When it comes to superhero films, the casting often looks for actors and actresses who can fully capture the larger-than-life personalities of the characters in these larger-than-life style stories. So much of the success in these films is whether the audience will connect with the cast. Can they get the audience to care about them? Can they get the audience to believe them?
That desire to connect with the audience is also what often leads actors and actresses to push the envelope when it comes to truth in their films. We already expect actors to bare their souls, but in a lot of ways, they often connect that with baring their bodies. It connects the audience to the actors and actresses in a striking way, as it creates a real sense of vulnerability that is difficult to replicate. A number of superhero actors and actresses have chosen to go this route in their film work. Here are 20 examples of superhero movie stars (half actors/half actresses) who have decided to bare it all.
20. SCARLETT JOHANSSON
It’s not like Scarlet Johansson‘s outfits have been all that modest during her performances as the Black Widow in the Marvel films, beginning with Iron Man 2. However, whatever you are used to seeing from the actress in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it will not prepare you for her bizarre role in the 2013 film, Under the Skin.
In the movie, directed by Jonathan Glazer, Johansson plays a woman (or at least something that appears to be a woman) who is preying upon men throughout Scotland. Since she is an otherworldly being who has simply taken on the form of a human female, there are a lot of scenes of Johansson’s character examining her unclothed body. Of course, it is more disturbing that anything else.
19. EDWARD NORTON
Edward Norton took over the role of Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk, in the second film featuring the character (released before Marvel was purchased by Walt Disney). Norton rewrote the screenplay for the film, choosing to take the story in different directions, including a sequence that was filmed (but not ultimately used) where Banner tries to kill himself, only for the Hulk to save his life before he can succeed.
Norton is no stranger to dark stories, though, as one of his most famous early roles was in American History X as a former Neo-Nazi who changes his ways while in prison and tries to convince his younger brother to follow suit when he is released from prison (while trying to disassociate himself from his old friends who are happy to see him released from jail). There are some graphic scenes set in the prison showers.
18. HALLE BERRY
Halle Berry has never been afraid of showing some skin. She famously went topless in the action thriller Swordfish (which reunited Berry with her X-Men co-star, Hugh Jackman, a year after X-Men came out). However, when it came time to do the film Monster’s Ball, Berry had to go a lot further than just wearing less of her bathing suit.
Angela Bassett was offered the role of Leticia in Monster’s Ball, the wife of a Death Row inmate who ends up having an affair with the prison guard assigned to her husband (despite the prison guard, played by Billy Bob Thornton, coming from a family of racists). However, Bassett found the love-making scenes to be too graphic. Berry got the job and ended up becoming the first African-American actress to win the Beat Actress Oscar.
17. MARK RUFFALO
Mark Ruffalo followed up from Edward Norton as the newest Bruce Banner in the Marvel Universe in The Avengers and all subsequent films. When he transforms into the Hulk, Banner’s clothes often get torn off. However, that’s not the reason why Ruffalo was without his clothes in the erotic thriller, In the Cut, in 2003.
In the film, Ruffalo plays a police detective who forms a relationship with a woman played by Meg Ryan. They soon have a physical relationship (and we see Ruffalo without his clothes during all of this) but she then believes that he is a serial killer. More recently, Ruffalo actually offered to do another full frontal scene if Hillary Clinton was elected President, as an incentive for his fans to vote for her. Alas, it was not meant to be.
16. JENNIFER CONNELLY
Before either Norton or Ruffalo played Bruce Banner, Eric Bana played the good doctor with the anger issues in Ang Lee’s 2003 film, Hulk. In that film, Banner’s love interest, Betty Ross, was played by Jennifer Connelly. After years of being away from the superhero scene, Connelly popped back up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the voice of Spider-Man’s costume in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Connelly has bared it all in a few films, including as a desperate drug addict in the bleak Requiem for a Dream. However, early in her career, she went skinny-dipping in the Dennis Hopper film, The Hot Spot, and ended up getting herself blackmailed in the film as a result of photos taken of her and another woman. Interestingly, the female lead of the film, Virginia Madsen, insisted on wearing negligee in her scenes, defying the script.
15. BEN AFFLECK
One of the strangest examples on this list was Ben Affleck, who starred as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. After being a major film star in the late 1990s and early 2000s (including a prior outing as a superhero in 2003’s Daredevil), Affleck had begun to pursue directing and producing more as the 2010s began. He directed his brother, Casey, in Gone Baby Gone and then himself in The Town and Argo (which won the Best Picture Oscar).
Affleck returned to major acting gigs (in films not directed by him) in 2014’s Gone Girl, which ended with a dramatic shower sequence where Affleck did not even realize that the camera had caught all parts of him. He allowed it to remain in the final cut of the film.
