24 Actors Who Have Played Characters in Films Based on Both Marvel and DC Properties
1. Ben Affleck
For Marvel: Daredevil (in 2003’s Daredevil)
For DC: Batman (in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Better role: Hard to say, considering so far we only have his brief appearances as Bruce Wayne and an armored-up Batman in a movie trailer to assess his portrayal as the Caped Crusader. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Affleck’s acting wasn’t the reason why 2003’s Daredevil gets a bum rap; there were a lot of mistakes with that film’s tone, look and script that the creators behind the DD’s Netflix series thankfully didn’t repeat. That said, I’m going to predict good things from Affleck in Dawn of Justice, if only because he’s no doubt eager to make people forget about his other superhero role. As he once said in a Playboy interview: “The only movie I actually regret is Daredevil. It just kills me. I love that story, that character, and the fact that it got fucked up the way it did stays with me.”
2. Ryan Reynolds
For Marvel: Hannibal King (in 2004’s Blade: Trinity) and Deadpool (in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2016’s Deadpool)
For DC: Green Lantern (in 2011’s Green Lantern)
Better role: Reynolds is a likeable guy with the kind of face and physique that makes him an ideal choice for comic-based movies… which is probably why he stars in so many of them (add to this list his role in the forgettable RIPD). But the movies he’s been in so far have failed to live up to their potential, with Green Lantern being a particular disappointment. Not that it was Reynolds’s fault; he was perfectly cast as the cocky test pilot who’s drafted to join an intergalactic peacekeeping force. Again, we only have a trailer to go by, but I’m going to pre-emptively declare next year’s Deadpool as his best comic-book work, if only because (a) he’s made a point of saying it’s not the same Deadpool we saw briefly in the disappointing X-Men Origins film and (b) let’s face it, that is one damn funny trailer, even with that groan-inducing “no green suits” line.
3. Chris Evans
For Marvel: Human Torch (in 2005’s Fantastic Four and its sequel) and Captain America (in the Avengers film franchise)
For DC: Jake Jensen (in 2010’s The Losers)
Better role: Before he pulled on his first pair of star-spangled shorts but after he said “Flame on!” for moviegoers, Evans put on a pair of glasses and played the wisecracking computer nerd in 2010’s The Losers, an adaptation of DC’s Vertigo series about a group of covert operatives on the run after a botched mission. But when they run his highlight reel in the future, you can guarantee the first thing they’ll show is that elevator scene from Winter Soldier because my God that was some fine film-making right there.
4. Idris Elba
For Marvel: Moreau (in 2012’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) and Heimdall (in the Thor film franchise)
For DC: William Roque (in 2010’s The Losers)
Better role: Like Evans, Elba can claim more than one role in a Marvel movie while also putting in an appearance in The Losers as Roque, playing the team’s explosives expert. While all the actors on the Losers set gave it their all, the film received mixed reviews and just barely made back its production costs, probably because audiences saw it as yet another mindless, explosion-happy action film. And while Elba acquitted himself nicely with his brief appearance in the otherwise not-so-great Spirit of Vengeance, his work as Heimdall shows why it’s worth getting A-list talent for even the smallest roles in your film.
5. Zoe Saldana
For Marvel: Gamora (in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy)
For DC: Aisha (in 2010’s The Losers)
Better role: Okay, so did the guys at Marvel Studios just pick up a copy of The Losers and decide to hire the entire cast for their own projects? After landing the role of a lifetime twice in 2009 with Star Trek and Avatar, Saldana was cast as Aisha, a “beautiful operative with her own agenda,” in The Losers. A few years later, she played Gamora, another Action-Oriented Badass You Do Not Want to Cross, Green-Skinned Division. Speaking of that green skin: the filmmakers specifically wanted her to act in green body makeup, as opposed to using screen-capture and CGI to make her look more alien. Speaking as someone firmly in favour of seeing as much of Ms. Saldana as possible: good decision, gentlemen.
