Ten or fifteen years ago, this list would have been much easier. Nowadays, however, there are way more performances to choose from. It was almost impossible to bring it down to five, but I did it.
Let’s start with an obvious one:
HUGH JACKMAN as WOLVERINE
Clearly, this guy was going to be on here. How could he not? He wasn’t the first choice, nor was he the first person to even get the role. Dougray Scott was. Then “Mission Impossible II” went over schedule, and Scott had to relinquish the role.
Hugh Jackman stepped in, and look at him now. He’s Academy Award nominated, and almost universally beloved. Except for a girl I went out with once. Like Dr. Cox from “Scrubs,” she absolutely hates Jackman.
I’ll never understand it. The guy rules.
CHRIS EVANS as CAPTAIN AMERICA
I’ll be one hundred percent honest: when I read that Chris Evans had been cast as Captain America, I was underwhelmed. He already played Johnny Storm in “The Fantastic Four.” Plus, John Krasinski and Jensen Ackles were two of the names being highly considered for Cap, and I was hyped on either of them. John Krasinski surprised me, but the more I thought about it, the more I was into it.
Anyway, point is: I was wrong. It’s crazy how wrong I was. Chris Evans brings so much to the role. He comes off so earnest. For instance, with the wrong actors, the friendship portrayed between him and Bucky Barnes in the MCU could have been cheesy. Instead, it’s thoroughly believable, and actually very charming.
“I’m with you till the end of the line…”
NUMBER THREE (4-WAY TIE)
JAMES MCAVOY & PATRICK STEWART as PROFESSOR X
MICHAEL FASSBENDER & IAN MCKELLEN as MAGNETO
It’s insane to me how good all four of these men are in their roles. We went from the highest caliber performances in McKellen and Stewart, to equal, or even possibly better performances in McAvoy and Fassbender. All of the scenes of them playing chess shouldn’t work as well as they do. I mean, they’re playing chess. Yet, those scenes are always captivating AF.
Then, of course, there’s the scene where old meets new. Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy meet on the astral plane, and steal the show. It’s without a doubt the best scene in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
CHRISTOPHER REEVE as CLARK KENT/SUPERMAN
No list of this nature could be complete without this performance. This one proved that superhero roles could be taken seriously. That the stories deserved to be told as more than serials shown before “real” films.
Let’s also not skimp out on giving credit to Richard Donner. He fought for the first Superman film to be real. The studio wanted him meeting Kojak on the street, and other BS like that. Donner would have none of it. He pushed verisimilitude, and with the help of Tom Mankiewicz, he put together what is still one of the best comic book films ever made.
Of course, Donner was famously fired before delivering a finished version of his second film. They brought in Richard Lester, and the quality of the films kept dipping, until we got the garbage fourth film, “Superman IV: A Quest For Peace.” Christopher Reeve stayed steady, though, and put in solid performances for each film. He was Superman, through and through.
No one has been able to capture the character in the same way, ever since. Brandon Routh could have come close, but he was pushed into doing an impression. Then, you know, Henry Cavill’s Superman was a colossal bummer.
HEATH LEDGER as THE JOKER
The performance that was so good, it’s believed that it actually contributed to Heath Ledger’s untimely death. The thought is that the preparation for the role was so intense, it taxed Heath to the point that he could no longer sleep. So, he began to take various sleeping aids, which eventually caused his accidental death by result of acute intoxication.
I can’t say whether it’s true or not. I’m inclined to believe it’s not. However, that is a widely held belief. Ask a group of people why or how Heath Ledger died, and I’m willing to bet at least a few of them will drop this theory.
Think about that. Heath Ledger was so good as a madman, that a large amount of people think he actually was driven mad. He went on to posthumously win just about every acting award available for him to win. Heath Ledger as The Joker will go down as the measuring stick for a performance in a comic book film.
So, good luck to Jared Leto. He looks like he put one hundred percent into his role.
We’ll find out when “Suicide Squad” hits theaters in August.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: RYAN REYNOLDS as DEADPOOL, ROBERT DOWNEY JR. as IRON MAN (he built the MCU on his shoulders, but I’m a bigger fan of the performances mentioned), BEN AFFLECK as BATMAN, CHRIS PRATT as STARLORD, VIN DIESEL as GROOT, SEBASTIAN STAN as BUCKY, TOBEY MAGUIRE as SPIDER-MAN, ANDREW GARFIELD as SPIDER-MAN, CHRIS HEMSWORTH as THOR, BRADLEY COOPER as ROCKET RACCOON, ALAN CUMMING as NIGHTCRAWLER, JACK NICHOLSON as THE JOKER, MICHAEL KEATON as BATMAN, CHRISTIAN BALE as BATMAN, ETC (there’s just too many!).
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: © 1978 – Warner Bros. All rights reserved.