14. MARGOT ROBBIE
Affleck’s Batman made a notable cameo appearance in 2016’s Suicide Squad film, which starred a super team consisting of supervillains. One of the main stars in the film was Margot Robbie, who played Harley Quinn. Robbie wore very little clothing in the film, but that was a step up from her breakout performance in 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Robbie plays the girlfriend of star Leonardo DiCaprio in the Martin Scorsese-directed film. There’s a notable seduction scene where Robbie was offered a robe but turned it down. She noted, “The whole point of Naomi is that her body is her only form of currency in this world. So when Marty was trying to help me out, and said in the scene where she seduces Jordan perhaps I could have a robe on, I said she wouldn’t.”
13. MICHAEL FASSBENDER
Michael Fassbender has captured the attention of audiences for his portrayal of Eric Lensherr in the prequel series of X-Men films (as he has slowly become Magneto). However, in the same year that he started in the X-Men films, he also made an independent film, Shame, which captured audiences’ attention in a whole other way.
In the Steve McQueen-directed film, Fassbender and Carey Mulligan play grown siblings who were abused when they were children and cannot function correctly in society. Fassbender’s character goes through abusive physical encounters and is addicted to graphic videos, while his sister self-harms. Fassbender gives a powerful performance in the film, but the whole thing was so disturbing that the film was released as NC-17. As you might expect, Fassbender was without clothes for much of the film.
12. MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL
After Katie Holmes played the character of Rachel Dawes in the first Batman film by Christopher Nolan, Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the character in The Dark Knight. Sadly, the role would not be a lasting one, as Dawes met her end in the film. Gylenhaal, though, turned in an excellent performance.
Being the love interest in a superhero movie was a much different type of role than audiences would expect from Gyllenhaal following her breakout role in the 2002 film, Secretary. It was a twisted love story starring Gyllenhaal as the submissive secretary of an attorney played by James Spader (who would later also join the superhero world as the voice of Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron). The film was an oddly sweet tale of a dominant personality meeting his perfect submissive foil.
11. KEVIN BACON
One of the most amusing examples on this list has to be Kevin Bacon (who joined the superhero world when he played the villainous Sebastian Shaw in the first X-Men prequel, X-Men: First Class), whose revealing performance in Wild Things was played off as a major twist in the story.
You see, the film starred Matt Damon, Neve Campbell and Denise Richards as a high school teacher and his two students who come up with a con to bilk the parents of one of the girls out of millions of dollars. Bacon plays a detective obsessed with taking them down. However, after both of the girls are killed, we see Bacon baring it all in a shower and learn that he and Damon’s character were plotting together the whole time (the movie then has roughly 214 more twists).
10. NICOLE KIDMAN
One of the other films mentioned on this list, the thriller In the Cut, was actually produced by Nicole Kidman and was originally going to star the Australian actress. Kidman (who played Chase Meridian, the love interest of Batman in Batman Forever) has long been free with her body in her films, going back to her earliest films done in Australia, like Windrider and Dead Calm, and her earliest American films, like Billy Bathgate.
One of her most famous performances for the Academy-Award winning actress came in the 1999 Stanley Kubrick film, Eyes Wide Shut, about a secret society of uninhibited rich people, which she filmed with her then husband, Tom Cruise. She famously wore a decorative mask and little else in the film.
9. COLIN FARRELL
One of the few things that liven up the otherwise disappointing 2003 version of Daredevil was the charming performance by Colin Farrell as one of the major villains in the movie, the deadly accurate Bullseye (who can kill a guy with a paper clip — he also got to kill Frank Miller with a pencil!).
One of Farrell’s first roles was in the American Vietnam War film, Tigerland, which was actually directed by Joel Schumacher, better known for his outlandish Batman films, not understated films about men getting ready to be sent to war. Farrell bared it all in that film, which showed the standard living conditions for soldiers in a barracks (lots of group showers). He also showed everything in the acclaimed 2004 independent film, A Home at the End of the World.
8. KIRSTEN DUNST
Kirsten Dunst is probably still best known to film audiences for her role as Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy of films. In those films, the raciest sequence just involved Dunst’s character kissing Spider-Man while he was upside down and her shirt was wet from the rain.
Things were a whole lot different in the 2011 film, Melancholia, directed by Lars Van Trier. The film is a science fiction story about two sisters. The first story spotlights the sister played by Dunst, who is about to get married before a rogue planet collides with Earth. As you might imagine, this puts everyone into a bit of a mood. There are lots of scenes of Dunst lying on the grass in her alltogether. She won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival for the film.
