With a few exceptions, every actor in Hollywood wants a piece of the superhero genre. Marvel and DC have redefined the movie landscape with their cinematic universes, and anybody with a resume is crawling out of the woodwork to audition for the next big part. With their long, rich histories, it can be hard to cast the right person as a comic book icon. Each unique character is has a specific level of nuance, and while an actor may look the part, that doesn’t always mean they have what it takes to capture the essence of the role.
We’ve already compiled our list for the best superhero casting decisions, rewarding such memorable performances as Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool and Chris Evans’ Captain America with well-deserved praise. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the not so happy choices — the performances we’d rather forget than have to ever watch again. We’re not saying these actors are the only bad thing about their films, but they certainly didn’t bring a positive light to an already bad production.
So as a reminder that even celebrities make mistakes, we present the 20 Worst Superhero Movie Castings Of All Time.
We apologize in advance.
20. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Before you decide to sacrifice us to the gods of the DCEU for including Zack Snyder’s take on Lex Luthor on our list, let us make ourselves clear. We aren’t hopping on the “Batman v Superman is the worst comic book movie of all time” bandwagon. While we understand that the movie has its fans (deservedly so), we also know that it wasn’t without its flaws, and those flaws are the most obvious when Jesse Eisenberg arrives on the scene.
Snyder’s vision for the business magnate and power hungry billionaire comes off as a deranged Mark Zuckerberg minus the quick, whimsical quips that came with Eisenberg’s performance in The Social Network. What’s more is that Eisenberg failed to have a commanding presence on screen, feeling too much like a spazzed out tech genius with serious inadequacy issues than anyone who could exhibit the confidence it takes to rule over Metropolis. It didn’t help that the character dipped into unintentionally hilarious territory with a strangely homoerotic scene involving a Jolly Rancher. Overall, the character plays more like a potential antagonist for the next season of Silicon Valley than anyone who should have been going up against the likes of Superman.
19. January Jones as Emma Frost
A seductress with extraordinary psionic abilities, Emma Frost has become known among comic fans as a character with flexible morals. Born into an abusive household, she was put into a mental institution by her father following the discovery of her telepathic powers. After that, she served as Sebastian Shaw’s apprentice as part of the Hellfire Club until joining the X-Men, where she became a teacher for the gifted young mutants and started an affair with Cyclops.
As a morally grey character willing to do whatever’s necessary to keep the mutant race safe, Frost is constantly plagued with doubt over her actions. While the eye test would suggest January Jones was destined for the role in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, the decidedly wooden results proved she was incapable of transferring the White Queen’s assertive nature to the big screen. As a member of Shaw’s Hellfire Club, Jones comes off as uninterested and devoid of any signs of internal conflict. While the actress’ role as Betty Draper in Mad Men proved she was more than capable of turning in a villainous performance, her take on Frost showed she just wasn’t the right choice for the part.
18. Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider
Given Nicolas Cage’s list of crazy performances and his diehard devotion to comic books, we’re not blaming him for wanting to play the stuntman turned flaming spirit of vengeance in the Ghost Rider movies. Instead, we’ll chalk this miscasting up to the production team that decided it was a good idea to cast a middle-aged actor as the young, usual blonde Johnny Blaze.
While Cage is far from the worst performance on our list, he definitely goes overboard with his delivery, often crossing the line with his trademark intensity and loud expressions. Cage was ultimately committed to the role, but it wasn’t anything we haven’t seen from the actor before. A strange concoction between Elvis Presley and Evil Knievel, the role was nothing more than a fun cosplay experiment that, while entertaining, was short of gratifying for fans of the motorcycle-driving Marvel hero. Maybe viewers will finally get the adaptation they deserve as the Robbie Reyes version of the character takes center stage in season four of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
17. Jamie Foxx as Electro
If you’re a long-time reader of Spider-Man, the chances are high you remember Maxwell Dillon, aka Electro, back when he donned a pair of green and yellow tights with a mask that looked like a starfish on acid. With the birth of the Ultimate comics line, however, a new iteration of the baddie came into being. The improved villain would get his electrical powers through a bio-engineering experiment, giving him a blue glow and hideous scars covered up by an all leather outfit.
