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The Best Casting Choices in Superhero Cinema

Updated on February 19, 2015

Like any genre of film, the quality of superhero films is all over the map. Marvel's The Avengers is amazing while The Fantastic Four fell pretty flat. And as in any film, casting is one the main components which can help a film be great or fall flat.

In this Hub, we'll look at my picks for the best casting choices in superhero films. What I mean by 'best casting choices' is not necessarily who does the best job of playing the roles (although good acting helps tremendously).

Being familiar with the source material, I am specifically looking at which actors make the characters jump of the pages and come alive; the actors that best translate the characters as they are written into how they might be if they were real live people.

J. Jonah Jameson Highlight Reel

J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons)

Whoever was casting for Sam Raimi's Spider-Man got this one spot on. J.K. Simmons' portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson, the Daily Bugle's brash, curt boss is about as spot on as it gets.

He's got the look and the attitude down perfectly, or at least perfect when compared to how I would imagine him in real life. Plus Jameson is one of the best characters in the Spider-Man universe, super or not.

Chris Evans at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con.
Chris Evans at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con. | Source

Johnny Storm (Chris Evans)

In spite of the train wreck that Marvel's Fantastic Four films were, there is one super bright spot to them: Chris Evans.

I disagree with pretty much every other casting choice in both of those films, but this one was a winner. He portrayed the cockiness and competitiveness of the comic book character that I remember.

And even though Evans is now probably more well known for his role of Captain America, his casting in the role of Johnny Storm is still one of the best choices ever.

Ron Perlman is Hellboy!!
Ron Perlman is Hellboy!! | Source

Hellboy (Ron Perlman)

Hellboy was a character that I was not familiar with at all when the first film came out. I watched it mainly because Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast, Blade II, Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim) is one of my favorite actors of all time.

Since then I have grown to love the universe that Hellboy lives in and have read the comics. From what I've read in Mike Mignola's comic, Perlman embodies the humor, the action, and the sarcasm of the character.

As a side note, Hellboy's director Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) became one of my favorite directors after having seen this film.

Famke Janssen at WonderCon, Anaheim, in 2013
Famke Janssen at WonderCon, Anaheim, in 2013 | Source

Jean Grey/ Phoenix (Famke Janssen)

I'd seen Janssen in the James Bond film Goldeneye as well as a horror-ish film called Deep Rising, so I thought her to be a good choice for playing Jean Grey/ Phoenix in the original X-Men movie.

Her look is enough to make her great for the role, but she is also a great actor and plays the role very convincingly. She did not disappoint and is one of my favorites in any comic book movie, period.

President Reagan (R) talking with Christopher Reeve (L) and Frank Gifford (C)
President Reagan (R) talking with Christopher Reeve (L) and Frank Gifford (C) | Source

Top Grossing Comic Book Films of All Time

According to Box Office Mojo,1 the top 10 highest grossing comic books movies of all time are:

  • 10. Man of Steel
  • 9. Iron Man 2
  • 8. Iron Man
  • 7. Spider-Man 3
  • 6. Spider-Man 2
  • 5. Spider-Man
  • 4. Iron Man 3
  • 3. The Dark Night Rises
  • 2. The Dark Knight
  • 1. Marvel's The Avengers

Superman (Christopher Reeve)

Before The Avengers, before the Dark Knight, before X-Men, heck even before Michael Keaton played Batman, there was Christopher Reeve as Superman. He was the lone silver screen superhero in a time when superheroes had yet to take on the cash cow status that they now hold in Hollywood.

The character of Superman has always been iconic. Yet the 1978 film established Reeve as the epitome of the man in the red cape. His stature and presence along with his portrayals of both Clark Kent, the penultimate middle America boy, and Superman, the gallant guardian of all things good and pure, mean that when I think of Superman, I think of Christopher Reeve.

And despite the fact that the franchise itself fell way waaaay off by the final film, Christopher Reeve will forever be Superman, a true icon in the pantheon of movie superheroes.

A Tribute to Christopher Reeve's Superman

Wesley Snipes signing autographs at ComicCon 2010
Wesley Snipes signing autographs at ComicCon 2010 | Source

Blade as a spoof?

According to Blade's writer, David S. Goyer, New Line Cinema wanted the film to be goofy, almost like a spoof. Goyer disagreed strongly, wanting to make a much more serious film.

Blade (Wesley Snipes)

In today's climate of comic book blockbusters, it may be easy to forget the original Blade film. Released in 1998, it predates the X-Men franchise by 2 years.

Like Superman in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Blade was released when superheroes weren't the 'in thing' and every major studio wasn't clamoring for their own franchise. And it was gritty and badass way before 300, Watchmen, the Dark Night trilogy.

However overlooked it may (or may not) be, it is without a doubt one of the best comic book films ever. And I believe that Wesley Snipes is largely to thank for its greatness. His physicality and icy coldness made Blade truly come to life.

Robert Downey Jr, promoting Iron Man in Mexico City
Robert Downey Jr, promoting Iron Man in Mexico City | Source

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)

Marvel's Cinematic Universe has an impressive repertoire of films. My favorite character in that universe is without a doubt Iron Man. When I was reading comics as a youngster, he was always one character that I never really loved. But these films have made him one of my favorites.

If Robert Downey Jr hadn't been cast in the role of Tony Stark/ Iron Man, I really don't think that The Iron Man trilogy and The Avengers would have been as good as they are. In all four films that Downey has played the role, he has been the standout over and above every other character, the villains (although Mickey Rourke and Ben Kingsley gave him a run for his money) as well as all of the heroes in the Avengers.

Hugh Jackman - 2013 San Diego Comic Con.
Hugh Jackman - 2013 San Diego Comic Con. | Source

Casting the Wolverine

Hugh Jackman was not Bryan Singer's first choice for Wolverine or even his second. His first choice was Russell Crowe. Apparently, he was too expensive. Singer's second choice was Dougray Scott, who later backed out to be in Mission Impossible II. Only after that did Jackman get the role.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)

I have been a super huge X-Men fan since I was a kid. And my favorite X-Man has always been Wolverine. Up until the point that the first X-Men film was made, I'd always had a clear idea of what the character would look like on the screen. In my childhood, I always imagined Mel Gibson playing the role. But that was in the 1980s and the X-Men franchise didn't commence until the early 2000s.

Upon hearing that Hugh Jackman, a very non-action type film star at the time would be playing one of my beloved characters, I was a bit skeptical. However, his casting is quite possibly the best casting choice every made.

Regardless of whether or not he conforms physically to the comic book Wolverine physically (the comment is often made that he is way too tall), he plays the role perfectly. My very favorite scenes in all the X-Men films are the ones with Wolverine. To me he embodies the essence of Wolverine (somebody make that into a cologne please).

What do you think?

These are just my personal choices for best superhero casting. Now, let's here what you think. Leave your comment below to let me know who you think is/ are some the best casting choices in superhero films.


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    • MatthewParker profile image

      MatthewParker 4 years ago

      Awesome list! I haven't watched all the movies from which these casting came from, but I totally agree with you on the movies I have seen!