There have been countless comic book movie adaptations since the dawn of cinema. Some have been incredibly high profile, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe. We’ve had a wide variety of heroes and villains brought to life on the big screen, some played by numerous actors and some defined by one person. There are names that have become synonymous with a specific comic book role -- and there are those that have played a few different superheroes and villains. Some of the most iconic actors of a generation have appeared in comic book adaptations.
But what about the few actors that have taken minor roles in smaller comic book movies that have drifted into the past? Not surprisingly, there are quite a few big names on the list. We’ve looked into the characters they’ve played, the films they’ve starred in and what they are most famous for. We spanned across the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC’s Extended Universe, animated movies, smaller superhero flicks and even the occasional violent adaptation. There will be actors you recognize from other big name projects, and others that will pull you into a world of nostalgia. Here are 15 actors you forgot were in superhero movies.
15 BEN STILLER
No, we’re not kidding. Ben Stiller has had a prolific acting career since he came onto the scene in 1987, so it shouldn’t really be surprising that he’s played a superhero at least once in his career. In 1999, Stiller starred in Mystery Men as Mr. Furious -- a character that gets super strength whenever he’s angry. Where have we heard that one before? Although he doesn’t get a hulking transformation, he does have a super-powered team behind him.
The film was very loosely based on the Flaming Carrot Comics, and like the source material, it parodies superheroes and their powers. Mr. Furious doesn’t have a cape and tights, instead going for a black leather look, complete with overcoat. Even though the cast had some impressive members (Hank Azaria, William H. Macy and Geoffrey Rush) the film was a flop at the box office.
14 KERRY WASHINGTON
Before the critically acclaimed actress took on the lead role in Scandal, she was the love interest of Ben Grimm, The Thing. Alicia is blind, not caring for Ben Grimm’s stony appearance after the accident in space -- she falls in love with him for his personality and not the monster that everyone else sees. In Rise of the Silver Surfer, it’s implied that she and Susan are best friends, since she’s the maid of honor at Sue and Reed’s wedding.
But if the third film had been given the green light, the relationship between the two would have been a main plot point throughout the film. This would have elevated Washington from supporting cast to main. And since the first film teased the introduction of the Puppetmaster, Alicia’s stepfather, it’s possible that the third film in the series could have introduced him as a villain.
13 JACK GLEESON
This is the first of several Game of Thrones characters to be featured here. Remember during the first four seasons when we all absolutely hated Joffrey Baratheon? The villainous scum bag is played by actor Jack Gleeson -- who, from what we can tell from interviews, couldn’t be more different from Joffrey. But before he had the entire world hating him, he had a minor role in Batman Begins.
The actor played a little boy living in the Narrows, a poverty stricken area of Gotham. And when Scarecrow’s fear toxin nearly overruns the city -- the little kid is also affected. Luckily, Batman sees the boy and Rachel Dawes. The hero protects them from both the League of Assassins and the criminals that have been let loose from the attack.
12 NATALIE DORMER
Before Steve Rogers was given the Super Soldier Serum in Captain America: The First Avenger, he wasn’t really noticed by women at all. But after his entire physicality was changed, the hero was suddenly a lot more attractive to women across the world. And although he was in love with Peggy Carter, he was "rewarded" by a member of the British Army for saving hundreds of men.
Game of Thrones star, Natalie Dormer, was the one attempting to seduce Rogers when she briefly kissed him. That is until Peggy walked in on the pair, as Steve quickly attempted to rectify the situation. The year after Dormer cameoed in The First Avenger, she was cast in Game of Thrones as Margaery Tyrell -- and the rest, as they say, is history.
11 SHIA LABEOUF
Even though the actor is best known for his role in Michael Bay’s Transformers series (and the "DO IT" video), he took a supporting role in 2005 as Chas Kramer, in Constantine. This version starred Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, and reimagined the eponymous character as American. Chas Kramer is significantly younger than Constantine in this version, but is eager to learn all the knowledge he can from the occult master.
He manages to provide back up when the pair attempt to exorcise a demon from Angela’s body. But, he’s killed by Gabriel shortly after. In a post-credits scene, Chas is resurrected as an angel and flies away after seeing John stood at his grave. An older version of Chas was included in the Constantine TV series, but LaBeouf didn’t return to the role.
10 DREW BARRYMORE
The actress rose to fame during the '80s, and after starring in films like E.T. and Waynes World 2, she was given a role in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. The continuation of the first two Batman films introduced The Riddler and Two-Face as the main villains threatening the city of Gotham. Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) had two assistants with him representing each side of his personality, called Sugar and Spice. Drew Barrymore was given the role of Sugar -- his "good" assistant.
When the trio teamed up with The Riddler, Sugar was his date at the Ritz -- even eyeing up Bruce Wayne before Nygma scolded her for not doing her job. According to Sugar, Bruce Wayne looks a lot better in a suit than Edward Nygma does. Sorry Ed.
9 AIDEN GILLEN
You know the most dastardly, awful and cunning character in Game of Thrones? No, not Ramsay Bolton, we’re talking about Littlefinger. The actor behind him, Aidan Gillen, has actually had a role with DC before. During the opening scenes of The Dark Knight Rises, a CIA operative is handed a group of mercenaries, one of them being Bane himself, and he interrogates each of them before threatening to throw them out of the plane.
That CIA operative, is Aidan Gillen. The Irish actor only has a small role in the film, not making it past the destruction of the plane. In the novelization of the film, it lists his name as Bill Wilson. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’s a relation to the infamous Slade Wilson -- since he doesn’t handle himself great in a fight.
