When it comes to taking on the role of a superhero, most actors require significant training to get there. Nobody believed someone like Paul Rudd, who was 46 at the time he played Scott Lang/Ant-Man could do it, but thanks to a lot of work, he got his Superhero Six-Pack. Of course, getting your muscles toned to perfection isn’t always enough when the hero you need to play has to be able to jump, hang, punch, and kick with accuracy and fearsome resolve. For those heroes, actors need to pick up some additional training.
Some people approach a role with training already under their well-deserved black belts, but for many others, they have to approach their training as a novice. Occasionally, those folks enjoy training in boxing, martial arts and other forms of fighting so they continue to train long after they have hung up their capes. Few actors fit this description, but for the ones who do, they aren’t people you would want to mess with. We dug through the records and found these 15 superhero actors who could legit knock you out, so if you see any of them in a dark alley, maybe let them go by without demanding a selfie or an autograph.
15. BRUCE LEE – KATO
Who would win in a fight? Bruce Lee or… do we really need to bother typing in anyone else’s name in there? Lee founded his own fighting style, which is still taught today, and was a picture of human health and fitness. At the same time, he was also a poet and philosopher. While he certainly could knock just about anyone out, he probably wouldn’t have dared outside of a sanctioned fight.
People tend to forget that before Lee starred in films like Enter the Dragon, he played Kato on television’s Green Hornet. Lee had previously starred in over 20 films in his native China before transitioning to Western media, but it all started with his role on the television show from September 1966 to March of 1967. As Kato, Lee was able to show off his martial arts skills on screen, which helped to popularize Eastern hand-to-hand combat to a Western audience.
14. STEPHEN AMELL – OLIVER QUEEN
As the star of The WB’s Arrow playing the role of Oliver Queen, AKA, The Green Arrow, Amell had to get physically fit. This wasn’t as much a problem for him as it would be for most folks, given his love of professional sports like wrestling. For his role as Queen, though, Amell has honed his body to near perfection, but it’s his love of wrestling that landed him on this list. You see, he has performed with World Wrestling Entertainment on multiple occasions.
Amell took on the American Ninja Warrior course and dominated it. He has said in interviews that he isn’t trained in martial arts, unless you count the martial art of fighting on screen. Essentially, this means he has trained not to hit people as opposed to the obvious. While he may not have explicitly trained to knock people out, there’s little doubt he could if he wanted to.
13. SCARLETT JOHANSSON – NATASHA ROMANOVA
Scarlett Johansson has it all: looks, brains and the wherewithal to kick your butt! To prepare for her role as Natasha Romanova, aka Black Widow for the MCU, Johansson learned some useful skills. While some of her performances in the films are accomplished thanks to cables and body doubles, most of her fighting skills are actually on display. She learned various moves in MMA and found a love of Jiu-Jitsu, which she shares with co-star Robert Downey Jr., who picked up the sport while preparing for his role in Sherlock Holmes.
Johansson has continued to train in Jiu-Jitsu long after first appearing as the character in Iron Man 2, which was released in 2012. She has been training with Jiu-Jitsu Master Rigan Machado who has helped other celebrities learn the martial art. We are confident that given the need, Johansson could easily take down the majority of our readers.
12. CLARK GREGG – AGENT COULSON
You might not think it to look at the guy, seeming like the friendliest human on earth, but Clark Gregg could seriously knock you out! Gregg, who stars as Agent Phil Coulson on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the first phase of the MCU has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Clark earned his belt from Renato Magno of Street Sports BJJ in Santa Monica, CA in December 2015. Now, like the character he plays on television, his hands… and feet are deadly weapons.
Gregg got his start in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2004 while working on the film Spartan. His friend and the film’s director, David Mamet, brought Gregg into the sport to help him prepare for his role. He took to it immediately and continued to train until he could easily defeat the writer of this article… or anyone else for that matter. Seriously, it’s not even a contest.
