Best Superhero Movie Performances

Here are our picks for the best performances in superhero movies!

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20. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

20. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Samuel L. Jackson clearly loves playing Nick Fury as he's appeared as the character in no less than seven Marvel Studios films, as well as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series. It's a character with a history you never see but know through the way he looks and speaks. This is a perfect role for Jackson because he brings a badass quality and inherit coolness to every role. He injects the MCU with an authoritative and caring father figure the Avengers need.

19. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman

19. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman

Over the course of three films Christian Bale was able to gives us a dark origin, horrifying middle chapter, and satisfying finale to the life of the famous crime fighter. He also makes us believe a man would put on a bat suit and fight criminals. It's a difficult challenge to play both a billionaire playboy and grief-stricken hero. It's a testament to his method acting performance that it works and seems realistic.

18. Chris Hemsworth as Thor

18. Chris Hemsworth as Thor

Playing a bratty space prince is a tough task but Chris Hemsworth pulls it off. There is no one better suited for this role as he looks and acts exactly the way the comic book character does. However, he also gives him an emotional and important character arc over the course of the MCU movies going from arrogant, selfish warrior to respectful, humble leader. This is a fun and bizarre character who's injected with relatability and likability thanks to Hemsworth's performance.

17. Bruce Willis as David Dunn

17. Bruce Willis as David Dunn

Portraying normal guys is what Bruce Willis does best and it's no exception here. His character of David Dunn in Unbreakable is a husband and father who isn't particularly good in either of those roles but manages to be a hero regardless. His relationship with his family and the mysterious Mr. Glass make this movie compelling. It's some great acting work and one of Willis' best characters.

16. Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman

16. Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman

Bringing complexity and depth to an otherwise one-dimensional character, Henry Cavill plays a modern version of the Man of Steel with pathos. He's a lost, loner with a strong morality, and he's the most relatable portrayal of the character. It's a genius choice from Cavill to bring more layers to the part of Superman and make him a physical guy.

15. Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk

15. Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk

Mark Ruffalo is brilliant as both Banner and Hulk. Performance capture technology allows him to play both parts and connects the audience to both of them. Banner is a dark and tortured character who's struggling to keep his inner demons at bay, and Hulk is a fun force of fury who's aching to get out. The development of both characters into a cohesive whole has been a welcome surprise from the MCU movies.

14. Holly Hunter as Helen Parr/Elastigirl

14. Holly Hunter as Helen Parr/Elastigirl

Being a mom automatically makes her a superhero, but Elastigirl is also a loving wife and no-nonsense crime fighter to boot. Her strong willed determination to save her family is infectious. It's a strong performance from Holly Hunter who plays each emotional moment with realism.

13. Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

13. Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

After two failures in a row, the Spider-Man franchise was over, but then the character joined the Avengers and Tom Holland brought him back to life. He infuses the character with joy, naivete, and drive which helps us like him. It's a fun performance to watch and a believable one too.

12. Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

12. Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Making her debut early in the MCU, Scarlett Johansson and since displayed her acting range as she plays the super-spy with a depth and moral ambiguity that draws us in and makes us want to see more. This is a layered character she plays to perfection. Her relationships with her fellow Avengers and her tortured backstory give her a quiet and important arc from cold, angry loner to a loyal team player.

11. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X

11. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X

Making a virtuous character into an arrogant prick is a shocking and unexpected move but it works so well thank to James McAvoy's performance as Professor X. He gives such depth and emotion to the part that you almost forget about Patrick Stewart. It's an amazing character journey through this prequel trilogy.

10. Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman

10. Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman

The best Batman on screen, Kevin Conroy was able to emote with just his voice in ways that no live-action version of the character has. He's also able to blend Bruce Wayne into Batman effortlessly. His origin story, romantic relationship, and actions are more believable here than anywhere else.

9. Michael Shannon as General Zod

9. Michael Shannon as General Zod

A driven and ruthless villain, Michael Shannon's General Zod is an excellent character because he's the hero of his own story. He has a code of ethics all his own and will do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals. Here's an example of a perfect movie villain who's a match for the hero as both his opposite and equal. 

8. Craig T. Nelson as Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible

8. Craig T. Nelson as Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible

Thanks to some truly amazing voice acting from Craig T. Nelson, Mr. Incredible is a fully fleshed-out character. His mid-life crisis is on full display in this film as he seeks to relive the glory day while missing the most important ones with his family. It's a shockingly emotional and realistic portrayal of a superhero character.

7. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

7. Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

Perhaps the most challenging role of the MCU is Chris Evan's Captain America who is a moral man with a strong sense of patriotism. His arc throughout the series has been wonderful to watch as he comes to terms with the modern world and faces challenges of conscience. It's an important character and one that is played very well by the actor.

6. Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsher/Magneto

6. Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsher/Magneto

There's a certain mysterious and unhinged quality to Michael Fassbender's Magneto. He's a tortured character who strikes terror into the hearts of his victims, but he has a reason for what he's doing and a real philosophy behind his motives. It's another emotional performance full of anger, sadness, and lost love.

5. Heath Ledger as The Joker

5. Heath Ledger as The Joker

The Joker as played by Heath Ledger is a force of chaos. He's an anarchist with no reason and no plan making him the perfect foil for the cold and calculating Batman. It's a genius performance from an actor at the height of his powers. This is the ultimate bad guy who terrorizes Gotham City without remorse.

4. Christopher Reeve as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman

4. Christopher Reeve as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman

The performance by which all others are judged, Christopher Reeve plays Superman with such verisimilitude that it's impossible not to like him. He shows real range and he takes him to new places in his four films making him more vulnerable and relatable in the second installment. It's a joy to watch his signature smile, unparalleled strength of character, and endless charm.  

3. Gal Gadot as Princess Diana/Diana Prince/Wonder Woman

3. Gal Gadot as Princess Diana/Diana Prince/Wonder Woman

Strength, grace, and poise have always identified Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot plays her to perfection. Seeing her as the most courageous warrior on the battlefield is great, but her relationships with Chris Pine's Steve Trevor, comedic moments, and hope for mankind is where she really shines. Gal is an actress who doesn't just play the role but seems to lives it everyday.

2. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

2. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man

If ever an actor was born to play a role, Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Iron Man. He does so with ease and gives Tony Stark so many layers while each movie gives him a unique arc. His destructive tendencies make him more relatable and his likability factor keeps us coming back for more. It's a spectacular performance over the course of seven movies each of which give us insight into who he is and change him as a person.

1. Hugh Jackman as James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine

1. Hugh Jackman as James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine

The best superhero performance is Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Never before has an actor put as much time and effort into a character as he's played the part for 17 years over nine films. Jackman's heart is in this character even when the directors and writers aren't. He's consistently the best part of each of the X-Men movies. I'm so glad he got to go out on his own terms in last year's Logan which is the ultimate movie for the ultimate movie superhero.

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