Enter Jamie Foxx — a suave, Academy Award winning actor with a proven ability to play a badass. As cool antagonists go, he seemed like an A+ candidate. Only, Electro’s alter ego, Maxwell, is an uber-nerd with a bad comb over and thick-rimmed glasses, a role which seems ill fit for the actor. Rather than turning to his inner nerd, he plays a parody of a nerdy person. He’s a klutz, he has no friends, and he has an unhealthy obsession with the web-slinging hero. After seeing Foxx singlehandedly tackling a slave-owning Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained, his part in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 feels wildly unconvincing by comparison.
16. Ben Affleck as Daredevil
Ben Affleck as the grizzled, PTSD plagued Caped Crusader in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman may be one of the better casting decisions in recent memory, but the actor/director wasn’t always cut out for the superhero world.
Back before he proved his talents behind the camera, Affleck had built a reputation for himself as an uncommitted talent who drifted through his roles. His first real break into better films could have been 2003’s Daredevil, but rather than proving himself as a capable Matt Murdock, we were treated to a snarling, somber hero who had no on-screen chemistry with his co-star Jennifer Garner, despite later marrying the actress years after filming had wrapped.
In his defense, Affleck isn’t so much a miscast today as he was more than ten years ago. Given the opportunity, we’re sure he could show Charlie Cox a thing or two about how to play a blind vigilante. But bad timing or not, we’re forced to include his stiff and often cartoonish performance, wondering all the while how much better the film could’ve been if Matt Damon has accepted the part when he was offered it before Affleck. At least we still have Batfleck, and that’s more than enough redemption to help us forget this movie ever happened.
15. Wes Bentley as Blackheart
The son to the demon-lord Mephisto, Blackheart is evil incarnate brought up under the teachings of his father to learn the powers of corruption. Possessing the supernatural abilities to teleport, change his physical form and summon armies from the pits of hell, he becomes a usurper after being banished to Earth by his father. In the film, he becomes an enemy of Johnny Blaze after the Ghost Rider is recruited to bring him back to the underworld.
With the slicked back hair and pale white skin, Bentley goes through the motions of a temperamental teenager with daddy issues. Without a Harley or a flaming skull, he’s got little to work with on the threatening side. For the most part, his henchmen walk around without much to do, putting on a charade in hopes of instilling fear in the much more threatening protagonist. As an insurrectionist, Bentley is too small of a presence to feel like anything more than wasted time. Why Satan would ever see him as a danger remains a gaping hole in Ghost Rider’s logic. At least he got the brooding mood down right, which is more than we can say for some actors on this list.
14. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane
With Superman Returns in 2006 came the return of the Daily Planet’s hard-hitting reporter Lois Lane. While standing up as the leading lady in a blockbuster that featured the Man of Steel was a daunting task, a headstrong portrayal and some solid on-screen chemistry would have been enough to overcome the odds. Unfortunately, Kate Bosworth fell short on both fronts, leaving many viewers wondering just what the casting directors were thinking.
Controversy surrounded the decision early when fans complained that the 22 year old actress was too young for the part. As a single mother and a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, audiences are led to believe that in the five or more years between Superman’s disappearance and return, Lois has somehow managed to become the Planet’s most renowned reporter and single-handedly raise a child despite her young appearance suggesting otherwise. Beyond her age, she also lacks the spark of Superman’s girlfriend, intent on blending in with the rest of the cast as a side character rather than taking any initiative. Obviously, more thought could have gone into the script to give the actress more to work with, but nothing was going to cover up the fact that the actress was simply out of her element.
13. Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom
As one of Marvel’s most beloved uber-villains, Dr. Doom was always going to be a tough casting decision. Born Victor von Doom in the small country of Latveria, he chose a path of sorcery after discovering the mystical artifacts of his deceased mother. After being scarred by his own machine created to rescue his mother’s soul from beyond the grave, he begins wearing a nuclear-powered armor suit. Empowered by his arrogance, he takes on the role of the Fantastic Four’s archnemesis, casting a shadow over the super group with his genius intellect.
When casting got underway for 2005’s Fantastic Four, the hot topic of debate was who would nab the role of the chief antagonist. McMahon had built a reputation for playing devious characters due to his part in the series Nip/Tuck, but the devilish charm he exhibited in the show was nowhere to be found here. Other than the fact that his costume design didn’t translate well on screen — though at least one cosplayer has proven that this isn’t such an impossible task — McMahon lacked the gravitas to pull off the menacing character. Without a formidable voice, he appears small compared to the four protagonists, resulting in a weak adaptation that stood no chance of winning over fans. McMahon’s performance in the widely-panned sequel wasn’t much better.
