In Hollywood, reboots and reimaginings are so common nowadays that they are seen as something of a cliche. “Oh, they’re rebooting Spider-Man again?” or “Maybe they should try to go dark and gritty in this version” are some phrases that you hear whenever a franchise is announced to be scrapping everything that came before it and starting anew. Some of these reboots gave us what moviegoers consider the definitive version of these heroes (like The Dark Knight Trilogy) while others, well… the less we say about them the better (Fan4stic anyone?).
With a reboot often comes new actors playing the beloved characters that we have all grown to love over the years. When it comes to the question “Who was better?” it’s near impossible to reach a satisfying consensus between moviegoers; some people claim Keaton was the best Batman, while others argue that it was Christian Bale or Kevin Conroy or even Adam West!
The topic of supervillains is even more divisive, as the versions that appear on screen are often night and day from the depictions that came before. But there’s no reason not to try and make a case one way or another!
So, we here at Screen Rant are asking: Who Was Better? Actors Who Played The Same Supervillain!
20. Michael Clarke Duncan/Vincent D’Onofrio- The Kingpin
Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, is arguably the most dangerous man in the entire Marvel Universe. He may not have superpowers, but his wealth and connections to the criminal underworld mean that he can get whatever he wants, whenever he wants.
Say what you will about 2003’s Daredevil movie, but don’t trash on Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin! The character was hammy as can be, but brought a bit of fun to a movie that felt fairly souless. Vincent D’Onofrio played Fisk in the Daredevil TV show to much critical acclaim; Fisk is often called the MCU’s most fleshed-out villain.
Both of the actors got the characterization of the Kingpin right, playing up both his calm business demeanor as well as his primal rage, but Duncan seemed like a cartoon villain when he cut loose and got angry. D’Onofrio, on the other hand, was absolutely terrifying when he flipped the switch. In what is probably a surprise to nobody, D’Onofrio gets the nod here!
19. William Dafoe/Chris Cooper- Norman Osborn
Next to Fisk, Norman Osborn is probably the second most powerful villain in the Marvel Universe sans powers. Osborn seems to have his hands in everything from science companies to government agencies and much, much more. Unlike Fisk, Norman likes to gets his hands dirty and fight on the front lines as his super-powered alter ego, the Green Goblin.
Norman was portrayed in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man Trilogy by character actor William Dafoe. Despite having the actual facial features of a goblin, the actor was tasked with putting on a goofy-looking green suit and squaring off against Tobey Maguire’s Wall-Crawler.
In the first reboot of the series, Norman Osborn was played by Chris Cooper. This version of the character did almost nothing; he just kind of gave his son a ominous speech on his deathbed before succumbing to a rare genetic disease and having his head frozen.
Dafoe’s version takes this match-up. His Osborn was a cunning businessman and loving (yet strict) father, but once his Goblin persona came out he turned up the dial to a ten and became an evil maniac. Meanwhile, Cooper just kinda played a jerk laying in bed for a scene or two.
18. Terrance Stamp/Michael Shannon- General Zod
Though he was created as a one-off character for the Man of Steel to fight back in the ’50s, General Zod has become one of Kal-El’s most popular foes over time. Both of the character’s film adaptations have a huge part to play in his popularity. Terrance Stamp and Michael Shannon both gave us awesome performances as Dru-Zod, the Kryptonian Warlord who survived his planet’s destruction and antagonizes Superman.
In Superman II Terrance Stamp’s version of Zod was that of an old-school military general who was arrogant yet eloquent, and could still crush you in battle without a second thought. Plus, he gave us one of the greatest supervillain quotes of all time!
In Man of Steel Zod was made into a sympathetic character. He didn’t want to conquer Earth, he wanted to terraform it into a second Krypton. If it wiped out humanity in the process, then so be it! Michael Shannon gave us a performance that was more nuanced with a hint of military radicalization.
