While DC's cinematic universe has been deeply criticized for failing to hit the mark in recent years, particularly when compared side-by-side with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's important that we all remember who paved the way for superhero films in the first place. How many incarnations of Batman and Superman had we all seen long before the Avengers, X-Men or Deadpool took to the big screen? Christopher Reeve was an impressive Superman decades before Henry Cavill appeared in the role, and everyone from Dean Cain to Channing Tatum has played or voiced the Man of Steel at some point. DC movies have a long, winding history of entertaining us through the years and while some writing has left much to be desired, much of it has been a blast.
The same goes for the casting selections made for the movies. It's easy to criticize Ben Affleck as Batman when we've seen everyone from Michael Keaton to Christian Bale wear the mantle, but a poor casting choice really can break an otherwise solid superhero movie. We've seen plenty of lousy performances in the DC universe that, with a bit of cast editing, could have been much better. The same goes for otherwise underwhelming features that featured stars that shone so brightly that we couldn't help but love the end product based on the actor's performance alone.
From the hero who saved the current DC universe to the villains who helped do it, here are 11 Casting Decisions That Hurt DC Movies (And 14 That Saved Them).
25 Saved: Gal Gadot As Wonder Woman
After several underwhelming performances in the current DC movie lineup that made us all wonder if the films were even worth seeing, something remarkable happened: not only did Patty Jenkins give us an incredible film with depth, nuance and a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but Gal Gadot became the legendary Diana.
It was a role that could have easily gone over the top but Gadot maintained the balance between fierce warrior and naive new-to-humans savior. Wonder Woman is the reason that many stuck around for Aquaman, and we have high hopes that the DCEU only continues to go up from there.
24 Saved: Ezra Miller As The Flash
Ezra Miller is easily one of the most talented young stars working today, with a wide range of acting chops. As Barry Allen, Miller even has the support of CW's Grant Gustin, who portrays The Flash on the TV show. Fans have eaten up his performance, demanding his own film after seeing him in Justice League, which failed in the eyes of critics and at the box office.
Even those who didn't enjoy the movie were impressed by Miller's work.
23 Saved: Jack Nicholson As The Joker
He was the Joker back when Tim Burton stood at the helm of the Batman movies, and who didn't love him? Jack Nicholson's trademark charisma, cold, hard stare, and deliciously villainous voice made him perfect for the role. He brought a gravitas to the Joker that the previous slapstick versions neglected, and chilled us to the bone.
While today fans might condemn Jared Leto's version of the Joker and eagerly await Joaquin Phoenix's film, many find it difficult to agree on whether or not Nicholson's or Ledger's Joker was the best portrayal.
22 Hurt: Jim Carrey As The Riddler
We've seen Cory Michael Smith's outstanding work as Edward Nygma on the Gotham television series and know that the villain can be played well; unfortunately, that's not what happened when goofball Jim Carrey stood in the Riddler's shoes, making the villain nothing more than a joke.
The complete lack of a solid villain hurt Batman Forever about as much as its emotionless Batman did, and the real shame is that we've seen Carrey do some really amazing work outside his old shenanigans style. He probably could have done a much more interesting, well-developed job if he'd played the Riddler a decade later.
21 Saved: Amber Heard as Mera
Fans who finally caught Amber Heard's Mera in Aquaman over the holidays were far from disappointed. The actress, who has both expressed distaste over fans weirdly pitting Wonder Woman and Mera up against each other and called for a spinoff featuring both heroes in the past week, absolutely rocked the role, earning her the #1 spot on IMDB's STARMeter.
Hopefully Heard, who took the role after she heard she'd wield both a sword and a crown, will get her wish, because who wouldn't love a Wonder Woman and Mera movie?
20 Hurt: George Clooney As Batman
With so many versions of Batman to choose from, it's easy to pinpoint the weakest portrayals of the character throughout time. George Clooney's Bruce Wayne in Batman & Robin was too soft in the same way Val Kilmer's was too hard. We didn't believe that he was a playboy millionaire or a masked vigilante. Even his voice didn't fit the Batman in the way that other actors' voices have been able to, before and after his time.
Clooney still apologizes for the disjointed film in the charming way that only he can.
19 Saved: Viola Davis As Amanda Waller
Viola Davis shines in everything she's in, often stealing the show. Many of us would show up to hear her read a grocery list, so it is no surprise that she brought the cunning and often unscrupulous Amanda Waller to life so well. While Suicide Squad didn't live up to expectations, some of the characters still made it worth watching and Waller was one of them.
