Great superhero teams are built on a lot of things. Abilities, proximity and shared experiences all play into it. However, the most important factor is without a doubt, team chemistry. In superhero movies, it’s even more important that central characters like the star hero or love interest have undeniable chemistry. When you’re asking audiences to believe in a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider, a grown man fighting crime dressed as a bat or mutants with special powers who live together in a school for mutant children, strong chemistry among the cast will help viewers buy into the fantasy.
Even in the best superhero movies, bad chemistry can take moviegoers out of the moment. Sometimes it’s hidden behind huge action and special effects, but at the end of the day, a strong ensemble will always be judged by how the team relates to one another. This is even more crucial between a hero and love interest, as it’s often the dynamic that helps a hero discover their true strength and gets them in the fight. Unfortunately, when the chemistry is really bad, it’s noticeable and can lessen the fun of the movie. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some of the superhero actors with no chemistry with their co-stars.
15. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH IN DOCTOR STRANGE
Like a lot of anti-heroes Stephen Strange starts as a self-centered jerk who must go on a journey of self-discovery before he figures out how to put others first. Part of this journey is repairing his relationship with ex-girlfriend Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams. Christine and Strange’s feelings for each other aren’t that important to the overall story, and that turns out to be a good thing because there’s zero chemistry or romantic tension between the two.
This is particularly surprising since Cumberbatch is so immensely charming in all his roles and is great with everyone else in the film. Nearly every scene features the same level of emotional commitment to one another. The only difference being that by the end he doesn’t yell so much.
14. HENRY CAVILL IN MAN OF STEEL
Whether it’s TV, movies or comic books, and no matter who’s playing him, the heart and soul of Superman’s story has always been his relationship with Lois Lane.Their undeniable draw toward one another is what keeps him grounded. While Henry Cavill has been very good at being both Clark Kent and Superman in the DCEU, his first foray in Man of Steel did not include any of the magnetic pull to Amy Adams’ Lois that constantly brings them together.
It’s not all Cavill’s fault, since they spent a big chunk of the movie apart. However, Cavill didn’t really portray any interest in Adams once their characters finally did meet up. The Lois and Clark relationship never felt that important to his story. Frankly, he had more chemistry with Ben Affleck’s Batman in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
13. NATALIE PORTMAN IN THOR
Superhero origin movies are rarely about the love interest. They are not the focus of the hero’s journey. This is never more evident than in Thor. Natalie Portman is pretty much fantastic in every performance, but Jane Foster never feels like a significant part of Thor’s story. Jane is the one who figures out Thor is an alien and tracks him down. Unfortunately, that is the extent of their real connection in the movie.
It’s shocking that an actress as good as Portman didn’t have a ton of chemistry with someone as charming as Chris Hemsworth. Yes, their romance doesn’t actually become a thing until the end of the movie, but it feels like it’s only there because it has to be. Thankfully, they had much more chemistry in Thor: The Dark World making their relationship seem much more important to Thor’s life.
12. SCARLETT JOHANSSON IN AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
A lot has been made about Black Widow’s storyline in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Her appearance on this list has nothing to do with any of those controversies. Rather, it’s more about the forced romance between Natasha and Bruce Banner/The Hulk. On paper it may have sounded like a good idea, but in reality it didn’t work because Scarlett Johansson didn’t have any chemistry with Mark Ruffalo.
Part of the problem is Black Widow’s tendency to play things close to vest. Johansson plays her with a cool demeanor that makes it difficult to establish a romantic connection to other characters. Black Widow’s friendships with Clint and Steve is one of the highlights of the MCU, however, just because she’s the girl on the team doesn’t mean she needs to fall in love with one of the guys.
11. VAL KILMER IN BATMAN FOREVER
Bruce Wayne is always guarded. His life revolves around being Batman and keeping it secret. It’s not really a recipe for stable relationships. In the many Batman movies, he has a new girlfriend in every film. When Val Kilmer donned the cowl in Batman Forever, he was paired up with Nicole Kidman as Dr. Chase Meridian, a psychiatrist. Well that seems perfect for a man constantly dealing with dueling identities. Unfortunately, all their interactions are more like therapy sessions than romantic interludes.
