered for his role in the 2003 superhero flick Daredevil, in which he played the titular character, and he will now try to make amends for that after controversially landing the role of Batman in the upcoming 2016 blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
5. Ron Perlman
Bad-ass actor Ron Perlman was born in New York in 1950. Having performed his first acting role in 1979, it wasn’t really until 1987 when he truly rose to prominence as Vincent in the television series Beauty and the Beast – a role he held until 1990. Since then, he has appeared prominently in shows like Sons of Anarchy (2008-2013) and films like 1993’s Cronos and 2013’s Pacific Rim.
Perhaps even more notably, he portrayed the titular Hellboy in the comic book hero’s two movies in 2004 and 2008, as well as a supporting role as Bloodpack member Reinhardt in 2002’s Blade II. Interestingly, he has also voiced a number of comic book characters in various cartoons.
4. Josh Brolin
Josh Brolin was born in Santa Monica, California in 1968. He is a prolific actor whose first notable role is still one of his most memorable – as Brandon “Brand” Walsh in the 1985 adventure The Goonies – and he has gone on to appear in movies like 1996’s Bed of Roses, 1997’s Mimic, 2000’s Hollow Man and 2013’s Gangster Squad.
He has also portrayed the titular comic book character Jonah Hex in his 2010 movie and, more recently, has taken over from Damien Poitier as the Mad Titan Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making his first appearance in 2013’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Additionally, he also portrayed a young version of Agent K in 2012’s Men in Black 3 which, as a Marvel property, is kind of a comic book movie too.
3. Hugo Weaving
Born in Sydney in 1960, Hugo Weaving is an Australian-British actor of film and stage. He is best known for his work as Agent Smith in all three Matrix movies between 1999 and 2003, his role as Elrond in all three Lord of the Rings movies between 2001 and 2003, and his reprisal of the latter role in two of the three Hobbit movies in 2012 and 2014.
He has also portrayed two very contrasting comic book characters in movies; the first being the titular V in 2006’s V for Vendetta and the second being the Nazi megalomaniac villain Johann Schmidt AKA Red Skull in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger.
2. Chris Evans
Chris Evans is an actor and, more recently, a director who was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1981. His acting career began in the year 2000 on the television show Opposite Sex, and he made the move to films a year later with Not Another Teen Movie.
He has also played two of Marvel’s most prominent superheroes. In 2005, he first appeared as Johnny Storm AKA the Human Torch in Fantastic Four – a role he reprised in the sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, two years later. More recently, he has portrayed Captain America since 2011, first appearing in Captain America: The First Avenger and going on to appear in 2012’s The Avengers and 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (has also made an uncredited cameo in Thor: The Dark World). He will reprise the role this year in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
1. Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds is the likeable Canadian actor who was born in Vancouver in 1976. He starred as Billy Simpson in the YTV Canadian teen soap opera Hillside for two years starting in 1991 and has gone on to forge a movie career that has included the likes of 2002’s Van Wilder, 2005’s The Amityville Horror and 2010’s Buried.
He is also a relatively prolific comic book movie actor and has portrayed Hannibal King in 2004’s Blade: Trinity, Wade Wilson in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hal Jordan in 2011’s Green Lantern and will portray Deadpool in the Merc with a Mouth’s 2016 solo movie.
Can you name any other actors who have appeared in multiple live action comic book adaptations? Let us know in the comments below.
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