In the comics we're used to seeing Waller bend the rules to get what she wants to the point of villainy herself. We look forward to seeing what Davis could accomplish in James Gunn's potential sequel.
18 Hurt: Arnold Schwarzenegger As Mr. Freeze
What should have been a cool and calculating villain in Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever ended up being the mayor of Downersville. Mr. Freeze gave us the whole "vengeful husband in mourning "in a depressing and disconnected way that served as the complete opposite of Alfred Molina's far superior Doc Ock in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2.
Schwarzenegger is so much larger than life in other movies that it was painfully obvious how little this role worked for him. In Schwarzenegger's defense, he had some of the worst lines in history, and there was major creative liberty taken with his character.
17 Saved: Jackie Earle Haley As Rorschach
Jackie Earle Haley may be one of the most underrated actors of our time. He's a human chameleon who can slip into any role and make you forget who's playing the character entirely. Case in point: his portrayal of Rorschach in the film adaptation of Watchmen. Easily the most interesting character in the film, Walter Kovacs required some deft handling and Healey, who trained hard to transform into the character, really came through.
Even fans of Watchmen who didn't enjoy the adaptation's plot changes still largely praise Healey's performance.
16 Hurt: Halle Berry As Catwoman
Halle Berry is a treasure, but not as Catwoman. The actress herself, along with the film's writer, acknowledges what a terrible film Catwoman was, but we love her for being such a good sport about it. Though the film rated a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and earned a Razzie, Berry says that she met interesting people, learned martial arts, and earned a hefty paycheck, making it a success in her book.
Berry went on to play a Marvel superhero in the Fox X-Men franchise, to much greater successs.
15 Saved: Jeffrey Dean Morgan As The Comedian
When it comes to Watchmen, every character is a complicated mess. That's why fans love the comic so much. Despite, or because of, the movie's bleakness, it's one of the more popular DC adaptations. Jeffrey Dean Morgan himself says was ahead of its time, and several of the actors in it truly brought the comic characters to life.
To make an audience enjoy such a wicker man is a nearly impossible feat, but that's what Morgan managed to do as The Comedian in the film. Would we expect anything less from someone who could do the same for Negan?
14 Hurt: Jared Leto As The Joker
Even if we didn't know about the inappropriate pranks that Jared Leto engaged in as part of his "method acting" for the minor role of the Joker in Suicide Squad, he still wouldn't work as the character. Leto's Joker is a goofy-looking punk who doesn't seem like he could pull off a simple bank robbery, let alone serve as the most evil criminal mastermind in Gotham.
Yes, being measured against the previous Joker, who was just about perfect, makes it tougher on Leto from the get-go, but everything from his teeth to his less-than-fear-inspiring laugh render him a lesser Joker. He looks more like Kevin McCallister playing dress-up.
13 Saved: Michelle Pfeiffer As Catwoman
Catwoman is such a beloved antihero that, as is the case with her counterpart Batman, it's difficult to choose someone who truly epitomizes the role. While Anne Hathaway was a good Catwoman, Michelle Pfeiffer truly was Selina Kyle, sharing Catwoman's bravado and vulnerability with the audience as no one else, save Eartha Kitt, has ever done. In fact, she steals the show in Batman Returns.
Pfeiffer's performance was so spot on that Camren Bicondova, who plays the young version of the character on Gotham, even seems like a younger version of her Catwoman.
12 Hurt: Val Kilmer As Batman
Val Kilmer as Batman sounded like a plausible idea at the time; he was a popular enough actor handsome enough for the role. It's too bad that his cool, aloof version of Bruce Wayne and Batman blended together into one stagnant persona. Given that Kilmer has stated that he'd love to play Batman again and Joel Schumacher has defended his Batman as the best one ever, we have to wonder if they've watched any film featuring Batman other than Batman Forever.
Kilmer's a skilled actor who's proven his abilities in other movies, but he just wasn't Batman material.
11 Saved: Will Smith As Deadshot
Among the characters who made Suicide Squad more palatable was none other than Will Smith's Deadshot. Deadshot is one of the most interesting characters in the film, so beloved by fans that demands for a solo Deadshot film are common. Hopefully that's just what we'll get, since Smith himself has expressed interest in the possible project.
Until then, we'll hopefully get to see him reprise the role in James Gunn's possible sequel movie; a film fans are chomping at the bit to see.
10 Hurt: Tommy Lee Jones As Two-Face
The letdown Batman Forever pretty much reverberates through every actor's performance in the film, but it's so much worse after we discovered that much of what would've made Tommy Lee Jones's Two-Face a better villain was just cut from the movie. The talented actor instead ended up looking like Jim Carrey's karaoke buddy on screen.
