Top 10 Best Adapted Marvel Characters

Since 1998’s Blade, we have been seeing Marvel characters brought to the big screen in big budget ways. These films have taken select characters from the comics and crafted them for the modern world. Some have been successful. Some have been horridly unsuccessful. The credit or blame ranges from the actor’s interpretation to the screenwriter’s writing to the director’s vision. This is my list of top 10 best adapted Marvel characters.

To clarify, best adapted does not mean perfectly the same, but in some instances may mean changed to fit this world, while still holding true to the comic spirit of the character. Also, this list is not limited to any Universe and will be taking from any film since 1998.

10. Batroc the Leaper – Georges St-Pierre


It may be an odd one to start the list out on, but St-Pierre’s portrayal of Batroc was a welcome addition to the MCU. This is an instance of a corny comic character being brought to life as a side villain. His costume is resemblant of the comics, but works without a second thought in today’s modern world. He is low on the list because of his minor roll, but he works due to the screenwriter’s skill in adaptation.

9. Nightcrawler – Alan Cumming


In the 2002 epic that was X-men 2: X-men United, fan favorite Nightcrawler joined the team. The character was given surprising heart and high exposure in the film. He captured the spirit of the hurt and estranged Nightcrawler from the comics, who feels alienated by his physical appearance. This adaptation credit goes to a combination of Cumming’s acting chops, the screenwriter’s knowledge, and especially to the makeup artists who brought Night Crawler to life.

8. Iron Man – Robert Downey Junior


Although Robert Downey Junior was a longshot when first cast as Iron Man, he has embraced the character wonderfully and has been widely received by the general audience. He has embodied a layered Iron Man, who underneath his armor of wit and humor holds demons and the desire to make the world a better place. He also embodies the idea that Tony believes himself to be personally responsible for world peace (as seen in Iron Man 2 and probably in Age of Ultron). This is a combination of screenwriter’s skill and RDJ’s acting.

7. Daredevil – Charlie Cox


The newest name on this list, Charlie Cox’s performance of Daredevil and, especially, Matthew Murdock was riveting. He took the strong will and personal convictions of the character and brought his own soft-spokeness and passion to the roll. He also did the hardest task for the character exceptionally: he made us believe he was blind. Although the screenwriter’s did their jobs well, the true credit to this goes to Charlie Cox as an actor.

6. Professor Charles Xavier – Patrick Stewart


Patrick Stewart is the earliest name on this list. Debuting in 2000’s X-men, he was one of the first adaptations of the comic universe. The character not only looked perfect when compared to his comic counterpart, he embodied the peaceful nature and desires for a better world onto the character, while still providing a sense of pride when he has made a mistake (one of the few pluses of X3). This credit goes mostly to Patrick Stewart, but director Brian Singer is not to be forgotten.

5. Arnim Zola – Toby Jones


The character of Arnim Zola has been featured in both Captain America movies, but it’s the second film that truly embodies the character from the comics. Although the first movie had nice Easter Eggs, the film was downright brilliant in its portrayal of Zola as a computer. The monitor placement in relation to the webcam was a beautiful adaptation of the character. Not to knock Toby Jones, but this character is on this list because of the brilliance of the screen writers.

4. Loki – Tom Hiddleston


The character of Loki was a difficult one to bring to the screen. While a relatively one-dimensional character in the comics, Tom Hiddleston was given the challenge of making him relatable. The result was the most relatable character in recent comic book memory. Loki is cunning and deceitful, yes, but also deep and pained. The credit goes largely to the acting chops of Tom Hiddleston. Because of him, Loki will be remembered in the annals of comic book villain history.

3. Doctor Octopus – Alfred Molina


Taking a trip to old school films, the villain of Spider-Man 2 arguably redefined the villains of comic book movie lore. Alfred Molina took the founder of the Sinister Six and made him into a pained and even victimized villain. The costume was adapted very well from the cheesy character of the comics and fans found themselves even rooting for Doctor Octopus at his end. His portrayal was arguably the highest point of the entire Sam Raimi Spider-Man series, largely due to Alfred Molina himself.

