10 Undeniably Perfect Comic Book Movie Castings

When we talk about comic book films these days, we’re also talking about big budget, studio tent-poles. A lot is riding on these movies so when a studio wants to cast someone to be in one of these films, you can guarantee it is a calculated decision. It is one that ensures it pulls in an audience either through big name talent or just by making one hell of a casting move and getting the perfect person to play the role. In this article, we’ll be talking about the latter.

This segment aims to single out casting choices that we consider “undeniably perfect” – those which are universally praised and accepted among fans. If there are detractors to these performances, they are few and far between. That isn’t to say there aren’t other great performances in comic book films, nor is it to say this is an exhaustive list of such work. These are performances which are those that are most loved by fans and resonated with audiences. The ranking coincides with how closely these castings resemble their comic book counterparts and how synonymous they’ve become with the character since they first played them.

Once again, if we skip over other noteworthy performances it is not because we disagree that they are just that, but because there is too much divisiveness among fans, i.e. the Batman debate: is Keaton the best Batman, or is it Bale? Or is it Adam West even? We avoided examining roles which splinter fan opinions.. We’ll leave those debates for another day.

Without further ado, 10 Undeniably Perfect Comic Book Movie Castings:

#10) Tom Hiddleston as Loki

It’s hard to imagine that Marvel Studios knew what they had when they cast Tom Hiddleston as Loki. For starters, not only did he appear in the first Thor film but he was the main villain in The Avengers, the top grossing superhero film of all time! The studio obviously trusted his abilities enough to have him play the main threat in their biggest movie yet. But they couldn’t have predicted the fangirl onslaught that would ensue.

Not only has Hiddleston struck a chord with female viewers, but general audiences as well. He has also crafted the notion in everyone’s mind as to who Loki should be. He’s synonymous with the character, so much so that he’s become more beloved amongst general audiences than Thor himself!

#9) Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon

Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy is already regarded by many as the best Batman films to date. Not only that, but The Dark Knight is often considered the peak achievement in superhero film-making. Such a thing wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the ensemble cast that these films had. Chief among these brilliant casting choices was Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon.

To say Jim Gordon is as interesting a character as Batman wouldn’t phase comic book readers. Those familiar with the character know how important Gordon’s role in Gotham is. Gordon is the man Batman can rely on. Without Gordon, Batman’s ace in the hole, Gotham would be just as lost as a world without Batman. Gordon, like Batman, dedicates his life, tirelessly, to restoring Gotham to a place without corruption. No actor could have captured that spunky goodness better than Gary Oldman.

#8) Ian McKellan as Magneto

If The Dark Knight showed all that superhero movies could achieve, then X-Men showed that they could be taken seriously. This was first accomplished by getting a director, Bryan Singer, who could show these characters were compelling enough beyond a comic book audience. It didn’t hurt that the brilliant Ian McKellan was brought on as Magneto.

By showing Magneto as a Holocaust victim in the beginning of the film, we grew to understand his hatred towards humanity and everything they were capable of. That was entirely believable, all thanks to Mr. McKellan’s masterful performance. We were hooked.

X-Men made movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man possible because it showed that talented actors like Ian McKellan gave a damn about them and thought they were compelling. This performance, which is so larger than life on screen, speaks to the reason why general audiences started to take these types of characters seriously.

#7) Mark Strong as Sinestro

For many there is only one thing to say about Green Lantern: it sucked. Hardly anyone saw it and many who did didn’t enjoy it. But there was one shining light in that empty abyss of a movie and that was Mark Strong’s well-crafted turn as Sinestro.

Believe it or not, Green Lantern is an interesting mythology. The key to that mythology lies in its main villain, Sinestro. Seeing Strong all basketball-headed and purple with that pencil thin mustache makes one dream of a movie that could have been. And not only did he look the part, and creepy as hell, but his dictation was so perfectly matched to the character. If Warner Bros. ever intends to revisit this failed franchise, they should comfort in knowing they already have the perfect Sinestro. They just need, well, everything else.

#6) Ron Perlman as Hellboy

When Guillermo Del Toro brought Dark Horse’s Hellboy to life in 2004, one thing was made apparent to everyone: no could have played Hellboy like Ron Perlman. I mean seriously, aside from nailing the entire persona and outlook of the character, no one could look the part like Ron Perlman. To put it bluntly, the guy has a big noggin. It was the perfect marriage of large craniums. One we won’t soon forget.

#5) J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson

Anyone familiar with JK Simmon’s work knows he has the skill to pull off a plethora of roles. So it shouldn’t have been surprising that he had the wherewithal to bring J. Jonah Jameson so impeccably to life. So when Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man came out in 2002, it wasn’t the nerve of Simmons to take on such an iconic character in JJJ that had us surprised, but that he had the utter gall to do it perfectly and steal every scene he was in.

