The Top 10 Best Comic Book Casting Picks

August 13, 2009

These 10 actors not only gave unforgettable performances, but they achieved the often insurmountable task of bringing the character straight from the pages to the screen like celluloid silly putty.

Source: Warner Bros.

10. Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in Superman

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Source: Warner Bros.

By 1978 people had learned not to take comic book movies seriously, especially their costumed villains. Although playing an admittedly more down-and-out Lex than fans were used to, Hackman devoured the opportunity to play the greatest criminal mastermind of our time. It was one of the first times an actor with the charisma and confidence required was given the chance to play a popular comic nemesis. He dropped to #10 for almost completely refusing to be bald for the performance, but Hackman still was a harbinger for future quality casting.

9. Mickey Rourke as Marv in Sin City

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Source: Dimension Films

It’s bizarre that the least human-looking character in Miller’s graphic novel would end up nailing his real life adaptation with a bulls-eye. Rourke looked like he was made of concrete, yet each of his bandages looked like they covered scars that were skin deep. His grit resonated even more after some rocky career choices in the decade prior. Both Rourke and Marv were looking for a comeback. Marv is a perfect example that no matter how impossible it seems to realize someone drawn to look unrealistic, there’s always an actor eager to prove himself.

8. Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs (Rorschach) in Watchmen

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Source: Warner Bros.

The novel that many said could not be filmed also had many characters that could seemingly not be cast. Balancing the duplicity of Rorschach’s gruff and grimy exterior when he’s drawn like Howdy Doody in the book is not an easy acting experiment. Jackie Earle Haley was mesmerizing. Rooting for him was effortless whether he was taking on the cops or a cafeteria full of prison inmates. He was edgy, but believable. Kovacs drives the story, and Haley stole the movie.

7. Gary Oldman as James Gordon in Batman Begins

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Source: Warner Bros.

Both Neil Hamilton of the '60s TV show and Pat Hingle from the Burton remake painted Gordon as some bumbling grandfather who’s biggest challenge was picking up a red phone. Oldman, the chameleon of the acting world, turned out to be just the savior for fans looking forward to someone taking the role seriously. Oldman’s Gordon got his hands dirty, wasn’t afraid to fight for what he believed in, and may be one of the last “good” people left in Gotham. Hard to believe this selfless policeman was also Dracula, Sid Vicious, Sirius Black, and Zorg.

6. Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius) in Spider-Man 2

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Source: Columbia Pictures

Following the disappointingly armor-plated Green Goblin with a Brooklyn drawl, true believers were eager to return to something that felt real. Molina could not only sweep up a Doc Oc cosplay contest, he poured a potent amount of heart into his portrayal of the misunderstood mind. His moving moments restored faith in the genre for many, and he also dipped his eight appendages in what many consider the best fight in the trilogy.

 

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5. Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy in Dick Tracy

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Source: Walt Disney Pictures

When someone produces and directs a film where they cast themselves as one of the most iconic detectives of all time, fans have every right to be wary of the authenticity. But soon we had a hard time telling if they were drawing Beatty or Tracy for the teaser poster. Dick Tracy, the movie, was one of those rare gems of comic-book nostalgia, where the filmmakers don’t try to fix what isn’t broken and go to absurd lengths to keep it purely drawn from the source. This was no more apparent than how effortlessly Beatty walked and talked in the yellow hat.

4. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman (Selina Kyle) in Batman Returns

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Source: Warner Bros.

They messed around with her origin a bit, but it’s changed multiple times in the comics as well. What Pfeiffer brought to the sequel was the sexy without the silly. There’s a certain amount of purring and licking to be expected, but she didn’t force it. She was so hot, she made the Panasonic lenses fog up even while playing opposite DeVito’s mutated Penguin. It’s just too bad that after she obviously did have one more life to give, she was replaced by Halle Berry.

3. Ron Perlman as Hellboy in Hellboy

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Source: Columbia Pictures

It almost feels as if Perlman was just biding his time for the beginning of this career, just waiting to play Hellboy. It’s hard not to hear him utter “oh crap” when you take in the demon’s hulking presence in print. Whoever helmed the horns had to be big enough to tackle the worst of the underworld, but small enough to make his feelings transparent for the few people Hellboy actually cares a great deal about. Perlman looked at ease even under that mountain of makeup.

2. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (Tony Stark) in Iron Man

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Source: Paramount Pictures

RDJ not only was Tony Stark, he is Tony Stark. As many watched the capable thespian throw his career away with substance abuse, little did they know he was merely playing method for the role of a lifetime. We’re not sure how much acting was really required to pull off the egocentric superstar with a change of heart. All we do know is that none of his peers could pull off such a cocky, carbon-copy match. Hopefully all systems are go for a healthy multi-part franchise.

1. Patrick Stewart as Professor X (Charles Xavier) in X-Men

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Source: 20th Century Fox

When the X-Men franchise was greenlit and the script called for a wise, well-spoken, wheelchair-bound cue-ball with an intense gaze Stewart had to be the first to jump to everyone’s mind. It was as natural a fit as you’ll ever find in the genre. Props to the classically trained actor for peeling off his Federation Starship uniform and making us forget his seven-year Trek for a while. In spite of all the other ridiculous adaptations they attempted in the X-Men trilogy, Stewart remained the rock that held the massive cast together. Well…until he exploded.

Honorable Mention

Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake (Iceman) in X-Men
Billy Campbell as Cliff Secord (The Rocketeer) in The Rocketeer
Jane Fonda as Barbarella in Barbarella

Editorial Note:

Heath Ledger gave his all in an Academy Award-winning tour-de-force, but it was as Nolan’s re-imagining of the character, not the villain many know and love from classic DC. Ledger was a good casting call for Nolan’s vision, just not Bob Kane’s. The late actor made such a powerful impression because he went outside the boundaries set in print and made something entirely new. This list aims to honor those cast without compromise, but due to the strength of Ledger's performance we thought it worth mentioning.

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