33. Rogue/Marie D'Ancanto (Sookie Stackhouse, X:Men, 2000; X2, 2003; X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)
As much as I love the confident, sexy southern belle Rogue from the X-Men comics and cartoon and would have loved to have seen that character in cinema, I thought the X-Men movies’ portrayal of her as the scared and unsure younger protagonist was quite good as well. It probably has a basis, as this portrayal can likely be surmised that this is what Rogue was probably like as a younger girl.
The character is definitely likable, as we see and understand the problems and struggles she has as a person who can’t physically touch others. We definitely empathize with her, and her romantic relationship with Bobby and daughter-like relationship with Wolverine are quite well established. She doesn’t get involved with too many action scenes, but we do see her powers used effectively at certain points.
Like so many other characters on this list, however, she is brought down by her appearance in X3. I didn’t really have a problem with her accepting the mutant cure – it seemed like the natural choice based on what we learned about her in the previous two films (although, bizarrely, she rejects the cure in the deleted scenes and in the novelization). Instead, I find it a bit baffling that despite all the character development and importance she had in the first two movies, that she is cast aside as a minor character in the third and doesn’t get involved in the action and is only in a few scenes, having her role more or less replaced by Shadowcat. It would have been pretty effective storytelling to have her powers put to good use during the final showdown after two films of buildup. As weird as that is, it’s not like her limited scenes in X3 were bad or anything, and she was pretty good in the first two movies.
Rogue is the end of the “Neutral but Mostly Positive” tier. Now we have the “Good” tier. These characters I would all legitimately consider “good.” I’ll still have criticisms for quite a few, but some of the descriptions will have nothing but positive elements in them, and the only reason they’re lower than other entries is because the positive elements of the characters ahead of them were stronger.
The “Good” Tier
32. Nite Owl II/Daniel Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson, Watchmen, 2009)
Everything about this character, his role in the film, and Wilson’s portrayal is good. I wouldn’t change anything about it. (Well, maybe the “Hallelujah” sex scene was a bit much. Also his chemistry with Ackerman isn’t all that fantastic, but I put 100% of the blame on Ackerman for that one)
Still, no one came out of Watchmen and listed Nite Owl as their reason for enjoying it. People want to talk about all the awesome eccentric characters and all the awesome stuff that happened, they don’t care about the out of shape guy and how he overcame erectile dysfunction.
Which is a bit of a shame – he has a very important role in making the film better. In order for extreme, unusual characters to be effective, we need to see them interacting with a straight man, someone who is more or less a regular guy. Dan fulfills that role. If the movie was just filled entirely with characters like Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan interacting with each other, two extremes against each other, their characters wouldn’t stand out as much and we wouldn’t have as much of an appreciation. In order for Rorschach to be effective, we can’t just see him interacting with a detached machine weirdo, we need to see him interacting with a regular dude who would react the way a normal person would to a crazy old friend breaking into his house and silently eating cold beans. Silk Spectre also is supposed to play that role to some degree, but Ackerman’s acting isn’t that great as I previously mentioned. Wilson, however, does a very fine acting job, and is very affable and we like the guy.
His character journey is pretty basic – he pines to return to being a superhero, and pines for Laurie, and eventually gets both. Good for him.
As I said earlier, his role in the film is important, he’s likable and I wouldn’t really change anything about how the character was portrayed, but in a list of greatest movie superheroes, the likeable but mostly forgettable straight man can’t rise up too high.
31. Iceman/Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore,, X:Men, 2000; X2, 2003; X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)
I was pretty surprised at how much justice this character was done throughout the three X-Men movies. They could have easily cast him aside or ignored him, but he was a relatively important supporting character in the films who is portrayed quite well.
Bobby was a pretty minor character in the first film, but got a chance to shine in the second. He’s the only X-Men member with whom we get to see his family, and it’s relatively effective. He reveals that he’s a mutant to his parents in a pretty obvious analogy of a “coming out” scene, giving his character plenty of depth. His casual scene where he freezes the soda for Wolverine in the kitchen is a great small character moment for the two of them. His powers are put into use and effective and look pretty cool.
I do have one issue with him, from the third film of course. We don’t really get a chance to see what’s going on in his mind regarding his feelings for Kitty, and it’s pretty unclear. It seems that his devotion to Rogue is sincere, so we aren’t sure if he’s having second thoughts and likes Kitty romantically or if he just thinks of Kitty as a friend and she’s misinterpreting it. For example, in the scene where he freezes the fountain for her and they frolic for a bit, is he just doing that strictly platonically to cheer her up or is he stifling romantic interest? If it’s the former, that’s pretty dumb on his part, as it could pretty obviously be misinterpreted as romantic interest. If it’s the latter, we don’t see a look on his face indicating anything like that, and he’s an idiot for doing it in a place Rogue can see, and they could have pulled it off much more effectively. We’re never really given his side of the story, a telling close up where we see a conflicted look on his face could have done wonders. There’s a deleted scene where he kisses Kitty that was cut, so we’re sort of left in the dark.
Other than that, he’s a character that comes out pretty clean in the third film. He gets an arc where he proves himself to the older members and proves effective in battle, and his long building rivalry with Pyro comes to a satisfying head as we see him overcome his foe by unleashing his full body ice form in a pretty cool moment.
30. Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, Thor, 2011; The Avengers, 2012)
Like Nite Owl, I don’t think I would change anything about this character, how he’s portrayed, and his role in the film, and everything about it is good.
Still, he’s too minor and doesn’t have enough development to be any higher. In the group of six Avengers, he’s the bottom of the totem pole in terms of screen time and development, and it’s not close. He spends the majority of the movie brainwashed and out of commission, and doesn’t get much of a chance to interact with anyone other than Black Widow, so we don’t really get a sense of what makes him tick, and he doesn’t have a personal story arc or much character development or growth. Which is totally fine and justified from a film perspective and isn’t a flaw of the film at all, it just means his character ranking is a bit stunted.
