Comic book movies have now been going for decades and, as a result, hundreds of characters from comic books have been depicted on screen.
However, only a select few appeared more than once – but it’s a big enough number to make a list relevant.
The likes of Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse have all had their characters depicted in live action movies, but only the big two – Marvel and DC – have had characters appear played by multiple actors.
This list put highlight the ten most iconic comic book movie characters to ever be played by more than one actor (using only movies that got a theatrical release).
The Fantastic Four
Granted, the Fantastic Four are, of course, four characters, but they come as one no matter what, so they fit the bill for this list. All four of them have indeed been played by multiple actors in theatrical movies – two each, to be exact.
They first appeared in a theatrical live action franchise in 2005 and 2007, when Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer were released. In that franchise, Ioan Gruffudd played Reed Richards, Jessica Alba played Sue Storm, Chris Evans played Johnny Storm and Michael Chiklis played Ben Grimm.
More recently, they appeared in 2015’s Fant4stic, when Miles Teller played Reed Richards, Kate Mara played Sue Storm, Michael B. Jordan played Johnny Storm and Jamie Bell played Ben Grimm.
Bane is one of many Batman villains who can truly be considered iconic and he has appeared in two different Batman movies over the years as a result.
His first – and least impressive – appearance in a live action movie came in 1997’s Batman and Robin. He was played by the late wrestler Robert “Jeep” Swenson, who portrayed a mindless version of the character who was nothing like the classic version from the comic books.
More recently, he was played by the brilliant Tom Hardy in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, which was the final part of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. This depiction was far more faithful to the comic books, as Bane was depicted as an intelligent and tactically astute terrorist (even if his voice was incredibly weird!).
Catwoman is the first character on this list to be played by more than two actors in theatrical offerings over the years – four to be exact. Another iconic Batman villain (and sometimes ally), the character is a sexy, sultry cat burglar with incredible martial arts skills.
Lee Meriwether played the character in the 1966 spin-off of the Adam West Batman television series – simply called Batman – and Michelle Pfeiffer played what is still arguably the most iconic movie version of the character in 1992’s Batman Returns.
Halle Berry played a terrible, awful version of the character in the character’s only titular movie – 2004’s Catwoman – while Anne Hathaway portrayed a version of the character in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.
Magneto is the first character on this whereby two actors have played the same version of him at different ages – both in Fox’s massively successful X-Men movie franchise.
Ian McKellen first played the character – the older version – in 2000’s X-Men and he’s gone on to play him three more times (2003’s X2, 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past), not including a cameo in 2013’s The Wolverine.
But Michael Fassbender has since become the main version of the character – the younger version – having first appeared as him in 2011’s X-Men: First Class. He also appeared in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past and will reprise the role in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
One of Marvel’s most iconic and powerful villains, Doctor Doom has indeed been played by two different actors in two different Fantastic Four movie franchises – and both of them were absolutely terrible! Seriously, he’s been brutalised twice – and that’s a real tragic shame.
Julian McMahon played the character in 2005's Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and he came across as a whiny pretty boy who was nothing like the comic book version of the character.
Then, Toby Kebbell played the character in 2015's awful Fant4stic. This version was essentially not Doctor Doom at all, as absolutely nothing about him resembled the no-nonsense Latverian monarch known from the classic source material.
The Hulk has been portrayed by three different actors in theatrically released movies, in spite of the fact that the character has only appeared in two different franchises.
Eric Bana first played the character in 2003’s Universal-produced movie, Hulk – a movie that didn’t really get the praise that it deserved to receive.
More recently, Edward Norton appeared as the character in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk – the second movie in the incredibly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. However, after a disagreement with Marvel Studios, Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo, who has since appeared as the character in 2012’s The Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (as well as in a cameo in 2013’s Iron Man 3 post-credits scene). He will reprise the role in future and fans are pleased about that.
The Joker is, without a doubt, the most iconic comic book villain of all time and, as a result, has been depicted on the big screen a number of times.
In 1966, Cesar Romero reprised his role as the character from the Adam West Batman television series – in a theatrical spin-off simply called Batman – but he has been portrayed in even more iconic fashion since.
Jack Nicholson played the character in 1989’s Batman movie – and he was fantastic. However, you could even say he was surpassed by an outstanding Oscar-winning performance from the late Heath Ledger as the character in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Jared Leto will take on the role in 2016’s Suicide Squad and beyond – it remains to be seen whether or not he will live up to the standards of previous actor portrayals, though we live in hope!
Spider-Man is Marvel’s flagship hero and, as a result, has been portrayed on the big screen on more than one occasion. As well as being portrayed in a live action television film, he’s had two theatrically released franchises to date – and a new version is on the way.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy began in 2002 with Spider-Man and continued with 2004’s Spider-Man 2 and 2007’s Spider-Man 3. In those movies, the character was brilliantly portrayed by Tobey Maguire.
More recently, a rebooted franchise saw two movies released – 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man and 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – starring Andrew Garfield, who was equally good. However, the franchise was cancelled and the character is now set to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – starting with 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and going further into the future – played by youngster Tom Holland.
Batman is the comic book character who has been portrayed by the most actors over the years – and by a very large margin. In addition to film serials and television shows, he’s appeared in a number of theatrically released movies.
Starting in 1966, Adam West reprised his role from the television shows – in a movie simply called Batman – triggering a series of further movies that have lasted until today.
Michael Keaton (twice), Val Kilmer and George Clooney portrayed the character in 1989’s Batman, 1992’s Batman Returns, 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997’s Batman and Robin, before Christian Bale played the character in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy (2005’s Batman Begins, 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises). Ben Affleck will now portray the character going forward, starting with 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Superman has been played more than any other comic book character in live action adaptations over the years (television shows, television movies, film serials etc), but only three men have ever played him in theatrically released movies.
Most iconically, Christopher Reeve portrayed the character in four movies – 1978’s Superman, 1980’s Superman II, 1983’s Superman III and 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Brandon Routh portrayed supposedly the same character in 2006’s Superman Returns (it was a loose reboot/sequel to the Reeve movies).
More recently – and in what is an ongoing role – Henry Cavill portrays the character. Starting in 2013’s Man of Steel, he will reprise the role in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and beyond in the DC Extended Universe.
What do you think? Have more iconic comic book characters than these been portrayed in theatrical movies? Which ones? Have your say below!