In recent years, box office sales have plummeted as newer film properties have continued to disinterest viewers. The rise of superhero movies has single-handedly saved studios from financial ruin. As the turn-out increases for tentpole franchises like the MCU and DCEU, the yearly output of superhero flicks only grows, but not all actors are eager to embrace the direction of the new Hollywood blockbuster trend.
As many actors will tell you, signing a contract with a big player like Marvel Studios could mean signing your career away. Not only does a contract come with a years-long commitment, but it forever brands your image as a specific character. For DC Comics, the stakes couldn’t be higher. After multiple disappointing blockbusters like Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. seems to have finally found some life with the help of Wonder Woman. With the studio know under the spotlight, it will be of utmost importance to select the right actors to portray some of comics’ most iconic characters.
For better or worse, superhero roles are ingrained into the public conscience. DC already knows what it’s like to see its properties destroyed by the big screen, having witnessed it multiple times before. For some performers depicting a superhero accurately was too much of a burden to bear, spelling the beginning of the end of their time on screen.
Join us as we take a look at the 15 Actors Whose Careers Were Ruined By DC Movies.
15 Brandon Routh - Superman Returns
In June 2004, after multiple attempts to resurrect Superman on the big screen, director Bryan Singer approached Warner Bros with a quasi-sequel to 1987’s The Quest for Peace. With the blessing of Richard Donner, director of the 1978 Superman film, the studio commenced pre-production on the project under one condition: only an unknown actor could play the lead.
After a worldwide casting call, the crew finally settled on Brandon Routh, a small-time soap opera star. Immediately thrust into the spotlight, the insurmountable pressure was too much for Routh who was criticized for looking the part but lacking the charisma that Christopher Reeve brought to the role. S
ince Superman Returns, Routh’s film roles have significantly diminished, with parts in movies like Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Today, he’s mostly known as Ray Palmer on Legends of Tomorrow, his second DC role.
14 Val Kilmer - Batman Forever
After the release of 1992’s Batman Returns, increasing pressures to churn out another Batman sequel led to director Tim Burton stepping down from the project. When Michael Keaton followed suit, director Joel Schumacher openly sought Val Kilmer as his replacement, having watched the actor’s performance as Doc Holliday in the western Tombstone.
After breaking onto the scene with Real Genius and Top Gun, Kilmer began turning heads as the ‘60s rock legend Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s biopic The Doors. Blessed with his first opportunity to star in a blockbuster, he accepted the role of Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever before ever meeting Schumacher. The director would later describe his time with Kilmer as impossible, calling home childish and demanding.
Ultimately, Kilmer would never star in another blockbuster and would later make headlines after dealing with a string of health issues and appearing reclusive upon fading from the spotlight.
13 Malin Akerman - Watchmen
Starting out as a small screen actress on Canadian television, Malin Akerman’s first Hollywood role would be a small but memorable part in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. She soon carved a niche for herself in the comedy world with supporting roles in films like 27 Dresses and The Heartbreak Kid, but her first opportunity to breakout as a serious dramatic actor would ultimately go to waste when she accepted the role of the second Silk Spectre in Watchmen.
Despite surprising some critics with her heroic turn, the movie did little to help Akerman’s image. The actress has since scrutinizing her performance, saying she often appeared disengaged while reciting her lines. After the film, she would follow up her dramatic effort with roles in Rock of Ages and the indie flick Happythankyoumoreplease. Today, she mostly sticks to television with a starring role in the Showtime drama Billions.
12 Adam West - Batman: The Movie
Before accepting the role for which he will forever be known, the late Adam West was a versatile actor who enjoyed a wide range of supporting roles. Beginning with a small but memorable performance in the Paul Newman-starring The Young Philadelphians, he would later show his range by playing the straight man to the Three Stooges in their final feature film, The Outlaws Is Coming.
As the Caped Crusader, Adam West brightened Gotham City with a campy superhero rendition that was more comedic than serious. Although his career was set in stone with the popularity of the series, he only solidified his fate with the 1966 movie, in which he famously maced a shark with paper spray. West embraced his role as Batman and went on to voice the character in many animated roles, but he’s still most famous for being the first recognizable actor to don the Batsuit.