17. Julian McMahon/Toby Kebbell- Doctor Doom
Oh Doctor Doom… Arguably the greatest Marvel villain ever created, yet he has yet to have a decent live-action version. This isn’t due to a lack of trying; Doom has been the main villain in three different Fantastic Four movies. However, both versions of the character are given a completely different backstory than the comics, and neither of them quite played up the aristocratic nature and scientific brilliance of the character.
Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer saw Victor Von Doom played by Julian McMahon. The character was fun enough; the arrogance and sinister characterization of Doom was certainly present. Plus, the actor was a bright spot in otherwise terrible movies. Some of the only scenes worth watching in these movies are the ones where Doom is present.
Then there was Fan4stic, where Victor was played by Toby Kebbell. Do we really have to talk about this one? Kebbell is a great actor. He really is. But Doom in this movie is awful and next to unrecognizable from his comic book counterpart. Not to mention, he’s just… boring. Without a moment’s hesitation, this point goes to McMahon.
16. Danny Devito/Robin Lord Taylor- The Penguin
Oswald Cobblepot (aka the Penguin) has been a staple of the Gotham underworld and a thorn in the Dynamic Duo’s side for over seventy years. There have actually been three live-action incarnations of Cobblepot, but for this list we are focusing on the two that are most similar.
The character that appears in Batman Returns (played by Danny Devito) is a grotesque monster who was sent away to die as an infant. Instead, he was raised by sewer penguins, resurfacing as an adult to run for mayor and enact a revenge plot that would see all of Gotham’s firstborn eradicated.
In the show Gotham, a younger Oswald Cobblepot is portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor. This iteration shows off the more conniving side of the character as he schemes his way up the ladder of the criminal underworld into becoming the crime boss Batman fans are familiar with.
Believe it or not, this one was much harder than it’d appear on first glance. The edge goes to Devito, mostly because it takes a truly great performance to make someone as disgusting as the Penguin come off as both sympathetic and twisted at the same time.
15. Michael Rowe/Will Smith- Deadshot
As the name implies, Floyd Lawton is an assassin for hire who has a reputation as the most deadly marksman in the entire DC Universe. Within the CW’s Arrowverse, Lawton has appeared as a main foe of the Green Arrow and had a brief appearance on The Flash. Michael Rowe brings Deadshot to life as a former soldier who becomes estranged from his family and turns to life as an assassin, sending the money from his hits back to his daughter to support her.
In Suicide Squad Deadshot is played by Will Smith. This version of the character tries to keep his job as an assassin separate from his family life, something he was doing great at until Batman got involved. Smith brings his trademark charisma to the role of Deadshot, but we also can’t shake the feeling that Smith is just playing a more deadly version of himself.
However, you can tell that Smith has a lot of fun playing the character whereas Rowe seems to take himself much too seriously for a character on the CW. He may be playing a slightly more gruff version of himself, but Will Smith is much more memorable as Lawton.
14. Robert Swenson/Tom Hardy- Bane
After Warner Bros. had seemingly run out of villains to put in their Batman movies, they decided to throw a portion of the Dark Knight’s remaining Rogue’s Gallery into Batman & Robin. Just four years after the character’s first appearance, former wrestler and stuntman Robert Swenson donned a gimp suit as the villainous Bane. The disastrous characterization of Bane in the ’97 film turned the character into a complete joke for years to come.
That is, until Tom Hardy stepped into the role in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. The British actor was everything you could want in a Batman villain; he was cunning, powerful, relentless, and just an all-around badass. The only thing audiences couldn’t agree on about Hardy’s Bane is his voice. The best way to describe it was one part Sean Connery, one part Darth Vader. Some claimed it made the character of a more sophisticated evil while others thought it made Bane laughable.
13. Scott Paulin/Hugo Weaving- The Red Skull
Oh yes, there has been more than one live action Red Skull! The first appeared in the horrific 1990 Captain America film. You know, that straight-to-video ’90s movie that had the production quality of a ’70s B-movie? Surprisingly, Scott Paulin’s Red Skull is so ridiculously over the top that it’s one of the few things that makes the movie worth watching. Then again, they completely messed up his origin and his makeup makes him look like a cracked red Easter egg.
