An In-Depth Ranking of Every Marvel/DC Movie Superhero


Apr 30, 2000
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Four years ago I ranked the big screen adaptations of Marvel and DC comic book supervillains in order:

It had some flaws (I don't think the parameters of what I included were clearly defined enough, and there were no tiers) but I decided to give ranking the heroes a go. This one will be a lot more thorough. What follows is a ranking of pretty much (I’ll list who I excluded in a moment) every superhero who has appeared in a Marvel or DC theatrical superhero film.

Criteria: The character must be a comic book superhero published in a Marvel or DC comic, and the film must be theatrically released.

My sources are the Wikipedia articles for “Films based on Marvel comics” and “Film based on DC comics,” excluding the movies not about superheroes (Road to Perdition, etc). I’ve seen most of them previously, and sought out the ones I didn’t see for the purposes of this list.

The characters must be considered superheroes in general. I excluded characters who were initially shown to be good in the movie but then turned into villains – thus eliminating Magneto and Mystique from First Class, as well as characters like X3’s Psylocke and Wolverine’s Deadpool who are considered to be heroes in the comics but were portrayed as nothing but villains in the movie.

I excluded the characters who were so minor that nothing could really be written about them. The full list of these includes Colossus and Angel from X3, Darwin from X-Men First Class, Bolt, Emma and kid Cyclops from Wolverine, and all the minor and older generation characters in Watchmen who we don’t see in action.

Characters portrayed by the same actor within the same continuity have all of their movies considered together, but if the actor or continuity changes they are considered separately.

There are two films that could probably still fit the criteria that I could not include – the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”(I saw the movie when it came out, but don’t know if they should be considered superheroes) and the 1980’s “Swamp Thing” series (I couldn’t get access to watching it). I’m also excluding serials from the 40s, as despite being released in theaters they functioned more of a TV show and not cinematic films.

All in all, this left me with a total of 68 total superheroes, so I’ve ranked them in order for your enjoyment, and placed them into tiers. It starts with the worst of the worst and then moves up towards the best.

This individual post could more or less be considered the "10 worst superhero characters in Marvel/DC films," starting with the worst, and then the rest will follow soon.

The “Putrid” Tier

68. Catwoman/Patience Phillips (Halle Berry, Catwoman, 2004)


I guess I could have excluded this since Catwoman is considered a villain in the comics, but she did get her own “superhero film” here and the character is ambiguous and had her own series in the past where she acted mostly as a hero, so I’ll include her – and of course, this portrayal gets dead last.

I had the grand misfortune of watching this movie on a plane flight after it came out. What I saw was baffling and nonsensical. The character has almost nothing to do with the Catwoman of the comics, and doesn’t even have the name Selina Kyle. The origin story of her being a zombie resurrected by cats was more or less taken from Batman Returns and had nothing to do with the comic. It was also extremely baffling that they chose to make a movie about a character closely related to Batman, but not involve Batman in the movie in any way. The most interesting thing about Catwoman in the comics is her relationship with Batman – they tried to create a facsimile by having her be involved with a cop played by Benjamin Bratt, but it rings hollow. The supporting characters and plot had nothing to do with any DC comic, either. But, more importantly, this movie was absolutely horrendous and nonsensical. The attempts to show off her body are embarrassing to watch because of how blatant they are about what they’re trying to do. Berry accepted a Razzy award for worst actress after it came out, and while I enjoy her self-awareness, it was very well deserved.

67. Howard the Duck (Voiced by Chip Zein, Howard the Duck, 1986)


I wasn’t sure whether to include this character initially, as its debatable whether he is considered a superhero. Regardless, he is a part of the Marvel comics universe, and does fight villains, so I felt he did fit the category.

Regarding the movie, everyone knows that Howard the Duck is considered one of the worst films of all time. The movie is basically unwatchable – a couple years ago, some of my friends and I conducted a “horrible movie marathon” that included such classics as Troll 2 and the Asylum’s Titanic 2. We attempted to watch Howard the Duck as the third movie, but they absolutely could not get through it and 30 minutes into the movie we had to change it to something else. So, really, it’s not even watchable in a “watch it for entertainment value because it’s so bad” sense.

Here’s the real shame, though: whenever people think of Howard the Duck, they think of this atrocity of a film. But the thing that people don’t realize, however, is that Howard the Duck was actually a pretty good comic book character. He originated in Marvel’s Man-Thing series before getting his own comic, and his own comic was more or less a precursor to Marvel’s other comedic series like John Bryne’s She-Hulk or the Deadpool series. Howard served as a great comedy series in the Marvel line, as he would break the fourth wall and was a great source for humor. A story where Howard ran for president resulted in the character getting thousand of write-in votes during the 1976 presidential election.

The movie completely ruined this by playing him straight in an abominable fashion. The effects used to create the character were horrendous, he had none of the charm or cleverness of the comic, and the plot and pacing of the film were awful. The attempts at humor fell flat completely. Howard the Duck clearly deserves a spot as one of the worst films of all time, but people who have seen the comic understand it on a much more tragic level, as a ruination of a truly humorous and clever comic book character.

66. Batgirl/Barbara Wilson (Alicia Silverstone, Batman and Robin, 1997)


As you well know, Batman and Robin was absolute garbage, and Batgirl was a completely useless character shoehorned into the movie. For some reason she was Alfred’s niece instead of Commissioner Gordon’s daughter and they changed her last name, although I suppose that decision made some degree of sense since the Burton/Schumacher films wrongfully turned Jim Gordon into a mostly irrelevant minor side character who was only in a few scenes so having his daughter play a major role would have seemed out of place. Still, everything about this character was bizarre and out of place. It made sense for Robin to come in with some degree of crime fighting skills, as he was an acrobat. However, in this movie Barbara was just a college girl, so her having martial arts, combat, and tactical skills made zero sense and they didn’t even try to justify it, she just had them and that was that.

She got her suit and equipment by stumbling into the Batcave and having an AI programmed by Alfred say that he made all of it for her since he knew she would discover their secrets and also want to fight crime. I bet Barbara’s mother was pretty pissed when she found out that her brother had encouraged her daughter to become a costumed vigilante fighting dangerous criminals. Silverstone’s acting is also flat as a board, and the character is pretty much a joke in general who participates in several absolutely ludicrous scenes.

65. Steel/John Henry Irons (Shaquille O’Neal, Steel, 1997)


Another movie where the reason for making it was absolutely baffling. Steel is a character directly inspired by Superman who would not be a superhero without him, so to give him a standalone movie that didn’t mention Superman at all was simply bizarre. To make matters worse, he is portrayed by NBA player Shaquille O’Neal, who as you may suspect is not exactly a master thespian. The plot doesn’t make any sense, either. John Henry Irons goes home to his grandma’s house and starts interacting with some young kid who also lives there, and we are never told what the relationship between the two is. He also mysteriously obtains a crime lab in the middle of a junk yard, and abducts his crippled partner from a hospital while people applaud. Yeap. Also, his “metal” suit is clearly made out of rubber. Also there is an extended fourth-wall breaking scene where Steel is supposed to throw a grenade through a hole that not-so-subtly references the fact that Shaq never makes free throws in the NBA. HARDY HAR HAR. Richard Roundtree is also an actor in the movie, and there is another fourth wall-breaking joke where he refers to Steel’s hammer and says he really enjoys the “shaft.” Enough said.

64. Supergirl/Kara Zor-el/Linda Lee (Helen Slater, Supergirl, 1984)


You may be noticing a pattern in the sense that three of the bottom five entries are characters who are closely linked with popular superheroes that are somehow given stand alone movies devoid of said linking popular superhero. At least the Supergirl movie is allowed to reference Superman, giving a brief exposition towards the beginning that he is away in space on a mission and thus can’t impact the events of the film. Still, this movie is a baffling mess. Kara starts out as a Krypton explosion survivor who was on some sort of Kryptonian space station at the time of the explosion (we assume, but it isn’t quite spelled out.) Kara escapes the space station to reclaim some important Deus Ex Machine weapon on Earth, and then she suddenly goes from being on the space station into bursting out of a lake in full Supergirl costume. What? How did she obtain that costume? Why did she decide to wear it and become Supergirl?

Then, even though her mission was to re-obtain the powerful Kryptonian weapon that was lost on Earth, she proceeds to ignore it entirely and screw around on Earth for nearly an hour, enrolling at a school for no reason. A lot of the rest of the plot centers on some sort of love triangle between Supergirl, the female villain, and some gardener guy. There are also multiple instances where Supergirl is trapped in some sort of peril where she conveniently forgets the fact that she can fly. Another example of B-movie schlock nonsense.

63. The Spirit/Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht, The Spirit, 2008)


Although this character originated in a comic strip, he was indeed given a DC comic and was introduced into the DC comics universe, so I’ve included him here.

In any case, while a successful comic strip and comic book character, the character in the movie has literally zero personality. He does his role in the film without displaying an ounce of anything distinguishing, and Macht’s portrayal is flat and shows no emotion whatsoever. Sin City was a quite enjoyable movie, and Frank Miller’s solo directing effort here attempts to emulate it, but Miller completely fails and misses out on the fact that Sin City had enjoyable characters who had personalities. The movie is incredibly bland and forgettable, and the character himself has the same fate. It is also incredibly bizarre that the film (despite being written and directed by Miller, who worked on the comic book series) would include a bizarre character twist that more or less ruined the core of the character – in the strip and comics, the Spirit was a powerless average Joe who fought crime, but in the movie, he is given a Wolverine-esque healing factor because of his returning from the grave. What? A universally panned character and movie, and deservedly so. Miller should stick to pen and paper.

62. Batman/Bruce Wayne (George Clooney, Batman and Robin, 1997)


On paper, George Clooney is a pretty good casting choice for Batman. Great acting ability, a very fitting presence and jawline, an ability to seamlessly transition between billionaire playboy and serious hero.

The key words, however, are “on paper.”

This list doesn’t just consider acting ability or screen presence – it considers how the character was used and directed in the script. And from that perspective, you can’t really get much worse than the Batman portrayed in the all-time film disaster “Batman & Robin.”

He spouts off cheesy one liners. He has very little depth or emotion. He cavorts around in public as Batman for some reason and acts as a public celebrity, going to charity auctions and doing public speaking, destroying the mystery of the character. He immediately allows a young girl with no combat experience to join his crew, risking her life.

In all fairness, the scenes where Wayne interacts with the dying Alfred are actually somewhat decent scenes that give a hint of the long relationship the two have had, and Clooney isn’t half bad in those scenes.

That being said…I think the picture I choose tells you everything you need to know.

61. Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin, Jonah Hex, 2008)


Jonah Hex in the comics is a pretty cool character, and the idea of a Batman-like character who operates in the old west was a good concept. The episode of Batman the Animated series that focuses on him trying to stop Ra’s Al Ghul is pretty cool. Part of his appeal is that, like Batman, Hex has no supernatural abilities, relying on his instincts, quick draw, tracking abilities, and cleverness.

A movie based on him could have been pretty good – his story is simple, and westerns are easy to pull off and can make for great movies with good action. And hey, Josh Brolin is a pretty good actor, and he’s got a strong supporting cast that includes John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Michael Shannon (as well as, uh, Gob Bluth for some reason.)

Turns out everything could go wrong. To start out with, they completely change around his origin – he still starts out as a Confederate soldier who changes his mind, but they made Hex a person seeking revenge for the death of his wife and son. I guess it’s not that big of a deal to change his origin, since not too many people are probably familiar with it, but did they really have to pick something so cliché and copy/paste the Punisher’s motivations?

More importantly, much like the Spirit, they completely ruin him by giving him supernatural abilities. He now has the ability to resurrect the dead for a brief amount of time if he touches their corpse for as long as he touches them. The resurrected corpse is also forced to only speak the truth for some reason. I will give them credit that this is a somewhat unique and creative power – but it has absolutely no place in a Jonah Hex film. It almost seems like they put it in as an easy replacement of Hex’s (non-supernatural) elite tracking and crime scene skills. Oh, and guess who gave him those abilities and what the source is? You get no points for correctly “magic Indians.” The Native Americans who Hex was raised by and interacted with in the comics were certainly not supernatural, so to bring in such a cliché is just stupid.

Also, the movie is a jumbled mess. Scenes, characters and subplots appear and reappear seemingly at random. The characters will frequently show up at various places across the US in very short periods of time – for example, in the finale, the characters basically teleport to Washington DC.

Brolin I suppose has some sort of charm and isn’t all that bad, but the character is quite poorly written. His romance with a prostitute played by Megan Fox is never explained – they just instantly fall in love with each other, that’s it.

It’s also one of the shortest movies I’ve ever seen, I honestly think it’s only an hour and fifteen minutes. The official runtime says 81 minutes, and since that includes pre-title screens and credits I think an hour fifteen is about accurate. So he beats out the next entry since I didn’t have to sit through as much.

60. Green Lantern/Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds, Green Lantern, 2011)


Besides the previously mentioned Jonah Hex, Green Lantern was DC’s first attempt to establish a film franchise around a superhero other than Superman or Batman. And boy, did it fail.

Reynold’s carefree playboy character had very little in common with the straightforward Hal Jordan of the comic book series. In and of itself, this was not a mistake – it made sense that the producers didn’t consider a straightforward adaptation of Jordan to be cinematically appealing, so infusing him with a different personality was not a terrible decision. What they gave him, however, was pretty unbearable.
Jordan embarks on a pretty eye-rolling and stereotypical superhero origin story and we never really connect with the character. It doesn’t help that the suit itself is composed entirely of CGI, breaking our suspension of disbelief.

In addition, the nature of Green Lantern’s powers is a wonderful venue to showcase the showrunner’s creativity, as the ring allows the users to create pretty much anything. This opportunity was completely squandered, however – the most creative thing he comes up with to use the ring’s powers for is some kind of Hotwheels track to save a helicopter. The rest is just a standard “big green fist” or whatnot.

In the initial stages of this movie, there was some controversy as the movie was initially conceived as comedy vehicle for actor Jack Black (who would appear as a new character given the Green Lantern ring, not Hal Jordan). I can understand why hardcore fans of Green Lantern would be upset by this, but I actually read the entirety of the Jack Black Green Lantern comedy script, and it elicited three or four genuine laughs from me. Although Green Lantern fans would consider it a bastardization, I genuinely believe it would have lent towards a better overall movie.

There's one last entry in the putrid tier, and then after that is the "Not quite putrid, still bad, but more tolerable" tier.
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59. Elektra/Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner, Daredevil, 2003; and Elektra, 2005)


Elektra is another character given a spinoff theatrically-released film that absolutely did not deserve it. However, I will give this entry some degree of credit, as the character did not initially appear in her own spin-off film. The spin-off film itself is horrendous, but Garner’s portrayal of the character was at least tolerable in 2003’s Daredevil, thus giving her a higher spot on the list than others. In Daredevil, she’s a pretty standard “love interest who can also kick ass” – it didn’t make sense how she obtained elite combat skills (she’s a standard businessman’s daughter one moment, then we cut to a scene of her cutting up some sandbags with her sais and she’s suddenly in ninja mode) but other than that the portrayal is fine. Not great or memorable, but fine.

The spinoff film itself, however (Elektra, 2005) was pretty much as low as you can go on the totem pole of comic book movies The acting wooden, the plot nonsensical (she fights a bunch of people who have living tattoos on them…wait, what?)

Elektra, with its horrendous acting and plot, rightfully deserves its place among the worst comic book superhero movies of all time. However, this list takes into account all appearances of the character if they are played by the same actor within the same continuity, so some points are gained based on her performance in “Daredevil,” which, while bad, is not entirely objectionable, making her the “best” spot among the putrid tier.

I have a friend who was a huge Alias fan and considers Jennifer Garner one of the sexiest women on Earth, and is more or less obsessed with her. That was part of the reason some of us saw this. After the movie ended, I asked the friend in love with Garner what he thought of it.

His reponse? “She could have been not wearing any clothes the entire time and it still would have been one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.” I think that settles the issue.

Next up:

The "Not quite putrid, but still pretty dang bad" tier.

58. Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds, Blade Trinity, 2004)


The Jar Jar Binks of the Blade movies. First of all, Reynolds is just playing Ryan Reynolds here. His character has absolutely nothing to do with Hannibal King in the comics in the slightest besides the fact that he’s a former vampire that fights vampires (King in the comics is an older stoic man, Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds). He is supposed to be the comic relief, but his jokes are absolutely terrible, usually revolving around genitalia. His brand of humor is only funny to elementary school children, and I don’t think elementary school children were allowed to watch this movie, so why include it? He gets kidnapped by vampires and somehow shoehorns in a joke about the fact that he has a Hello Kitty tattoo on his ass. What?

The funny thing is, Blade himself seems to have the same opinion of him that the audience does. You would think in a movie called “Trinity” that the natural story arc would be for Blade to learn to work as a team, to understand and come to accept working with the others. But no, even at the very end he never softens his stance towards Reynolds and still barely tolerates him. But probably the most baffling element is that Reynolds is then given the task of being the ending narrator, the one who says “Blade must continue his journey blah blah…” Wait, what? Biel’s character was flat but at least she was taken seriously and had some sort of connection with Blade. Why on earth wasn’t she the ending narrator? If the guy who just clowns around making dick jokes the whole movie is the one delivering the "serious" ending narration, you know your movie has problems.

57. Gambit/Remy LeBeau (Taylor Kitsch, X:Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009)


“Hey, so you guys want Gambit to be in the movies, huh? Well, here he is!”

Gambit is a character who was more or less popularized by being a staple of the 1990’s X-Men cartoon series. The producers of the X-Men films 1-3 were criticized by not including him. Therefore, when deciding to create the film “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the Ragin’ Cajun was included in the movies as more or less a throw-in. His role in the film could have been fulfilled by pretty much any other character, but Gambit was included as pure fan-service.

I suppose that Kitsch’s acting was okay given what he was given, but the character was such an obvious shoe-horned in wink to fans that it really made no sense for him to be included plot-wise. Kitsch shows very little of Gambit’s trademark charm, and doesn’t even have a Cajun accent.

