From Page to Screen: The 6 Best & Worst Superhero Costumes

Published 5 years ago by , Updated August 9th, 2013 at 6:19 pm, This is a list post.

George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell & Alicia Silverstone as Batman, Robin & BatgirlNot every superhero outfit drawn in the pages of a comic book looks great on screen. Some can be replicated exactly from the printed page to movie or TV set and look great with not a hint of cheese to be found - others, not so much.Should costume designers take liberties when replicating a superhero's outfit, as they did with Elektra? She would have looked pretty funny (albeit sexy) running around the city wearing just a red bandanna cap and straps covering her womanly parts.Or should designers stick to replicating a superhero outfit as faithfully as possible to honor the comic book, as they did with Supergirl? Her outfit was almost directly copied from the comic book page - but somehow the end result looked... less than great.While all of us at Screen Rant worked together to compile this list of superhero outfits we felt were the best and worst to make the leap from page to screen, some of us didn't entirely agree with every choice. So we created a “Special Mentions” section at the end with the superhero outfits we felt could go either way.

Best #6: Batman (2005)

Christian Bale as The Dark KnightWhen director Christopher Nolan decided to make a more realistic, dark and gritty version of the Caped Crusader, the look of the crime fighter’s costume was very important.It had to be both aesthetically appealing and at the same time remain faithful to the world his story had created.While not an exact duplicate of the original comic suit, Nolan’s Batman looks close enough to snag our #6 spot.

Best #5: The Watchmen (2009)

Malin Akerman, Billy Cudrup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earl Haley, Jeffery Dean Morgan & Patrick Wilson as The WatchmenAdapting Alan Moore’s graphic novel was a risky move for director Zack Snyder; even if he managed to coherently tell the story of Watchmen (which many believed was impossible onscreen), if he wasn’t able properly replicate the individual superhero outfits, then the whole movie would have been rubbish.Fortunately for fans, the outfits for The Comedian, Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias and Rorschach all turned out looking great, while managing to avoid the dreaded “Cheese Zone.”Personally, I thought Rorschach’s outfit was done the best, but I could have used a little less of Dr. Manhattan’s “big apple.”

Best #4: Hellboy (2004)

Ron Perlman as HellboyWhile not technically a suit, the look of Hellboy was absolutely essential to the film. If he wasn’t the proper shade of red or his trench coat didn’t look right, then the whole character would be garbage.Lucky for us, Guillermo del Toro and his design crew were able to replicate the character's look exactly.His cool, awesome and overall bad-assery lands Hellboy squarely at #4.

Best #3: Captain America (Avengers version)

Chris Evans as Captain AmericaDirector Joss Whedon had to handle the modern version of Captain America's outfit very carefully. Done wrong it would look silly and out of place.Fortunately, he managed to achieve the iconic look from the comic books without crossing over into the realm of cheesy.All the pieces of the classic Cap outfit are present - the emblazoned star on his chest, the stripes on his on his uniform, the "A" and wings on his helmet and of course, the nearly indestructible shield in his hand.

Best #2: Iron Man (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron ManTaking its cues from the Adi Granov post-Extremis version of Invincible Iron Man, as opposed to the original Tales of Suspense version, the Iron Man movie armor was made of individual pieces instead of being "micro-mesh" armor that would have looked like a red and gold Oscar statue on the screen.Considering how bad the Iron Man armor could have looked and how well it actually turned out - while at the same time remaining faithful to the original - makes it all that more amazing.For those reasons, the Iron Man armor easily takes our #2 spot on the Best Outfits list.

Best #1: Spider-Man (2002/2012)

Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire as Spider-manSpider-man has had an unfair advantage over the other superheroes on this list. Other than Superman, he has had the most chances at having his superhero costume properly recreated.The first few attempts fell woefully short - and if the attempts had stopped there, then Spider-man would be spinning his web in our top 6 worst outfits. However, both Sam Raimi and Marc Webb managed to take full advantage of their opportunities and did not disappoint fans (as far as the suit goes).They were able to make Spider-man look like he walked straight off the comic book page and onto the screen - and for that reason, Spider-man crawls his way into our #1 spot.