12. Jennifer Garner as Elektra
Born on a Greek island near the Aegean Sea, where she perfected her martial arts skills under the tutelage of her blind sensei Stick, Elektra is a standout among comic book heroines. As a ninja assassin with ties to the mystical supervillain organization known as the Hand, she crosses the line between hero and villain seamlessly. While her short fuse makes her a force to be reckoned with, her sinful past and need to make amends opens her up to opportunities to make good on all her wrongdoings.
As a fighter who poses a challenge for the incredibly formidable Matt Murdock, Jennifer Garner comes off too nice for the part. Although we can blame the unbearable writing for Garner’s American accent, her wholesome appearance should have been a key indicator that someone else would’ve been better suited for the part. It’s not that the actress couldn’t pull off being the action hero — she proved otherwise in the television series Alias — but rather, she simply didn’t have the cynicism that should have accompanied the character. All the blame of Daredevil and Elektra may not have rested on Garner’s shoulders, but her girl-next-door portrayal didn’t do her any favors.
11. Taylor Kitsch as Gambit
As the Ragin’ Cajun, Remy LeBeau has built a strong fan base around his persona as a cunning, manipulative member of the X-Men with the ability to deliver an occasional one-liner off the top of his head. Born in New Orleans, he was raised by the LeBeau Clan Thieves’ Guild where his abilities first began to manifest. Able to charge inorganic objects with kinetic energy, he began using playing cards as an explosive weapon against opponents.
A star player in Friday Night Lights, Taylor Kitsch first charmed his way into viewers’ hearts as the troubled high school football fullback Tim Riggins. While he looked right for the part of Gambit in the first solo Wolverine flick, it was the mutant’s Cajun accent that proved a challenge. Delivering something more akin to a typical Southern drawl, Kitsch came off as underwhelming more than anything, thanks in part to the seriousness he brought to the role. The movie had more problems than just its casting — like choosing to introduce the mutant in someone else’s standalone movie and nearly ruining Deadpool forever — but that doesn’t excuse the bad interpretation of a beloved hero who was much more clever in the comics.
10. Topher Grace as Venom
Arriving on the scene as Eric Forman in That ‘70s Show, Topher Grace made a name for himself as the fun-loving, goofy good guy. It’s not hard to see where Sam Raimi went wrong casting him in the role of Venom opposite Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man in the third and final installment of the original trilogy. We’re not saying Grace couldn’t pull off a menacing villain given the right story, but he’s far from the best choice for the role of Eddie Brock.
As a former investigative photo journalist for the Daily Bugle, Brock sets his sights on Spider-Man after losing his job at the newspaper. In a deep state of depression, he comes into contact with an alien symbiote which gives him powers that closely match the web-slinger’s.
All in all, Grace lacked the imposing build of Brock’s Venom from the comics. Although his envious attitude was on point, it did little to persuade audiences that he had what it takes to pose a threat to Peter Parker. He became a second fiddle to the film’s other villain, Sandman, who proved to be more menacing than one of Spidey’s most beloved adversaries, a crime that Spider-Man fans simply couldn’t forgive.
9. Jessica Alba as The Invisible Woman
As much as we hate to admit it, Hollywood is a business that runs on money, power and sex appeal. It’s not Jessica Alba’s fault that she ended up in over her head with Fantastic Four. She wasn’t exactly given much to work with. As far as 20th Century Fox was concerned, she did her part. She was the latest attraction on the block intended as a piece of eye candy for the onlookers to admire, but in the end, Sue Storm fell way short of her heroic comic book status.
While latter issues of Fantastic Four would depict the Invisible Woman as a capable hero and mother who dealt with complicated topics such as losing a child to a stillborn pregnancy, Alba was actually asked to hold back on all her emotional scenes. The actress was vocal about her treatment in the 2005 blockbuster and its sequel, saying director Tim Story more or less restrained her to nothing more than the dimwitted girlfriend to Reed Richards’ Mr. Fantastic. Whether Alba’s story is true or not, the star wasn’t exactly ready for such a big screen role so soon, making her appearance all the more baffling.
8. Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher
For what it’s worth, Dolph Lundgren’s performance in The Punisher is commendable for what it is, but the late ’80s B flick was far from the Frank Castle fans would be treated to once Thomas Jane or Jon Bernthal took over. Although some have complained about Lundgren’s version of the Marvel anti-hero not wearing his signature skull, the problems with his character went far deeper than his attire.