One of the most baffling scenes in the movie occurs halfway through. After Logan first meets Gambit and confronts him about his identity in some sort of card club, Logan walks outside and sees Sabretooth. As Logan and Sabretooth have a longstanding feud, Logan is entirely fixated on him. Logan prepares to engage in a battle with Sabretooth, and as this happens, Gambit walks up behind Wolverine to confront him. Wolverine pays no attention to Gambit, and uses a backhand fist to knock him out cold.

This is a moment that is actually kind of funny and effective. However, after a few more moments, we are treated to a montage of Gambit suddenly appearing a few rooftops behind Wolverine and using his kinetic powers to hop across rooftops and then confront him. Wait, wasn’t he just nonchalantly knocked unconscious by Logan a few minutes ago? How did he appear on these rooftops to confront him during the battle with Sabretooth? One of several examples of the movie being extremely poorly edited and bafling.

Gambit plays a minor role throughout the rest of the film, but is still not given nearly enough justice to the popularity of the comic book character. As the “X-Men: First Class” creators have rightfully decided to completely ignore X3 and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” within t heir own continuity, one would hope that eventually another Gambit will appear that will do justice to the comic book character.

56. Invisible Woman/Susan Storm (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four, 2005, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 2007)


“Oh no! Somehow, my powers have backfired and left me standing here NAKED without my clothes! I’m so embarrassed, I can’t believe this happened AGAIN!”

…and that’s pretty much everything you need to know about this character. In the comics, Susan Storm is a strong-willed leader who is often considered the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four. In the Fantastic Four movies, Susan pretty much just exists to find a convenient excuse to appear naked in public…Tee hee! Casting Jessica Alba as Susan more or less made no sense besides the fact that they wanted to add sex appeal to the movie. She looks ridiculous in a blonde wig, and the fact that she has been cast as the sister of Chris Evans (despite the fact that the two of them are obviously different ethnicities) is also ridiculous. God forbid that strong females characters exist in comic book movies as anything other than sex appeal.

55. The Hulk/Bruce Banner (Eric Bana, Hulk, 2003)


The first part of this movie, I didn’t have too much of a problem with. Bana’s acting seemed okay at first, I didn’t mind the plot or pacing, and could ignore the “comic book panel” shifts.
About halfway through, however, this movie goes completely bonkers. The Hulk bounds through the desert with giant leaps – a move taken from the comics, but it looks completely ridiculous with the poor CGI they were using, and elicited many laughs in the theater. He fights giant “Hulk dogs” – not a horrible idea in theory, but the bad CGI of both the Hulk and the dogs makes it looks ridiculous as well.

The Hulk fights lots of fighter planes and military equipment, and hilariously, each and every time he crashes a plane or tank you see the people inside get out unharmed (via parachute, crawling out of the tank, etc) even if the damage Hulk did to the vehicle would clearly be enough to kill anyone inside.

The most ridiculous scene in the movie, and honestly one of the most ridiculous scenes I remember seeing, ever, was at the end. Banner is imprisoned, and the military is fully aware that his condition means that huge flares of emotion cause his transformation into the Hulk. But for some bizarre reason, they allow his estranged psychotic father to come in and speak with him. What? That’s only the beginning, though. His father has given himself the powers of the Absorbing Man from the comics by injecting himself with gamma-starfish DNA, resulting in a wacky blur of a fight scene. His father bites a wire and turns himself into an electricity monster and juggles the Hulk through the air with lightning, then they go into a ditch and he turns into a rock monster, and then something explodes so he turns into a giant cloud, and then a jet comes by and a single rocket kills him.

The movie also ruined the character by making him be predestined to be the Hulk – his father was obsessed with power and genetics so he gives himself mutant DNA, which is passed on to Bruce when he’s born and is what causes the reaction with the gamma. This is a bad twist, as a lot of the appeal of Bruce Banner is the fact that he was a regular guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The movie also wastes a good deal of time in having him try to figure out what happened in his tragic past instead of focusing on the fact that he now turns into a giant green monster.

54. Storm/Ororo Monroe (X:Men, 2000, X2, 2003, X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)


Ok, this one is going to be a long one…
Congratulations to Halle Berry for being the first person to appear on this list twice in two different roles.

This might seem like a bit too low considering that two of the three films this character appears in are pretty good, with only one stinker, and the character for the most part doesn’t do anything that is too outwardly horrendous (Other than “What happens to a Toad when it gets hit by lightning?”)

Still, I have major, major issues with this character, and I think Berry is the main reason why X3 falls so flat.

First off, she is acceptable in X1 and X2 as a minor character despite not having a personality. The hair looks ridiculous, but I suppose that was inevitable. They also don’t really explain the range of her powers very well – there are several instances where she could have helped out their situations with weather control but didn’t do anything. Berry’s acting isn’t horrendous but it isn’t very good either, and all in all the character serves her purpose as an uninteresting supporting character and doesn’t necessarily detract from the first two movies but also doesn’t really add anything.

In X3, however? A different story entirely. This story was harmed by her character. Berry was considering leaving the film, but they wanted her back so they caved in to her demands to give her a more central role. Thus, Storm was made into the main character other than Wolverine, but they forgot to give her anything resembling personality, conflict, character development, or chemistry. She just sort of exists and does her thing.

The first thing that’s really off about her is how she has literally no character flaws. We don’t see her ever have fear, doubt, or development. When the idea of a serum taking away mutant powers is introduced, she immediately and adamantly is opposed to it without even giving it a second thought. The scene where Beast tells her to consider that others may have use for it is the only hint of her not being basically a perfect person. Especially troubling is the early scene where Xavier wants to hand over the team to her instead of Scott because Scott is too overcome with grief regarding Jean (I’ll further get into my problems with the way the movie treated Cyclops in an entry coming up quite soon).

Another hugely troubling dynamic is you have a situation where the two leads of the film (Wolverine and Storm) have literally no chemistry or definable relationship. Most of the movie has them working together, but we have NO idea what opinion they have of each other. Wolverine has a clearly defined relationship with every other character – he is in love with Jean, a begrudging paternal appreciation for Xavier, a respectful but contentious rivalry with Cyclops, is protective of Rogue, makes quips to Beast since their personalities are polar opposites, and we even see him have an arc with Iceman where he sees that he’s a good kid and approves of him being romantic with his daughter figure and learns to trust Bobby in battle despite his youth. With Storm? We have no idea what he thinks of her. They just kind of go around together doing plot things. Having the relationship between your two leads be “co-workers who go around doing what is necessary together but are completely neutral about each other and don’t express any emotion towards each other, positive or negative” does not a compelling movie make.

Berry initially wanted the movie to introduce a romance between Wolverine and Storm – this would obviously be a terrible idea, especially since so much of the film is about him wanting to get Jean back to normal, so it’s good they vetoed that. Still, there are a million other routes they could have taken. Their personalities are different – she’s more straight-laced and by the books while he’s more of a bad boy loose cannon, but they don’t tap into that potential tension whatsoever. They could have had Storm initially not respect him since he’s a wild card who came to their organization and then gain a respect towards him. Even if that would have taken too much time, they could have hinted at it and just thrown in a few jokes between the two of them, maybe have Logan joke with her in a friendly manner about her being too straight laced or something. They could have had them be friends who have gained a respect and friendship towards going to war together, and maybe show some sort of friendly warmth or concern for the other, thrown in a scene where one is concerned and the other platonically comforts the other. We get none of that, and almost all the dialogue between the two of them is “Ok, here’s the situation, here’s what we’re going to do next…”

I’m going to go ahead and put nearly all the blame on this situation on the character of Storm, since Wolverine has chemistry with literally every other character. The movie would have been far better served if they had just let Berry walk away and said Storm was away in Africa doing something, and the movie would have had time to breathe and focus on characters who actually have personalities.

53. The Punisher/Frank Castle (Dolph Lundgren, The Punisher, 1989)


He doesn’t have a skull on his chest. Let’s get that out of the way first.

This movie is pretty much a standard, campy action vehicle for Lundgren, with very little trace of what comprises the character of the Punisher in the comics. The movie could have given the character a different name and never called him the “Punisher” at all and the movie could still be pretty much exactly the same. Lundgren is flat as a board in this, never really showing emotion. The character idiotically refuses to wear body armor for some perplexing reason, even though the character in the comic has no trouble with that. Not much of a personal arc from him, not too much time is spent on grief about his family, he just kinda goes “Gotta get the bad guy,” gets into some action scenes, and then kills the bad guy. Easily the most boring of the three Punisher movies, and Lundgren’s portrayal of the character easily falls below the other two.

52. Dick Grayson/Robin (Chris O’Donnell, Batman Forever, 1995; Batman & Robin, 1997)


This character was decently tolerable in Batman Forever, giving him a few notches above Clooney and Silverstone who only appeared in Batman and Robin.

I strongly dislike Batman Forever as a movie, mostly due to the villains and their plot. My dislike doesn’t really have much to do with Robin. Sure, O’Donnell’s acting in the movie isn’t fantastic, and it’s not entirely clear why or how Bruce plans to adopt a fully grown 24 year old man who is only ten years younger than him, but his interactions with Bruce have some semblance of emotion and character in them. He’s a little whiny and entitled, but in a way that made sense and seemed intentional. If this was the only movie the character appeared in, I’d probably put him in the neutral tier.

However, it’s not the only movie he’s in. I’ve already talked at length about the flaws on Batman and Robin in the previous two entries from it, so I’ll focus this one entirely on what’s wrong with Robin as a character specifically in this one. Any trace of warmth between him and Bruce from “Forever” is gone – in this movie, Robin completely acts like a petulant unappreciative brat in an over the top fashion. He whines about how he wants X or Y, how come he can’t do this, how come he can’t have this thing or that thing. Batman might as well have been partners with Veruca Salt. Dude, freaking BATMAN has invited you to go out and fight crime with him, why don’t you show some appreciation once in awhile? Needless to say, Robin also is involved in all the stupid action scenes and developments on top of that. And as a final point, how the hell is his small mask anything resembling a disguise?

Next up, the "Not Quite Putrid but Still Pretty Bad" tier continues.
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This is great. Keep them coming.
51. Cyclops/Scott Summers (James Marsden, X:Men, 2000; X2, 2003; X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)


(FYI - this entry is the longest so far by a long shot, and will probably be the longest of the whole list)

The first thing I’ll say is that Marsden is a good actor and he is good in this role. He shows a good acting and emotional range, has good presence, and reads his lines well. He’s the first person on this list to actually have a good acting performance, and some of the characters ranked lower than him give in bad ones. But these character rankings aren’t just based on that, they’re also based on the way the character is portrayed and used in the film.

And regarding that? Boy…I could probably write a 20 page essay on the way Cyclops was mishandled in these three films. I’ll try to keep it briefer than that, but this will probably end up being the longest entry on the whole list.

I understand, to some degree, that these movies were more or less Wolverine’s movies. He’s a more popular and sellable character. But still, the ways they used him, even the small lines and details are a travesty.

Let’s start with Cyclops in the comics. Cyclops is the quintessential X-Man. He’s been a member of the team the longest, almost always being the leader. He is the closest to Xavier, and is more or less a son to him. The most critical component about him, perhaps even more important than the fact that he can shoot optic force blasts from his eyes, is the fact that he is a strategic genius in the field of battle. He can see all angles of the battle, he can figure out what’s going to happen before it happens and use it to anticipate the enemy’s moves and shut them down. He knows where his teammates should go and what they should do, and even unruly characters like Wolverine or Gambit have learned that when Cyclops tells them to do something in the field, they had better do it, because he knows exactly what the hell he’s talking about. That’s why he’s the leader.

Let’s start with the first film. I didn’t have too much of a problem with his use here, and it’s the only one that sort of does him any justice. They show his rivalry with Wolverine in a healthy way. The movie is definitely set up for you to root for Wolverine in this rivalry and hope that Logan is the one who eventually gets Jean, to be sure, but at least Cyclops is shown in action, he’s shown being a competent leader. A more secondary character, but he gets his due, to some degree, although his strategic abilities aren’t really on display too much.

In X2, things get a little shaky. Scott is abducted and out of commission for most of the movie. I can sort of understand the need to do this to keep some characters out of it since there was so much going on, but I’m not a fan of picking the quintessential X-Man as the person you choose to take out of action. Unfortunately, a lot of that decision was because of casting – Marsden wasn’t really the best known actor out of the main group, so they took more liberties with decreasing his role. Really, Storm was the character who should have been left behind and took a reduced role (as she has no personality and contributed nothing as a character other than being a person who’s powers they could use in battle) but she was played by the much more well known Halle Berry, so you know that wasn’t happening.

Still, even with a reduced role, there are little touches here and there they could have put in to at least make Cyclops respectable, and they mess that up to a large degree. X2 shows absolutely none of Scott’s strategic skills or intelligence, and in fact goes the opposite way – he makes a lot of dumb suggestions and moves that the others shut down.

The best example of this is at the end, where they come across the door to Stryker’s Dark Cerebro. Cyclops walks up to the door and is about to blast it, but Storm pipes in and tells him that the door is made of a material that would reflect it back at them and stops him. What? Cyclops would never make a dumb mistake like that. The scene should have been someone else suggesting him to blast it and him being the one to shut that idea down. The crazy thing is? In the novelization, that’s what happens! Storm is the one who suggests he blasts it, and Scott is the one to correct her and say that it would backfire. Why was this changed in the film? I’m willing to bet that when it came time to film, it was something along the line of Halle Berry insisted that their roles be switched for this scene because she couldn’t handle Storm having any flaws, and they caved. Either that, or the showrunners decided to switch it because they don’t care about the character of Cyclops and don’t care if they make him the dumb one.

In any case, this obviously pales in comparison to X3. Because…wow. I understand that his appearance in X3 was probably cut short because Marsden signed on to Superman Returns. But still, they could have reduced his role in a way that wasn’t a gigantic slap in the face. The people making the movie obviously had little respect for Cyclops in the first place, and having Marsden join Bryan Singer to bail on them increased it tenfold. First of all, in the beginning of the movie, they have Scott be so incredibly broken up about Jean’s death that he’s lost focus and control. I know he was the one in a romantic relationship with her, but Xavier, Logan, and Storm also had close relationships with her and aren’t broken up to the point of being out of commission due to it, because the people making the movie have respect for those characters. Xavier shows no concern for Scott’s feelings and instead decides to give up on him and tell Storm that she’s the leader now.

And then, of course, Cyclops nonchalantly dies towards the beginning. If that isn’t bad enough, when the other characters learn that he died…no one cares. At all.

“Oh man, Jean is out of control! She even killed Scott!”

“Oh, weird. Well, let’s go try to stop her.”

He’s barely mentioned again, and none of the characters show any concern or care whatsoever that he’s dead. Wolverine I can sort of understand since their relationship was a bit icy, but the others? Storm has been teammates with him for years – he’s led her in battle dozens of times, and they were friends. But that pales in comparison with Xavier’s lack of a reaction. Scott was more or less his son, he raised him since he was a boy, had been the leader of his team for ages…and he barely registers any sort of emotion when he learns that Scott died. What a travesty. I was fuming when this happened in the theater. And later on, of course, Xavier dies, so that’s used as a rallying cry and Scott’s death was basically pointless and redundant. I’m surprised Marsden even agreed to film X3 when the script was so clearly an “F U” to him and his character.

Cyclops was never my favorite character in the comics or cartoon, but I respected him, I knew of his importance and his leadership. The people making the X-Men movies didn’t. Obviously I have very strong feelings about this, but I can’t put him much lower than this because Marsden did a good job acting-wise and the first movie did him justice for the most part.

50. Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd, Fantastic Four, 2005; Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 2007)


The Fantastic Four movies were relatively bad, and had some awful elements in them (especially the portrayal of Doom), but had some okay and even pretty good elements and characters in them. Reed wasn’t one of them, although he also wasn’t egregiously bad. Gruffudd’s performance was mostly just bland and wooden, and Reed just kind of came off as kind of a wimp and had no screen presence. But I suppose, in all fairness, they did stick to the comic book character relatively well, most of the elements of Reed are there, they certainly didn’t bastardize any core elements of his character. I suppose they could have shown him being more of a decisive leader. In the first movie, he just kind of hangs around for awhile and then gets kidnapped. In the second movie, he does a little bit more stuff – his abandoning spending time with Sue in order to work on science projects certainly was a staple of the comics. One strike against him was that it was kind of weird how in the second movie, he was contemplating leaving the hero life behind to start a family with Sue – I really don’t think Reed would ever consider that. How normal of a life can you really lead when you’re both public superhero celebrities? Wouldn’t the public be pissed off that you’ve decided not to use your powers to help the world anymore?

A bigger point against him, however, is that of the five heroes in the two films, Reed is the only one who never has anything remotely resembling a moment of glory and never really has much of a hand in defeating the villains. He gets kidnapped and tortured in the first film and the other three come to his rescue. Ben heroically agrees to revert back to his Thing form in order to come in and rescue him from Doom, Susan fights Doom and then creates a force field to trap Doom with Johnny while he goes supernova to defeat him, Johnny creates the aforementioned supernova and then in the second film is the one to absorb the other powers and defeat Surfer-Doom, and then the Silver Surfer is the one to sacrifice himself to defeat Galactus. Reed doesn’t really do much of anything. You would think that as the leader of the group and as the ostensible “main character” he would at least get some sort of moment to use his powers or genius to help solve the problems at bay, but he is granted no such opportunity. I saw the first movie with a group of friends and the second with my family, and in both instances they asked me why this character was granted the status of leader despite his somewhat underwhelming powers and lack of really doing much of anything. I tried to explain to them that the comic book Reed was on another stratosphere from the other three in an intelligence and tactical leadership standpoint so he was the obvious leader, but this wasn’t really on display in the films. All in all, a bland and relatively poorly acted “leading man” who doesn’t do much and stars in two overall films.

49. Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider (Nicolas Cage, Ghost Rider, 2007; Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, 2012)


First off: these films are ludicrous and a very bad portrayal of the Ghost Rider character.

Cage’s character in these films has absolutely nothing to do with Johnny Blaze in the comics. Cage decides to be an eccentric weirdo who forgoes other vices in order to have an addiction to jelly beans for some reason.

