I did this for the Marvel movies and shows, and as a diehard DC fan, I felt duty-bound to do the same for the other comic book juggernaut.
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 DC 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 DC Movies & Shows)
10. Mark Hamil as The Joker
I’ve done a ranking of Joker portrayal’s before, and ironically, Hamil’s clown prince of crime was number one. The difference here is that as a voice actor, his impact as a performer is limited. If we’re talking acting performances, we want the most complete jobs.
DC’s animated movies are significantly better than Marvel’s, and Batman’s in partcular are elite. Under the Red Hood, Batman: Return of the Joker, Mask of the Phantasm, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero? All fantastic (someone should rank those…). The best part of most of Batman’s animated movies (and a few games)? Mark Hamil’s Joker.
Maybe it’s the snide, sneering, evil delivery, maybe it’s the trademark laugh, or maybe it’s because of how much fun you can tell Hamil has with the role, but it’s truly an elite performances.
I know I’m starting on a weird foot here, but I promise Hamill’s Joker is the only animated portrayal on this list… even if he’s nowhere close to the only Joker. In fact…
9. Jack Nicholson as The Joker
I don’t think people realize that as campy as Burton’s Batman movies are, they’re still much, much darker than previous Batman movies. Adam West’s Batman was pure slapstick, and while these movies are still pretty corny, they’re nowhere near that.
The best example of this is Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Still absolutely silly, but deadly. Dangerous but goofy. As far as representing the classic version of the character goes, this might be the most accurate portrayal.
PLUS, THIS SCENE.
8. Michael Keaton as Batman
Believe it or not, people HATED this casting when it was first announced. Keaton was coming off “Johnny Dangerously” and many thought he couldn’t pull the character off. How wrong they were.
Not only could Keaton pull off posh, yuppie Bruce Wayne, but he could be the stoic, brooding Batman. Not quite as distanced from his own humanity as another Batman on this list, Keaton managed to be very sincere and relatable… for a millionaire that dressed up like a bat and fought crime.
7. Stephen Amell as The Green Arrow
I’ll confess, I’m not a huge fan of the Arrowverse. It’s a little “too CW” for me. I’m not even a fan of Arrow’s earlier seasons, where it felt very obvious to me that they were giving us a watered down Batman TV show.
That’s not to say I don’t love Bullet Club alum Stephan Amell’s take on Oliver Queen. Much like Keaton’s Batman, Amell thrived at playing the gritty vigilante as well as the trust-fund playboy. Without Amell crushing this role, a new generation of Green Arrow and Flash fans wouldn’t exist. So I guess that counts for something.
6. Jason Momoa as Aquaman
I wasn’t a huge fan of Aquaman as a movie. It felt like somehow, they made Black Panther more boring. For a treasure hunt adventure about a lost prince claiming his throne, this movie just wasn’t a ton of fun.
Having said that, Jason Momoa does make a character that many have treated like a punchline compelling. Everyone made fun of Aquaman for a long, long time, and at the very least, Momoa’s made the character interesting.
5. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman
As much as I truly loved Anne Hathaway’s performance in The Dark Knight Rises, nobody pulled off Catwoman/Selina Kyle quite as brilliantly as Michelle Pfeiffer did. It’s a tough role, the actress needs to be vulnerable but confident, sexy but serious, and dangerous but playful.
When done wrong, it’s horrible, just ask Halle Berry.
But Pfeiffer nails it. There’s a scene when Bruce and Selina are dancing and they realize they aren’t the only one with a secret identity, and it hurts every time.
4. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
I hated Suicide Squad, and I turned off Birds of Prey halfway through. These films are everything that’s wrong with new DC movies.
HOWEVER, Margot Robbie is absolutely perfect as Harley Quinn. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the character right now, as she’s put a stamp on the character. It’s seriously depressing to me that she hasn’t been given a better movie to shine in.
3. Christian Bale as Batman
I’m not going to put too fine a point on this, but…
Without Christian Bale in 2005, we don’t have good superhero movies in 2020. The only other successful comic book movie franchise at this time was Sam Raimi’s cheesy Spider-Man movies, and they lacked the heart and gravitas of Nolan’s Batman movies. Bale’s stoic, brooding performance as the Dark Knight is untouchable.
The best thing about Bale’s Batman is that he doesn’t just play Batman. He plays Batman playing Bruce Wayne. You can tell he’s playing a character playing a character, and not everyone can pull that off.
2. Heath Ledger as The Joker
There’s something horribly bittersweet about Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as the Joker. People were so bad when he was cast in the role because at that point, he hadn’t really shown his dark side. He was fresh off of Brokeback Mountain, where he proved he had legit acting chops, but nobody was prepared for Ledger’s Joker.
It was entrancing. Absolutely disturbing. Lovable yet unnerving, the perfect Joker for Nolan’s Batman.
1. Christopher Reeve as Superman
This is obvious, right? I mean… Christopher Reeve is the spitting image of Superman. Despite several attempts, DC hasn’t come close to finding a reasonable successor for Reeve. He manages to make the near-flawless alien demigod warm and relatable, and nobody’s come close to his performance since.