If the Internet existed in 1988, fans would have been livid over Michael Keaton cast as Batman, probably shouting that it never would have worked. The same happened when Ben Affleck was cast in the role but he ended up doing well in it. Of course, another case was Heath Ledger, as fans slammed his casting as the Joker only for it to turn into an Oscar-winning role. Chris Pratt as Star-Lord is another great case. So often, roles that look horrible in casting turn out to be great on screen. It can be tricky finding the right actors, as fans are desperate to see the perfect on-screen adaptation of their favorite hero or villain. Sometimes, people overlook certain things, like the fact that Hugh Jackman was a whole foot taller than his character should have been. However, his performance as the Wolverine made fans forget that.
Of course, some castings are pretty terrible. Too often, studios have been blinded by star power and have cast stars who were not suited for these roles. Some actors can be very good, even Oscar winners, but are total disasters in a superhero role. For every actor that makes a character work brilliantly and become iconic, there’s another who turns the part into a joke. Casting is key to the success of a comic book film and can turn it into a hit or a flop. While there are plenty of cases around, some are bigger than others. Here we break down who fit the part and who should never have been cast in the first place, but some fans may disagree!
20 RECAST: ELIZABETH OLSEN AS SCARLET WITCH
The MCU has a pretty good track record with offbeat castings that work out great. However, Scarlet Witch does count as something of a misfire. Elizabeth Olsen is a very good actress but seems a bit out of her league as the mutant witch. She doesn’t look much like the character, even with the dyed hair and doesn’t seem able to handle the action scenes well. There’s also her accent which appears to have vanished by Infinity War as it was rather distracting.
The Witch is meant to be a serious powerhouse yet for all the great FX work, Olsen doesn’t carry that power in her performance. Even her chemistry with Paul Bettany’s Vision is too restrained to properly work. It’s a shame as Olsen is usually good in other roles but doesn’t have the same magic to make the Witch work on screen.
19 SPOT ON: CHRIS EVANS AS CAPTAIN AMERICA
Marvel has proven themselves to be geniuses at casting actors who seem bad choices only for them to be perfect in the roles. Chris Evans is a great example. Even long-time Captain America writers like Mark Waid openly said they couldn’t buy Evans as the Star-Spangled Avenger. But Evans nailed the part better than most expected. It was his idea to have CGI portray him as the skinny wimp Steve Rogers so fans would get behind him early. When he turns into Cap, Evans shows how Steve is still feeling not worthy of being a hero.
It grows as the movies expand with Evans nicely showing Steve being a man out of time adjusting to a new world. He still is terrific in battle scenes and is believable leading the Avengers. Fans love that Steve is willing to fight his own government over what he thinks is a wrong move and never gives up. In so many ways, Evans is the perfect Cap and the heart of the MCU.
18 RECAST: ALICIA SILVERSTONE AS BATGIRL
It’s legendary how Batman and Robin became one of the worst comic book movies of all time. Joel Schumacher has openly apologized for it but it’s not totally his fault. He was under a studio mandate to make the movies “kid friendly” and put in tons of stuff for the toy companies to make. But that doesn’t make up for how the casting was pretty bad and that includes Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. The movie tried to push her by making her a biker with an attitude but Silverstone still looked like a high school kid in over her head.
The costume just looked bad on her and there was no way audiences could buy her as an expert fighter. It didn't help that she was given the outfit with no training whatsoever. It’s doubtful any actress could have made it work but Silverstone just seemed bored by the whole thing. It’s yet another reason that this movie remains a hated comic book entry.
17 SPOT ON: RON PERLMAN AS HELLBOY
While they weren’t huge box office hits, the Hellboy movies are still well-regarded by fans for how faithful they are to the comics. Guillermo del Toro nicely mixed up the action and had a great fantasy vibe to make the movies cult favorites. The key to the success was the casting of Ron Perlman as the demon turned hero. Thanks to a fantastic makeup job, Perlman looked like the character stepped right off of Mike Mignola’s drawing page. He also nailed Hellboy’s snide humor and strength.