11. WESLEY SNIPES – BLADE
With all the talk about Marvel’s Black Panther hitting theaters in 2018, people seem to have forgotten that the first major blockbuster superhero film franchise featuring a black superhero was Blade. Blade hit theaters and showed the world what a man borne of a woman bitten by a vampire could do: he could kill vampires and look cool doing it. Wesley Snipes took on the role in three films and while his onscreen character could easily defeat anything and everyone, the man playing him wasn’t far behind.
Snipes has been training in more martial arts than most people know exist for years. He has a 5th-degree black belt in Shotokan karate, a 2nd-degree black belt in Hapkido, and has trained in Capoeira, Kung-Fu, Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing. To say that Snipes could “Legit knock you out” is a bit of an understatement.
10. GAL GADOT – WONDER WOMAN
Gal Gadot took a lot of heat online when she was cast to play Princess Diana, aka Wonder Woman, in the DCEU. This was mostly due to her physique. While still a beautiful woman, she was criticized for having a “model’s body,” which detractors said lacked the muscles needed to convincingly play Dianna. She clearly proved all the haters wrong with her portrayal in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman, and Justice League, but it isn’t just her athleticism that landed her on this list.
Let’s not forget that like everyone in her native Israel, Gadot served in the Israeli Defense Force and undertook the military training necessary for her time there. In addition to her military background, she also trained in Jiu-Jitsu, Kung-Fu and Kickboxing. Gadot is set to reprise her role across the DCEU and continues to hone her martial arts skills.
9. MICKEY ROURKE – MARV
For ole’ Marv, we may be stretching the definition of the word superhero a bit, but if you have read the books or seen the film, you know that this guy goes out of his way to deliver some well-deserved vengeance upon his enemies. When he was cast into the role in Sin City, it seemed like nobody else on Earth could have played Marv like Mickey Rourke. Marv is a bruiser; he can take a beating and dole one out until all he’s punching is wet pavement. Rourke, surprising nobody, is cut from the same cloth.
Rourke trained as a boxer in his youth, where he racked up an amateur record of 27 wins and 3 losses. He later returned to boxing as a professional between 1991 and 1994 and again in 2014. He was undefeated in eight fights with 6 knockouts and two draws but left the sport due to his age.
8. CAITY LOTZ – SARA LANCE
Caity Lotz is a lot of things; she’s an actress, a dancer, a singer and a model, but she is, first and foremost, able to kick our collective butts! Lotz plays Sarah Lance across the many shows of the Flarrowverse, but it isn’t all stunt-doubles and fancy camerawork; Lotz is a trained martial artist. Lotz has trained in Taekwondo, Wushu, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Kali Martial Arts and is a practitioner of tricking and parkour.
Lotz has spoken about her training in interviews and indicated it was her love of dancing that evolved into a love of martial arts. Her professional dancing experience paired her up with Lady Gaga and Avril Lavigne, but her focus on acting has broadened her love of movement from dancing into some deadlier arts. She has compiled her various training regimens into her own unique style and does her own stunts whenever possible.
7. TAYLOR LAUTNER – SHARKBOY
Believe it or not, Taylor Lautner has graced the silver screen as a superhero! The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D was not the most well-received film in the world back in 2005, but it qualifies Lautner for his placement on this list, thanks to his portrayal of the titular Sharkboy. Since then, he has starred in the Twilight films, which is likely where most people know him.
Lautner had to undergo a great deal of training to get ready for his role in Twilight, but that wasn’t much of a concern for him since he had been practicing martial arts since the age of six. Even as a kid, Lautner was a skilled martial artist, having won in three categories at his first national tournament. He earned his Black Belt by the age of eight and has continued to compete in world championships well into his acting career.
6. SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR – BUFFY
Sarah Michelle Gellar starred as Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which certainly qualifies her as a superhero in our books. Gellar starred in a number of films and television series over the years but is probably best known for her role as Buffy, which required training in Taekwondo. Geller learned the martial art throughout the production of the series, but loved it so much, she continued to learn until she went on to earn her black belt.
