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. I thought Spawn’s costume was good, although the story was lacking. Ghost Rider looks ok, but I never saw the movie. And I liked Kick-ass, but I never read the comic…

  2. I always thought Both of the Ghost Rider movie looks were on par with what the comic book looks so I don’t get why it’s “on the fence”. Regardless of both movies being somewhat bad, they pulled it off well. In fact, the first Ghost Rider movie was almost a perfect comic book copy with the second film’s version a close second. Another suit that was in the “almost good and perfectly made sense category” was the Daredevil suit (even though it was too tight around the collar for Affleck at times, but when it was closed all the way up, the suit rocks!) Affleck’s costume was one of the better “realistic” suits next to the one for Chris Nolan’s first Batsuit. Daredevil’s costume was basically red leather “biker” style armor besides his horned cowl and it made perfect sense! It was simple, and it didn’t look like a movie studio got it’s crazy ass hands on it. You could easily imagine the character ordering a basic set of red leather motorcycle riding gear and altering it enough to become the Daredevil costume. Not like the ones in Spider-Man where you’d have you scratching your head at how a teenager (regardless of how smart) can realistically “create” a Hollywood-rated costume with next to nil budget. The TASM costume had me wondering how the hell his feet sticks to walls in those stupid adidas-styled training shoes.

    • That’s something that’s always bothered me about all of the Spider-Man movies. They never once explained how he’s able to stick to walls while wearing the suit. In 2002′s “Spider-Man” they showed the little hairs/hooks coming out of his fingers, but that’s all we got. Did the same thing happen with his toes? Did they stick straight through the material of the suit enough for him to stick to things? If so, how? They were almost microscopic and the material for the suit looked thick enough for the little hair things not to be long enough to go all the way through. TASM and the tennis shoe bottoms is a whole other story. Maybe he covered them in used bubble gum?

    • He uses Van der Waals force so the shoes are no problem.

  3. The Captain America costume looks good for him.

  4. Placing the Avengers version of the Captain America costume in the “Best” list tells us the author is completely out of touch with reality, and what most people thought of that costume. It looked like someone just walked out of a Comic Con Cosplay party. He looked like a clown, and it actually took me out of the movie on a few occasions.

    • I posted the following — more or less — on another web site that was talking about the CA costume from TA, and I think you’d agree with me:

      They should’ve taken parts of the costume from CATFA and mixed it with the costume from TA, in that way, IMHO, it would’ve looked so much better than what they had him wearing!

    • I agree… The Captain America costume looks great in the comics…. in the movies, it’s RIDICULOUS !

  5. I thought you might have mentioned the two Mega-City 1 Judge uniforms from Judge Dredd (1995) and Dredd (2012). For all it didn’t get much right, Stallone’s film got pretty close on the feel of MC1 and the uniform. Urban’s getup… I dunno; it still looked to me like an NFL player had forgotten his jersey.

    • Stallone was nowhere close… The cod piece…

      And the city itself felt like demolition man.

      Urb Karlan’s Dredd felt on all the way. Rather than wasting time on trying to make it look like the comic, it instead made it feel like it. Love the movie.

  6. Why were they whining about the X-Men movie costumes?? Based on the title, wasn’t the point how GOOD the outfits could look on the big screen, not how faithful they were to the original source material? I thought most of them looked fantastic! (Iceman as a young student: “when do we get ours?” Wolverine: “they’re on back-order.”) Besides the problems of filming a comic-book character and their costume using flesh-and-blood actors, basic sensibilities and styles have changed drastically since 1963…

  7. Jeremy Iron(Steel, seriously) is a very tall man and buff man in the comics, so O’neil wasn’t a bad choice for the role. As for the weapons inside his hammer, it is actually canon(no pun intended) in some of the comics. Actually his whole armor is supposed to be filled with weapons and gadget, but they downplayed it a lot in the comics so he wouldn’t be too much like another man of iron(this one’s a pun).

  8. I like batman very much!

  9. the green lantern custom is awesome, the author of the article is wrong

    • The GL costume sucked chocolate salty balls!

      • Sorry, But I too thought they did well on Green lantern, his suit is made from the same green energy his ring produces. Its not suppose to look like real fabric!. But too each their own.

        Only part of the green lantern movie I hated was the car on the tracks saving the helicopter. Too much playing to the children in the audience!

        Also, they needed a human sized bad guy for him to fight, but the bad guy in green lantern is way better than any Superman movie with Lex freakin Luthur in it, Enough of the old bald guy already DC.

        Its why Superman movies are almost always a fail. Super powered man from space fights small old bald guy with a rock, too thrilling for me I tell ya.

    • for me green lantern costume was awesome too

      • +1

  10. The new Man Of Steel costume is by far the best. We’re in 2013 who wants to see a grown man wear his underwear outside his clothes or whatever you wanna call it.