The Worst Superhero Movie Costumes

Nicolas Cage as Superman and Helen Slater as SupergirlLike spotting Leonid Stadnyk (the world’s tallest man) in a crowd of Oompa Loompas, recognizing bad and often silly recreations of superhero outfits on screen is easy to do.There are, of course, some really bad outfits from characters that never actually existed in comics, such as Hancock, Blankman, Meteor Man and Handi Man; but we aren’t talking about those.Check out our list of the worst superhero outfits replicated from page to screen.

Worst #6: Hawkman (2010)

Michael Shanks as HawkmanWhen the CW network announced last year that Hawkman would be joining Clark Kent on an episode of Smallville, the whole fanboy universe giggled in anticipation. When the first picture of Hawkman finally hit the web, the whole fanboy universe groaned with disappointment - and with good reason.He had the wings, he had the helmet, he even had the mace - but then they gave him a chest piece to wear under the straps and that’s where they lost it  (apparantly he didn't even NEED the wings to fly, they were just decorative).Poor Hawkman, he’s supposed to be a bad-ass alien-being feared by evildoers; instead people just laughed at him (and maybe that's why he was always so angry).

Worst #5: Fantastic Four (1994/2004)

Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Alex Hyde-White, Jay Underwood, Rebecca Staab, & Michael bailey Smith as the Fantastic FourThis was a case where following the comic outfit too slavishly turned out goofy and not even close to cool. Sure they opened up Invisible Girl’s neck piece to show off her cleavage and The Thing’s “rock suit” was pretty darned good but honestly, all the characters in their sleek blue accessory-less jumpsuits just looked silly.The outfits could have been so much better but instead suffered from lack of designer imagination.Of course, Roger Corman's version of the outfits wasn’t any better (bottom right pic).

Worst #4: The Phantom (1996)

Billy Zane as The PhantomThere’s not really much to say about The Phantom’s outfit except that it’s very, very purple which makes it look very, very silly on screen. On page, the costume pops to life as he gallops through the jungle driving off poachers, illegal treasure hunters and all-around bad guys.This is another case where the exact replication of the superhero’s outfit does not play well on screen.The Phantom should have been a seriously cool character to watch, but instead most people just thought it was Barney wearing a mask and wielding some pistols.

Worst #3: Batman/Robin/Batgirl (1997)

George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell & Alicia Silverstone as Batman, Robin & BatgirlThere have been many attempts at bringing Batman and Robin’s superhero costumes to life, going back as far as the 1940s. Although the early renditions were very campy, they pale in comparison to the replicas in modern movies.Tim Burton’s first two films had the Caped Crusader dressed in a simple black outfit with a yellow bat symbol on the chest (cool),  but when Joel Schumacher got his hands on the outfits, it all went downhill (big time).Not only did he give us the ridiculous-looking “Chrome Knight” but he will forever be known as the guy that gave the world the infamous “bat nipples.”

Worst #2: Green Lantern (2011)

Ryan Reynolds as The Green LanternWe once pondered the question "Would Green Lantern's all CGI costume ruin the movie?" While a lack of cohesive story telling was this movie's ultimate downfall, the suit certainly didn't help.The green hued digital skin suit made Reynolds' athletic frame look anemic. Then there's the mask - oh the mask! - it could win a "Bad Award" all by itself. Apparently $200 million dollars doesn't buy what it used to.Let's hope the inevitable reboot is better.

Worst #1: Steel

Shaquille O'Neal as SteelThere are so many things wrong with Steel’s outfit it’s hard to figure out where to start. His armor looked like a cross between Robocop and a medieval knight. It could have been a really cool look if the costume designers didn’t have to make it fit around Shaq’s gargantuan body.To make things worse, they made him wear a ridiculous non-fitting helmet and turned his hammer into a laser rifle with a scope.There are dozens of bad superhero outfits brought to life onscreen, but in our opinion Steel’s is the worst offender of the bunch.

The Fence Riders

Spawn, Ghost Rider, Kick-AssThe following 7 superhero outfits are ones we just couldn't agree on.Should they be considered good or bad replications? Arguments can be made for either case.Take a look at our choices, then tell us what you think.

Special Mention: The Flash (1990)

John Wesley Shipp as The FlashThis is one of my personal favorites and if I had my choice it would top the "Best" list. The Flash TV show itself from the 90s didn't last more than one season, but when you compare the two outfits side-by-side, is there any doubt that the designers nailed the replication from comic book to screen?Since we all know that Michael Cera has NOT been cast as The Flash (heh), it will be interesting to see what direction Greg Berlanti and DC go with the next Flash costume.

