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

Published 4 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 & Batgirl Not 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 Knight When 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 Watchmen Adapting 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 Hellboy While 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 America Director 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 Man Taking 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-man Spider-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 Supergirl Like 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 Hawkman When 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 Four This 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 Phantom There’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 & Batgirl There 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 Lantern We 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 Steel There 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-Ass The 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 Flash This 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 Tick The 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 Daredevil The 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 Thor Thor'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 Punisher The 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 Superman Is 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 Class In 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 Watchmen Well 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. X-MEN was a really big disappointment . I'm a big X-Men comics/TV show (2d) fan and when I saw those characters on screen I just couldn't believe the change :(. Wolverine ,Jean , Cyclops are not supposed to be like that . Just because the first two films were a little bit impressive doesn't mean we have to forgive them for doing this to us fans

    in my opinion , X-Men should be at the top of the worst superhero costumes list along with nipplebat

  2. Captain America in the 90's Captain America Movie. On top of that the Red Skull as well

  3. Did ANYONE else here actually like the first Punisher movie and the costume? Lol.
    I think that the T-Shirt/Trench coat was great for that movie. It gave it a much more realistic feeling than a suit.

  4. Spider-man I still perfer the black and red suit with the blue hues (not sure how to spell that sorry) for the muscles.

  5. Im not understanding this it should have been more along the lines of a total count from best to worse.

    No mention of Adam West, Captain America and his see through shield, Dr. Strange, Tank Girl, Barbed Wire, Vamprilla, etc. Some of the comic pics were influenced by the movie (Ironman/Xmen) instead of them being compared with the comic as “we” know it.

    As for taking liberties… I think whatever works works. Daredevil worked for me and made sense as did the Wonder Woman (cant say Superman is “good” then chastise Wonder Woman) and even the Fantastic Four.

    Xmen I would have loved to have seen them try the real costumes….

  6. I liked the first Punisher movie, because to me it did add a bit of, this guy here is in the real world. I also liked Thomas Jane over Rome guy. Hey but i do understnad people not liking the suit of movie.

  7. I think the Punisher t-shirt costume is pretty non-ridiculous actually. They should have made it into more of a bullet-proof vest-type thing though.

  8. I agree with Aknot.

    Movies need to take liberties with costume designs, specially in the facial area, actors want the public to see there faces. And depending the way the universe is portrayed, is how the costumes are designed. BTW… you forgot to mention GI Joe, as one of the worst, the story was good, but costumes were horrible.

  9. I agree with Aknot.

    Movies need to take liberties with costume designs, specially in the facial area, actors want the public to see there faces. And depending the way the universe is portrayed, is how the costumes are designed. BTW… you forgot to mention GI Joe, as one of the worst, the story was good, but costumes were horrible.

  10. The Tick riding the fence?? Boo! That show was fantastic.

    Agree on Adam West. Would have liked to see the nod there. He had the great show and brilliant movie. yes we watch it now and realize how horrible it is, but the shark repellent was the greatest gadget ever!

  11. I think the TDK Bat suit was actually pretty bad, they went way too overboard on the details. But the costume in Batman Begins was perfect.

    The Brandon Routh Superman. . . There are so many things wrong with it I don't know where to start. I hated the burgundy instead of the red. I also hated the tiny S symbol and that it looked plastic. I didn't realize the boots, but now that it was mentioned I completely agree.
    I actually did like the underwear though, it might have been a bit too low, a tiny bit higher and it would have been perfect. It gave the suit some type of style and brought it to the modern age.

    As for X-Men, I hated that they didn't keep the original suits. But I understand that in the year 2000 they probably didn't have the right technology to make it look cool yet. I'm not sure about that, I am just assuming. But the Watchmen movie proved that no matter how silly a costume looks in the books you can make it work on screen if you do it the right way. I was very disappointed when I didn't see Wolverine's yellow costume, and Cyclops in blue. That would have been cool. Well when they reboot it in the next decade – we all know thats inevitable – it will be amazing! (These movies were a bit disappointing as I look back now).

  12. I believe he put the shirt on over the kevlar.

  13. What you have to remember here is that I couldn't included every single hero movie or tv show ever made. The list would have been ridiculously long and there's no way I would have been able to narrow them all down. Adam West's Batman should really be on the worst list just based on the shear ridiculousness of the suit. I was trying to focus more on the outfits that looked like the comics but didn't appear goofy on film.