As a Vietnam War veteran who can take out a room of gangsters, the 6’4” Lundgren definitely fits the part. On further inspection, however, it’s the more layered side of the character that the actor fails to capture. Although he might come off as the ultimate badass with his black hair and five o’clock shadow, Castle is a family man at heart who takes his mission to clean up the streets personally. Every sign of anger or torment on Lundgren’s face, including the scene where his family is murdered, comes off as phony compared to the shock a real parent would experience. Add the occasional detection of the lead’s Swedish accent to the mix and it’s easy to see why The Punisher never had a theatrical release in many countries.
7. Samuel L. Jackson as The Octopus
First appearing in 1940 as a newsprint comic, the Spirit was a masked crime fighter who protected his city with the help of the police commissioner while often being portrayed in a variety of genres, including noir and comedy. As a product of the comics pioneer Will Eisner, the character was often pitted against his archnemesis, the Octopus, a mastermind and master of disguise whose face was never shown.
Following the success of 2005’s Sin City, comic book creator Frank Miller was in search of another comic book adaptation to bring to the big screen. Overloaded with Miller’s signature noir style, The Spirit was an exercise in scenery chewing and aesthetic fetishism. Jackson’s character in particular was overbearingly eccentric, beating viewers over the head with his abrasively loud and dramatic performance that tried way too hard to be cool. His oddball turn may have paired well with the pulpy setting, but it lacked any substance or subtlety. As the actor who redefined what it means to be The Man in Hollywood with films like Pulp Fiction, he simply put too much into the role, making the Octopus one of his least memorable characters to date.
6. Seth Rogen as The Green Hornet
With all the end of the world villainy and brooding masked vigilantes cleaning up the streets, humor seems to be an undervalued element in superhero stories. In 2011, Seth Rogen decided to do something about it with The Green Hornet, and while we appreciate the effort, we would’ve preferred a more dramatic actor in the role.
Starting off as a radio broadcast before taking on a new life in multiple comic book series and a hit television show, The Green Hornet chronicled the nightly heroics of Britt Reid, the son of a wealthy newspaper editor for Chicago’s The Sentinel. With his sidekick Kato by his side, he used his unorthodox tactics to bring the city’s mobsters and henchmen to their knees.
Rogen relies on his trademark buffoonery and nonchalant attitude to approach the world of crime-fighting to mixed results. The comedy actor never fit the archetype of a hero, especially one with such an established history. As the sophisticated vigilante, the Green Hornet once rivaled Adam West’s Batman on the small screen. In the end, Rogen’s take on Reid felt far more akin to his past roles than anything that could hold a flame to the defender of Gotham.
5. Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre
The first step in recovering from a bad performance is admitting you didn’t give it your all. That’s what Akerman confessed after taking a look back at her version of Silk Spectre in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. According to the actress, she was way in over her head, having only played in comedic roles until her casting in the R-rated, nihilistic comic book adaptation.
In the graphic novel by Alan Moore, Laurie Juspeczyk is a middle-aged woman who retires from the superhero lifestyle after being forced into the role by her mother, the first Silk Spectre. Raised to be a superheroine, she resents the duties being passed down to her. Much like the rest of her cast members, Akerman’s character is broken, suffering from a psychologically draining childhood. But unlike her fellow actors, she fails to deliver any subtle cues that would suggest such a past. Instead, she appears as a sex symbol stuffed in a latex suit. To cap it all off, she takes part in one of the worst sex scenes in recent memory, delving into softcore porn territory without a moment of on-screen chemistry between her and co-star Patrick Wilson. Talk about awkward.
4. Shaquille O’Neal as Steel
In 1997, DC took a nosedive with the release of Batman & Robin and their other doomed disaster, Steel, effectively terminating their relationship with Hollywood for the next few years. Looking to cash in on the popularity of the 7’1” Shaq, the famed basketball star moved from the court to the screen and forever reminded viewers why athletes and the movie industry rarely mix.
Following the decision to kill off Superman in 1993, John Henry Irons, a weapons engineer for AmerTek Industries, put on an armored suit in the Man of Steel’s memory, even going so far as to don the Kryptonian’s signature ‘S’ symbol. When Superman made his return, the character was re-branded as Steel, where he received his own solo series.