Special Mention: The Tick (2001)

Patrick Warburton as The TickThe Tick was one of those superhero outfits that just shouldn’t have worked in real life. Bright blue and skin tight with two big antennas on his head, no one would have thought twice about listing it as one of the worst costume replications of all time.However, when The Tick made his first live-action appearance on TV, most everyone was extremely pleased with how it turned out.The only real complaint was the lack of a mask on the superhero, but that’s a minor gripe.

Special Mention: Daredevil (2003)

Ben Affleck as DaredevilThe Daredevil movie stirred up a lot of controversy for making the costume out of leather and not the traditional spandex.Although the big screen version of the outfit was a darker shade of red and had the logo in a different place, the actual replication of the suit and weapon were fantastic.Too bad the designers didn’t put as much effort into replicating Bullseye’s costume.

Special Mention: Thor (2011)

Chris Hemsworth as ThorThor's outfit should have been really dumb but director Kenneth Branagh succeeded more than failed in his replication of the God of Thunder's costume.While he is in Asgard, nothing about Thor's costume really appears to be silly. The red cape, magical chain mail armor and even the pants, all worked great on screen.The best part about his outfit, though, is his hammer the mighty Mjolnir.

Special Mention: The Punisher (2004)

Thomas Jane as The PunisherThe Punisher’s costume doesn’t have whole lot going for it to begin with; all you need is some black tights, some guns and the familiar white skull with long teeth on the chest and you’re all set.The problem with the movie’s replication of the outfit was it used a t-shirt to show off the skull and the addition of the trench coat is also a little off-putting.In Punisher 2 both problems were fixed by spray painting the skull onto his body armor and ditching the trench coat.

Special Mention: Superman (2006)

Christopher Reeve & Brandon Routh as SupermanIs there anything more iconic in the superhero movie world than the blue tights, red briefs and cape of the Man of Steel? I don’t think so. Any director wanting to make a movie based on the legendary hero absolutely must keep to the original concept of the suit.Any deviation, like making the cape green and the tights purple, or dropping the cape altogether, would make the character, well, NOT Superman (are you listening, Tim Burton and Zack Snyder?).Just like Schumacher gave us bat nipples, Bryan Singer gave us the Calvin Klein Superman outfit.  The blue tights were fine and the darkening of the red in the outfit really wasn’t enough to make the costume bad.What really made this replication bad were the low rise briefs, short boots and small raised “S” on his chest and belt. Take away the blue tights and it would look like Superman was ready to swim the freestyle medley next to Michael Phelps. 

Special Mention: X-Men/X-Men: First Class (2000/2011)

The combined casts of X-Men and X-Men: First ClassIn 2000, Bryan Singer had the opportunity to make the superheroes from comic books accessible and popular to the mainstream audience with X-Men. It was a chance for him and the studio to show the general public (other than fanboys) that superheroes could be cool and not cheesy.Putting them in their traditionally recognized yellow, blue, green and black spandex costumes would have not been the proper way to go. While he was able to achieve the goal of reaching a wider audience and set off a trend of superhero films, the look he went for replicating the outfits was way off of the original X-Men costumes, except for Professor X.However, director Matthew Vaughn proved that colorful and somewhat "comic-correct" X-Men outfit were possible in X-Men: First Class.

The 6 Best & Worst Superhero Costumes

Ozymandias, Silk Spectre II, Rorschach, Nite Owl, Comedian, Dr. Manhattan from The WatchmenWell there you have our recommendations for the Best and Worst superhero costumes brought to life on screen (big and small), as well as a few where we had both good and bad votes behind the scenes.There are quite a few superhero costumes that we didn’t mention - Ghost Rider, The Green Hornet, The Shadow to name a few - that you might think deserve to be on one list or the other. Feel free to tell us about them below.Remember though, we are talking about SUPERHEROES and not SUPERVILLIANS. That is a whole different argument. :)Follow me on Twitter @MoviePaul
TAGS: batman, captain america, daredevil, fantastic four, green lantern, hawkman, hellboy 2, iron man, spider-man, superman, the avengers, the flash, the punisher, thor, wonder woman, x-men


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  1. the green lantern costume was really great
    The only thing bad about it was the mask
    And just because of it you can put the whole suit in the worst part
    It looked good and realistice
    And if you had to put something in bad you could have gone with daredevil costume

  2. Iheard that Ben Afflec will not play Batman. How about the guy who played Loki? His voice is hypnotic, like a lion purring. and Vin Diesal as Lex Luthor.