The films are rushed and bizarre. I love how, in the first film, they introduce three elemental demons (who have the powers of earth, water, and wind) and set them up as badasses, and we kind of get excited to see Ghost Rider use the power of fire to defeat them. When they finally do confront him, Ghost Rider dispatches each of them in less than 90 seconds apiece, through some simple action like waving his chain around. I also love how Sam Elliot’s character tells Blaze that he has been saving his own Ghost Rider form for one use in order to confront evil, and then Elliot transforms into his Ghost Rider form in order to travel alongside Blaze through the desert and then just disappears. Wait, what? You were saving the last remnant of your power just to pointlessly accompany him through the desert for a bit but then not actually using them to confront Blackheart?

I will admit, however, that I am not the hugest Ghost Rider fan in the comics. If I were, this character would probably be lower. However, I am a Nicholas Cage fan (in a mostly ironic way), so I can’t help but appreciate movies in which Nicolas Cage does Nicholas Cage things. In the first movie, he’s sort of reserved and bland, and if that was the only movie he appeared in this character would be much lower. He steps up the Cage-iness and hamminess in “Spirits of Vengeance,” however, giving a largely over-the-top performance where he gets to perform plenty of trademark Cage schlock.

Oh, to be sure, Spirits of Vengeance sucks and the character is a complete bastardization of the Ghost Rider character. The Ghost Rider is a hero who doesn’t condemn people for petty sins like telling white lies – that aspect of the character seems almost like it was taken from the Spider-Man villain Demogoblin. It also doesn’t seem consistent – surely every single person he comes in contact, including Nadya and Danny, with has committed some sort of minor sin like any other human at some point, right? It’s also pretty ridiculous that after “redeeming himself” at the end of the movie he’s somehow given the powers of angels instead of demons, and this is represented by his red flames turning blue…but he’s still a skeleton. If he’s now fueled by the power of Heaven instead of Hell, wouldn’t he be given a completely different appearance besides just the color of the flames? Why would the powers of Heaven still make him appear as an imposing skeleton man?

That being said, I don’t know…I know the second movie is horrible, but I still have somewhat of a soft spot for it. There’s something about it that makes me think that the ridiculousness is intentional for comedy purposes. If I was a Ghost Rider fan and purist instead of someone who was mostly ambivalent about the character, and if I didn’t have a blast watching this ridiculous Nic Cage film with my friends, he would probably be lower. He’s still deservedly in the “bad” tier, but on the basis of the second film is the first character that I found somewhat enjoyable.

And now for a very short, 3 character tier:

The “More or less neutral, but overall negative” tier.

48. John Constantine (Keanu Reeves, Constantine, 2005)


This is the first character on the list who appears in (when considered outside the comics it was based on) an overall pretty decent to good movie.

That being said, this is a character ranking, not a movie ranking, and very little of what made Constantine enjoyable had to do with Reeves’s portrayal of John Constantine itself.

The elements of what makes John Constantine a great character in the comics has little to no presence here. Keanu Reeves is playing Keanu Reeves – the character in this movie is the same character as Neo, Johnny Utah, and Jack Traven. The only exception is the role he plays in the script, and the fact that he’s a cynical chain smoker, but personality wise, it’s the same character.

In terms of differences from the comic, the first major difference is that Constantine is set in Los Angeles rather than London – probably because they didn’t want to have to force Reeves to put on a British accent after seeing his disastrous portrayal of one in Coppola’s 1992 Dracula. He also doesn’t display much of the comic book character’s wit and cunning. There isn’t much mentioned of his sorcery, replacing it with an ability to see half-demons and half-angels on Earth. His other critical trait of his adrenaline addiction is also forgone, and his other trait of keeping a wide address book and being well connected of people from various dimensions isn’t mentioned, either. So in terms of representing anything regarding the awesome comics character, this character pretty much fails.

Still, I feel like I may be somewhat biased regarding this movie since I saw it before learning much about Constantine as a comic character. I remember it as being a pretty good movie, with Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare absolutely killing their roles s Gabriel and Lucifer, respectively. Still, I realized at the time that Keanu’s performance and character weren't much of a part of what makes the movie effective, and eventually realized over time that they left a great deal on the table regarding a quite fascinating comics character in favor of a mostly bland standard Keanu protagonist, so here he sits.

47. Silk Spectre II/Laurie Juspeczyk (Malin Ackerman, Watchmen, 2009)


Constantine was a pretty decent-to-good movie, but this is the first character to appear from a really good film. As you can no doubt ascertain from this low ranking, Ackerman’s Silk Spectre II is the weak point of said film. In terms of the script, story development, and the character’s role in the film, there is nothing wrong with this character. Silk Spectre fulfills the exact same (pretty good) character and role that she does in the comics to a T.

My only complaint with this character, however, is entirely based around the fact that Ackerman’s performance is quite bland and wooden, and serves as the weak point of the film, acting-wise. The other actors in this great film act circles around her, and Ackerman is quite bland and uninspiring. The first entry that has nothing to do with the script or the character’s role and 100% to do with the actor, although I will admit that Silk Spectre is not exactly the most intriguing role in a film full of much more compelling ones. Still, though, Ackerman could have emoted much more compellingly than she did in the film.
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46. War Machine/James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, Iron Man 2, 2010)


First, a brief note: Terence Howard’s performance as James Rhodes from the first film is not on this list because he only served as a supporting character and never actually became a superhero in it, and this is a list of superheroes.

Overall, Iron Man 2 was not all that bad, but something about this character and performance left me very cold.

I didn’t mind, upon first hearing it, that Howard was recast with Cheadle for the second film. Cheadle was a great actor, surely he could pull off a relatively simple role like this flawlessly.

Once I actually saw the film, however…mehhh. Something about this character really rubbed me the wrong way. With Howard, you could really see the chemistry between him and Tony, and could see why they were friends. With Cheadle, however, it seems a bit perplexing. Maybe this is partly a reflection on the fact that they switched actors between the two movies, but we don’t really see much of a buildup of Rhodey and Tony’s friendship in this movie and so it rings a bit hollow. And for the most part, they sort of act like they don’t really even like each other throughout the film. Howard had a certain friendliness, charm, and exuberance, and we could see why him and Tony would be friends. With Cheadle, however, he seemingly acts like he can barely stand Tony throughout most of the film, so their verbal assurances that they are friends ring a bit hollow.

Overall, I sort of thought that this character was a bit of a jerk. He acts superior to Tony despite betraying him at one point. Tony does engage in some less than heroic behavior at several points to make this justifiable, but the fact that we are so drawn in and sympathetic with Downey’s great performance makes us immediately side with him and hold some disdain towards Rhodes for being judgmental and side with Tony in their physical confrontation despite the fact that Tony has displayed questionable judgement at that point in time. Rhodes also learns to pilot the War Machine armor basically immediately despite the fact that we saw that it took Tony quite some bit of time to master how to use the armor, in an obvious plot convenience. Overall, a performance that didn’t exactly endear the audience to the character and left me cold, but not egregiously bad.

War Machine is the last character who's portrayal is overall negative. Next up is the "Neutral to Good" tier, where the characters have flaws but left an overall positive impression.

The decent, mostly positive tier

45. Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page, X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)


Obviously the Shadowcats in the first two movies were far too minor to be included. In X3, though, the Ellen Page version is given a real character. And it’s…okay, I guess. A minor character that isn’t offensive, but doesn’t stand out either. Her relationship with Bobby was a bit weird and hard to figure out, and it was sort of weird how Rogue was built up throughout the first two movies and then Kitty comes in and basically takes her role for the most part in the third one, but I’ll talk about that in their respective sections. Page, I suppose, does an okay acting job with what she’s given, and the character’s powers are put on display and used in some creative way. The most offensive thing about her is her juvenilely calling the Juggernaut a “d*ckhead.”

44. (tie) Havok/Alex Summers (Lucas Till, X-Men: First Class, 2011),
Banshee/Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones, X-Men: First Class, 2011)


There isn’t too much wrong with these characters when taken in the context of the film itself. Still, this is a list of “greatest superheroes,” and at some point minor and supporting characters who don’t stand out much are going to be pushed down below more prominent ones even if the minor characters don’t really have many flaws within the context of the film and the major ones have some spots.

They work well within the context of the film – they’re not just thrown in. They have flaws and fears, and they learn to overcome them and how to control their powers so they can help out in the end battle in a satisfying way. Banshee and Havok serve the plot well, are decently well developed and they have their moments, although they’re obviously overshadowed by Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, and Beast and aren’t terribly memorable after watching the movie.

I do have to take into consideration, however, the fact that these characters basically have very little in common with their comic book counterparts besides the names and powers. Which I was totally okay with for the purposes of the film telling a story, but this is a character ranking where the characters are taken on their own, so a factor like that detracts from them.

For Banshee, I’m not entirely sure why they didn’t make him Irish. That’s a pretty defining trait of the character, and there’s really no reason for them to change it. Maybe they thought it would be better if Charles and Erik kept their search local to the U.S., but Sean could have been someone from Ireland who moved to America. Really no reason to change it and could have helped give the team somewhat of an international flavor. That being said, I thought it was a good idea in general to include Banshee in general since he was a relatively well known X-Men member who was usually portrayed as slightly older than most of the others.

For Havok, I have no idea why he was included in a film set in the 1960’s. I didn’t mind it upon seeing the film, but it still somewhat baffles me. They must have really liked his powers and the visual potential of using them, because Havok in the comics is mostly known for being Cyclops’s brother and his relationship with Scott is probably his most defining one. They still gave him the last name Summers and Bryan Singer mentioned that he was still related to Scott in some way, so it seems like they’re probably going to make him his father instead, which is kind of weird. Till isn’t signed on to Days of Future Past yet, so I wonder if the character will re-appear and we’ll find out the answer.

42. Kestrel/John Wraith (, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009)


A comic book character so minor and obscure that no one cares about him or knows about him, portrayed by a musician (of a mostly disliked musical group), playing a character in a universally reviled movie. One would think’s portrayal of John Wraith would place much lower on the list, and not in the “overall positive” category.

And yet, this character and performance was far from a blight on the terrible “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” film. To the contrary, this performance and character was a bright spot of it.

Wraith doesn’t do anything terribly special, but he is portrayed as a cool and competent character who knows what he’s doing. It’s fairly clear that this obscure comic book character largely portrayed a role in the film since the movie-makers saw the visual success of Nightcrawler’s teleport abilities in X2 and wanted to include another teleporter (the same reason Azazel was included in X-Men: First Class), although Wraith does play a part in Wolverine’s origins so it wasn’t a stretch or anything.

The teleporting effects are, despite their blatant use, pretty cool, and does a pretty decent job, and we do kind of feel bad when he dies. They also were pretty faithful to Wraith's appearance and history in the comics, which was nice of them, considering no one cares about him in the comics. Still, however, he’s a minor character in a horrible movie, so he can’t rise up too far.

41. The Human Torch/ Johnny Storm (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four, 2005; Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 2007)


Chris Evans is a good actor, as evidenced by the fact he has another role that’s much higher on the list. And while the Fantastic Four movies were bad, he wasn’t the reason why. I actually sort of enjoyed him in these movies, and thought some of the intentional humor was pretty good. The interplay and banter between him and the Thing was genuinely funny at times and probably the best part of the first film. I liked some of the pranks he played, like when Ben first woke up in the hospital after the spaceship gets back.

The second film, while overall stronger, doesn’t quite have as many humorous moments from this character that worked. I still didn’t find the character to be a weak point, however. I can see why some would think he got annoying at times but I didn’t mind it much, I thought he was sort of a welcome break from the mind-numbingly dull Reed, Sue and Doom, and his personality was pretty consistent with the comics. The effects of him becoming the Human Torch aren’t terrible. Not super impressive, but not terrible and they don’t take you out of the movie.

Still, you do have to consider that he plays a part in two pretty wacky and not entirely well-written movies, so some of the plot shenanigans he gets into have to be considered. I thought the entire thing about them switching powers around because of the Surfer got a bit wacky, and Johnny was on the forefront of most of that.

Let’s also give Evans a little bit of acting props for what must have been a tough job – whenever the movies blatantly made Jessica Alba get naked for some reason, he had to pretend to be grossed out by it.

40. Superman/Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1978; Superman II, 1980; Superman III, 1983; Superman IV: The Quest for Peace)


Despite all the obviously hokey and ridiculous moments, this portrayal of Superman definitely still had a good deal of charm, and I’m willing to forgive a little bit of the ridiculousness due to the obvious fact that it’s a product of its time.

Oh, wait, whoops! Sorry, I got confused. This one isn’t supposed to appear until later. Sorry, I meant to put a different Superman here with the last name Reeve/s.

The real 40. Superman/Clark Kent (George Reeves, Superman and the Mole Men, 1951)


Sorry, this is the one I meant to put here.

This movie was a film, not a serial. It was intended to help create a TV show, but it was indeed a theatrically released film with its own storyline, thus making it not only the first Superman film, but in fact the first superhero film ever released.

So, clearly this movie has a vast historical significance. As for its quality while watching it? Uh, that’s a bit of a different story. Obviously it has to be judged somewhat as a product of its time, and the fact that it had the budget of a 50’s TV show and not a 50’s movie has to be taken into consideration as well.

The plot is that an oil well digging to near the center of the earth causes subterranean creatures called “moleman” to rise to the surface. They’re short, wear bald caps, have bushy eyebrows, and are radioactive.

You’re probably thinking to yourself that in a Superman movie, naturally these creatures come out and Superman has to fight them and protect the humans from them.

Surprisingly, it’s the opposite. Superman has to protect the molemen from prejudiced mobs of humans, and spends most of the time talking about prejudice and acceptance.

In a lot of ways, that’s actually kind of cool. A clichéd message now, but taking a stand against racial discrimination actually sort of meant something in 1951.

That being said, it’s not a very good movie on its own. The movie is pretty sluggish – there is a very long scene involving a mob chasing the molemen around that goes way too long.

It’s also not very Supermanly – he displays his powers enough times, but he never gets into any fights. He gets in the way of a bullet, he bends a rifle, but never throws a punch or anything, and barely flies. A lot of what he does is stand around lecturing people. There’s no adventure here, and Superman isn’t even in costume for all that long. To be sure, acting as a peace-maker and preaching tolerance is definitely part of Superman’s character as well, but it seems an odd choice to showcase that side of his character in his first theatrical film.

The movie obviously contains tons of 50’s B-movie schlock. For example, there is a scene where Lois and Clark are told that the oil well is digging 6 miles under the earth, and Lois says “Why, 6 miles, that’s practically to the center of the Earth!” She isn’t saying that as an exaggeration – she actually is trying to tell the viewer that the center of the earth is only slightly more than 6 miles down in this universe. (and she’s right – the molemen are said to come out of the center of the earth, and come up through that very hole). I find it hard to believe that even in 1950 they could be so radically wrong about something like that. Clearly using a fraction of common sense would let you know that 6 miles is barely a fraction of the distance to the center of the earth.

As for Reeve himself, he does a fine job with what he’s given. He certainly looks the part of Superman, and is stoic and imposing enough. His job as Clark Kent is a little shakier, he doesn’t change his personality one iota from that of his Superman personality. Other portrayals (including his predecessor from the serials, Kirk Alyn, who Reeve replaced for this film when Alyn demanded too much money) incorporated a difference of personality and gave Clark a bumbling everyman charm to help sell the difference between the two. Still, you have to give some respect to this movie and portrayal for its historic value, and the take on Superman itself works quite well onscreen.

This movie is viewable on YouTube in its entirety – check it out if you’re a huge Superman fan or for its historical value. It’s an alright movie for its time, but don’t expect to be thoroughly entertained.
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My top 3:

RDJ Iron Man
Keaton Batman 89
The decent, mostly positive tier (continued)

39. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer, Batman Forever, 1995)


As I said with Robin’s entry, I have a strong overall dislike for this film, but that’s mostly because of the villains, the incredibly idiotic plot (brain waves being sucked out from the TV…sure, buddy), the ridiculous sets, lame attempts at comedy, and so on. Kilmer’s portrayal of Batman itself for the most part wasn’t really the problem, and for the most part I’m trying to look at the characters on their own accord individually. I think Kilmer did a okay job, acting wise, even if it’s a bit wooden at times.

In any case, here’s my reasoning for why this character is overall in the “positive” category despite being in a movie I otherwise hate. One of the biggest problems with Batman films is that it’s hard to think of ways to make the story about Batman, or give him character development.

Really, there’s only three storylines that are really on tap that are used as ways to grow Batman as a character. The first is obviously his origin story, as Bruce Wayne grows and learns to become Batman (which was interestingly enough actually Schumacher’s original pitch, a movie based on Year One). The second is the storyline where he meets Dick Grayson and brings him into the fold, learning to work as a team after working alone previously. The third storyline on tap is giving him a struggle where he contemplates if it’s all worth it and considers hanging up the cape.

As the movie had Robin in it, the movie obviously incorporated the second storyline. However, it wasn’t quite as fleshed out as one might think, and doesn’t drive too much of the conflict – he doesn’t really put up too much resistance to Dick wanting to become Robin and join him, and doesn’t ruminate all that much on the differences between working alone and now working as part of a team. Their chemistry was alright and I thought the story worked okay, but it wasn’t the central internal struggle of Batman in the film.

Interestingly enough, despite the inclusion of Robin, it’s actually the third storyline I mentioned that drives Batman’s character development in this film. Partially inspired by the fact that he sees Dick as being in the same position he was, Batman contemplates his reason for being a superhero. He wonders about why he’s really doing this, and if it’s just out of some sort of sense of achieving revenge on crime in general because of his parent’s death, or if he’s doing it more altruistically because he has the ability to save people and fight crime and uses them for the
common good.

In the end, he comes to realization that he’s mostly come to peace with his parent’s death and he’s doing it mostly because of the latter. This results in him saying “I’m both Bruce Wayne, and Batman. Not because I have to be, but because I choose to be.”

I appreciate that they did that, I really do. It wasn’t pulled off incredibly well or anything, there’s a subplot about a red book that is introduced and then dropped without further mention (as the scene resolving that issue was cut from the film since it involved him interacting with a giant bat in a scene with horrible special effects) but I appreciate the fact that in theory they actually tried to give Batman some character development and a storyline, something the previous films didn’t really do. So, I’ll give the character a deal of credit for that.

