There are times when characters leap right out of the pages of comic books and onto the silver screen as a direct result of the actors portraying them. There are the occasional miscasts, but more often than not, the actors are appropriate for their roles, sometimes being ideally cast.
Casting choices in comic book films have a strong tendency to cause much more of an uproar among fans than they do in other genres of films. Despite the controversy, these actors often prove the fans wrong and end up becoming embraced by them.
These are the 25 best casting choices in comic book films. It ranges from superheroes to supervillains, as well as beloved supporting characters. It is a list of actors who saw the potential to turn a comic strip character into something magnificent on film, and who utilized their talents and abilities to accomplish their goal.
25. Thomas Jane as Frank Castle/The Punisher in The Punisher
The Punisher (2004) is an underrated gem which sadly never got the praise it deserved, nor did it get a sequel. It instead got an over-the-top reboot which was the equivalent of a cinematic cartoon. It differs from the comics since it takes place in Miami instead of New York, and the title character is a much more emotional and tragic figure than a mindless killing machine, but it is still a great film in its own right.
Thomas Jane does a terrific job of portraying Frank Castle, a man who loses his entire family in a hit by mob boss Howard Saint (John Travolta). He embodies the ruthlessness of The Punisher, but also adds a more human spin on the character.
Out of the three actors who attempted to bring The Punisher to life on screen, the other two being Dolph Lundgren in the 1989 film, and Ray Stevenson in 2008’s Punisher: War Zone, it is safe to say that Thomas Jane did the most for the character. He also voiced Frank Castle in a 2005 video game, and he reprised his role in the 2012 short fan film entitled Punisher: Dirty Laundry.
24. Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth in The Dark Knight Trilogy
Sir Michael Caine needs no introduction. He is a two-time Academy Award winner and a truly phenomenal actor. There is no debating that he was perfectly cast as Bruce Wayne’s trusted British Butler Alfred Pennyworth in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series. He expertly portrays the only family Bruce Wayne has left, since he had his parents taken from him at such a young age.
Performing every task ranging from reassuring a young Bruce Wayne that his parents’ death wasn’t his fault, to convincing Bruce that Gotham needs Batman and to continue even after his lifelong friend Rachael is murdered by The Joker, Michael Caine’s Alfred embodies the emotional core of The Dark Knight Trilogy. His role as Alfred tops even that of that late Michael Gough, who portrayed the character in four Batman films from 1989 to 1997.
23. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America in the Captain America and Avengers franchises
The unlikely casting of Chris Evans as the world’s most patriotic superhero in 2010 was met with controversy and backlash. A lot of fans were weary of him portraying the beloved hero due to his previous experience with playing The Human Torch, another Marvel Comics character, in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, two less-than-stellar superhero films.
Needless to say, Evans proved them wrong when Captain America: The First Avenger was released in 2011, and further solidified his status as a superhero in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Evans brilliantly depicts an ordinary man put into an extraordinary situation when he is given a super soldier serum and sent to Nazi Germany to fight Hydra, the rogue science division led by the sinister Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).
Evans’s acting skills improve in the later films, especially in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where he is learning to adapt to modern times and goes up against S.H.I.E.L.D., which has become an NSA-like surveillance agency infiltrated by Hydra. Evans is extremely believable as the iconic superhero who is still upholding America’s greatest virtue, freedom, in the 21st Century. Simply put, he is one of the best casting choices in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
22. Terence Stamp as General Zod in Superman II
Michael Shannon did an adequate job of portraying one of Superman’s most powerful enemies in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but Terence Stamp IS General Zod. His incarnation of Zod may seem a little campy by today’s standards, but is still iconic nonetheless. His famous line “Kneel before Zod!” has been referenced and parodied in popular culture again and again; a perfect example being in Kevin Smith’s 1995 slacker comedy Mallrats.
Terence Stamp’s General Zod is one of the most fun elements of the old Superman movies. He is brilliant as the cold, genocidal Kryptonian general aided by his equally powerful Kryptonian allies, Ursa and Non. Their combined strength provides Christopher Reeve’s Superman with his greatest challenge in all four films.
21. Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman in the Superman franchise (1978-1987)
Richard Donner’s 1978 classic Superman: The Movie was the grandfather of one of the most successful genres of blockbuster films of the 21st Century. It made you believe a man could fly. Christopher Reeve’s Superman is one of the most iconic depictions of the character. He nails every aspect of Superman, ranging from a man who is forced to deal with the loss of his beloved father, Pa Kent (Glenn Ford), to his disguise as the clumsy Clark Kent at The Daily Planet.
Even though Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace were certainly not on par with the first two, Reeve remained as charming and charismatic as ever as cinema’s first real comic book hero. Henry Cavill still has some very large shoes to fill.
20. Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in The Avengers franchise and Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Scarlett Johansson has had an illustrious career, especially in recent years with films such as Her and Don Jon. Her ongoing role as the Russian agent-turned-Avenger Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe only solidifies her status as an A-lister. Even though the character is lacking the Russian accent she is supposed to have, Scarlett Johansson does a fine job of bringing the strongest female superhero in the MCU to life.
Black Widow was first introduced to audiences in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and like Captain America, has become more and more developed with each new Marvel movie she appears in. Scarlett Johansson brings humor to the role and does an astonishing job of establishing a strong female presence in the otherwise male-oriented superhero team, The Avengers.
19. Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin in Spider-Man
After X-Men was a box-office success in 2000, Marvel superhero films were all the rage. The next notable success after X-Men was Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film in 2002, starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, a high school student given remarkable powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. The film wouldn’t have been the same without Dafoe’s psychotic, though occasionally over-the-top performance as The Green Goblin.
One could argue in retrospect that Dafoe was hamming it up in his role as Spider-Man’s archenemy, but it is necessary to look at the film in the context of the time it was released. Along with Sir Ian Mckellen’s Magneto in X-Men, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin earned his place as the original cinematic villain in a Marvel Comics production.
18. Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy
Gary Oldman is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s most prolific character actors. He is an exceptionally versatile actor who is generally known for playing villains in films such as The Professional, True Romance, and The Fifth Element. Oldman flawlessly manifests the character of Jim Gordon. In Batman Begins, he is one of the few honest cops left in Gotham City.
In The Dark Knight, he is promoted to commissioner, and works with Batman to preserve order in Gotham, which is hanging by a thread. In The Dark Knight Rises, he keeps his police force united in a rebellion against Bane, whose army has occupied Gotham and established martial law. The evolution of the character throughout the trilogy would not have been made possible without an actor as established and talented as Oldman.
Gary Oldman can be looked upon as a chameleon-like actor. He is able to adapt and blend right into any role he immerses himself in. He changes his accent when the role calls for it as well as his look. The look of Oldman’s Jim Gordon is right out of the pages of the comics- complete with the trademark moustache and glasses.