11 Kim Basinger - Batman
Never a fan of sequels, Tim Burton’s Batman Returns was more of a standalone feature than a follow-up to the director’s 1989 hit. Distancing Gotham’s Dark Knight from the first film meant leaving other cast members behind, including Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale - the prize-winning photo-journalist and Bruce Wayne’s love interest.
Following her brief stint as Burton’s damsel in distress, Basinger had a rather unconventional Hollywood life. Her time on the superhero movie introduced the world to one of the most unlikely celebrity couples after she was spotted spending time with Prince, who worked on the Batman soundtrack. She later met her first husband Alec Baldwin while filming The Marrying Man. After filing for bankruptcy due to the ill-advised purchase of a small town in Georgia, she won an Oscar for her role in L.A. Confidential, making her last big mark in film before disappearing again.
10 Shaquille O’Neal - Steel
Before he danced to the relief of Gold Bond foot spray and got into heated arguments with Charles Barkley on Inside the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal was Shaqtin’ a fool in Hollywood’s worst movies. Unlike Michael Jordan who struck it big in the 1996 cult classic Space Jam, the Lakers center had a hard time convincing movie-goers that he was a capable leading man.
Making his big screen debut in the same year as Jordan, Shaq made a lasting impression with his painful turn as a wish-granting genie in Kazaam. The following year, he transitioned to a more serious role, taking on the character of John Henry Irons in Steel. The superhero flick received similarly terrible reviews and grossed a total of only $1.7 million at the box office.
The big guy eventually went back to the court, where he collected a total of four NBA championships.
9 Heather Locklear - The Return of Swamp Thing
In the early ‘80s, shortly after experimenting in the modeling world, Heather Locklear began a career-defining friendship with Aaron Spelling. The well known television producer would give the starlet her first break with her role as Sammy Jo Dean in Dynasty. Altogether, the duo would collaborate on eight television series, including Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, but ultimately Locklear would never break out past the small screen.
In 1989, the same year Dynasty was canceled, Locklear took a role in The Return of Swamp Thing. Her part as Abigail Arcane, the love interest of the titular comic book character, was met with heavy criticism, specifically for a hallucinogenic love scene. In the end, Locklear walked away with a Razzie for Worst Actress and her film career never recuperated. Luckily, her television roles weren’t stained by the embarrassing performance.
8 Megan Fox - Jonah Hex
A lesser known comic book protagonist, Jonah Hex was a western anti-hero with a boorish attitude and a crazed history to match. During his childhood, his mother ran away with a traveling salesmen, leaving him to be traded to an Apache tribe before becoming a bounty hunter. Appearing in Jonah Hex #16, Tallulah Black was a woman of the night who witnessed her entire family being slaughtered before teaming up with Hex.
In the 2010 movie, Black is portrayed by Megan Fox and reduced to a mere love interest. Apart from the unconvincing chemistry between Fox and leading man Josh Brolin, the actress ditches Tallulah's signature disfigured look and stays as beautiful as, well, Megan Fox.
7 Chris O’Donnell - Batman & Robin
Among Batman fans, it’s common for readers to bash Robin. First introduced in 1940 as Dick Grayson, the Boy Wonder threw a wrench into Bob Kane's sullen, pulp action depiction of Gotham. As the depressing loner on the brink of self-destruction, Batman needed an anchor to keep him from going off the deep end, making Robin a necessary part of his world.
Introduced through Joel Schumacher’s terrible decision making, Chris O’Donnell never had a chance at pleasing fans as Grayson. Before accepting the role, O’Donnell had actually become a hot commodity, turning in performances in movies like Fried Green Tomatoes and Scent of a Woman. Batman & Robin would prove to be the last strike of his film career.
Today, shows like Grey’s Anatomy and NCIS: Los Angeles have kept him in the public eye, but to most, he'll forever be recognized as Batman’s sidekick in two of the worst superhero movies ever created.
6 Katie Holmes - Batman Begins
For all the praise thrown at Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, one of the lasting stains on the franchise remains the casting of Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins. Mostly known for playing Joey Potter in Dawson’s Creek, Holmes broke into the movie world with parts in Wonder Boys and The Gift and even won a few awards for her performance in the Sundance hit Pieces of April.
