Before the year 2000, superhero movies were a bit strange. There were far fewer of them, and when they did come out, they ran the gamut from excellent to unwatchable. In the years since, though, movies based on comic books have come to totally dominate theaters. They make terrific amounts of money at the box office, and have defined a new era of blockbuster film making. Comic book movies are so prevalent today that many actors have found themselves playing more than one comic book character.
Given how lucrative comic book movies have proven to be, it's no surprise that actors would want to sign on to these films. If you make one huge comic book movie, you're basically set for life. You can act as much or as little as you want, and basically pick the parts you want to play. That doesn't mean that every comic book movie is a success, though. These actors may have played two different comic book characters, but their performances aren't always well remembered.
20th Century Fox/Warner Bros.
For most of the entries on this list, at least one of the decisions to play a superhero proved to be a good choice for the actor who took on the role. For poor Ben Affleck, though, neither role was a smashing success. Of the two, Ben's Bruce Wayne/Batman was certainly more financially successful, but neither role earned him much praise from critics.
Daredevil is still regarded as one of the worst superhero movies ever made. While Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League certainly have their fans, they're far from perfect. It might be time for Ben to shift his energies to other roles.
Warner Bros./20th Century Fox
Most people love Deadpool, and are grateful that Ryan Reynolds got the chance to play the role. Most people do not love Green Lantern, though. Even Ryan admits that that movie was a mistake, and there's even a delightful sequence at the end of Deadpool 2 that pokes fun at his decision to take the role.
As Deadpool, though, Ryan has brought a lightness and wit to the superhero world that other movies lack. He's harsh and crude and funny, and that's what makes him feel so different from every other heroic figure we've seen in the last few years.
Halle Berry could never quite get it right, at least when it came to comic book movies. First, she played Catwoman in Catwoman, which is widely regarded as one of the worst superhero movies ever made. Her work as Storm in the X-Men films is much better by comparison, even if her accent is a bit all over the place.
Even though she's been in comic book movies most of her life, she's never found a role that aligns well with her talents. Unfortunately, roles for women are still fairly scarce in the world of comic book movies, and Halle's characters reveal that underlying truth.
20th Century Fox/Marvel
Famously, Chris Evans didn't find the right superhero role until his second try. He's one of two actors on this list to fail to bring the Human Torch to theaters in a memorable way. After he was done playing Johnny Storm, though, he became Captain America, and that role fit him like a glove.
All these years later, it's easy to forget how hard it is to make someone like Captain America interesting to watch. He's basically a good guy with very few flaws. He's totally selfless and cares a great deal about the people around him. Even so, Chris Evans made him well worth watching for almost a decade.
Michael Keaton's comic book roles came decades apart, but he was one of many people that decided to join the Marvel train while the getting was good. First, though, Michael played one of the definitive versions of Batman in two films released in 1989 and 1992. Before Christian Bale growled, Michael Keaton glowered.
More recently, though, he took on the role of Vulture, the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming. That movie gave the actor another chance to shine. He was just a regular dude who happened to have a super suit, and the smaller stakes of that movie made for a perfect fit for the actor's return to comic book movies.
Michelle Pfieffer is such a tremendous actress that it's easy to forget her performance as Catwoman in Batman Returns happens inside a comic book movie. Her version of the character is one of the great comic book villain performances, so it only made sense that she would return to the world of comic books years later.
Unfortunately, we still haven't seen enough of Hope Van Dyne, the character that Michelle plays in Ant-Man and the Wasp. If they make another Ant-Man movie, we should all play they give this legendary actress a little bit more to do. It's what she deserves.
Many of the actors on this list have played one hero outside the Marvel universe, and another inside it. That's the case for Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who first played Dave Lizewski in Kick-Ass. Then, years later, he played Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Aaron's character was the rare Marvel figure to be introduced and killed off over the course of a single film, but he did get a chance to die heroically. Age of Ultron is not remembered all that fondly, but the performance from Aaron is solid, even if he is talking through a fairly unconvincing accent that probably wasn't necessary.
At this point in her career, it's safe to say that Natalie Portman is done with comic book movies. More than a decade ago, she starred in her first when she played Evey in V for Vendetta. While that movie is not about superheroes, it is based on a graphic novel.