    • I agree!! Really love the Man of Steel’s suit. The only problem for me is: to be able to conceal Superman’s identity in this era, he really needs more than that; Superman needs gloves to hode his fingerprints, and mask with glasses (or at least contact lenses) to make his identity undetectable by any retina or face scanner. If this is not unacceptable, then simply throw away any idea of dual identity! Who wouldn’t believe that? Very unrealistic…..

      • *to hide

  11. the one i would somewhat disagree is fantastic 4. movie wasn’t that great but i think it looks fine.

  12. Hawkman looks exactly the same in both pictures. How is that one of the worst?

    • He has a chest plate in the live action version

  13. Juggernaut’s Costume in X-Men: Last Stand. Unequivocally one of the WORST costumes in my opinion. Aside from the obvious lack of thought in casting him, his costume looked much like an old, broken ribbed condom. The movie was wrong on so many accounts, but that was probably the worst costume since that awful Wonder woman re-hash nightmare…

  14. The Flash tv show costume should of got best!

  15. Iron Man’s is awesome of course. Catwoman (Batman Returns) is iconic now. And even though it was a disappointing film, Elektra’s costume in her standalone film was good. Man of Steel costume is a great version as well.

  16. I didn’t see anything wrong with the fantasic 4 outfit or the green lantern outfit, plus the 2013 superman film managed to make a actuall good superman film. other than that the third x man film was horrible no wonder their focusing on wolverine so much now

    • Not sure why the Fantastic 4 is listed as #5 Worst. Someone explain how you could change the Fab4 and still keep the iconic look? Maybe some wings thrown in or batmanesque armour plates? Please do tell Paul.

      • @Jones – Fortunately, I don’t have to make the costumes but I also can’t draw and can still tell you what looks good or not. The solid blue unitards looked ridiculous and maybe this is a case where the filmmakers should’ve just changed the concept entirely? Not every spandex-influenced outfit drawn in a comic book looks good when recreated on film.

        Paul

  17. Sorry, but no. Captain America’s outfit in The Avengers looked horrible. It was the only thing I didn’t like about the movie. Neck down it was fine though.

  18. I totally agree with Spider-man being the first. Particularly the first Spider-man movie by Sam Raimi (I’m not really fond of the Amazing Spider-man costume). I got goose bumps the first time I saw that costume with the raised webs in the teaser trailer.

  19. i disagree with a lot of the worst such as the fantastic 4, the batman robin and batgirl,and green lantern were prity good looking to me.

  20. Aaahhh I’m still waiting to see Sin City in best costumes…. hello? Anyone? Sin City? Easy as they are, perfect as they looked, c’mon people! Am I the only one that realizes how perfect they looked because they had F.Miller’s first-hand opinion? C’mon!

  21. The helmet is what is wrong with caps outfit. The rest was great. His ww2 outfit is rediculously awesome. From the teasers we have seen caps outfit looks super good for winter soldier

  22. You were right on about the best costumes, but so off on the worst. There are tons worse than the ones you chose! and the fantastic 4 look fantastic! the green lantern, though a little disappointing, wasn’t all that bad. And i liked hawkman’s outfit! Besides when you draw anything is possible, but in the real world there are limitations, and for the limitations we have they did an excellent job!

    However I somewhat agree about the X-men costumes. There was so much potential and then to do what they did, so disappointing.

  23. I’ll never agree that Green Lantern’s costume was THAT bad. The movie was not good, and the CG did seem too animated at times. But I loved the plasma/gel quality that mimics the wearers anatomy. Plus the awesome green energy that would course through the layers. Full CG did seem crucial to insure this was a unique uniform, and not made of material, but light. Really cool ideas, sadly just kinda iffy on the execution.

  24. And what about the CBS version of the Wonder Woman costume from the tv series? On Lynda Carter’s body that was the most perfect and faithful comics-based costume ever!!!

    • Gotta agree on Wonder Woman, Linda Carter, (showing my age here), was fan -freakin- tastic in her costume, all the boys back in those days watched Wonder Woman, alone, in their rooms, well least I did.

      Like to see them do just as good with the next Wonder Woman they make, I’m thinkin they should cast Melissa McCarthy as Diana, be funny to watch at least. nuff said!

  25. this is the worst worst worst blog i have ever read……u suck….u thinkk u can make these suits better……well u only think caus u suck….composers take days n days to make the film better and jerks like u ruins it……once again u suck jerk

    • @Devi666 – Hey thanks for your input. I’ll be sure to note it next time I’m putting together a list.

      Paul Young

  26. The Spidey suit from The Amazing Spider-Man was awful. Those damn booties?

  27. I don’t think the gl costume was bad. I also like the ff costume but to me the superman original costume sucked

  28. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.

    Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

  29. i agree we need a lot of super NEW ideas and MARVEL vs DC we got to do it …… like its 2014 get it on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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