That being said, this is still a terrible movie. I can’t give a character too much credit if the end of the movie involves that character stopping Ace Ventura’s plot to suck people’s brainwaves through TVs. Even though I admire that they gave Batman a personal plot and conflict during the times he’s on screen, he’s obviously not onscreen as much as he should be thanks to giving way too much time to the idiotic villains.

Batman himself as a character is brought down by having a ton of cheesy lines (his first line in the movie, as you may remember from every McDonalds commercial in 1995, was “I’ll get drive through.”) A lot of his interaction with Nicole Kidman is ridiculous and mostly based around cringe-worthy sexual innuendo. (Her being a therapist is a lot of what causes him to open up about his feelings to some degree so I’ll give the relationship credit for that, but when it also consists of lines like “It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car.”)

Despite all that, I did like that they actually tried to do give him a plot and conflict and it worked okay, so when considering the character in and of himself I can put him in the overall positive category.

38. The Punisher/Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson, Punisher: War Zone, 2008)


In order to talk about this character, I’m going to have to describe what the movie is. This movie is literally nothing but non-stop, over the top, ridiculous violence to an insane degree. It really never stops with the constant gore and death. The Punisher’s confirmed kill count in the movie (not counting people who have even a slight chance of surviving and only being maimed) is 81. 81 for the character alone, not the movie itself which is also filled with other characters killing people constantly.

It’s not even an origin story – even though it doesn’t keep continuity with either of the previous two Punisher films, Stevenson starts out as already being the Punisher, and the killing starts right from the get go. There is a brutal decapitation in the first few minutes of the film. People are dismembered by grenade launchers. Kidneys are yanked from people’s bodies. Faces are blown off in graphic detail. Elderly, innocent old women get their heads blown off. It is a bloodfest, and more or less violence porn. It is, by far, the most brutal, violent and gruesome movie included in this entire list. The last line of the film is “Oh god, I’ve got brains splattered all over me.”

A lot of people absolutely hate this film. Thomas Jane left the franchise when he read the script. However, it has become a bit of a cult movie, who appreciate the fact that it knows exactly what it wants to be, takes it to extremes, and causes you to stop and say “I can’t believe what I’m seeing right now.”

A little back story: when Lexi Alexander was signed on to direct this film, she had little knowledge of the Punisher and sought out to obtain as much information as possible. She ordered box loads of Punisher
comic books to read, and the first comic she picked up depicted a character having his testicles ripped off and fed to him in graphic detail. Thus, she decided to go with that for the tone for the movie.

Personally, I was never a huge fan of the Punisher in the comics. I understood the appeal, but considered him a bit of a one-note character. I knew that at a few points that he was given titles that were able to work around the Comics Code and get away with more violence, but when I saw this movie I had absolutely no idea that there was a period of time where the Punisher comic was allowed to get away with such incredibly gruesome detail like showing a person getting their testicles fed to them, so I was pretty shocked by this film.

Another note of backstory: When Alexander first met with the studio executives to discuss the potential of her directing the film, it was only a few days after the Virginia Tech shooting spree that claimed the lives of 32 people. To all of their horror, it was discovered that the Virginia Tech killer, Seung-Hui Cho, had a poster of the Punisher in his dorm room and was inspired by the character.

Largely due to that fact, Alexander decided that all of the violence in this movie would be absolutely off-the wall absurd and ridiculous. She set out to make the violence so ridiculous, implausible, and absurd that psychos like Cho couldn’t even come close to recreating it in real life in their wildest dreams.
In that sense, she succeeded.

Like I said, this movie is absolutely off the wall and ridiculously violent in the most absurd of ways. When I first saw this movie in theaters, I wasn’t entirely aware of all of the Punisher’s history so I had a mostly negative opinion of it as I thought that it was mostly ridiculous violence porn that went way beyond the parameters of the Punisher character itself. I knew it was trying to be ridiculous over-the-top schlock, but I didn’t think much of it.

A lot of that, however, was largely because I was completely unaware at the time that at a few points the Punisher comics were given the liberty of being just as ridiculously violent and brutal. I knew about the character and his history in the comics and various cartoons, but didn’t realize that at a few points, despite being a part of the Marvel superhero universe, he was given the liberty of appearing in comics that were so absurdly graphic that it was allowed to show a man having his testicles ripped out and fed to him in graphic detail.

With that said, here’s another important thing to know about the film: according to Alexander, every single action, gore and violence sequence except for one is lifted directly (shot for shot in many cases) from the comics. I can’t verify this, but Alexander states that the scene where Punisher shoots the parkour guy with a heat seeking missile is the only original concept she came up with, and all the others are taken directly from the comics. Over the top gore and violence isn’t my cup of tea, but I absolutely have to respect that meticulous effort.

So, while I did find this movie a bit over the top and a little ridiculous and it wasn’t my cup of tea, I can respect what it was going for, and I understand why the film deserves to have picked up a cult following.

That being said, this is a ranking of characters, not movies. And as a character, The Punisher in this movie mostly exists as a mindless killing machine. We do get some back story as to his wife and children being killed and his motivation, but it’s mostly glossed over. For the most part, he goes into rooms, kills lots of people in gruesome ways, and then moves on to the next room to kill other people in gruesome ways. He has very little emotion or character development besides a half-hearted "contemplating hanging it up" story…and hell, I don’t even think he even has that much dialogue in general. Jigsaw probably has more dialogue than him. The Punisher just goes in and does his thing, and doesn’t even open his mouth for long periods of time. Which, for the purposes of an all out gorefest, I understand is what they were going for and they wouldn’t change anything. But from the purposes of a character, even if I understand the reasoning, I can’t rank the character when taken on his own any higher.

On a final note, knowing about the movie and its history, it is absolutely hilarious that Stevenson later went on to reprise the role of the Punisher one other time….as the voice in a G-rated Marvel superhero Saturday Morning cartoon show.

37. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen, Iron Man 2, 2010; The Avengers, 2012)


In case you couldn’t tell from my Invisible Woman entry, I’m not exactly a huge fan of female characters who exist solely to be sex appeal.

Black Widow, for the most part clearly fits that role – in every bit of Avengers promotional material, the other five heroes are in some sort of heroic or epic pose, while Widow is, invariably, posed in some sort of position that shows off her ass.

If this character only appeared in Iron Man 2, she would be much lower on the list. In that movie, she had no character or development whatsoever, and was pretty much just blatant sex appeal with a Mary Sue complex. She comes in, does her job effortlessly, and shows all the other characters how awesome she is at everything. Ho-hum.

In the Avengers, however, the character is given more depth. Likewise, if she only appeared in the Avengers and not Iron Man 2, she would be higher on the list. She displays some self-doubt and complexity, and is certainly given justice in the movie. To be sure, Johansen’s sex appeal is put on display in a very blatant manner, both in the film and in all promotional material, but at least she has a character that works quite well in the movie. Despite not having powers she more than holds her own in the battles. I liked that they gave her a bit of wit, tricking the mob guy in the beginning into revealing his plan and information and then pulled a similar trick with Loki later to get him to reveal his plan. So for that, she works well and is a good character in a great film. Still, the blatant sex appeal and the appearance in Iron Man 2 bring her down a bit.
36. Phoenix/Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, X:Men, 2000; X2, 2003; X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)


Man did I have a difficult time choosing where to place this character.
On one hand, her portrayal in the first two films is spot on. Jean is obviously not the flashiest character and doesn’t exactly have the juiciest stuff to work with, but Janssen does a very good job. Jean is a calming presence, she is obviously intelligent, and Janssen has a good performance. With a lesser actress, Jean could have been forgettable and bland like Storm, but Janssen gives her enough personality to make her likable. Her chemistry with Wolverine is also pretty good.

I especially like that she isn’t used as sex appeal – I don’t remember any gratuitous shots of her ass anywhere. I also like that she is a solver, that she is smart, and never gets kidnapped, instead being the one to do the rescuing in the first two movies. Also, it’s not too often you see a female character be the one to pull off the big heroic sacrifice to save the day at the end of a movie.

Overall, if she was only in the first two movies, she would be much higher. But, unfortunately, X3 exists.

There are some entries on this list where the character appears in both good and bad movies, and I cut them some slack for appearing the bad ones, especially if the good movies come to the forefront when thinking about that character.

That’s pretty hard to do with Jean, however, considering that the third film retroactively changes everything you thought you knew about the character from the previous movies.

Now, I understand the need for a change in the Dark Phoenix storyline. No doubt introducing the cosmic entity element would have been a very poor choice that would have baffled readers. And, in all fairness, I can’t think of a very good alternative way to do the Dark Phoenix storyline myself (in retrospect it probably would have been better not to touch it at all, although most fans including myself didn’t realize this at the time of X2, excited by the hints towards it like her glowing red eyes and the Phoenix symbol at the end).

Still, what they chose did not work at all. As you know, it turns out that Jean had a buried split personality the whole time, which is dubbed as “The Phoenix” for some reason even though it has little to do with Phoenix’s. Oh, and by the way, it turns out Phoenix is the most powerful being on Earth. By far, not even close. The super duper ultra god level mutant.

The split personality wasn’t with her since birth, but actually created by Xavier when he put blocks into her mind as a child in order to limit her powers since he didn’t trust her. This pushed her elite-level powers into her subconscious mind, which Jean’s conscious mind didn’t have control of , and thus created an alternate personality. Good old timey comic book nonsensical pseudo-science babble for ya.

There are two major problems with this concept. First off, is the fact that Jean’s growth as a character is slightly hindered from the first movie in retrospect. Oh, to be sure, X2 had tons of hints that something like this was going on as her powers rapidly increased. X1, however, had a nice little arc for her where she doesn’t fully trust herself or her powers and doesn’t want to use Cerebro, but she bravely agrees to stretch her powers to the limit and use it in a time of crisis to help save the day. In retrospect, now we know that there was this unlimited source of power in there that was simply being blocked, and using Cerebro helped break through a barrier made by Xavier. Second problem is that it requires a series of bafflingly stupid decisions by Xavier, but I'll get into that in his section.

Now, that being said, this concept in and of itself COULD have been good if it was used well, in the right hands. Hands that didn’t belong to Bret Ratner. Check out this quote from X2 screenplay writer Mike Daugherty (who left X3 with Bryan Singer for Superman Returns) on how he and singer were planning on handling it:

“The idea – you open up with Alkali Lake but it’s completely barren and dried up and there are these odd reports of strange phenomena going on around the world accompanied by bright lights in the sky.”

“The idea would be that both the X-Men and the Brotherhood realize that essentially a very god-like force had entered their reality and that it was causing disruptions around the world – mutant prisons being decimated. I had pitched an idea about a fleet of cargo ships getting torn apart in the Atlantic and you found out that they were shuttling mutants as slave labor.”

“So basically you found out was that Phoenix was going round the world taking things into her own hands and that she had basically returned as a god, which they did touch upon in X3. She had viewed herself as above the conflict, that she was here to end things on her terms, she was basically sick of the fighting and she was going to take things into her own hands and she didn’t give a **** what the X-Men or the Brotherhood had to say about it.”

You can see storyboards for this here:

We would to have to see how they pulled it off in practice, but that could have been pretty cool, right?

Instead, we got a bizarre plot element that really seemed rushed and stupid. What we got was a Phoenix who...stands around. Stands around and stares, and occasionally has moments where she destroys things around her when the plot needs her too.

The character has no real clear motivation or purpose, which I guess could be attributed to the fact that it’s a manifestation of a subconscious, but in reality it just seems like a cheap device to have Phoenix factor into the plot when needed, and stand around and do nothing when needed. The film should have either focused on the Phoenix storyline OR the mutant cure storyline, not both. Or at least, incorporated them together better. This results in a baffling ending where Phoenix stands around doing nothing while the mutant cure storyline resolves itself on Alcatraz – Magneto doesn’t use her to break in or do his bidding or tie into that at all, she just stands around waiting for that storyline to finish, and then once it’s done she decides it’s time to start doing her psychic rage stuff. Baffling, lazy, and stupid.

Like I said, I had a hard time placing this character, especially because it’s a superhero ranking and the film she’s being penalized for is one in which she mostly functions as a villain. Still, as a character ranking, I have to penalize the character for her most defining arc in the comics being an absolute disaster onscreen. Still, she does end up in the “Good” category, as the first two films gave us a rare example of a female superhero who is smart, competent, likable, and isn’t used as a sex symbol.

35. Daredevil/Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck, Daredevil, 2003)


The movie that was released in theaters was okay. I enjoyed a lot of it, but I wouldn’t call it a “good” movie at all. It had lots of issues, especially with pacing, editing, and tone. It had a lot of bad looking and unnecessary CGI, the fight scenes were a little out of whack and filmed weirdly.

Most of the movie is decently enjoyable, but there are two scenes that bring it down. The fight between Matt and Elektra on the playground, in broad daylight, was unbelievably stupid and hard to watch. The ending is a bit of a mess – despite recently being wounded by Elektra, he defeats Bullseye, and then IMMEDIATELY goes on to fight the Kingpin in hand to hand combat. (which he is able to do as the Kingpin sends away all of his security because he wants to face Daredevil one on one.) That’s idiotic, the Kingpin’s reasoning is really dumb and is only there to pretty blatantly tell the audience “eh, we’re just about ready to end this now.” It really makes the audience scratch their heads. Wouldn’t it have been much better to have a scene where Daredevil takes down a bunch of Fisk’s bodyguards and cronies in order to get to him? That would have been much more satisfying, and we wouldn’t have had the redundancy of the fact that there are two one on one battles with the main antagonists back to back.

As I’m sure most of you know, there was a director’s cut of this film released that was a HUGE improvement. 30 minutes were added, but it also deleted and replaced scenes from the theatrical release. However, the director’s cut was never released in theaters, so I’m not taking it into account here. This ranking is based only on what we saw in theaters.

Still, even though I wouldn’t quite call the theatrically released movie good, I’m able to put the character himself in the overall “positive” category. Affleck’s acting performance is pretty good, not fantastic or anything but he is effective. A lot of the character building scenes are pretty decent. There are a bunch of moments where he gets morose and introspective and I thought those were alright, but is also able to show a decent amount of likable humor when he’s in his everyday life as a lawyer. In costume, he gets to do a few cool things, and I liked him overall. The costume I also thought was pretty good. Overall, I wasn’t blown away by him and the movie has a bunch of flaws, but I still liked the character overall.

34. Superman/Clark Kent (Brandon Routh, Superman Returns, 2006)


Another entry that I had all over the map at certain points.

There were some characters on this list, like Jean Grey for example, who are part of both good and bad movies, and I had a hard time debating the excellent high points in the good movies and the horrible low points in the bad ones.

Brandon Routh’s Superman is similar in that I am having a hard time finding a settling spot for him as I have to consider some attributes that reach very high peaks, and attributes that reach some low valleys. Only difference is, the attributes of Routh’s Superman reach these extremes within the span of one single movie.

The highs: I mean, my god, look at him, he’s Christopher Reeve’s Superman reincarnated. He fills out the suit extremely well and looks natural. He has a commanding presence and you really feel like you’re watching Superman when you see him. But perhaps just as importantly, he also (albeit all too briefly) does a fantastic job as Reeve’s bumbling, charming Clark Kent. He doesn’t get much to work with, but I think Routh kills it. I totally understand why people wanted him to return for Man of Steel, even though it would have been confusing to have the same actor play the same character in different continuities. Some of the action scenes are great, especially the one with the plane, and give you an exhilarating sense of watching Superman in action.

The lows: He is the deadbeat dad of a bastard child. The movie itself and its plot aren’t very good. His chemistry with Lois is low, even though I think that’s largely Bosworth’s fault. He is the deadbeat dad of a bastard child. He doesn’t get all that much depth or character development, and it seems like he’s used more of a Christ analogy than an actual character, and doesn’t even seem to have all that much dialogue. The movie is more or less devoid of any sense of fun or adventure. How in the hell did people not think anything of it when Superman and Clark Kent both return from a 5-year hiatus on the exact same day? He is the deadbeat dad of a bastard child.

OK sorry to keep harping on that child point. I know that he wasn’t aware that he impregnated Lois, but still, he obviously didn’t use protection or anything so one would think he might check up on her or at least wait before departing on his oh-so-important space mission. Also, I’m going to bring up a point that Kevin Smith made in his stand up routine where he talked about the movie, in the fact that Superman apparently erased Lois’s memories of having sex with him, so when she realizes that her son has Superman’s powers she is going to think that Superman raped her at some point. Also, Bosworth was 22 when the movie was made, and he apparently had sex with her five years ago…yeah.

All in all, I think Routh himself did a great job and there were moments that elicited exuberance. So much so that I can’t help think back on the character as overall positive. However, I cannot ignore all of the negative points, especially the fact that the paragon of Truth, Justice, and the American way is a deadbeat dad of a bastard child, so I have him here as the last member of the “Neutral but Mostly Positive” tier and can’t quite move him up into the “Good” tier.

Routh’s superman 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.
I'm really enjoying these. You articulate your reasons so well.
Kilmer is my worst batman, by far. Damn he was plank. At least with Clooney they nailed Bruce's philanthropic side.
Disagree with some of these rankings, but they are your opinion and they're well backed up :)
Kilmer is my worst batman, by far. Damn he was plank. At least with Clooney they nailed Bruce's philanthropic side.
I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Kudos :up:
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.
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26. The Punisher/Frank Castle (Thomas Jane, The Punisher, 2004)


This film works quite well as a throwback to the 70s and 80s action revenge movies. It starts off a little slow and uneven – a few plot holes and things that make no sense. The action is pretty good, especially the scene with the Russian, and it ends up being a pretty good film in the end. Very few of the flaws of the film come from the character himself or Jane’s portrayal, which were very good.