  14. Ok… I liked the DD costume… and shhhh The Movie… cept when Elektra and Bullseye were present… I dont know it could have been a little better but I dont condemn it… I even liked Ben to a degree as DD/Matt.

    I think for what they had it was a good job. The “leather” outfit worked really well… a spandex even in the comics is a little to much for ole Hornhead.

  15. Clearly I was unable to weigh in on Brandon Routh!Superman, because that be sexy as hell. He's so on the good side of the fence.

  16. Clearly I was unable to weigh in on Brandon Routh!Superman, because that be sexy as hell. He's so on the good side of the fence.

  17. I think Iron Man should have been number 1 on the best list. Spiderman was excellent too, but Iron Man was freakin phenomenal…

    And the funny thing about Wonder Woman is her so-called lasso… In the comic version it's a lasso, in the live action version, it's a small little loop of string, lol. Like a little kid's lasso or something…

    You guys should have included a pic from Punisher Warzone, because I think they got the outfit (and actor) perfect in that movie, even if the movie itself wasn't good…

    And a lot of the worst list candidates would have been better if they were more muscular so it doesn't look like some skinny weirdo in tights…

  18. I don't see how a T-shirt is more realistic than body armor… I know if I wanted to be a vigilante taking out mobsters and other bad guys, I would want to wear body armor…

  19. Yah, but simple kevlar wouldn't be enough to stop more than small handgun rounds. I think someone doing the things The Punisher does will need actual body armor, like those the military uses with ceramic trauma plates in them and all…

  20. Linda Carter was da Bomb as Wonder Woman!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Among the best, and totally underrated:

    DOCTOR STRANGE. (fence) The TV movie from 1978 managed to work in his traditional robes in the latter half of the film, and explained it away.

    PUNISHER 1989, (bad) to be fair, the writer tried like crazy to work in the Skull, was fired from the Lundgren version. We wound up with a Skull-less Punisher, not countiing the knives which were cool.

    JUDGE DREDD (good) for…ten minutes of the film anyway.
    You knew I'd say that.

  22. What about Blade? I thought he looked awesome (not the third one though)….

  23. By the way, while Spidey is fine at #1, I think GHOST RIDER should have been #2.

  24. Actually, the FIRST movie costume (Dolph Lundgren's) was silly, but the second one was (I thought) exactly what an ex-military, vengeance-seeking vigilante with an ad nauseum supply of firepower would wear. Seriously, does anyone REALLY think a man like Frank Castle would EVER wear spandex anything or any variation, thereof??? I think Thomas Jane pulled off the role quite well…including his outfit.

  25. Of those I've seen mentioned so far, the Best list should have definitely had Blade and Judge Dredd.

    I thought they did a good job, costume-wise, with Spawn back in the 90's as well.

  26. Yeah I considered Blade but forgot about Dredd. Of course if I had mentioned every single one of them then you guys would have nothing to talk about in the comments :)

  27. Oh Please!!! Spiderman has the best uniform??? Personally, I can think of a couple of better uniforms right away that puts Spidy to shame. How about The Original Thor, Hal Jordan's Green Lantern, Barry Allen's The Flash,, and my personal favorite that didn't even get nod, Lobo!!! Now, for my favorite villians duds….

    10…..Solomon Grundy
    9…..Galactus
    8…..Reverse Flash
    7…..Loki
    6…..The Mandarian(his rings alone make the outfit)
    5…..Brainiac(Silver-age Version, it takes a certain breed of villian to come-off as a badass wearing pink!)
    4…..Sabbertooth(In his original uniforn from his first appearace)
    3…..Electra
    2…..The Joker(Heath Ledger) NUFF SAID!!!
    1…..This was the hardest choice, I originally made Doomsday my Number one pick for best outfit, but, I had a epithany……Skroll down to see my numeral uno

    #1…..Ra's Al Ghul I have to ask him just who is his tailor…

  28. LOL, I think you missed the part about them actually being in film. Galactus was a big friggin cloud of dust, Loki hasn't been on screen yet and Grundy prolly will never see the screen. :)

  29. the movie would've looked completely ridiculous if everyone was wearing their original costumes. modern audiences wouldnt've accepted that

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