There are some actors that simply are the characters they play. It’s hard to think of Rainn Wilson as anyone other than Dwight Schrute; William Shatner will forever be Captain Kirk; Elijah Wood may always seem just a little bit wrong as anything other than a hobbit. Actors who play superheroes and supervillains are no exception; some have made their mark on superhero franchises for years to come. Here are five:
- Christopher Reeve as Superman/Clark Kent: (Superman: The Movie, 1978) If you’ve never seen this classic flick from the ‘70s, you need to watch it for several reasons: the horribly green-screened scenes of Superman flying, the epic John Williams score, the laughable plot whose pivotal point is Superman turning back time by flying around the Earth to reverse its spin…but the best reason is Christopher Reeve’s acting. He’s not an amazing actor, but he’s honest. He transforms perfectly from the powerful and commanding Superman to “mild-mannered” reporter Clark Kent, and he’s convincing as both roles.
- Billy Campbell as The Rocketeer/Cliff Secord: (The Rocketeer, 1991) The Rocketeer isn’t an amazing film, and Billy Campbell isn’t an amazing actor, but whenever we think of The Rocketeer, we think of Billy’s heroically unassuming face, and his heroically goofy lopsided curtains. Plus, his defeat of the villain (we can’t remember his name, so I just call him Evil Inigo Montoya) is brilliant in its simplicity.
- Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark: (Iron Man, 2008) Anyone who tries to play Iron Man in the future is going to have a hard time beating Downey’s incarnation of the character for pure effortless charm, haughtiness, and yet an unforced likeability. Plus, Downey’s transformation from playboy to superhero is honest and real. Downey’s played a lot of great roles in a lot of great movies, but we'll always think of Iron Man when we think of him.
- Heath Ledger as The Joker: (The Dark Knight, 2008) The Dark Knight itself wasn’t our favorite superhero film. It had a brilliant plot but Batman was distant, and you barely ever saw him outside of his suit. They might as well have just hired Christian Bale’s lips and jaw, for all we saw of the rest of him. That said, The Joker was executed perfectly, from his gruesome and horrific stunts to the actor who played him. Heath Ledger plays him with a disturbing friendliness, as if he’s not really Batman’s enemy more than he’s the criminal’s. He’s against everybody, and he’s populated enough nightmares to easily put him on this list.
- Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers: (Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011) This guy may be less popular than some of the already-announced super actors, but in our mind he embodied the stereotype of a “good guy.” Far from being a stereotype himself, however, Chris Evans plays the good guy so well in both puny and mighty forms that he had us cheering for him from the moment he turned into a super soldier.
Who's your favorite super actor?