First of all, it was a little strange that they decided to change it so that, instead of just his wife and son being killed, it’s his entire extended family. Over 20 relatives who have gathered at a family reunion. That seemed a little bit like overkill – surely having his wife and son die would be enough motivation? Why do Aunt Martha and Cousin Jimmy have to bite it as well? I guess having his parents killed on top of that could be okay, but why did we need to add to that the death of several extras that were never introduced to us who were related to him in some way that we don’t even know about. He emotionally reacts when seeing his wife and kid die, he doesn’t even get too broken up about the random relatives, so I’m not really sure what the point was of upping the ante to this degree, the scene seemed a bit ridiculous.

I did like the character and Jane’s portrayal quite a bit. We get some decent establishing time with his wife and son beforehand, and Jane is likable, and gets some badass scenes. There are some weird moments and plot holes, though. Some of them are solved with the director’s cut (most notably being why he outs himself to the media when people think he’s dead if he’s about to engage in a revenge mission – in the director’s cut its part of his plot to find out who betrayed him, in the theatrical movie it just seems baffling) but like I said with Daredevil I’m judging based on what was shown in theaters. That being said I don’t think the character would have moved up much because of the director’s cut, unlike Daredevil who probably would have raised up a decent amount.

Thomas Jane does a good job showing that there’s a little bit of the Punisher’s trademark deranged-ness and extremity in his actions. Script wise, there isn’t quite as much of a trace of the extremes that make the Punisher the Punisher in this one. A lot of the comic Punisher’s appeal is the fact that you can see that he’s unhinged and extreme – other heroes are wary of him, and a good deal of them think that the Punisher should be locked up. The reader is supposed to be somewhat conflicted and on the line (in a good way) about whether the Punisher’s war on crime is worthy of praise or if it’s far too brutal and extreme and is going too far. There’s real grey in his actions, and that’s part of his appeal.

Plot and script wise, Thomas Jane’s Punisher is less of that and more of a protagonist in a standard 70s or 80s revenge flick. Every single character he kills in this movie, he is 100% justified in doing so. Almost every single person he kills for the most part is a mobster that works for the guy who killed his family, and most all of them were actively seeking him out to kill Castle first. There is no extreme renegade tone, no real grey in his actions – the audience is not conflicted about him, we’re on his side beyond any shadow of a doubt (especially as he also has several moments of altruism). He definitely uses some quite brutal methods, but everyone he uses them on completely deserves it and then some – it’s not like in the comics where he uses brutal methods against people who commit somewhat lesser crimes like drug dealers and money launderers (that aren’t trying to kill him first, and had no part in killing his family) who probably deserve to be sentenced to prison instead, leaving you a bit conflicted about him. The only things that comes close is his initial torture of Eddie Jemison’s character (as the character, despite being a weasel, is obviously pretty helpless, and eventually comes to help him later) and his killing of the former partner who betrayed him, but he’s justified in both those actions when they happen.

That isn’t a flaw of the film at all, I’m just making an observation. It makes perfect sense – this is an origin story, a revenge and survival tale. He doesn’t come into accepting the role of the Punisher and figure out what he wants to go out and do in the world until the very end.

Thomas Jane’s portrayal is what really sells it, though, and we can see plenty of traces of what makes the Punisher the Punisher in his words and actions. The way he seems to get pleasure out of some of the torture and methods he used were sold quite well. I especially liked how he killed Saint’s son by making him hold up an 8-pound trigger bomb with an outstretched hand when he was stuck.

A lot of the reviews for the film said that the film and the character himself were too grim, dark, and humorless. Umm, his ENTIRE family was just killed, I think I can cut him a break for not making wisecracks the entire time. Besides, the film does have some humor, as there are two comic relief neighbors, and the fight with the Russian has several humorous tongue-in-cheek moments in it.

So despite some weird plot holes (why can’t Howard Saint track him down if Castle has publically revealed himself on TV and isn’t hiding at all?) and the film overall is pretty good but not fantastic, Jane did a good job onscreen and made me feel like I was watching the Punisher in the flesh.

25. The Thing/Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis, Fantastic Four, 2005; Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 2007)


Ah, the Thing. Another character who’s ranking I had to grapple with because attributes of the character achieved both high valleys and low peaks. Let me break those down for you.

The Highs: Michael Chiklis’s performance as The Thing
The Lows: Everything surrounding it

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. As I said in their respective entries, I thought Johnny was okay and Silver Surfer was pretty good.

Since this is a superhero character ranking and not a superhero movie ranking, you would think my breaking it down like that would mean that he should be higher. Still, I can’t help but penalize a character for embarrassing themselves by being actively involved in the wackiness and stupidity of the films and their plots.

That being said, Chiklis does a great job. He campaigned hard for the role, and also campaigned for the character to be portrayed through the use of suits and prosthetics as opposed to CGI. It works out quite well – we get used to the character and accept him very quickly, and it looks pretty good.

Chiklis does a good job in the second movie, but it’s the first one (although that film was overall weaker) that he really shines.

In fact, the performance was so good, that if the movie had chosen a different villain (I’m not even going to entertain the notion of “If the movie had portrayed Dr. Doom with justice” – that’s just asking too much from these people) I might have actually considered it an “overall, pretty good” film, largely based on the strength of this portrayal. (in fact, the people I saw it with who weren’t comic fans and weren’t familiar with Doom in the comics and therefore unaware of how much he was bastardized all thought that it was a pretty good movie, mostly due to Thing.)

Chiklis takes us through the emotions he feels at his transformation in a very natural and sympathetic way - we really like the guy and feel for him. The other three got nothing but positive abilities in the accident, but he got disfigured into a monster, and Chiklis sells that rage and pathos, and the tragedy of the character.

The scenes where Ben isn’t interacting with the other members of the Four and he’s contemplating his changes are great, and we feel like they were copy/pasted from another much better film into this one.

And then we cut from those great scenes into “OMG I can’t believe I’m somehow naked in public AGAIN, tee hee!” and “Rawr, I’m an evil businessman with electrical powers who has nothing to do with Victor von Doom” and feel sad.

His debate over whether to keep his inhuman form and whether to change back is also given a satisfying ending within the first film. Although we see all of his struggles, and his exhilaration at being changed back into human form by Doom, we are given the ability to appreciate the sacrifice Ben makes at being transformed back into The Thing at the end of the first movie in order to come in and save his friend. This however, is not accomplished without a massive plot hole. In order to change Ben back to human form, it is established that Doom uses Reed’s invention to reverse the effect of the galactic wave by giving it enough electricity to power it from within his newly acquired electrical powers. It has been established that Reed could not power it himself because he did not have enough of an electrical source. However, when Ben decides to change himself back into the Thing to rescue Reed, we are not given any description of how he was able to accomplish that. He just does it, despite the fact that in order to accomplish this feat he would have to be privy to an extreme electrical source (which he was not, at the time) and would also have to be able to operate the complex scientific machinery, which he would presumably not be able to do as he was inside it at the time. Ben is changed back into The Thing without any explanation at all for how it could be possible. Still, despite this plot hole, this moment is given appropriate weight, and we feel the burden of this decision had been earned.

As Gruffudd, Alba, and McMahon are quite subpar, Ben’s interactions with Johnny are probably the strongest interaction in the films from a character perspective. There are a few genuinely funny moments between the two of them, and the interaction between the two is definitely a highlight of both of the films. A pretty good capturing of the playful relationship between the two in the comics.

In the second film he isn’t done quite as much justice and doesn’t have as much to do, but Chiklis’s portrayal is still good. One one note, I took a little bit of issue with the whole wacky “swapping powers around because of the Surfer’s board” comedy routine nonsense. To start it off, Johnny touches Ben and they swap powers, so now Johnny is a rock monster and Ben looks normal and can control fire. This is played completely comedic. Now, even though Ben went through a process of accepting his altered state in the first movie, Ben should at least show SOME regret or genuine emotion at the fact that he can finally see and feel himself as a human with human flesh for the first time in at least a year. Instead it’s “Derp derp, hey look Johnny you’re the rock monster now LOL hey check it out I can control fire this is kinda cool” and then leads to a series of wacky hijinks (which of course ends up with Sue being naked.) That’s pretty weak.

Still, this is an overall good very good portrayal of a classic comics character, despite the fact that it’s an island in a sea of suck and the character can’t be completely exonerated for appearing in most of the ridiculous moments required by the plot. He’s the second highest rated character who only appears in films that are overall negative without actually appearing in one overall positively rated movie.

And the first, is the first member of the “Great” tier. This is where stuff starts to get really good.

The Great Tier

First, a note about this tier. I had a very hard time balancing out the positive attributes of the five remaining supporting characters (who in some cases are perfect, but don’t get nearly as much screen time and don’t have to carry the film) and the major characters (characters who are in the top three in terms of screen time and importance for their movies, who may actually have more flaws than the supporting characters, but shoulder the burden of carrying the film). Eventually, I came to the realization that the positive attributes of the lowest-rank top 25 “major” character probably overall relayed more positives than the highest ranked supporting one. Therefore, the next five characters to be listed are basically a list of the “top five best supporting characters in Marvel/DC comic book movies,” and after number 20 it’s all major characters from that point forward.

The Great Tier
i. Supporting Characters

24. Beast/Hank McCoy (Frasier Crane, X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)


I’ve written a lot about X3 and the problems therein in previous entries. X3’s Beast is not one of them, and is in fact the highlight of the film, by far.

When the casting of Kelsey Grammer was announced, a lot of fans were excited, thinking that his demeanor perfectly matched the Hank McCoy of the comics and TV show. And when the character appeared onscreen, we could tell our excitement was justified. Grammer nails the role, creating a Beast that is perfectly erudite, sophistical, and whimsical. He nails the Beast of the comics and cartoon to a T. He even gets a “Oh my stars and garters,” in there, which is a bit cheesy but I was happy they put it in.

It’s also worth noting how visually impressive they were able to make him. He’s a big furry blue guy, but he looks natural and doesn’t look silly, which makes it all the more perplexing why First Class couldn’t recreate it to any degree and made him look quite bad.

Beast’s best moment was when he visited the lab where they kept Leech, and we see his hand turn into a human hand as he nears Leech’s proximity. Grammer’s face tells you everything you need to know about his regret and thoughts, how it would be great to be human again, but he knows for the greater good that it can’t happen after everything he’s done as a mutant rights activist.

I mentioned in my Storm review that the lack of chemistry or any definable relationship between Storm and Logan was a major flaw that played a big role in causing the movie to fall flat. It’s a good thing that for most of the later acts that Beast is also along for the ride with these two. His chemistry with Wolverine is great. These are two men who have a very specific thing in common – their powers are both animalistic in nature, and cause both of them to have a feral side that they sometimes exhibit and sometimes try to suppress. Hence the exchange “Wolverine. I hear you’re quite an animal” followed by “Look who’s talkin’.” But other than that, their personalities couldn’t be more different. Logan is the blue collar middle class working man who speaks in a pedantic and straight forward manner, likes to relax by having a beer at a dive bar. By contrast, Beast behaves like a proper, sophisticated aristocrat with refined tastes, who speaks formally and relaxes by reading literary classics. The dynamic between the two and how they interact reflects this, as they tease each other and joke while at the same time developing a strong mutual respect.

I have a lot of problems with this movie, which I’ve written about at length, but I can’t think of any issues specifically related to Beast. He’s higher than the Thing even though we don’t get as much of him because, unlike the Thing, Beast doesn’t embarrass himself by appearing in ridiculous moments (although there is a deleted scene where he awkwardly recites Shakespeare before they go off into battle – if that had made the final film this ranking probably would have been lower). Also, if you aren’t a comics fan X3 is a poorly paced and flawed movie but not one that is embarrassing to watch at times like the Fantastic Four movies are.

So I don’t really have any specific complaints, this character being done so much justice was the best thing about the film, and the only reason he’s not higher is that he doesn’t really have much of an arc or character development, and the positives I experienced from watching a well-pulled off Hank McCoy in a supporting role in an otherwise bad movie weren’t as high as the positives of the characters in front of him.
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23. Catwoman/Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises, 2012)


A bit of a housekeeping note first: In the comics Catwoman has both been a hero (albeit maybe an anti-hero) and a villain and has filled both roles at various points. The Hathaway and (shudder) Halle Berry versions portray her as a hero so I’ve ranked those two, while the 1966 Batman and Batman Returns versions had her in the role of villain, so those two are excluded.

I remember that people were slightly apprehensive when they heard that Hathaway was cast as Selina Kyle in the third movie. A lot of people weren’t sure that she was right for the part, if she was a good fit for the Nolan universe, and why/how the character would even have a role in the movie. The first shots we got of her in costume from the set seemed a bit underwhelming as well.

The Dark Knight Rises turned out to be a flawed film that was more or less disappointing overall. Not a bad film by any means, but certainly flawed and a let down from the highs of Dark Knight. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, however, was most certainly not a reason for that at all, and was called by many as the highlight of the film.

Her introduction tells you everything you need to know. The hobbled Bruce catches her thieving while posing as a maid, and then we see her drop the shy maid façade and smiles as with a well-delivered and insincere “Oops!” She then proceeds to incapacitate Bruce and make off with what she’s stolen. We see what we need to know about her, her chemistry with Bruce, her abilities and personality. And throughout the rest of the film, those are on display wonderfully. Our initial fears were put to rest as the movie continued. Hathaway’s performance was great, displaying all the confidence, ability and sexiness we associate with the character. She makes a great foil to Batman, and provides good comic relief and levity without becoming a joke herself.

Some people complain that her being the one to finish off Bane was cheap – but what would you have preferred? Bane HAD to die...and having Batman kill him would raise a whole bag of worms that the movie didn’t have time to get into. Would you have preferred to Bane to fall off a cliff or some other death of his own doing, like a cheesy Disney villain?

Also, I know there were a lot of complaints about her role the ending, and I do understand them. Bruce runs away to live a normal suburban life in Italy – with Selina Kyle? The woman who is also a criminal, who he’s fought with and is hard to predict? Is this really the type of girl to settle down to a normal life in the Italian suburbs and have kids with and whatnot? My brain raised this issue in my head and I understood how it could be kind of dumb, might not work out, and be somewhat nonsensical.

But, damnit, I loved the hell out of it. People complained that about the fact that we saw Bruce (and Selina) in the café after the shot of Alfred, how it ruined the scene and we should have ended it with Alfred smiling without being shown what he saw. But I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. – if we didn’t see it, we wouldn’t have known for sure that the woman he was with was Selina. I won’t get too much into detail about the ending since most of that will be saved for the Bale Batman entry, but I will say that after decades of seeing versions of the Bruce/Selina romance develop and ultimately not lead anywhere because of various circumstances, we finally got a version where the two of them got to ride off into the sunset together, and I found that incredibly cathartic and rewarding and loved the hell out of the fact that I got to see it.

I do have some complaints and concerns about this movie (although by no means is it a bad movie, just a disappointing one given previously set high standards) but Catwoman was portrayed fantastically and was not one of them.

22. The Comedian/Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen, 2009)


Another housekeeping note: I included the Comedian on this list and not Ozymandius because I think Ozymandius (regardless of what you think about his motives and whether his actions were justified) despite initially being a superhero, plays the role of the “villain” in the book and movie, so I classify him as a villain and would have put him in my super villain rankings had I made them after Watchmen came out. The Comedian, despite being a scum of the earth human being who does villainous things, is always still considered to be a “superhero” throughout his life – he does fight crime, and is on the same side as the protagonists and doesn’t fight against them. Oh, sure, you could argue whether anyone in the book/film is a hero, but within the context of the film taken as a superhero movie, Adrian is the villain, and Blake (despite probably being the most reprehensible human being in the entire piece) is not.

In any case, nothing but praise for this character and portrayal. I could sit here and wax poetic about the Comedian as a character, his “Life is a joke” view on life, and his importance to the film…but if I analyze him too much as a character, all I’m really doing is analyzing his character from the comic book, because really, it’s the exact same. Essays have been written about the philosophies and characters of the Watchmen comic, so I’m not going to get too much into that here. What I’m here to analyze is how the 2009 film adapted the character from the comics onto the silver screen.

And the answer is…pretty much perfectly. To start with, Morgan himself was a fantastic choice – he is the spitting image of the comics character, and his sneer demeanor perfectly encapsulates the selfish, nihilistic jerk who has a detached view of the world.

The Vietnam scene was a great capture of all of this. He shoots an innocent woman who is pregnant with his child, and then turns to Dr. Manhattan and chastises HIM for not stopping it…never mind the fact that Blake was the one who pulled the trigger. Morgan sells this completely.

The Comedian, in the film, comes off as a quite memorable and great character despite a low amount of screentime. There isn’t enough time to do him as much justice as in the comic series, of course, but what we do see matches up perfectly with what we already know about the character.

So, really, I enjoyed the hell out of this character and wouldn’t change a thing about the way he was portrayed in the movie. However, a character who was in only four or five scenes total and isn’t involved in the active storyline can’t be ranked too high. In addition, people who walked away from Watchmen probably thought that The Comedian was a highlight of the film, but not one of the two main highlights of the film. (Those two main highlights of Watchmen are the two most important characters, and I’m sure you know who they are, and they will obviously appear later). So he’s lower than the next two entries on the list, who were both by and large considered the highlights of their respective films, even in supporting roles.
Glad to see Anne Hathaway's Catwoman ranked in with the greats. She is by far my favorite character in TDKR, and generally the best thing about it, IMO. I'd have ranked her in the top 20, but you give her such a glowing account that it's good.
21. Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner (Alan Cumming, X-Men 2: X-Men United, 2003)


X2 is one of the best comic book superhero movies, and Nightcrawler and his teleporting effects are generally considered the highlight of the film.

We see this character in action right off the bat as the hypnotized Nightcrawler invades the White House and uses his teleporting power to take down several secret servicemen in order to get to the President – and it’s one of the best action scenes in the history of superhero movies. I would venture to say it’s probably the best action scene in the history of superhero movies that occurs early on in the film and not towards the end. The ways that he uses his teleporting power in creative ways to remain untouched as he goes through them and takes the men down is exhilarating.

