On December 15, 1978, Superman: The Movie was released all across the United States. Not only did it mark the first time that a DC Comics superhero was the subject of a full-length motion picture, but it planted the seeds for this genre of films to become worldwide box office smashes. Over the next 38 years, many superheroes, sidekicks, and villains have made the transition from the comic books to the silver screen. While Superman and Batman have been portrayed by numerous actors and are featured in the majority of films that are based on DC Comics properties, it has not stopped actors, producers, and directors for giving fan-favorite characters their close-ups.
Actors such as Michael Keaton, Christopher Reeve, Jack Nicholson, and Gene Hackman laid the foundation for performers such as Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Heath Ledger, and Kevin Spacey to introduce new interpretations of Batman, Superman, The Joker, and Lex Luthor to a whole generation of fans. But not all actors delivered stellar takes on the DC’s beloved characters, in fact…their careers were stained because of their affiliations with the characters. CBR has found 15 performers whose careers took either a nose dive or stalled because of their involvement with DC Comics-related films.
15 VAL KILMER
Before Val Kilmer became the second Batman in the Warner Bros. superhero franchise, he had critically acclaimed roles in Top Gun, The Doors, and Tombstone. However, his career changed and not for the better when he took on Bruce Wayne’s cowl. Fans had a hard time accepting Kilmer as Batman after Michael Keaton’s intriguing take on the Dark Knight in Batman and Batman Returns. Also, Kilmer bumped heads with Joel Schumacher, who directed both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, throughout the filming process.
Schumacher was quoted in a 1996 interview by calling Kilmer: “childish and impossible.” While Batman Forever grossed over $336 million worldwide, Rotten Tomatoes users rated the film 41%. While Schumacher fired Kilmer before Batman & Robin, the actor’s career to decline as he starred in a series of critically panned movies.
14 MALIN ÅKERMAN
Malin Åkerman was a talent on the rise during the 2000s. She was featured in several feature films including cult favorite Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and the romantic comedy 27 Dresses. In 2009, she starred as the second Silk Spectre in Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ comic book classic Watchmen. While Åkerman impressed some fans with her portrayal of Laurie Jupiter, she couldn't shake off the critics’ words regarding the silver screen adaption.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 65% approval, while The Chicago Reader’s Noah Berlatsky stated that the film was “oddly hollow and disjointed.” Åkerman’s film career devolved after appearing in box office bombs such as Rock of Ages and Wanderlust, so she began a slightly better chapter of her career working in the television industry.
13 CHRIS O'DONNELL
Chris O’Donnell became a sought-after actor in the '90s with his star-making turns in Blue Sky, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Scent of a Woman, where he won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. But to many Batman fans, he will ever be known as Robin after his appearances in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. However, O’Donnell was not the first choice for the role. According to a 1998 interview, Marlon Wayans was supposed to play Robin, but his character was cut from Batman Returns due to production decisions.
When Burton left, and Schumacher took over, Wayans was dropped from Batman Forever. While O’Donnell delivered an excellent portrayal of the Boy Wonder, he could not shake off the franchise’s bad karma for many years until roles Grey’s Anatomy and NCIS: Los Angeles came to his rescue.
12 KIM BASINGER
The legendary Kim Basinger transitioned from fashion to television in the '70s. However, she had a breakthrough when she starred alongside Sean Connery in his final James Bond film: 1983’s Never Say Never Again. Six years later, Ms. Basinger worked with another mystery man in Batman. The model turned actress portrayed a determined Vicki Vale, and she had great chemistry with leading man Michael Keaton.
Batman earned over $411 million worldwide and set the standard for a whole new generation of superhero films. While Tim Burton and Michael Keaton returned to the franchise for Batman Returns, Ms. Basinger was not invited back for the sequel and worked on bad films until 1997’s L.A. Confidential, where she won an Oscar for her portrayal of Lynn Margaret Bracken.