Perlman also captured aspects of the character such as how he feels neglected by the world. He’s happy when he’s revealed to the public in the second film only to face fear thanks to his appearance. Then there’s his love for Liz Sherman that humanizes the character. Perlman is known for a lot of tough guy roles but he also shows the nobility that makes the demon a true hero.
16 RECAST: RYAN REYNOLDS AS GREEN LANTERN
When the actor himself openly mocks how terrible this casting was, you know it’s bad. Many fans had contended for years that Nathan Fillion was the best choice to play Hal Jordan in a live-action movie. Ryan Reynolds, however, wasn’t as good a fit. The actor is well known for his joking manner and a laid-back attitude. That doesn’t fit Hal, who can be flippant but also an ace pilot who becomes a galactic hero.
Not helping was the terrible CGI costume that made Reynolds look like a goofball. He just couldn’t fit the strong and noble hero Hal is or the hotshot pilot attitude he brings to the part. Even Reynolds has acknowledged this (as seen in an infamous moment in Deadpool 2). The actor is a perfect Deadpool but his GL just crashed and burned.
15 SPOT ON: PATRICK STEWART AS PROFESSOR X
For years, whenever an X-Men movie was mentioned, fans loved to debate who could play which member of the famous team. However, one thing every fan could agree on was that Patrick Stewart was the only choice for Professor X. A sci-fi icon thanks to his role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stewart was not only a dead ringer for Xavier but also a fine actor who could embody everything the character was meant to be.
Stewart lived up to those hopes as Xavier on screen. He brought the warm mentorship needed to lead the mutants, the power of a telepath and standing up to Magneto. Stewart always hopes for humanity and mutants to live together in peace and Stewart nicely captures that hope. The X-Men are always about dreams and Stewart proved that worked for casting as well.
14 RECAST: NICOLAS CAGE AS GHOST RIDER
Nicolas Cage is a very complex actor. Don’t forget that he has an Oscar and has scored a number of well-received roles. However, Cage is also known for roles that set new standards in ridiculously over-the-top acting. For Ghost Rider, Cage was already too old to take on the role of daredevil Johnny Blaze who’s meant to be a younger man. There’s also the rough script that mixed up the complex mythology and made it harder for non-comic book fans to get into.
But it’s Cage’s ludicrous acting that “highlights” the movie. From a stupid accent to overt mugging (he seems to be laughing during the painful transformation scenes), Cage seems to know how stupid his role is. It’s even worse in the sequel with a few segments that can’t be reprinted for how extreme they are. The character had the potential to be a star but Cage’s performance burned him badly.
13 SPOT ON: JACKIE EARLE HALEY AS RORSCHACH
There remains a lot of debate among fans of the 2009 version of the classic graphic novel. Some credit Zack Snyder with replicating the story and action well while others slam him for “dumbing down” the work. But one point fans can agree on is the perfect casting of Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. It’s aided by the clever touch of how the inkblot pattern on his mask changes constantly to mirror his inner insanity. Haley nails the character’s dark vibe and his tough narration carry the film well.
Notable are the scenes where Rorschach is unmasked and imprisoned with Haley showing the man still a threat. The highlight is when he tells his fellow convicts “I’m not locked in here with all of you. You’re locked in here with me!” From start to the amazing finish, Haley’s role brings the character to life and elevates the film majorly.
12 RECAST: SETH ROGEN AS THE GREEN HORNET
The Green Hornet has always had a cool vibe to him. A newspaper publisher turned crime-fighter, Britt Reid pretends to be a crook himself to intimidate the bad guys. This naturally means he has to be outrunning the cops as well as the crooks. The potential for a great movie was right there. Sadly, the casting of Seth Rogen ruins it. Also the movie’s co-writer, Rogen has Britt as a party-loving goofball with no responsibility. There was the possibility of him turning into a serious guy following the loss of his father but Rogen keeps up the idea of the character as a loser.
Indeed, the movie showcases how Kato is far more effective as a hero, fighter and serious force than the Hornet. It’s never a good idea to have the sidekick be the star. Presenting your “hero” like a dumb man who barely gets things done was a terrible move that helped sink the movie. You just can’t buy Rogen as an action hero and someone else in the role might have helped the film.
