Marvel and DC were producing films based on their classic characters long before the introduction of the MCU and the Worlds of DC. That means that there are plenty of actors out there who have technically appeared in both the Marvel and DC Universes. The characters they play are sometimes wildly different, allowing the actors to really show their range. They've played heroes, villains, sidekicks, and supporting characters, and yet all of them become their own unique interpretations of the character. As it goes with comic books, some people prefer the DC films over the Marvel films and vice versa. That almost seems to come down to the actors too, who seem to be doing a better job in one or the other.
Some of these actors really shined in Marvel films, whether they were part of the MCU or not. Others seemed to fare better in DC films, where they portrayed truly classic characters from the Golden Age of comics. Sometimes it's actually really easy to tell when an actor is in a role that he or she prefers compared to one that they might have just taken for the paycheque. After all, people can see when an actor is actually putting the effort into a role. Sometimes this has more to do with other factors, such as a good script or a director that the actor enjoys working with. Whatever the case may be, the fact of the matter is that some actors did a much better job in Marvel films, and others were way better in DC films.
20 BETTER IN MARVEL: TOMMY LEE JONES
Tommy Lee Jones is the kind of guy who always looks more at home when he's barking orders at his people and leading them to get the job done. That's why he won an Oscar for his role in The Fugitive. It's also what makes him a perfect fit for the part of Colonel Chester Phillips, Steve Rogers's no-nonsense superior officer in Captain America: The First Avenger.
This was a far better role for the veteran actor than his single foray into the world of DC when he played Two-Face in Batman Forever. Jones played the villain as entirely over-the-top and ridiculous, something that is not a good look for him. Of course, the fault isn't entirely his, as Joel Schumacher was famous for wanting his Batman films to be as campy as the original TV series.
19 BETTER IN DC: MICHELLE PFEIFFER
Michelle Pfeiffer got a second chance to appear in a comic book film when she played Janet Van Dyne in Ant-Man and the Wasp. While she did perfectly fine in the role, there's no doubt that her portrayal of the character was at least somewhat overshadowed by Paul Rudd's brief scene playing her as well.
Besides, Pfeiffer appeared to be having a lot more fun in her previous comic book film, Batman Returns. Her turn as Catwoman in Tim Burton's film found her playing the role with just the right amount of camp and hitting the sort of emotional notes that people thought had no place in superhero films previously.
18 BETTER IN MARVEL: TAIKA WAITITI
Taika Waititi became a household name after he directed the rollicking and hilarious Thor: Ragnarok. He also got a chance to appear in front of the camera (sort of) as Korg, the alien who looks like a pile of rocks but is actually a thing, he's a being. Korg was not only great comic relief in a film already full of hilarious moments, but he was crucial to the revolution on Sakaar.
It was a pretty long way from Waititi's single turn in a DC film when he played Hal Jordan's friend Tom in the truly unpopular Green Lantern film. Not only was he given a thankless "friend" role in that film, but he was also forced to put on a shaky American accent. Clearly, an alien made of rocks was the better role for him.
17 BETTER IN DC: ZACHARY LEVI
Did you know that Zachary Levi is technically a part of the MCU? For anyone who doesn't remember (and there may be a lot of people who don't), Levi played Fandral in Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. However, he met his end in the latter film, meaning he was free to join the Worlds of DC in the upcoming film, Shazam!.
While the film has not yet been released, judging by the trailers, it appears that Levi is having a lot more fun in this role. That's not hard to believe, considering he actually gets to be the lead in his own film, instead of blending into the background of a massive MCU film. Hopefully, the film is as fun to watch as it was for Levi to act in it.
16 BETTER IN MARVEL: MICHAEL FASSBENDER
Michael Fassbender became an indelible part of the X-Men films when he played the younger version of Magneto. From his first scene confronting former German soldiers in a bar, it was clear that Fassbender was bringing his A-game to the role, and more than living up to the standard set by veteran actor Sir Ian McKellen.
It was a far better role for the talented actor than the rather thankless one he got in the rightfully maligned Jonah Hex. In that movie, Fassbender seemed like he couldn't quite get a handle on either the material or his role. It wasn't his fault though. The movie was just a massive stinker on every level, and almost dragged down the career of another actor who fared much better in Marvel films.
15 BETTER IN DC: HUGO WEAVING
Hugo Weaving got the chance to appear in the MCU when he played Captain America's classic nemesis, the Red Skull. Weaving played the villain with the kind of menace that was a staple of older genre films, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, he opted not to return to the role, leaving Ross Marquand to reprise the role in Avengers: Infinity War.