7. HEATH LEDGER
The late Heath Ledger pulled off the exceptionally rare feat of actually winning an Academy Award for a superhero movie, as he was named the Best Supporting Actor for his role as the villainous Joker in The Dark Knight. Tragically, Ledger suffered an accidental overdose before the film was even released and thus his Oscar was awarded posthumously.
Ledger was well known as an actor who liked to take risks with his roles, like as the star-crossed cowboy lovers in Bareback Mountain (which required Ledger to go full frontal in his love scenes with his co-star, Jake Gyllenhaal). He also bared it all when he played Bob Dylan in the bizarre bio-pic, I’m Not There (where Dylan was played by multiple actors throughout the film, including Cate Blanchett).
6. MARION COTTILARD
In Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Batman is oddly chaste. His relationship with Rachel Dawes never really progresses that far romantically and in the second film in the series, she’s actually dating Harvey Dent instead of Bruce Wayne. Therefore, the first time that Bruce Wayne has any sort of real romance in the films (to the point where you might legitimately wonder if Bruce was a virgin in the films) was in The Dark Knight Rises, when he sleeps with Marion Cottilard’s Miranda Tate.
Cottilard has often bared it all in her films. She has even kept this trend up in more recent films, such as her 2017 film, Ismael’s Ghosts, where she plays the wife of a filmmaker who seemingly returns from the dead after being missing for 20 years.
5. TOM HARDY
In The Dark Knight Rises, of course, Miranda Tate turns out to be the secret identity for Talia Al Ghul (using a stunt that her father, Ra’s Al Ghul, used in Batman Begins when he pretended to be Henri Ducard). Her servant in the film is the mysterious masked villain known as Bane, played by Tom Hardy (who has worked with director Christopher Nolan on multiple films).
Hardy seems to enjoy baring it all in his films, as he has managed to show everything in a variety of them, including Stuart: A Life Backwards, Colditz, Sergeant Slaughter, My Big Brother and the crime drama, Bronson (which is the image that we showed here). As you can see, it is not like he is looking for flattering depictions, either.
4. MORENA BACCARIN
Of all of the scenes on this list, it is interesting to note that only Morena Baccarin actually showed it all in an actual superhero film, as she briefly uncovers herself during the year-long lovemaking montage she has with Ryan Reynolds’ character, Wade Wilson, at the start of Deadpool. This is before Wade develops cancer and goes off to undergo dangerous experiments to cure himself, resulting in him being transformed into Deadpool).
However, beyond Deadpool, the former Firefly actress has not been all that shy about her body, both on the television series, Homeland, but also in the independent film, Death in Love, where she stars as a young woman who will do anything to survive in a concentration camp, including seducing the Nazi doctor in the camp.
3. WESLEY SNIPES
While Marvel is currently the king of superhero movies with their Marvel Cinematic Universe being the dominant force when it comes to superhero movies (two of the four highest-grossing opening weekends in film history were Marvel superhero films), it is easy to forget that there was a time when Marvel could barely sell the rights to any of their characters.
That is why Wesley Snipes’ Blade trilogy was so important, as it showed that there was a lot of money to be made with Marvel characters, even the less famous ones. Snipes previously had tried to do a Black Panther movie. Decades earlier, though, Snipes was involved with a different kind of cat in the 1986 football comedy, Wildcats, where he played a member of a high school football team. The team tried to intimidate their new female coach by exposing themselves to her. She was unmoved.
2. TILDA SWINTON
Marvel drew some controversy when they decided to recast the role of The Ancient One in the Doctor Strange film from an Asian man to a white woman, with Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton taking on the role of Doctor Strange’s teacher in the film. Swinton is no stranger to controversy in her life, as she has done a number of daring works as an actress and performance artist.
Her daring nature has naturally led to her going uncovered in many of her films, from one of her earliest works (1992’s Orlando, based on Virgina Woolf’s novel of the same name) to the aptly titled 1996 film, Female Perversions. The featured image here is a promotional piece for her 2003 film, Young Adam, with Ewan McGregor.
1. STEPHEN DORFF
As we noted earlier, the success of Blade was a major turning point in the history of Marvel Comics and cinema, as there literally had never been a successful theatrical adaptation of a Marvel character prior to the release of Blade in 1998. In that film, the villain was Deacon Frost, who was played by actor Stephen Dorff.
A few years later, Dorff was part of a different first. He appeared in the movie Shadowboxer, which is the first film that acclaimed filmmaker Lee Daniels directed (four years before Daniels’ breakout film, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire). Dorff plays a crime boss who hires a hitman to kill his pregnant wife. When it turns out that the hitman didn’t do it, everything hits the fan. Dorff shows it all at one point in the movie.
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