Meanwhile, the version of the character that appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger was much more comic-book accurate, with one minor exception… The movie seems to go out of its way to distance Johann Schmidt from the Nazis. Portrayed by Hugo Weaving, this version of Schmidt completely chews up the scenery of every scene he appears in and gives us more of a gleefully sadistic scientist than Paulin’s interpretation. Not to mention, just look at that makeup job!
12. Rebecca Romijn/Jennifer Lawrence- Mystique
Alongside Magneto, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, and the Sentinels, Mystique is one of the X-Men’s greatest foes. As a shape-shifter, Mystique uses her powers to get close to her assassination targets as well as make a quick escape after an attack.
Rebecca Romijn portrayed Mystique in the original X-Men trilogy as Magneto’s second in command. This version is mostly mute and extremely acrobatic. Sadly, Romijn never got to really show off her acting chops as Mystique, considering the character was regulated to a secondary and mostly silent role in all three films.
This all changed with the First Class Trilogy when the then-unknown Jennifer Lawrence was cast as a younger version of the character. As Lawrence rose to stardom, Mystique’s role in the films became more prominent and heroic; by X-Men: Apocalypse she was practically the leader of the X-Men.
Though Lawrence gives a good performance as the shape-shifter, by the third movie the character is nearly unrecognizable from her comic book counterpart. For this reason the edge goes to Romijn, who nailed the deadly assassin part of the role and was, you know, an actual villain.
11. Louis Jourdan/Mark Lindsey Chapman- Anton Arcane
Try as they might, there hasn’t been a truly great adaptation of Swamp Thing yet. Horror master Wes Craven attempted to make a film version back in the ’80s, and while the ’90s show ran for three seasons, it wasn’t quite the masterpiece that such an iconic title deserves. Anton Arcane is a scientist obsessed with finding immortality who also acts as Swamp Thing’s arch nemesis.
In the Craven films, the villain is brought to life by Louis Jourdan. This interpretation sees Arcane as not only a scientist, but the leader of a shady military group that Swamp Thing must fight against, as well. In the ’90s show, Dr. Arcane is portrayed by Mark Lindsey Chapman and pops up in every single episode of the series’ run (talk about commitment!).
Both of the actors bring something unique to the character, but Chapman’s interpretation benefits from having 72 episodes to work with while Jourdan only has 2 two-hour films. Because of this, Chapman’s Arcane feels much more fleshed out and is thus the better of the two.
10. Julie Newmar/Michelle Pfeiffer- Catwoman
Catwoman is DC Comics’ ultimate frenemy; though she is often locked in an on-again, off-again relationship with the Caped Crusader, she’s still a cat burglar at heart. Selina Kyle often tries to “play it straight,” but always ends up back on the side of the bad.
The original Catwoman was portrayed in the ’66 Batman series by Julie Newmar. The actress was absolutely purr-fect in the role – she embodied the sassiness, slyness, and seductiveness that Catwoman is most known for today. Her chemistry with leading man Adam West always felt believable, to boot.
Tim Burton’s take on Selina Kyle cast Michelle Pfeiffer as the cat burglar. To fit in with the Gothic world the director had created, Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was a little more… out there. She actually had nine-lives, tried to eat birds, and cleaned herself like a cat would. Despite its weirdness, this take on the character did everything Newmar’s had done, but also came across as much more tormented and sympathetic. For this, Pfeiffer’s Catwoman gets the nod.
9. David Cassidy/Grey Damon- Mirror Master
Next to Batman and Spider-Man, the Flash has the most colorful and memorable Rogue’s Gallery in all of comics. Sam Scudder was just a regular man until he discovered a way to manipulate and travel through mirrors with his own reflection. Donning the moniker “Mirror Master”, Scudder uses his powers to commit heists.