11 JESSE EISENBERG
Jesse Eisenberg spent the 2010s delivering memorable performances including The Social Network’s Mark Zuckerberg and Now You See Me’s Danny Atlas. However, fans were outraged when it was announced that Mr. Eisenberg would portray Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Before filming began, co-screenwriter David S. Goyer and film director Zack Snyder stated that their Lex Luthor was a hybrid between Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Brad Pitt. However, that did not sit well with fans when they saw the final product.
In their eyes, Eisenberg’s Luthor was more like the Riddler and thought that Eisenberg was the wrong actor to portray the iconic Man of Steel villain. Critics also hounded Eisenberg’s performance by nominating him for a Golden Raspberry Award. Despite fans’ unhappiness with his Luthor, Warner Bros. producers invited him back to portray Luthor in the upcoming Justice League film.
10 KATIE HOLMES
Most of the public knew Katie Holmes as Joey Potter from the WB hit drama Dawson’s Creek and appearances in films such as The Ice Storm, The Gift, and First Daughter. However, Katie Holmes gained notice in geek culture when she was cast to play Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s love interest in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.
While Batman Begins reignited interest in seeing the Dark Knight on screen and created The Dark Knight universe, fans were not happy with Ms. Holmes’ inclusion in the film and even earned a Golden Raspberry nomination for her work. She made the worst decision in her career by walking away from a major film franchise for box office duds such as 2008’s Mad Money, a film that made only $20 million domestically and 2011’s Jack & Jill.
9 HALLE BERRY
Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry spent the early part of the 2000s riding higher than ever before with her head spinning roles in X-Men, Swordfish, Monster’s Ball (where she won her Oscar), and Die Another Day. However, when producers approached her to portray Catwoman on the silver screen, things went downhill fast. Halle Berry did not characterize the legendary Selina Kyle nor did she encounter a certain caped crusader throughout the Pitof-directed film.
Ms. Berry portrayed Patience Phillips, a meek people-pleaser who survived an assassination attempt and thanks to an Egyptian Mau cat; she became Catwoman. With no connections to the Batman universe and horrible screenwriting, Catwoman became a box office bust as the film only grossed $40 million domestically and was ranked 9% by Rotten Tomatoes. After Catwoman, the only superhero films that Ms. Berry would touch were the X-Men films.
8 BRANDON ROUTH
Brandon Routh was catapulted into the worldwide spotlight when the former One Life to Live actor was signed on to portray the Man of Steel in director Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. The X-Men franchise leader stated that he wanted an unknown to portray the Man of Steel. Many fans disagreed with the decision as they preferred to see Smallville star Tom Welling portray Superman. Also, legendary film critic Roger Ebert stated that Routh “lacked charisma as Superman” and added that Routh “may have been cast because he looked like (Christopher) Reeve.”
While Superman Returns made over $200 million domestically, it was not enough to bring on a sequel. While Routh’s film career was in limbo, he found some success on the smaller screen in shows such as Chuck, Partners, and Chosen, before finding redemption in the Arrowverse, where he currently portrays the Atom on Legends of Tomorrow.
7 CARA DELEVINGNE
Cara Delevingne is one of the most recognizable models in the fashion world. However, she is still pretty new to the acting world. Despite her breakout role as Paper Towns’ Margo Spiegelman, she delivered two questionable performances in Pan and Kids in Love. She came to the attention of DC Comics fans when she portrayed the wicked Enchantress in 2016’s highly anticipated Suicide Squad.
While all eyes were on co-star Margot Robbie, who stole the film as Harley Quinn, Delevingne’s performance as the film’s antagonist was not only overlooked but also forgettable. Suicide Squad went on to receive negative reviews from critics including a 25% rating from Rotten Tomatoes which also factored in Delevingne’s deteriorating presence at the box office. After portraying the Enchantress, the model also failed to turn heads in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
6 SHAQUILLE O'NEAL
In the 1990s, many NBA basketball players branched out into the acting world. Some athletes had success (see Michael Jordan and Space Jam), while others had bad luck. Shaquille O’Neal was featured in three box office bombs such as Blue Chips, Kazaam, and 1997’s Steel. O’Neal portrayed Steel and his alter-ego: John Henry Irons. The film had a ton of flaws including O’Neal’s cheesy acting and the production’s abysmal decision for John Henry Irons not be affiliated with Superman.