Still, what we do see is quite good. He does get a short humanizing moment when he’s talking to Black Widow, even if it’s more about her feelings. And his skills are displayed in cool and clever ways in the final battle, and he gets some moments to shine.
29. Beast/Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult, X-Men First Class, 2011)
A good portrayal that gets a chance to shine in a good movie. A young Hank McCoy is mostly a character that we haven’t really seen, he starts out young in the 60’s comics but for the most part he’s portrayed as older and wiser than his comrades. Hoult does a good job showing us Hank’s struggles with his appearance, and he sells his pathos about it quite well. His chemistry with Mystique is also pretty good, so we feel bad for him when she goes to sleep with Erik. His intelligence is displayed, and he’s given a lot of development and justice.
A couple issues. First, when he actually turns into furry blue form, it doesn’t look all that great. It’s a little cheesy looking.
Second, I know he was eager to change his feet to be normal, but shouldn’t he have had at least enough self control to wait to take this unproven serum which might affect his powers AFTER the team has dealt with Shaw threatening to start World War 3? He takes it the night beforehand!
28. The Silver Surfer/Norrin Radd (Doug Jones, voiced by Laurence Fishburne, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 2007)
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer isn’t a good movie (it’s not terrible), but that has little to do with the Silver Surfer himself, who is handled quite well for the most part.
His personality, origin, and powers are spot on. This is the Silver Surfer of the comics brought to the big screen, and it’s pretty cool. When we see him rampaging and doing his thing on Earth, it’s relatively impressive and looks pretty awesome. We also get to see his personal side as he explains his origin, and it’s effective, and his arc as he learns to respect the humans is relatively well done (on his end, at least, the parts that rely on Jessica Alba’s acting ability not so much) . Fisburne’s voice works here, and Doug Jones proves once again that he’s a master of motion capture. Jones’ lanky frame was perfect in bringing the Surfer to life.
The movie overall is kind of dumb, not really the Surfer’s fault, although he is involved in a pretty dumb moment at the end. After Doom is defeated and the Surfer’s powers restored, the Surfer defeats Galactus by flying straight into him and doing…something. I’m not sure how, exactly flying straight into Galactus caused Galactus to be destroyed, or put into a cosmic rift or whatever it was. First off, he gets his powers FROM Galactus, so this really doesn’t make too much sense, Galactus is much more powerful than him. And if he had a move like that in his arsenal that could destroy or incapacitate Galactus, why didn’t he try that ages ago? Why did he let all those other alien worlds be destroyed first if he had a technique that would destroy or hinder Galactus the whole time? The film already had its big action scene where they took down Doom, it might have been better to end the threat of Galactus by having the Surfer convince him to spare Earth, like in the comics.
So despite that dumb moment, the Silver Surfer is a cool comic book character and there aren’t many complaints to be had in the way he was pretty faithfully portrayed on screen.
27. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Iron Man, 2008; Iron Man 2, 2010; Thor, 2011; Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011; The Avengers, 2012)
I wasn’t sure whether to include this character or not, unsure of whether to classify him as a hero himself or if he was more in the Commissioner Gordon-esque “supporting character who works with the heroes” role. Ultimately, however, the fact that Nick Fury in the comics had a bunch of his own series and is usually ranked in “Top Comic Book Hero” lists, so I’ll include him here (but not Coulson or Robin Sparkles).
Appearing in five films total, this character is in the most total movies out of any character on the list. Obviously, however, he only has a brief cameo in three of them, serving as the bridge between these movies and making it clear they’re in the same universe. Therefore most of the analysis has to come from Iron Man 2 and the Avengers, where he played large roles.
Because of the fact that the Ultimate universe version of Nick Fury was directly inspired by Samuel L. Jackson, fans were thrilled when Jackson himself signed on for the role, and we were happy when he popped up at the end of Iron Man.
That being said, in Iron Man 2, I was a little cold about him in his extended role. He kind of acts like a disapproving jerk to Tony the whole time, and I couldn’t help be reminded a bit of Mace Windu. His subplot of evaluating whether Tony would work in a team setting seemed a little out of place and too much of a call-forward to the Avengers movie, distracting the audience from what was happening in this one. I also didn’t like how his favoritism of Black Widow and the fact that he considers her a superior hero to Iron Man helped set up her Mary Sue-ness in the film. It wasn’t horrible or anything, and Jackson does a good job acting, he just left me a little cold for those reasons.
The Avengers, however, is his real chance to shine, and he does it well. As the person in command of the group, Jackson comes off like the badass we know Jackson can be, and the character is done a good deal of justice. I especially like the moment where it was revealed that Coulson wasn’t actually carrying his Captain America cards when he was killed, and Fury took them out of his locker and covered them in blood to help motivate the team. A nice little character moment for him that shows the audience Fury isn’t above somewhat tasteless machination to help get the job done.
If he was only in Iron Man 2 and the Avengers and didn’t have the three cameos on top of that, the character would probably be lower. But it was really cool and somewhat revolutionary seeing the character used to bridge the gap between all the movies and really helped give the movies a distinct feeling and amped up the hype for the Avengers movie (which then delivered). So really, Nick Fury was the reason the Avengers could happen, not only as a character within the universe of the film; but as a film element, the reason for the movie to happen. And you have the awesome element of a character inspired by Samuel L. Jackson, who then is played by Samuel L. Jackson, and well. That being said, there are only two movies where he actually makes meaningful appearances and can actually be considered a character (rather than a cameo), and in one of those two, he isn’t horrible but detracts from the film overall, so he can’t rank higher than this.