8. Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius/Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2
Another advantage Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films have over Marc Webb’s is the fact that the villains in the first two films were actually memorable. In Spider-Man 2, Alfred Molina plays Doc Ock, a scientist who has four mechanical arms fused to his back in an experiment gone wrong. Alfred Molina’s version of Doc Ock is easily the best villain we have seen in a Spider-Man film so far, and will most likely continue to be for quite some time.
Molina turns Doc Ock into a much more tragic, almost Shakespearean figure than his comic book counterpart. He is a man of science who is dedicated to finishing his miniature sun which he hopes will provide cheap, renewable energy for the world, even if he has to take extreme measures to do so. He is less of a ruthless megalomaniac than he is in the Spider-Man comics, but the change of character works in the film. The casting of Alfred Molina in the role of Doc Ock is one of the smartest choices Sam Raimi made with his trilogy.
7. Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Batman
Tim Burton’s first Batman film was a major motion picture event. It was released at just the right time, since Batman was approaching the 50th anniversary of his debut in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. Due to the 1960s Adam West television show, Batman was generally known for being campy and colorful as far as live-action was concerned. Burton successfully returned the character to his darker roots. Part of the reason for that success was the casting of Jack Nicholson as The Caped Crusader’s arch-nemesis.
Nicholson is no stranger to maniacal roles. One of his best performances is in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece The Shining, where he plays Jack Torrance, a hotel caretaker who is talked to by ghosts who try to convince him to kill his family. Nicholson is the real star of Batman. Until Heath Ledger’s legendary performance in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 epic The Dark Knight, he set the benchmark for what The Joker should be on film – a murderous sadist without an ounce of human decency.
6. Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman and Batman Returns
Jack Nicholson may have stolen the show due to his crazed performance as The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman, but the film would have fallen apart without the right actor playing the title character.
Keaton brilliantly captures the essence of Bruce Wayne, particularly the tortured side. He does an even greater job as Batman. His iconic line “I’m Batman” at the beginning of the first film exploded into millions of eardrums around the world and solidified his status as the first superhero of the modern era.
After watching last year’s Best Picture winner Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), one might become inspired to revisit Michael Keaton’s two Batman films. There is no argument that Keaton pioneered everything that a live-action Batman should be- dark, brooding, tormented, and angst-ridden.
Val Kilmer and George Clooney gave their attempts to bring The Dark Knight to life, but it wasn’t until Batman Begins in 2005 when Christian Bale followed in Keaton’s footsteps and did the character justice once again.
5. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy
Michael Keaton may have been the original, but Welsh actor Christian Bale did an even better job at capturing the inner conflict and turmoil of Bruce Wayne, as well as the fear-inducing side of Batman (complete with the deep voice). One element that sets Bale’s Batman ahead of Keaton’s is the fact that his Batman is more about striking his enemies with fear than Keaton’s was. This is a crucial part of the character.
Bale’s Bruce Wayne is livelier than Keaton’s was. He steals many scenes in the trilogy with witty remarks and humor (“I’m buying this hotel, and setting aside some new rules about the pool area”). He is essentially a less psychotic version of Patrick Bateman, the character he played in the 2000 cult classic American Psycho. Both are wealthy businessmen who have penchant for fancy suits. Christian Bale is a perfect example of an actor being wisely cast as a character with two very distinct sides.
4. Ron Perlman as Hellboy in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Ron Perlman is a veteran character actor best known for playing quirky supporting characters. Visionary director Guillermo del Toro’s two Hellboy movies proved that he is capable of carrying a film as the lead actor. It would be challenge for one to argue that he wasn’t ideally cast as Mike Mignola’s wisecracking demon-turned-hero, Hellboy. He was straight out of the pages of Dark Horse Comics.
The Hellboy movies were two of five collaborations between Perlman and del Toro, the other three being Cronos, Blade II, and Pacific Rim. Their success made Ron Perlman’s name synonymous with the character. He flawlessly embodies all sides of the cult figure- the humorous side (“I’m fireproof, you’re not”), the romantic side, depicted through his relationship with the gifted Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), as well as the side which must deal with his place in this world; a world where he is branded as a “freak” by many people.
Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army are two of the most visually creative films in the comic book movie genre, and Ron Perlman’s performance makes them even more fun. Many fans are still anxiously awaiting the announcement of a third film, where he will hopefully reprise his greatest role once again.
3. Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine in the X-Men franchise
“Why is a six-foot-tall Australian playing a five-foot-three-inch-tall Canadian?” That would have been the reaction of the average comic book purist to the announcement of Hugh Jackman as the fan-favorite mutant, Wolverine. With the exception of X-Men: First Class, Wolverine has always been the focus of the X-Men movies. Hugh Jackman is one the most successful actors in superhero films because of how deeply embedded with the character he has become. He has now played Wolverine a total of seven times in the span of 15 years.
Jackman is exceptional at portraying one of the Marvel universe’s most tortured heroes. In his most iconic role, he is completely convincing as a man trying to piece together his past and in his standalone film from 2013, a man trying to deal with the loss of the woman he loved, Jean Grey, who he was forced to kill in order to save peoples’ lives from her rage. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has become one of the most recognizable superheroes in cinema because of how perfect a match he is for the role.
2. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Iron Man and Avengers franchises
After a long struggle with drug addiction, Robert Downey Jr. cleaned himself up and became more popular than ever, ultimately ending up as the highest-paid actor in Hollywood for his role as the genius billionaire Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Downey brings wit and humor to the role, and is undeniably the best thing about the entire MCU. He is a cinematic character who is even more interesting and entertaining than the comic book character he was adapted from.
Some might argue that Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3 were underwhelming when compared with the first film, but there is no denying that Downey still remained as charismatic as ever in them. He displays more personality as Tony Stark than virtually any other actor has ever done in the role of a superhero. To put it simply, Robert Downey Jr. is arguably the greatest casting choice for a superhero in any film franchise.
1. Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight
The backlash among fans after the announcement that Heath Ledger would be playing The Clown Prince of Crime himself is a classic example of fans being completely wrong. Some said that he would never fill Jack Nicholson’s shoes.
Those people who complained and refused to give Ledger the benefit of the doubt would have never guessed that he would end up surpassing Jack Nicholson and becoming the definitive cinematic Joker. He is the only actor to win an Academy Award for playing a character in a superhero film. Unfortunately he passed away before the film was released and he could observe his sheer brilliance.
Ledger’s Joker instantly became an icon after the film’s release. His performance is a quintessential example of an actor completely transforming himself and giving his role everything he has. At no point in the film did the audience think of his roles in 10 Things I Hate About You and Brokeback Mountain. He became The Joker.
That is the mark of a true actor; an actor who was unfortunately taken from us too soon. Ledger’s Joker is a character for the ages, and his performance is utterly deserving of every ounce of praise it gets.