As we count the final few days before the release of Avengers: Infinity War, which could arguably be the most anticipated film in cinema history, it's time we take a look back at just how much comic book movies have impacted the lives of so many actors.
However, until about a decade ago, starring or appearing in a comic book-based movie was far from the guaranteed blockbuster it has come today. While the first couple of films in the Batman franchise from the early 1990s fared well, there were numerous instances where producers tried to take some of the most popular comic book superheroes and portray them on the big screen, to very mixed results. Lots of times, these producers even cast some of the biggest names in Hollywood to fill those roles, but that didn't change the fate of the movies at the box office.
But with the rebirth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, and all the subsequent films that have lead up to Avengers: Infinity War, there have been a whole slew of actors who went from relative anonymity to genuine Hollywood heavyweights. Before those movies, some of these actors were auditioning for various roles and merely hoping to get work somewhere. After these films, they'll never have to worry about auditioning for another movie, or where their next paycheck will come from. To that end, here are 10 actors who fit their superhero roles perfectly, and 10 who clearly didn't.
20 Fits: Tom Hiddleston (Loki)
Whether you think of him as a supervillain, anti-hero, or superhero, Tom Hiddleston became one of the breakout stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his portrayal of Loki, the adopted brother and on-again, off-again nemesis of Thor. Hiddleston was the hand-picked choice of famed actor and director Kenneth Branagh, who directed the original Thor film. Hiddleston credits Branagh with giving him his "break" in Hollywood, as he Branagh was the one who went to Marvel executives to vouch for Hiddleston.
Ironically enough, Hiddleston said he originally auditioned for the role of Thor. He thought he'd be a good fit for the role, given him being a classically trained actor who's tall and blonde.
But Branagh was clearly on to something, as film magazine Empire ranked Hiddleston's portrayal as Loki the 19th Greatest Movie Character of All Time.
19 Didn't Fit: Taylor Kitsch (Gambit)
Let's put aside the fact that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was just a really bad movie to begin with. The fact that the producers and writers decided to haphazardly throw in the character Gambit, one of the most beloved members of the X-Men, as something of a cameo role in this movie, was just another one of the decisions that doomed this movie to failure.
First of all, there was always something of a hostility between Wolverine (portrayed by Hugh Jackman) and Gambit, so why did they think it'd be a good idea to throw him in this movie? And while Taylor Kitsch's "dark and brooding" persona might've otherwise seemed to fit the role of the rough-around-the-edges Cajun superhero, nobody in their right mind thought Kitsch did anything close to portraying Gambit for the first time in a comic book movie. This was a total miss.
18 Fits: Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury)
While comic book fans have historically voiced their displeasure with characters being portrayed by actors with a different racial background, it was good to see that Samuel L. Jackson didn't receive much backlash when he was cast as Director Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Fury first made a cameo in the role in the post-credits scene of the original Iron Man film, as the first of his nine-film deal with Marvel. He has played the role perfectly, deftly switching between being someone that's the head of a top spy organization, and being the tough guy that Jackson saw Fury being. Interestingly enough, Jackson is not currently slated to appear in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War film, though he will see him in the subsequent Captain Marvel film.
17 Didn't Fit: Tye Sheridan (Scott Summers/Cyclops)
Tye Sheridan looks like he's getting his big break in Hollywood, playing the lead role of Wade Watts in the film adaptation of Ready Player One, but it's doubtful he received that break because of his work as Scott Summers (a.k.a. Cyclops) in the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse.
Cyclops was always something of a "goody two-shoes" character in the comics (though someone you certainly didn't want to mess with when he got mad), but Sheriden's adaptation of Cyclops was much more of an annoying character in general. Apparently, nobody learned from this mistake, as he'll reprise the same character in the next film in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Dark Phoenix (to be released in 2019).
16 Fits: Ian McKellen (Magneto)
Coming up on 80 years old, Sir Ian McKellen is certainly in the twilight of his years with us. And when he's gone, we're going to look back upon him as one of the greatest actors of our time. McKellen has won nearly every acting award that exists, as well as five Emmy Award nominations and two Oscar nominations. On top of that, the former Shakespearean actor was absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of the comic book supervillain (and anti-hero) and arch-nemesis of the X-Men in Magneto.
Not only did he bring the appropriate gravitas of the character to life, but his chemistry with Charles Xavier – portrayed by Patrick Stewart – was spot on, in terms of the relationship the two shared in the comic books.
This one was a clear win.
15 Didn't Fit: Tobey McGuire (Peter Parker/Spiderman)
If director Sam Raimi's objective was to make Peter Parker a complainer who just happened to have been bitten by a radioactive spider, only to receive superhuman abilities, then he masterfully accomplished this by casting Tobey McGuire in the role of Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spiderman. Yes, Parker was supposed to be something of a "nerd" in the comics, but McGuire took that to a whole new level.