6. James Marsden
For Marvel: Cyclops (in Fox’s X-Men film franchise)
For DC: Richard White (in 2006’s Superman Returns)
Better role: This one’s a bit harder to judge than you might think. True, Marsden didn’t get to play a superheroic type in Superman Returns, as his role in that film was to show the Man of Steel how Lois Lane had moved on with her life after he left… on the other hand, the scripts for the X-Men movies didn’t really give Marsden a lot to work with beyond some alpha-male bantering with Wolverine and angst over Jean’s death. (And was he even in Days of Future Past?) Tough call, and since I can’t go with his sublime performance as Liz’s boyfriend on 30 Rock… what the hell, Superman Returns it is.
7. Samuel L. Jackson
For Marvel: Nick Fury (in the Marvel cinematic universe)
For DC: The Octopus (in 2008’s The Spirit)
Better role: Fun fact: Jackson holds the Guinness world record as the highest-grossing actor of all time, starring in films that have taken in more than $7.4 billion (and climbing) at the box office, with a big chunk of that tally coming from his appearance in Marvel movies as super-spy Nick Fury. He has also starred in a whole lot of stinkers, which Jackson freely admits is because he chooses projects based on how much fun he thinks he will have with the role, not whether he thinks the film will be any good. Let’s hope he had a lot of fun working on The Spirit.
9. Terence Stamp
For Marvel: Stick (in 2005’s Elektra)
For DC: General Zod (in 1980’s Superman II)
Better role: There’s a very short list of actors I would love to swap lives with, and Terence Stamp is on it. Because that man has led an interesting life, is why. His performance as General Zod will never be topped as far as Superman film villains go (sorry, Shannon, I gotta go old school on this one); I’m going to be charitable and assume he signed up for Elektra as a favor to one of the producers. Because even with the class he brought to the set… uch.
Point: “KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!”
10. Michael Clarke Duncan
For Marvel: Kingpin (in 2003’s Daredevil)
For DC: the voice of Kilowog (in 2011’s Green Lantern)
Better role: While Duncan’s voice was perfect for the large alien assigned to train Hal Jordan in the art of ring-slinging, it wasn’t really much of a chance for Duncan to really show off his acting chops. Daredevil may have had its conceptual issues, but Duncan sure as heck wasn’t one of them; between him and Colin Farrell, it’s hard to tell who was having more fun snacking on the scenery.
11. Lawrence Fishburne
For Marvel: the voice of Silver Surfer (in 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer)
For DC: Perry White (in 2013’s Man of Steel)
Better role: Like Duncan, Fishburne’s distinctive voice made him a natural choice to play the Silver Surfer in the sequel to the first Fantastic Four movie, though if the writers sneaked in a “What if I told you…” reference into the Surfer’s dialogue I must have missed it. Meanwhile, Fishburne’s scenes as irascible editor Perry White in Man of Steel were almost buried by the surplus of plot — and, well, the tonnes of steel and concrete raining down from the sky. But there’s one scene during the devastation, when he takes the hand of a co-worker who’s trapped by some rubble, Fishburne gives a determined look that conveys so much of what the overwrought film and its abundance of CGI devastation failed to achieve.
12. Ned Beatty
For Marvel: Sam Kolawetz (in 1990’s Captain America)
For DC: Otis (in 1978’s Superman and 1980’s Superman II)
Better role: Hey, it’s Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear! Beatty has had a long career on stage and in television and film, but he’s probably most famous for his roles in classic 1970s films like Network, Nashville and Deliverance. As one of the dependable go-to actors of that time, it’s no wonder Richard Donner tapped him to play bumbling henchman Otis to Gene Hackman’s “Mister LOOT-thor” for the first two Superman movies. A decade later, he rubbed elbows with another American icon in a film produced to coincide with Captain America’s 50th anniversary but instead went straight to video in the U.S. Chances are Beatty doesn’t see his cameo in that film as a high point in his career, but at least he can take pride in knowing he starred in the only superhero movie that saw the hero steal someone’s car and ditch them on the side of the road. Twice.
13. Tim Robbins
For Marvel: Phil Blumburtt (in 1986’s Howard the Duck)
For DC: Senator Robert Hammond (in 2011’s Green Lantern)
Better role: Best known for his roles in such films as The Player, The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River and Bull Durham, Robbins is a respected actor and director who had to start somewhere, just like everyone else in show business. Unfortunately, one of his early roles was in the infamous neutron bomb known as Howard the Duck; he played the nerdy lab assistant who tries to help Howard get home. The photo above says it all. By comparison, his role in Green Lantern as a U.S. senator with issues relating to his son was much more dignified. It’s a shame the film couldn’t find more for a talented actor like him to do, but I feel safe naming his role in Green Lantern the better one. Because everything looks better compared to Howard the Duck.
