Comic Book Villain TV Performances That Are Worthy Of The Big Screen
There is no shortage of TV shows based on comic books, and with every superhero inevitably comes a few supervillains as well. A long-running show like The Flash or Arrow may feature a whole gallery of rogues for the heroes to face, while more focused series like Jessica Jones may spend an entire season focusing on one big bad.
Like any genre, there are good and bad comic book shows, and the quality of performances also varies. While some villains never get a chance to develop, there are some comic book TV villains that stand out, and even rival their big-screen counterparts.
Many of the best TV villains are the ones that stick around longer and serve as the main antagonist of a season or series. However, some actors give such strong performances that they can stand out in just a few episodes. While they may never appear in an MCU or big-screen DC project, these actors are more than worthy of a big-screen appearance.
- Photo: Netflix
Vincent D’Onofrio brought something to the role of Wilson Fisk that viewers of Netflix’s Daredevil might not have been expecting from an early Marvel villain: subtlety. Even when Fisk speaks softly, viewers can hear hints of his anger and pain being repressed by his calm demeanor.
When Kingpin’s anger eventually explodes from him, the change doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere. Instead, it feels like a satisfying payoff to D’Onofrio’s performance up until then. D’Onofrio successfully made Fisk a multi-faceted character who shows a range of emotions, but in a way in which audiences can always understand his motivation and the source of his anger.
- 2423 VOTESPhoto: Amazon Studios
Viewers unfamiliar with The Boys or its source material might be forgiven for initially thinking that Homelander is a cross between Captain America and Superman. However, Anthony Starr’s terrifying performance as this deeply insecure supervillain will quickly change their minds and make the show’s satire of superheroes quite clear.
Starr does a great job showing just how thin Homelander’s hero persona really is. He has a talent for making Homelander a terrifying presence even when he's smiling. Thanks to his skilled control over his facial expressions, Starr is able to show both what Homelander wants to communicate to others and what he is actually feeling underneath.
- Photo: Netflix
Few villains actually see themselves as the bad one, but Kilgrave from Jessica Jones takes things a step further by viewing himself as the victim. Appropriately, David Tenant plays him like a petulant child who gloats when he’s winning and throws a tantrum when he's not.
As Kilgrave starts to slip and lose more of his composure near the tail end of the series, Tenant perfectly captures his deteriorating confidence and his desperation to reclaim the upper hand over Jessica. Thanks to this stellar performance, Kilgrave becomes a villain audiences loved to hate - and would love to see return to the MCU despite his apparent death in Jessica Jones.
- 4282 VOTESPhoto: FX
Legion may very well be one of the weirdest Marvel shows out there, so it’s only appropriate that Aubrey Plaza’s performance as Lenny on the show is equally off-beat. Part of what makes Plaza’s performance so interesting is that her character was originally written to be played by a middle-aged man. Plaza asked that the role not be rewritten, leading to some very interesting moments.
As a result of her choice to keep Lenny as written, Plaza will often say crass things about women or use outdated language. This, coupled with a David Bowie-inspired sense of androgyny, makes for a very memorable and unique performance. Plaza brings a lot of energy to her Legion performance that might surprise fans who know her from her roles in Parks and Recreation or Scott Pilgrim.
- Photo: Disney+
Kathryn Hahn’s character, Agatha Harkness, doesn’t seem like a villain at first. In the early episodes of WandaVision, she just seems like the kooky neighbor character. Hahn does a great job matching her performance to the different eras of TV in each episode, while also keeping consistent traits throughout.
Hahn’s performance in the majority of WandaVision episodes really makes us feel like we're watching the same person reimagined across several decades of television sitcoms. After the reveal, Hahn preserves Agatha’s slightly theatrical nature, but manages to ground it to be more consistent with the tone of the typical MCU project. Clearly, Marvel enjoyed Hahn’s version of the character, as she got her own spinoff series out of it, Agatha: House of Harkness.
- Photo: Amazon Studios
Homelander may wear the stars and stripes, but The Boys’ real Captain America parody is Soldier Boy. Unlike the benevolent Steve Rogers, Soldier Boy is angry about the time that was taken from him, an attitude that Jensen Ackles captures perfectly.
Ackles makes it clear just how bitter Soldier Boy is about being betrayed by his team, and his anger matches the explosive powers that accompany it. When Soldier Boy is confronted with some new technology or updated social norm, Ackles memorably expresses his surprise - and sometimes contempt - at these perfectly normal things. Fans eager;y looked forward to Soldier Boy’s eventual return after being put on ice at the end of The Boys Season 3, thanks in no small part to the way Ackles brought the character to life.