After covering our 10 Best Comic Book Villain Performances, it was only fitting we cover the best Comic Book Heroes. Of course there have been many portrayals for some of these characters, but we will be covering what we consider the best rendition of the heroes. These are the actors who embodied their roles so much that some might even say that they were born for that role. Variations so good they have defined that character and even put for debate if anyone else will ever top it. We will be listing the appearances these characters have made in film and excluding cameo appearances in some films. Despite the placement of the character, whether it was small cameos or large scale franchise performances they are all taken in for consideration.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
When Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics launched in 2000, there was no argument that the new rendition of Nick Fury had a very uncanny resemblance to Samuel L. Jackson. Even going as far as referencing the similarities between the fictional character and the actor throughout the comics. It was an appearance meant to be when the credits of Iron Man ended with a surprise appearance of Mr. Jackson as the One-Eyed Eagle, presenting the possibility of the “Avengers Initiative” to Tony Stark. Since then he has been an important aspect to the Marvel Cinematic Universe from assembling the Avengers for the first time, to saving the world alongside Captain Marvel. Since his first cameo appearance he has since appeared in Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. There has been no talk if Jackson will be stepping away from the role anytime soon, but he will always be given a friendly welcome anytime he appears in a Marvel film.
Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
With only two appearances in the DC Extended Universe so far, Momoa has managed to give us enough of a performance that it deserves the praise. Making a brief cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and leading to a set up for the anticipated Justice League. While Justice League received poor reception, one thing fans agreed on was the love they shared for Momoas portrayal as the Protector of the Deep. For many years Aquaman has been treated as a bit of a joke throughout DC Universe, it wasn’t until DC launched the New 52 that Aquaman was rewritten and given an upgrade. Utilizing the full capability of his powers and just how useful his abilities can be for the Justice Leagues, as well as his role as the King of Atlantis. Momoa captured a young ambitious version of the character, but again with the incredible use of his abilities in Justice League and his own solo film in 2018’s Aquaman.
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Steve Rogers often comes off as the type of character that can be easily portrayed by anyone, even after the first time we saw Chris Evans pick up the shield. But as time went on and Evans played the Star-Spangled Avenger in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Solider, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame it became clear who was best suited to take on the role. Evans has managed to change that stigma and give us a representation of Captain America that has become one of the landmarks for the MCU. Before playing Cap Chris Evans has had his feet in other comic book films such as Fantastic Four, The Losers and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World which convinced fans he could fit comfortably in a comic book movie. But we weren’t sure if he would be able to take on a role of leadership, but once again proved us wrong to provide us an accurate take on Captain America and show us the importance of such an iconic comic book hero.
Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman
An entry on this list that will be a topic of debate. As much as we love Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Trilogy and Ben Affleck in the DC Extended Universe, we have to give our pick to Michael Keaton from Batman (1989) and Batman Returns. When Keaton was first announced to be taking on the Caped Crusader the films we was most known for was Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom, both comedic roles that didn’t seem to fit who Batman was. Without having to change his voice or beef up for his take on Batman, Keatons version terrorized criminals with simply his appearance. Keatons piercing eyes and dark presence is what scared the criminals he faced and set the tone for the kind of Batman Tim Burton was trying to put on screen. Luckily we will be once again seeing Keaton dawn the Cape and Cowl in the upcoming film The Flash, alongside Ben Affleck as Batman and connecting Burtons two original Batman films to the DC Extended Universe.
