The Best and Worst Performances in a Superhero Movie By Oscar Winning Actors

Spared from the bottom five solely because of lowered expectations?
Spared from the bottom five solely because of lowered expectations?

It’s Oscar season, and we are looking for a Gabbing Geek way to cover Hollywood’s biggest night, so today we take a look at the best and worst performances by an Oscar Winning performer while playing a character in a comic book superhero film.  Some of them were future winners when they donned the tights, others already had the Oscars on the shelf.

We are leaving out movies like Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles and other non-superhero comic films, so you gotta be a superhero property to be eligible here! So who is the best and who is the worst (and a bonus for comic completionists, the full list of every Oscar winning performer to play in the genre!)?  Let’s read on, shall we?


5. Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor in Superman Returns

What's really bad is that the other villain of the film was a pile of rocks...
What’s really bad is that the other villain of the film was a pile of rocks…

Won For:  Supporting Actor in Usual Suspects and Best Actor in American Beauty

Worst Moment:  Spacey, who is an amazing actor, picked up on Hackman’s take about 15 years too late.  The campy era was dead, making Spacey’s “dancing away from the scene of the crime” moment cringe worthy.

 4.  Kim Bassigner as Vicky Vale in Batman

"Did you really say 'We need to talk' right before I fight the Joker???"
“Did you really say ‘We need to talk’ right before I fight the Joker???”

Won For: Best Supporting Actress in LA Confidential

Worst Moment: Journalist Vicky Vale had just learned that Bruce Wayne was a bat-themed costumed vigilante and instead of discussing the matter, she asks was it just a one night stand they had the night before.

 3. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face in Batman Forever

Jim Carrey isn't even a matter how many different ways he does The Majestic!
Jim Carrey isn’t even a nominee…no matter how many different ways he does The Majestic!

Won For: Best Supporting Actor in The Fugitive

Worst Moment:  Two-Face is not supposed to be campy.  Thank goodness Aaron Ekhardt came along and did the character justice years later!  Jones’ worst scene was pretty much any scene between him and the Riddler; naughty and nice sidekicks included.

 2.  George Clooney as Batman (but not bad as Bruce Wayne) in Batman & Robin.

Bat Nipples...
Bat Nipples…

Won For: Best Supporting Actor in Syrianna

Worst Moment: Clooney as Clooney does a passable Bruce Wayne (like RDJ as Stark, Clooney sort of IS Bruce Wayne…).  His turn as Batman was terrible.  The worst moment was when he breaks out the ice skates and plays hockey with the diamond.  Straight out of the Adam West days.  Worse than Bat Nipples.

 1.  Halle Berry as Catwoman in Catwoman and….in a double whammy, as Storm in the X-Men series.

Twice the honor!

Won For: Best Actress in Monster’s Ball

Worst Moment:  Halle has earned a special place in Hell.  I have no idea the worst moment in Catwoman, as I haven’t seen it, but her worst moment as Storm was the dreaded joke when she electrocuted Toad.  You know EXACTLY what I am talking about.  As bad as I’ve ever seen in any film not starring Arnold Schwarzenegger,


5. JK Simmons as J Jonah Jameson in the Spiderman Trilogy


Won For: Ha!  We are so certain he is going to win Sunday for Whiplash, we are including him here.  Take THAT!

Best Moment: This guy was the living embodiment of J Jonah Jameson.  Every scene was perfect.

4. Russell Crowe as Joe-El in Man of Steel


Won For: Best Actor in Gladiator

Best Moment: The role Marlon Brando made a dull, self-indulgent exercise in the original Superman films, Crowe turned into an action badass guy.  In the beginning, when he goes full Maximus on the enemies of Krytpon, it made me wish the movie was about Jor-El.  The setup to a comic origin story is not supposed to be that good!

3.  Jack Nicholson as Joker in Batman


Won For: Best Actor for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good As It Gets.  Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment.

Best Moment:  Jack was the last villain that successfully played camp.  Of course, he blended it with razor sharp mania where you actually thought he could go off and be violent at any moment.  That’s why his best scene was the museum job where the goal wasn’t theft, but transformation.  It doesn’t hurt that was also the scene where he quipped the memorable line “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”

2.  Michael Caine as Alfred in the Dark Knight Trilogy

You didn't fail us, Michael!
You didn’t fail us, Michael!

Won For: Best Supporting Actor for Hannah & Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules

Best Moment:  Easily the “Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn” monologue from Dark Knight.  That’s the film in a nutshell.  If not for Ledger’s brilliant turn, we’d all be talking about how Michael Caine gave the best performance of anyone, Oscar winner or not, ever in a Superhero flick.  But….

1. Heath Ledger as Joker in Dark Knight

I guess Jenny is right. Clowns are creepy.

Won For: THIS FREAKING MOVIE!  Only one ever to do that.

Best Moment:  All of them.  Picking his best moment is like picking my favorite child. Well….since I can tell you that’s Collin, I guess I will say Ledger’s best scene is when he introduces himself to the mob and does his magic trick.


I combed through Wikipedia, and looked for every Oscar winning actor to appear in a superhero movie (at least since Superman in 1978).  Some people appeared in more than one flick, but I think I got them all on one list.  Can you find someone I am missing?  Tell me I suck in the comments section.

Jack Nicholson Batman
Kim Bassinger Batman
Jack Palance Batman
George Clooney Batman & Robin
Michael Cane Batman Begins
Morgan Freeman Batman Begins
Christian Bale Batman Begins
Tommy Lee Jones Batman Forever
Nicole Kidman Batman Forever
Christopher Walken Batman Returns
Robert Redford Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Nic Cage Ghost Rider
Tim Robbins Green Lantern
Benecio del Toro Guardians of the Galaxy
Jeff Bridges Iron Man
Gwyenth Paltrow Iron Man
Ben Kingsley Iron Man 3
Russell Crowe Man of Steel
Geoffrey Rush Mystery Men
JK Simmons Spider-Man
Faye Dunaway Supergirl
Marlon Brando Superman
Gene Hackman Superman
Kevin Spacey Superman Returns
Sally Field The Amazing Spider-Man
Jamie Foxx The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Heath Ledger The Dark Knight
Anne Hathway The Dark Knight Rises
Marion Cottiliard The Dark Knight Rises
Christoph Waltz The Green Hornet
William Hurt The Incredible Hulk
Louis Gossett Jr The Punisher
Alan Arkin The Rocketeer
Natalie Portman Thor
Anthony Hopkins Thor
Anna Pacquin X-Men
Halle Berry X-Men/Catwoman
Jennifer Lawrence X-Men: First Class

4 thoughts on “The Best and Worst Performances in a Superhero Movie By Oscar Winning Actors”

  1. Not to doubt your choices, but a number of your explanations have more to do with a lousy script than lousy acting. Clooney didn’t choose to do the hockey bit; he was just required to do his best with the material. If you were to say Clooney’s Batman was about as threatening as the guy in the Batman suit at the nearest Six Flags, that might be a better explanation. Ditto Bassinger’s response to finding out Bruce Wayne is Batman and the awful joke Halle Berry told. Neither of those cast members came up with those reactions on their own.


      1. I see. So declaring Clooney was still a bad Batman, but it wasn’t him who decided Batman needed ice skates, makes me…that. You have issues, young man. Or poor reading comprehension. Probably both.


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