The United States is about to face a crucial decision which will drastically change the landscape of the country. An election is upon us, and soon a new figure will step into the spotlight to do all the heavy lifting, thought the idea of a single person swooping to the rescue is nothing new to the land of the free. Captain America has been doing it since he knocked out Hitler on the cover of Captain America Comics #1, back in 1941.
The product of an experiment to create the perfect super soldier, the first Avenger became the hero every man wished he could be. For all our faults, he picked up the slack, protected our rights and defended our mistakes. He became the voice of the people and embodied every American ideal, and we can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done.
With a career in crime-fighting that spans more than seven decades, he’s the only superhero in Marvel’s history that can claim to be simultaneously a man out of tune with the times and a man who will remain timeless. That’s why we feel the need to take a trip down memory lane with our favorite iterations of America’s number one superhuman. So without further ado, we present to you Every Adaptation Of Captain America, Ranked From Worst To Best.
16. Three Giant Men (1973)
When you think about the country of Turkey, it’s easy to associate the Eurasian nation with superhero action flicks, right? Informally known as the Turkish Spider-Man, Three Giant Men is less of an adaptation and more of a name-borrowing obliteration of all that the web-slinging hero and Captain America ever stood for. Released nationwide in 1973 in its native language, the movie was completely unauthorized by Marvel Comics and blatantly ripped off the two characters.
When a crime wave hits the city of Istanbul thanks to a criminal organization led by a spider suit wearing mastermind (yes, Spider-Man is depicted as a villain in the movie), the local police force bring in Captain America and his crime-fighting partner, none other than the masked Mexican luchador El Santo. Nothing about either Cap nor Spider-Man is kept intact, as neither is shown to have any superpowers to speak of. Instead, Spidey terrorizes the town with a gun and an army of henchmen while Captain America runs about without his shield and with a girlfriend named Julia, who supposedly travels with him on his escapades. By far the most bizarre adaptation to ever feature either character, this is one production Marvel has done wise to keep away from.
15. Captain America (1990)
The only entry on our list that has the distinct dishonor of being called one of the worst movies ever made, Captain America was so atrocious it went relatively unknown for years. Sent straight into the hellish abyss of straight-to-video obscurity, the feature suffered from the usual shoestring budget and cheesy effects, but it was the story that took the most liberties when it came to properly depicting the Marvel character.
As far as Captain America’s origin goes, the film doesn’t stray too far away from its source material. The Cap is indeed frozen in ice for decades before being revived in the modern day. After being defeated by the Red Skull, shown here as an Italian fascist rather than a Nazi, the Captain awakens to find his rival in charge of a small army with plans concerning a nuclear bomb. Turning into an odd propaganda piece about environmentalism, Captain America is riddled with one bad line delivery after another as Matt Salinger, the son of famed reclusive author JD Salinger, turns in an unenthusiastic performance as Steve Rogers. At least he can claim he wasn’t the only bad actor weighing the film down.
14. Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United (2014)
The Heroes United films don’t have a great reputation when it comes to portraying the beloved characters of our childhoods. Previously, the series made an appearance on our list for every Incredible Hulk adaptation, coming in at an unsurprisingly low number on that ranking as well. Our reasoning is simple: bad animation equals bad adaptations. Trying to cash in on the high marketability of the Avengers franchise, Marvel Entertainment released Iron Man and Captain America, with hopes that audiences wouldn’t mind the clunky 2-D wrap process that made the characters move around like CGI robots. Well, we noticed, and we think Marvel can do better.
The second Heroes United flick isn’t the total disaster we make it out to be. There are a few positive takeaways that could prove helpful in later adaptations. Firstly, Captain America proves to be more playful than other versions, showing off his uncanny ability to strategize while trying to upstage Iron Man. Voice actor Adrian Pasdar also manages a strong performance, exhibiting confidence in everything he says. Still, without much to look at, it’s hard for the actors to turn this straight-to-video dud around, landing it at the tail end of our list.
13. Captain America/Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)
Have you ever though that maybe, just maybe, if you owned a Harley Davidson, you too could have the cool factor of a superhero? Apparently no one is safe from the pressures of trying to look awesome, not even Captain America. That’s why in 1979, inspired by the motion picture Easy Rider, this made-for-television movie and its sequel decided to equip the star-spangled Steve Rodgers with a badass chopper of his own.