The teleporting effects were so great and such a hit with the audience that two subsequent films made sure to replicating them despite the Nightcrawler character not being present. Using Wraith in X-Men Origins Wolverine made sense as Wraith was involved in Wolverine’s past, but having the character of Azazel (Nightcrawler’s father) in First Class was completely and blatantly shoe-horned in because they wanted to show off the teleporting abilities again. Azazel is an extra-dimensional being with lots of powers far beyond teleporting who was considered Satan himself for a long time, so having him be some Russian henchman for Shaw was a very blatant way of the producers telling the audience “Hey, you guys liked the teleporting, right? Here it is again!” Blatant as it was, we were totally fine with it.

Which is a testament to how well Nightcrawler’s abilities are used at the beginning of this movie. They are used to some degree later on a smaller scale, but not nearly as much. It would have been pretty cool to see Nightcrawler used them in a more all-out manner in the final battle to take people down.

But enough about his powers, what about Nightcrawler as a character? Well, he isn’t given all that much to do throughout most of the film besides provide them with the location of the base and a couple uses of his teleporting to save people and then get Storm into Dark Cerebro. The X-Men find him and then take him along for the ride, pretty much. There’s a pretty funny ongoing joke about how he keeps trying to explain his name and moniker but keeps getting cut off. But he still gets plenty of screen time and slow moments, and we’re able to see that the character himself is excellently adapted.

His defining trait is his faith, as a devout Catholic, symbolized visually by the markings he has put on his skin for every sin he has committed. His speech about how he pities humans because of their ignorance and how faith is needed to survive is definitely his best non-action scene, giving us really good insight into the depth of the character and why he acts the way he does. It’s especially impressive since he’s interacting with Storm in those scenes and not an actual character. He also gets a little bit of a character arc, as he adamantly refuses to teleport anywhere if he can’t see where he’s going at first, but then after Storm echoes “faith” to him, he does what’s needed.

All in all it’s really a huge shame that Cumming couldn’t stand the makeup and they weren’t able to get him back for X3. X3 didn’t even explain his absence, they put the explanation for his absence in a tie-in video game. It was bizarre that they never mentioned it in the film, as the reason given in the video game (after going on a few missions he realized that a life of violence wasn’t for him) actually makes a lot of sense, and I think the fans deserved to know why their favorite character from the last film is missing.

Overall, Nightcrawler is the highlight of a great film, as a character with awesome powers who was also done quite well from a character/personality standpoint. He’s the runner up in the contest of “best superhero in a supporting role” for this list. And number one is…

20. The Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers, 2012)


Pretty much everything about this portrayal is great, and is the source for a lot of the fun in the movie, and everyone considers it a highlight of the film.

First off, visually, he’s quite impressive. The decision to make the Hulk actually look like Ruffalo was a great decision by Whedon, and helps sell it a lot.

I’m sure you remember all the awesome scenes the Hulk had. The fight with Thor, going around and beating up all the space aliens with glee, the scene where Loki is talking about how great he is and then the Hulk just grabs him and throws him around like a ragdoll in a superb comedic moment that had the audience laughing and cheering so much that no one even heard him say “puny God” afterwards. My favorite moment, though, is when he teams up with Thor to beat up a bunch of aliens, the two of them stand together for a moment to admire their work – and then Hulk turns and punches Thor to the other side of the room. Just a small humorous moment to let him know there’s still a bit of resentment from their fight earlier.

In addition, Ruffalo does a great job playing Bruce Banner in civilian form. He’s a Banner who has, to some degree, accepted his lot in life and is a bit more relaxed and less brooding. You can’t help get the sense that he’s having a lot of fun interacting with everybody, we don’t see him ruminating about his condition. He’s hanging out on a spaceship having fun. His relationship to the other characters is pulled off quite well also – he and Tony are both scientists, so we see them bond and become buddies, and he gets some jabs in towards the others. The other characters besides Tony are cautious around him because they know what he’s capable of, and he actually has some fun with it, taking advantage of the fact that he’s a quiet scientist but all these powerful beings are constantly walking on eggshells around him.

Throughout the film, Banner brushes off the others’ concerns of a “Hulk out,” saying he’s in control. In the end, his reasoning for this (“I’m always angry”) is well earned and very clever and a great interpretation of the character.

So people rightfully called him the highlight of the film. A lot of people also said that it’s the best overall portrayal of the character so far, that Whedon is finally the one to get the Hulk “right.” And some even said “Wow, I can’t believe he finally pulled off the Hulk, and it was an even tougher, it was in an ensemble film!”

I can understand why people called it the best portrayal, but NOT the point of “I can’t believe the Hulk was finally done right in an ensemble film, which makes it even tougher.” No, no, no. The fact that he’s in an ensemble film makes pulling off a satisfying Hulk much, much easier.

In this film, Hulk is the “fun uncle.” He’s like a guy who comes by occasionally with presents to visit his nephew/niece, and the kid loves him because whenever the fun uncle comes by it always means presents and fun and never any discipline or other elements of parenting. Whether or not the “fun uncle” can support children of his own is up in the air – it’s certainly possible, but his role as the fun guy who comes around every once in awhile in his nephew/niece’s life is not necessarily indicative of it.

Similarly, the Hulk in this movie gets to do fun Hulk things and we don’t have to worry about too much character development, and he doesn’t have the burden of carrying the entire film. Whedon can pick and choose his spots when to use Hulk to make it the most satisfying. The Avengers had the built-in advantage of “Oh boy, I can’t wait for the Hulk to show up and smash stuff!” – if the entire film is based on Hulk and the film is filled with the Hulk showing up and smashing stuff from the early points of the film onward, it’s much, much more difficult to pull off a moment as satisfying and hilarious as the Loki smash. Now that isn’t to say that Ruffalo’s Hulk couldn’t be involved in a great solo film, it’s just not necessarily indicative of it. (and based on the fact that a certain other character hasn’t appeared yet, I’m sure you can tell that I think Marvel Studios is perfectly capable of making a great Hulk film).

Now that being said, this is not in ANY way a flaw in the film and I basically wouldn’t change anything about the way the character in the film (except some elements of the Widow chase scene, it had some unfortunate undertones). The Hulk is used almost perfectly, and gets a fantastic response from the audience. But I do feel that there may be a reaction of “Hey, this character made everyone in the theater stand up and cheer, the characters you’ve put ahead of him never did that!” (especially that aforementioned character in particular) and believe me, I struggled with that as well. But at some point there needs to be a distinction between great supporting characters, who are much easier to get right and don’t have to do as much, and great main characters, who have the burden of carrying the film.

Ultimately, after analyzing it a lot, I made this the distinction and cut off mark, and Ruffalo’s Hulk gets the honor of “best superhero in a supporting role in a Marvel/DC movie.” Nothing but major characters from this point forward.

The Great Tier
ii. Major characters

Now we're really getting into the best of the best. Some of these characters do appear in bad movies, but with the exception of one character who achieves very low depths in one of their films but is offset by the extreme highs in their others (take a wild guess who that might be) it's mostly nothing but praise from this point forward.

19. Robin/Dick Grayson (Burt Ward, Batman, 1966)
18. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Adam West, Batman, 1966)


First of all, I will take note that the television series version of the character takes no part here, and that I am only basing these rankings based on the theatrically-released film itself. They’re played the same way, definitely, so you might think that it doesn’t matter since the characters are exactly the same as the way they’re portrayed on the show. The only reason this makes an impact is the fact that the full impact of the TV show (its enjoyment, consistency, popularity, and historical impact) is not taken into account here, and if this was a ranking of “superhero portrayals in any medium” these characters would probably be higher based on that fact, but here I am only rating them based on their appearance in one singular 105 minute comedy film. I obviously can’t avoid talking about the show itself during this analysis, however.

Now, everyone loves to “make fun” of this movie. Everyone knows about the bat-shark repellant, about the running around with a bomb on his head, the “BAMs” and “POWs” that come up onscreen. So they mock it for its stupidity, and laugh at the movie. This always confused me. These people don’t realize that they’re not laughing AT the movie, they’re laughing WITH the movie.

It doesn’t get said enough – nothing about what makes this film (or the show) funny is unintentional. They knew exactly what they were doing. This is a comedy. They had Batman grab a can of bat shark repellent in order for you, the audience, to laugh at the fact that it’s ridiculous and implausible that he would have a can of shark repellent on hand!

There are a lot of parodies out there of this show/movie (especially, parodies of the visual sound effects). Like the “campy Radioactive Man TV series” shown in the Simpsons. I never quite understood this. You’re making a parody of something that was already a parody! The Batman series and movie were intended to be enjoyed in their own right, but also served as a parody of old serials, as well as comic book conventions that were occurring at the time.

I mean, just look at this part of the producer’s note in the opening sequence.

And to lovers of adventure, lovers of pure escapism, lovers of unadulterated entertainment, lovers of the ridiculous and the bizarre--- to funlovers everywhere---this picture is respectfully dedicated.

They call their own movie “ridiculous and bizarre” in the first few seconds!

And Adam West’s performance really is what sells most of it. Despite being faced with such ludicrous situations, he plays it completely straight. Everything that occurs is completely natural to him and he sells it with his conviction. Ward is good at this as well, but more enjoyment comes from West so he’s one spot higher.

Obviously, this is not the dark Batman. Not at all. The Wayne murder is not mentioned in this film (and was only mentioned once in the TV show, in the pilot). He’s Batman because, well, crime has to be stopped, doggone it, and he’s the one to do it!

There’s obviously been some backlash against this depiction of Batman. It’s obviously a completely different character than the brooding dark one a lot of people prefer, and people who love the dark Batman think that’s the only version that can possibly exist, they want “the true Batman.” They hate this comedic version and want to sweep it under the rug, so they decry it and want to pretend it never existed.

Since there are obviously two “dark” and serious versions of Batman that are ranked ahead of this one, I certainly am someone who appreciates the potential that Batman has as a serious character. However, I feel there’s room for this version of the character to exist as well, that real enjoyment (albeit a completely different type) can come out of it, and it’s a mistake to decry it and pretend it never existed.

One look at will tell you that, yes, there was a period of time where the Batman comics being released largely filled with somewhat campy and ridiculous romps. Some consider this a chicken and the egg scenario, blame the success of the TV show on helping perpetuate this period of camp in the comics and delaying a more serious dark detective interpretation in the comics, which they resent. In any case, you can’t deny the fact that this version of Batman does have a basis.

In any case, this is about the movie itself. The movie pretty much the same as the show, except on a larger scale. There are a few changes, however. There are obviously no cliffhangers, which the episodes frequently ended with. Another difference is that instead of the BLAMs and the POWs are shown full-screen, they become small bits of text that appear onscreen during the battle screens (so that more of the action can be seen, presumably). The film’s budget is a little larger, we get more vehicles, and the stakes are raised – this isn’t a small scheme that the episodes of the show would focus on. As Batman correctly deduces, the fact that FOUR villains have teamed up means that surely their minimum objective must be…the entire world!

Other than that, it’s the same thing as the show.

Obviously, I had a hard time ranking these characters. The parameters for what makes this movie good are wildly different than any other film on the list – this is the only film that is intentionally a comedy.

And what a comedy it is.

First off, I think my absolute favorite parts of the show are the way that they always correctly solve the Riddler’s riddles and then brush them off like they were easy. We get some good ones here. The best:

Commissioner Gordon (reading a note from the Riddler): What weighs six ounces, sits in a tree and is very dangerous?
Robin (almost immediately): A sparrow with a machine gun!
Gordon: Yes, of course.

And he’s correct! What?

The best scene in the film is the bomb scene. He grabs the bomb and looks for a way to get rid of it, but keeps running into people and things (nuns, a baby in a stroller), sometimes twice. As he is about to throw it into the water but stops because he sees some baby ducks, he stops and delivers a perfectly timed “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!” A brilliant piece of physical comedy. And the best part is, for the most part, people on the streets don’t even notice the fact that Batman is running around frantically holding a giant bomb over his head.

So as I mentioned earlier, these characters were difficult to rank because the parameters are completely different than any other film on this list. How can I rank the attributes of one-dimension characters from a 105 minute work of insane comedy against characters from serious films? West and Ward’s performances are great and carry the whole film, so ultimately I couldn’t have them below any supporting characters. But ultimately this is a character rank, and the portrayals of these two (while perfect) are fantastic comedy vehicles but don’t have anything resembling depth or emotion. And I wouldn’t want them to – it’s what sells the movie – but ultimately I have to respectfully have them below the serious major characters in the great tier even if you can argue that Batman 1966 does what it’s trying to do way better than some of the films later on in this list.
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Greatly enjoying this, good work! Can't wait to see the top 10.
17. The Hulk/Bruce Banner (Edward Norton, Hulk form voiced by Lou Ferrigno, The Incredible Hulk, 2008)


I really, really, enjoyed this film and never fully understood why it didn’t get all that much credit when it was released. I never thought it got enough attention, and it’s treated like the black sheep of the Marvel universe films, probably because Norton is the only one who didn’t return for the Avengers. As much as I liked Ruffalo’s acting, having Norton return and then having the same Avengers script with Hulk being awesome in it I think really would have given people more of an appreciation for this movie.

Another reason is because there was another cinematically released Hulk movie five years prior. There had been some build up to Ang Lee’s Hulk, as people were excited to see a modern big budget adaptation of the green giant on screen. After that movie was so terrible, however, when this one came out it was kind of like “Wait, what, another one? Uh, okay.” Had this film been allowed to be the first real big screen interpretation of the character, I think people would have paid a lot more attention to it.

What we got was an extremely entertaining (but not dumb, and not campy) action movie that showed the Hulk in all his glory, doing things the Hulk should be doing. Hell, the movie ended with an awesome fight scene where he duked it out with the Abomination – pretty much the best possible ending fight scene to a Hulk movie. What’s not to like?

People probably would have appreciated it a lot more if this was also the first time they really got to see the Hulk onscreen. But since we already saw him relatively recently, people considered this more of the “Oh okay, this is the simple action one to counteract the weird one” and never appreciated the movie on its own. The excellently shot first Hulk-out scene in the bottling plant, where the Hulk starts out draped in shadows and hidden while taking out soldiers before finally having a dramatic reveal – as awesome as that scene was, how much more awesome and impactful would it have been if it was the first time we’ve ever seen the Hulk onscreen?

I remember there was a scene in the show 30 Rock where a comic book nerd character is explaining comic book movies to someone, and says “And then they kept re-making the Hulk, and it kept getting worse!”

What? Worse? Did they even see the Incredible Hulk? How on earth could anyone possible think that this movie is worse than starfish dad biting into an electrical cord and then thunderbolting around?

Anyway, let’s get into what I like about this movie, and character.

To start off with, this movie starts off in a way that I really, really wish other non-sequel superhero movies would do (especially if they’re rebooting a character that’s already had a film or films made about them): the movie starts out, and he’s already the Hulk! It’s not an origin story, so the film just gets going with its own plot right from the start.

This is a Banner at a point of his life where he’s been dealing with the Hulk issue for some time. We see how hard his life is because of this: that he has to take careful measures to monitor his heart rate, engage in meditation exercises, etc. He can’t accept a paycheck because he can’t risk his identity getting out there, so he has to be day labor only to get by.

He starts off the movie with a single minded determination to get rid of the Hulk entirely. He’s not conflicted about it – he doesn’t want to use the Hulk to potentially make a scientific breakthrough or anything like he intended for it to be when he created, doesn’t want to use it as a weapon. When Sterns talks to him about the potential to use the Hulk to cure diseases, Banner refuses – the Hulk is a problem, it has to be gotten rid of.

Banner is constantly in a struggle for control – not just his own control over the Hulk, but avoiding the other characters like Blonsky and Ross who want to control him and the Hulk as well. When he finally meets Mr. Blue, the person who he thought could help him, it turns out that Sterns is just another guy who wants to control him for personal gain. Banner just can’t catch a break.

By the end of the movie, however, with the Abomination loose, Banner undergoes a character arc, and he sees that the Hulk doesn’t necessarily have to be considered a negative thing only – he realizes that while he may not be able to control the Hulk, he can maybe hope to “aim” it and use the Hulk as a force for good.

So, in its own way, this actually DOES have elements of a superhero origin story – the story arc of the character is about Banner realizing that the Hulk doesn’t just have to be an unstoppable monster – it’s about him learning for the first time to use the Hulk as a superhero.

Norton did a great job portraying the character, and gives Banner a kindness and personality. We like him and we feel for all his struggles and problems. And even though there have been movies where Liv Tyler has fallen flat for me, I actually really liked her in this one and thought her and Norton had really good chemistry. You can tell that these are people who are familiar with each other and have been to war and back. I liked the moment where Betty got pissed and yelled at the cab driver – a moment that has nothing to do with anything but is just a nice touch to flesh out the character and have you see more sides.

The action the Hulk is involved in is quite good as well – the bottling scene and the ending slugfest with the Abomination were really good, but my favorite was the battle with Blonsky when Blonsky essentially was super-soldiered and was bouncing around everywhere with super agility. A great choice of foe for the Hulk – someone who is small and quick that is too fast for the Hulk to hit. Sure, none of these moments are quite as satisfying as Hulk smashing Loki in Avengers, but they’re all really good, and I have no idea why all those people came out of Avengers saying “Finally, the Hulk has been done justice, and we get to see him doing Hulk stuff on screen for the first time!” First time? Go watch this one! He does Hulk stuff the whole movie!

Overall, this movie is a very entertaining action film, and I really liked Norton’s portrayal and thought his arc and decision at the end were satisfying. I wouldn’t change too much of anything, and it definitely set out what it set out to do: make a fun action movie starring the Hulk. The only reason it’s not higher is that (although I liked the arc I gave him, simple as it was) the character and movie aren’t really all that ambitious.

16 and 15 (Order TBD).


Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man, 2002; Spider-Man 2, 2004; Spider-Man 3, 2007)
Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Amazing Spider-Man, 2012)

Fear not – this is not a tie. I wouldn’t chicken out like that.

However, I am going to do something a bit unusual with these two characters that I’m not doing with any others on the list – I’m going to analyze both of them, and then declare a “victor” at the end of the analysis. (In the listing above, Maguire is listed first above only because he appeared first.)

I definitely did not intend to have the two Spider-Men right next to each other. In fact, I deliberately went out of my way to avoid it – I would have one ahead of the other, and then purposefully move Norton and/or Character #14 in between them to give them some space. And then I would reconsider, put the other Spider-Man ahead, and insert one or two characters between them again. Then I realized I was lying to myself – if I was flip flopping on them so much, far more than any other pair of characters on the list, surely they have to be right next to each other, right?

