Summary

  • Many actors found success in their second or third roles in different superhero franchises based on Marvel and DC Comics, achieving new levels of stardom.
  • Chris Evans and Michael B. Jordan both portrayed the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch before showing off more of their talents with iconic roles in the MCU: Captain America and Killmonger, respectively.
  • Other actors who’ve achieved more success with their latter superhero franchise roles include Josh Brolin, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Gemma Chan and Ryan Reynolds.

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Over the years, several actors have portrayed multiple roles in Marvel and DC superhero franchises, but their second roles were almost always better than their first. Following the superhero franchise emergence that started with New Line Cinema’s Blade trilogy and 20th Century Fox’s production of the X-Men universe, roles in superhero projects became the goal for many Hollywood actors. The potential of adapting stories and characters from Marvel and DC Comics meant that parts in superhero franchises would provide steady and consistent work for actors, and as these franchises have grown over the years, more high-profile stars have joined up.

Aside from the behemoths of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the upcoming DC Universe – rebooted from the DCEU, 20th Century Fox explored the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, and Sony Pictures has developed a franchise featuring Spider-Man-related characters. These disconnected, and often competing, franchises have featured many of the same stars over the years, but all too often, actors’ first superhero roles have fallen flat. Nevertheless, many actors found success in their second, or even third, superhero movie roles, achieving new levels of stardom, and bringing some of the most vibrant superhero characters to life on the big screen.

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10 Chris Evans Has Become More Well-Known As The MCU’s Captain America

Chris Evans Played Johnny Storm’s Human Torch & Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Role

Film

Franchise

Johnny Storm’s Human Torch

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four

Johnny Storm’s Human Torch

Fantastic Four: Rise of Silver Surfer (2007)

Fantastic Four

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

The Avengers (2012)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Thor: The Dark World (2013) (Cameo)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Ant-Man (2015) (Cameo)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) (Cameo)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Captain Marvel (2019) (Cameo)

MCU

Steve Rogers’ Captain America

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

MCU

Chris Evans has become best known as the MCU’s Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, the world’s first super soldier and a founding member of the Avengers. However, before portraying Rogers, Evans starred as Johnny Storm in 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four in 2005 and its 2007 sequel. While Fox’s Fantastic Four projects were fun, and did a solid job of adapting Marvel’s First Family for the big screen, they were still lackluster, and Evans’ performance of the goofy ladies man didn’t see him reach his full potential. Captain America was a far stronger role for the committed actor.

9 Halle Berry’s Storm Was Far Stronger Than Her Catwoman

Halle Berry Played Patience Phillips’ Catwoman & Ororo Munroe’s Storm

Role

Film

Franchise

Ororo Munroe’s Storm

X-Men (2000)

Fox’s X-Men

Ororo Munroe’s Storm

X2 (2003)

Fox’s X-Men

Patience Phillips’ Catwoman

Catwoman (2004)

Ororo Munroe’s Storm

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Fox’s X-Men

Ororo Munroe’s Storm

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Fox’s X-Men

Halle Berry’s performance of Ororo Munroe, a.k.a. Storm, may not have been her second stint in a superhero franchise, but it’s still worth noting that this role was far stronger than her portrayal of Patience Phillips, a.k.a. Catwoman, in 2004’s standalone Catwoman movie. Catwoman is widely regarded as one of the worst movies of all time, not just based on a superhero, as the direction, visual effects, writing and, unfortunately, Berry’s performance, were harrowing. Luckily, Berry returned to the role of Storm in Fox’s X-Men franchise, which helped to redeem her superhero career, as many hope she’ll reprise the role.

8 Ray Stevenson’s Punisher Was A Disappointment

Ray Stevenson Played Frank Castle’s Punisher & Volstagg

Role

Film

Franchise

Frank Castle’s Punisher

Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Volstagg

Thor (2011)

MCU

Volstagg

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

MCU

Volstagg

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

MCU

The late Ray Stevenson was best known for portraying Volstagg in the MCU, a member of the Warriors Three and a close friend to Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder. Volstagg gave Stevenson the opportunity to demonstrate his comedic chops, and display his sheer strength, proving that he was born to play the Norse figure, but his initial superhero role left much to be desired. In Lionsgate’s 2008 reboot of 2004’s The Punisher, which starred Thomas Jane in the titular role, Stevenson played Frank Castle’s antihero, but this was a sheer disappointment, so viewers were thankful for Stevenson’s second superhero role.

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7 Michael B. Jordan Was One Of The MCU’s Best Villains

Michael B. Jordan Played Johnny Storm’s Human Torch & Erik “Killmonger” Stevens

Role

Film

Franchise

Victor Stone’s Cyborg

Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

DCAU

Johnny Storm’s Human Torch

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four

Erik “Killmonger” Stevens

Black Panther (2018)

MCU

Erik “Killmonger” Stevens

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

MCU

While Michael B. Jordan voiced Cyborg in 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox in the DC Animated Universe, it was his second live-action role that made the most impact. Jordan starred as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens in 2018’s Black Panther, and was introduced as one of the MCU’s most intelligent and, frankly, correct villains, but while his intentions were strong, his methods were questionable. Black Panther did give Jordan the chance to show off more talent, however, particularly more than 2015’s Fantastic Four reboot, which saw him play Johnny Storm’s Human Torch in a project that was packed full of disappointments.

6 Gemma Chan Was Given A Much Bigger Role As Sersi

Gemma Chan Played Minn-Erva & Sersi

Role

Film

Franchise

Minn-Erva

Captain Marvel (2019)

MCU

Sersi

Eternals (2021)

MCU

British actor Gemma Chan is one of a group of actors who’ve portrayed more than one character in the MCU, as she debuted as the Kree Starforce member Minn-Erva in 2019’s Captain Marvel before taking on the larger role of Sersi in 2021’s Eternals. Chan’s brief portrayal of Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel was lackluster, as she was relegated to a side character in Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers’ story. However, Eternals put Chan in the spotlight as the leader of the Eternals, and while the film received criticism, Chan’s performance was one of the strongest elements of the Phase 4 project.