As a former marine, this version of Rodgers (played by Reb Brown) is the son of a 1940s government agent, who received the nickname of Captain America for his patriotic duties. Now living under his father’s shadow, Rodgers adapts the persona after a near-fatal accident puts his life in the hands of a secret government branch. Treated with the an experimental serum called the FLAG (Full Latent Ability Gain), he goes on the hunt for the men responsible for putting him in the hospital. Donning the world’s most patriotic motorcycle helmet, his new high-tech bike not only has rocket boosters and deployable glider wings, but the windscreen detaches to become the hero’s iconic shield. It’s far from the Captain we know, but at least we got to see what the Avenger would look like as an Evel Knievel look-alike.
12. LEGO Captain America
Having put their own personal touch on virtually major property known to man, LEGO has pieced together quite the franchise, thanks to major characters like the Marvel superheroes. In his LEGO form, Captain America is a handsome do-gooder with natural crime-fighting instincts and the wherewithal to lead any team into battle. He’s capable of delivering justice to any villainous foe, but he’s not without his own levels of immaturity. Taking a lighter tone than most adaptations of the hero, this version of the Cap has time to assess his situation, evaluate how much danger he’s in and stop to deliver a quick one-liner or pun whenever he deems it necessary.
Voiced by Roger Craig Smith, whose name will pop up again later, Captain America still manages to be one of the more responsible characters of the Avengers. Appearing in the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes video game as well as the two spin-off online series Maximum Overload and Avengers Reassembled, he’s an endorser of teamwork and dedication, but isn’t afraid to bust a move in celebration of a victory. With his properly trademarked shield in one hand, this Cap is one toy you don’t want to mess with.
11. Captain America (1944)
Captain America has without question had some of the whackiest adaptations of any superhero, but where some stories failed miserably, this 12-part serial manages to give another look at the Sentinel of Liberty that hasn’t been replicated since. Premiering in 1944 from Republic Pictures, back when the character was still the property of Timely Comics (the entity which later became Marvel), the story followed district attorney Grant Gardner as he tried to thwart the villainous plot of a baddie known as The Scarab.
Portrayed by Dick Purcell — who would die of a heart attack shortly before the feature’s release — this Captain America wore skin-tight spandex with the classic large star across his chest and stripes covering his abdomen. Playing the character straight-faced in his most heroic voice, Purcell may not have been the most in-shape actor to fit into the Captain’s suit, but he gave us a glimpse at what the character would look like mixed with a noir detective. Using his advanced man-hunting skills and powerful fists, he was the only hero capable of stopping The Scarab from throwing the world into utter chaos, and we thank him for holding down the fort until a better Captain came along.
10. Marvel Super Heroes: Frost Fight! (2015)
As a Christmas tale for the children, Frost Fight! is a safe distance away from some of the more adult versions of the Marvel characters we’ve seen before. Churned out in time to slip under your Christmas tree, the film is largely a way to pump out some cheer for the holiday. As Loki comes to Earth with the frost giant Ymir by his side, they hatch a plot to steal the powers of Jolnir, better known as Santa Claus. It’s Captain America’s job, along with Iron Man and Captain Marvel, to stop the Asgardian before he ruins Christmas for the nine realms.
Ultimately, the movie is what one would expect from such a description, with little action to speak of and an irritating new side character named Reptil who can transform body parts into dinosaur appendages. Still, there’s some hope in the voice of Matthew Mercer, who does inspiring work behind the scenes as Cap. Sounding oddly enough like Superman, his commanding voice ensures an attentive young audience and an inspired adult crowd. More than anything, Mercer shows promise in the role, making him a voice of value if his talents are ever needed to help save another major holiday.
9. The Super Hero Squad Show (2009-2011)
A prolific voice actor and the man responsible for SpongeBob Squarepants, Tom Kenny has shown versatility when it comes to portraying animated characters within the world of children’s television. Typically playing characters that are wiser than they appear, his version of Captain America is not only an immature miniature version of the beloved hero we know today, he’s an excessively patriotic hodgepodge of old-timey values that will have you busting outing the Fourth of July fireworks early.
Sporting his signature winged helmet and shield, Kenny’s Cap is depicted as the boss of the Super Hero Squad, despite appearing out of touch with the times. In constant reference to his origin story, he remains in awe of every modern day invention around him, shocked that foreign countries could ever invent such gadgetry after the events of World War II. Shown to have witnessed many crucial events in America’s history, he’s also a walking textbook of knowledge about the days of old. A stab at the Mini Marvels comic book series, this pint-sized Captain is a sweet and charming take on the hero that at once provides entertainment for the younger demographic while also giving them some insight into the philosophies of old school America.