14. Tommy Lee Jones
For Marvel: Col. Chester Phillips (in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger)
For DC: Two-Face (in 1995’s Batman Forever)
Better role: Fun fact: When Tim Burton was still attached to direct Batman Forever, he wanted Billy Dee Williams — who played Harvey Dent in Burton’s 1989 Batman — to return to play Two-Face. But then Joel Schumacher took over, and Jones was cast to play the duality-obsessed villain instead, largely because Schumacher had enjoyed working with Jones on The Client. Years later, when Warner Bros. announced Aaron Eckhart would step into the character for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Jones was asked if he ever wanted to play Two-Face again. His blunt response: “No.” But I have a feeling he could be persuaded to reprise his role as Col. Phillips for another adventure with Captain America; crusty mentor types look good on him (see also: Men in Black).
15. Halle Berry
For Marvel: Storm (in Fox’s X-Men film franchise)
For DC: Patience Phillips/Catwoman (in 2004’s Catwoman)
Better role: Now, hold up a minute — this isn’t the slam dunk you might think it is. True, Catwoman is easily one of the worst superhero movies ever made. But as much fun as it is to tally up all the reasons why that film was a complete CAT-astrophe, Berry’s acting wasn’t one of them; yes, the script was awful, but our Oscar winner was clearly giving it her all. And at least she was the undisputed star of that shit-storm; in the X-Men franchise, her character is barely an afterthought in any of the film’s major plots. And don’t get me started on the awfulness of that one line the screenwriters can’t ever take back (“Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning?”). I can’t believe I’m even considering saying this, but… Catwoman wins.
16. Natalie Portman
For Marvel: Jane Foster (in the Thor film franchise)
For DC: Evey Hammond (in 2006’s V for Vendetta)
Better role: Don’t get me wrong: I think the Thor movies are perfectly fine, and Portman very ably fulfils her role as the comely astrophysicist who falls for the hunky son of Odin. But Thor and The Dark World don’t give her many chances to flex her acting muscles, certainly not like her role as Evey in the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s and David Lloyd’s tale about a totalitarian London in the near future. While Jane Foster has little more to do in her films than get saved and gaze in awe at things, Evey is the heart of V for Vendetta, and her journey from innocent naif to someone who can see the necessity of what V is trying to do is a harrowing journey that offers a lot of excuses to showcase her formidable acting chops.
17. Hugo Weaving
For Marvel: Red Skull (in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger)
For DC: V (in 2006’s V for Vendetta)
Better role: You know, every time I hear a story about how Alec Guinness thought Star Wars was “rubbish” and was irritated by fans who only knew him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, I wonder how Hugo Weaving feels about his place in the pantheon of geek gods. I mean, considering his roles as Agent Smith, Elrond, V and Megatron, it’s a fair bet his obituary won’t lead with his role in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He’s probably cool with it, though; he seems like that kind of guy. As for these two roles… I’m going to go with V, mostly because Weaving never got to take the full-face mask off once during the film, forcing him to rely more on his voice and body movements to sell the role. His Red Skull was everything you’d want from a deformed Nazi mastermind, but V was clearly the bigger acting challenge, even more so because of how iconic the character has become, and by God did he pull it off with aplomb. “Remember, remember, the fifth of November…”
18. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
For Marvel: Algrim the Strong/Kurse (in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World)
For DC: Killer Croc (in 2016’s Suicide Squad)
Better role: I don’t think I can really make a call here; Croc barely gets a mention in the trailer for the upcoming Suicide Squad film, so there’s not much to judge him by yet. As for Algrim/Kurse, Akinnuoye-Agbaje has had a lot to say about a character that required three hours of make-up every day: “Here is a man/alien who places a noble objective beyond his own life and I think there is something extremely inspiring about that because he looks at the bigger picture and sees himself as a means to that end.” I can honestly say that’s more deep thinking than I’ve ever given a mystically transformed elf.
