We all have our favorite superheroes that have appeared on both TV and cinema and asked if they were real, we’d identify them with a face, and it would be that of the actor that portrayed them. For some of us who have lived longer than others, we’d probably think of faces the current generation doesn’t know of so this list will be limited to our heroes’ cinematic outings. But even then an entry or two would be from an older era. These roles have made or broken some actors but what matters is, that they brought the role to life and we couldn’t think of anyone else more suited. If only they didn’t age, right?
Superman – Richard Donner’s Superman starring Christopher Reeve was a groundbreaking superhero film. The choice of Christopher Reeve as Superman was perfect. Reeve had the looks and the build to support the role. He wore the bright, red, blue and yellow costume without looking silly even by today’s standards. He also had a certain charm and charisma that embodied DC’s flagship hero. And though several actors have played the role on film and TV, many people still identify the late Christopher Reeve as the definitive Superman.
Wonder Woman – the character had been waiting for so long for a cinematic outing. Whether Warner Brothers and DC were afraid a female-led film wouldn’t work, or Batman just makes a lot more money. But the world was greeted with surprise when Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot turned out to be such a great film. It’s now being compared to Richard Donner’s Superman film, and Gal Gadot is now being billed as the definitive Wonder Woman. Though she first appeared in Batman V Superman, the film’s reception has been disappointing that Gal Gadot’s appearance became muted but many agree that it was one of the best parts of the film. The DC Trinity is finally complete in cinematic form, and hopefully, she’s handled carefully in Justice League and in the Wonder Woman sequel to really cement Gal Gadot’s face to the character, replacing the lovely Lynda Carter who has as the face of the iconic female hero.
Batman – Now this is a tough one. In deference to the recently departed Adam West, he just wasn’t well-known as the cinematic Batman even though the TV series had a cinematic special called Batman The Movie. Two actors actually fit the bill and there have been many since Batman was made into the superhero equivalent of James Bond surrounded by much hype as who will play the iconic hero as well as the villain of the year. Michael Keaton is credited into propelling the character to great heights in cinema thanks to director Tim Burton. Michael Keaton has brought the character out of darkness or rather back into it through the film simply titled Batman in 1989. Keaton played the role again in Batman Returns. The two subsequent films weren’t as well received as the first two and changing directors as well as lead actors aren’t well received back then as it is now. This franchise died taking the early superhero genre along with it in the disastrous Batman and Robin. Keaton had the seriousness it took despite doubts being a comedic actor. He had the looks and the build though Batman also popularized the rubber muscle trend. The quirky directing also worked plus the darker tone, the awesome costume and the awesome Batmobile and Batwing made this film very memorable, placing Keaton in an enviable role as the face of Batman.
Though some fans would dispute this as the new Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale revitalized the popularity of the character in cinema. Not to mention Bale playing the character throughout the trilogy. The best film of the trilogy, The Dark Knight, was well received, thanks to a great plot, direction and acting with an awesome performance by the late Heath Ledger as the Joker who might as well have taken over Jack Nicholson as the face of Batman’s best villain.
Iron Man – It’s very difficult to think of anyone else playing Iron Man than Robert Downey Jr. You could say that he was born for the role; and like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, he has been playing the role since forever or more than a decade since the MCU franchise began. RDJ has the looks, RDJ has the build and RDJ has the snark of the character to a T. Robert Downey Jr. also shares some of the character’s own personal battles with alcoholism and thanks to the Iron Man film last 2008, RDJ’s career is at an all-time high. He has the majority of the MCU films under his belt, so it will be difficult to forget him as the definitive Iron Man.
Spider-Man – This is another tough one, but there’s still no doubt that the majority still identifies Tobey McGuire as Spider-Man. McGuire has three films under his belt, and two of them were spectacular (pun intended). Spider-Man 3 is seen as a troubled sibling, but it’s not that bad. Some critics say though that Director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy was too dramatic. What we have to remember though is that Marvel’s heroes are often thrust with real-world problems much like everyone else. They have to deal with problems regarding nerdity, love, responsibilities, and finances all of which are depicted nicely in the films. Tobey may now be memed for his role, but those serve to remind us that he’s still Spider-Man and not the other guy with the weird hair. Whether we’ll be singing a different tune after Spider-Man: Homecoming remains to be seen as Tom Holland seemed to have a handle on Spider-Man in the few minutes he was in Captain America: Civil War. Personally, Marisa Tomei nails it as the face of Aunt May but Rosemary Harris nails it too if we stick through the comics and the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends cartoon.