    • Really? No.

    • Vin Diesel does not have any of the gravitas needed for a character like Lex Luthor. He could play Colossus, but not Lex Luthor; people just wouldn’t take him seriously. And Tom Hiddleston just doesn’t look like Bruce Wayne; he’s too thin!

      • Actually, I’d have to argue with you about Diesel
        Vin Diesel certainly has “gravitas”, he screams it, especially as Riddick. In a different world, I’m sure he would’ve made a “sufficient” Lex, but I don’t think a Vin Diesel Lex would fit into this version of the DCCU. There are definitely better choices, but there are certainly worse ones also.

  3. “apparantly he didn’t even NEED the wings to fly, they were just decorative”

    Which is keeping things in line with most comic book versions of the character. The wings are decorative and for steering, it is the belt Hawkman wears that allows him to fly.

    Also, apparently, you all need a better spell check…

  4. This list makes no sense. You’re judging the movies more than the costumes. The Batman Begins costume is actually the worst one ever made for batman. I met the photographer who shot all the still for that movie and looked at all the pics from the shoot on his ipad and it DOES. NOT. PHOTOGRAPH. WELL. because it’s a horrible design. Constantly dusty and an unusual fit. The mask only works when he looks slightly up and his neck is thicker than his ef-ing waist.

  5. Come on now. Where’s the love for Ghost Rider or Spawn? You can’t get much more bad ass than them. Speaking of Spawn. Reboot anyone…?

  6. How can you leave off wonder Woman with Lydia Carter in the field of best costumes?

  7. All these costumes looked pretty good even the bad ones. they weren’t really bad at all in fact they were pretty good to me.

  8. Nothing wrong with the Supergirl outfit in my eyes. Helen Slater had always had a ‘Meh!” effect on me, but in the Supergirl outfit I saw her in a completely different light. As far as I’m concerned, any half decent looking girl would hold my attention in that outfit.

  9. I personally thought the Daredevil costume was sexy as sh*t… The movie itself wasn’t great, but the scene of DD suiting up–THAT I could watch over and over.

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  11. You have got to be joking about the Green Lantern costume being bad!!! I thought that was a great design… The emblem on his chest had the moving green background, and between the muscle ripples was a green electrical looking current… I loved that look! I thought his eyes turning gray was excellent. The mask was ok, could have been better, but that’s certainly no reason to give the outfit a failing grade!

  12. Ok…I don’t agree with half of this list, clearly this writer is biased against DC lol. The Flash costume for that time wasn’t bad. He also rips the MOS look(which looks great btw) but slams the GL costume and Supergirl costume(which look damn close to the comic version)? Flawed, dumb logic….

    He probably hates the newer Flash and GA costumes too I bet…

    • None of those made the list except for GL and kind of Superman.. You mention MoS Supes but this article came out four years ago and he rips the Superman Returns look, not MoS.
      The other ones you mentioned were in the Fence Rider’s section because the team at Screen Rant were split, so it’s not just the writer’s opinion being taken into consideration
      And the new Flash costume argument is weak.. mostly because that outfit does suck.. but it’s a young small screen Barry Allen, I expect it to improve over time. Green Arrow’s is nothing special (it’s green and has a hood… okay…) but it looks as good as you can expect it too.
      I thought some of the Marvel mentions were unfounded too, such as Daredevil’s and Thor’s. Sure DD’s wasn’t spandex but that’s a good thing, and Thor didn’t look half as ridiculous as I expected him to. lol

  13. Re: the Hawkman costume, personally, I loved it. I used to work on Smallville and got to see the costume up close. I thought the addition of the breast plate was a great and MUCH MORE practical idea then just the straps over a bare chest for a warrior like Carter.

    Also, the breast plate was necessary to hide not only the wing harness, but Michael’s stunt harness as well.

