Hollywood tells a lot of stories each year, and let’s face it: There are some great characters out there. However, sometimes the face we all associate with a character has to change, and sometimes a lot more than once. Whether it’s because an actor got too old, wants to branch out into new roles or just wants to break our hearts, some characters have had a lot of different people step into their skin. That’s why this week I decided to take a look at some of the characters over the years that have had a few different faces. To be fair, a lot of this list is made up of superheroes, but who didn’t see that coming?
Just to take it a step further, though, I’m also going to declare who did each role the best so far. I’m trying to stick to big-screen performances for this article, but I’ll give honorable mentions to TV performances. I’m sure a lot of people will probably agree with some of my choices, while others will cause mass rioting in small European countries. But either way, this is my article, and there’s nothing the internet can do to stop me!
(Please don’t hack us, Anonymous. We’re the people’s movie review site.)
10. Frank Castle, aka The Punisher (Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson)
The Punisher has been a fan favorite comic book antihero for years and years, mostly because he’s not afraid to torture his enemies before shooting them in the face. He’s a hard character who has had a lot of manly men play him on the big screen, including a very forgettable performance by Dolph Lundgren in the late 80s. For my money, though, the best person to wear the Skull proudly on his chest was Thomas Jane. There was just something about his cold, hard stare that made me truly believe he was consumed by anger. Sure, Ray Stevenson had the look, but for me, Jane is still The Punisher (at least until we see who is going to play him in the Netflix series).
9. Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Montgomery, George Montgomery, James Garner, Elliott Gould and Robert Mitchum)
There have been a lot of silver screen gumshoes, but one of the great classics is Phillip Marlowe, who has been around for decades. Honestly, it was tough to narrow down who played the part best, especially because The Long Goodbye starring Elliot Gould was just so damn good. However, for this list, I have to go with the man who is famous for wearing a trench coat and fedora. That’s right: The legendary Humphrey Bogart takes the cake for his performance in The Big Sleep. There’s just something about a fast-talking flat foot that really seems to make the character leap off the screen at you. Besides, sometimes they really did do it best in the good old days. Here’s looking at you, Bogie.
8. Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Eric Bana, Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo)
Apparently there are a lot of people we wouldn’t like when they’re angry. The big green giant has seen a lot of success over the years as he smashed his way through the big screen with three actors playing him in a decade. However, since Hulk was an abomination unto cinema, there’s no way Eric Bana could be the best Bruce Banner. Edward Norton was pretty good, but since he’s abandoned the few fans who loved him in the role (including me… That bastard), he’s not No. 1, either. That leaves Mark Ruffalo, who did a damn good job in The Avengers and seems to be on board to do the most he can with the role. We’re happy to have you, Mark, and were excited to see if you get your own solo film like the others.
Honorable Mention: Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno
7. Marshall “Rooster” Cogburn (John Wayne and Jeff Bridges)
Well, I know that John Wayne is the king and all, but when it comes to Rooster Cogburn, I have to give to Jeff Bridges. I mean, I even tried to re-visit the original True Grit after watching the Coen Brothers rendition, and it was almost completely unwatchable. Despite being The Duke, John Wayne was not what we would call one of the greatest thespians of the big screen. Look, before your grandfather starts shouting at me about how John Wayne is a man’s man (which is a really weird expression), let’s remember that I’m saying Jeff Bridges did it better, and he is an incredible actor. So when it comes down to it, this was really just a fight between The Dude and The Duke, and this time The Dude won.
6. Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield)
This one is probably going to lead to a fist fight between me and another writer on our site. Sure, Tobey Maguire was the guy who brought Spider-Man and Marvel swinging onto the big screen (following in the footsteps of X-Men), but he’s just so damn whiny. My thing is that Peter Parker had a crappy life, but he wasn’t the kind of guy who looked like he was about to start crying all the time. Enter Andrew Garfield, who plays a character suffering through one of the worst hands fate has ever dealt a comic book character, and he’s still trying to keep his head up. You’ve got to respect that attitude, so I’ve got to honor the guy who doesn’t look like someone just kicked his dog, Andrew Garfield.
5. Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine)
Jack Ryan has been played by almost as many actors as he has movies. With his new film hitting theaters, too, it looks like Chris Pine is throwing his hat into the ring. Now don’t get me wrong; I like Captain Kirk as much as the next guy, but my nominee for the best Jack Ryan is one of the greatest actors of all time. No, not Ben Affleck. I’m going with Harrison Ford. Why, you may ask? Because Jack Ryan was meant to be an analyst who found himself thrown into the field and did what he needed to do to survive. He was brains that had to fall back on brawn when things got rough, and well, that’s pretty much Indiana Jones, but with CIA clearance. Sorry, guys, but Harrison Ford always wins.
4. Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox, Anthony Hopkins and Gaspard Ullis)
This one is pretty much a no-brainer, but I’ll include it here just for the sake of argument. Of course, Hannibal Lecter is one of the greatest horror icons of all time. He’s terrifyingly brilliant and disturbingly lethal, and he’s a physical force that no one wants to reckon with. He’s truly the most dangerous person in the room, no matter what room it is. So, with that being said, without a doubt the greatest to have an old friend for dinner was Sir Anthony Hopkins. However, this is one time when TV might actually rival the movies, because Mads Mikkelsen is doing one hell of a job in the series Hannibal. Since we’re sticking to film, though, I’m giving it to Hopkins. He might want to watch his back, though, because there’s a new Hannibal the Cannibal in town.
Honorable Mention: Mads Mikkelsen
3. Clark Kent, aka Superman (Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill)
Superman is one of the first heroes to get the big screen and small screen treatment, and there’s little wonder why. He is the quintessential image of the clean-cut hero upon which comics were built, a benevolent force swooping in to save the day. To be fair, all of his big screen adventures have had pretty impressive actors cast in as the leading man (hey, Superman Returns was kinda messed up, but Brandon Routh was a pretty good Clark Kent), which is why this is a hard one to call. Recently, Henry Cavill proved he was pretty super in Man of Steel, which was one of my favorite movies of 2013. While I think he’s a perfect fit for Superman, right now I have to go with a classic. That’s why Christopher Reeve reigns supreme… For now.
Honorable Mention: Bud Collyer, George Reeves, Gerard Christopher, Dean Cain and Tom Welling
2. Bruce Wayne, aka Batman (Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck)
Superman is great and all, but I’ve always been more of a Team Batman fanboy. Over the years, the Caped Crusader has had a lot of incarnations, and all of them included respected actors (at least respected at the time). However, while some really did capture the spirit of the Dark Knight, others had bat nipples. So, let’s just cross Val Kilmer and George Clooney off the list (No objections? Good). Adam West was fun and all, but he’s not really a hero I would take seriously if I was robbing a bank. Michael Keaton was dark and brooding and had some sweet moves, but no one says “I’m going to force-feed you your knee caps” like Christian Bale. Bat voice aside, he had the look, the physique and the acting chops to create a compelling character. Way to clean up Gotham, Christian.
1. James Bond (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, Pierce Bronsan and Daniel Craig)
For years and years I would always say Sean Connery was the only true James Bond. Roger Moore felt like a cheap substitute, and Pierce Bronson was a little too campy. George Lazenby is a trivia answer when it comes to James Bond, and Timothy Dalton never really had enough time to shine. However, Daniel Craig has brought a stark new vision to the character. He keeps getting better and better, and Skyfall proved that he was very much James Bond. So, it is with a torn heart that I have to give this one to the new guy. With a new movie getting ready to start production, it’s going to have to be absolutely terrible for him to get tossed off the throne. He’s a thug in a suit with enough charm to keep himself alive. Craig is the biggest badass in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.