The history of superhero films runs deep across Hollywood. Long before either Marvel Comics or DC Entertainment decided to build up their own movie studios to shill their live action comic book adaptations down our throats, Hollywood has always had a fascination with trying to adapt comic books.
We have seen several comic books adapted for both big and small screens dating as far back as the black and white serials from the 1940s which starred Batman and Superman, respectively. Given that there have been so many different superhero adaptations of comic books, there have been just as many actors who have portrayed the same superhero.
It is not easy for an actor to replace another who previously had the same superhero role. When an audience has grown so attached to watching one actor wear the same spandex suit, it is not easy to adapt to seeing a new actor in those same tights (though we hope that the new actor at least washed them first).
Still, that isn’t to say that the new actor is automatically bad or worse than the previous one. After all, everyone loved George Reeves when he played Superman in the classic serials of old, but that didn’t stop fans from calling Christopher Reeves the world’s best Superman long after George Reeves stopped playing the role. There are plenty of instances like this, and it can be very difficult to pick out a particular actor and select them as the best portrayal of said hero.
Here is Who Was Better? 20 Pairs Of Actors Who Played The Same Superhero.
20. Edward Norton/Mark Ruffalo – Hulk
We have all seen a plethora of actors play Bruce Banner and the Hulk over the years. The last time we saw the character(s) on the big screen, it was in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. First, Edward Norton played the role in 2008 for The Incredible Hulk. However, after clashing with the studio on the set of the film and refusing to do promotion for the movie, he was replaced with Mark Ruffalo in the role for The Avengers and any future MCU projects.
Norton’s performance was arguably the first time the actor playing Banner actually felt like a legitimate scientist. He had a stoic, composed nature to his performance. Alternatively, while Ruffalo with his somewhat flowing locks didn’t actually feel like a doctored man of science, he did provide the better performance solely because of his angry outbursts.
Ruffalo makes Banner come off as a mellow guy trying to contain his anger, but the moment he’s close to exploding, he’s terrifying. That, and a few notable scenes, make Ruffalo the more captivating Hulk.
19. Lynda Carter/Gal Gadot – Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot had big red shoes to fill when she was given the big screen role of Wonder Woman, a role that is more deeply associated with the small screen portrayal from Lynda Carter.
Carter was always iconic and classy as Wonder Woman, but despite the pressures of the character’s history, Gadot managed to not only surpass expectations, but provide audiences with a far better performance.
While both actors remain just as silly when delivering the character’s dialogue, Gadot gets the edge for being the action star that Carter could never be. In character and presentation, Carter was fantastic, but we can’t recall one memorable action scene from her show. Maybe we can blame it on the limitations of filmmaking that prevented this nearly 40 years ago, but no matter what it was, Gadot is just more believable as the powerful Amazonian.
18. Tobey Maguire/Tom Holland/Andrew Garfield – Spider-Man
It is no secret that Spider-Man is the world’s most profitable superhero and the character’s blockbuster movies are a big reason for that. Ever since the character saw his big screen debut in 2002, there have been three actors who have donned the webslinger’s mask: Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland.
Each actor brings something unique and different to the role of Peter Parker. Maguire is understated and, to some extent, subtle in his transition into honing great power and responsibility. Garfield brings a major level of vulnerability to the role that is missing from Maguire’s performance.
Lastly, Holland is able to encompass the subdued charisma of Maguire and the vulnerable adolescence from Garfield, but in a way where the performance is truly his own. He is cheerful in his ambitious– yet amateurish– run as a superhero, but also infinitely unsure of himself as a regular teenager. He manages to be insanely relatable as a teenager and even more exciting to watch as an action star. Therefore, Holland knocks this one out of the park.
17. Ben Foster/Ben Hardy – Angel
In the battle of the Bens, we are looking at the supporting performances of Ben Foster and Ben Hardy who played Angel respectively in X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Apocalypse.
Despite both actors playing the same character, both give very different performances. Hardy’s Angel presents the shell of a broken man who is physically and mentally crippled before regaining the confidence (and new wings) he needs to excel as Apocalypse’s Angel of Death.
Years before, Foster’s Angel was given a more subdued performance. Although limited in his screen time, it seemed like Foster was given more to work with since Angel’s entire subplot in the movie paralleled repressed sexuality and closeted homosexuality.
Hardy’s Angel is introduced as someone who is spiritually jaded, but as soon as he regains confidence with his new wings, he’s more or less just a regular, boring henchman. At least Foster’s performance was more memorable and, therefore, better.