(By the way, I think it’s important to mention that Spider-Man is my favorite comic book character and the one I’m most interested in, and it’s not close.)

Anyway, let’s start with Maguire.

Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man

If you’ll recall, I said I had a problem with characters like Jean Grey where it was hard to balance out the positive aspects of the character with the negative aspects. All the characters I mentioned that for? Piece of cake, compared to Maguire’s Spider-Man. Where can I possibly put a character that was so fantastic in Spider-Man 2 and then also so awful in Spider-Man 3? Honestly, I was even tempted to cheat for a moment and separate the two into a “Spider-Man from Spider-Man 1 and 2” and put him in the Top 10, and then put “Spider-Man from Spider-Man 3” near the bottom, at least in the bad section if not even in putrid.

There are two scenes that I keep coming back to in my mind (one good, one bad) that exemplify this dichotomy.

The first is a small moment you might not even remember. In Spider-Man 2, he’s at the dinner party, he just had to watch Mary Jane get engaged, his boss is angry at him. He sees a waiter with a plate of hors d'oeuvres in front of him at the party. He reaches out to grab it – and someone else snipes the last bit of food right before he can reach it, and he frowns. A perfect little example of the Parker luck. Nothing is going right for him, not even the small things. That one shot tells you everything you need to know about this character at this stage without any dialogue, and all within the span of two seconds. It’s a small moment, but it’s one that really made me really think “Man, they are just nailing this, even the small details.”

On the flip side of the coin is a scene I’m sure you all remember. He goes to a nightclub. He does an unfathomably ridiculous dance that has no place in this film, or any other film except maybe “The Mask.” And then we abruptly go from this zany, off-the wall and ridiculously wacky scene…into Peter hitting his girlfriend, and then brooding silently on a wall.

Spider-Man 2 is one of the best superhero films ever made. Spider-Man 3 is a ridiculously stupid, convoluted mess, and to me, it is bar none the most disappointing superhero movie sequel ever made. (and considering you’ve basically seen me write an essay about the flaws of X3 by this point, that should tell you something).

There are other characters on this list, higher than this, who appear in bad movies. Heck,
there are two characters higher than this who appear as characters in four movies total, with only two of them being good and the other two being quite bad. But I can’t come anywhere close to punishing those characters for their bad movies. Close your eyes and think about Christopher Reeve as Superman. What are you thinking of? Whatever image it is, I bet it’s not him interacting with Richard Pryor or fighting Nuclear Man. No one thinks about Superman 3 or The Quest for Peace, it’s not a part of the public consciousness, we think of the good moments, the bad films are swept under the rug in our minds (and mine as well).

For that matter, what happened when Wolverine showed up for a cameo in First Class? The audience cheered! We love Wolverine! Who gives a crap about the fact that he was in X3 and X-Men Origins? No one remembers those! And when Tony Stark showed up in the Avengers movie and was his usual charming self, did ANYONE think or care about the fact that Iron Man 2 was a letdown?

Now close your eyes and think about Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. I hope you’re lucky enough that you get a vision from Spider-Man 2 or even Spider-Man 1. Because for me, I think about him in his black suit dancing down the street in ridiculous fashion. (Sometimes it’s his outrageously stupid looking crying at Harry’s death). And I know for sure I’m not alone, because it seems like Spider-Man 3 caused the public consciousness to shun the first two movies as well.

And there’s a reason for it. Those other bad films with good characters that I mentioned, they didn’t basically ruin the character himself. I mean, hell, you could argue that Superman 3 and 4 are actually worse films cinematically than Spider-Man 3, but that was largely because of the other horrible crap going on, they didn’t ruin the character of Superman.

Spider-Man 3 had the character involved in scenes that were absolutely horrendous and downright embarrassing to watch, and were 100% caused by the character himself. It also had him hit his girlfriend. (Okay, maybe it was an accident, but still, it happened, the script made the choice of having him hit her). And now everyone thinks of Emo Peter.

And you know what’s even worse? The third film actually made it so the first two films weren’t quite as enjoyable anymore. You know how I said if I separated Peter from Part 3 from the Peter from the first two that S1/S2 Peter would be in the top ten? If Spider-Man 3 had never been made, the S1/S2 Peter would be in the top five. But the third film actually makes the first two films worse. The over the top, hokey elements that we found so charming and likable from the first two films weren’t quite as enjoyable anymore after we’ve seen them stretched to their perverted and embarrassing extremes. In that sense Spider-Man 3 as a film has a lot in common with the alien symbiote featured in it.

So, with all that being said, the fact that he’s still in the top 16 and maybe 15 in this list should tell you everything you need to know about how awesome Spider-Man 2 is.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the strengths of it. It was really the first superhero movie of this era to come out and be universally applauded by critics everywhere. (Oh, sure, X2 had come out the year prior to overwhelmingly positive reviews, but there was still a sense of “Oh, this is quite good…for a comic book movie.” Spider-Man 2 came out and everyone said “Regardless of genre, this is a fantastic film.”

A lot of what makes the film so good is Doc Ock and the other supporting characters like Jameson. But that’s not entirely relevant here, this is about the character of Peter Parker.

When it was announced that the villain for the film was Dr. Octopus and no one else, I was slightly confused. Doc Ock was a pretty simple villain in the comics – his origin and motivations are simple, and probably not enough to sustain an entire film. I thought it might have worked better if they flip-flopped Ock and Green Goblin so that Ock was the one in the origin film instead – he was a much simpler character that would have fit into the origin story perfectly, and Goblin was a richer character so it would have made more sense to have his arc be in a film where it could be fleshed out and given more justice.

What I didn’t realize until I saw the film, however, was that it made sense to have a simpler villain (although he is obviously greatly fleshed out in the movie as opposed to the comics character) because Spider-Man 2 is a movie that is so deeply about Peter Parker. So, yeah, Ock was great, Jameson was great, but Maguire’s Peter Parker himself is what made the movie excellent, so he gets most of the credit. Sure, he’s a little dopey, corny, and whiny at times – but that’s also a big part of what makes him human. He was raised by an older generation of parental figures, it makes perfect sense that some of his attitudes seem a bit old-timey and anachronistic. We see his struggles, his fears, and we have a blast at each moment even if the film seems a bit too corny at times.

Obviously I’m oversimplifying things a bit here – Spider-Man 2 had some bad moments regarding Peter (some of the stuff with Mary Jane, some of the scenes got a bit too cheesy) and Spider-Man 3 had some good ones (the fight with Sandman in the subway was awesome). But for the most part it’s a battle of two extremes. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve hardly talked about Spider-Man 1, for good reason. This is a battle of two heavyweights, one on the side of good, one on the side of evil. Spider-Man 1 is a flawed but overall good set up film whose main purpose was setting us up for the awesomeness of Spider-Man 2, using it as some sort of tiebreaker would be like settling the Superman vs. Batman debate by saying that “Batman has a pretty competent sidekick named Robin in his corner, so he wins.” So let’s analyze Garfield instead.
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Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man

When I first heard that they were rebooting the franchise so soon, I was slightly angry and saw it as a pretty cheap money grab. A movie that shouldn’t even exist, and was only going to exist because of the stupid “have to make a movie or lose the rights” laws. I WANTED Spider-Man to revert to Marvel so I could see their take on it and have him interact with Iron Man and the Hulk on the silver screen. Still, when Garfield was cast, I was cautiously optimistic, as I thought he was great in Social Network and other works and could see him as Peter Parker.

I really hoped against hope that this film would NOT be an origin movie. Everyone knew Spider-Man’s origin, everyone already knows what happened, I desperately wanted this to be a movie where it started with him already being Spider-Man and told its own new storyline. And then…I heard that it was going to be the origin again. I was pissed. We already saw this stuff not that long ago, are you seriously going to make me sit through the spider bite and him failing to nab Uncle Ben’s killer and all that crap AGAIN? Because of the original comics, the movie, the Ultimate version, and the various Spidey cartoon shows, I had seen that story a million times and wanted something new, like they did with Incredible Hulk where they started en media res.

So despite the fact that Spider-Man is my favorite comic character by far, heading into the summer of 2012, it was actually my least anticipated comic book movie between itself, Avengers, and TDKR. I just thought it was so unnecessary and blatantly made for commercial and business purposes that I felt bad about it.

Despite that, it’s not like there was any doubt that I was going to see it. So my friends and I went to the theatres and saw it.

And I loved the hell out of it.

Say what you will about the producers and their nefarious intentions, Marc Webb and the other people involved in this film did their damndest to create a great Spider-Man film, and they succeeded.

In all fairness, I may enjoy this film more than most because the two biggest complaints about the film I heard about it were things I was totally okay with. Both of these complaints involve “dropped subplots.” The first “dropped subplot” is about the mystery of Peter’s parents. I didn’t consider this a dropped subplot at all, and thought it was very clear that it was a mystery they were saving for the sequel. The second “dropped subplot” is the fact that he gives up on finding Uncle Ben’s killer and never actually finds him – again, I never thought that this was a “dropped subplot,” and thought they resolved it and thoroughly enjoyed their take on it – after he saves the kid from danger, he decides that his revenge on Uncle Ben’s killer doesn’t matter, and gives up this pursuit in order to pursue a life of general heroism.

I also greatly enjoyed the portrayal of Peter Parker, in a modern update. He’s not a 60’s era total nerd – he’s a loner, sure, but he’s a longer because he likes to skateboard by himself while listening to Coldplay instead of the fact that he’s a science geek with a pocket protector. And he shows himself to be noble – he gets beaten up by the jocks not because he’s the ultimate nerd on the bottom of the totem pole, but because he’s the longer guy who speaks up for the nerds on the bottom of the totem pole who are getting beaten up. This, I thought, was a great change. (on a side note, even though this doesn’t relate to the Parker character, I absolutely loved the fact that we actually see a character arc for Flash Thompson in this film, albeit briefly – as evidenced by the current excellent Venom series, Thompson is actually a very compelling character with a lot of depth, even before he became Venom, and the Raimi films portray him as a one-note stock character while this film actually gives him some depth as he shows Peter a great deal of sympathy after Uncle Ben’s death. What a wonderful touch to add to the movie.) I liked the changes regarding Peter Parker, but mostly really liked his take on Spider-Man, finally giving us a Spidey on film who actually makes funny quips. I liked the changes regarding Peter Parker, but mostly really liked his take on Spider-Man, finally giving us a Spidey on film who actually makes funny quips. In addition, his chemistry with Emma Stone was far superior to Maguire's chemistry and relationship with Dunst.

In many ways, this film was both hamstrung and also aided by the fact that there was an exist Spider-Man origin film released ten years ago. It was hamstrung by it in the fact that it did its best to avoid recreating scenes that happened the 2002 version of the film, so they tinkered with elements of his origin a bit. Peter never becomes a wrestler, and the circumstances causing him to not stop the burglar are completely different and involve a greedy shopkeeper not letting him buy milk instead. In addition, he never actually stops Uncle Ben’s killer, likely because they didn’t want to recreate a scene that we already saw. So in some cases this is a bit weird, and the fact that he never actually catches the killer was a big negative point in a lot of people’s reviews. In both cases I think they handled the maneuvering around the classic scenes pretty deftly, although maybe not allowed to go to their full emotional impact.

So while those elements slightly hamstrung it, the movie’s obvious pre-existing knowledge of the Raimi films and their flaws also served as a benefit.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the film…hell, probably the thing I enjoyed the most about the film…was how damn efficient the relationships between the characters are. There is no hemming or hawing or pausing or silent knowing looks between them, they all get to the point and express what they want, and very quickly, and for the most part, get it. There is no long, drawn-out “will they or won’t they get together?” drama between Peter and Gwen…they are attracted to each other, so instead of pussyfooting around, they start dating almost immediately. Yes, thank you! And then, she starts to suspect that he is Spider-Man, and he realizes his identity as Spider-Man might complicate their relationship. Uh oh, will this be another drawn out thing where he has to protect his identity, and he has to hide this side of himself from her….no, it’s not! He just comes out and tells her…almost immediately! And she’s cool with it! Yes, thank you! You just accomplished in 45 minutes what the Raimi films took four hours to do. Later on in the film, Peter, with knowledge that a lizard villain has been terrorizing the city, visits Dr. Connors, suspects some suspicious activity and then sees a lizard rat. Is he going to take this into his own hands? No, he goes to visit the police to tell them about it like a normal person would! Thank you! And he tells the police of this suspected connection, and George Stacy dismisses him, saying he thinks Curt Connors is a good man…okay, typically contrived “force the hero to work on his own” stuff. I was fine with it. But then…Stacy turns towards the other police officers and decides “Hey, that sounded a bit off, but just in case he has a point, let’s investigate Curt Connors anyway.” Hell. yes. No contrivances or misunderstandings here, let’s cut through the BS.

But the best moment, by far, comes at the end. Captain Stacy, as he lays dying, tells Peter to respect his dying wishes and stay away from Gwen because of the danger. Respecting him, Peter keeps his distance, not attending his funeral and staying away from Gwen.

And then Gwen comes to him. She asks where he has been, why he hasn’t been there for her…he gives some cryptic answer…

And then she IMMEDIATELY figures out exactly why he’s giving that answer! “Oh, my father told you to stay away from me as he was dying, didn’t he?” Oh. Hell. Yes. I almost did a fist pump at this moment.

Ok, so now we’re left at a crossroads. Even though Gwen knows the reason Peter wants to keep his distance from her, will he actually do it? Will this be something that keeps them apart, that we will be left wondering about in the next movie? Nope! Peter comes to her and says “You know, rules are meant to be broken.” No “will they or won’t they get together?” crap. He comes to her and says they should be together. These characters are too smart to fall for any faux-relationship drama bullcrap.

How can you even compare this against the Raimi films? It’s not fair. It’s like putting a boxer with no knowledge of his opponent against an opponent who has been able to meticulously study the first boxer and observing his weak points, who then attacks him brutally with full knowledge of how to do so. The Amazing Spider-Man has studied its opponent, and its weak points, and can cut through them with a knife, while the Raimi films had no idea what hit them.

The Verdict

As I said above, I loved the Amazing Spider-Man, even thought it was a bit stunted by the presence of Spider-Man 1.
Still, this comparison seems a bit unfair, as the Garfield version only appeared in one film while the other appeared in three (one pretty good, one excellent, and one bad).

I guess it would be easy to say that Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 cancel each other out, and that the verdict is left to determining which is the better film between Spider-Man 1 and Amazing Spider-Man.

To that end, I say that Amazing Spider-Man is a better film than Spider-Man 1. I actually thought Spider-Man 1 was a deeply flawed movie…although most of that was because of the cheesiness of the Green Goblin himself and not the Spider-Man character. To be sure, Spidey uttered lines like “You’re the one who’s out, Gobby – out of your mind!” so the character can’t be completely exonerated from the cheesiness, but the Goblin’s Power Rangers outfit and terrible lines were the majority of what I considered offensive about the film, and Spider-Man’s origin was handled quite well overall.

That being said...I’m not using that as the tie-breaker. Instead, as a fan of fantasy sports, despite the fact that I pretty much listed nothing but positives about Amazing Spider-Man and half of my Maguire Spider-Man analysis consisted of complaints, I’m going to pull out and insight from my years as a fan of fantasy sports to settle the score. And that trick is…

“In a fantasy trade, the manager who gets the best player in the trade wins.”

And to that end, even thought Amazing Spider-Man is a tight and extremely effective movie that I enjoyed the hell out of, and even thought Spider-Man 3 was a putrid piece of crap that makes the other movies worse and is the worst movie that appears in the top 24, Maguire’s “best” is better than Garfield’s “best.” Spider-Man 2 is the best Spider-Man movie ever made, out of the four.

I loved Amazing, but the highs experienced by Spider-Man 2 overcome the rest of the odds. Maguire wins. By a hair.

16. Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Amazing Spider-Man, 2012)
15. Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man, 2002; Spider-Man 2, 2004; Spider-Man 3, 2007)
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14. Blade/Eric Brooks (Wesley Snipes, Blade, 1998; Blade II, 2002; Blade Trinity, 2004)


As a relatively minor character in the comics, Blade seemed like an odd choice for a character to base Marvel’s first film in nearly a decade, considering the staples of Marvel (Spider-Man, the X-Men, etc) were still yet to hit the silver screen.

Still, it did make some amount of sense, as since the character dealt with vampires the film could be used as more of a horror/monster movie rather than a superhero movie (which people had slight misgivings over considering it was so recently after Batman and Robin).

As minor as the character may be, the movie and Snipes’s portrayal really put the character on the map and made him popular.

The first movie was quite good. Although I mentioned that they could have chosen a more horror/monster movie route, it definitely feels like a comic book superhero movie, thanks to the fast pace and story structure.

As for Blade himself, Snipes does a great job playing a stoic badass who doesn’t speak that much but makes it count when he does. This was a departure from the much more talkative and arrogant Blade of the comics, but it’s a great cinematic choice. He is cool and collected, and always is prepared and has contingency plans which as seen to satisfying effect in the films. The fact that he (despite not having any other vampire weaknesses) still has a blood lust that is being suppressed with increasingly-less-effective formula also makes the character more compelling and gives him a bit of a “potential time bomb” edge.

And they didn’t forget about the human elements of the character, either, which are mostly on display with his relationship with Whistler. We really see and feel the relationship between Blade and can see how much his paternal figure means to him, and we feel for Blade when Whistler “dies.” The relationship with the female lead in the first movie is also interesting, as the relationship between her and Blade remains platonic. There is some chemistry between them, but they’re only working together, they don’t fall for each other or really even mention the possibility. At the end of the film, we can feel his pain as he gives up the potential to become fully human because he knows there are people out there who need saving from vampires and his unique skill set makes him the man for the job.