8. Marvel Productions Universe (1981-1983)
Featuring three television series, all of which were short-lived, Marvel Productions brought comic book animation to the small screen for the first time in years with the MPU. Although the success of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was short-lived, it gave viewers just the right dose of superhero action to keep them in a constant state of nostalgia for years.
Of all the Marvel characters to guest star in the MPU, only one was iconic enough to have the Daily Bugle’s Spider-Man hating editor-in-chief J. Jonah Jameson singing his praises. A role model for Jameson during his early childhood, Captain America appears in both Spider-Man series as the humble hero of the people. Jealous of his appeal at first, Spidey eventually befriends the Captain. It’s George DiCenzo’s pleasant voice work in his little time on screen, however, that really sells the character. Sounding like a soldier ripped directly from World War II, he’s reminiscent of a simpler time, making this Captain a convincing figure with a strong will and the good of the people at heart.
7. X-Men: Evolution (2000-2003)
When you’re an iconic figure of superhero lore, you don’t have to say a single word to cement your legacy among the elite. Without a single line of spoken dialogue, the Captain America depicted in this teenage X-Men series still manages to leave a lasting impression.
The only non-mutant Marvel hero to cross over with the show, the Cap is shown through flashbacks as Wolverine reminisces about his old friend. In the episode, titled “Operation: Rebirth,” the adamantium-clawed hero goes on the hunt for Magneto after he steals the device used in the super soldier experiment that created Captain America. It’s during the hunt that we witness the bony Steve Rogers participating in the experiment which turned him into a worldwide beacon of hope. In the same flashbacks, Logan and Rogers meet for the first time during World War II, where they team up to release some POWs from imprisonment and coincidentally rescue a young Magneto from one of the internment camps.
In the episode’s closing minutes, Wolverine visits Rogers in the present day, now enclosed in a cryogenic chamber as the process that created him slowly tries to kill him. Logan vows to find a cure for his friend as he continues to remember all the super soldier has done for him.
6. The Marvel Super Heroes (1966)
As a product of the past himself, it should come as little surprise that an older show’s take on the wing-headed muscle man would come off as more genuine than others. Sandy Becker may not be a household name as far as voice actors go and undoubtedly a lot of that has to do with the age of the shows for which he lent his talents. But as Captain America, he gives a deep masculine impression that’s undeniably spot-on for the character.
Largely straightforward in its narrative, The Marvel Super Heroes ran five short segments featuring various comic book characters during its 1966 run. Hands downs the best in terms of pure performance, Captain America’s stories borrowed from the Silver Age of comic books, with much of the series pulling directly from the pages of both Tales of Suspense and The Avengers. Using a still-frame animation technique that literally transferred the comics to the screen, there’s little room to debate just how authentic the on-screen depiction was during the time. Still, it was Becker’s machismo that echoed sentiments of classic heroism and showed that Captain America wasn’t only a man of strong moral beliefs, but that he was also quite the formidable opponent when he needed to be.
5. Marvel Animated Universe (1992-2000)
For many comic book aficionados, the memory of the 1990s Marvel Animated Universe brings back a flood of memories. It was the time of such hit cartoons as X-Men, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, but truth be told, the Avengers never got the show they deserved. Sure, we received The Avengers: United They Stand in the later part of the decade, but due to reasons still unexplained, the series never featured Iron Man, Thor or Captain America as regular characters. Still, the universe manages to feature enough cameo appearances and supporting roles for Steve Rogers to leave an impression for the fans.
Voiced by Lawrence Bayne, David Hayter and Dan Chameroy, Cap first appears as an American agent alongside Wolverine before later appearing in the “Secret Wars” arc of Spider-Man as a member of a group of heroes shown in another dimension. Based off the small sample size, we still get a feel for the heroism of the Star-Spangled Avenger. He’s shown as a mediator and voice of reason who often comes to the rescue of his superhero brethren. A proposed Captain America solo series would eventually be pitched by Saban Entertainment as a likely extension of the Marvel Animated Universe, but sadly, the show never came to fruition.