While Weaving was great as the Red Skull, that character did not offer the kind of tricky moral ambiguity that some actors crave. In his role as V in V for Vendetta, Weaving really got the chance to stretch his acting muscles, playing the character without the ability to show any facial expressions, relying instead on his physicality to bring the character to life.
14 BETTER IN MARVEL: MICHAEL KEATON
When it comes to his comic book movie appearances, Michael Keaton is most widely known for being the first, modern big-screen Batman. Though his casting as the Caped Crusader was immediately protested by fans, he eventually proved that he was right for the part, playing both Bruce Wayne and Batman with a unique edge and personality that set the tone for every actor to follow.
However, we're going to go ahead and make a bold statement: Keaton was better in Spider-Man: Homecoming than he was in the Batman films. Why? Well, for one thing, Keaton's Adrian Toomes actually managed to break out of the Marvel villain mode and have a little bit more personality. Plus, it was clear that Keaton relished playing a villain, especially one who got to make his daughter's date uncomfortable and then threaten his life.
13 BETTER IN DC: IDRIS ELBA
Idris Elba has appeared in five different MCU films playing Heimdall, the Asgardian keeper of the Bifrost. While not a terrible role, it was one that was so minor that it calls into question why Marvel would choose such a charismatic and talented actor for it. Elba has proven himself as a star in works from The Wire to Beasts of No Nation.
Elba got much more of an opportunity to shine appearing in the DC film The Losers. While the movie has become more of a footnote than anything, it was clear that Elba loved playing the backstabbing villain, Roque, who ultimately betrays his team and shows his sinister side. When you cast Idris Elba, you have to let him shine.
12 BETTER IN MARVEL: HALLE BERRY
Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of seeing Catwoman knows that aside from being one of the worst comic book adaptations ever produced, it might just be one of the worst films ever made. Not only that, but Halle Berry is awful in it, and just two years prior to its release, she had received an Oscar for Best Actress.
Berry fared far better as Storm in the X-Men films. As the weather-altering mutant, Berry possessed a sense of poise, power, and intelligence. She also got the chance to say one of the corniest lines in all of comic book film history when she hit Toad with a bolt of lightning. Still, she managed to sell it, despite "the same thing that happens to everything else" being a terrible punchline.
11 BETTER IN DC: NATALIE PORTMAN
When it comes to thankless roles in the MCU, there might be none worse than Jane Foster in the Thor films. Natalie Portman, an actor far too talented for the material she was given, was stuck with the role for two films. He contract was not picked up again for Thor: Ragnarok, but it seems that both Marvel and Portman are fairly happy with that decision.
Portman seemed to do much better in V for Vendetta. As Evey, Portman got to completely stretch her acting muscles, dealing with the trauma of being imprisoned and also standing up to a totalitarian government. The material was much stronger for her, and she wasn't left playing the love interest of the main character.
10 BETTER IN MARVEL: LAURENCE FISHBURNE
Laurence Fishburne has made a career playing commanding and wise authoritative figures, from Morpheus in The Matrix to Furious Styles in Boyz N The Hood. He maintained that image when he took on the part of Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet in the Worlds of DC. Unfortunately, though, Fishburne never got much of a chance to shine in the role. Instead, he was left acting as a sounding board for other characters.
He appeared to be having a lot more fun and exploring his character more deeply in Ant-Man and the Wasp, where he played scientist Bill Foster (could there be an opportunity for Goliath to show up in the MCU?). Fishburne got to joke about his biggest size with Rudd, but he also got to portray a paternal figure who just wanted to help someone he cared for.
9 BETTER IN DC: CIARAN HINDS
Ciaran Hinds may have been barely recognizable under all of the CGI, but he played the villain Steppenwolf in 2016's Justice League as well as he could. While Steppenwolf was criticized for being uninteresting and lacking a clear motivation, Hinds put his all in the role, refusing to phone in a performance, even if he could have gotten away with it.
The same definitely cannot be said for Hinds's role in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. There was nothing in that film that could be salvaged, and the veteran actor must have known that going in. His portrayal of the villainous Roarke is completely over-the-top and is obviously a case of the actor not connecting with the material.
8 BETTER IN MARVEL: RYAN REYNOLDS
Ryan Reynolds is a special case. He might be the only actor on this list who actually gets to reference his past failings at portraying a superhero while playing a different one. Back in 2011, Ryan Reynolds had the bad fortune to appear in Green Lantern, a film that was received so poorly, it squashed the first round of plans for a DC shared cinematic universe.
Luckily, Reynolds was able to move on to the role he was practically born to play. Though he had also portrayed the character in the much-disliked X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Reynolds got a second, much better shot at playing the wisecracking, fourth-wall breaking Merc with the Mouth, Deadpool.
