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The Most Over-The-Top Performances In Comic Book Movies

Updated March 21, 2021 13.7k votes 1.8k voters 131.0k views17 items

List RulesVote up the biggest, loudest, most colorful performances in comic book movie history.

When heading to our local cinemas for the latest comic book adaptation, we love to see over-the-top performances from the cast. While the most over-acted parts are typically the villains, this is not always the case (we're looking at you, Venom's Tom Hardy and 300's Gerard Butler). Villain or hero, these actors are clearly having fun, and we should just sit back, relax, and do the same.

From the truly weird, like Spawn's John Leguizamo and Batman Returns' Danny DeVito, to the campy, like Spider-Man's Willem Dafoe and Catwoman's Sharon Stone, these comic book movie performances are the ones we don't want to forget. Whether the movie in question is a genre classic or a piece of true dreck, these scene-stealers are worth the price of admission alone.

  • While Michelle Pfeiffer is not the only actor to portray Catwoman on screen - hello, Lee Meriweather, Halle Berry, and Anne Hathaway - she probably plays the part most memorably. Under the guidance of consummate weirdo Tim Burton, Pfeiffer donned a stitched-up catsuit and purred her way through 1992's Batman Returns with an acting display that can only be described as wildly weird. 

    Throughout the film, Pfeiffer's Selina Kyle chugs a carton of milk, shoves stuffed animals down a garbage disposal, smashes her apartment with a frying pan, licks Batman's face after jumping on him, and grooms herself like an actual cat. Say what you want about this adaptation's loyalty to the source material, but Pfeiffer's Catwoman leaves an impression.

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  • 2018's Venom managed to grab over $800 million at the worldwide box office on the strength of its title character - it turns out Venom is a pretty popular dude - and on the back of Tom Hardy's performance in the title role. Even if you fall on the side of disliking the movie, you have to appreciate that Hardy is really going for it.

    If you're looking for commitment to some truly bonkers acting, look no further than the scene where Hardy's Eddie Brock hops into a lobster tank at a restaurant and starts chowing down on live lobster. It's wild, it's crazy, it's just all kinds of strange fun. In the world of big-budget filmmaking, there really isn't anything like it.

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  • Director Zack Snyder isn't known for subtlety. Look no further than 300 for proof of this; everything about that movie is loud and in-your-face. In a film absolutely stuffed with brash exaggeration, no performer is more over the top than Gerard Butler, who plays the legendary Spartan king Leonidas. Whether lambasting a messenger in an early scene, or rallying his troops for battle, Butler is constantly yelling with teeth bared for all to see.

    According to an interview Butler did with GQ, that infamous "This is Sparta!" scene wasn't originally supposed to have that much manic energy. After deciding to straight-up yell the line on one take, Butler went over to Snyder, asking if it was too much. Snyder replied, "Yeah! But it was awesome!" And film history was made.

    Over the top?

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  • There might not be a more perfect character adaptation from page to screen than J.K. Simmons's portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson throughout the original Spider-Man trilogy. Simmons absolutely nails his depiction: He's brash, he's rude, and he just absolutely, 100% hates that dastardly web-crawler. 

    The J. Jonah Jameson of the comic books is an over-the-top character himself, always chomping down on a cigar and lamenting the goings-on of that menace Spider-Man, but Simmons is so spot-on as the character that it's hard to imagine anyone else embodying the role. In fact, when Jameson was introduced into the MCU at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, they brought Simmons (who, in the interim, received an Academy Award for Whiplash) back to play the part.

    Over the top?

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