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X
If he isn’t captain of the USS Enterprise, he is leading the fight for mutant rights. Another character from comics that seems to be tailor made for an actor, Patrick Stewart first appeared as the telepathic mutant in the 2000 film X-Men and continued to play the character for nineteen years in X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Logan. Not only did he portray Xavier in film though, he even went as far as playing him in video game installment completely unrelated to Fox’s X-Men Universe. While James McAvoy has done justice by the character with his iteration of a young Charles Xavier in other X-Men installments, it still doesn’t come close to what Stewart did for the character. His deep and commanding voice and sharp presence fits the role Stewart takes on as the leader of the X-Men and school for gifted youngsters, while also being a perfect rival against Ian McKellen’s Magneto.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
While Lynda Carter is the first to bring the Amazon Princess to screens, Gal Gadot has once again reintroduced the character for a new generation. Equally as beautiful as she is fierce, Gal Gadot first brought back Wonder Woman in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While that film received polarizing reviews, one thing everyone agreed on was the incredible incorporation and portrayal of Wonder Woman. Later receiving her own film in 2017’s Wonder Woman and turning the direction of the DCEU with a dramatic World War II film that demonstrated the power behind a female led comic book film. Despite the changes DC is making with their films, one thing that will stay is Gadots version of Wonder Woman. We anticipate the upcoming sequel Wonder Woman 84’ that will feature the first on screen appearances of Maxwell Lord played by Pedro Pascal and The Cheetah played by Kristen Wiig.
Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool
Rarely have we been given such a terrible portrayal of a character, only to be redeemed later by the same actor. Ryan Reynolds first appeared as Deadpool in the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and I think everything that could possibly be said about that version has been said. Thankfully after a massive fan following and backing by Ryan Reynolds himself, studios were finally convinced to unsewn his mouth. We were given a more accurate portrayal of the Merc with the Mouth in 2016’s Deadpool and even garnered a sequel in 2018 with Deadpool 2. Ryan Reynolds has completely embraced the character since the reboot and gave fans a comical and brutal version of Deadpool that even broke the fourth wall in his films. Reynolds has become Deadpool by appearing as the character in other forms of media and even causing hassle to other X-Men actors, the way only we could expect from a character like Deadpool.
Christopher Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman
The guy who made us believe a man could fly. The 1978 film Superman paved the way for comic book films, in some ways we wouldn’t have the incredible diverse groups of films without this one. But what made the film so iconic and memorable was Christopher Reeves not only as Superman, but Clark Kent as well. Portraying a bumbling mild mannered reporter and the heroic savior Superman was a perfect blend for what made the ideal Superman. While Henry Cavill accurately portrays the muscled bound alien from Krypton, it was Reeves version that took the look from the 60’s and 70’s Superman comics as the All American hero. It was Reeves that defines the character for his generation as the admirable hero that caught Lois Lane from falling off a building and proudly incarcerated the sinister Lex Luthor played by Gene Hackman. Although the quality declined with each installment after the first film, the one thing no one ever complains about is Christopher Reeves as the Man of Steel.
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
To think the role of Wolverine almost didn’t go to Hugh Jackman, is the thought of a world I don’t want to live in. Holding the record for the second most performances by an actor in a film franchise, originally Dougray Scott was casted as Wolverine in 2000 X-Men before he dropped out to be in Mission Impossible 2. The role was then handed over to Hugh Jackman and the rest is history. Since then Hugh Jackman has played Weapon X in X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan and a brief cameo in X-Men: First Class. With the cameo included that makes eight times Hugh Jackman has played the metal clawed mutant with Logan being his last time playing him. As much as we love him as Wolverine though, we remain optimistic for the future the Marvel Cinematic Universe has for Wolverine and the rest of Xavier’s mutants.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
No list like this would be complete without mentioning the sheer influence Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man has made in the comic book world. Since the moment at the end of Iron Man when Tony Stark announced to the world “I am Iron Man” he has been the driving force for the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Appearing in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame with a brief cameo in The Incredible Hulk beating out Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and taking the top spot playing the same comic book characters in film. When John Faverau first casted Downey Jr he was taking a massive gamble with all his substance abuse and constant incarcerations, it made audiences skeptical if he could pull it off. Luckily no other actor could have played Tony Stark more perfectly than Robert Downey Jr. While his journey ended in Avengers: Endgame, his legacy that began in Iron Man carried the MCU to what it is today and will be the greatest superhero performance to date.