5 Josh Brolin Was Better As Thanos (& Cable) Than Jonah Hex

Josh Brolin Played Jonah Hex, Thanos & Cable

Role

Film

Franchise

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex (2010)

Thanos

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

MCU

Thanos

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (Cameo)

MCU

Thanos

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

MCU

Cable

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Fox’s X-Men

Thanos

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

MCU

Josh Brolin has portrayed three different live-action superhero franchise characters across both Marvel and DC universes, debuting as Jonah Hex in Legendary Pictures’ 2010 project. Unfortunately, Jonah Hex received a generally negative response, so wasn’t a strong introduction for Brolin into the world of superheroes, but his run as the Mad Titan Thanos in the MCU more than made up for this. Thanos was the overarching villain of the MCU’s Infinity Saga, and Brolin’s magnetic performance made him also human. Brolin pulled off a similar tactic with the hardened but hilarious Cable in Fox’s Deadpool 2.

4 Tom Hardy Leads Sony’s Spider-Man Franchise As Venom

Tom Hardy Played Bane & Eddie Brock’s Venom

Role

Film

Franchise

Bane

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight trilogy

Eddie Brock’s Venom

Venom (2018)

SSU

Eddie Brock’s Venom

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

SSU

Eddie Brock’s Venom

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) (Cameo)

MCU

Eddie Brock’s Venom

Venom 3 (2024)

SSU

After debuting as Bane in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy-capper, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy went on to spearhead Sony’s Spider-Man Universe as Eddie Brock, a.k.a. Venom. Thankfully, his role of Venom has been much better received than his stint as the Batman villain, as The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane was criticized for his voice, size and poor fight scenes. Venom is a more popular character for Hardy, who has become the cornerstone of the SSU, and will continue to be in Sony’s upcoming Venom 3. Hardy even crossed-over into the MCU for a cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

3 Ben Affleck Was Wasted In The DCEU, But His Daredevil Was Worse

Ben Affleck Played Matt Murdock’s Daredevil & Bruce Wayne’s Batman

Role

Film

Franchise

Matt Murdock’s Daredevil

Daredevil (2003)

Matt Murdock’s Daredevil

Elektra (2005) (Director’s Cut)

Bruce Wayne’s Batman

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

DCEU

Bruce Wayne’s Batman

Suicide Squad (2016) (Cameo)

DCEU

Bruce Wayne’s Batman

Justice League (2017)

DCEU

Bruce Wayne’s Batman

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Bruce Wayne’s Batman

The Flash (2023)

DCEU

Ben Affleck has had a rough time in his superhero career, as his portrayal of Matt Murdock’s Daredevil in New Regency’s Daredevil and Elektra projects were divisive, and his stint in the DCEU as Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, saw him neglected. However, his role as Batman gave him more opportunities to show off his stoic but comedic talents, particularly in the director’s cut of Justice League, Zack Snyder’s Justice League. A planned solo Batman film for Affleck was canceled, marking the final nail in the coffin for the actor, as he won’t be reprising the role in the rebooted DCU.

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2 Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse Wasn’t Well-Received, But His Later Roles Have Excelled

Oscar Isaac Played En Sabah Nur’s Apocalypse & Marc Spector’s Moon Knight (& Miguel O’Hara’s Spider-Man 2099)

Role

Film

Franchise

En Sabah Nur’s Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Fox’s X-Men

Miguel O’Hara’s Spider-Man 2099

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) (Cameo)

Sony’s Spider-Verse

Marc Spector’s Moon Knight

Moon Knight (2022) (Series)

MCU

Miguel O’Hara’s Spider-Man 2099

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

Sony’s Spider-Verse

Oscar Isaac first appeared as the supervillain Apocalypse in Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse, one of the lowest-rated projects in Fox’s X-Men franchise. Isaac’s performance wasn’t well-received, as it was a far cry from Apocalypse’s powerful depiction in Marvel Comics. However, the actor has since redeemed himself by taking roles in Sony’s animated Spider-Verse franchise and in the MCU, in which he starred as Marc Spector/Steven Grant/Jake Lockley, a.k.a. Moon Knight, in a self-titled Disney+ series. Moon Knight and Spider-Man 2099 have solidified Isaac as a brilliant superhero actor, and there are hopes he will reprise both these roles.

1 Ryan Reynolds Achieved Acclaim After A Major DC Flop

Ryan Reynolds Played Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern & Wade Wilson’s Deadpool (Twice)

Role

Film

Franchise

Hannibal King

Blade: Trinity (2004)

Blade trilogy

Wade Wilson’s Weapon XI

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Fox’s X-Men

Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern

Green Lantern (2011)

Wade Wilson’s Deadpool

Deadpool (2016)

Fox’s X-Men

Wade Wilson’s Deadpool

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Fox’s X-Men

Wade Wilson’s Deadpool

Deadpool 3 (2024)

MCU

Prior to finding his feet as Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds starred as Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity, another version of Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Hal Jordan in Green Lantern. All of these roles were criticized, with Blade: Trinity being regarded as the trilogy’s worst installment, X-Men Origins: Wolverine rather being forgotten, and Green Lantern being so bad that Warner Bros. shifted plans for the project to start a new DC franchise. Reynolds, thankfully, will continue his adventures as the celebrated Deadpool in the MCU’s upcoming Deadpool 3, and will likely play the Marvel character for years to come.

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