    Re: the Punisher – he has often worn a trenchcoat in the comics, especially during Garth Ennis and Steve Dillion’s initial run on the comic, which is what inspired the first film.

  14. The Watchmen movie sucked. The costumes looked bad just like everything else. I should allow for some of that because clearly Snyder was going for a cartoon-ish look, but there is just so little to recommend him as a filmmaker (MoS, 300, Guardians) that he can just bite a butt.
    The costume design in Thor was also terrible. Everyone looked stiff and uncomfortable and awkward. It was a more or less watchable movie despite a lot of the drawbacks (Kenneth Branaugh).
    Cap’s costume in the Avengers looked bad,too. He looked like Dr. Manhattan’s “big apple”. It was a shame because I liked that movie and love Captain America. Both of his solo-film costumes were better, and AoU’s looks OK so far.
    I disagree about Superman Returns. A highly underrated movie. Almost every element of the narrative and design has been appropriated in the comics since it’s release. The low-rise briefs were a shock at first but really don’t hurt the costume at all.
    And finally, The Punisher is a bizarre entry. The Tom Jane version sucked but the costume was more or less accurate to the contemporary comics, starting with the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon run. Sure its not black spandex but it rarely is in the modern comics.

    • Out of curiosity, have you ever read the Watchmen comic (excuse me, Graphic novel?)
      Almost everything in the movie was taken exactly from the book,
      it was as close to the source material as it could possibly be.
      If it’s not your cup of tea, so be it.

  15. Truthfully, besides The Phantom’s purple tights, I think filmmaker’s do better when they err on the side of spandex accuracy than when they try to alter it for “reality”. Cathy Lee Crosby’s Wonder Woman came out after Diana Prince in the comics went through a mod jumpsuit phase but obviously viewers wanted the Lynda Carter look. The tricky part is, with movies using such extended origin stories they’re forced to find an explanation for creating the bizarre outfit. Captain America (2011) succeeded by using the War Bonds routine as an excuse to create a costume.

    X-Men might have skimped on the exact costumes but made up for it by thankfully actually using the “hero names” which Logan mocked them for. On the flipside I felt like The Avengers consisted of some guys named Steve, Tony, Bruce and Clint who happened to have costumes! The new Flash for 2014 has a disturbingly loose, leathery 1920′s football player look to it, not a fan. But wow, I still reel looking at those three Batman & Robin costumes!

    • what do they call you???…Wheels?!?!?

  16. Not a bad list. I loved the whole look of Ron Perlman’s Hellboy and Rorschach from Watchmen. Man, some people are really puritanical. Was Dr. Manhattan’s simulated male nudity that bad? It’s not like he was walking around with a giant boner.

  17. a seriously lazy list. There are SOOOOOOO many worse outfits than the ones you cited. THOUSANDS. And the ones you cited are actually pretty good craftwork. The writing on the internet amazes me the way it just gets worse and worse and worse and more and more mindless and stupid. Check your craft, writer, or just do something else.

  18. I am really old, in that I remember reading comic books back in the ’60′s, when there were no superhero movies, but just the odd TV show or two. My favourite hero was always ‘Thor’. There are far too many comments on here for me to go through them all, so someone’s probably said it already, but without his helmet, Thor just isn’t Thor. Okay so obviously Chris H still wanted to look hot in his ‘cozzy’ but Chris Evans/Capt. America didn’t look too bad in a hat, so they should give Thor his helmet to wear for the next one!

  19. Hawkman had to have the chest piece to hid the flying harness. It was necessary for technical reasons. It is very hard to hide a flying harness on a bare chested actor. People who complain about it don’t understand how movies (or in this case, television) are made. Cretins

  20. Smallville actually did a surprisingly good job adapting the comic to the real life and the changes they made made a lot of sense.

    Fantastic Four 2004 had many problems, the costumes were not among them (unless you count Jessica Alba’s bad dye job and fake blue eyes as part of the costume).

    The X-Men costumes in all movies were execrable, Last Stand in particular, bit for the most part a live action adaptation of the illustrated costumes would have been pretty awful as well, so kudos for trying. (Still, Mystique is unforgivable in all its incarnations).

  21. I think it’s time this article was written, because we have tons of new CBM and CBTV costumes made.

    • I meant rewritten.