These creative choices lead to a box office bomb as Steel only grossed $1.7 million domestically, and certified 12% by Rotten Tomatoes. Shaquille O’Neal received a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor nod for playing the role, and the backlash he received playing this DC Comics character made him only regulate his acting desires to cameos in films, TV series, and cartoons like Static Shock.
5 PARKER POSEY
Actress Parker Posey found success in the '90s and early '00s with appearances in films such as Dazed and Confused, You’ve Got Mail, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind. But her career had hit numerous roadblocks as she was also in several box office bombs. However, it was her comedic charm that landed her part of Luthor’s moll and henchwoman, Kitty Kowalski, in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns.
While her portrayal of the moll was stellar and she was even was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress, Posey could not shake off the polarization that Superman Returns brought to several of her cast members. She continued to work on several projects that were considered to be average at best to the Rotten Tomatoes critics such as 2009’s Spring Breakdown and 2012’s Price Check.
4 ALICIA SILVERSTONE
Alicia Silverstone’s career in the '90s was filled with mixed reviews. While her star-making turn in Clueless made her a household name, several of her projects went directly to video. In 1996, producers cast her as Batgirl in Batman & Robin. What fans did not like this casting was that Silverstone portrayed Alfred’s niece, Barbara Wilson, an original character with no ties to the Batman comic book universe.
When Batman & Robin was released on June 20, 1997, it only grossed $107 million domestically, and many publications considered the film to be one of the 50 worst movies ever made. Ms. Silverstone’s career was never the same after being involved with Batman & Robin as most of her television pilots in the 2000s were not picked up, and her films were mostly panned by critics.
3 BLAKE LIVELY
Blake Lively started off as one of her generation’s most talked about actresses. After headlining the CW’s Gossip Girl as Serena van der Woodsen and star-making turns in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants franchise, New York, I Love You, and The Town, Lively was slowly becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest young actresses. Then along came 2011’s Green Lantern.
Lively portrayed future Star Sapphire and CEO of Ferris Air, Carol Ferris. While Lively had strong chemistry with future husband and Hal Jordan portrayer, Ryan Reynolds, fans did not see her as the right actress to portray the serious businesswoman. Also, Green Lantern did not make a positive impact on the box office and left a sour taste in the audiences and critics’ mouths. While Lively repeatedly tries to focus on rejuvenating her film career, she seems more set upon being a tastemaker than an actress.
2 MICHAEL SHANNON
Veteran actor Michael Shannon has worked on numerous films since he debuted in 1993’s Groundhog Day. He has had a string of hits over his career that range from Vanilla Sky, 8 Mile, and Revolutionary Road. However, to many DC Comics fans, Michael Shannon has been a part of three tainted DC film projects over the past six years.
He portrayed gang leader Dr. Cross Williams in 2011’s Jonah Hex and the villainous General Zod in both 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. While his cameo was too short in Jonah Hex, Shannon made a strong impression on audiences in Man of Steel as the tyrannical Kryptonian general. However, his cameo in Batman v. Superman and his transformation into Doomsday riled fans. After the film, Shannon appeared in a mixed bag of films.
1 MICHELLE PFEIFFER
In the late '80s and early '90s, Michelle Pfeiffer dominated the silver screen with excellent performances in Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys, & Frankie and Johnny. In 1992, she showcased her psychotic side as Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns. Pfeiffer brought new life into the Bob Kane-Bill Finger-created character and was well received by both audiences and critics. Warner Bros. even considered giving the character her spin-off with the Golden Globe-nominated actress as the character.
However, the project fell into development hell, and Ms. Pfeiffer’s career shifted south. Critics panned tons of her post-Batman projects such as Dangerous Minds, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, and One Fine Day (that starred future Batman George Clooney). She was also involved with Sinbad: the Legends of the Seven Seas film that nearly bankrupted Dreamworks Animation.
Which career did a DC movie destroy the most? Let us know in the comments!