16. Ben Affleck/Charlie Cox – Daredevil
Batman wasn’t the first time that Ben Affleck was asked to don a pair of tights for a superhero. The first time came in 2003, when he played Daredevil in the character’s big screen debut. We’ve all either forgotten Affleck’s performance as Daredevil since Charlie Cox brought the character to the small screen for Netflix, or we just wish we could forget the performance.
Before Affleck found some newfound motivation as an actor near the early 2010s, it’s safe to say that he did not appear to be a very convincing actor. His performance as both Daredevil and Matt Murdock is a prime example of his earlier acting blunders. In a mask, he acts just like Ben Affleck pretending to mope, and as Murdock, he just acts like Ben Affleck pretending to be blind.
Charlie Cox, on the other hand, is a revelation in the dual role and completely owns the character every second he’s on-screen; compelling and believable at every turn. Cox is clearly the best Daredevil and it isn’t even a close competition.
15. Christian Bale/Ben Affleck – Batman
The last two big screen portrayals of Batman came in the form of Christian Bale and Ben Affleck. Between The Dark Knight trilogy and Batman v Superman (as well as what seems to be a more lighthearted upcoming Justice League), both actors were given drastically different franchises to work with.
However, at their cores, their characters are still the same brooding detectives you’d expect from a Batman movie. Still, Affleck gets the edge here for his performance as Batman, rather than Bruce Wayne. At risk of trivializing the acting process, playing Bruce Wayne is much easier than playing Batman.
As Wayne, an actor just has to be a charismatic, mysterious millionaire. Both Bale and Affleck made careers out of playing such characters, especially Bale, thanks to his turn with American Psycho.
However, it’s hard to pull off playing a character who needs to be taken seriously while wearing a bat costume and not play it up for laughs. As much as Bale tried, we cackled every time we heard his grizzly Batman voice. As for Affleck, he nailed his Batman voice and managed to be intimidating in his costume. Batfleck gets the win here.
14. Henry Cavill/Brandon Routh – Superman
The last two actors we saw play Superman on the big screen were Brandon Routh from Superman Returns and Henry Cavill from the new DC Comics movie universe. This one is a hard call, but not because both actors were so good in the role, but instead because both actors happen to lack something similar: neither seem able to pull off dual performances.
In Routh’s case, he looks and acts perfectly as Clark Kent, but whenever he puts on the red and blue suit, he comes off as a Hollywood actor pretending to be Superman rather than Superman himself.
In Cavill’s case, he’s seemingly perfect for the role– there has never been a better looking nor sound sounding actor to play Superman. His voice, stature, and mannerisms all fit perfectly with the role. Cavill excels as Superman, but trying to see him fit in a tight, small sized suit as Clark Kent in binocular glasses is laughable.
The two actors can only play one role or the other. However, since the name of these movies always have “Superman” in the title, we’re going to assume that Superman is the most important role and for that reason, so Cavill is just a nudge better than Routh.
13. Evan Peters/Aaron Taylor Johnson – Quicksilver
Who would’ve thought, while watching Kick-Ass in 2010, that both Aaron Taylor Johnson and Evan Peters would both be playing the same superhero in different Marvel franchises? It’s almost too ironic that the two play different versions of the same hero in Kick-Ass 2 (Kick-Ass and Ass-Kicker) and then wound up playing Quicksilver from different universes.
Between their performances in the new X-Men franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this one is a tough call. From the moment that he is introduced, Peters is oozing with charm and one-liners coming in as quickly as he is fast.
Johnson gives a more matured and laid back performance that is true to the character of the comics, but also remains occasionally witty. Again, tough call, but we’ll go with Peters because he has more memorable scenes (i.e. the kitchen scene from Days of Future Past and the rescue scene from Apocalypse).
12. Rebecca Romijn/Jennifer Lawrence – Mystique
Rebecca Romijn set a big precedent by providing the first live action interpretation of Mystique for the original Bryan Singer directed X-Men movie trilogy. She always came off just as deadly and dangerous as she was beautiful; the very definition of the perfect femme fatale. She left big shoes for Jennifer Lawrence to fill with the new X-Men films.
When First Class arrived at theaters, Lawrence showed potential to provide a better performance than Romijn, as she was impressive in the film. Sadly, with each passing film, Lawrence is feeling less and less like Mystique. Halfway into production on First Class, Lawrence realized she had an allergic reaction to the Mystique makeup, which explains why we haven’t seen much of her in the blue bodysuit in more recent films.
Additionally, her performances in later X-Men films feel less inspired than in First Class, as if she just isn’t interested in the role any more. This is fair, though, given how it’s hard to have the same fire for a role after playing it for so long. However, since Romijn never seemed to lose that fire, we have to say that Romijn was the better Mystique.