Captain America – Captain America has been around for a long, long time like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But unlike Wonder Woman, he had several cinematic outings before Captain America: The First Avenger. First, there was Matt Salinger in that lackluster 90s film, and there were those TV movies starring Reb Brown, but they were forgettable, low-budget and lackluster not to mention strayed too far from the source material. Actor Chris Evans certainly has the looks and the build to star as the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan. He also has the talent as he delivers his archaic period lines and attitude on the big screen. To further emphasize, Evans might as well be the face of the Human Torch as he played the Fantastic Four’s rambunctious Johnny Storm quite well. Seriously, these guys and the talk about their contracts. They need to be cloned.
Wolverine – Hugh Jackman would probably be stuck down under as a great actor in that part of the world if it wasn’t for Ol’ Canucklehead. Hugh Jackman isn’t exactly well known for his other films, Pan being the worst. And imagine if Bob Hoskins got the role because Wolverine calls for a short, stocky guy? Lucky for us, Jackman got the part, and the height thing was thrown out the window. Unfortunately, Logan is the last we’ll see of him as Wolverine and Logan, being a great film compared to the other X-titles, is a great way of coming out on top.
Professor X – speaking of another hero we won’t be seeing again; Patrick Stewart has also called it quits after Logan. His role in the film was perhaps his greatest and most effing tragic. We’ve known him as Professor X from the beginning of the film franchise and upon knowing there was going to be an X-Men film, the first person fans may have thought of is Patrick Stewart. Yes, because he’s old and bald but he’s also a great actor. Debate still rages in the Trek world if he’s better at being captain of the Enterprise than William Shatner. Again, Patrick Stewart pulls off the looks quite nicely and delivers his lines effectively. The role of Professor X has now been passed on to James McAvoy, but for most of us, Professor Xavier’s cinematic face will be Patrick Stewart.
Nick Fury – Samuel L. Jackson has influenced the character of Nick Fury even before he took the cinematic role. Sounds like a Chuck Norris meme but it’s true. Samuel L. Jackson was the face of Nick Fury in Marvel’s Ultimate universe. That’s how great his appeal is. That is the very reason he secured the role of Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man 1. ‘Okay, you can use my mother$%#ng face, but I gotta be in your mother$%#ng films!’ He nails the role through sheer talent, and he doesn’t have to worry about his looks straying from the source material. He is the source material. What was that? The Hoff was first? The point is?
Blade – Not many actually thought of Blade as a comic book superhero, but everyone knew that Wesley Snipes nailed the stake right through the heart, at least for the first two films. Good Lord, Trinity… Anyway, there hasn’t been any mention of Blade in other media apart from an appearance in the 90s Spider-Man cartoon. The first guy for the role is often the best especially if the film was great, just like Christopher Reeve and unlike Ben Affleck in Daredevil. Wesley Snipes was perfect for the film with his looks and his action cred. His acting is okay, but the film pulls through on his badass appearance and action alone. The Snipes look carries through the Blade anime TV series and recent comic books. Now Snipes may be the face of Blade, but is a reboot with him recast in the MCU a good idea?
Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds had his chance at being the Green Lantern. It’s not that he blew it, there were other factors at play. But he did nail Deadpool, and he’s more attuned to his character due to his own method of acting. He also has the looks and build though his good looks need to be tinkered to look like an oversexed avocado. Ryan Reynolds is the only face for Deadpool right now, and we give it to him unless Fox screws up the next film. He’s actually been Deadpool twice with the first in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He was great in the first act, and comic book fans immediately knew he was the Merc with a Mouth. The last act where they sewed that mouth shut was probably what killed the movie for a lot of fans.
Hulk – There has already been five cinematic Hulks. Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, Eric Bana, Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo. We count Lou as he played the actual Hulk opposite Bill Bixby’s David Banner (yes, not Bruce). Bana and Norton played the character once, if we’re going to base this on number of appearances but Bill, Lou and Mark have played it several times already. Unfortunately, Bill and Lou don’t count as the film The Trial of the Incredible Hulk was made for TV. To be fair, Edward Norton had the better and full cinematic appearance as Bruce Banner than Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk has yet to star in a solo film. But Mark has been in the game since Avengers and is set to appear in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. Edward probably owns this one until Hulk is better defined in the upcoming films. What do you think?