11 SPOT ON: ROBERT DOWNEY JR AS IRON MAN
It’s almost hilarious to remember that a decade ago, Robert Downey Jr was considered persona non grata in Hollywood. While talented, Downey’s infamous personal life had made him something of a joke. That’s why it was a risk to have him as the star of Iron Man. But Downey silenced his critics by being a pitch-perfect Tony Stark. He nailed the character’s genius, arrogance, humor and desire to make up for his past. The fact he was the spitting image of the comic book helped too.
It was thanks to Downey that Iron Man became a hit that kick-started the entire MCU. It’s continued with sequels and spin-offs showing Tony’s personality growing, sometimes for the better but other times for the worst. It culminated in Infinity War with Downey selling the powerful climax brilliantly. Maybe the MCU would have succeeded but Downey as the first star is what made it truly take off.
10 RECAST: SHAQUILLE O'NEAL AS STEEL
Even as he was rising up as a major NBA star, Shaquille O’Neal was trying to break out in various forms of media. He had a rap album, a video game and tried a few movies. That included Steel, which is generally considered one of the worst comic book movies ever. The character is terrific, an engineer inspired by Superman to become an armored hero. The movie version asks us to buy Shaq as a genius military scientist. To say that’s a stretch is an understatement as you can never buy Shaq anywhere near that level.
The suit itself looks dumb on him and his rough delivery of lines doesn’t help either. The movie was a huge bomb and O’Neal got ravaged for his acting. He focused on basketball instead, and went on to win four NBA titles.
9 SPOT ON: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH AS DOCTOR STRANGE
Stephen Strange is an arrogant man who still carries a serious “know-it-all” aura around him all the time. He has a lot in common with Sherlock Holmes. So who better to play him than a man who came to fame as a modern-day Holmes? Benedict Cumberbatch had all the ingredients needed to play the Sorcerer Supreme and did it with amazing skill. He shows Strange’s pride before his harsh fall and even as he learns magic, he tries to make it work as a science.
It helps that the makeup job makes Cumberbatch look the spitting image of the character down to the goatee and grey temples. A wry sense of humor also helps as Cumberbatch shows Strange rising above his selfish past to be a protector of the Earth. It’s paid off with a casting that is pure magic for the MCU.
8 RECAST: JESSICA ALBA AS THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
The 2005 Fantastic Four movie had a lot of faults but it also got some casting right. For example, Chris Evans was perfect as a showboating Johnny Storm while Michael Chiklis was good as the Thing. However, casting Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman was a mistake. Alba just wasn’t a good enough actress to play the character meant to be the “mom” of this complex “family”. She came off either too flat or over the top and not winning audiences over.
Her backstory was more than okay, but she did not deliver as a top scientist, and seemed to remain as the appeal for the men. It’s not fair to say she’s the worst part of the movies but Alba was still very miscast in this role.
7 SPOT ON: KRYSTEN RITTER AS JESSICA JONES
As a down-to-Earth character in the Marvel Universe, Jessica Jones was clearly a favorite of Brian Michael Bendis. Netflix was smart to choose her as one of the characters for the Defenders and most fans agree that her show is the best of the bunch. That’s thanks to the terrific casting of Krysten Ritter. She can be believable in showing Jessica’s super-strength and her wonderfully sardonic smart-mouth attitude.
Better is how Ritter also shows the inner pain Jessica goes through. She’s still haunted by what she did under the control of the twisted Kilgrave which has left her broken. While a good investigator who wants to help those in need, Jessica’s inner demons overtake her a lot. Ritter makes the character a complex figure that you can still root for and her casting one of the best in the MCU.
6 RECAST: HALLE BERRY AS STORM
Back in the 1990s, when X-Men was first being produced, Angela Bassett was the original choice to play the weather-controlling mutant. She left the project over complaints that rewrites were pushing down Storm’s role. Halle Berry thus got the part and many would agree Bassett would have been better. Berry is a great actress (as her Oscar proves) but lacked the regal bearing and determination Storm should have. She was mostly in the background and thus didn’t get the chance to shine as she should have.