Blade II is an even better film, very well directed by Guillermo Del Toro. The character of Blade continues to be very satisfying, especially in the way some of his contingency plans and his tendency for being “one step ahead” of other characters (best exemplified when Scud thinks he’s surprising Blade by revealing he’s a traitor and that the bomb was a dud, but Blade already figured this out and replaced it with a real bomb, which he satisfyingly uses to blow Scud up). He’s forced to work with a team of vampires who, until the Reaper threat showed itself, had actually been trained and were planning to take down Blade himself, creating some good tension. Blade makes sure to come prepared, however, and we’re continually impressed with how efficient and calculating he is.

The character doesn’t have a huge amount of depth or anything, but we also get more character insight and a pretty good arc in the second film, as we see Blade have to come to terms with his previously black-and-white view of “all vampires must die.” We see him considering his viewpoints as Nyssa raises the argument that she was born a vampire and can’t help it, and we see Blade struggle with some new conflicting feelings, which culminates as he refuses Nomack’s offer to join him since the two of them both want vampires dead.

And then we get to the third film…which, in classic superhero trilogy fashion, is an enormous let down. Actually, “let down” isn’t strong enough – it’s a terrible movie, and very hard to sit through. Blade himself loses all of his charisma, and it seems like Snipes is here only to collect a paycheck. He doesn’t seem like an awesome badass anymore, he seems like a tired older guy who’s sick of all this vampire stuff and just wants people to leave him alone and get off his lawn. He spouts off a few terrible one liners. He has zero chemistry with his two sidekicks, he seems to regard them as nuisances (Reynolds much more so than Biel) and never even really has an arc where he learns to appreciate or accept them, or any arc, really. The worst part, though, is the fact that in the early parts of the film, Whistler dies (which in and of itself is a bit redundant, seeing as how he already “died” in the first film) and Blade’s reaction isn’t much. This is a cheap device used because they remembered the genuine emotion at Whistler’s “death” in the first movie so they recreate it, for real this time. Blade’s relationship with Whistler was the most humanizing aspect of the character, and his reaction to his father figure’s death in this movie is nothing even remotely close to the feelings we felt in the first film. And then throughout the rest of the movie, he barely thinks or talks about Whistler at all, despite the fact that Jessica Biel’s character is Whistler’s daughter. Couldn’t the two of them had some quiet moment where they talk to each other about Whistler and how much he meant to both of them? Nope, can’t waste time on a scene that isn’t people shooting vampires that’s set to techno music.

As I mentioned in the Maguire analysis, there are some characters that I can overlook the bad films they appeared in, but I don’t know, something about Blade Trinity and the way Snipes was totally checked out really did kind of ruin some of the mystique and coolness of the character. I mean, come on, after the credits ended, they showed text on screen that literally just said “Word.” WORD? WORD? You seriously just threw “Word” up on screen after the credits…because the film featured a cool African-American protagonist? What? If this film was written by someone different than from the first two films, I would probably be willing to overlook it, but this one was also written by Goyer (who also stepped into the director’s chair for this one, a big mistake) so I have to assume this was the ending he wanted all along and take that into consideration.

I’m not punishing Blade in terms of his overall ranking because of Trinity, but I will punish him slightly by making him the highest rated member of the “Great” tier instead of the last member of the “Excellent” tier.

Which leads us to…

The Excellent Tier
This is the penultimate tier. The top seven are in the “Elite” tier, but these next six are right up next to them.

13. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class, 2011)


Seeing as we never really got to see too much of Charles Xavier as a young man in other mediums (I’m sure we saw it a little at some point in the comics, but I don’t remember seeing any issues with a young Xavier in them myself) this character was largely new, and had a very difficult role in the film – they had to create an essentially new character who would be believable turning into a character we’re familiar with in 40 years, while also creating essentially a new character with his own traits as well. Obviously, Charles can’t act the same way 60-year old Professor X did, people behave differently when they’re in their 20s than they do in the 60s, but we still need glimpses and to believe that he COULD become the man we’re familiar with.

Given that task, the filmmakers did a great job. When we first see him as an adult, Charles is a little bit of a party guy, but not excessively so. His intelligence and knowledge is put on full display as he uses his intelligence to try to pick up girls, a great way to incorporate elements of the character we know while still letting us know that this is a version that is younger and more immature. We also see him using his mind reading powers only to the extent of “guessing” her favorite drink – that’s maybe a bit unethical, further letting us know he isn’t fully mature, but we also get some sense of morals as a less ethical telepath could obviously use his powers well beyond that extent.

Since Xavier’s defining trait is his intelligence, the filmmakers could have gone the easy route of showing young Charles as a nerd or an outcast. They wisely chose not to go this route, as he’s still incredibly intelligent but also respected, and seems to be quite popular at Oxford.

Throughout the film, McAvoy plays Xavier expertly as a very likable guy with lots of natural charisma, committed to his morals and wise but still with a lot of maturing to do. There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that this is the younger version of the Professor X we’re all familiar with.

The most important thing about the movie and the character, of course, is his interaction with Fassbender’s Erik. While I thought that having them introduced and then separated all within the span of one film might be a bit rushed (or at least, have the film take place over a longer period of time), McAvoy and Fassbender sell the relationship completely. They reaffirm that they are friends, but the movie makes sure to show you and doesn’t just rely on telling (like, say, the relationship between Tony and Rhodes in Iron Man 2). They nail all the big emotional moments, like when Charles is going into his mind to find the suppressed memories, but also nail the small ones as well – the scenes where they are just hanging out and talking, the more whimsical ones where they are out and about collecting members of their team.

I was surprised that the film ended by having Erik become Magneto and leaving and then having Charles become paralyzed, as we saw the two still working as partners when they visited Jean Grey in the X3 flashback, and Xavier also was shown walking in Wolverine. I had no idea until then that they were purposefully ignoring the continuities of the two bad movies like Superman Returns did. (I didn’t remember the Cerebro dialogue that made this film’s depiction an inconsistency, and I assumed the Stryker we saw here was the father of the one we know.) The other mistakes may have been errors or plot holes, but there is no way they forgot about the fact that X3 showed them as still working together and Xavier walking. It was a deliberate choice. And I kinda liked it. Why let the continuities of two bad films get you down? Just ignore them, it made for an ending that was (despite being a bit rushed) more climactic and we get to see the natural results of what we expected.

12. V (Hugo Weaving, V for Vendetta, 2005)


Housekeeping note: Is V really anything resembling a superhero, or should I have not considered him one and left him off this list? It’s definitely up for debate in the graphic novel, but I think he pretty clearly fits the criteria of this list in the movie. He’s a character with artificially enhanced physical and mental capabilities from a lab experiment, who wears a costume and has a codename to disguise his identity. So that alone, I think, qualifies him for either superhero or supervillain status. Regarding which of those two categories he fits into, in the comic book version it’s left up for the reader to decide for themselves if he’s a hero or a villain, and the movie version clearly has him as a protagonist and the people he fights against are clearly “bad guys.” So being as there are two votes and one of them is “Hero” and the other vote is “Abstain,” Hero wins and V gets entry onto this list.

There is a lot that can be said about V for Vendetta and how it compares as a film against the graphic novel. A lot has been changed – most primarily, the fight between fascism and anarchy is more or less changed into being a fight between extreme neo-conservatism versus modern liberalism. The leader of this fascist dictatorship, Adam Susan/Sutler is changed from being a fascinating and sympathetic man who thinks he’s doing the right thing into a pretty stereotypical comic book movie villain.

But this analysis isn’t about those nuances – it’s about V as character. And to be sure, V is dramatically softened. He’s given a kind hearted and romantic edge that was missing from the graphic novel version. The comic book V is absolutely brutal, stopping at nothing to eliminate everything that’s in the path of his goals, and his human side is barely felt. With the movie version, however, we absolutely feel V as a character, and recognize that he is a human underneath it all, and feel his motivations and have sympathy for him.

Is the movie version better? No, I wouldn’t dare to say that. The comic version V fulfills his own role, being an ambiguous being who dies while letting the audience decide whether or not the character was a hero or just a costumed vigilante who went too far – and while, yes, the movie version may have went too far in making V sympathetic in the eyes of the movie-going audience by having him be much more noble and a protector of innocents and more "power to the people" instead of pure anarchist, the character is still quite compelling. But the version where we can see his human side, although its different from the comics, I found to be quite compelling and tragic in many ways. I'm not saying I think the ruthless cold hearted comic version should have been changed to be more sympathetic, I just think there's room for both.

While I understand that Moore purists wanted to see a much less sympathetic and true V on the silver screen, I still think the complaints were mostly from comic book purists and that the character of V himself was excellent onscreen despite all the changes.

Most of all, I enjoyed the hell out of Hugo Weaving’s portrayal. I’m sure Moore purists are angry that the elements of his death and its aftermath (and the nature of the government he’s rebelling against) aren’t exactly the same as the comics and will will elicit some rage, but nonetheless, I felt that this movie was great despite its deviances, and V himself is portrayed masterfully and well deserved of a spot in the “excellent” tier.
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Keep them coming. I love Weaving as V.
Well, as much as I disagree with a few of these, they're very justified. I would have Rufallo's Hulk above Norton's.
Whoops, missed one. So, I realized that there was one character I totally forgot about when I made these rankings. I thought I went through each film pretty meticulously and grabbed every character who qualified, but for some reason I totally blanked on the fact that Ryan Reynolds’s character from Blade Trinity was named after a comic character that has powers and is pretty clearly on the superhero side of the fence more so than the supporting character side. In my defense he is absolutely nothing like the comics character besides the name.

Thank god the one character I missed was a horrible one and not a good one, so I don’t have to go in and edit too many of the numbers, only a few at the bottom.

In any case I’ve edited this entry into my earlier posts that contain the bottom portion of the list but I’ll post it here as well.

58. Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds, Blade Trinity, 2004)


The Jar Jar Binks of the Blade movies. First of all, Reynolds is just playing Ryan Reynolds here. His character has absolutely nothing to do with Hannibal King in the comics in the slightest besides the fact that he’s a former vampire that fights vampires (King in the comics is an older stoic man, Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds). He is supposed to be the comic relief, but his jokes are absolutely terrible, usually revolving around genitalia. His brand of humor is only funny to elementary school children, and I don’t think elementary school children were allowed to watch this movie, so why include it? He gets kidnapped by vampires and somehow shoehorns in a joke about the fact that he has a Hello Kitty tattoo on his ass. What?

The funny thing is, Blade himself seems to have the same opinion of him that the audience does. You would think in a movie called “Trinity” that the natural story arc would be for Blade to learn to work as a team, to understand and come to accept working with the others. But no, even at the very end he never softens his stance towards Reynolds and still barely tolerates him. But probably the most baffling element is that Reynolds is then given the task of being the ending narrator, the one who says “Blade must continue his journey blah blah…” Wait, what? Biel’s character was flat but at least she was taken seriously and had some sort of connection with Blade. Why on earth wasn’t she the ending narrator? If the guy who just clowns around making dick jokes the whole movie is the one delivering the "serious" ending narration, you know your movie has problems.
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11. Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Thor, 2011; The Avengers, 2012)


The idea of a film based around Thor has been kicked around for ages but steel was never put into the ground, with most producers thinking that it’s just a bit too silly of a concept or character.

Naturally, a lot of those reservations did come into play when Marvel studios announced that they were actually making a Thor movie. This is a very hard character to pull off – you have to get the audience to understand and accept a larger than life character and surrounding world that could very easily come off as silly or even stupid. When Kenneth Branagh was cast as the director, a lot of our fears were assuaged, as his history with Shakespeare films seemed like it could lend itself well towards the world of Asgard coming off as distinguished.

That being said, I was still somewhat skeptical. Kenneth Branagh has an overall good track record but still has made some underwhelming films in the past (Frankenstein, Sleuth), and this interpretation was now further burdened by the fact that this movie about space gods had to exist in the same universe as the somewhat more realistic Marvel films like Iron Man that have already been released.

Luckily, my skepticism was proven to be unwarranted. Thor is a great movie. I know this is a character ranking and not a film ranking, but I have to talk a little bit about the world established around him first, because without it, the character wouldn’t work. Branagh’s adaptation of the world of Asgard is fantastic – we don’t think that’s silly for a minute. The epic sets, visuals, and fight scenes are excellent, and we totally buy into them. As surreal as the world of Asgard is when you think about it, it’s totally nailed on film and we buy into the drama and what is shown on screen and accept it for what it is. One of the most common complaints about the film is that people wished there was more time spent on Asgard instead of Earth, which tells you all you need to know about how well the world was portrayed onscreen. It really is epic.

Which is absolutely critical in understanding and selling the character. Thanks to the fact that we understand and appreciate this world, we are able to understand Thor and his mentality and take him seriously. He is arrogant, overconfident, and a bit pompous – but the way Hemsworth portrays him, we still really like him. Despite his character flaws, he still has noble and heroic intentions. When he leads a cavalry to fight the Frost Giants against his father’s wishes, we know that it’s a mistake caused by the aforementioned character flaws, but still sympathize with him because he’s doing it for entirely heroic reasons – his arrogance has simply caused him to misjudge the proper “how” and “when” of his plan. Think about it – this character is the arrogant, overconfident and pompous heir to the throne, who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth…in a lot of movies, a character fitting that description would be the villain. Despite carrying all these traits, we still really like Thor, which speaks volumes of Hemsworth’s performance and the film overall.

As if all of these character traits weren’t enough to make it very difficult to pull off the character on the silver screen, the script calls for an additional complication to the character. Not only do we have to accept him as a person within the context of an unusual supernatural world, but then in addition, for a good deal of the second act, this character also has to be the source of comedy in a series of Encino Man-esque “fish out of water” comedy sequences…but without us losing enough respect for him to not appreciate him becoming the noble and seriously-treated hero at the end of the movie.

And somehow, it works seamlessly. The “fish out of water” comedy sequences with Thor on earth are very funny, and it’s pretty hilarious as he misunderstands American customs and culture; smashing silverware on the floor, declaring how he’s the God of Thunder before being tasered down, and walking up to a pet shop demanding a horse. And yet, despite the fact that he’s involved in wacky comedy scenes, the Asgardian scenes have set up enough respect for the character that we don’t lose respect for the character or see him as less of a potential hero. We understand that the comedy comes from a difference of perspectives and world view, and not because the character himself is a joke or a loon, and so when the final battle comes along, the payoff is satisfying and we still see him as a legitimate superhero that has learned something and undergone a satisfying heroic arc.

Quelling another hesitation, when the Avengers movie rolled around, somehow Thor seemed to fit naturally within the parameters of the more realistic characters like Iron Man and Captain America despite the fact that his story and origin is much more over the top and unrealistic than the others. Now, while I mostly have nothing but praise for the character, he probably wasn’t really considered a major highlight of the Avengers movie despite fitting in seamlessly, and that fact coupled with the fact that he doesn’t quite reach the top ten tells you everything you need to know about the quality of the top ten characters on this list.

Usually the “top ten” is a big and major breaking point, but I’m just going to blaze right into the top ten without any fanfare. In this list the top seven (who are in the “Elite” tier) is more important than the top ten.

10. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, 1993)


Like I said with the 1966 Batman analysis, even though this film is an extension with and is in continuity with a television show, this character is not being considered for anything in the TV show and is only being judged by the theatrically released film itself. I know a lot of you will probably think he should be higher because a lot of us think of Kevin Conroy's portrayal when they think of Batman, but when thinking about this entry try to distance yourself from the hours and hours of additional excellent work Conroy and the showrunners did in creating this character and realize that this is character is only being judged as if MotP existed and was being viewed without knowledge of any of the TV shows.

The fact that Mask of the Phantasm bombed at the box office really is a huge shame in terms of the history and potential of comic book movies. It pretty much killed the possibility of future animated superhero movies at the box office, which could have had a world of potential.

Without giving too much away about my upcoming Michael Keaton Batman analysis, I will say that one of the major attributes of this character is that he starred in the first theatrically released Batman film that actually felt like it was mostly about Batman.

As I said in my Val Kilmer Batman analysis ages ago, there are really only three possible stories you can tell about Batman/Bruce Wayne himself as a character. This portrayal combines the “origin story” story with the “Should I hang it up?” story by telling a story about whether Bruce should start a life as Batman or ignore his quest because of his potential for happiness and not start a more formalized vigilante quest altogether.

Out of the nine theatrically released Batman films, this is probably the film that best displays the fact that Batman is a detective. There is a mystery to solve here (the identity of the Phantasm), and while ultimately Batman draws the wrong conclusion (that the Phantasm is Andrea’s father instead of Andrea herself) we don’t lose respect for the character since all the clues we’ve had up until that point seem to agree with his analysis, and he isn’t that far off.

To be sure, this movie has some flaws (it’s pretty obvious from early on to the audience who the Phantasm is, how on earth did Andrea get her apparently supernatural skills, and why is she able to suddenly disappear better than Batman can despite having less experience?) but the character of Batman himself isn’t one of them.

In this film, Bruce is struggling between having a chance at happiness in real life by settling down with Andrea, or doing what he vowed to do by becoming a vigilante who stops crime. In real life, the death of relatives hurts less and less as time passes, and this movie addresses it in a fascinating fashion. Bruce visits his parent’s graves and asks if it’s okay to not fight crime because it “doesn’t hurt as much anymore.” In a world where several Batman adaptations completely ignore the reality of the situation of people eventually accepting or at least not being quite as broken up about the passing of relatives and able to move on with their lives, this is a fascinating issue to tackle.

Also, we clearly see and identify with the fact that the decision to become Batman comes in direct conflict with his own personal pursuit of happiness. In that graveyard scene, Bruce tells his parents’ graves that he “didn’t count on being happy.” In the end, he comes to accept his fate after Andrea leaves.

As the Burton Batman films began with Bruce already being Batman en media res (and this one does too, but shows flashbacks), this is also the first theatrically released film to show what is basically the “origin of Batman,” showing us the first moment where Bruce put on the costume and became Batman. This is illustrated brilliantly in the scene where Bruce first puts on the Batman mask and turns to Alfred – and Alfred trembles for a moment in fear. Is this a fear because of the fact that he is genuinely frightened of the mask and vision itself, or fear of the potential his surrogate son has established?

In any case, a brilliant moment in a great movie, and the fact that so much character development and depth was able to be established in a PG-rated animated movie speaks volumes.
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