11. Kelsey Grammer/Nicholas Hoult – Beast
The first time we saw the once-minor Hank McCoy character of the X-Men trilogy evolve into a full-fledged Beast, he was played by Kelsey Grammer in X-Men: The Last Stand. Fitting to the character, Grammer played Beast with class, sophistication, and a hidden fierceness that was ready to lunge out in a moment’s notice.
The only thing that sullies Grammer’s nearly perfect performance is that he’s forced to work with a bad script. Nicholas Hoult is luckily afforded much more competent scripts as Beast in the new franchise.
Granted, Hoult does struggle to get comfortable in his performance in First Class, but by time Days of Future Past rolled around, he’s perfectly settled into his blue skin and gives a genuinely great performance. Still, as great as Hoult is as an actor, we find it hard not to pick the multiple award winning Grammer over him.
10. Dean Cain/Tyler Hoechlin – Superman
While we already did address the big screen acting performances turned in for the Man of Steel between Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill, Superman has admittedly seen more television adaptations for the character than he has on the big screen. One of the more notable performances for Superman dedicated to the small screen was Dean Cain in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
Meanwhile, the guy playing Superman on the small screen now is Tyler Hoechlin, doing so in a supporting capacity for Supergirl. While he so far has only played the character a handful of times on the show, Hoechlin looks confident and majestic as the Man of Steel, looking like he was born to play it.
The only issue lies in how Hoechlin cannot pull off the look or feel of Clark Kent, which is just as important as playing Superman. Cain, on the other hand, looks perfect in both performances, as if his stature was lifted directly off the comic panels.
9. Tyler Mane/Liev Schreiber – Sabretooth
We know what you’re thinking with this one: why is Sabretooth, a supervillain, on a list for superhero actor pairings? Well, let us not forget that Liev Schreiber’s iteration of Sabretooth was more of an anti-hero than anything else when he appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and anti-heroes still counts as superheroes.
Hate the movie all you want, but Schreiber gave an incredibly compelling performance as Sabretooth. Schreiber managed to provide layers and a little bit of nuance to a character known for being manic and wild. At the same time, it wasn’t a very great adaptation of the character.
Tyler Mane was more faithful in the first X-Men. He was wild, manic, unpredictable, and above all else, a worthy adversary to Wolverine. Still, Schreiber was given more to work with as an actor, and if we have to choose between the performance that was accurate to the comics and a performance that was inaccurate but entertaining, we’ll go with the latter and give this one to Schreiber.
8. Michelle Pfeiffer/Anne Hathaway – Catwoman
When you look at the respective performances of Anne Hathaway and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in the two’s respective Batman films, it’s easy to see where the priorities of their respective directors lied.
Tim Burton appears to focus on making Pfeiffer out to be a multi-layered sex symbol, while Christopher Nolan instead centers on the the wilder aspects of Catwoman that lie at her core. The two actors feel like two incomplete halves of the same comic book character and, when put together, make the perfect Catwoman.
At the same time, both give great performances and play their roles well. However, there are many times in The Dark Knight Rises where Catwoman feels like she is only there to serve Batman as a foil and lover.
While Pfeiffer has these same attributes in Batman Returns, she has her own storyline that is independent of Batman and this gives Pfeiffer more to work with as a compelling and unique character. For this reason, we prefer Pfeiffer’s portrayal.
7. Jennifer Garner/Elodie Yung – Elektra
Much like her co-star in the first Daredevil movie, Jennifer Garner struggled to play Elektra. Somehow, as bad as Ben Affleck is in the film, Garner manages to be even worse and all the more wooden in her delivery. Even stranger, despite being a real life couple at the time, Affleck and Garner lack any chemistry between each other on screen.
Alternatively, Elodie Yung has excellent– and what some would even call sexy– chemistry with Charlie Cox and had a superb performance of her own when she is introduced in the second season of Daredevil as Elektra.
Yung has a fierceness to her performance that fits the character to a perfect tee, but at the same time, also reaches into an untapped vulnerability which makes the remorseless killer feel sympathetic. Much like how Cox is better than Affleck, Yung is far better than Garner by a wide margin.
6. Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy – Professor X
Both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy are outstanding actors in their own right and, in turn, both hand in outstanding performances as Professor X. With that said, this one is a tough call. In fact, seeing as these two happen to make up the only pairing to share screen time as the same character (they did so in X-Men Days of Future Past), this makes it even harder.
Seeing the two Professor’s stare each other down eye to eye, we start to notice the smallest details which help us believe that both actors actually are one in the same. In that regard, we should give the notch to McAvoy for his ability to come off like a true younger version of Stewart without feeling like an imitation, but an actual first step in the evolution of Professor X.