Even when they’re on actual dates, it just feels awkward and uncomfortable. To be fair to Kidman, all of Kilmer’s scenes, with every co-star, seem like he’s reading from a different section of the script from everyone else. It’s no secret it’s hard to act in the Batsuit, but what’s his excuse for all the Bruce Wayne scenes.
10. JOEL KINNAMAN IN SUICIDE SQUAD
Ensemble superhero movies always make it difficult for one star to stand out. It’s especially hard when the rest of the team includes Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Will Smith as Deadshot and Jared Leto as The Joker. For Joel Kinnaman in Suicide Squad, not only did Rick Flagg fade into the background, he didn’t have a connection to the rest of the cast. Flagg is supposed to be the one good guy in a sea of criminals, meaning at the very least there should be something interesting about his disdain for the Squad.
His lack of chemistry with everyone becomes very clear in his scenes with Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller. Seriously, who can’t find chemistry with Viola Davis?! Yes, she’s so good it’s hard not to focus on her, but Kinnaman just never works as Waller’s sidekick or the glue that holds the Squad together.
9. FAMKE JANSSEN IN X-MEN FRANCHISE
The X-Men movies have spent six films convincing us that Jean is Logan’s true love. But, here’s the thing, Famke Janssen and Hugh Jackman don’t exactly burn up the screen. All their scenes together are just a rehash of the same thing over and over. It’s the definition of a one-note relationship. He loves her, but either she can’t leave Scott or deal with her Phoenix powers. It’s a never-ending merry-go-round of will they/won’t they, only they never will.
The reason the finger is pointed at Janssen is because her scenes with James Marsden’s Scott feature the same level of chemistry as her scenes with Jackman. Over six movies, there’s never been anything from Janssen to balance the constant pining of Logan. It’s a case of bad chemistry dragging down not just one movie, but infecting an entire franchise.
8. GEORGE CLOONEY IN BATMAN AND ROBIN
We’re not here to rehash everything wrong with Batman and Robin, because we don’t have that kind of time. However, one thing that is glaringly obvious is George Clooney’s complete lack of chemistry with any of his co-stars, but specifically Chris O’Donnell’s Dick Grayson/Robin.
In Bruce Wayne/Batman’s sea of dysfunctional relationships, the only healthy constants are Dick and Alfred. However, watching Clooney you would never know these were the two most important people in his life, as he shows no more affection for them than anyone else in the movie. The problem this creates is that Alfred is on death’s door and Dick decides to break up with Bruce, neither of which has any meaning since Clooney has shown no extra interest in either character throughout the entire film.
7. TOBEY MAGUIRE IN SPIDER-MAN
Look, we all remember the upside down kiss, but when you stop and think about it Peter and Mary Jane aren’t exactly overflowing with romantic chemistry. Once again, because it’s an origin story, the love interest isn’t the focus, but much like Superman and Lois, Mary Jane is central to Peter’s superhero arc.
Kirsten Dunst is a great Mary Jane and Tobey Maguire is a fantastic Peter Parker, but together they don’t really click. Their three movie struggle to fall in love isn’t believable and feels forced because that’s what’s in the comics. In the first movie, Peter is stuck firmly in the friend-zone. Despite them finally becoming a couple at the end of the second movie, it feels like they’re just better as friends.
6. EDWARD NORTON IN THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Mark Ruffalo is so good, it’s easy and frankly just better to forget that Edward Norton was in the MCU. Norton is a great actor, but the superhero world was not for him. One of the many problems with his portrayal of Bruce Banner/The Hulk was his complete lack of chemistry with Liv Tyler’s Dr. Betty Ross.