Bravo JK Simmons, for making those films a complete joy to revisit time and again.

#4) Patrick Stewart as Professor X

Pat Stew, as he is lovingly referred to by fans, is a geek god! The man has captained the USS Enterprise in two different decades as well as led the fight of the entire mutant race as Professor Charles Xavier. We continue to be blown away by Stewart and the Shakespearean, stage acting background he brings to these roles. Look for him to reprise his role in this summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.

#3) Heath Ledger as Joker

There are few things which are so agreed upon in the realm of comic book fandom. One is that Uncle Ben is dead (and should stay that way) and the other is that Heath Ledger played an exceptional Joker. He is the only person on this list who received an Academy Award for their performance. That alone speaks volumes to what he achieved with the character.

Not only did Ledger strike a chord with Batman fans the world over, but he touched the spirit of so many people by turning in this truly brilliant performance before his tragic death. Years from now we’ll still be quoting his character, asking each other “why so serious?”

#2) Hugh Jackman as Wolverine

He’s starred in 3 X-Men films (has a cameo in a 4th), carried 2 solo films (for better or worse) and is already set to star heavily in the biggest X-Men film ever, Days of Future Past. To say that Fox’s X-Men franchise rides on Hugh Jackman continuing to play Wolverine is putting it mildly. The dude has been playing the character for 14 years! No other actor has played a high profile superhero on screen for that long.

If Wolverine is the best there is at what he does then it’s obvious that the same can be said for Jackman when it comes to playing Wolverine. He’s become so linked to the character that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing him at this point. The only complaint that some fans seem to utter is Jackman’s height – being well over 6′ while Wolverine is close to 5′.

Such a complaint is warranted but considering Jackman is also a huge fan of Wolverine, there’s little doubt that he takes playing this character very seriously. He’s read the comics himself and that knowledge has paid off tremendously as he’s nailed every character nuance. Not only that but he just keeps getting better every time he plays him. If the guy could make himself shorter, you better bet he would! So I think we can let him off the hook for that one.

Heck, we’d be fine if Jackman played Wolverine for another 14 years. Here’s to hoping we get an Old Man Logan story!

#1 Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Marvel’s whole cinematic universe rode on the success of Jon Favreau’s 2008 film Iron Man, especially after the lackluster Incredible Hulk. Favreau bet it all on Downey, an actor who was all but forgotten in Hollywood at the time. He knew that no one could play Tony Stark like Downey and he insisted the studio hire him. His persistence paid off.

The instinct and trust of Jon Favreau and Marvel Studios gave Downey the chance to shine and he didn’t disappoint. 6 Marvel films later, and they’ve already turned out 2 films that made over a billion dollars! Downey himself has been the lead in 4 films as Tony Stark already, had a cameo in another and is locked up for 2 more films. It’s not hyperbolic to say that Marvel Studios wouldn’t be what it is today without Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.
Downey with Marvel Studios' President, Kevin Feige

It is one thing to play a character to perfection, it is another thing entirely to actually be that character in mind and spirit. All of these actors on this list, when we see them we see fine actors who gave superb performances. But when it comes to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, it becomes hard to tell where the fiction ends and the reality begins. The transition from Downey to Stark is seamless. It is then that you begin to realize, Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark.

Robert Downey Jr.’s iteration of the character is so iconic that his Iron Man is all many people know. When people hear the name Iron Man, they think about Robert Downey Jr. and the Iron Man movies. His version of the character became synonymous with the character in the comics too. We started seeing a Downey version of Stark showing up in the monthlies. Eventually, and you’ll notice this anytime you open an Iron Man comic these days, the melding of the two is complete. At first it seemed like the comics merely adopted Downey’s antics for the comics but it was beyond that. It was actually a shift in how we began to view the character. Downey’s performance made sense out of Tony Stark in a way that wasn’t done previously.

Now when you go back and read Armor Wars from the 80s, or any previous Iron Man story, you can see Downey’s Stark come through. It’s because he didn’t change the character, he just made people recognize something in him that was there all along. He brought forth a lovable egotist and balanced it with just the right amount of humanism hidden underneath. He popularized a 45 year old character. That is the brilliance of Robert Downey Jr., and by extension Tony Stark.

Not only did Robert Downey Jr. change the legacy of one of comic book’s greatest superheros but he breathed new life into Marvel and altered the landscape of superhero films in general. If there is one ultimate comic book character performance, this is it.

Ladies and gentleman, Tony Stark:


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