19. Josh Brolin
For Marvel: Thanos (in the Marvel cinematic universe)
For DC: Jonah Hex (in 2010’s Jonah Hex)
Better role: If you thought Jonah Hex deserved a better film than the one he got in 2010, then you’re not alone; Josh Brolin once told Total Film magazine the film deserved the bashing it got, but he would play the character again someday “if I’m ever really rich.” (My advice, if Mr. Brolin is serious: drop the whole “he can talk to dead people” bit.) Until then, we can marvel at his uncredited role as Thanos in Guardians in the Galaxy (and in Avengers: Age of Ultron). It was brief, but Brolin made it very clear he was having fun playing the baddest mofo in the Marvel universe. “I love the idea of Thanos,” he said in an interview. “Ultimately, it’s Thanos against everyone. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?” Word, that.
20. Michael Fassbender
For Marvel: Magneto (in Fox’s X-Men film franchise)
For DC: Burke (in 2010’s Jonah Hex)
Better role: An Irish actor with a growing rep for bringing it to every project he takes on, Fassbender was one of the few (very few) good things about Jonah Hex, playing the right-hand man to John Malkovich’s main villain with psychotic glee; he once described his approach to the character as “[doing] Clockwork Orange meets Frank Gorshin [as the Riddler].” And as much fun as he probably had playing a crazy bad guy that almost no one has heard of, I don’t think anyone would rank that role ahead of Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past. The scenes in which he’s hunting down Nazi war criminals are worth the price of admission alone.
21. Eva Mendes
For Marvel: Roxanne Simpson (in 2007’s Ghost Rider)
For DC: Sand Saref (in 2008’s The Spirit)
Better role: If you never saw either of these two films… meh, you’re really not missing much. Ghost Rider saw Johnny Blaze (an unusually understated Nicolas Cage) run away from, and later woo, Mendes’ Roxanne, a TV reporter who had very little to do in the film. That wasn’t the case with Sand Saref, a woman who marries wealthy men and then kills them to support her life of crime and luxury. While promoting the film, Mendes told reporters she was so excited about working with Frank Miller she didn’t even look at the script before she signed up for the role. Yes, Ms. Mendes, we assumed as much.
22. Djimon Hounsou
For Marvel: Korath (in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy)
For DC: Papa Midnite (in 2005’s Constantine)
Better role: Can I just say that someone needs to put this guy in a lot more movies? After capturing moviegoers’ attention in films like Stargate and Amistad, Hounsou has had an acting career that shows he likes to mix challenging roles with gigs that are a blast to play. I’m going to file both of these under “blast to play,” with Papa Midnite getting the nod. Why? Because while Guardians allowed Hounsou to get his Star Wars freak on, Papa Midnite… well, first of all he’s named “Papa Midnite” and how awesome is that? Also, with Keanu Reeves on one side of him and Shia LeBeouf on the other, how could Hounsou not look like the coolest bad-ass in the film?
23. Tao Okamoto
For Marvel: Mariko Yashada (in 2013’s The Wolverine)
For DC: Mercy Graves (in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Better role: The Japanese model made her acting debut as Logan’s lady love in The Wolverine, which turned out to be a very smart career move. Her next comic-book role will see her appear in Dawn of Justice as Mercy Graves, Lex Luthor’s lethally efficient bodyguard and personal assistant. I can only see good things coming from this.
24. Ayelet Zurer
For Marvel: Vanessa Marianna (in Netflix’s 2015 Daredevil)
For DC: Lara Lor-Van (in 2013’s Man of Steel)
Better role: If you haven’t yet noticed, I limited this list to actors who have appeared in both Marvel and DC films, deliberately leaving out anyone with credits in shows like Arrow or Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But I’m bending my self-imposed rule for Zurer, an Israeli-born actor who first caught North America’s attention in such films as Munich and Fugitive Pieces. She was cast as Superman’s mother in Man of Steel before playing Vanessa, the love interest of Wilson Fisk in Netflix’s Daredevil series. I included her here because I was blown away by how I didn’t even notice it was the same actor in both roles: her stoic, resigned Lara is a completely different character from the cultured art gallery owner who has incredible chemistry with Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk. The first season’s finale left it up in the air whether we’d see her again in Season Two; put me down for a very hearty dose of “yes, please.”