Aaron Eckhart did a much more memorable job in The Dark Knight, but had Jones been given a story like his, complete with some origin scenes, it could have been an iconic role for him.
9 Saved: Christian Bale As Batman
While a fair share of fans have issues with The Dark Knight Rises, most were still content to witness Christian Bale in the role as one of the best Batmans we've seen on screen. Bale, who managed to convey layered emotions as well as the flippant Bruce Wayne public persona in a way that many actors simply couldn't, won our hearts through Nolan's clever first film and carried us through the rest of the trilogy with some pretty keen talent.
Whether or not Bale's the best Batman remains up for debate, but he's one of the most solid versions of the character we've enjoyed watching.
8 Saved: Margot Kidder
Years before Terri Hatcher, Amy Adams, Kate Bosworth, and so many other women portrayed Lois Lane, there was everyone's favorite version of the reporter who kept Clark Kent on his toes: Margot Kidder. Since 1978, the Emmy Award-winning actress embodied Lois Lane was meant to be: smart, funny and a fierce journalist who doesn't rest. She'll always be the version of Lois other actresses will be measured up against.
While we sadly lost Kidder in 2018, she'll always be remembered as the perfect Lois Lane next to Christopher Reeve's Superman.
7 Saved: Jason Momoa As Aquaman
It's currently everyone's favorite movie, and following the success of Wonder Woman, it's got fans believing in the DCU again: Aquaman is king and Jason Momoa is that king! Sure, he was solid in the previous DC films where he was a supporting player, but in this starring role Momoa truly shines.
As many creative liberties were taken with the character and his story, you'd think fans might riot, and they probably would in any other circumstance. However, Momoa's revamping of Arthur Curry works really well and we look forward to seeing more of it.
6 Worst: Uma Thurman As Poison Ivy
Uma Thurman should have been perfectly cast as Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin. Unfortunately for both fans and Thurman, the character was written as an over-the-top temptress; a disservice to the villain we all know and love.
It's not that Pamela Isley's alter ego isn't a bombshell, because she totally is. It's that she's a much more militant and formidable one, rather than the simpering femme fatale she was written as in the film. Sometimes it even hurt to watch parts of this movie.
5 Saved: Christopher Reeve As Superman
Christopher Reeve just had that face, the BAFTA-winning face that said, "I'm Superman." The man is still synonymous with the role after so many years. It's like his chiseled face was built to be Clark Kent. Even when the movies took a turn toward the comedic and lost both critics and fans, everyone still turned up just to see Reeve again because his performance was that strong.
We're often awfully hard on those who've portrayed the Man of Steel since Reeve, but in all honesty how can anyone measure up?
4 Hurt: Tom Hardy As Bane
Where did Tom Hardy go wrong as Bane? He's an incredibly talented actor, but for some reason he rendered a strong and formidable foe into something of a gag. Not only was his voice awkward behind that mask, but he had scared people continually asking him things like, "What are you?" so he could demonstrate just how ruthless of a villain he was. However, he really wasn't all that ruthless.
In Hardy's defense, he had to be the villain after who was probably the most difficult act in DC history to follow.
3 Saved: Heath Ledger As The Joker
Seeing Heath Ledger bring the Joker alive in The Dark Knight is one of those movie-watching moments that stays with you forever. As much care as he obviously put into the role, he made it seem effortless when he scared us to pieces with his insanity and violence. It goes beyond the pencil scene or the "Why so serious?" His Joker's legacy will always remain the stuff of nightmares.
The tragic loss of Ledger hurt fans for many reasons, as the man was one of the most talented actors of our time, but it will be hard for anyone to ever be the Joker after him.
2 Hurt: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor is one of the most formidable foes in DC history, a person who should inspire fear in the hearts of men, not someone who looks like he might be a good babysitter.
Jesse Eisenberg was cast in a role that rewrites much of Lex's personality, but it just didn't work, especially in a movie where a diabolical mastermind is supposed to be pitting the two biggest superheroes of all time against one another. Incidentally, Eisenberg would make a pretty stellar Riddler.
1 Saved: Margot Robbie As Harley Quinn
The hyped-up Suicide Squad film fell flat with critics for many reasons/. The good thing is that we did get several awesome characters out of it. Margot Robbie, whom many fans criticized before even seeing the movie, blew everyone's mind with her incredible performance as Harley Quinn. We can't wait to see her do it again in Birds of Prey.
Given that Harley herself was often dismissed as a character, it's fitting that Robbie went and proved her to be a worthy member of the Rogues Gallery.
Who's your favorite actor in a DC movie? Let us know in the comments!