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The Worst Superhero Performances In Comic Book Movies

Updated February 27, 2020 63.9k votes 7.0k voters 65.5k views14 items

List RulesVote up the weakest onscreen interpretations of comic book superheroes.

Martin Scorsese started some internet drama in 2019 when he said comic book movies are "not cinema." While Scorsese later clarified his point, comic book movies can require a fair bit of heavy lifting. Actors not only need to perform the emotions of the scene but also sell an entire fantastical reality. Sometimes, they're pulling double-duty as superhero and alter ego. So much of what makes a comic book movie come alive is being able to suspend belief and buy into the idea that superpowers, magic, and wildly advanced science are real. While CGI and special effects help build the world itself, much of the impact hinges on the actors' performances. Sadly, those are not the actors on this list. This list pulls together some of the worst performances of actors playing superheroes. 

Superheroes are like people, only better. While they're given superhuman intellect, energy, magical ability, or advanced technology, so much of the job is about being larger-than-life. There's a certain gravitas it takes to sell a superhero to an audience. Granted, some poor performances boil down to improper casting or issues with the story or production. But these performances are from actors who played not-so-super-heroes. Like with subpar villains, these performances can send comic book properties to production purgatory.

Cast your ballots for the worst superhero performances. Who's the real super zero?

  • Shaquille O’Neal was an amazing basketball player. And at the time of Steel's production, at the height of his athletic prowess, he certainly looked like he could play the post-Death of Superman character of Steel. The problem? Shaquille O'Neal cannot act. Buying him as an engineer was a virtual impossibility. He delivers every line like he's starring in a commercial - which is certainly more in his wheelhouse.

    The tone of this film is predominantly a family-style superhero flick, but Shaq didn't bring much super nor hero. He's believable enough as a veteran who wants more for his community, but he lacks the seriousness and edge to pull off a heroic character covered head-to-toe in steel. His performance in the film took it more into the territory of unintentional comedy than lighthearted family adventure.

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  • Halle Berry could not save this movie. Her turn as Catwoman was strange at best. It's unclear whether she was trying to channel Eartha Kitt, but in any case, it felt more like she was channeling Mariah Carey in Glitter. She vacillated between eccentric to what seemed almost zany. The film as a whole felt way more camp than intended.

    Catwoman had a lot of bizarre components that it couldn't channel into a unifying vision, including cat spirits, a villain whose power is diamond-hard skin from toxic face cream, and questionable special effects of Halle Berry's eponymous anti-hero bouncing around in action. Whether the character in question needed to be more grounded or not, Berry's performance is as much of a trainwreck as the rest of the movie - and she was "honored" with a Razzie for her ignominious performance.

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  • Phoning it in is putting it lightly. George Clooney barely mustered up a performance as anyone other than George Clooney for his role in Batman & Robin. He's the only Batman in all the films to not change his voice when he's in the cape and cowl.

    As for the movie? There's just so much going on. Director Joel Schumacher even admitted that the goal of his franchise was to "sell toys." But while Clooney, in real life, already has the charm of Bruce Wayne, his interpretation of Batman removed all signs of it. At times, Batman & Robin feels like a Saturday Night Live sketch. It's widely considered the worst Batman movie, and Clooney is the Batman in the worst Batman movie, so do with that what you will.

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  • On some level, Alicia Silverstone was done a disservice. She had to play a reimagined version of Batgirl, but somehow missed out on any of Barbara Gordon's qualities - except maybe driving a motorcycle. The film didn't even give her the trademark red hair. This incarnation was all over the place - an English prep school girl with a strict American accent and a thirst for motorcycle racing. But like her costars, Silverstone seemed to be phoning it in.

    Despite figuring out Batman's true identity, nearly losing her Uncle Alfred (Michael Gough), and even donning a suit herself, she seems reactionless. In Batgirl's various appearances elsewhere, so much of what makes her a great character is her advanced intelligence - not to mention her inexorable discovery that Bruce Wayne is the Dark Knight. Nicole Kidman in Batman Forever, in a non-superhero role, did both of those things with more panache than Silverstone.

    Batman & Robin has a lot of problems, and they certainly aren't all Silverstone's fault, but she didn't exactly make Batgirl a memorable onscreen superhero.

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