Then, Natalie took on the role of Jane Foster for the first two Thor movies. Eventually, though, Natalie left the franchise, and she hasn't been a presence in any comic book movies since 2013. Of course, there's the small exception of some incredibly brief footage in Avengers: Endgame, but if we're being honest, that barely counts.
Warner Bros./The CW
It can be easy to forget that Brandon Routh once played the caped crusader, but in 2006's Superman Returns, he did just that. Most comic book fans don't remember that movie fondly, but it does have its supporters. Fortunately, Brandon found another, more beloved comic book role on television.
In The CW's Arrow universe, Brandon plays Atom, mostly on Legends of Tomorrow. Although that show has a much smaller following than the Marvel movies, it's also one of the most fun things on TV right now. If you aren't watching but you like to see crazy things happen on TV, you should definitely give it a shot.
Marvel/20th Century Fox
Josh Brolin had a huge 2018. He was basically the main character in Avengers: Infinity War, and delivered a terrific performance. Then, less than a month later, he played the villain in Deadpool 2. In both roles, we got a chance to see what a great on-screen presence Josh is. He's the kind of actor who works well with other actors. He's generous.
Before his great summer of villainy, Josh also played Jonah Hex in the movie of the same name. That movie was less successful than Deadpool 2 or Infinity War, but it was the actor's first foray into the world of comics.
Hugo Weaving doesn't seem like the kind of actor that loves to be in giant blockbusters, but he's been in quite a few, even outside of the world of superheroes. He's in the Lord of the Rings and Matrix films, and he's also played two comic book characters over the course of his career.
First, Hugo played V, the terrorist/liberator at the center of V for Vendetta. Then, he played Red Skull, the villain in Captain America: The First Avenger. In both cases, Hugo decided to cover his face for a large portion of the movie. Maybe he's a little embarrassed about playing a comic book character.
Since he became Tyrion Lannister, Peter Dinklage has earned a ton of well-deserved appreciation. He's even had roles in a couple of different superhero franchises. First, he played Bolivar Trask, the villain at the heart of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Then, he played Eitri in a crucial plotline in Avengers: Infinity War.
Although Peter's role wasn't huge in either case, in both instances it proved to be pivotal. The actor is incredibly capable of bringing nuance and understanding to every character he plays, even when they're wiping mutants off the planet or building Thor a new hammer so he can go kill Thanos.
Warner Bros./Sony Pictures
Tom Hardy is such a weirdo. His work in the world of superheroes has been some of the oddest in the genre. First, he played Bane, a hugely muscular, tough to understand supervillain who was actually just a decoy in The Dark Knight Rises. Then, he played Eddie Brock/Venom in Venom, which was an even crazier role than Bane.
In his comic book work, Tom has proven that comic book movies don't have to be what Marvel does. They can be a little stranger and sillier than those movies typically get. It's hard to say whether Tom Hardy's work as comic book characters has been good, but it's always been interesting.
The first time Michael B. Jordan tried to play a comic book character, it went terribly. The second time, he turned in one of the best performances of his career. As The Human Torch, Michael was stuck in a position where the movie was not going to be a success no matter what he did. Thankfully, he got another chance to play a comic book character in Erik Killmonger, the villain of 2018's Black Panther.
That role gave Michael a chance to show his vulnerability and versatility as an actor. It's an incredible performance and one that deserved all the plaudits it received.
Sony Pictures/Warner Bros.
When J.K. Simmons stopped playing J. Jonah Jameson after Spider-Man 3, he should have retired from the comic book world altogether. He was never going to be able to top the incredible work he had done in bringing that character to life. It may be the best performance of his career.
When he signed on to play Commissioner Gordon in the Zack Snyder Batman universe, there was some hope he could bring the same life to that character. Unfortunately, those films gave him basically nothing to do. It was a total waste of one of the great superhero actors of our generation.
Warner Bros. Marvel
Although it's tough to know for sure, Djimon Honsou may have played more comic book characters than almost any other actor. Recently, he's played the original Shazam in Shazam, and he's also showed up as Korath in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie and Captain Marvel.
Although none of these parts are enormous, Djimon is certainly the kind of actor that gets around. He also played Papa Midnite in Constantine. If you're looking for an actor to take on a role in a comic book movie, Djimon Honsou might be your man. He's in a lot of them, and he always delivers excellent performances, even if his role isn't enormous.