While The Dark Knight and Iron Man receive kudos from fans and critics alike, it’s easy to forget that not all superheroes are created equal. For whatever reason, the superhero genre has the unique ability to stymie the talent of most good actors, and draw out the hackery of bad ones. Herewith, the ten worst superhero actors of all time.
10. Shaquille O’Neal
Rather than a smart, urban superhero spun off from Superman, Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel is more a radioactive club bouncer — only slightly more interesting than the “actor’s” turn as a genie in Kazaam . Our only wish after that movie was to never see Shaq attack another comic book character; his turn in Steel ensures that wish will come true.
9. Jennifer Garner
First Garner turned the deadly Elektra into a doe-eyed romantic lead in Daredevil. Then she resurrected the character in Elektra, ignoring the source material to create a compassionate hit-woman. She didn’t do the ninja assassin — nor herself — any favors with this mess of contradictions. Perhaps she should stick to romantic comedies and J.J Abrams television spy dramas.
8. Nicolas Cage
For years Cage pushed to be in a superhero movie, finally getting his chance as the flame-headed Ghost Rider. Aside from bestowing on the character his usual Elvis impersonation, Cage gave Blaze bizarre, non-canonical tics like a Jelly Bean fixation. Then he took a pass at Philip K. Dick, playing a pre-cog in the sublimely underwhelming Next. Coming up, Cage will star in an adaptation of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass. He’s one superhero Hollywood can’t quit.
7. Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman’s character in The Avengers is equally flawed, making audiences yearn for the 1960s when campy, uninformed performances were expected — not tolerated.
6. Chris Evans
Fantastic Four may be the worst superhero franchise ever — made even worse by Evans’ relentlessly sarcastic Human Torch. The actor also turned one of the coolest Turtle characters ever, Casey, into a snarky whiner in the recent TMNT. Humor is fine, but superheroes need dramatic heft as well — something that Evans has never bothered to locate. Luckily, he’s been perfectly cast in the upcoming Scott Pligrim vs. The World — as an annoying action star. Interesting.
5. Dolph Lundgren
Lundgren handily beats out Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson for the title of “Worst Punisher ever.” How do you manage to mess up a character who’s only defining characteristic is “having guns,” and “shooting things”? Like Arnold Schwarzenegger without the catch-phrases or charm, Lundgren also mangled his way through Masters of the Universe (as He-Man, no less) and Universal Soldier .
4. Sean Connery
Connery was also a large part of the big-screen debacle that was The Avengers. The preposterousness of a villain taking over the weather is made worse by the actor’s Scottish waxing, “You will buy your weather from me!” And let’s not forget The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where Connery’s insistence on changing key aspects of his character to make a more heroic leading man upset the movie’s team balance and permanently derailed the actor’s career.
3. Ben Stiller
Stiller is so bad at playing tough, even his caricatures are unbearable. His role as a superhero actor in Tropic Thunder was so overwrought not even Robert Downey Jr. could rescue it. And his Mr. Furious in Mystery Men made simple the arduous task of determining who among a team of low-level superheroes is the most pathetic — hands down, the guy who only throws temper tantrums.
2. Halle Berry
Who could forget Halle Berry taking Michelle Pfeiffer’s brilliant turn in Catwoman ? Berry won a “Worst Actress” Razzie for that performance, but the actress made matters worse by single-handedly destroying the X-Men series when she demanded more focus be placed on her very-much supporting character, Storm. Boorrinng!
1. George Clooney
Clooney has a recurring role in the headache-inducing Spy Kids series, but there’s only one movie that can make grown comic fans weep: Batman & Robin , in which Clooney saddled the Caped Crusader with rubber nipples, credit cards, and several annoying sidekicks. The actor has publicily admitted he “almost killed the Bat franchise,” which is, in a way, an act of repentance. But we still can’t forgive him for killing our childhood.