At the same time, Stewart has always handed in a pitch perfect performance as Professor X, as if the character has been literally lifted off the page and onto the big screen. Again, extremely tough call, but against better judgement, we’re going with Stewart.
5. Justin Hartley/Stephen Amell – Green Arrow
Long before Stephen Amell snagged the starring title role for Arrow, Justin Hartley played the Green Arrow in a supporting turn for Smallville. Considering that one is a supporting role and the other is a lead one, both performances come off as very different.
When Arrow first started, Amell was very brooding as a character. He has since lightened up in more recent seasons, but during those first couple of seasons, he was basically just a green version of Batman, which didn’t make for a very interesting or entertaining character. It made Amell come off as kind of bland.
On Smallville, Justin Hartley was known more for his charm and occasional comic relief instead of anything related to brooding. However, that isn’t to say that the brood wasn’t there. Hartley did come off as a little moody whenever his PTSD from his island experience kicked in, but since he was mostly a lighthearted character, it made his more serious moments all the more meaningful.
4. Thomas Jane/Jon Bernthal – The Punisher
Nothing against Ray Stevenson’s performance (and everything against Dolph Lundgren’s performance) as the Punisher, but this showdown just has to be between Marvel Studio’s first live action Frank Castle and the MCU’s current one. These two actors happen to be, respectively, Thomas Jane and Jon Bernthal.
Jane has been vocal about how passionate he has always been about playing the character. We not only know this from the fact that Jane financed his own unofficial Punisher short film to campaign for a new one starring him, but he also puts so much work into both of his Punisher performances that he tries his hardest to make lackluster material work.
He has the necessary hardcore grit for the character in his delivery, but he lacks the presence of a believable menace. Bernthal, on the other hand, has both the grit and the look. Presentation-wise, Bernthal looks downright scary as The Punisher; he looks like a danger to himself and everyone who crosses his path. For this reason alone, Bernthal gets the edge here.
3. Laura Vandervoort/Melissa Benoist – Supergirl
Unless she was in animated form, we have seldom seen Supergirl on the big screen, the small screen, or any screen for that matter. In fact, the only notable times where the character appeared on screen was when Laura Vandervoort played her for Smallville and when Melissa Benoist first donned the character’s tights for her starring role on Supergirl.
In a move that is more accurate to the usual comic book depictions of Supergirl, Vandervoort’s performance is more stoic, antisocial, and hard-edged thanks to her disconnect with the humans she interacts with after her arrival to Earth.
It’s a faithful adaptation, but Vandervoort fails to pull it off to its fullest potential and comes off as bland in most episodes– emotionless due to bad acting rather than emotionless character-wise.
On the other hand, the creators of the Supergirl television series opted to make Kara/Supergirl more of a genderbent version of Clark Kent/Superman. Interestingly enough, this makes for the better performance since Benoist is able to showcase her limitless charm in the role.
2. Chris Evans/ Michael B. Jordan – The Human Torch
Michael B. Jordan generated a lot of controversy when he was first casted to play Johnny Storm, also known as The Human Torch, for FOX’s rebooted Fantastic Four franchise (which later turned into a singular Fant4stic after the reboot flopped at the box office with a sequel unlikely).
This was not only due to the fact that he was a black man cast as a character who was usually associated with white skin, but because Jordan had big shoes to fill from Chris Evans’s performance as Johnny Storm in the pair of Tim Story directed Fantastic Four films from the mid-2000’s.
In his early breakout role, Evans brought the heat with incredible layers of charm that instantly made him Hollywood’s new favorite hunk. While Jordan had the looks and the chops to create the same results as Johnny Storm, he was held back by a gloomy script that forced his performance to match the film’s broody atmosphere. Jordan came off as kind of boring, and as a result, he could not top Evan’s performance.
1. Michael Fassbender/Ian McKellen – Magneto
Between the classic Bryan Singer directed X-Men trilogy and the new rebooted franchise, Magneto has flipped back and forth between being a villain, an anti-hero, and a flat out superhero. Along the way, he has been played by both Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender.
Both of these Oscar nominated actors turned in phenomenal performances that are just too hard to choose from; one of the tougher choices on this list, especially considering how different the two actors play their roles.
McKellen is more subtle in his mannerisms and contained in his rage, while Fassbender is more thrillingly bombastic with energy and manic with his anger. At the same time, looking at the performances back to back, viewers can see the seamless transition from old Magneto to young Magneto in a way that makes sense– we have no problem believing that one grew up to be the other.
Still, if there can be only one, we’ll go with Fassbender just because he’s so exciting watch as a rookie Magneto. Plus, that “Frankenstein’s Monster” scene from First Class kind of sealed the deal.
Do you agree or disagree? Did we forget any important pairings? Let us know in the comment section!
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