It was fitting that Steel wore a metal suit in his feature film adaptation, given Shaq’s performance was frequently referred to as clunky. Despite his massive build, he lacks the presence to deliver serious lines convincingly, coming off as laughable when trying to appear daunting. There’s little charisma to the performance, but without much of an acting background to speak of, we’ll give Shaq a pass. Here’s to hoping the big man’s acting days are behind him.
3. David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury
It may sound like a joke today, but there was a time when David Hasselhoff was considered hot stuff. He was a leading man who starred in hits like Knight Rider and Baywatch. While we’ll admit the Hoff is a spot on look-alike for the original Nick Fury, that doesn’t mean the then 46 year old actor should’ve been playing the Marvel character in a TV action movie. By the time Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD hit the air, the aging star was no longer the convincing hero he once was.
Written by David S. Goyer, Nick Fury was a B-movie at its finest. Shot on a low budget and using iffy CGI effects, Hasselhoff overacts his way through the production, hamming it up as the cigar-chewing agent. For the most part, the actor appears too weathered to be playing the straight-faced hero, delivering each line with an unintentional hilarity. Stan Lee praised the Hoff’s performance — a fact which the actor has reminded us of. But without the kind of imposing presence that Samuel L. Jackson would later capture in his performance, the character felt second rate, making this flick a mediocre outing at best.
2. Halle Berry as Storm/Catwoman
A rare distinction on our list, Halle Berry is the only actor to be miscast twice in a superhero role. Kicking off her troubled history with superhuman characters, she starred as the white-haired Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, in the X-Men series. While audiences’ biggest complaints were with Berry’s African accent, which disappeared and reappeared throughout each movie, her biggest issue was the lack of a commanding presence. Without the majesty of the character from the comics, many of Storm’s more powerful lines of dialogue just appeared ridiculous and over the top on screen.
Trying to move past her role as Storm, the actress again found herself trapped by a bad script with no character development in Catwoman. Ignoring the fact that the movie is not about Selina Kyle, Berry appears in a dominatrix-like leather uniform and prances around hissing at dogs. It’s not a good look, as she mostly comes off as silly and not the least bit heroic. The actress took her bumps and bruises with pride, however, accepting the Razzie award for Worst Actress in person, showing she knew how terribly wrong the performance turned out to be.
1. Everyone in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Movies
When we sat down and started compiling our list of worst superhero casting decisions, we ran into a slight problem. Roughly half of our list consisted of the ensembles from Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies. To say the director butchered Tim Burton’s established vision of Gotham City with his campy, slapstick characters is an understatement. The cast do little to alleviate the poorly written script of its bad puns and embarrassing silliness, forcing us to group everyone together as the guilty party responsible for entertaining Schumacher’s absurd ideas.
No one is safe from ridicule for stomping all over Bob Kane’s beloved creation. It’s hard to ruin Batman past the point of recognition, but everyone from Batman Forever and Batman & Robin tried their damnedest. Take your pick of the litter. George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger all managed to hit the lowest points in their careers with their hokey line deliveries while Chris O’Donnell pouted his way through the films as Robin and Alicia Silverstone fell flat as Batgirl. Collectively, the cast helped poison the franchise, resulting in a eight year wait before Christopher Nolan would revive the Dark Knight with Batman Begins.
Honorable Mention: The Entire Cast of Dragonball: Evolution
The characters of the Dragon Ball franchise may not fit many readers’ definition of superheroes, but we’d beg to differ. Whether in full-on Super Saiyan mode or holding back his full strength, one Kamehameha attack from Goku is enough to make the likes of Superman grimace in pain. Take that into account with the numerous adversaries the characters have defeated in order to save the world and you’re talking about some seriously heroic feats. It’s just too bad all that heroism was dropped the moment Evolution began filming.
While we can’t point the finger at the cast as the sole reason Evolution tanked, we do wonder why any of them signed onto the project. Originating as a Japanese manga, many of the characters were whitewashed, including Goku (played by Justin Chatwin) and Bulma (played by Emmy Rossum). To add insult to injury, the actors do away with the spirited personalities of the manga series, mailing in their performances with little enthusiasm. It’s hard to say whether the outlandish performances are purely a result of bad writing, but surely the cast had to know the dumpster fire they had on their hands, giving them enough cause to not care about the final results and the blemish it would leave on their resumes.
Which other superhero castings do you find utterly lacking? Which of these films could’ve been saved by better-fitting talent? Let us know in the comments.
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