Betty is supposed to be Bruce’s true love, and the real reason he goes on the run. He’s trying to protect her from the monster. When they finally find their way back to each other, they don’t feel like long separated soulmates. Their relationship has more of a fondly remembered office fling to it. Norton never seems to really commit to the romance, as it’s always a secondary issue to the character. He and Tyler are playing two sides of a different relationship.
5. BLAKE LIVELY IN GREEN LANTERN
Here’s the thing about Green Lantern, so many of its problems can be traced back to bad casting. One of the more baffling being Blake Lively as Carol Ferris. Not only does she not do Carol justice, she has no connection with Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan. In the movie, Hal and Carol are supposed to be childhood sweethearts who have known each other forever. Unfortunately, they just never quite feel like lifelong friends.
Sure they argue and flirt, but it never feels like a natural occurrence, they’re clearly just playing what’s in the script. There’s nothing extra there to draw in the audience. This is such a lost moment when you consider that Reynolds can have amazing chemistry with a houseplant. Since the pair ended up married there was chemistry somewhere, it just wasn’t on-screen.
4. JESSICA ALBA IN FANTASTIC FOUR
Sue Storm is the heart and soul of Marvel’s first family. She is the glue that holds them together, and has a special relationship with every member of the Fantastic Four. In the films, Jessica Alba is clearly the star, but she’s not the glue. Frankly, nothing is really holding these movies together so they completely fall apart.
In her scenes with Chris Evans’ Johnny, there is absolutely no brother-sister connection between the two. They tease and laugh, but never have that sibling rapport. Similarly, her romance with Reed is very forced and only happens because that’s what it says in the comics. Some of these problems are from the script, but if Alba has no chemistry with all her co-stars, then she’s clearly the bad egg.
3. MALIN AKERMAN IN WATCHMEN
A lot of weird stuff happens in Watchmen. One of the craziest is the triangle between Billy Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan, Malin Akerman’s Laurie Jupiter and Patrick Wilson’s Dan Dreiberg. What’s so uncomfortable about all this, is despite all the steamy scenes, none of these characters have any actual chemistry together. As matter of fact, Akerman has the same one-note emotion with everyone in the film.
If you didn’t know the story and just watched an ensemble scene, you wouldn’t know who she was meant to be romantically involved with. It’s hard to root for a particular couple when there is nothing to separate them. Laurie is so seemingly unattached to Manhattan that she leaves him and hooks up with Dan almost immediately. In an off the wall film like this, it’s important for there to be a connection between the characters and Akerman didn’t help establish that at all.
2. FINN JONES IN IRON FIST
This isn’t about whether Finn Jones was miscast as Danny Rand (he was), or whether his character wasn’t well developed (it wasn’t). This is about Jones’ lack of chemistry with Jessica Henwick’s Colleen, Wai Ching Ho’s Madame Gao, or any of The Defenders. When he meets Colleen, there’s no instant connection to make it believable that she would uproot her life to help him. Once The Defenders come together, there’s no shared recognition of “hey this guy is one of us.”
And as the icing on the cake, Jones can’t even muster enough chemistry to make his scenes with Madame Gao interesting, and she’s great in every scene of every Marvel Netflix series she’s in. All in all Jones manages to have no chemistry with several characters across two series, which is quite the heroic feat.
1. JENNIFER LAWRENCE IN X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
X-Men: First Class is great at a lot of things. It successfully relaunched the franchise, introduces new versions of well-known characters and completely rewrites the backstory of the story’s central mutants. What doesn’t work is the weird triangle between Charles, Raven and Erik. In the movie, Raven aka Mystique is a childhood friend, basically an adopted sister, of Charles Xavier.
As they grow up, she develops a crush on him, but suddenly in comes Erik aka Magneto to tell her she’s beautiful just as she is. What this leads to is Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven sending mixed signals about her feelings for Charles and Erik. Essentially, she exudes the wrong chemistry with the wrong actor. Her scenes with Charles are like an on again, off again couple, while her scenes with Erik are friendly not flirty. In a film dependant on new timelines, it only confuses things further.
Which of these actors had the least amount of chemistry with their co-stars? Let us know in the comments!
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