Gellar’s study of Taekwondo was entirely done for personal reasons. She doesn’t compete in tournaments but practiced martial arts simply for the love of it. In addition to her work in Taekwondo, Gellar has also studied kickboxing, boxing and various forms of street-fighting. She could knock you out and kill a vampire without breaking a sweat.
5. MICHAEL JAI WHITE – SPAWN
Michael Jai White holds the distinction of being the first black person to portray a major comic book superhero on film. While Wesley Snipes anchored a franchise, it was White who holds that honor for his portrayal of Al Simmons, aka Spawn, in the same-titled film from 1997. In addition to portraying Spawn, White has also worked on the Mortal Kombat films and two Toxic Avenger movies. While White is a talented actor, he is also a skilled fighter and has been for decades.
White holds black belts in seven different forms of martial arts: Shotokan, Goju Ryu, Taekwondo, Kobudo, Wushu, Tang Soo Do, and Kyokushin. While he holds black belts in those forms, he has also studied Jujitsu and Shokotan. His credentials speak for themselves — White is more than capable of knocking just about anyone out.
4. ANGELINA JOLIE – LARA CROFT
Few people would think of Angelina Jolie as someone who could take them in a fight. Most think of her as an actress and a philanthropist, but you don’t land roles like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider without being able to handle yourself. We are considering that role for this list, but she also starred in Wanted, which is based (loosely) on a comic series, though calling her character a superhero in that film would be a bit of a stretch.
To prepare for Tomb Raider, Jolie became enamored with the Israeli martial art Krav Maga. She continued to train in the martial art for her roles in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and even Kung Fu Panda, which was animated. Jolie has remained an avid study of Krav Maga and has even brought her children into the art by teaching them some modified moves.
3. DOLPH LUNDGREN – FRANK CASTLE
Who could forget the deadly fists of the legendary Ivan Drago from Rocky IV? While Lundgren’s fighting abilities don’t often come into question, you may need a reminder that he starred as Frank Castle in the 1989 release of The Punisher. While the film wasn’t the greatest Marvel has put out over the years, it did solidify Lundgren as a superhero actor we certainly wouldn’t want to mess with.
Lundgren sent Sylvester Stallone to the hospital during Rocky IV when the Italian Stallion insisted he hit him for real, so you know there is mad power behind his punches. In fact, he nearly killed ol’ Sly. Besides boxing, he is trained in Judo, Gōjū-ryū and Kyokushin Karate, was a member of the Swedish Marine Corps and, while it isn’t relevant but is impressive, holds a Masters of Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney.
2. JESSICA ALBA – SUSAN STORM
Jessica Alba starred as Susan Storm, aka The Invisible Girl/Woman in two Fantastic Four films and she also starred as Nancy Callahan in Sin City though that wasn’t a superhero role. For her role in Fantastic Four, she didn’t need to prepare by studying any martial arts since her powers were shown on screen thanks to a hand motion here or there.
To get in shape for her various roles, Alba turned to Taekwondo. She was able to get herself into such athletic shape, she was able to perform most of her own stunts. She prides herself in being able to do her own stunts and ended up loving Taekwondo so much, she continued to study until earning her black belt in the sport. Since earning this achievement, she broadened her scope and began training in Krav Maga in 2016 for her role in Mechanic: Resurrection.
1. BRANDON LEE – ERIC DRAVEN
Brandon Lee was the son of Bruce Lee who starred in six films before his tragic death in 1993. Lee died while filming the role that lands him on this list — playing Eric Draven in The Crow. Like his father, Lee was a talented martial artist, having trained under two of his father’s top students (his father died when he was only eight years old), Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo.
Lee followed in his father’s footsteps by striving for a career in acting while simultaneously perfecting his skills in martial arts. Were he alive today, there is no question he could use his skills to take on just about anyone else on this list, though he might have a tough time knocking out his father seeing as he invented the martial art Brandon Lee studied.
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