Not helping was Berry’s attempt at an African accent in the first film. It was so bad that she just totally dropped it for the sequels. It’s a case of the scripts not doing justice to the character, but Berry herself just couldn’t capture the qualities that make Storm one of the best Marvel heroines.
5 SPOT ON: CHADWICK BOSEMAN AS BLACK PANTHER
Marvel was smart to build up the Black Panther a bit before giving him a movie. In Civil War, T’Challa loses his father and is soon overcome with the desire for revenge. However, he realizes how empty that is and just captures his father’s killer. Then his solo movie showcases how Wakanda is a technological marvel and he decides to open it up to the world. Chadwick Boseman was a terrific choice for the role, having played Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall. So he was used to roles that had him as an iconic leader.
Boseman was perfect as a king, showing T’Challa wrestling with what was best for his people and trying to aid the world itself. He was terrific in the action scenes but he also added a nice humor to the part to win audiences over. His perfect accent also aided the role and fans thought the entire thing was a very believable performance.
4 RECAST: GEORGE CLOONEY AS BATMAN
To his credit, George Clooney takes on a lot of the blame for killing the original Batman franchise. However, it’s not totally his fault. Back in 1997, Clooney wasn’t quite the huge star he is today, and he was still best known for ER. When Val Kilmer dropped out of Batman & Robin, Clooney was chosen because of his good looks. However, he lacked the same easy charm as Bruce Wayne that Michael Keaton had.
Worse was that you just could not buy Clooney as an intimidating Batman. To cut him some slack, it’s doubtful Christian Bale could have made it work given the horrible script and elements that basically made it a live-action cartoon. Yet Clooney as Batman remains a terrible casting of an otherwise good actor, and he will forever be ridiculued for this role.
3 SPOT ON: TOM HOLLAND AS SPIDER-MAN
While Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had their attributes, Tom Holland fits the role of Spider-Man much better. First of all, you can buy him as a high schooler and his youth lets you root for him more. He has the good humor of Peter Parker and his constant awe at actually being a part of this super-hero world is infectious. Holland perfectly shows the balance of Peter wanting to do good while also having a normal life.
He handles himself well in the action scenes, and the way he looks up to Tony Stark makes him more appealing. More importantly than the action sequences, Holland delivers in the emotional scenes. Between begging for someone to help him under a pile of rubble, and saying goodbye to Tony Stark, no one could possibly give more emotion to the role than Holland has done.
2 RECAST: FINN JONES AS IRON FIST
Iron Fist has been slammed by many viewers as the weakest entry in Netflix’s Marvel series. There were complaints about the storylines and the action sequences, and fans just didn't want to support yet another rich white character. However, the casting of Finn Jones as Danny Rand was a key issue. The actor just can’t seem to capture the intensity of a master martial artist and looks out of his league in too many of the action sequences.
To be fair, Jones did show improvement in The Defenders and the second season gave him a lot more to do. Indeed, it even played on the issues of the first season of Danny being unsure of his destiny as the Iron Fist. However, that doesn’t make up for how bland he came off. Maybe with another actor, the Fist could have struck harder.
1 SPOT ON: CHRISTOPHER REEVE AS SUPERMAN
There were a lot of major stars who wanted the role of Superman in 1977, but Richard Donner was smart to go with an unknown in Christopher Reeve. Without a major career to alter judgements, Reeve was able to craft his own take on the Man of Steel, and to this day, most consider it the best of them all. Reeve showcases Superman’s nobility, always looking for the best in people and truly loves and cares about the world. Even the terrible fourth movie had Superman on a noble goal of ending the nuclear weapon threat and realizing even he couldn’t solve it. He hopes to show humans how they can be better people.
The true genius is Reeve’s take on Clark Kent. He totally shifts his voice, posture, walk and mannerisms to be different from Superman. His mild-mannered act is so natural that for the first time, you can accept folks not looking past the glasses and seeing the truth. It’s a trick few have managed to replicate and it is why Reeve’s Superman is nothing short of iconic.