In the sequels to the original Spider-Man film (released in 2002), his character was so emotional that he lost some of his edge. It's not surprising to see that the Spiderman franchise was among the first to receive a reboot, as everyone wanted to quickly forget McGuire and his work (along with these films).
14 Fits: Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier/Professor X)
Patrick Stewart will be likely be primarily associated with his portrayal of Jean-Luc Piccard in the Star Trek franchise, but his work as Charles Xavier – also known as "Professor X" – in the X-Men film franchise was masterful.
Between the bald head, and the wise old man delivering wisdom to a group of followers, he fit the role perfectly.
Further, when director James Mangold decided to take an edgier tone to the dystopian sequel Logan, Stewart more than rose to the occasion, portraying a rougher, cruder, decaying version of Xavier that fit perfectly with what the movie was trying to depict. James McAvoy has done a good job portraying the Charles Xavier role in the rebooted X-Men films, but he still can't touch the level of performance by Stewart.
13 Didn't Fit: Halle Berry (Storm)
It's not that Halle Berry did a bad job of portraying the character "Storm" in the X-Men film franchise. The problem is: the character was originally named "Ororo Munroe," who, as the name would imply, was a tribal princess from Kenya. While Berry is half African-American herself, it was really hard to see the (stunningly beautiful) all-American Berry portray this character, especially as Munroe/Storm is known more for her weather-controlling powers and team leadership, as opposed to being someone whom guys can't stop staring at. It's not easy for someone with supermodel looks to portray a superhero, and Berry just seemed to miss the mark in this role. And in case one might think this was exclusive to her work as Storm, her work in Catwoman, where she played the titular character, couldn't save that disaster of a flick, either.
12 Fits: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star Lord)
Chris Pratt and the role of Peter Quill (also known as "Star Lord"), the leader of The Guardians of the Galaxy, could be the second-most serendipitous pairing of a character and role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Pratt was previously known for his role as the portly Andy Dwyer in the sitcom Parks and Recreation, but after successfully getting the part of Star Lord, Pratt's incredible transformation, in which he exercised upwards of an hour a day for six days a week for six months straight, led to him dropping over 60lbs, giving himself a body that any superhero would be proud of.
His outstanding work as Quill instantly catapulted him to a certified A-list actor in Hollywood right now.
Pratt will be one of the more prominent characters in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War film as well.
11 Didn't Fit: Don Cheadle (James Rhodes/War Machine)
Here we have another actor who didn't portray their superhero role poorly, but was just a bit of a weird fit for the character they played. Don Cheadle is an Academy Award nominee, and someone highly capable of being a leading actor in any caliber of film. So, to see him cast as Lieutenant James Rhodes, wearer of the "War Machine" armor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where he's essentially a secondary or even tertiary member of the Avengers, just seems like an odd fit.
His work in this role has an even stranger back story, as the role was originally portrayed by Terrance Howard in the first Iron Man film, but later given to Cheadle as a replacement when Marvel Studio's balked at Howard's future contract demands.
10 Fits: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America)
There was a little bit of trepidation from comic book fans when they learned Chris Evans was cast for the role of Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America. How would the cocky and lean character they remembered from the two Fantastic Four films live up to one of the most iconic roles in all of Marvel Comics? Looking back on it now, that question seems almost silly.
We've gotten to the point where we can't imagine Evans as anyone but Steve Rogers, and after putting on upwards of 30lbs of muscle for each film, he totally looks the part as well.
Even on his highly active Twitter account, most people see Evans' tweets as the word of Captain America, instead of just some Hollywood actor.
9 Didn't Fit: Ben Affleck (Daredevil)
Hollywood really needs to stop trying to turn Ben Affleck into a superhero. Every time you see Affleck portraying Bruce Wayne/Batman in one of the new DC Universe films, there's this unmistakable "I really wish I wasn't doing this" vibe from Affleck's performance. That could stem from his previous (poor) experience portraying a superhero; namely, his work as the titular character in the Daredevil film in 2003.
Critics panned Affleck's casting in the film, with the New York Times saying, "A big man, Mr. Affleck is shrivelled by the one-dimensional role." To this day, Affleck admits that Daredevil is the only film he regretted making. No word yet on how he feels about the stink bomb of a film that was Justice League, though.
8 Fits: Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther)
In all fairness to Chadwick Boseman, virtually every time he's asked to portray a prominent African-American (or just African) character, he absolutely nails the part. He really deserves more credit for being a fantastic actor. He was brilliant as Jackie Robinson in the film 42, he was even more brilliant as the iconic James Brown in the film Get On Up, and the teaser he provided us with his work as T'Challa (better known as the Black Panther) in Captain America: Civil War left us more than intrigued with the forthcoming Black Panther film.
