Everyone loves a good superhero film, whether it’s the quick, slick moves of Spiderman, the intimidating sophistication of Batman or the class and wit of Superman. With this, comes a long, long list of movie portrayals of the iconic figures. Some have been great, some have been ok, some have been awful, and some just downright embarrassing.

A number of superheroes
The superhero genre has had mixed fortunes in recent years, Photo: Flickr, JD Hancock

Here in an inclusive list of the good, the bad and the plain ugly portrayals of superheroes in films of the past.



The Good

Christopher Reeve as Superman

When you think ‘superhero’ it is almost impossible to avoid envisaging the most famous of them all: Superman. He is the quintessential superhero with handsome looks, charm, wit, strength, bravery, and an unwavering moral code. It comes with no deliberation that the best Superman was none other than the late, great, Christopher Reeve. The 1978 iconic performance has been the Superman of people imaginations for generations. Reeves ticking the three main boxes to portray the perfect Superman: handsome, classy and bad-ass.

Tobey Maguire as Spiderman

Some may be surprised by this decision as on a whole Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman is mostly viewed as… annoying. However, it becomes apparent that the ability to portray the weedy and weak Peter Parker while still managing to be convincing as a superhero (with the ability to save lives) is a skill that few actors possess. Having said this, Maguire did a relatively good job.



The Bad


George Clooney as Batman

Clooney once said of the 1997 rendition of Batman and Robin “it’s a hard film to be good in”. It would seem this is the simple case of a good actor in a bad film. This particular film – and superhero films in general – were viewed as commercially-obsessed ways of selling toys and merchandise until (St.) Christopher Nolan came along in 2005 and gave not only Batman, but the genre as a whole, some class.

Seth Rogen as The Green Hornet

If The Green Hornet was made as a parody then fair enough, but the sheer fact that Rogen seriously lost weight for this role makes it all the more cringe-worthy. The mismatched working relationship of Michael Gondry (director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind) and Seth Rogen made for a confused film with an equally confused superhero. There is nothing ‘super’ or ‘heroic’ about Rogen’s Green Hornet, which ultimately defeats the point.



The Ugly


Halle Berry as Catwoman

This unfaithful rendition of the Catwoman character is often named as one of the worst comic book movies of all time. Berry is gratuitously squeezed into overly slinky leather cat-suits and ultra kinky knee-high boots, while also possessing incredibly embarrassing dialogue that is far from “purrrrrfect”. Combined with the truly awful CGI that makes Berry’s Catwoman look like she’s just stepped straight out of Left4Dead, this horrendous portrayal and horrendous film firmly deserves it’s place with the ‘ugly’.

Nicolas Cage as Ghost Rider

This monstrosity sees Cage over-acting, as per usual, taking on the role of awful one-dimensional characters with the cheesiest of lines. Cage’s character, who transforms into a flamed skull (as in an actual skull) with no eyes, screams to his victims “LOOK INTO MY EYES” (haha, no). Furthermore, his attempt to be charming whilst flirting with the news reporter/ female protagonist (played by Eva Mendes) “I saw you on the TV you do a really good job, I watch a lot of TV” is just Cage attempting to pull off the ‘blundering but charming idiot’ that can only be successfully achieved by Hugh Grant (see Four Wedding and a Funeral, Notting Hill, … well any Hugh Grant film really).