Even before Disney famously acquired Marvel in 2009, they had tons of good content. The X-Men movies were box office hits, and shows such as Spider-Man and X-Men ruled Saturday mornings in the 90’s. Since that acquisition, they’ve gone on to have several successful television shows, and an entire cinematic universe.
So I decided to take on the unenviable task of ranking the top ten casting decisions in the history of the brand. Note, these aren’t the best actors in Marvel movies and shows, nor are they the most accurate to the comic book appearances. These are simply the casting decisions that I believe best embodied the spirit of the character they played.
The Top Ten Best Casting Choices (In Marvel Movies & Shows)
- Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger
- Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter
- Mike Colter as Luke Cage
- Jon Bernthal as The Punisher
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio
- Josh Brolin as Thanos AND Cable
10. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Sam Jackson’s performance as Nick Fury perfectly epitomizes what I Mean by “best embodied the spirit of the character.” Weird fun fact that I didn’t know until I did some research for this article- David Hasselhoff was the first actor to play Nick Fury? I’ll never be able to unknow that, and neither will you. While the Hoff definitely looks more like Fury than Jackson does, the Tarantino favorite is a much, much, much better head of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Jackson’s stern, gruff attitude
9. Michael Fassbender as Magneto
Very impressively, not only are two different actor’s playing Magneto on this list, but they happened in the same film franchise. In the DC version, there are a couple of Batmen and Jokers, but they all exist in reboots of the caped crusader. Michael Fassbender is one of TWO Magneto’s from the same X-Men series, and on a couple of occasions, the same movie.
Fassbender capture’s Magneto’s stoic, iconoclastic and controversial energy without coming off too militaristic. Even as he demands violence, he is a sympathetic character. He’s a viable terrorist but you understand his pain and can’t help but root for him. It’s an amazing, powerful performance.
It’s at this point that I beg Marvel to cast him as Doctor Doom.
8. Charlie Cox as Daredevil
I will be absolutely furious if Marvel creates another Daredevil show or movie with literally anyone else in the role of Matt Murdock. After the absolute disaster that was Ben Affleck’s Daredevil (shoutout to Afflect for playing a character that someone else played better on BOTH OF THESE LISTS), the Netflix show completely redeemed the character.
Cox is a great Matt Murdock. He’s absolutely brilliant. He’s so great that he makes you forget how absolutely ridiculous it is that a blind lawyer dresses up like Satan and fights crime. And not to put too fine a point on it, even when Murdock isn’t in costume (where he did most of his own stunts), he has the unenviable task of playing a blind man, which he does incredibly convincingly.
I will complain so aggressively if anyone else is cast in this role.
7. Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto
It hurt me not to rank him higher on this list. Just like Fassbender, McKellen has such a sympathetic, stoic approach to one of Marvel’s best characters. The whole time he’s doing dastardly things, McKellen conveys warmth and genuine sympathy for the other mutants. We didn’t deserve this performance.
Does anyone else think Ian McKellen also could’ve made a great Count Dooku? Just spitballing. Also, how sad is it that Christopher Lee isn’t in the MCU? OR THE DCU? Christopher Lee would’ve been a better Ras Al Ghul than Liam Neeson. I said what I said.
6. Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin
My brain melted and leaked out my ears when I realized that D’Onofrio was also the main antagonist from the first Men In Black movie. This guy has just the most ridiculous range, and I need him to get more credit for his work.
As much as I love Charlie Cox’s Daredevil, this show wouldn’t have been as great without D’Onofrio’s perfect Kingpin. There have been some GOOD Wilson Fisk performances, but this is flawless. Quiet, cerebral, hulking, intimidating, I felt genuinely hopeless during points of Netflix’s Daredevil because he was such an imposing villain.
Please Marvel, just uproot the Daredevil universe from Netflix and merge it with yours. It’s perfect as is.
5. Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor X
As much as I like James McAvoy, and admire the job he did as Charles Xavier, he fell quite short of Patrick Stewart’s performance. He’s stoic, commanding, wise, and perfectly captures teh character. There’s just nobody else that could’ve come in and played the leader of the X-Men as well as the guy from Star Wars did. Spaceballs? Battlestar Galactica?
4. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
As it stands, it’s impossible to recast an adult Tony Stark. They’d have to do a completely different reboot for Iron Man, unless they want the movie to freeze in Robert Downey Jr’s shadow. Often considered the poster boy of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. elevated Iron Man as a character and must be considered an essential part of everything the MCU has become.
It’s hard to separate RDJ from Tony Stark at this point. The quippy, dry sarcasm is a signature for both me, and I hear his voice in my head when I read Iron Man comics now. Without RDJ knocking it out of the park, there is no MCU. RDJ’s Iron Man is important because it changed the way they write the character in comics. Go ahead and read Iron Man from 2005 vs. today and note the drastic changes to become more like the MCU’s icon.
…more like Icon Man, right guys? … guys?
3. Tom Holland as Spider-Man
I always thought that while Tobey Maguire made a good Peter Parker, his Spider-Man wasn’t quippy enough. Meanwhile Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man was fine, but his Peter Parker was far too cool to be bullied. Tom Holland is the perfect mix.
His Peter Parker isn’t so dorky that you empathize with his bullies, as much as he’s just kinda awkward. He’s nerdy, we see him building a Lego Death Star with his friend early on and he’s on the debate team.
Meanwhile he’s actually a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man! He helps around his neighborhood with simple crimes, and doesn’t really pursue an “Avenger’s level threat” until his second movie. He’s quippy and full of heart, even with a mask on.
But he’s so damn endearing, you just have to love him. He’s so wholesome and good, he’s exactly what Spider-Man is supposed to be. I know there’s been some awkwardness with the Disney/Sony relationship, but we need as much Tom Holland Spider-man as we can get.
2. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine
With Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s Marvel characters, we’ve probably seen the last of the original cinematic X-Men. This is a shame, because as you’ve seen, many of their performances placed favorably on this list. But most notably, it almost definitely means we’ll never see the return of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.
Now, it’s not completely fair to blame Disney for this, as “Old Man Logan” walked off into the sunset before the last X-Men film hit theatres, but the point stands.
Hugh Jackman was Wolverine. It’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part, which is funny, considering fans originally balked at how physically different Jackman was (he’s literally a foot taller than the character is supposed to be). But his commitment to the character, the ability to be gruff and curmudgeonly one minute and tender the next? Is flawless.
Did you know he almost didn’t? Originally, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, and Dougray Scott (known best for not being Wolverine), were penned for the role. It look a strange road for Jackman to end up as the Wolverine, but in hindsight, we’re glad he did.
1. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool
This is a controversial ranking, I know, because of all the actors on this list, Reynolds’ Deadpool is the only one that was portrayed horribly in a movie. The disaster that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, buried the beloved merc with a mouth and ruined everything that made the character great. How can I possibly reward Reynolds for participating in that?
Because he did it to save the character.
Fox basically told Reynolds that if he didn’t play the character, someone else would, and he’d never get his standalone movie, so he gave his best to a version of the character that he knew was terrible. That’s why the “Wade Wilson” you see at the beginning shares so many characteristics with the actual Deadpool.
When Reynolds finally did get his own Deadpool movie? He crushed it. He absolutely nailed it. Ryan Reynolds IS Deadpool. He’s a snarky, sarcastic, fast-talking, reference-making, so obnoxious you have to love him maniac. I’m convinced you could just put Reynolds in the suit, let him loose in NYC without a script, and end up with a passable Deadpool movie.
I’m a little biased, because I’ve been a fan of the tragic comedy for a long, long time and I had to deal with people calling him Spider-Man.
ARE ANY OF SPIDER-MAN’S FILMS THE SECOND AND THIRD HIGHEST GROSSING RATED R MOVIES OF ALL TIME? NO. And yeah, I guess, they’re not rated R at all, so it doesn’t correlate, but thE POINT STANDS.