And as anyone who's seen the film will attest: Boseman did not disappoint – quite the opposite, in fact. In Ryan Coogler's star-studded film (with numerous outstanding performances), Boseman magnificently delivered us more depth and nuance in the T'Challa character.
7 Didn't Fit: Jessica Alba (Susan Storm/Invisible Woman)
Why did the two Fantastic Four films (in 2005 and 2007) fail so badly, given the blockbuster potential that comic book movies had? It's because the titular characters were about as interesting and charismatic as a piece of printing paper. Jessica Alba, portraying the role of Susan Storm (aka the Invisible Woman) was among the reasons why reviewers criticized this film for having "subpar acting."
Still, Alba – along with the rest of her co-stars – signed a three-picture deal, and while the second Fantastic Four film, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, did a bit better in the eyes of the critics, most people still thought it was a terrible film with terrible acting. We've all come to realize that Alba is stunningly beautiful, but not know for her acting abilities.
6 Fits: Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman)
An Israeli beauty queen and former fashion model was probably not what the folks at DC Comics had in mind when they first created the character known as Wonder Woman back in the early 1940s. In fact, only two years before first being cast in the role of Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot was making her way up through Hollywood by taking on small-time roles in a few films, headlined by being the eye candy in two films in The Fast and the Furious franchise.
But between her role in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and her solo Wonder Woman film, Gadot's portrayal of Diana Prince was described as "inspired" and "charismatic," among other superlatives, while one critic even went as far as saying, "Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman is Gal Gadot."
5 Didn't Fit: Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider)
Even though Ghost Rider ended up being a box office success, the truth is probably somewhere closer to one publication referring to the movie as the worst comic book film of the decade. Nicolas Cage lent to the role of Johnny Blaze exactly what you'd think; it was characterized by Rotten Tomatoes as "jokey puns and hammy dialogue." Cage accused the filmmakers of trying to turn what should have been an R-rated movie into a PG-13 film (to allow for a wider audience), but the fundamental truth is that Cage isn't someone you'd want to see as motorcycle-riding vigilante infused with powers from the underworld. What's even worse about all of this is that they actually made a sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, which nearly everyone agrees was worse than the first one.
4 Fits: Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
At this point, it's really hard to imagine there's anyone in Hollywood that would do a better job portraying the character of Thor better than Chris Hemsworth. Even though he's not naturally built like the massive Norse god of Thunder, Hemsworth is naturally athletic enough to where he's been able to pack on the muscle to fully resemble the comic demigod.
Even though he's considered to be one of the most handsome men in Hollywood, he still has that rugged quality that you'd need from one of the most powerful and fierce superheroes in all of Marvel comics.
Ironically, the folks at Marvel first passed on Hemsworth after he first read for the part, but they gave him the role after a second reading. You could say that was a good decision.
3 Didn't Fit: Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan/Green Lantern)
Seriously, whose idea was it to cast Ryan Reynolds as a superhero, and then hand him a horribly watered down script that takes zero advantage of his dry wit and amazing sense of humor? DC Comics sure has a way of stripping away all the personality and charm from any leading man they cast. You could make an argument that of all the superhero films to be made since the turn of the century, Green Lantern was the worst of them all.
Warner Bros. probably felt the same way, considering they quickly cancelled the planned sequel to the film, providing mercy to the legion of comic book fans out there. Again, it's not that Reynolds did a terrible job; instead, everyone recognized just how badly the producers of this film wasted all his talent and appeal. The only upside to this film for Reynolds was that it ended up being the location where he developed the chemistry with his co-star that would eventually become his wife, Blake Lively.
2 Fits: Robert Downey Junior (Tony Stark/Iron Man)
With one film, and one role – which has been referred to as "the role he was born to play – Robert Downey Jr went from a highly-talented actor that was all but forgotten in Hollywood, to instantly being put atop Hollywood's A-list actors and becoming a de facto godfather of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We all know that the first Iron Man film, back in 2008, was the first step in an insanely successful string of comic book hero films.
The momentum created by Downey with his immaculate portrayal of Tony Stark provided the momentum for all the subsequent films that introduced us to all the other Marvel superheroes.
Downey is approaching his twilight as a member of the MCU, but it's hard to see Marvel letting Downey, and Iron Man, retire anytime soon.
1 Didn't Fit: George Clooney (Bruce Wayne/Batman)
No two ways about it: 1997's Batman and Robin wasn't just the worst superhero movie ever made, but it's right up there in the running for the worst movie ever made, period. You could write an entire book about all the terrible decisions made in the production of this film, and casting George Clooney as Batman would deserve its own chapter. The long-time bachelor was a decent option if he were to portray the role of Bruce Wayne exclusively, but how in the world could you justify making Clooney a crime-fighting superhero?
When you compare Clooney's portrayal of Batman, especially when compared to that of Michael Keaton or Christian Bale, you'll see why it was a cinematic farce. We're pretty sure Clooney himself has blocked out of his memory that he even made this movie.