Since comic book movies are all Hollywood seems to make nowadays, there seems to be genuine effort on the part of the studios to try and find the perfect person to embody whatever superhero they’re adapting this week. They either shoot for accuracy and go after an actor born for the role or decide to roll the dice on an out of the box casting that surprises everyone. Both require a degree of luck. Finding the exact right actor oftentimes requires an unknown like Reeve or Holland and that’s not always easy to find and going with the unconventional choice could result in gold like Ledger or a turkey like Eisenberg. What’s even rarer is finding an actor who’s actually better than the character they’re portraying, accurate or not. Hugh Jackman is a good two feet taller than Wolverine but he perfectly captures his inner turmoil and rage. Iron Man was more of a humorless dick before Downey Jr. turned him into, well, Downey Jr. There’s many different ways an actor can nail a character and this list celebrates all of them. The accurate, the unorthodox, and the perfect.
These are the 50 Greatest Comic Book Castings of All Time.
50. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) | Marvel Cinematic Universe
Black Widow entered the MCU as a side character in Iron Man 2, with little more to do then be a sexy spy with some secrets of her own. But she really came into her own in Avengers, selling that she was a hostage and yet toying with her captors to get information. Later, she convinces Loki, and the audience, that Loki’s words are tearing her apart, but then flips a switch and makes it clear she is unfazed by the comments and got the info she needs. Some of her best work comes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where she shares an unexpected chemistry with Chris Evans as they go on the tun from the government. She portrays Natasha as someone who has no real friends, but actually forges deep connections with her Avengers teammates. She gets to make an emotional final sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame and she kicks ass in every movie appearance in between.
49. Star Lord (Chris Pratt) | Marvel Cinematic Universe
A Guardians of the Galaxy movie with Star-Lord? Who’d want to see that? Star Lord is a fourth-rate character on a third-rate team. At least, that’s what I said when the film was announced. Now Chris Pratt is responsible for taking the character to almost top-tier status. This is the role that turned Pratt in a mondo-huge superstar. In essence, a Han Solo-esque scoundrel with a predilection for alien woman and fine music of the ’70s. Of course, he saved the galaxy a few times and botched it maybe once or twice. But that’s part of his charm.
48. The Entire Cast of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Who doesn’t love a great ensemble cast where everyone kicks ass? Who doesn’t love seeing Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Alison Pill, Kieran Culkin, Brie Larson, AND Aubrey Plaza take turns stealing scenes from the hilariously awkward Michael Cera? Everyone in this cast is so bought in to their role and how it contributes to the movie overall. Truly a spectacular to see.
47. Eric Draven / The Crow (Brandon Lee) | The Crow (1994)
Plenty of performances get labelled as iconic, but Brandon Lee’s portrayal of Eric Craven in The Crow really does fit the bill. The actor and film truly go hand in hand. Part of that is due to the tragic incident that resulted in Brandon losing his life during production. But that doesn’t take away from his stellar performance. He captures the dark and broody character perfectly, as he oozes charisma and coolness. What happened is an absolute tragedy, but I’m glad he was able to give us such a memorable performance.
46. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) | X-Men Film Series
Taking the baton from Ian McKellen to play Magneto in the X-Men series must have been a daunting task. If anyone could do it, Michael Fassbender could. Although portraying the same character, they have completely different characteristics. His is a younger Magneto who hasn’t quite turned to the dark side yet. Fassbender manages to show hints of what’s to come in a really nuanced performance in X-Men: First Class. Some really intense scenes display the emotional turmoil he suffers and by the time we see him as a full on villain in X-Men: Days of Future Past, it’s glorious.
45. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) | DC Extended Universe
If anyone had already seen Viola Davis’s Emmy-winning performance as Annaliese Keating in How to Get Away With Murder, they certainly wouldn’t have been surprised by her innate ability to portray such ruthlessness as Suicide Squad’s Amanda Waller. A government agent tasked with bringing together a band of villains in the absence of superheroes, Waller proves that while she may not have spent time behind bars with a badass bad guy nickname, she’s certainly one of the villains. She is determined to get the job done at any cost, including sacrificing human lives to do so. Viola Davis is able to create such an intimidating, commanding presence on screen that I think it would be easy to argue the only true villain in the two Suicide Squad movies is Amanda Waller herself.
44. Stanley Ipkiss / The Mask (Jim Carrey) | The Mask (1994)
Few line deliveries in cinematic history hit as hard as “somebody stop me!” Jim Carrey’s brilliant brand of over-the-top slapstick physical comedy was never better fit than it is here in The Mask. To think that the man starred in this, Dumb and Dumber, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective all in the year 1994 is still astonishing. Hot take: The Mask is the best of the three performances.
43. Bruce Banner / The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) | Marvel Cinematic Universe
Having seen three different actors play Bruce Banner/The Hulk, I can confidently say that Mark Ruffalo is the one who knocks it out of the park. Eric Bana and Edward Norton had their own take on the big guy, but it’s really Ruffalo who managed to make the character seem real in my eyes. His take on Bruce Banner, and the Hulk interestingly enough, is a charming one and that gradually grows more comedic as the films continue, but there are still signs of Banner’s angst beneath the humor. Banner eventually embraces the big guy, though the Hulk itself doesn’t always answer the call, reminding the audience that while the two inhabit the same body, they’re definitely not the same person… well, until Endgame, I suppose. It’s hard to imagine anyone else taking on the role of the Hulk and I am hoping Mark Ruffalo sticks around for as long as the Hulk takes part in the MCU.
42. Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) | Flash Gordon (1980)
Within just ten minutes of Flash Gordon, the viewer should immediately think one of three things: 1) whoever decided to hire Queen to do the soundtrack should get a check for life 2) Lorenzo Semple Jr. is an amazingly underrated screenwriter and 3) the cast is having a blast. Timothy Dalton has never been looser or more old school dashing, Brian Blessed is peak Brian Blessed and Max von Sydow is having the time of his life playing the insidious and insanely bored Ming the Merciless. Both adjectives are important to his character because he’s not just an evil galactic warlord, he’s an evil galactic warlord that kidnaps people from other worlds and makes them go through dangerous challenges all because he’s bored. Every facet of his plan stems from the fact that he has nothing better to do and that maybe, just maybe, this college footballer from Earth could give him even the tiniest of thrills. It’s one of my favorite depictions of evil and is easily one of my favorite villains, comic book or otherwise. Marvel take notes — this is how you create an indelible bad guy.
41. Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) | The Dark Knight Trilogy
If it wasn’t for Lucius Fox, Batman would have nothing. NOTHING! He’s the guy behind all the fancy gadgets in the Nolan trilogy and he is supremely represented onscreen by the one and only Morgan “fucking” Freeman. I honestly can’t picture anyone else in the role. Currently there may be four (?) active Batmen (Batmans?) but there is only ONE Lucius Fox.
What do you think are some of the best comic book castings of all time? Maybe some of them will show up on the list!