4. Marvel Animation Universe (2012-Present)
The only current animated Marvel series still airing episodes, the Marvel Animation Universe has featured Captain America not only as a regular cast member on Avengers Assemble, but also in supporting roles in Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. As the primary foe of the patriotic Avenger, the Red Skull serves as a main antagonist in season one of Avengers. Kidnapping Cap, he transports him to a secret base where he switches his diseased body with the super soldier’s. Believing Rogers to be dead, Iron Man reassembles the Avengers in retaliation.
Voiced by Roger Craig Smith, a fan favorite in the Marvel animated world, this version of the Captain isn’t too far from the sound of the MCU version played by Chris Evans. While the man himself remains the out-of-the-loop hero from another decade, he emulates the MCU version by not only being the charismatic man of chivalry, but by also showing opposing viewpoints about leadership next to Iron Man himself, Tony Stark. Still haunted by the ghosts of his past, including the Winter Soldier, he’s a man who believes second chances don’t come often, but should always be given when the circumstances allow for them. Never one to judge too hastily, the red, white and blue Avenger is a classic spin on the man who prefers to play things safe.
3. Ultimate Avengers Universe (2006)
Before the arrival of The Avengers, we had the Ultimate Avengers Universe. Following a similar story to the 2012 blockbuster, the two-film series opens with a World War II era Captain America diving from an airplane and knocking out an army’s worth of Nazi soldiers. After learning that his biggest enemy Herr Kleiser is an alien infiltrator with plans to destroy the world, Rogers finds himself on the wrong side of a missile that could annihilate the planet. Choosing to disarm the nuke, he’s thrown from the weapon and into the frozen seas below, where he remains for the next few decades.
Waking up to the surprise of Nick Fury and the Avengers, he’s already considered a well-regarded leader to the people of modern day society. As a loyalist, he shows strong relationships early on with his first love Gail Richards and his best friend Bucky Barnes, both of which he continues into the present day. Blonde-haired and built like a locomotive, the Cap’s hard-fought victories and dedication in the face of a global epidemic also wins over the affections of the flirtatious Black Widow. A winning combination of both the Earth-616 and Ultimate versions of the character, this Captain may not be the best, but he still sticks out as a natural born leader.
2. The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010-2012)
“Buucky!” Never has a voice actor sounded more like a man out of time than Brian Bloom. Found frozen in ice by the Avengers, the Captain joins his super-powered compatriots in episode seven of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but we’re gifted with a fresh take on his backstory slightly earlier. In 1943, deep in the middle of World War II, Rogers sets out to break down a HYDRA base in Norway. With his best friend and wartime partner Bucky Barnes at his side, the two infiltrate the base where the Nazi leader Red Skull awaits them with news that he’s opened the Bifrost Bridge to Asgard and the Nine Realms, releasing otherworldly creatures onto the planet. In the ensuing battle, the Red Skull launches a rocket into orbit, killing Bucky and leaving a devastated Rogers freezing in the ocean waters below.
With an old-fashioned, deep masculinity in his voice, Bloom not only commands authority through his interpretation of the Cap, but actually inspires the members of the Avengers through his calm, collective reasoning. A man of honor, writer Christopher Yost gives this version of the hero an ability to change the course of a fight through his presence alone. Standing for peace, freedom and democracy, he uses his peak strength to will the Avengers to victory, giving hope for a brighter tomorrow.
1. Chris Evans – Marvel Cinematic Universe (2011-Present)
Looking back at the casting decisions so far in the MCU, there’s little that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his cohorts have gotten wrong. It takes some serious thought and deliberation, not to mention countless hours of reviewing audition tapes, to finally put a face to a superhero. The wrong move will have you burned at the stake for ruining a franchise, but the right person for the right part will put you forever in the good graces of the comic book community.
If there was ever any doubt about Chris Evans playing Steve Rogers, it’s easy to see why. Before nailing the role of the famous Avenger, Evans had already appeared in six different comic book adaptations to varying degrees of success, but that all changed with Captain America. His character’s story is one of torn loyalties and heartbreak. More than just looking the part, Evans breathed life into a character with his own set of internal conflicts brought on by his view of modern day society. It’s his rich history as a soldier with old school values that truly drives his motives. Now heading towards the second half of phase three in the MCU, he’s become the anchor for the Avengers, making Evans’ Captain a voice of reason that resonates with audiences more than any other iteration of the character.
What’s your favorite take on the Star-Spangled Avenger? What do you think of the character’s future in the MCU? Sound off in the comments.
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