In the infamous ’90s TV show The Flash, the character shows up played by actor David Cassidy. Though there was nothing too bad about the actor’s performance, the showrunners decided to switch things up by making the villain more centered on using hologram mirror discs to pull off his crimes. So he was really a “Hologram Master”?
In the 2014 reboot of The Flash, Mirror Master makes an appearance with Grey Damon in the role. This version of the character is the partner in crime with his girlfriend, Top; Damon’s Mirror Master is more true to the New 52 comics in that he can physically travel through his own reflection and trap people in mirrors.
8. Liam Neeson/Alexander Siddig- Ra’s Al Ghul
The character of Ra’s al Ghul has risen in popularity in recent years, becoming a modern-day standout in Batman’s already large list of iconic enemies. The leader of the League of Assassins is hundreds of years old, using the mystical Lazarus Pits to extend his life and heal his wounds over the centuries.
The character saw his big screen debut in 2005’s Batman Begins. Liam Neeson’s character was revealed to be Ra’s all along at the film’s climax, a twist that the audience never saw coming. Though he would have a cameo in The Dark Knight Rises, we only got about ten minutes of Neeson in the role total.
Meanwhile, Gotham gave us a version of the character who looks and acts like he was ripped straight from the pages of the comics. Alexander Siddig looks the part as well as sounds the part, giving us a more calm and regal version of The Demon’s Head who comes off as a believable mentor to Bruce Wayne.
7. Michael Champion/Wentworth Miller- Captain Cold
Like we said before, there wasn’t much good to come out of the ’90s Flash show. However, Michael Champion’s take on Barry Allen’s nemesis, Captain Cold, is actually fairly good. Sure the effects are terrible and sure, he’s defeated in the most ridiculous way possible in his lone appearance, but Champion brought a (dare we say) cool and sinister demeanor to the character that was lacking with most of The Flash‘s rogues.
But then there’s Wentworth Miller. Miller’s version of Captain Cold has quickly become the quintessential version of the character. In fact, he’s become so popular that (in addition to appearing on The Flash) Cold was given a major role in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. It’s easy to see why – Miller makes sure that Captain Cold is one of the snarkiest characters in the Arrowverse.
6. Jennifer Garner/Elodie Yung- Elektra
If Daredevil is Marvel’s equivalent to Batman, then Elektra is their equivalent to Catwoman. Much like the other two characters, Elektra is an assassin who occasionally turns to the side of good after falling in love with Matt Murdock.
Elektra Natchios was played by Jennifer Garner in both 2003’s Daredevil and its spin-off, Elektra. In both cases she was terrible. Not to knock Garner too much, but there was really nothing about her portrayal that screamed “bloodthirsty and conflicted assassin.” There wasn’t a ton of chemistry between her and Ben Affleck in this movie, which is ironic given that they were husband and wife for years.
The character was introduced into the MCU in Daredevil season 2, played by Elodie Yung. There’s no contest here. Yung is able to flip the switch at will, going from playful to ruthless to vulnerable at will and making us just as invested in her story as we are with the leads. This goes even further with The Defenders, where she is tasked with playing the resurrected, confused, and pure evil version of Elektra.
5. James Franco/Dane Dehaan- Harry Osborn
Norman may get all the credit for being the Green Goblin, but the story of Harry Osborn is interwoven much stronger into that of Spider-Man’s than his father’s. Harry and Peter were best friends for years before Norman’s tragic death. Afterwards, he became more resentful towards Spidey until he eventually donned the Goblin suit himself.
Both versions of Harry that appear on screen follow a similar tale. In the original trilogy, James Franco plays the role and has his story spread across three films. Though he is the more fleshed-out of the two incarnations, in retrospect it always just feels like James Franco is playing James Franco. Not to mention, his friendship with Peter is never really expanded upon other than the audience just being told “these two are friends.”