7 BETTER IN DC: TILDA SWINTON
Tilda Swinton is not the kind of actor who takes any role lightly. Whatever part she is playing, she puts all of herself into it, giving one standout performance after another. That was certainly the case when she played the Ancient One in Doctor Strange. Despite the backlash the filmmakers and Swinton received for whitewashing, she played the role with an air of respect, but also lightheartedness.
However, Swinton really thrives when she is given a part that is more sinister, such as the case when she played the angel Gabriel in Constantine. The character, who is intentionally androgynous, allowed Swinton to really explore her darker side, while still portraying an otherworldly being. That description puts Gabriel firmly in Swinton's wheelhouse.
6 BETTER IN MARVEL: JK SIMMONS
The Sam Raimi Spider-Man films had their highs and their lows, but by far one of the best parts about them was JK Simmons's portrayal of the fast-talking, cigar-chomping, Spidey-hating editor of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson. Right from his first scene, it was clear that Simmons was practically born to play the role.
It's really a shame, then, that the Spider-Man moves moved on to tell different stories without him. Simmons made the move to another prestigious comic book role, that of Commissioner Gordon in the Worlds of DC. While Simmons got in great shape for the part, it never looked like he was having as much fun. Plus he never got to yell, "get me more picture of Batman!"
5 BETTER IN DC: ADEWALE AKINNOUYE-AGBAJE
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has a thing for playing villains. He must just have the right disposition for it, because in both of his comic book film appearances, the actor plays big, hulking bad guys. In the mostly forgotten Thor: The Dark World, he played the dark elf henchman Kurse, while in Suicide Squad, he played classic Batman villain Killer Croc.
In both roles, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was covered in makeup, rendering him practically unrecognizable. That being said, he looked like he was having a lot more fun in Suicide Squad. He was given an actual character to play, which helped a lot, plus he got to add a little more personality to the part than he could with Kurse.
4 BETTER IN MARVEL: CHRIS EVANS
Chris Evans, almost more than any other actor, has a pretty strange relationship with comic book films. First, he appeared as the Human Torch in the fantastically awful Fantastic Four films, the latter of which (Rise of the Silver Surfer) came out just one year before the release of Iron Man. Three years later he appeared in The Losers alongside future MCU alum, Idris Elba.
While he looked like he was having fun in that film, Evans's role as communication specialist Jensen didn't give the actor much to chew on. One year later, he would make his debut as Captain America, erasing anyone's doubts concerning his ability to be a bona fide movie star and leading man. Evans's role may be coming to an end soon, but his time in the stars and bars will be fondly remembered.
3 BETTER IN DC: TOM HARDY
Venom was a massive hit for Sony this year, and one of the most memorable aspects of the film is Tom Hardy's totally bonkers portrayal of Eddie Brock. Hardy clearly had a lot of fun going over the top not just in his portrayal of Venom, but in Hardy as well. However, Hardy is capable of so much more in a performance, which is why his role as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises was far superior.
Hardy might have benefited from the direction of Christopher Nolan in some respects, but the portrayal of one of Batman's most fearsome villains fell mostly on the actor's shoulders. With half of his face hidden behind a mask, Hardy was forced to act entirely through his eyes, no small feat for any performer. Even if the voice drew some mockery, the performance overall was fantastic.
2 BETTER IN MARVEL: JOSH BROLIN
Jonah Hex was an unmitigated disaster, and it really could have turned Josh Brolin off of comic book films for good. After all, it was a complete critical failure and a huge box office bomb. No one would have blamed Brolin for wanting to avoid superhero films like the plague, but being the brave actor he is, Brolin dove back in, and the world is better for it.
After all, not only did Brolin get to appear as the classic X-Men character Cable in Deadpool 2, but he got a star turn playing the Mad Titan himself, Thanos, in Avengers: Infinity War. Brolin managed to imbue the villain with cold determination as well as real emotion. It may go down as one of his best roles. Clearly, it was a big step up from his DC misfire.
1 BETTER IN DC: BEN AFFLECK
It's not clear whether Ben Affleck will stay in his role as Batman in the DCEU, but one thing is for sure: he's certainly better as the Dark Knight than he ever was as Daredevil. In fact, that was a role that Ben Affleck had to acknowledge and somehow overcome once it was announced that he was playing Batman.
After all, Daredevil was, and still is, one of the most maligned superhero films ever made, and Affleck's lukewarm performance was one of the biggest sticking points for critics and audiences. However, Daredevil was the film that got Jon Favreau and Kevin Feige talking about Marvel's own movie studio, so really we have Daredevil to thank for the MCU.