Largely criticized for being one-dimensional, Katie Holmes appeared to be going through the motions as Dawes. After a public marriage to Tom Cruise began to overshadow her acting career, Holmes turned down the opportunity to return for The Dark Knight, eventually being replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Since turning down The Dark Night, Holmes’ biggest projects have included movies like Mad Money and playing Jackie O in The Kennedys miniseries, neither of which left a strong impression on viewers.
5 Kate Bosworth - Superman Returns
When Richard Donner’s big screen vision of Superman flew into theaters in 1978, actress Margot Kidder was 30 years old. As the hard-hitting investigative journalist Lois Lane, she was every bit of Christopher Reeve’s equal, matching him with just the right amount of sarcasm and wit. When Bryan Singer announced that Kidder’s version of Lane would be followed up by Kate Bosworth - an unproven 22 year old actress - the casting was rightly met with skepticism.
Bosworth’s turn as Lane was perhaps the most unique to date, but the character was ultimately wasted on a half-baked subplot in which the headstrong character became a mother to the Man of Steel’s son while he was away on Krypton. Bosworth’s miscasting coupled with the middling reviews for the superhero flick proved too much for the actress and, much like her superhero co-star, she’s appeared in nothing significant since.
4 Christoper Reeve - Super IV: The Quest for Peace
Any actor wary of playing a superhero in a multi-million dollar franchise may have a reason for reluctance. Prior to the MCU, there was a stigma placed on superhero roles. Out the gate, Christopher Reeve’s career appeared easy as the Man of Steel. He had the all-American look down, but with his form-fitting suit came high expectations.
By the time Superman IV: The Quest for Peace hit theaters, viewers had grown noticeably tired of the Kryptonian. It was both a critical and commercial failure, and the villain Nuclear Man became one of the mostly laughably bad characters in movie history.
After turning down roles in films like Fatal Attraction and Lethal Weapon, Reeve’s life took an unexpected turn when he was paralyzed from the neck down after falling from a horse. He spent his final days raising awareness for the advancement of spinal cord injury research before passing in 2004.
3 Alicia Silverstone - Batman & Robin
The '90s were a confusing time for Alicia Silverstone. She became an overnight sensation after starring in the music video for Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” and within a year was awarded the trophy for Best Breakthrough Performance at the MTV Movie Awards for The Crush. In the years that followed, her career appeared iffy with some not so memorable thrillers. It all looked to be going down hill, with the exception of her role in the cult teen classic Clueless.
Back on the radar, Silverstone sought to punch her ticket to stardom by taking a part as Batgirl in Batman & Robin. Rather than playing Barbara Gordon, daughter to Commissioner Gordon, Silverstone portrayed a made-up member of the Bat Family: Barbara Wilson, the computer-hacking niece of Alfred Pennyworth. The character was a forced addition to an already overly written plot and only hurt Silverstone’s Hollywood status moving forward.
2 Halle Berry - Catwoman
Three years removed from her Academy Award winning performance in the hard-hitting Southern drama Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry appeared to have her career in check. She already had a prominent role in the X-Men movies and her stock was only growing. Unfortunately, she would follow her role as Storm with Catwoman, a movie with no connections to Bob Kane’s Batman universe.
Appearing as a degraded version of Catwoman, Berry was put in a skin-tight outfit and forced to act in a dimwitted plot involving a conspiracy at a cosmetics company. The lead character Patience Phillips was so poorly written that she actually hissed and moved about like a cat, making us wonder why Berry agreed to appear in the movie.
After this massive failure, Berry returned to the X-Men saga, but none of her other projects have turned heads as of late.
1 Sean Connery - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Unlike the other actors on this list, Sean Connery’s career wasn't merely tarnished by a DC Comics adaptation. For the big screen veteran, his inclusion in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was the end of his career. Already sparsely appearing in roles, he called it quits in 2005, citing his disillusionment with Hollywood as his reason for leaving. Of course, the box office failure of LXG didn't help much either.
As a transformative comic book icon, Alan Moore shares Connery’s distaste for Hollywood's mistreatment of source material. The writer’s work inspired film adaptations for V for Vendetta and Watchmen, but his first major run-in with cinema was LXG. The superhero team-up of some of literature’s biggest characters ultimately fell short of Moore’s morally complex tale. Seeing such promising vision go to waste has kept Connery from the spotlight and according to him, he’s all the happier for it.
What other stars' careers were hurt by DC movies? Let us know in the comments!