2. J. Jonah Jameson – J. K. Simmons


J. K. Simmons did what no other actor did for their character: They made it impossible for anyone else to play them. As far as cut and dried from the comic adaptation, you can’t beat the original Spider-Man series’ J. Jonah Jameson. Never before have fans demanded so outrightly that he return for the character instead of recasting. It’s impossible for many fans to envision another character playing this roll. The only reasons this portrayal is not #1 is because JJJ is a side character basically and #1 is so incredible. As far as this roll, however, J. Jonah Jameson can never be played by anyone else nearly as well, largely due to J. K. Simmons’ acting.

1. The Winter Soldier – Sebastian Stan


Imagine bringing a character back to life from World War 2. Now imagine doing it twice, with two characters who grew up together both surviving 70 years without aging a day. Then imagine no one batting an eyelash at it. While a certain degree of disbelief is afforded to comic book movies, there was not a more perfect way to adapt the Winter Soldier to this world. Although Sebastian Stan is a great actor, the screenwriter’s deserve all praise for this incredible move. The costume matches perfectly the character from the comics, the storyline is incredibly true to its origin, and the fact that fans not only bought the admittedly farfetched premise, but celebrated it is a testament to the skill of this adaptation. Hands down, this character is the best adapted character of any Marvel movie to date.

Honorable Mentions:

Nick Fury – Samuel L. Jackson – This portrayal afforded a sense of distrust loyal to the comics.

Beast – Nicholas Hoult – This portrayal stayed very true to the origin, while making a relatable hero.

What do you think? Do you agree with these choices, or do you have others you would have chosen (Chris Evans as Captain America or either of the Magneto actors, perhaps)? Maybe Age of Ultron will provide even better adaptations of Ultron or the twins. For now, only time will tell.


5 responses to “Top 10 Best Adapted Marvel Characters

  1. Chris Evans as Captain America and where the hell are the girls? Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy has given the character a giant push in terms of popularity, and then there is Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter and naturally Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.

    And I would kick Doc Octopus off the list. The actor did the best with what he was given, but what he was given I never really liked that much. And yes, partly because it had nothing to do with Doc Oc, but especially because there are so many villains in the Spider-man verse which got crazy or have a split personality, there was no reason to write another one this way. He is actually what I like the least about Spider-man 2, and the talking with his arms is just…goofy.

    • Peggy was done wonderfully, but she didn’t have much consequence in the comics. She is a wonderful character, but there wasn’t a whole lot to adapt from comically speaking.
      I looked at Gwen and Black Widow certainly. In the end, I thought that Gwen is basically Emma Stone just being Emma Stone, which is fine and profitable for the character, but it lacks comic adaptation. Black Widow also came extremely close to finding her way on this list, but in the end the heart of the character wasn’t quite portrayed in the films. In the comics, one of the biggest aspects of Black Widow’s personality is that no one is quite sure if they can trust her. Sometimes, she even does end up being a bad guy. I haven’t quite found that balance with the Avengers’ portrayal of the character (this is also the reason Nick Fury isn’t on the list).
      As far as women in general, I am looking forward to seeing Scarlet Witch, a new take on Jean Gray, and their Captain Marvel. I have been underwhelmed by the film’s handling of female villains as largely they come across far weaker than their comic counterparts (Jean Gray and Rogue, for example, should have been more BA). I almost added Aunt May from the original Spider-Man series as a great adaptation, but in the end I didn’t want to pull too much from old films.
      I also find it extremely interesting that you didn’t like Doctor Octopus. He is almost universally heralded as one of the best comic book villains on screen (usually in the top 5 of ranking lists). We all have the characters we disagree with the general population about. For me, that’s Vincent D’nofrio. For you, I guess it’s Octopus.
      I appreciate your consistent commenting, Swanpride. You and I may not always agree, but it’s always good to hear your opinions.

      • Oh, I am not convinced of the Kingpin either. I think he is not as menacing as he should be because he sometimes comes off as a wannabe. I hope that will get better in future installations. And I also agree about the female X-Men. It is one of the main reasons I don’t really like the X-Men movies, that they are not as diverse as they should be to really capture the themes of the Comics.
        Didn’t you say that it is not important how close the portrayal is? And can’t the same you just said about Emma Stone be said about RDJ?

      • I did say, “best adapted does not mean perfectly the same, but in some instances may mean changed to fit this world, while still holding true to the comic spirit of the character.” To me, the comic spirit of Black Widow is partially that of mistrust.

      • Which was one of the themes addresses in The Winter Soldier. “I am whatever you want me to be”, in The Avengers she specifically states that Tony doesn’t trust her and then there is Age of Ultron.

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