Dane Dehaan, on the other hand, comes across as way more believable as Harry Osborn. His temperament and somewhat slimy demeanor gives off that vibe of a son who’s trying too hard to impress his jerk of a father. Of course both of these actors fall apart when it actually comes time for them to become the Green Goblin themselves… Alas, we’re going with Dehaan.
4. Frank Gorshin/Jim Carrey- The Riddler
Edward Nigma’s whole shtick is that he commits crimes and then leaves riddles for the Dynamic Duo to solve. The issue most writers have is: How do you make that work in today’s world? Leave the character the way he is and it’s too campy. Change him up too much and it’s not the same character. Thankfully we’ve already gotten some good interpretations of the character.
The ’66 Batman show gave us the legendary Frank Gorshin as the Riddler in what was without a doubt his most iconic role. Gorshin’s greatest strength as this character was his range; he could be angrily threatening his henchmen one minute and then giddily laughing and waltzing across the room like a cartoon character come to life the next.
Comedy legend Jim Carrey was cast as Nigma in Batman Forever, but did little to separate his version from his other characters. Seriously, the Riddler isn’t supposed to be Ace Ventura in a green costume! For this one, we’re going to go with the actor who earned an Emmy for the role (aka Gorshin).
3. Gene Hackman/Jesse Eisenberg- Lex Luthor
Okay, so hear us out on this one. Lex Luthor is one of DC’s greatest characters. He’s a billionaire alien-hater who uses his power and influence to take whatever he wants. In many cases, he truly believes that what he is doing is for the good of mankind and that it’s really Superman that is the menace.
The Gene Hackman version of Luthor that appeared in the original Superman films was a pretty straight-forward version of the character. Sure he was more straightforwardly evil, but his character traits were consistent with what we see in the comics and Hackman was a blast to watch.
We all know that Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman is pretty much universally lauded as a disaster. The DCEU tried to update the character for the modern world by turning him into a more Mark Zuckerberg-style eccentric young billionaire. And you know what? It kind of worked. Had the character gone by any other name, there probably wouldn’t have been as many complaints. Not to mention, his theme is incredible!
2. Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender- Magneto
Now we’re getting into the section of this article where we could honestly just flip a coin. Ian McKellen has played Magneto in five different X-Men movies in the last fourteen years. We meet this villain when he is a grizzled veteran of the human/mutant conflict and already has a following of evil mutants. Over the course of the series we see McKellen brilliantly transform Magneto into something ripped straight out of a Shakespearean play; he’s more sophisticated than most villains, has respect for his rivals, and draws all eyes to himself whenever he’s in the scene.
Michael Fassbender played a younger version of Magneto in the First Class Trilogy. Fassbender’s version of the character was trying to figure out who he wanted to be in this world full of prejudice towards mutants; we get to see how his experiences as a young man shaped him into the character we saw in the earlier movies as well as hear his arguments for a more extreme version of civil rights.
1. Jack Nicholson/Heath Ledger- The Joker
Here it is, folks: The comparison you were all waiting for! The Joker is arguably the greatest comic book villain not just in DC Comics, but of all time across all publishers. The Clown Prince of Crime has had four different live-action versions in the last fifty years, but we’re going to focus on the two that are brought up the most.
What can we say about Jack Nicholson’s Joker other than he was a blast to watch! Seriously, he blasted Prince music as he vandalized art galleries and poisoned people with gas that came out of cartoon balloons. On top of the traditional hilarity, Nicholson’s Joker was full of dark humor. He electrocuted a man to death with a hand buzzer and made infomercials telling everyone that he had poisoned them.
Heath Ledger’s Joker, on the other hand, took the approach of keeping the humor and darkness separate. Don’t get us wrong – when Ledger was trying to be funny, he was hilarious. However, when he went in the other direction he made even some of the silver screen’s horror icons look tame by comparison. Both actors were incredible as the Joker, but we’d argue that Ledger was ever-so-slightly better.
What do you think of our list? Do you agree with our picks? Was there another pair of actors you’d like to see compared? Let us know how wrong we were in the comments!
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