8 TY BURRELL
Did you know that comedian Ty Burrell actually brought Doc Samson to the big screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008? You do now. He appears in The Incredible Hulk as a new love interest for Betty Ross. When Bruce leaves in a self-imposed exile, so he doesn’t hurt anyone close to him, Betty moves on with her life.
She gets into a relationship with a different type of scientist, Leonard Samson. Better known as the psychiatrist superhero, Doc Samson, in the comics, Ty Burrell got the role after he’d performed with Edward Norton onstage in 2003. And although some don’t like to count The Incredible Hulk as part of the MCU -- as Ed Norton doesn’t return afterwards -- it still holds a small corner of the world. Doc Samson exists in the MCU, everyone.
7 LENA HEADEY
Also starring in 300, this is perhaps the comic book movie she's less known for. In 2012's Dredd, the story focused on the hero attempting to take out a drug ring in a tower apartment block. The drug made the user experience everything in slow motion. The leader of the ruthless gang, Ma-Ma -- is portrayed by Lena Headey, better known as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones. She’s a vicious woman, who happily tortured people whilst on the drug if they cross her.
Ultimately, she’s killed by being thrown off the roof after Dredd forces the criminal to inhale her own drug. Headey described her character in a unique way: “I think of [Ma-Ma] like an old great white shark who is just waiting for someone bigger and stronger to show up and kill her ... she's ready for it. In fact, she can't wait for it to happen”
6 BEN MEDELSOHN
Before he took a role in the Star Wars Universe as Director Krennic, Ben Mendelsohn was part of Bane’s plan during The Dark Knight Rises. His role as John Daggett allowed Bane access to Wayne Industries through the corporate route. The Australian actor doesn’t have a great time of it during The Dark Knight Rises. Catwoman dishes out a beating when he double crosses her out of the Clean Slate program.
And when Daggett confronts Bane about his plans of destroying Gotham -- Bane slowly snaps his neck and leaves his body in a dumpster. It’s not the most dignified of deaths for the slimy businessman. We’ve seen a version of Daggett before, in Batman: The Animated Series, and Daggett Industries has appeared in Arrow and Batman: Arkham Knight.
5 TAIKA WAITITI
Yes, the director of the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok has actually played a role in a superhero film outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, that film was Green Lantern. No, we’re not kidding. Waititi played Thomas Kalmaku, an Inuit engineer at Ferris Aircraft, where Hal Jordan works. He’s not quite a sidekick to the Lantern, but more of a best friend to the hero.
He’s one of the first people that Hal shows off his new powers and costume to when he returns to Earth. When asked about the role, Waititi didn’t seem overly enthusiastic about it. Simply saying that he went for the role because the film: "had an opening for a role in the film for someone who wasn't, I don't [know], not-white or not-black.”
4 JOHN LEGUIZAMO
Spawn was an attempt by a major studio to bring a violent comic book to life, and do it justice. And although it didn’t quite gain the attention or critical praise that it had hoped for -- it still garnered a cult following afterwards. One of the film’s villains, The Violator, was played by none other than John Leguizamo. And he’s in charge of getting Al to go down an evil path and embracing his new demonic powers.
He’s seemingly invincible -- because even when he’s defeated, the demon is simply sent back to Hell. In the Spawn comics, The Violator is constantly resurrected by the Devil to keep tormenting those on Earth. In the film, he and Spawn constantly butt heads -- with The Violator even holding his ex-lover hostage. Nasty guy.
3 EVA MENDES
The Ghost Rider film from 2007 was not one of Marvel's crowning jewels when it comes to their slate of movies. The special effects were nothing to call home about and the acting from its lead, Nicholas Cage, was uneven at best and just downright awful at worst. And while everyone knows this was a vehicle (a motorbike perhaps?) for Cage to star in a comic book movie, one talented actress that's forgotten in this mess is Eva Mendes.
Playing Roxanne Simpson, a character first introduced to the Marvel Universe in Marvel Spotlight #5 in 1972, Eva Mendes played a younger version of the comics character. A reporter in her mid thirties, Simpson falls for Cage's Blaze but apparently the heat wasn't hot enough for her to ever want to return to the franchise.
2 JENNIFER CONNELLY
We all know that Jennifer Connelly has already appeared in a Marvel movie as Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk, but she’s actually had an appearance in the MCU. During Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter and Ned hack the suit to discover all the different functions that the suit has. Like Iron Man’s suit, Peter has an AI assistant like Friday or Jarvis built into the costume. This AI, called Karen, is voiced by Jennifer Connelly.
The connection is even more interesting when you realize that Connelly is married to Paul Bettany, the man behind Jarvis and more recently The Vision after Age of Ultron -- it’s a great little easter egg. The interactions that Peter has with Karen are some of the funniest moments in the film when he’s choosing different settings for his suit.
1 JOHN HURT
The legendary actor has starred in over 129 films, and we all remember is his comic book role as Trevor Broom in the Hellboy films. But he also starred in another comic book adaptation that he may be known less for -- V For Vendetta. He played the High Chancellor, Adam Sutler. He’s an authoritarian dictator who rules Britain with an iron fist with the Norsefire party.
Hurt is a strong presence throughout the film, even if he’s not on screen too much. It’s the fear of his party and the power that he holds that keeps the nation locked in fear. It’s his role that really pushes V and eventually Evey to rebel against the party and to turn the country against him and Norsefire. It’s the polar opposite of the role John Hurt played in Nineteen Eighty-Four, where he was the victim of a dystopian government.
Which of these roles was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!